Pastor David B. Curtis


Media #1042 MP3 Audio File Video File

These Women Are Two Covenants

Galatians 4:21-31

Delivered 12/13/20

This morning we are going to look at Galatians 4:21-31. This text demonstrates the value in understanding the Tanakh. Almost all the commentators agree that this is the hardest passage in the book of Galatians. Paul's form of argument is very Jewish, even Rabbinical, which means that his first-century readers probably had no problems following him. But that same style can seem rather difficult to 21st-century readers. From my perspective, this passage is quite simple if you understand the Preterist view of eschatology. The key to the whole passage can be found in verse 21.

Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law? Galatians 4:21 ESV

Paul is arguing with those who want to go back to Judaism and take Yeshua with them. He is addressing people who want a hybrid religion that is part Jewish and part Christian. They intend to believe in Yeshua, but they want to live under the law as a means of pleasing God and winning His favor. Everything in this passage is aimed at these confused believers who were sorely tempted to go back to the Law of Moses. Paul's point is this: Have you considered the implications of what you are about to do?

The folks in Galatia had been toying with the law for far too long. The false teachers had been very persuasive. Their arguments had been convincing. They said, "We, the Jews, are the chosen people of God. We are of our father Abraham. The sign of the covenant people is the sign of circumcision. If you Gentiles really want to be part of the people of God then you must do something. You must submit yourself to circumcision and keep the law—be good!" Because the people in Galatia wanted to do what was right and desire to be right with God, they began moving toward the Law.

Paul challenged his readers, who claimed to value the Law so highly, to consider what it taught. He chose his lesson from Genesis, a book in the "Law" section of the Tanakh. Thus, he used the term "law" to refer to two different things in this verse—

the Mosaic Law and the Tanakh.

Do you not listen to the law? Paul senses that he has not made his point yet, so he approaches the matter with another illustration from the Tanakh. Essentially, Paul says, "Let's have a Bible study. Open your Bibles to Genesis chapter 16."

For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise. Galatians 4:22-23 ESV

Abraham had two sons, Ishmael and Isaac. Paul does not mention that Abraham had eight sons, six of them from a woman named Keturah whom he married after Sarah died. (Genesis 25:1-2) The birth of the two sons, Ishmael and Isaac, provided Paul with the sermon material that he needed to teach the biblical lesson that was needed by the folks in Galatia.

The history behind this story is found in the book of Genesis. It basically goes as follows Abraham was a prosperous businessman in Ur of the Chaldees when God appeared to him and told him to take his wife Sarah, leave that land, and go to a land that God would later show him. Why Abraham? In a message I did on June 17, 2007, I said, "Did God choose him because he was a godly man? No! Abraham was a pagan moon worshiper when God called him." Where did I get that from? Maybe from Joshua 24.

And Joshua said to all the people, "Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, 'Long ago, your fathers lived beyond the Euphrates, Terah, the father of Abraham and of Nahor; and they served other gods. Joshua 24:2 ESV

It is not stated that Abraham himself was an idolater, though his fathers were. Jewish tradition asserts that Abraham, while in Ur of the Chaldees, was persecuted for his abhorrence of idolatry, and hence, was called away by God from his native land.

The Bible does not tell us about who Abram was when God called him. But the Book of Jubilees, a highly regarded second-century BC Jewish text and pseudepigraphal work sometimes called the "Lesser Genesis," records an account of the biblical history of the world from the creation to Moses.  

According to this record, Abraham as a child "began to understand the errors of the earth," and at the age of fourteen, in order not to be entangled in the idolatry, practiced in connection with astrology by the whole house of Nahor, separated from his father and family, and prayed to God to save him "from the errors of the children of men."

The Book of Jasher says,

Jasher 9:6 And Abram was in Noah's house thirty-nine years, and Abram knew the Lord from three years old, and he went in the ways of the Lord until the day of his death.

The book of Jasher is a non-canonical book mentioned in the Hebrew Bible. You may be wondering why we should care about ancient Near East or intertestamental Jewish material? Why not just stick to the Bible? The answer is that these ancient texts give us very important background information that enriches the meaning of the biblical text so that we understand better what it is that the author is trying to communicate to us. These pseudepigraphal books are the cognitive environment of the writers and their original readers. And the worldview of the biblical writers and their original audience is the context of Scripture.

Consequently, the idea that Abram was a pagan moon worshipper is probably wrong. The pseudepigraphal texts paint him as a God fearer. For this reason, God called Abram and promised to give him descendants who would become a great nation.

Now the LORD said to Abram, "Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. Genesis 12:1-2 ESV

That was all well and good except that Abraham was 75 years old, Sarah was 65, and they had no children. In the course of time they arrived in Canaan, the land God had promised them. In Canaan, God repeated that promise, saying:

I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth, so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your offspring also can be counted. Genesis 13:16 ESV

Ten years passed and still no son had been born to them. Because the biological clock was ticking away, Sarah suggested that Abraham marry Hagar, Sarah's Egyptian maidservant.

And Sarai said to Abram, "Behold now, the LORD has prevented me from bearing children. Go in to my servant; it may be that I shall obtain children by her." And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai. Genesis 16:2 ESV

Hagar became pregnant and a son named Ishmael was born. Sarah concluded that because she was 75 years old, there was no way she would ever have a baby. That was a perfectly reasonable, perfectly "human" conclusion. Therefore, she and Abraham decided to take matters in their own hands and help God out. But, of course, God doesn't need our help; and whenever we try to help Him, things get worse, not better.

That is exactly what happened. Genesis 16 records that animosity arose between Sarah and Hagar. That figures. You have two women sharing one man. That is never going to work out! So young Ishmael grew up in an unhappy home situation. Fourteen years pass.  Abraham was then 99 and Sarah was 89. His body is "as good as dead." Her womb seems shut tight. There seems to be no chance, none whatsoever, that they will ever have a child together. But at precisely that point, God appeared to Abraham once more and said:

And God said to Abraham, "As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and moreover, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall become nations; kings of peoples shall come from her." Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, "Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?" Genesis 17:15-17 ESV

To make it clear that Ishmael was not the son of promise, God told Abraham:

But I will establish my covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this time next year." Genesis 17:21 ESV

God revived the bodies of Abraham and Sarah, and 12 months later Isaac was born. The name Isaac means laughter. Abraham was 100 years old, and Sarah was 90.

And Sarah said, "God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh over me." Genesis 21:6 ESV

This part of the biblical story is familiar to most of us. It is clear why Paul used this example. The Jews revered Abraham as their spiritual father. As far as they were concerned, if you were a physical descendant of Abraham, you were in good standing with the Lord. As long as you could find Father Abraham somewhere in your family tree, you did not really need anything else. It was a matter of lineage, of heritage, of tracing your family tree. If you could find Abraham back there somewhere, you were in God's family. But Paul contended "Not so!" God's family is made up of those who have a relationship with Him by faith in Yeshua the Christ. It is a matter of faith and not of your family tree.

As Paul put it, Ishmael was born according to the flesh, and Isaac was born as the result of God's promise. Ishmael was born a slave because his mother was a slave; Isaac was born free because his mother was a free woman.

Paul taught that Ishmael was born "according to the flesh." The NIV puts it this way: "Was born in the ordinary way," suggesting, in the ordinary way as people are normally born into this world. According to the flesh, they are conceived, carried to term, and born.

But I think that Paul meant more than that here. I see "according to the flesh" as meaning "human efforts apart from God." Specifically, Ishmael was born according to a lack of faith on Abraham's and Sarah's part as they tried to accomplish God's will by doing their own will.

If we look at Paul's prior uses of "flesh" in Galatians, we see him using "flesh" to refer to something that is totally human, with no special grace attached. In Paul's use of the term "flesh" in Galatians, he does not simply mean "possessed of a physical body"; rather, he means "limited to only a physical body and the physical strength it contains."

However, the other son, Isaac, was not born in the ordinary way, or according to the flesh in the sense that, in contrast, he was born according to a promise given to Abraham by God. Now, this does not mean that Isaac was born out of the ordinary. He too was conceived, carried to term, and born. But what makes his birth different is that God intervened in a situation where Sarah could not conceive without a miraculous intervention.

The problem in Galatia was this: The Judaizers taught that someone either had to be a Jew or had to act like a Jew in order to be saved. That included being circumcised and keeping the outward trappings of the Law of Moses. But Paul taught that one could be physically uncircumcised and still keep the Law:

So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? Then he who is physically uncircumcised but keeps the law will condemn you who have the written code and circumcision but break the law. Romans 2:26-27 ESV

The Gentile Christian, who was physically uncircumcised, kept the requirements of the Law by faith in Yeshua the Christ. This demonstrated that he had been circumcised in his heart. The phrase "the precepts of the Law" in 2:26 is the same Greek phrase as in Romans 8:4.

in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:4 ESV

All that the Law required, including circumcision, is fulfilled in us (Christians) by the Spirit through our union with Christ. In Verse 26, Paul expounded a radical shift from the covenant of Moses which commanded a physical circumcision.

The Judaizers, however, taught that one had to be circumcised and keep the Law of Moses. The Judaizers asked, "Who's your father?" Paul essentially answered their question with this question: "Who's your mother?"

The Jews knew that they were the descendants of Abraham, Sarah, and Isaac, but Paul turned their most prized "bragging right" on its head by saying, "No, you are the descendants of Hagar!" He made it clear to those who took matters into their own hands and sought to keep the law in order to earn their salvation that they were, in fact, the children of the slave woman and not of the free woman.

Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. Galatians 4:24-25 ESV

Before we go on, let's talk about the word "allegorically." Many tell us that this text sanctions the allegorical method of interpretation which seeks a "deeper" spiritual meaning below the "shallow" surface of the literal. The Greek word allegoreo is from allos meaning "another" and agora meaning "to speak." From this perspective, things are spoken in a manner that gives a different meaning from that which the words themselves express.

The allegorical method of interpretation views the literal meaning of the text as  being secondary to the "spiritual" interpretation. They purport that those who are immature or uninitiated into the "deeper things" are able to grasp only the literal meaning. The primary problem with the allegorical method is that the "spiritual" interpretation is highly subjective and often has little correspondence to the text being interpreted.

The easiest way to sort this out is to start where Paul starts—with two women and two sons—all of them literal people who actually lived on the earth and whose stories are told in the book of Genesis. What happens next is that Paul looks back at these historical persons and draws certain conclusions from them.

Paul says, "these women are two covenants." Here, Paul reveals that the two women in that Genesis account actually represent the two covenants of God. Therefore, Hagar and Sarah represent the Old and New Covenants. Do you see that? The writer of Hebrews talks about these two covenants.

For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second. For he finds fault with them when he says: "Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, Hebrews 8:7-8 ESV

The old covenant has been replaced by a new covenant. In fact, the old covenant itself said that there would be a new covenant. Jeremiah 31 demonstrates to us that the Mosaic covenant was temporary.

Paul sees a huge difference between Sarah and Hagar. Sarah represents "grace" and Hagar represents "law." Sarah stands for trusting God alone, and Hagar stands for trying to please God through one's own efforts. And the sons born to them represent the way of faith (Isaac) versus the way of works (Ishmael). Thus, you have real people who, nevertheless, stand for (or point to or represent) certain spiritual truths. When you boil it down, Paul is saying that Sarah is the line of faith and Hagar is the line of works. All humanity is either in one line or the other. There is no "third line" from which to choose.

Those who follow Hagar are the people who believe that religion and good works and self-effort will be enough to gain forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life. Those who follow Sarah are the people who have rejected self-effort and have chosen to believe what God said even if it seems to fly in the face of what everyone else says and does.

Of these two covenants, Paul says, "One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children."

The reference to Mount Sinai points us back to the giving of the law to Moses. The "present Jerusalem" is the Jerusalem of the first century, which was the world headquarters of Judaism with its dependence on the law as a means of salvation. But since no one can be saved by keeping the law, the people who live in Jerusalem are enslaved by the law. They are trapped by demands they can never meet. The slave woman (Hagar) produces a slave son (Ishmael) who stands for everyone who is enslaved by the tyranny of law keeping as a means of salvation. Slavery comes from slavery, bondage from bondage.

In Paul's argument is the most startling reversal in the entire history of prophecy. Hagar, the Egyptian bondmaid, is identified with Jerusalem and Jewry. Sarah is identified with the true Church—"the New Covenant, the heavenly Jerusalem."

The allegory thus declares that earthly Israel (the twelve tribes) is to be regarded as Ishmael, because they are in bondage to the law and not free. The true Church of Gentile and Jew (in which all distinctions of race, degree, and privilege are abolished) is the true Israel to whom the promises made to Abraham apply.

This view has been called "replacement theology"—it is said that the Church replaced Israel. But a much better term would be "fulfillment theology"—the promises of God made to Old Covenant Israel are "fulfilled" in the Church of Yeshua the Christ, which is true Israel. Christianity is the fulfillment of God's promises to Israel, because we are true Israel.

Hagar and Ishmael stand for the "present Jerusalem" (that is, the earthly Jerusalem standing with temple and sacrifice at the time of Paul's writing). Sarah and Isaac stand for the true Israel, the church, the "Jerusalem above." The covenant made with Abraham is the promise of the gospel, and from that promise every Jew is excluded except as he comes by the same road of faith which the Gentile believer treads.

Paul takes Hagar and makes her the spiritual equivalent of the law given to Moses at Mount Sinai. Now, this would have been repugnant to any Jew, because all Jews viewed the descendants of Hagar and Ishmael as being in essentially the same category as all Gentiles, who were viewed by the Jews as dogs or vermin.

Any Jew would have been offended by the suggestion that he was a son of Hagar. Yet, that is exactly what Paul stated. Yes, physically they descended from Sarah, but spiritually, apart from faith in Christ, they descended from Hagar. The true sons of Sarah, "like Isaac, are children of promise."

At the time of this writing, Israel was a slave nation. They were under the yoke of Rome. They were not free. They perceived themselves as free to the extent that they were allowed to practice a limited form of Judaism, according to the law, but they were still subject to a power outside of Israel. And so, Paul is saying that as much as you might think Jerusalem is free, it is only an illusion. And thinking that the law can save is also an illusion.

By contrast, Sarah stands for the promise of God found in the gospel, which reveals to us the Good News that Yeshua died for our sins and rose from the dead. The salvation he offers is free to anyone who will take it by faith. This salvation offers true and lasting freedom. The free woman produces a free child. Freedom comes from freedom.

But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. Galatians 4:26 ESV

What exactly is this "Jerusalem above" who is our mother? You must keep in mind that the comparison here is between two covenants. Earthly Jerusalem represents the Old Covenant, so this heavenly Jerusalem represents the New Covenant.

The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. Revelation 3:12 ESV

John tells us that this New Jerusalem is the city of God. Also, in Revelation 21:9, an angel said to John in a vision:

Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, "Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb." Revelation 21:9 ESV

Who is the bride, the wife of the Lamb? The Church is! This angel is showing John "the wife of the Lamb." With that in mind, notice the next verse:

And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, Revelation 21:10 ESV

In short, Jerusalem above is the "wife of the Lamb," which is the church, which is the New Covenant, which is the city of God.

The writer of Hebrews points this out when he makes the comparison of Mount Zion and the heavenly Jerusalem.

But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Yeshua, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. Hebrews 12:22-24 ESV

The word "and" after Mount Zion ought to be rendered "even" or "that is." Mt. Zion is the city of God, the heavenly Jerusalem. So, Mount Zion, heavenly Jerusalem, city of the living God, the church, and in verse 28, the kingdom, ALL refer to those redeemed in the body of Christ; New Covenant believers.

That's why this verse in Galatians concludes that Sarah, who represents the covenant that corresponds to the Kingdom of God, is the mother of all believers. It ties back to what we read earlier from Genesis 17:16, where God said of Sarah: "She shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her."

Sarah equals Isaac, who equals the New Covenant, which equals Jerusalem above, which equals the church. Do you agree with that? So, we could say that the New Covenant and the Jerusalem above and the church are all synonyms.

The Jerusalem above represents the dwelling place of God. Sarah represents that city because she gave birth to Isaac, not by reliance on herself, but by an act of God from above in fulfillment of His promise. Therefore, spiritually speaking, she is the mother of all Christians—of people whose lives are not merely the product of human resources but of God's supernatural work in their heart.

For it is written, "Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear; break forth and cry aloud, you who are not in labor! For the children of the desolate one will be more than those of the one who has a husband." Galatians 4:27 ESV

Paul cites Isaiah 54:1 to establish the relationship of Sarah to the heavenly Jerusalem. This prophecy assures Israel, during her barren time of the Babylonian captivity, that she will one day have more children than ever before. The Jews took it as a prophecy, not only of the restoration of Israel but also of the time when multitudes of Gentiles would turn to God and claim Israel as their mother by becoming full members of the Jewish nation. Paul sees the fulfillment of the prophecy in the birth and growth of the church.

Paul applies the text from Isaiah to Sarah and Hagar as follows: Sarah at first had no child, but when the promise of Isaac was fulfilled, her posterity exceeded that of Hagar; but in the instance of the spiritual fulfillment of this, the numberless "Sons of Sarah" in the church of the living God even more overwhelmingly outnumber those of Hagar. So, the question is not, "Who's your father?" The real question is, "Who's your mother?"

Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. Galatians 4:28 ESV

"You brothers"—believers are children of promise, not of works. He says this twice, in verses 28 and 31. We who believe in Yeshua are descendants of Abraham through Isaac. We are not the sons of Ishmael. We have believed God's promise by faith, and on that basis alone, we are God's children. God declares here that every believer is a child of promise in the same way Isaac was. That's because, like Isaac, we become children of God, not as a result of any action that we have taken. This fact is amplified in:

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. John 1:12-13 ESV

Note that verse 13 makes it clear that we are born not of "the will of man," but of God. Contrary to doctrine that is widely taught nowadays, we do not become saved by making a decision to receive Christ. We have received Christ, because God, having named us in His will, has given us the faith to trust Him.

But just as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now. Galatians 4:29 ESV

The phrase "according to the Spirit" here is synonymous with "according to the promise" in the previous verse. It stands opposed to the phrase "according to the flesh" and means that his birth was by the special or miraculous agency of God.

Paul says, "as at that time"referring to Ishmael's persecution of Isaac. Then he says, "so also it is now"referring to the Jewish persecution of Christians in the first century. Paul's greatest enemies were not the pagan philosophers of Athens, or the Romans, but the fanatical Jews. Paul rarely had problems from the Gentiles, unless they were first stirred up by the Jews. During Paul's day, there was a bitter struggle between fleshly and spiritual Israel as typified in Ishmael's persecution of Isaac. Much of the New Testament writings were designed to encourage Christians to hold fast under Jewish persecution, because deliverance would come soon.

Just as Abraham had two sons who existed side by side for a time in the same household, these two sons are typical of the two Israels of God:

But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, Romans 9:6 ESV

There were two Israels, one born after the flesh (Old Covenant) and the other born after the Spirit (New Covenant). They existed side by side for a time (40 years). During this time of coexistence, the one born after the flesh persecuted the one born of the Spirit. Now, notice God's solution to this persecution:

But what does the Scripture say? "Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman." Galatians 4:30 ESV

In verse 29, Paul touches upon the persecuting envy of the Jews against the church, to whom their privileges have passed, and likens it to the hatred of Ishmael against Isaac and concludes his argument by quoting against the Jew the very words originally spoken against Hagar and her son Ishmael—"Cast out the slave woman and her son." This refers to the Old Covenant and the earthly Israel and physical Jerusalem.

The dreadful judgment of these words should be unmistakable. God was about to judge the Old Covenant world for rejecting and crucifying her Messiah and killing those that were sent to her (see Matthew 21:33-45; 23:29-36; cf., Hebrews 8:13; 10:37; 1 Corinthians 7:29-31; 1 Peter 4:7; 1 John 2:17-18). Time came for Hagar and her son to go. A.D. 70 would be that time. They would be removed from hindering the church any further.

Christ's parousia (which means "presence or arrival") is tied, not to an outward, physical, earthly appearance of some sort, but to the consummated coming or arrival of the New Covenant age at the destruction of the Old Covenant age. His presence, therefore, is a covenantal presence in terms of the new and everlasting covenant.

Adam Clark writes, "Cast out the bond woman and her son: and what does this imply in the present case? Why, that the present Jerusalem and her children shall be cast out of the favour of God, and shall not be heirs with the son of the free woman-shall not inherit the blessings promised to Abraham, because they believe not in the promised seed."

The abolition of the Old Covenant means the abolition of physical Israel from all her privileges, and the emergence of the New Testament Church is the rise of the new "Israel of God," Jew and Gentile, with all distinctions obliterated, to whom alone the Abrahamic promises belong. While Ishmael and Isaac coexisted, neither received the inheritance, and in order for Isaac to receive full inheritance, it was necessary to cast out Ishmael.

Paul is saying that earthly Jerusalem will NEVER share in the promise made to Isaac. It was not for them and never was. They are not the Israel of God (Gal. 6:15,16), and were always the children of the bondwoman.

So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman. Galatians 4:31 ESV

This he writes to the most Gentile of all the churches, showing that to the Gentile church has passed the covenant, the glory, the birthright, the privilege and the redemption hope.

The consequences of this text are far-reaching. They extend to every prophecy of the Tanakh in which the New Covenant is foretold, even though the words of the prophets are addressed to "Israel and Judah."

"Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, Jeremiah 31:31 ESV

Whom is the New Covenant promised to? Israel and Judah. Who received the New Covenant? The Church. "Israel and Judah" is the New Testament Church. The Church is the lawful continuation of Old Covenant Israel and the inheritor of the Abrahamic covenant and promises.

Let me wrap up this message with a simple but profound question: Who is your mother? Hagar or Sarah? Are you born of the flesh only or are you also born of the Spirit? Do you still think there is some way you can help God out by the things you do? If you think you can somehow be good enough to merit salvation or if you think that salvation is partly what God does and partly what you do, you are a child of slavery. You are still in chains.

The Ishmaels of this world trust in themselves. The Isaacs of this world trust in God alone for salvation. Who is your mother? Make sure you know the answer to that question.

The freedom-slavery and Spirit-flesh antitheses which Paul has constructed in his allegory serve as the framework for his ethical instructions in the rest of the letter. The children of the free woman, who were born by the power of the Spirit (v. 29), must learn to express their freedom by walking in the Spirit. They must not submit to slavery under the law or gratify the desires of the flesh. Identity is the basis of behavior: a clear understanding of who we are in Christ guides our conduct in the Spirit.

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