Paul was burdened when he wrote this letter to the Galatians, for even though they had received the gospel of grace which he preached to them, they were being influenced by Jewish teachers who told them they must follow the Law of Moses. In Galatians 4:21-26 he turns them to a true story in the Old Testament to teach them that they would be brought into bondage if they abandoned the gospel of grace and put themselves under law. Let’s read this interesting passage: “Tell me, you who want to be under law, do you not listen to the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the bondwoman and one by the free woman. But the son of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and the son by the free woman through the promise. 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. Now this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free; she is our mother” (NASB).

Paul was using this true story as an allegory to illustrate the difference between LAW and GRACE. Abraham’s first son (Ishmael) was born to him by a slave woman named Hagar and thus he was born into slavery. We are also told that he “was born according to the flesh,” which means it was not a miraculous birth brought about by God’s grace. Hagar pictures the LAW, which was given on Mount Sinai and was practiced in the city of Jerusalem. Her son pictures all who are under the Law and are in bondage to it. The LAW brings a person into BONDAGE because no one is able to keep the Law and it condemns the one who breaks it. The apostle Peter referred to the Law and how it brings one into slavery in Acts 15:10, “Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear” (NASB). In saying these words Peter was agreeing with Paul that the Law doesn’t SAVE; it ENSLAVES! Peter went on to say in verse 11, “But we believe that we are saved through the GRACE of our Lord Jesus.”

GRACE is God’s way of blessing the sinner and that brings us to Abraham’s second son (Isaac) who was born “by the free woman” (Sarah). We read that he was born “through the promise,” which means it was a miraculous birth that God promised to Abraham and Sarah who were too old to bear children. Isaac pictures all who have, by God’s amazing grace, experienced the miracle of the NEW BIRTH. Sarah is a beautiful picture of God’s GRACE. Just as Isaac was the child of Sarah, all believers in Jesus Christ are the “children of God’s grace.” This is borne out in Galatians 4:31, “So then, brethren, we are not children of a bondwoman, but of the free woman.”

We still have to comment on verse 26, “But Jerusalem above is free; she is our mother.” We had seen that Hagar was connected with “Jerusalem on earth” where the Law had people in SLAVERY, but we learn that Sarah is connected with “Jerusalem above” where God’s grace has made people FREE. This “heavenly Jerusalem” is spoken of in Hebrews 12:18-24 where once again the covenant of LAW was being contrasted with the covenant of GRACE. Listen to these precious words, “For you have not come to a mountain that can be touched (Mount Sinai)…but you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the HEAVENLY JERUSALEM…to the church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven.” The “Jerusalem above” not only speaks of God’s grace which has made us His children, but it is the eternal home of all the “children of God’s grace.”

I would like to believe that once the Galatians meditated upon Paul’s words, they gave up the idea of putting themselves under the LAW and decided to continue in God’s marvelous GRACE.  (199.7)  (DO)