The Book of Galatians
James J. Barker
THE ALLEGORY OF SARAH & HAGAR
- The great theme
of Galatians is salvation by grace, apart from the law. In this letter, the
apostle Paul has taken up the question of law and grace and has been expounding
it, clarifying it, illustrating it, and making it very clear that salvation is
not by works of the law but entirely by the hearing of
- The contrast
between law and grace is evident to anyone who has ever been born
- Romans 11:6
says, "And if by grace, then is it no more of works:
otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more
grace: otherwise work is no more work."
- These believers
in Galatia were saved by grace but were now turning to legalism. This caused
Paul to wonder if they were even saved in the first place (4:20, cf.
- People who try
to keep the law do not really understand the law (4:21). James 2:10 says, "For whosoever
shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all."
- The Judaizers
made much of their descent from Abraham, and they insisted that believers follow
his example by being circumcised. Therefore, Paul turns again to Abrahamís life
to prove to the Galatians that the law cannot be mixed in with the gospel of
grace (cf. 3:6-9,16).
- God had
promised Abraham that he would have a son, even though he and Sarah were old,
and well past the normal child-bearing age. But Abraham believed God (Gen.
Sarah became impatient and discouraged. She grew tired of waiting on God and
suggested that Abraham have a child with Hagar, her handmaid. Abraham followed
her foolish advice and Ishmael was soon born (Gen. 16:1-4, 15,
Ishmael was not the heir promised by God. Ishmael was the son of Abrahamís
impatience, carnality, and lack of faith.
- Later on, when Abraham was 100 years old, Isaac, the son
of promise, was born (Gen. 21).
- Later on, Sarah saw Ishmael mocking her son Isaac, and
she went to Abraham telling him to expel Ishmael and Hagar from the house (Gen.
- This is the background for Paulís allegory in Galatians
4 (cf. 4:21-24). An allegory is a narrative with a deeper meaning behind it.
- The most famous allegory in the English language is John
Bunyanís Pilgrimís Progress, a story about a pilgrim named Christian who
leaves the City of Destruction with the burden of sin on his
- The Holy Spirit inspired Paul to discern the allegory in
the story of Sarah and Hagar. Unfortunately, many people have gone to the Bible
and found hidden meanings that were not really there. This does nothing but
- The Old Testament is full of stories and types with deep
significance, oftentimes unnoticeable to the casual reader. But we must always
interpret the Old Testament in the light of the New Testament, and not read into
it things that God never intended.
- In other words, the Bible must be interpreted literally
and not "spiritually." Tonight, we will study Paulís allegory and see how he
draws a lesson from the lives of Abraham and Sarah, Hagar, Ishmael, and
THE PHYSICAL BIRTH MAKES US SINNERS AND THE SPIRITUAL
BIRTH MAKES US CHILDREN OF GOD.
- In Paulís
allegory, Isaac represents the man saved by grace. Ishmael represents the sinner
"born after the flesh" (4:23).
- The Scofield
Study Bible says, "The allegory (4:22-31) is addressed to justified
but immature believers (cf. I Cor. 3:1, 2), who, under the influence of
legalistic teachers, 'desire to be under the law,' and has, therefore, no
application to a sinner seeking justification. It raises and answers, for the
fifth time in this Epistle, the question, Is the believer under the law?
(2:19-21; 3:1-3, 25, 26; 4:4-6, 9-31)" (p. 1246).
- Isaac was born
"by promise" (4:23). Isaac represents the man saved by
- First, he was
born by Godís power Ė he "was born after the Spirit" (Gal. 4:29). If you are saved, you too were "born of
the Spirit." Our Lord said, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and
that which is born of the Spirit is spirit" (John
- Isaac brought
joy. His name means "laughter." Isaacís birth brought joy to his elderly
parents. Salvation brings joy, not only to the person saved, but to those around
him as well.
- Isaac was
persecuted (Gal.4:29). Genesis 21:9 says Ishmael was a
- J. Vernon McGee
said that when he first started preaching, he made a comment that preaching on
prophecy would get him into trouble. A deacon came to him and said, "Pastor, you
are mistaken. Preaching on prophecy will not get you into trouble. But if you
preach the grace of God, youíre going to get into trouble." Eventually, he found
this to be true and noticed that very few preachers preached the pure Gospel
message of salvation by Godís grace (cf. 5:11).
- Ishmael created
no problems in Abrahamís home until Isaac was born. In like manner, our old
nature didnít bother us before we were saved. But after we received our
new nature, conflicts began (cf. Gal. 5:16, 17; Rom.
- Paul Rader was
a great preacher of a previous generation. One day he said, "The old nature that
you and I have is just like an old dead cat. What you need to do is reach down
and get that old cat by the tail and throw it as far away as you can." Another
preacher was at that meeting by the name of Lewis Sperry Chafer. Afterward he
said to Mr. Rader, "Paul, you forget that the old dead cat has nine lives. When
you throw him away, he is going to be right back
- No wonder Paul cried out: "O wretched man that I am! Who
shall deliver me from the body of this death?" (Rom.
WE ARE NOT UNDER THE LAW; WE ARE UNDER
- Abraham began
with Sarah, not Hagar. In this allegory, Hagar represents the law and Sarah
represents Godís grace (4:24-26).
- In Godís
relationship with Israel, He first operated on the basis of grace, not law. For
example, his covenant with Abraham was based on grace, not
- Later, when God
delivered the Israelites from Egypt, it was on the basis of grace, not law. The
law was given after they left Egypt.
- Like Hagar, the
law came later. The law "was added because of transgressions till the seed
should come to whom the promise was made" (Gal. 3:19).
- Hagar performed
a function temporarily, and then was gone, just as the law performed a special
function and then was gone (Gal. 3:24, 25).
- No doubt, the
Judaizers would not like this comparison of the law with an Egyptian slave, but
Paul made his point very clearly (cf. Gal. 5:11, 12).
- Paul does not
diminish the law Ė he exalts Godís grace.
- Hagar was a
"bondwoman" (4:23, 30, 31), which means "slave." Sarah was a "freewoman" (4:23,
30). Hagar is identified with Mount Sinai and the law, "which gendereth to
bondage" (4:24; cf. 4:3, 9, 25; 5:1).
- Hagar "is mount
Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with
her children" (4:25).
- Those who try to commend themselves to God by doing good
works are "her children" and according to the Bible they are in
- Jerusalem was the capitol of the Jewish nation, and the
center for the unsaved Israelites who were still seeking to obtain righteousness
by keeping the law. For Paul to link Jerusalem with Hagar instead of Sarah was a
rebuke to all unregenerate Jews.
- Hagar was not meant to bear a child. Abrahamís
relationship to Hagar was out of the will of God. It was the result of Sarah and
Abrahamís unbelief and impatience. Isaac was to be Abrahamís heir, not
- Sarah said in Genesis 21:10, "Cast out this
bondwoman and her son: for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my
son, even with Isaac."
- As far as God was concerned, Isaac was Abrahamís "only
son" (Gen. 22:2, 12, 16).
- Ishmael could not share in Isaacís inheritance. The
Judaizers were trying to make Hagar a "mother" again, but this would only lead
to frustration (Gal. 2:21).
- No amount of religion or rules or rituals can give life
to dead sinners. And all those without Christ are dead -- "dead in
trespasses and sins" (Eph.
2:1). Only Christ can give life and it is through the power of the
LIKE SARAH, WE MUST "CAST OUT THE BONDWOMAN" (4:30;
cf. Gen. 21:9, 10).
- Lest we think
Sarah was being unduly harsh, God approved of her decision. God said to Abraham,
"All that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken
unto her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called" (Gen. 21:12).
- The house was
not big enough for both Sarah and Hagar, and for both Isaac and Ishmael.
Somebody had to go. Likewise, it is impossible for law and grace to stay
together. One must prevail, and one must go.
- The Judaizers
in Paulís day, and many of the religionists of our day are trying to scramble
together law and grace, faith and works, Godís gift of righteousness and manís
self-righteousness. It could not work in Paulís day and will not work in
- Hagar was not
married again. And God never gave the law to any other nation or people other
than Israel. For the Judaizers to impose the law upon the Galatian Christians
was contrary to Godís Word.
- The Judaizers
wanted to wed Mount Sinai with the new Jerusalem. This was an unequal yoke which
God could not bless.
- Let me conclude with these words from M.R.
- The law prohibits Ė Grace invites and
- The law condemns the sinner Ė Grace redeems the
- The law says "DO" Ė Grace says, "IT IS
- The law, "Keep on trying" Ė Grace says, "It is
- The law curses Ė Grace blesses.
- The law slays the sinner Ė Grace makes the sinner
- The law shuts every mouth before God Ė Grace opens the
mouth to praise God.
- The law condemns Ė Grace saves the worst
- The law says, "Pay what you owe" Ė Grace says, "I freely
forgive you all."
- The law says, "the wages of sin is death" Ė Grace says,
"the gift of God is eternal life."
- The law says: "The soul that sinneth, it shall die" Ė
Grace says, "Believe and live."
- The law reveals sin Ė Grace atones for
- By the law is the knowledge of sin Ė By grace is
redemption from sin.
- The law was given by Moses Ė Grace and truth came by
- The law demands obedience Ė Grace bestows and gives
power to obey.
- The law was written on stone Ė Grace is written on the
tables of the heart.
- The law was done away in Christ Ė Grace abides
- The law puts us under bondage Ė Grace sets us in the
liberty of the sons of God.