This is my sermon on Galatians 4:19-31. This message was delivered on April 15, 2012 at Hillcrest Baptist Church. This is a verse by verse exposition which deals with the Abraham’s two sons, Isaac and Ishmael, and how Paul uses them as a symbol of the contrast between law and grace. You will find the text of the sermon, the audio, and a downloadable study outline. Please note that the sermon text is NOT a full transcript. Typically, as I preach, I add to what is in my notes. So, for the full sermon, please listen to the audio version.
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Paul was constantly working toward their sanctification.
His goal was to bring them to a Christ-like state, which is the goal of salvation.
God doesn’t save us just to live however we want. God saves us to become more like Christ. It is what all born-again Christians are predestined for.
Paul; however, was doubtful and perplexed about the state of the Galatians.
He desired to be with them, and talk to them, so that he could change his tone.
Paul apparently had no desire to have to chastise them.
He would rather see them conformed to the image of Christ, and to be able to speak tenderly and softly to them.
Too often we take far too much delight in chastising other believers, when we should never take joy in such things.
We should always work toward the believer’s restoration.
When we delight in that chastisement, then we have ceased to act in love. Instead, we are acting in an attitude of superiority, similar to the Pharisees.
Paul unfortunately found chastisement to be necessary, and had a question for these Galatians who had chosen to be under the law.
“Do you not hear the law?”
In other words, don’t you understand what being under the law means?
Do you understand the law?
In order to explain the law, Paul uses the example of Abraham’s two sons as an allegory.
Therefore, each of the two sons symbolize something different. So, what do they each signify? Paul says that they represent the two covenants.
He is not saying that this is not a true historical account, he is simply showing that this, along with many other accounts in Scripture, have a meaning beyond the literal.
It is important to remember that when interpreting Scripture, we should always start with the most “literal” straight forward meaning, unless the Bible itself tells us otherwise.
Once we have the literal meaning of a passage, we have our starting point. Then, we can branch out, if its appropriate.
This particular illustration would have been of little value to either Paul or the Galatians, if it was not based on real history.
Real life examples are always much more effective than fables, and God gave us real life examples.
Paul explains that Ishmael was born to a bondwoman, and is therefore, in bondage.
He was born by Abraham’s efforts, not God’s grace. This is analogous to being under the law.
While under the law, you are always a slave to the law. The law provides no freedom, it simply keeps you in bondage.
By being enslaved to the law, you are stuck with the burden of never being quite good enough.
One can never attain righteousness of their own merit. Because of this, it is a life without any hope or certainty, with no real chance of deliverance.
Paul compares Hagar to Mt. Sinai because he knew that they would recognize that as the place where the law was given.
Unlike the earthly Mt. Sinai, Jerusalem “above” would be the New Jerusalem, the heavenly city.
Born-again believers are citizens of heaven, and only pilgrims here.
Being a citizen of Heaven is true freedom!
Paul quotes from Isaiah 54:1
In the prophetic context, it speaks of the future restoration of Jerusalem, when the New Jerusalem comes to earth.
In the allegorical context, the barren woman is Sarah, who (as the “desolate one”) represents and bears all the children of promise, who are the spiritual heirs of Abraham. Galatians 3:29
Unlike Ishmael, Isaac was born to a free woman.
He was born by promise, not by Abraham’s own effort. Therefore, Isaac symbolizes the covenant of grace.
Grace means freedom, you no longer have to worry about being good enough. Because of grace, God’s acceptance of you is not based on your works.
Instead, God accepts you based on your faith in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Grace brings with it hope and certainty.
Because of God’s grace, we have a promise that we can count on, we have a future that is sealed by the Holy Spirit. By grace, we are set free by Jesus Christ.
Ishmael is the father of the Arab people. The Arabs have always and still even now, persecute Israel.
Likewise, unbelievers have always, and continue to persecute believers.
The unbelieving world; however much they persecute us, cannot take part in God’s promise of salvation. The only promise that they can count on is the promise of judgment!
Believers are God’s adopted children, and therefore are heir to His promise.
Why would anyone willingly try to go back to the uncertainty and hopelessness of the law?