Galatians 4:21-23. “Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise.”
At this point, Paul introduces an allegory to help the Galatians understand the difference between the Law and Grace. He asks them, “If you are so eager to be under the Law, have you really heard the law? Have you really read the books of the law, and are you willing to try to keep them to the tiniest detail?” Then he takes them all the way back to Abraham, back to the Promise, because that Promise was fulfilled in Jesus Christ. We no longer live under the Law because of His death and resurrection.
Stay with me as we walk through these next verses. It is beautiful the way the Holy Spirit led Paul to take this history and, detail by detail, show that we are no longer bound by the law, but saved by Grace.
We know the story. Abraham and Sarah had been married for many years, and they were old–past the age when having a child was a human possibility. But they had both heard the promise that God made to Abraham, and both wondered if it would ever come to pass since they were now old.
Sarah thought maybe God needed some help. She gave Hagar, her handmaid, to Abraham, hoping that Hagar would become pregnant. If she did, the child would be born on Sarah’s lap and be considered her child. Hagar did indeed become pregnant, and her son was Ishmael. And then, to everyone’s great surprise, about 14 years later, Sarah became pregnant; Isaac was born.
Which son was the son of the Promise? The one through whom all the earth would be blessed? Was it the son born of a fleshly need to help God along, or was it the son that God ordained? And why is all that important?