4:21-31 Paul’s Allegory Of Two Covenants
Memory Verse: Galatians 4:28
4:21-23 A Question And A Story
- 4:21 Paul asks the Galatians believers, especially those who desire to be under the law—meaning those who have believed the false teachers and have added obedience to the law as necessary for their salvation—a question that points them back to the real meaning of the law. The law refers to the Old Testament, and as with any false teaching, the false teachers have misused it to trick the Galatians believers into believing they have to rely on it for their salvation. Paul’s wants them to humbly look at what the law really says for themselves and not just listen to the misinterpretation of the false teachers.
- 4:22a Paul tells a story recorded in the Old Testament about Abraham. Paul has already mentioned Abraham at least eight times since he started this letter. He exemplified Abrahams faith showing that he believed God and it was counted to him for righteousness. He then shows how the gospel was made by promise to Abraham and his seed (a certain descendant)—this descendant is Jesus, who fulfilled this promise and anyone can partake of it through faith. Finally, he showed that those who belong to Christ are Abraham’s seed—meaning God’s people are those of faith, not of earthly descent. Therefore Paul is pointing back to Abraham—the father of the Jews—to show the real truth as recorded in the Bible and exemplified by Abraham. He does it again here.
Galatians 3:6-9, 14-18, 29; Genesis 12:7; 13:15; 24:7
- 4:22b-23 The Story: God promised to give Abraham a son. But Abraham and his wife Sarah grew old and his wife, Sarah, was barren. So his wife told him to sleep with their maidservant, Hagar, so that they could have a son. He agreed and she had a son named Ishmael. Several years later, God fulfilled his promise to give Abraham a son through his wife Sarah. They named him Isaac. Therefore, Abraham had two sons. The first son was born by a bondmaid (his maidservant Hagar). The second son was born by a freewoman (his wife Sarah). Ishmael who was of the maidservant Hagar was born after the flesh—meaning that Abraham didn’t wait for God’s promise to be fulfilled and tried to obtain a son on his own outside of the will of God. Isaac who was of the freewoman Sarah was born by promise—meaning that God performed a miracle to cause Sarah to be bear a child—keeping His promise. (Jesus would come through the line of the promised child.)
Genesis 12:1-4; 15:4-5; 16:1-15; 21:1-3
4:24-27 The Story Is An Allegory For Two Covenants
- 4:24a Paul says this story is an allegory—meaning that is has a deeper meaning. He says that this meaning is represented in two covenants. He goes on to explain:
- 4:24b-25 The covenant of bondage: Paul tells the Galatians that Hagar (who represents trusting in your own works) is: (1) The one from the Mount Sinai—pointing to the law and the Jewish people—that bears children for bondage—meaning obedience to the law can only produce slavery. (2) Mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is—meaning all the Jews that are trusting in the law for salvation at that time were in bondage with her children—everyone who trusts in the law, then or now, are slaves to the law (or their own religious ways).
- 4:26a The covenant of freedom: Sarah (who represents trusting in God’s promise) on the other hand is: (1) Freed instead of in bondage; (2) The Jerusalem which is above—representing the opposite of the earthly Jerusalem and means heaven—the place where real believers will reside. It is the mother of all true believers—meaning she represent everyone who trust in God’s promise by faith not the works of the law.
Hebrews 12:18, 22
- 4:26b Beware: There is a false teaching by the cult “World Missions Society Church of God” that originated in Korea that teach Abraham represents God the Father who they believe is “Ahn Sahng-hong,” a Korean pastor they claim as their founder. Then the “Jerusalem” and “mother” referred to in this verse is the “Jerusalem Mother” or “God the Mother” who they believe is “Zahng Gil-jah,” a Korean woman who believed that she was God. These are all false teachings. The true teaching of the verse is as follows: “mother” is a figure of speech Paul is using to explain the allegory. There are two mothers, each represents a place, which represents a people and their way of salvation: works or grace. Therefore, to say Jerusalem or Sarah is our mother means that we are saved by grace through faith in God’s promise and that not of ourselves.
- 4:27 Paul quotes another scripture from the Old Testament. The verse tells the “barren woman” to rejoice, break forth and cry because she will have many more children than the woman that has a husband. This was a prophecy for Israel to encourage them in their exile, knowing that God was still going to do something supernatural in their future. Paul, now applies it to the gospel. The barren woman most likely represent the Gentiles who were spiritually barren or those who were spiritually hopeless in saving themselves. The woman with the husband most likely represents Jews who had the Old Testament and law or those who religiously worked to try and save themselves. The reason for rejoicing was that God was going to cause the barren women to be blessed greater than the other. The gentiles were going to be given the gospel. The hopeless were going to be given hope. Grace was going to be offered to those who those who couldn’t do it on their own.
4:28-31 The Application Of The Allegory
- 4:28, 30-31 Believers (brethren) are the children of promise just like Isaac was. He was born of the freewoman. True salvation only comes by trusting in the promise of God by faith. Unbelievers (shall not be heir) are the children of bondage just like Ishmael was. He was born of the bondwoman. True slavery only comes by trusting in the ability of your own righteousness. They will be cast out of the presence of God for all eternity. Only the legitimate children (by faith) will be heirs—inherit eternal life.
- 4:29 Just like that Arabs (the physical descendants of Ishmael) were persecuting the Jews (the physical descendants of Isaac) in the days of Paul, so will unbelievers (born after the flesh) persecuted believers (born after the Spirit). This means the religiously insecure feel threatened by the gospel, because it says the efforts of their religion aren’t good enough and they respond with hate, hostility and persecution.
- Why did Paul ask them a question?
- What was the story Paul told?
- What was the meaning of the allegory?
- What is the application of the allegory?
- Who persecutes who? Why?