21 Tell me, you who want to be under law, do you not listen to the law?
22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the bondwoman and one by the free woman.
23 But the son of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and the son of the free woman through the promise.
24 This is allegorically speaking, for these women are two covenants: one proceeding from Mount Sinai bearing children who are to be slaves; she is Hagar.
25 Now this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children.
26 But the Jerusalem above is free; she is our mother.
27 For it is written, “REJOICE, BARREN WOMAN WHO DOES NOT BEAR; BREAK FORTH AND SHOUT, YOU WHO ARE NOT IN LABOR; FOR MORE NUMEROUS ARE THE CHILDREN OF THE DESOLATE THAN OF THE ONE WHO HAS A HUSBAND.”
28 And you brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise.
29 But as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now also.
30 But what does the Scripture say? “CAST OUT THE BONDWOMAN AND HER SON, FOR THE SON OF THE BONDWOMAN SHALL NOT BE AN HEIR WITH THE SON OF THE FREE WOMAN.”
31 So then, brethren, we are not children of a bondwoman, but of the free woman.
Today’s passage is a continuation of the principle: are you a slave or an heir? Paul uses the example of Abraham’s sons Ishmael and Isaac (see Genesis 15-18, 21) to illustrate this. One son, those who subject themselves to bondage under the Law, is a slave. But the other, those who accept God’s grace, are His children. See the posts on Galatians 3:24-29 and 4:1-11 for a review of this.
So, since we’ve already covered the slave vs. son issue, I’d like to focus on the concept of being born of the Spirit (verse 29). In John 3:5-8, Jesus describes this to Nicodemus: “Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, “You must be born again.” The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.’” This is one of my favorite passages in the Gospels – it’s saying that just like the wind, we never actually see the Spirit of God, but His effects are wholly visible. Sometimes the wind rustles a flag, sometimes it knocks down trees; sometimes the Spirit of God quietly convicts us and conforms us to His Son’s image, and sometimes He parts seas, quiets storms, and heals people of incurable diseases. Other evidences of the Spirit are spiritual gifts (Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4) and the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). There is a stark contrast, then, in the outward evidences of whose children we are; we each need to ask ourselves, “What do people see in my life? Do they see me being a legalist, focusing all my energy on a list of rules and regulations? Do they see a person who appears to be trying to ‘earn’ admittance into heaven by living ‘holy?’ Do they see a person so focused on living in strict accordance with these rules that it takes the place of their relationship with Christ, so that the rules themselves – rather than the God who created them – becomes their new lord? Or, do they see a person who admits that they fall short – and will always fall short – of God’s glory, who willingly admits they are a sinner and need a Savior? A person who extends forgiveness to others because I myself need God’s forgiveness so badly? A person who focuses on living each day for God, rather than for a checklist of rules? A person who says, ‘It’s God who is changing me for the better – it’s not through my own fasting and Sabbath-keeping and righteous toiling that I am becoming more like Him, but through His Spirit!”
I don’t really have any discussion starters for today, so please take the lead and share with us how this passage spoke to you, and any insights you may have about it.
Next post, we’ll start chapter five and dive deeper into salvation through faith versus salvation through works, specifically focusing on how Christianity’s salvation message compares to that of other religions.