Daily Devotion | Day 319
“Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise . . . So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free [woman]” (Galatians 4:28, 31).
In his Letter to the Galatians, Paul wrote to address a hotly contested issue among Christians of that region. Some Jewish Christians, mostly based in Jerusalem, had convinced Gentile believers that submission to the entire law of Moses was necessary for their salvation. They were not asking the Gentiles to replace faith in Christ with the law. They did insist, however, that submission to Christ and His law was not enough. Gentiles needed to be initiated into the law of Moses as well via circumcision.
Paul heard about this. To his dismay, some of the Gentile Christians had either embraced this false doctrine or were close to doing so. His letter to the community was a sharp rebuke for their gullibility. Additionally, Paul took the opportunity to reiterate the sound teaching regarding these matters. In doing so, he combined the power of rhetoric, familiarity with the Scriptures and his divinely inspired insights into the new covenant. Today’s opening passage falls within this context.
Paul brought Sarah into the picture when he wanted to contrast the old covenant with the new. He did not mention her by name, but the context made it clear that he was speaking of Sarah (Galatians 4:22). Paul wanted to convey the following message: Whoever chooses the law over Christ (or in addition to Christ) chooses slavery over freedom. And to bring this point home, he made use of an allegory which involves two women: Sarah and Hagar.
Let us note that these two women are not fictional characters. They are historical figures in the Bible. And they both represent deeper spiritual realities with far reaching implications for believers. Paul’s goal is to show the ‘prophetic’ relationship between the two women and the two covenants they represent.
Hagar was a slave. She represents Mount Sinai, earthly Jerusalem, life in the flesh, spiritual slavery and the law (old covenant). Children born of Hagar are born in bondage. As a result, Hagar’s children do not inherit the promises God made to Abraham.
In contrast, Sarah was a free woman. She represents the Jerusalem above (Galatians 4:26-27), life in the Spirit, spiritual freedom and the new covenant. Consequently, children born of Sarah are free; they are children of promise and heirs of God: “the Jerusalem above [represented by Sarah] is free, which is the mother of us all” (4:26). This being the case, Paul confidently concludes that we, Christians, are children of promise as Isaac was (4:28), and “we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free” (4:31).
To sum up:
Being a child of Sarah is about identity, origin and destiny. If you do not know your origin and spiritual lineage, you will be confused about your identity and your heritage. Confused identity leads to a confused life. If you do not know you are from a royal family, you will live the life of a slave. This is what the Galatians were tempted to do.
But the Father wants you to know where you came from, which family you are part of, who you are and where you are going. Here, the life of Sarah is instructive. Sarah is more than a character in the Bible. She represents royalty, grace and freedom in Christ. And she is the mother of all who believe. Glory to God for giving us Sarah. Amen.
For further study: Galatians 4:1-7, 21-31 and John 8:31-47