The Old and the New
1: Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all; 2: But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father. 3: Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world: 4: But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, 5: To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. 6: And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. 7: Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ. 8: Howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods. 9: But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, hereunto ye desire again to be in bondage? 10: Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. 11: I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain. 12: Brethren, I beseech you, be as I am; for I am as ye are: ye have not injured me at all. 13: Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first. 14: And my temptation which was in my flesh ye despised not, nor rejected; but received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus. 15: Where is then the blessedness ye spake of? for I bear you record, that, if it had been possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me. 16: Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth? 17: They zealously affect you, but not well; yea, they would exclude you, that ye might affect them. 18: But it is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing, and not only when I am present with you. 19: My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you, 20: I desire to be present with you now, and to change my voice; for I stand in doubt of you.
Bondage or Liberty
21: Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? 22: For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman. 23: But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise. 24: Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar. 25: For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. 26: But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all. 27: For it is written, Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not; break forth and cry, thou that travailest not: for the desolate hath many more children than she which hath an husband. 28: Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise. 29: But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now. 30: Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman. 31: So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.
Paul here continues his argument regarding those who he has described as heirs of the Promise. He says, the heir while he is in the nursery is treated exactly the same as the son of a servant even though one day he will be Lord of the whole estate. The heir while he is a minor is under guardians and stewards (guardians look after the child and stewards look after his future estate) until the time when he becomes the full son and heir, which is a set time designated by his father. In the same way we were children bound to learn and live under the elementary principles of this world. We were in elementary school ! But when the fulltime came, God to send his Son into the world. He sent him to be born of Mary and to live under the Mosaic Law, to set free those who are living under the law, so that they might receive the status of sonship. And so because you are sons God has sent the Holy Spirit from Christ to reside in your hearts by which you can now cry out ‘Abba or Father’. And so you are not anymore a servant, but a son and if you are a son then you are an heir of God through Christ. Previously when you did not know the Lord, you served those who were placed over you. They were not God. But now after you know God and God knows you, why are you turning back to those things that are elementary and unable to bring you into blessing. And why are you bent on putting yourself back into bondage. You observe days like the Sabbaths, feast days, new moons etc and you keep the old Jewish sacred months and you keep the holy seasonal feasts like Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles and you observe the Sabbatical years and Jubilees. I am afraid for you, in case l have wasted my efforts on you. Then Paul gives an emotional appeal. He says, Brothers, I plead with you become as l am, i.e. free from the legal obligation of the Jewish law, because I became free from the law, as you were before you were saved – Gentiles. You did not injure me before, so do not injure me now. On the contrary you know that my ministry was conducted through great infirmity in the flesh when l first met you. You were tempted to despise me because of my weakness in the flesh but you did not treat me with contempt but you received me as if l were an angel of God and even as Christ himself. So what has become of the pleasure that you had in your own attitude. Because l remember you saying that if it were possible you would have dug out your own eyes and given them to me. In other words you would have given me your most treasured possession to me. So have l now become your most hated enemy – because l tell you the truth? These Judaisers are courting you but not in an honourable way. In fact they would like to excommunicate you, so that you would from your isolation seek to ally yourselves with them again. There is nothing wrong in seeking to enlist you, provided it is for a good cause. Paul again expresses himself in the most tender terms calling them his dearly beloved children in the faith. He says, l am in birth-pains for you all over again until Christ is formed in you i.e. until the Christian life is fully developed in you. If it were possible l would be with you right now and to talk to you not harshly but in gentle tones as a mother speaks to her children because l am perplexed by you. Then Paul poses another question – Tell me he says, you who are bent on being under the Mosaic Law, do you really hear what the old covenant says to you? Your determination to be under the Law is opposed by scripture. Because it is written that Abraham had two sons. One by Hagar the slave and the other by Sarah the freewoman. The son of Hagar was born after the flesh but the son of Sarah was born in fulfilment of the Promise. This part of history is also an *allegory and these two sons are a picture of the two covenants. One covenant came from Mt Sinai and this led to bondage to the law, which is pictured in Hagar. Hagar is like Mt Sinai in Saudi Arabia and it is linked to Jerusalem at it is today, whose children are still in bondage. But there is another Jerusalem which is from above and which one day will be seen in the world – who is our mother. Isaiah wrote, Rejoice you that are barren now, break forth into singing and prayer because the solitary woman has more children than the married wife. Now listen to me we believers are the children of the promise like Isaac was. But those that were born according to the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit. And it’s the same today ! So what was the solution to the problem? Throw out the slave woman and her son. Because the son of the slave will not be the heir alongside the son of the freewoman. And so brethren we are not children of the slave woman but of the free woman.
(*Allegory was the favourite rabbinical interpretation in which the Rabbis spiritualised everything by layers on layers allegory in such a way that the plain meaning of the text was hidden. Paul uses allegory for in its true purpose. An allegory is not like a type. A type is a direct picture of a NT truth but an allegory is a picture in which not all of the details are part of its spiritual significance.)