Grace and peace to you beloved in the name of Christ. What a mercy to be forgiven of all of our sin. What amazing love that we should be called the sons and daughters of God. All in Christ. All because of Christ. Well, this morning the apostle Paul is going to speak about our freedom from spiritual slavery that Christ procures for us.
Please take out your Bible and turn to the book of Galatians. I will read for us Galatians 4:21-32. Hear the holy and perfect word of our holy and perfect God. Read.
Galatians 4:21. 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 by the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and the son by 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.
Please pray with me as we ask our Lord to help us in our worship of Him. Pray.
The comparison of legal-works-salvation versus grace.
As we proceed, I want you to think: two women, two sons, two covenants, and two places – earthly Jerusalem and heavenly Jerusalem. One equals spiritual slavery the other equals spiritual freedom. Paul is comparing justification by law keeping versus justification by believing in Christ Jesus. And please notice that it is an either-or proposition. There is no wedding of the two. They stand as opposites.
The outcome of legal-works-salvation versus grace.
Now also it is helpful to see what Paul says is the outcome of these two distinct paths or ways of salvation. The legal-works way of salvation, justifying yourself by works of the Law is spiritual slavery, bondage.
Romans 6:20. For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.
The gracious way of salvation procured by the Blood of Christ that we received by the Spirit-gift of faith alone is spiritual freedom. Freedom from the broken law of God, freedom from the wrath and condemnation of God for our sins, freedom from the power of Satan, freedom from the bondage of sin, and freedom to serve and worship God with a childlike love. (Rom.7:24-25, WCF 20.1)
John 8:34. Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. 35 “The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. 36 “So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.
Galatians 4:7. Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God. 8 However at that time, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those which by nature are no gods. 9 But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again?
The Bible only presents two roads for our life. (Mt.7:13-14) One is a broad road. It is agreeable to our flesh. Many people are on this road. Most people are on this road. The end of this road is eternal separation from the loving presence of God – hell. The other road is the Narrow Road. This is a hard road. Only a relatively few people find it. This is the path of Christ Crucified. The end of this road is eternal bliss with the Risen Lord Jesus Christ – heaven.
Legalism is spiritual slavery, and it leads to eternal confinement. (Jude 1:6, 2 Pt.2:4) Gracious salvation in Christ sets us free now to be enjoyed fully forever very soon.
The subject of legalism.
Now Paul continues this new section hammering away at the same error of legalism, trying to merit one’s justification before God by one’s own law keeping. He opens with a question.
V.21. Tell me you who want to be under Law. You see the Holy Spirit inspires Paul to inform us that to join the Law to the Gospel is no longer the Gospel but simply the Law. Anything added to the person and the work of Jesus Christ, to the free gift of eternal life in and through Jesus Christ, by what He has done destroys the Gospel. Oh Beloved, I do not know how many times and ways that the apostle Paul can say this in the book of Galatians. The Law is not the Gospel. The Law does not save. Only Christ in the Gospel saves. The Gospel cannot be amended.
Grace plus works equals works.
The desire of legalism.
Why would anyone with a Bible and even a casual acquaintance with their own sin challenge this? Because they do not have a true awareness of their sin. Therefore, being blind to the true depths of their sin they have a sensual or carnal desire to save themselves. Legalism is a form of auto-salvation as B.B Warfield speaks about.
Notice Paul says you that want to be under Law. People “want” to earn their own salvation. People want to stand before God with a measure of their own righteousness. People want to boast of their own goodness. The flesh does not want to be told that it is a dead, sinful, condemned wretch unable to improve itself before a three-times holy God.
Oh, it does not matter if outwardly people are profuse with expressions of their humility and they give a nod here and there to Jesus, the Judaizers did that. (Acts 15:1-5) Watch and listen. Eventually you with see and hear what people really want. What we want comes out of us. It is either the good fruit of a good tree. Or the thorns of a thorn bush. (Mt.7:15-22, Mt.13:18-22)
The graced heart with say this, Nothing in my hand I bring, Simply to Thy cross I cling, Nothing in my hand I bring, Simply to Thy cross I cling, Naked, come to Thee for dress, Helpless, look to Thee for grace, Vile, I to the fountain fly, Wash me, savior, or I die. (Augustus Toplady, Rock of Ages)
Whereas the legal heart will say this, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 ‘I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get. (Lk.18:11-12, Mt.10:17-27, Phil.3:1-7, older brother – Lk.15:25-32)
The ignorance of legalism.
Paul says, more accurately – God through Paul says, do you not listen to the Law?
By this God is telling these law-gospel corrupters that they do not understand the Law of God that they proport to be experts on. These legal-salvation law men always under estimate both the divine demands of the law and the divine punishments of the law. They ought not be teachers.
The apostle Paul warns pastor Timothy to be on the look out for these people coming into the church as Ephesus.
I Timothy 1:5. But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 6 For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion, 7 wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions. 8 But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, (Jas.3:1)
You see what God is saying about these false teachers? These are the fellows that told Paul that he was wrong on the gospel. They told Paul that he did not know what he was talking about. They said, the Bible does not teach that a man is justified by faith alone in Christ alone. They claimed that Christ does not procure all our salvation by His death on the Cross and by His active obedience the Law. No. They truly believed they were experts on the Bible. Experts on the law-gospel. And soon they had the better part of the churches in Galatia believing it.
But do you know who did not believe it? God. He says so in His Book. We ought to follow the faithful guide of the Scriptures. And beware of the multitudes of carnally blind guides leading the multitudes of the willingly blind into a spiritual ditch. (Mt.15:14, Mt.23:24)
The correction of legalism.
God is taking these incompetent teachers to Bible school. He starts with the first book of the Bible, Genesis.
Galatians 4:22. For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the bondwoman and one by the free woman. 23 But the son by the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and the son by the free woman through the promise.
Abraham’s son by a slave woman.
Genesis 16:15. So Hagar bore Abram a son; and Abram called the name of his son, whom Hagar bore, Ishmael. 16 Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore Ishmael to him. (Gen.16:3, Gen.21:8-12, Gen.25:1-6)
Abraham’s son by a free woman.
Genesis 21:1. Then the LORD took note of Sarah as He had said, and the LORD did for Sarah as He had promised. 2 So Sarah conceived and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the appointed time of which God had spoken to him. (age 99)
Let’s look at the women and then the sons. Hagar was a Gentile Egyptian slave. Interesting side note. Here we have Abraham a Jew taking an Egyptian slave out of Egypt. Sarah was an Israelite freewoman. Ishmael is a slave’s son. Isaac is a free woman’s son. The idea is the slave woman begets a slave son. The free woman begets a free son.
Next, Paul says that Ishmael was born according to the flesh. And Isaac was born according to the promise of God.
V.24. Paul uses certain OT passages, and he uses them allegorically. That is to say, Paul is inspired to further illustrate the doctrine that he has already proved by using a Bible passage symbolically or metaphorically. Allegory is like a similitude. We are like salt and light. (Mt.5:13-16) So real people, real place used to symbolize spiritual truths. (Gen.41:26, Mt.13:20-39, Jn.6:41) Like a parable.
Perhaps another example to show you that this is not such a strange thing. You remember in the OT when the children of Israel were in the desert. God gave them water from a rock. Well, the apostle Paul says in First Corinthians that the Rock was Christ. Well, clearly this is symbolically speaking that Christ is the life giving and life refreshing spiritual water. (Exod.17:1-7, Num.20:2-13, I Cor.10:4)
Now back to this allegory. We could put it this way. Ishmael was born by works. And Isaac was born by grace. The one son can by natural man’s effort, by flesh. The other son came by the grace of God giving a woman beyond the age of child-bearing a son, by faith. (Gen.18:11, Heb.11:11)
In this way Paul is likening Ishmael to the works of the Law. And Isaac to the grace of God in the gospel of Christ.
Let’s see if we describe some of the similarities and differences of these two sons and what they teach us spiritually or metaphorically as Paul says.
Both sons had the same father – Abraham. The Law and the Gospel have the same Author – God.
Galatians 4:24. 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.
There are two ways to understand this first covenant that Paul speaks about. One the covenant of works that God made with Adam.
Or the covenant of grace as given to Moses under the types and shadows, veiled with all of the outward ordinances, the meats and the drinks as it were. (WCF 7.5)
However, even if Paul is referring to the OT covenant of grace under the types and shadows – the Judaizers corrupted the veiled covenant, they turned it into a legal system of salvation. So, for them it was not circumcision points forward to the saving work of Messiah, therefore believe in Messiah and be saved. No. It was be physically circumcised to be saved. Back then to the covenant of works, back then to salvation by law keeping.
The second covenant is clearly the covenant of grace that God made with Christ. (WCF 7.1)
God expresses the covenant of works to Adam this way. On the day that you eat of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil you shall surely die. (Gen.2:17) Expressed, disobey my law and you will die; you and all those you represent. Implied, obey and you will continue to live. (WCF 7.2, Gal. 3:10-12, Rom. 10:5)
This is how Paul states it in the book of Romans.
Romans 5:12. Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned—
Get the essence of why Paul is using this covenant of works as a correction against the Judaizers. The covenant of works says, obey perfectly and live. Disobey once and you die. That is law-based salvation, that is the foolishness of the legalists. They are trying to join a obey-or-die covenant to the gracious covenant of grace or of the gospel.
The covenant of grace says believe upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved. (Rom.10:1-17, Acts 16:31, I Jn.5:13, Jn.1:12, Jn.3:16-18)
Listen to how John puts this in his gospel account.
John 1:10. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
This is how our confession summarizes it.
WCF 7.3 Man, by his fall, having made himself uncapable of life by that covenant, the Lord was pleased to make a second,(1) commonly called the Covenant of Grace, whereby He freely offers unto sinners life and salvation by Jesus Christ, requiring of them faith in Him, that they may be saved;(2) and promising to give unto all those that are ordained unto eternal life His Holy Spirit, to make them willing, and able to believe.(3)
(1) Gal. 3:21; Rom. 8:3; Rom. 3:20,21; Gen. 3:15; Isa. 42:6. (2) Mark 16:15,16; John 3:16; Rom. 10:6,9; Gal. 3:11. (3) Ezek. 36:26,27; John 6:44,45.
Ishmael had no part in the covenant of grace. He had physical earthly prosperity only. (Gen.17:20, 25:12-18) Isaac was a member of the covenant of grace. He had all the promised spiritual riches in the Promised Messiah.
Again, God is being so clear. Trying to obey the Law for your justification is from the flesh of man, it leads to slavery. Resting only in Christ for your justification is from the promise of God, it leads to freedom.
Now concerning the comparison of the two places, we have the same truths being taught. But I think we might make a few additional comments about this verse in light of the error of the Judaizers.
The Judaizers were just that, they were trying to retain the Israel distinctive before God, so they sought to retain the distinctive that were particular for the Old Epoch with Israel as the people of God. So, they wanted to blend ethnic-Jewish distinctives into the Gospel of Jesus Christ. You remember. You had to get circumcised to be saved. So, you had to become a professing Jew to be saved. You had to join yourself to Israel to be saved. Next you had to keep the Law of Moses to be saved. (Acts 15:1-15) This is both ceremonial rites and the moral law.
By seeking to retain these OT epoch Jewish elements they were seeking to avoid the reproach of the Cross. (Heb.13:13, Gal.6:12-15)
What Paul says next under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit would have been nothing less than shocking. He says that the slave woman represents earthly Jerusalem! This would have been like getting the bucket of cold water in that challenge thrown on top of you!
Galatians 4:25. 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.
The apostle John on the Isle of Patmos says something similar about physical earthly Jerusalem. He uses perhaps even more shocking than calling Jerusalem Hagar.
Revelation 11:7. When they have finished their testimony, the beast that comes up out of the abyss will make war with them and overcome them and kill them. 8 And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which mystically is called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified.
Paul is saying that those who trust in Christ alone for their salvation that we are the true Israel of God. Believers in the Lord Jesus Christ are citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem, the heavenly City of Peace, over which the Prince of Peace Melchizedek reigns.
Hebrews 12:22. But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, 23 to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel.
In V.27 the idea is that our spiritual re-birth is a miracle, akin to a desolate woman, a barren woman, a woman beyond childbearing then having numerous children – miraculously! By God’s great grace. Paul further emphasizes that we are made alive by the Holy Spirit when He gives us saving faith in Jesus. (Eph.2:1-9)
Galatians 4:27. 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.” (Isa.54:1)
Galatians 4:28. 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. (Jn.1:10-13, Jn.3:1-9)
Paul makes this similar argument in Romans nine. Here he is saying that being born of physical Israel is not saving. Only being born again by the grace of God is someone a saved child of God.
Romans 9:5. whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen. 6 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; 7 nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants, but: “THROUGH ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS WILL BE NAMED.” 8 That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants.
V.28. Paul goes on to further prove that salvation by law keeping and salvation by faith in Christ are not joinable. In fact, the proponents of self-law-salvation and gracious-faith-salvation are opposed to one another.
The first recorded instance of this between Ishmael and Isaac was when Ishmael at aged 13 mocked Isaac when he was weaned (at some kind of celebration). Perhaps Isaac was two or three. (Gen.21:1-10)
The apostle tells us that the sons of the slave woman persecuted the sons of the free women. Notice that he does not say the opposite. He does not say that the sons of the free woman persecuted the sons of the slave woman.
Believers are for peace. Unbelievers are for war. War against Believers. Believers are the lambs of Christ. Unbelievers are vipers, dogs, lions being governed by the old dragon. (Rev.20:2, 12:9)
We see this also from the very first book of the Bible. (Gen.3:15, 2 Cor.6:14-18) In fact, we see this in the very first family of the Bible.
Genesis 4:3. So it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the LORD of the fruit of the ground. 4 Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and for his offering; 5 but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell. 6 Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? 7 “If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.” 8 Cain told Abel his brother. And it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.
I will point out this. Often commentators here say, well this is the truth of the world against the church. Well, certainly the world is against the church. But Paul is writing to church members against other church members. This is the spiritual warfare of the legalists within the church against those in favor of the true gospel of the Cross. (I Cor.2:2)
This is the warfare of the Pharisee against the atoning blood of Christ. What entity has persecuted even to the death Christians that firmly maintain a man is justified by faith alone in Christ alone? The answer: the Roman Catholic church. Remember Beloved, church people killed Christ. They handed Jesus over to the worldling Romans to do their dirty work.
Beloved, most often the severest opposition to the true gospel of grace comes from false Christians persecuting true Christians.
V.30. See how Paul concludes? He concludes with another question, a pre-protestant question. What does the Scripture say?
Sarah told Abraham to send Ishmael away from Isaac, that Ishmael would have no part in the blessings given to Isaac the son of promise. And God told Abraham to listen to her, that this separation was of God. (Gen.21:10-12)
Paul says, the Bible says, God says, that we who believe in graced-salvation ought separate from these legalistic works-based salvation professing Christians. Cast them out! Bad company corrupts good morals. (I Cor.15:33) We sometimes apply this to separating from professing Christians living in sexual sin. (I Cor.5:1-13) I will tell you what is worse. Keeping company with those that believe a false gospel. They will lead you into bondage all the while professing to bring you freedom. Walk, talk, and sit with Pharisees and you will become a Pharisee.
Beloved it is a great privilege to be born into a believing Christian family. It is another great privilege to attend a Bible preaching and a Gospel teaching church, where the word is rightly dispensed. When we are thus born again by the Holy Spirit making the gospel call effectual in our lives we prove that we are spiritual children of God – sons and daughters of the free woman.
Galatians 4:31. So then, brethren, we are not children of a bondwoman, but of the free woman.
Beloved God has set you spiritually free from the bondage to Satan and to sin. The Gospel of the Christ has done that. The Gospel of justification by faith alone in Christ alone has done that. Oh stand firm in your freedom. Use your spiritual freedom to serve God and Man. Beware of those that seek to take you back into bondage by adding Law to Gospel. No man will be justified by works of the Law. Stand firm in Christ alone.