Galatians 4:21-31

Sunday, April 22nd, 2012

Text: Galatians 4:21-31



A problem developed in the churches of Galatia. After Paul preached the gospel and people were saved in this geographical area, others came along and preached a gospel of a different sort.

Paul had preached that one is saved, and hence declared to be righteous, by grace and through faith. The Judaizers came along and preached that a man is declared righteous by keeping the Law. This, of course, confused not only the people, but confused the truth as well.

Now, don't be surprised when things like this happen. Satan is a master at confusing the truth and counterfeiting it.

In Galatians 4 we see that believers have moved away from being slaves to law to having liberty in Christ. I wish to remind you that Galatians 5:1 will help keep your thinking straight in this fourth chapter just like it did in the third chapter. Galatians 5:1 teaches us that we need to continue in our status as free persons in Christ and not return to our former condition as slaves.

In Galatians 4:21-31 , we see what Paul has already declared about contrasts between the Mosaic Law and grace, between works and faith; and we also see that the Galatians believers should cast out the legalizers.


1. The Galatians had not yet submitted to the bondage of the Law, but they were considering doing it. They may have even desired to do it. Paul wants to stop them and turn them back to a life under grace. In verse 21 he challenges the Galatians to be aware of, i.e. to understand, what the Law really said.

Galatians 4:21 - (21) Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law?

2. In verse 22 Paul appeals to Abraham as the founder of the Jewish nation. It was from Abraham that the Jews traced their physical descent. Physical descent from Abraham, however, was not enough to guarantee spiritual blessing.

Matthew 3:9 - And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.

John 8:37-44 - (37) I know that ye are Abraham's seed; but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you. (38) I speak that which I have seen with my Father: and ye do that which ye have seen with your father. (39) They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham. (40) But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham. (41) Ye do the deeds of your father. Then said they to him, We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God. (42) Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me. (43) Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word. (44) Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.

Paul reminds his readers that Abraham had two sons, and urges the Galatians to consider which of the two sons characterized them more. Was it Ishmael, or was it Isaac?

1. Ishmael was born of Hagar who was a slave.

2. Isaac was born of Sarah who was a free woman.

According to ancient law and custom, the status of the mother affected the status of her son. If the mother was a slave, her son would also be a slave. Thus, Ishmael was a slave and not free. But, if the mother was free, her son would also be free. Therefore, Isaac was free and not a slave.

Galatians 4:22 - (22) For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman.

3. In verse 23, a second contrast concerned the manner in which the sons were conceived.

1. Ishmael was born in the ordinary way, in the course of nature. There was no special miracle and no promise from God.

2. Isaac was born as the result of a promise. Abraham and Sarah were both beyond the age of childbearing, but God miraculously fulfilled His promise in bringing life out of the deadness of Sarah's womb.

Galatians 4:23 - (23) But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise.


In order to emphasize the contrast between Law and grace, Paul uses the historical events mentioned in verses 21-23 as an allegory. What he is doing is showing that the historical account of the births of Ishmael and Isaac and the subsequent events illustrate the relation of the Law and grace. It is not a spiritualizing of the text.

1. There were two covenants.

1) The Mosaic covenant had its origin at Mount Sinai. Those under this covenant were slaves. Just as Hagar brought forth a slave, so the Law brings forth slaves, slaves to the Law.

2) By contrast, it is implied that the Abrahamic covenant, a system of grace was represented by Sarah. Through its messianic promise, the Abrahamic Covenant brought forth children who are free.

Galatians 4:24 - (24) Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar.

2. There were two Jerusalems.

1) Hagar represented first-century Jerusalem, a city in slavery to Rome and also in slavery to the Law.

2) Sarah represented the heavenly Jerusalem. She is the mother of all the children saved by grace.

Galatians 4:25-26 - (25) For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. (26) But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.

3. Isaiah 54:1 is quoted and applied to Sarah's history.

Isaiah 54:1 - Sing, O barren, thou that didst not bear; break forth into singing, and cry aloud, thou that didst not travail with child: for more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife, saith the Lord.

1) Hagar was the woman with the husband.

2) Sarah was the barren woman.

3) Sarah, although previously barren, was later blessed with a child, and would ultimately enjoy a greater offspring than Hagar.


1. Paul compared the birth of Isaac to that of Christians.

1) Just as Isaac experienced a supernatural birth and was a child by means of a promise, so each believer experiences a supernational birth and is a recipient of the promise of salvation. Thus, as with Isaac, believers are children of promise.

2) Just as Isaac should not live as a slave, neither should Christians live as children of bondage, i.e. as slaves.

Galatians 4:28 - (28) Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise.

2. Paul compared Ishmael's persecution of Isaac to the false teachers' opposition to believers.

Genesis 21:8-9 - (8) And the child grew, and was weaned: and Abraham made a great feast the same day that Isaac was weaned. (9) And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, which she had born unto Abraham, mocking.

Paul compared the Judaizers to Ishmael as those who were born out of legalistic self-effort and charged that they continued to persecute the true believers who were born by the power of the Spirit.

Galatians 4:29 - (29) But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now.

3. Paul compared the action of Abraham toward Hagar and Ishmael to the obligation of the Galatian believers toward the legalizers.

Paul and the Galatian believers were not children of the slave woman but were children of the free woman.

Galatians 4:30-31 - (30) Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman. (31) So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.


Galatians 5:1 - (1) Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.