“So then, friends, we are children, not of the slave but of the free woman”. (4:31)

Galatians 4:21 - 5:1 Thursday 30 June 2016

Psalm: Psalm107:1-16


Just before today's passage, Paulexpresses his desperation at the lack of understanding among theGalatians. They keep on wanting to return to the law; to the oldways, the ways of slavery.

Paul employs an example from the OldTestament to put his point across. He had told the Galatians thatGod's promise to Abraham had been made long before the law wasgiven at Mount Sinai (Galatian 3:15-18). Now he uses an example whichwould have been familiar to a Jewish audience. In Genesis 12:1-3 God had promised Abraham thatGod would give him descendants. But Abraham's wife, Sarah, wasbarren, something which would have carried a great stigma. In orderto ensure that there would be an offspring, Sarah suggested thatAbraham have intercourse with Hagar, their slave girl (Genesis 16). Hagar became pregnant and bore ason, Ishmael. Subsequently, though Sarah was well past childbearing age, God promised her a son. She fell pregnant and gavebirth to Isaac (Genesis 21).

There was rivalry between Hagar andSarah, and between Ishmael and Isaac. Ultimately, Hagar and Ishmaelwere sent away by Abraham and Sarah. (Genesis 16, Genesis 21).

Paul is saying that all those whoaccept Christ are children of Abraham and Sarah, the free womanborn of the promise fulfilled in Christ, rather than children ofHagar, the one who was enslaved. Hagar represents the Sinaicovenant; Sarah's children are the ones born as a result of thepromise. And just as Ishmael mocked Isaac, so those who insist oncircumcision, on a return to slavery, are persecuting those whohave freedom in Christ.

Those who insisted on circumcision foreveryone, were promoting enslavement under the law; those whoaccepted Christ no longer needed the law, because they were free inChrist. Slaves could not inherit from their owners, but those whowere free were heirs and thus entitled to the inheritance.

To Ponder

  • The story of Sarah and Hagar would have been familiar to Paul'sreaders. What could be a contemporary example of the point Paul ismaking?
  • What does it mean for people today to know that they arechildren of a free woman?
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