Read Galatians 4:12-31
12I plead with you, brothers, become like me, for I became like you. You have done me no wrong. 13As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you. 14Even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn. Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as if I were Christ Jesus himself. 15What has happened to all your joy? I can testify that, if you could have done so, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me. 16Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?
17Those people are zealous to win you over, but for no good. What they want is to alienate you [from us], so that you may be zealous for them. 18It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good, and to be so always and not just when I am with you. 19My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you, 20how I wish I could be with you now and change my tone, because I am perplexed about you!
21Tell me, you who want to be under the law, are you not aware of what the law says? 22For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman. 23His son by the slave woman was born in the ordinary way; but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a promise.
24These things may be taken figuratively, for the women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar. 25Now 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. 27For it is written:
"Be glad, O barren woman,
who bears no children;
break forth and cry aloud,
you who have no labor pains;
because more are the children of the desolate woman
than of her who has a husband."
28Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. 29At that time the son born in the ordinary way persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit. It is the same now. 30But what does the 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." 31Therefore, brothers, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman. (NIV)
Paul is beginning to transition his argument as to the difference between those under the law and those under grace. His argument shifts from last week’s reading where it was seen as the stage where a child goes from childhood to adult to now the difference between slave and free.
In verses 12 through 16, Paul slips back at first to ask a question of what happened since I left you. “When I was there,” he says, “you treated me as next to God, but now I seem to be an enemy.” Paul is trying to understand how easily swayed they have been. And there are times that we are easily swayed. This is especially true when we do not ground ourselves in what Scripture says. I have found how amazing that people have been able to use Scripture to convince people to do and believe horrible things. And when you look at how they were swayed, it comes down to their basic lack of Scriptural knowledge. They believed a person and not the word of God.
I love that Paul reminds them that it is okay to be zealous. In fact, I think Paul longs for all to be Zealous for God.
Then Paul shifts to his argument about slave and free. He brings us the two songs of Abraham. The first born is the son of Hagar, Ishmael. This is the son where Abraham and Sarah tried to force the promise to become true. It never worked out. In fact, after Isaac was born to Sarah, Ismael would tease him and put him down. Paul references this in verse 29.
Paul uses the analogy that the two women represent two covenants, one that leads to slavery and one that leads to freedom. For Paul, the law enslaves one without freeing if from that which is says it will do. We cannot be saved by simple obedience to the law. The second is the one that leads to freedom.
He reminds the people that in Christ, we are free. So Paul is really trying to get us and the Galatians to see that Christ has set them free to act and to love. It is not a set of rules we follow, but a risen savior. And we must also wrestle at times with this. Are we making religion a set of rules or are we acting in response to a great love that has set us free to choose to love, to give and to sacrifice for others? Where do you see yourself on this spectrum of living? Are you trying to earn God’s love by obedience? Or are you obedient like a child because you freely choose to honor God as your father? The motivation is so critical to our faith. I hope you spend some time thinking about that this week.
Blessings and Peace