Galatians 4:26 reads, “But the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all” (NKJV). As in most cases, this verse could never be understood ON ITS OWN. We must consider the context in which it is written, which in this case includes verses 21-31. Let’s break this passage down and see what we can learn. I am indebted to another for the following outline:

1) The HISTORICAL FACTS (verses 21-23). “Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear the Law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman, the other by a freewoman. But he who was born of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and he of the freewoman through promise.” The Galatians were in a dangerous state, for they had been visited by Jewish teachers who were trying to put them under the Law of Moses and they were being tempted to submit to the Law. The apostle Paul knew this would result in them being in a state of bondage (instead of a state of grace), so he reminds them of Abraham and his two sons, Ishmael and Isaac. Ishmael’s mother was Hagar, a slave. Isaac’s mother was Sarah, a free woman. He also reminds them that Ishmael was born NATURALLY but Isaac was born SUPERNATURALLY (by a miracle that God had PROMISED).

2) The ALLEGORICAL INTERPRETATION (verses 24-27). “Which things are symbolic. For these two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar—for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children—but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all. For it is written: ‘Rejoice, O barren, you who do not bear! Break forth and shout, you who are not in labor! For the desolate has many more children than she who has a husband’.” Paul plainly says, “which things are symbolic,” meaning he is using the LITERAL story of Hagar, Sarah and their sons to ILLUSTRATE a spiritual truth. Hagar is a PICTURE of MOUNT SINAL (where THE LAW WAS GIVEN) and JERUSALEM on earth (where the Jews were still TRYING, in vain, TO KEEP THE LAW). Those “under the Law” (pictured by Ishmael) are truly in spiritual bondage and instead of obtaining “righteousness by the Law,” they are condemned by the Law (see Romans 3:19-20; 10:1-4). Sarah is a beautiful picture of the HEAVENLY JERUSALEM, the capital city of all who are “under grace” by having believed the “gospel of God’s grace” (by accepting the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior). GRACE is the key word and thus the “heavenly Jerusalem” is looked upon as the believer’s MOTHER because “we were born from above by grace,” and “our home is in heaven by God’s grace.” The quotation from Isaiah 54:1 (in verse 27) shows us that the children of the heavenly Jerusalem will be greater in number than those of the earthly Jerusalem.

3) The PERSONAL APPLICATION (verses 28-31). “Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise. But, as he who was born according to the flesh then persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, even so it is now. Nevertheless what does the Scripture say? ‘Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.’ So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free.” In short, Paul is exhorting his Christian brothers and sisters, who are “children of grace,” to have nothing to do with the “children of the Law.” He warns them that all who are “born of the Spirit” will be persecuted by those “born of the flesh,” but in the end the child of God will, by grace, enter into their heavenly inheritance. (318.5) (DO)