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  • Ethos Church


March 24, 2023

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.


Paul is still highlighting the lack of logic in selecting the law over Christ. This passage is difficult to understand because Paul is using allegory. He’s looking back into the Old Testament and finding hidden meaning in this story. Hagar was an Egyptian slave of Abraham. Sarah was the rightfully married wife of Abraham. There is a stark contrast between the two sons they bear. Hagar’s son, Ishmael, is a slave and was born “according to the flesh,” and Sarah’s son, Isaac, is free and born “through the promise.”

The truth is, we are all either an Ishmael or an Isaac. We are either a child of slavery or a child of freedom. How we relate to God’s word determines which we are. If we, like Paul, hold to the gospel message as God himself first proclaimed it in the person of Jesus Christ, we are Isaac. But if we, like the false teachers, believe the gospel needs our works to gain full righteousness before God, we are Ishmael.

Note: The Judaizers saw themselves as descendants of Abraham; his free wife, Sarah; and their promised son Isaac. But they were acting like descendants of Abraham’s slave woman, Hagar.


1. Why would the Galatians want to be the son of slavery when they could be the son of freedom? Look at your life (and your thought life). Are you choosing slavery or freedom in Christ?

2. Is there a difference between obeying God’s rules (laws) under the control of the Spirit and under the control of legalism? Explain. Why do you obey God’s rules? Pray for heart change.


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