October 22, 2017

The Tale of Two Mothers

Galatians 4:21-31

From our “guest” preacher  Tim Malone

Galatians 4:21-31

Ok, now that I have your attention, we will examine how Paul uses the story of two mothers, Hagar and Sarah, to contrast being under law and being under promise.

We will look at his introduction verse, then break his argument into three points.

Paul begins with the excellent question in verse 21. Tell me, he says to the Judaizers and False teachers, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to what it says? If you really knew what is says, you wouldn’t chose it. Reminds me of my Linear Algebra class in college – if I had known what it was like – no way I would sign up for it. Paul is challenging their thoughts as he begins to explain two ways to relate to God, thru the law and thru the promise. Which is better?

We will break the argument into 3 sections, the historical, the allegorical and the personal.

Galatians 4:22-23 Historical

This may be a good time to read Genesis chapter 16 and Genesis 21:1-21. This is the historical action Paul is referring to. Abraham and Sarah are promised descendants as numerous as stars. However, they are old, have no kids, and are wondering what God meant by his promise. So Sarah gets an idea, Abraham agrees, and Abraham takes Hagar (Sarah’s maidservant) as wife. Through Hagar, Ishmael is born. But this did not stop God’s promise. Years later, Sarah becomes pregnant (even though she is around 90 years old) and gives birth to Isaac, who is the child of promise. So we have 1 father, 2 mothers and 2 sons. One son was born a slave according to nature, the other son born free according to promise.

Galatians 4:24-27 Allegorical

Paul uses the stories of the two women allegorically to make a point. The two women can stand for two covenants. A covenant is an agreement between God and men, which he makes them His people and promises to be their God. Hagar stands for the old covenant. She represents the law, she is from Mt Sinai (where the law was given to Moses), she is connected to the earthly Jerusalem, her child was born in the natural way and born into bondage. All who have Hagar as their representative mother are under the law. Sarah stands for the new covenant. She represents the promise, she is connected to the heavenly Jerusalem, her child was born in a supernatural way and born into freedom. All who have Sarah as a mother are free and children of promise! Paul goes on to quote Isaiah 54:1. Its reference to two women is not Hagar and Sarah, but to the Jews in exile. The Jews in exile are like a barren woman deserted by her husband. But God promises restoration and the people will be more numerous than before exile. Paul says that is the Christian church today, the seed of Abraham!

Galatians 4:28-31 Personal Application


We are children of the promise, descendants of Abraham by the power of the Spirit! But we also see that children of the promise must expect persecution. Sometimes persecution can even come from those people who are religious. Jesus was bitterly opposed by His own people, and mainly those who represented the Jewish faith! To expand even further, being a Christian today in our culture invites immediate persecution, as our values clash with society’s values.

Casting Out

Paul says cast out those who are of the law, who are in bondage, who are the false teachers. We are blessed at Cornerstone to hear the gospel taught throughout all of our ministries. However, let’s apply this personally to ourselves. What do you need to cast out inside of yourself? We all struggle with self-righteousness, basing our value on what we do, and leaning on our own abilities. We must get rid of that way of thinking. And conversely, we all struggle with guilt and doubt God’s goodness and love towards us. Again, we need to rid ourselves of that thinking. We are free; do not go back to the elementary principles of this world.


We are children of the promise; we inherit all of God’s promises! So we must live like it! Why live like a slave when we are free? All the promises given in the scriptures are ours, because we are the true sons of Abraham. We have been born supernaturally by the Spirit of God. We are called to trust God through Jesus Christ. For in Christ we receive grace and enjoy the freedom of God!

Discussion Questions

Read Genesis 16:1-6. Who was Hagar? Who was her son? Why was he born? What am I trying to control in my life or that of my family’s instead of trusting in God’s promises?

Read Galatians 4:22-23. Who was the son by a slave woman? Who was the son by a free woman? What made these two sons different? Was it based on their works or on a promise?

Read Galatians 4:24-26. Those in Galatia who were trying to add to their righteousness by works of the law are compared to slave children. Who was the spiritual mother of the Galatians? What do you think Paul means by the “Jerusalem above” (see Hebrews 12:22-24)? Who is our spiritual mother? Why?

Read Galatians 4:27-28. Did Abraham and Sarah live to see the promise of descendants as numerous as the stars of heaven and the sand that is on the seashore (Gen. 22:17)? How does looking ahead to the consummation of God’s promises help us today? What can we learn from Sarah and Abraham about the need for faith that stretches into the distant future? How should I convey the promises of God to the next generation?

Read Galatians 4:29. What do you think Paul means that it is the same now? What can we learn about persecution from the story of Ishmael and Isaac (see Gen. 16:12)? What can we learn from the persecution that Paul faced from the false teachers?

Read Galatians 4:30-31. Are there things in my life that I need to cast out? What things are crowding out the gospel in my life, e.g. self-righteousness, self-loathing, idols?


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