This Sunday, we continued our study in Galatians with Paul’s teaching to the church in chapter 4. We sometimes think being a Christian is following certain rules, but Paul instructs that we have been saved by faith and we are to live life by faith. This passage looks back at the story of Abraham, Isaac and Ishmael to compare the two sons to two types of people. One son is a slave (Ishmael) and one son is free (Isaac). Ishmael was born through the flesh and Isaac was born supernaturally from a woman who was barren before. They represent two covenants and two cities.
What Paul says next would have been shocking to his current reader. He says the sons of Hagar correspond to the present Jerusalem, spiritually and physically. They are not sons of Abraham, but sons of Ishmael. But, the Jerusalem above is free. You are sons of Sarah, in the line of Isaac. He refers to the Jerusalem that’s above, the new city that is coming down one day.
Then, Paul addresses his readers as “brothers” (writing to Gentiles) and tells them they are children of Isaac. God is able to make children of Ishmael, children of Isaac. This is the exclusive message of the Gospel – Jesus Christ alone. He says to be encouraged by persecution, because it shows you are children of the promise. We are to root out legalism, in our church and in our own heart. There is absolutely nothing we can do ourselves.
The law tells us we have to keep doing it and doing it and wake up again and work harder to do the same thing again tomorrow. But, we are children of the free woman. For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
Anything we do for God shouldn’t be trying to please Him and make Him happy with us. It should be out of a heart that loves God, and as a gratitude for what He has done.