“Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” (2Co 3:17)
Text: Galatians 4:21–31
Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born according to the ﬂesh, and he of the freewoman through promise, which things are symbolic. For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar—for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children—but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all. For it is written: “Rejoice, O barren, you who do not bear! Break forth and shout, you who do not travail! for the desolate has many more children than she who has a husband.” Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise. But, as he who was born according to the ﬂesh then persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, even so it is now. Nevertheless what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.” So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free.
The self-righteous are household slaves in the Lord’s eyes. They work for reward and are afraid of punishment. They are born of the ﬂesh and look to the law. The believers on the other hand are the children of the house. They are born of God, children of grace, children by a miracle. Their life has sprung up by the miraculous power of the Holy Spirit, contrary to nature and reason. They look to grace and truth in Christ and expect an inheritance without the service of works. These two kinds of people Paul ﬁnds illustrated in Hagar with her son Ishmael — and Sarah, Isaac’s mother. Hagar was the bondwoman and did not belong to Abraham’s race. Sarah was a freewoman and Abraham’s true wife. Hagar gave birth according to the order of nature, Sarah by a miracle through God’s promise. Hagar and Ishmael despised Sarah and Isaac, but ﬁnally the despisers had to be thrown out. Sarah was the queen, and Isaac the heir.
As it was then, so also now. We who read this, are we children of Sarah, or perhaps children of Hagar? We all belong to the outward fellowship of the church, but are we also born in the Jerusalem which is above? Are we God’s children, or perhaps household slaves? Are we under law or under grace? Do we live the life of true freedom and holy love? Do we have the special adoption of the Spirit that cries out: “Abba, Father”? Is our citizenship in heaven? Do we strive for what is above, or perhaps for what is earthly? Note it well! The Scripture says: “Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.” And let this be of greater concern to your heart than anything else, that you may be the child of the freewoman, born above and an heir of eternal life. It is sad to come upon this passage: “Cast him out; he shall in no way be heir with the son of the house!” O how important it is to be made free from the law and to stand in the true, blessed state of grace!
Yes, God of grace, may You indeed know us as Your children of grace! O lead us out of bondage, to the blessed freedom of Jesus’ true disciples. Unite us in faith with Him, so that on account of the body of Christ we may be dead to the law, but alive in Him, who rose from the dead. Amen.
Though others still in bondage walk,
Themselves with laws impeding,
And ne’er a taste at all have caught
Of heaven’s sweetest feeding,
Which we through Jesus’ death believe,
By faith receive,
The goal of all His bleeding.
While Hagar and her children poor
In willing thralldom tarry,
We never can enough procure
To thank the King of glory,
Who by His Son far from us took
The Law’s hard yoke
Which we could never carry.
Thy Church, Thy dear Jerusalem,
Thy ﬂock on earth, still crying,
Who have in heav’n their only home,
Their hope now testifying;
They follow Jesus in His Word
And are assured
Of freedom in their dying.
The time shall come when Ishmael
And all the unbelieving
Shall be cast out of Israel,
Their judgment just, receiving,
But we shall stand Thy throne around
In glory crowned
With joy eternal living.
Kingo: Lad andre hen in Trældom gaa L 292 tr. DeGarmeaux;
tune: Maria, hun er en Jomfru reen (ELH 268); alternate hymn: All that I was ELH 451:3-4