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Lessons from Galatians Part 4b

Updated: Oct 16, 2023

Chapter 4:16-31 Believers are children of the free woman

4:16 Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?

How often it seems like this, our flesh hates to be corrected, and we want to make the person who pointed out our error, the enemy.

A faithful friend will admonish his erring brother/sister, and if the erring brother has any sense at all he will thank his friend. In the world truth produces hatred. Whoever speaks the truth is counted an enemy. But among friends it is not so, much less among Christians.

The Apostle wants his Galatians to know that just because he had told them the truth, they are not to think that he dislikes them. "I told you the truth because I love you."

17 Those people are zealous to win you over, but for no good. What they want is to alienate you from us, so that you may be zealous for them.

In this way Paul brings the false apostles into suspicion. He questions their motives. He maintains that their zeal is mere pretence to deceive the Galatians.

Our Saviour Christ also warned us, saying: "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing." (Matt. 7:15.)

18 It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good, and to be so always and not just when I am with you.

19 My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you,

As parents reproduce their physical characteristics in their children, so the apostles reproduced their faith in the hearts of the hearers, until Christ was formed in them.

The Word of God falling from the lips of the apostle or minister enters the heart of the hearer. The Holy Spirit impregnates the Word so that it brings forth the fruit of faith.

In this manner every Christian pastor/leader is a spiritual father who forms Christ in the hearts of his hearers.

20 how I wish I could be with you now and change my tone, because I am perplexed about you!

Two Covenants

21 Tell me, you who want to be under the law, are you not aware of what the law says?

Here Paul would have closed his Epistle because he did not know what else to say. He wishes he could see the Galatians in person and straighten out their difficulties. But he is not sure whether the Galatians have fully understood the difference between the Gospel and the Law. To make sure, he introduces another illustration. He knows people like illustrations and stories.

22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman.

23 His son by the slave woman was born in the ordinary way; but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a promise.

24 These things may be taken figuratively, for the women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar.

25 Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children.

26 But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother.

27 For it is written: "Be glad, O barren woman, who bears no children; break forth and cry aloud, you who have no labour pains; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband."

28 Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise.

29 At that time the son born in the ordinary way persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit. It is the same now.

30 But what does the Scripture say? "Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman's son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman's son."

His final argument is an appeal to the Law itself, and is addressed directly to those who desire to be under the Law. He reminds them of Abraham's two sons by Sarah and Hagar and contends there are allegorical implications concerning the two covenants. Hagar, the bondwoman who gave birth to Ishmael, represents the covenant given at Mt. Sinai, and corresponds to physical Jerusalem and the bondage of those under the Law.

Sarah, Abraham's wife who gave birth to Isaac, who represents the new covenant, and corresponds to the heavenly Jerusalem which offers freedom to all who accept it. With a reminder that those born of the Spirit can expect persecution by those born according to the flesh, Paul concludes his defence of the gospel of justification by faith in Christ by proclaiming that those in Christ are of not of the bondwoman but of the free (vv.21-31).

Sarah's demand that the bondwoman and her son be cast out of the house was undoubtedly a blow to Abraham. He felt sorry for his son Ishmael. The Scripture explicitly states Abraham's grief in these words:

"And the thing was very grievous in Abraham's sight, because of his son." (Gen. 21:11.)

But God approved Sarah's action and said to Abraham: "Let it not be grievous in thy sight because of the lad, and because of thy bondwoman; in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called." (Gen. 21:12.)

The Holy Ghost contemptuously calls the admirers of the Law the children of the bondwoman. "If you do not know your mother, I will tell you what kind of a woman she is. She is a slave. And you are slaves. You are slaves of the Law and therefore slaves of sin and death. You are not fit to be heirs. You are put out of the house."

31 Therefore, brothers, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman.

This leads us in nicely to chapter 5 which deals with the wonderful liberty we have in the Holy Spirit.


In the fulness of time, Jesus Christ the son of God was born subject to the Law.

He came to redeem humankind from the penalty of the Law, so that we could be freed from sin and able to enter the Family of God as mature sons.

When you heard and believed the Gospel, God poured out his Holy Spirit into your heart, and he cries ‘Abba Father, Daddy God and causes us to know that we are saved, and not only saved, but that we have become sons of the living God.

When the Spirit within us cries Abba Father, we can know for certain that the Father hears him and through him us.

Since we are now sons of God, we can no longer be slaves, but heirs of the all the exceeding great and precious promises of God.

We are the children of the free woman not the bond woman and must never permit ourselves to be enslaved by the Law or anything else again.

For full text for printout and access to other parts of 'Lessons from Galatians' please click on link below

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