Galatians 4:21 (CSB)- "Tell me, you who want to be under the law, don’t you hear the law?"
In this chapter, Paul is attempting to free the Galatians from the fetters of legalism by appealing to their head and their hearts. Let us look briefly at the thoughts he shares under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Today we will ponder the depths of Paul's HEAD words (4:1-7; 21-31).
To make his point in this part of his letter, he offers two illustrations for us. He starts with a LEGAL illustration (4:1-7). Consider a Roman father and his son (4:1-2). We start with the frustration (4:1) in this arrangement. Until he comes of age, the son can enjoy very little of his father’s estate. Even though there is a promise of the future, it is not available to the son. But, there is freedom (4:2). Upon coming of age the son can enjoy all of his father’s estate. When the time is right – the son gets it all.
Paul then ties this to the Redeemed's Father and the Father’s Children (4:3-7). Once again we see the frustration (4:3). While under the law they enjoyed very little of the Father’s estate. The human nature had control – and it was a losing battle. But again there is freedom (4:4-7). Upon coming of age (effected by the death of Christ) they can enjoy all of the Father’s estate. There is a beautiful picture of adoption in Roman Times that we don't have time to expand at this point, however consider from the times Paul lived in that as an adopted son, we have full rights to all that is the inheritance.
Paul then uses the example of Hagar and Sarah, two Old Testament women to allegorize the Law of Moses and the Grace of God. This is an allegory –a story that has a deeper or more general meaning in addition to its surface meaning.
Allegories are composed of several symbols or metaphors. For example, in The Pilgrim's Progress, by John Bunyan, the character named Christian struggles to escape from a bog or swamp. The story of his difficulty is a symbol of the difficulty of leading a good life in the “bog” of this world. The “bog” is a metaphor or symbol of life's hardships and distractions. Similarly, when Christian loses a heavy pack that he has been carrying on his back, this symbolizes his freedom from the weight of sin that he has been carrying.
We find many allegories in Scripture. Nathan (2 Sam. 12:1-4) addresses David in an allegorical narrative. [Confronting David over Bathsheba] Jesus’ parables follow this concept.
Here Hagar is an allegory of the Law. She was a slave (4:21-22). Her marriage to Abraham was fleshly directed (4:23a). Her son Ishmael was naturally born (4:24). Their son persecuted Abraham’s second son, Isaac (4:29). Her child was not considered Abraham’s rightful heir (4:30-31a). She corresponds to earthly Jerusalem (4:25).
Sarah, on the other hand is an allegory on Grace. She was a free woman (4:22). Her marriage to Abraham was Spirit directed (4:23). Her son, Isaac, was supernaturally born (4:27) [Isaiah 54:1]. Their son was persecuted by Ishmael (4:29). Her child was considered Abraham’s rightful heir (4:28). Sarah represents the New Covenant (4:27). She corresponds to heavenly Jerusalem (4:26). He states that we are not children of God by the “bondwoman” (the Law), but by the “free” woman – the grace of God.
So, Paul has appealed to their Head, and tomorrow we will see his appeal to heart.
Prayer: Father, as I meditate upon these illustrations of Paul, open my mind to see the distinction between the Law and Grace. I want to live Free as a Bondslave. Show me the way. Amen.