Galatians 4:21-31

The Believers Birth Place


Intro: In v.1-11 of Ch.4 we saw how Paul pointed out that in Christ – we have been brought into the family of God – adopted – adult children

A)Full heirs – receive and enjoy full blessings of our Sonship –


B)That being the case – Paul asked the question v. 9

9 But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage?


C) Paul’s question was simple – now that you are Sons why do you want to go back to living like Slaves


D) From that pt. Paul sort of diverts for a few minutes in v.12-20 and gets personal with the Galatians

1)   He reminds them of their conversion & their relationship with him and how much he loved – to say infect – I am telling you the truth


E) And to intimate that his motives in ministering to them have always been pure & right unlike the legalist who were out for their own gain


As we come today to v.21 Paul returns to his theme of Slaves vs. Sons

A)Paul senses that he hasn’t made his point yet, so he will now approach the matter with another illustration from the Old Testament.  . 


B)He explains his point from the story of Abraham, Hagar, and Sarah in Genesis 16          { RD v. 21-31


C) Now God made a promise to Abe that He was going to give him a son and make him a great nation – all the nations of the world be blessed

1)   Abe Believed – Far out – Accounted as Righteous


D) But when Abe was 86 / wife Sarah 76 – still no Child – Sarah’s idea

God obviously needs our help – take my servant girl Hagar …… Abe – ok !

This was Abraham & Sarah’s attempt to obtain the promise of God thru the energy & efforts of the flesh !!!

A)Well God didn’t need their help – nor did he acknowledge [ Ishmael] as the Son of Promise – God didn’t accept their efforts in the flesh


B) God came to Abe again and said – I am still going to give you a child thru Sarah – Abe responded – Let Ishmael live before you –

1)   God said no –He is not the answer – LESSON HERE: God doesn’t accept or acknowledge our efforts in the flesh to obtain his promise


Note this when God gives a promise, almost invariably there is a gap of time between the giving of the promise & the fulfillment of the promise.

A)And it is in that gap of time that we get impatient. ‘Time is running out,’ we say. ‘I’ve got to make something happen.’


B) So we seek to do something in the energy of our flesh – we try to make something happen - & sometimes we even Produce results


C)Those efforts might produce the desired end – Abe needed a son – and his efforts in the flesh produced a son

1)   But it wasn’t the son that God had planned –


D) How often do we get fooled into thinking that we are right where God wants us to be & that our help was needed –

1)   All because what we hoped would happen – happened – but God stopped being a part of it a long time ago { All flesh & no spirit !!!


God had a different plan in mind for Abe & Sarah – a Son was going to be born to Saran who was barren –

A)It would be a miraculous birth in more ways than one. See God would wait until Abe was 100 & Sarah was 90 – for her to conceive


B) He would wait until they were well past the yrs – of Child bearing to make a point – Abe – You obtaining the Promised blessing – all me

1)   All my doing & your receiving it & enjoying it by FAITH !!!!!

C) So Paul is taking his readers back to this story as a picture of the two ways man tries to obtain the promises of God –

1)   One way is thru the flesh / other way is thru faith


D) Ishmael was Abraham’s son, but he was the son according to the flesh and unbelief and trying to make your own way before God.

1) Isaac on the other hand is the son that came according to Faith – Abe believing & waiting for the Promise of God.


Now Paul says in v.24  that these two boys & their mothers are symbolic of two covenants

A)In the Bible, a covenant is a “contract” that sets the rules or standards for our relationship with God for our relationship with God. 


B)Paul brings it right down to the issues confronting the Galatian Christians.  The legalists wanted them to relate to God under one set of rules, the standards of the law .


C) But Paul wanted them to relate to God under the standard presented by the gospel. God’s grace met by our Faith !!!


D)The one from Mount Sinai: One covenant is associated with Mount Sinai, the place where Moses received the Law

1)Evidently that is where Hagar was born – that translates with the current city of Jerusalem & the Judaism that goes along with it


Gal 4:24-27


The Old Covenant of law was given through Moses at Mount Sinai and required God's chosen people, the Jews, to keep all the commands He gave in conjunction with that covenant. Because the terms of the covenant were humanly impossible to keep, it produced a type of religious slaves, as it were, bound to a master from whom they could never escape. Anyone, including a Jew, who attempted to satisfy God and gain freedom from condemnation by trying to live up to that covenant in his own self-righteousness was spiritually like a child of Hagar, the bondwoman. He was a slave, struggling for a freedom he could not obtain by his own efforts.


E) The other The other covenant is associated with Jerusalem, with Mount Zion – but not the Mount Zion of this earth.

1)  Instead, it is associated with the Jerusalem above – God’s own New Jerusalem in heaven.


F)The Jerusalem above is free:.  This covenant brings freedom

1)It is free because it recognizes that Jesus paid the price, and we don’t have to pay it ourselves.


So Paul is drawing a contrast here  between Christianity and legalism the contrast between a work done by God’s promised miracle and a work done by the flesh. 

A)legalism is living according to the flesh.  It denies God’s promise and tries to make your own way to God through the law. 


B)This is living like a descendant of Abraham – but it is living like Ishmael.

The son of the Bondwoman – the son of slavery – Law produces Slaves

1)   Isaac was born, miraculously, through Abraham’s wife Sarah (the freewoman). 


C) Isaac was Abraham’s son, the son of God’s promise and God’s miracle for Abraham. That Abe received thru faith


Question Is your relationship with God based on your own works, or the work of God’s promised miracle? Received thru Faith

A)This covenant has many children; v.26 it is the mother of us all. 


B)Every Christian through the centuries belongs to this new covenant, the covenant of the heavenly Jerusalem. 

1)   And every birth under this covenant is a miracle, like the fulfillment of the prophecy from Isaiah 54:1,



those words were originally written to cheer the Jewish exiles in Babylon but are here applied to Sarah, the barren woman whose barrenness seemingly stood as an impenetrable barrier to the fulfillment of God's promise to her husband, Abraham. As freedom and greater fruitfulness came again to the nation in Babylonian captivity, so it would come to the people in captivity to the law and its death penalty.

(from The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, (c) Moody Press and John MacArthur, Jr., 1983-2002)



Gal 4:24-27


As Zion was a mother of children by grace after captivity, so believers will multiply in grace in the heavenly Jerusalem, which was also figuratively barren for a long time. "The general assembly and church of the first-born" (Heb 12:23) was not occupied until Jesus was crucified and resurrected, taking captivity captive and removing the spiritual barrenness that no human effort under the Old Covenant could remove. Heaven, the Jerusalem above, will continue to be populated with the born-from-above saints of God until every predestined believer has entered.

(from The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, (c) Moody Press and John MacArthur, Jr., 1983-2002)


Gal 4:24-27


In one sweep Paul sets forth the common factor of divine power in behalf of Sarah, the captive Jews, and the church. The common element of all three is divine power granting freedom and fruitfulness. Everything in this trilogy is the result of regenerating grace, not human effort.

(from The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, (c) Moody Press and John MacArthur, Jr., 1983-2002)


C) Everyone who is born again – is a fulfillment of that Promise – Children of Faith – outnumber the Children of the law !!!!





Again addressing the Galatian believers as brethren (cf. 1:11; 4:12), Paul tells them that, like Isaac, they are children of promise. Every believer, like Isaac, is supernaturally conceived, miraculously born, and the offspring of God's promise to Abraham fulfilled in Christ. Those who have begun to sink back into the trap of legalistic Judaism must remember that they are children of promise, who owe their life not to their own effort but to the miraculous power of God, just as Isaac did in the physical realm. God's sovereign power of grace gave them life, and to fall back under law was to deny that divine work and to dishonor God.

(from The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, (c) Moody Press and John MacArthur, Jr., 1983-2002)

Now in verses 29-31 Paul presents the problem that occurs when these two systems try to coexist together –

A)Which is exactly what the legalist where suggesting – Believe in Jesus but follow the law -             RD v. 28-31


B) Ishmael who represents the law & legalism – Abe’s efforts in the flesh to obtain the promise – Ishmael was fine until – Isaac came along


C) As soon as Isaac came along – Ishmael starts to persecute him & taunt him


Legalism will always persecute the person who is living in grace, and enjoying the free gift of salvation. Just as Ishmael taunted Isaac, those who are trying to be religious mock those who celebrate liberty in Jesus, calling them shallow, immature, and undisciplined.


You will find this to be true. Not only will those around you mock you, but a voice will well up within you, saying, ‘Look what you’re doing. Real Christians don’t do that. You must not be a Christian.’ And finally, Satan himself — a voice from underneath you — will condemn you day and night (Revelation 12:10).

Contrary to our natural inclination, the solution to all of these accusations is not to get more religious, try harder, vow more earnestly or work more diligently. No, the solution is to cast out the bondwoman. The solution is to say, ‘Away, rules and regulations, religion, and tradition. I’m not going to try and deal with or compromise with the bondwoman — I’m going to cast her out.’


Now, my mind rebels against that; my heart wonders about that; and I am tempted to think, ‘The best way to help the people at Applegate is to set up rules and restrictions, to set up certain standards of spirituality, to draw up pledges for them to sign, commitments for them to make, promises for them to keep.’


But the book of Galatians says just the opposite: Get rid of the promises, the pledges, the commitments, the rules. Those are all Ishmaels. They’re an attempt to help God out in the energy of your own ability — but they will come back and persecute you because, inevitably and invariably, we’ll hedge on our commitments, break our promises, and will be unable to keep our rules. Then we’ll be down on ourselves, depressed about ourselves, disgusted with ourselves until at last we’ll say, ‘Forget it. Why even bother walking with God? I just can’t do it.’


Cast out Hagar and Ishmael, on the other hand, and what will happen? You’ll cleave only to Sarah — to grace. And when you realize the work is done, the price has been fully paid, you’ll exchange the legalistic relationship you once had with God for a loving relationship with Him.


Gal 5:1


Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage



Paul says emphatically that God's stated purpose for redemption was for freedom of the believer. Christ set us free from the "guilt-establishing and deadening power of the law" through His death and resurrection. Going back into a yoke of slavery is absurd. Yet the believers in Galatia were being duped by the Judaizers to consider doing just that.

(from The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, (c) Moody Press and John MacArthur, Jr., 1983-2002)