Galatians 4:21-31 The new law and the old law

Hagar and Sarah

 21 Tell me, you who want to be under the law, are you not aware of what the law says? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman. 23 His son by the slave woman was born according to the flesh, but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a divine promise.

 24 These things are being taken figuratively: The women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar. 25 Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother. 27 For it is written:

   “Be glad, barren woman,
   you who never bore a child;
shout for joy and cry aloud,
   you who were never in labor;
because more are the children of the desolate woman
   than of her who has a husband.”[a]

 28 Now you, brothers and sisters, like Isaac, are children of promise. 29 At that time the son born according to the flesh persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit. It is the same now. 30 But what does Scripture say? “Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman’s son.”[b] 31 Therefore, brothers and sisters, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman.



How could I better understand Galatians 4:21-31, is there a
Presbyterian resource for this?

Your sermons on wisdom made me look further into Sophia. As you know I have a Catholic background and was always fascinated by the Jesuits. In particular their devotion to Sophia.

"My hope and prayer is that the next centenary of your university will strengthen you in your service in the pursuit of truth, and your testimony of harmony between faith and reason," VATICAN CITY, MARCH 4, 2010 - Benedict XVI to the delegation of the Jesuit Sophia University of Japan

Truth, is the key to wisdom and truth is hidden in the harmony between faith and reason.

I have been trying to understand the economics of the early the community of Christ and in a short conversation with Carlos I expressed that these early Christians renounced money. He reminded me that wealth is not frowned upon in the Bible and pointed out Abraham and Solomon.

As one thing leads to another I began to look into Abraham and Solomon. These are horrid men! Are these the examples for Jewish men to follow? Abraham in particular is a driven by a phenomenal lust for power, a nation will be given to him and is driven to sacrifice is son. His covenant with God requires him to circumcise all his men. Can you imagine what it would have been like to take your army of men and commit this act of sexual masochism. This is beyond an act of butchery, something out of "Heart of Darkness".

He is a vagrant and mercenary. He is no farmer, he travels too much to establish his wealth in any other form other than blood money taken from other rulers. He has a child with his slave and then abandons the mother and Child to starve.

Thank God for Jesus Christ.

In the "harmony between faith and reason" would not reason overcome any faith we could have in Abraham. As Christ was a mortal man like us, as we are made in the image of God, then it is naturally repugnant to us the acts of these men.

I understand Christ to have given us a new covenant, one that removes us from the old paradigm of power, war, lust and butchery. Christ comes to fulfill the law of the old testament, but not validate the old laws. There is in fact a diametric opposition in the concepts of the old and new, good and evil, or the acts of Christ and the acts of Abraham.

Having all this in mind should we not give more attention to this opposition between the old Hebrew testament and the new Christian testament?

Thank you and I hope that my interpretation is not offensive.


The parallels between Abraham’s two wives and the Galatian problem become razor sharp in verses 28-31. These verses serve as not only the conclusion of this passage, but also for the entire section of chapters 3 and 4. Notice the relevance of Paul’s “allegory” to the situation in Galatia.

(1) Those who live by faith are the heirs of Abraham, not those who live by law-works. The scribes and the Pharisees, along with the Judaizers of the Galatians, had prided themselves on being spiritually superior because they were the “sons of Abraham.” Paul’s reference to Sarah and Hagar conveyed an amazing reality: the Judaizers were the sons of Abraham, but they were not the sons of Sarah. They had the right father, but the wrong mother. Only those who have come to God through faith in Christ are the sons of Abraham through Sarah. Men who approach God through their own righteousness (of law-works) are really sons of Hagar, under bondage. Once again in graphic terms Paul has pressed the point of the superiority of faith over works, of grace over law, of the promises made to Abraham over the temporary restraints of the law.

(2) The Judaizers were persecuting the Gentile Christians by insisting that keeping the Old Testament Law is a priority and a privilege. Abraham seemed to be aloof to the persecution of Isaac by Ishmael, but it was apparent to Sarah. Ishmael’s treatment of Isaac was paralleled by the treatment of the Gentiles by the Judaizers. Just as the flesh wars with the Spirit (5:17), so Ishmael, a child of the flesh, was at odds with Isaac, a child of the promise, born according to the Spirit (4:29). The Gentiles were not only bewitched (3:1) by these false teachers, they were actually being mistreated. It was time for them to wake up. They were not to be flattered by the zealous pursuit of the Judaizers (4:14) but to recognize their zealousness for what it was—persecution.

(3) The Galatian saints were instructed by this event in the life of Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar, concerning how they should respond to the Judaizers. Abraham loved Ishmael (cf. Gen. 17:18) and was reluctant to expel him and his mother (Gen. 21:11). It was only due to Sarah’s hard-line stand and God’s directive to do what his wife demanded that Ishmael was sent away.

Admittedly I have always felt that Sarah was a grouch. Frankly, I still do. Grouch or not, Sarah was right, and Abraham was wrong. He wanted to try to conciliate his two sons and their mothers, but Sarah would have none of this. Sarah had much more sensitivity to the hostility between these two sons and the danger of “peaceful coexistence.” She knew that the two sons were incompatible and must be separated. Furthermore, from God’s words of instruction to Abraham we can conclude that she was right. The Scripture tells us what must be done: “Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be an heir with the son of the free woman” (Gen. 21:10; Gal. 4:30).