Galatians Day 11 – Galatians 4:21-31
The legalists Paul is warning the Galatians about gave the appearance of greater spirituality and adherence to Scriptures and the Law…so Paul pulls out the Bible study card again. This time turning to Genesis 16 -21 and the story of Abraham’s two sons, Ishmael and Isaac.
These false teachers walked among the Galatians with an air of superiority as descendants of Abraham. But, Paul reminds them that Abraham had two sons, under very different circumstances.
Paul makes a connection between Abraham’s first son, Ishmael, born through Sarah’s servant, and Abraham’s second son, Isaac, the promised heir birthed by Sarah. One son by a slave woman, the other by a free woman (Galatians 4:22).
Sarah, unable to have children, gave her servant Hagar over to Abraham as a surrogate so they could have a child. But this wasn’t in line with God’s plan or promise. Lack of belief and faith led Sarah to go outside of God’s plan to accomplish the promised outcome. Rather than waiting on God’s timing, she went her own way and Ishmael is born of Hagar.
Fast forward 14 years. In keeping with a promise, and through the work of God alone, Isaac is born of Abraham (now 100 years old) and Sarah. The promise is kept and the line of the Savior continues, but it wasn’t based on the work of man, it was based on the miraculous work of God. Likewise, the true and only path to salvation is not based on our work in following the Law, but instead on the work of God, through the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus.
Paul continues with another connection to Abraham and Sarah’s story. Once Isaac was born, the household tension reached a boiling point. While Hagar and Ishmael remained in the family home for all these years, with the arrival of Isaac this was no longer an option. Hagar and Ishmael were cast out. Another symbolic representation of Paul’s argument that once the freedom paid for by Jesus was born, the Law and the freedom in Jesus as a requirement for salvation could not co-exist. The Law is cast off as a requirement to make us right with God.
In taking matters into her own hands and through her servant, yes, Sarah may have brought about a son for Abraham, but it was a disaster. It led to a dysfunctional household and the start of an ongoing (even today) battle between the descendants of Ishmael (the line of Muslims/Islam) and the descendants of Isaac (the line of the Jewish people and ultimately Christianity).
Paul closes this part of the letter saying, “So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman.” (Galatians 4:31).
When we try to do anything in our own power that God wants to accomplish through us, it will be a disaster. While we don’t always understand the details or how God will work His will, it is always the better way. Trying to save ourselves by keeping rules and regulations will only end in disaster.
As much as we try to build towers of achievement, stand on our works tiptoes, and stretch up to heaven on our own, it will never satisfy or save like humbly allowing heaven to come down to us.
We are children of God; of the freedom found in Jesus alone.