“Tell me, you who want to live under the law, do you know what the law actually says? The Scriptures say that Abraham had two sons, one from his slave wife and one from his freeborn wife.The son of the slave wife was born in a human attempt to bring about the fulfillment of God’s promise. But the son of the freeborn wife was born as God’s own fulfillment of his promise. These two women serve as an illustration of God’s two covenants. The first woman, Hagar, represents Mount Sinai where people received the law that enslaved them. And now Jerusalem is just like Mount Sinai in Arabia, because she and her children live in slavery to the law. But the other woman, Sarah, represents the heavenly Jerusalem. She is the free woman, and she is our mother. As Isaiah said,
“Rejoice, O childless woman,
you who have never given birth!
Break into a joyful shout,
you who have never been in labor!
For the desolate woman now has more children
than the woman who lives with her husband!”
And you, dear brothers and sisters, are children of the promise, just like Isaac. But you are now being persecuted by those who want you to keep the law, just as Ishmael, the child born by human effort, persecuted Isaac, the child born by the power of the Spirit. But what do the Scriptures say about that? “Get rid of the slave and her son, for the son of the slave woman will not share the inheritance with the free woman’s son. So, dear brothers and sisters, we are not children of the slave woman; we are children of the free woman. So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.”(Galatians 4:21-5:1 NLT)
An allegory is a narrative in which people and events teach a lesson and Paul used Genesis 16 to illustrate our freedom in Christ. Yet Paul’s teaching here is a combination of allegory and typology where persons and events are taken as prototypes of present persons or events which are explained as their fulfillment. Note the comparisons and contrasts:
Law (by works) grace (through faith)
Ordinary birth – born of the flesh supernatural birth – born of the
(John 1:13; 3:6) Spirit (John 3:3, 6)
Persecutes true believers persecuted by the legalists/Judaizers
No spiritual inheritance/blessings spiritual inheritance/blessings
Mount Sinai Mount Zion (heaven)
Jerusalem/Judaism Heavenly Jerusalem/all believers
Anxiety – no assurance of salvation joy /assurance of salvation
Hagar was Abraham’s “second wife” and never married again. Likewise the law was added (was second – God began with grace) and was temporary and was not given to any other nation (never married again). It was a “servant” (slave) to serve as a mirror (to reveal our sin) a monitor (to control our sin and lead us to Christ) but not a “mother.” The law cannot bring forth true life (spiritual life), the fruit or gifts of the Spirit, or give us a spiritual inheritance (law-based works have no eternal value – 1 Cor. 3:10-15; 13:1-3)
Even as true believers are persecuted by legalists and unbelievers (as we proclaim Jesus is the only way to God and heaven) our flesh (the unsanctified part of our lives) persecutes our spirit-man. It says, “try harder, do better, earn your salvation and self-worth through your own self-righteousness.” So if we make the law our “mother” we will experience bondage – the tread mill of guilt and insecurity as we strive to earn acceptance with God and if not with God, with man. Everyone is always seeking acceptance consciously or unconsciously and if we don’t receive it from God (the gospel) we will try to manufacture it through our performance.
So Paul tells the Galatians (and us) to “Get rid of the slave (law) and her son(performance based acceptance), for the son of the slave woman will not share the inheritance with the free woman’s son.”(Gal. 4:30) Law-based living actually blocks the grace of God and the spiritual blessings that are ours in Christ. So Paul is telling them to get rid of the Judaizers and for us to get rid of performance based acceptance with God.
Legalism is spiritually barren for only God’s grace produces spiritual fruit. (See John 15:5) But poverty of spirit, knowing we need God, is what brings God’s grace and power to do His will. (See Matt. 5:3)
Paul now moves from doctrine to application. ” So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.” (Gal. 5:1) Yet, our natural bent is to go back to law-based living (esp. religious types) and keep a mental record of how we’re doing (in comparison to others) and feel we have earned our self-worth or condemn ourselves when we fail and once again we are on the tread mill of guilt and insecurity.
God’s grace calls us to not compare ourselves with others but with ourselves (Gal 6:4) as we grow in grace and change over time. As the old country preacher put it: “I ain’t what I oughta be. I ain’t what I’m gonna be. But praise God I ain’t what I used to be.”
Questions for reflection and application:
Where might you be under the law? (i.e., relying on your performance to gain acceptance/self-worth with God) Here are some thoughts that lead to law-based thoughts and actions. Which ones speak to you?
1) I don’t feel/believe that all my self-worth was given to me when I received Jesus as my Savior. (Note: God demonstrated how much worth we have to Him when He was willing to sacrifice His only begotten Son to have an eternal love relationship with us. (John 3:16)
2) I don’t trust God’s power (versus my self-effort) to be enough to enable me to be successful (whatever that means to you) and/or pleasing to God. Thus I spend little time in His Word or prayer crying out to Him to empower me to know and do His will.
3) Jesus said, “How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God?” (John 5:44) I wrongly want man’s praise (thus seek to please them) more than God’s praise (seeking to do only what pleases Him). Thus I put more faith in man to meet my needs than I put in God to meet my needs. “How can you believe” (in God) if you do this? As I see the sin related to these three points above I condemn myself and try to change myself rather than simply confessing these sins, receiving God’s free forgiveness and His purifying power as I honestly bring my sins into His light. “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:5-9)
Scripture memory verse: “Get rid of the slave (law) and her son (performance based acceptance), for the son of the slave woman will not share the inheritance with the free woman’s son.”(Gal. 4:30)
Until He comes, Len and Kristen
See http://lensykes.com for archives of letters and teachings.