An explanation of Galatians 4:21-31 developed by Terry Dorsett.
• Galatians was written by the apostle Paul to churches scattered across central Turkey that he had personally started to reach non-Jews.
• Some Jewish Christians told the non-Jewish believers that they had to follow all the Old Testament laws and Jewish traditions in order to be real Christians.
• This was causing a lot of confusion because Paul had told them that all they needed was faith in Christ alone for salvation.
• The first three chapters of Galatians make it clear that both Jews and non-Jews are saved by faith in Christ and not rituals or traditions.
• This does not mean that rituals and traditions have no place in our spiritual journey. It simply means that rituals and traditions ONLY have value if we first have FAITH.
• Once we come to faith, we should remember the lessons learned from our past but not live in bondage to our past. We must not turn back to our past slavery to sin.
Verse 22 - it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave and the other by a free woman.
• The Galatians really wanted to experience all the promises of God in their lives.
• They were so focused on trying to experience everything God had for them that they were tempted to seek the things of God through human means instead of spiritual means.
• That was why they were willing to try rituals they did not fully understand or believe in, they just wanted to experience all God had for them.
• Though we can appreciate their good intentions, they were going about it the wrong way.
• To illustrate his point, Paul reminds them of an important story from the Old Testament, as well as secular history, the story of how Abraham had two children by two different women.
Verse 23 -But the one by the slave was born according to the flesh, while the one by the free woman was born as a result of a promise.
• Though God has promised that one day Abraham would be the father of a great nation, as Abraham aged, it seemed to him that the promise was not coming about in the way he had envisioned.
• Instead of waiting on God, Abraham forced the issue and used human means to have a child with Hagar, his slave. That child’s name was Ishmael.
• Though it gave him the heir that he desired, it was not the plan that God wanted Abraham to follow.
• God still had a plan and continued to work behind the scenes to bring that plan about.
• After Sarah became pregnant and had Isaac, Abraham ended up with two heirs.
• In their culture, the oldest child normally inherited everything, but in Abraham’s case, the oldest was the child of a slave, so the younger son would inherit everything.
• Abraham and Sarah’s efforts to help God out produced a lot of pain in their lives and in the lives of their children.
• If Abraham had realized the pain his actions were going to cause, he would not have done it.
• Most of us can relate to this, because we too have often tried to help God out and make bad choices in the process. Those choices often attempted to bypass the rules that God has put in place.
• God has put those rules in place to keep us from pain.
• If we would just live the way God asks us to and trust Him to do the right thing at the right time, we would have a lot less pain in our lives.
• When we fail to do that, we experience the pain that naturally results from bad choices.
• We may argue that it is our life and if we think the pain is worth the price, then we should be free to do whatever we want.
• Unfortunately, the pain that results from our bad choices spills over into the lives of those around us.
Verse 29 -But just as the child born according to the flesh persecuted the one born according to the Spirit, so also now.
• The pain of Abraham’s choices impacted not only his life, but the lives of many other people. Follow this train of thought for a moment:
• Hagar’s son was Ishmael.
• Sarah’s son was Isaac.
• In time both grew up, married and had children of their own.
• Their children married and the extended family kept growing.
• This continued until our modern day.
• Though some inter-marriage exists in all cultures, basically the Jews are descended from Isaac and the Arabs are descended from Ishmael. The children of Isaac and Ishmael continue to have conflict with each other.
• The conflict that started when Abraham tried to do good through human means instead of waiting for God’s perfect timing and God’s perfect way has continued through the ages and remains one of the world’s greatest conflicts.
• How much pain and conflict have we had in our own lives because we were in a hurry instead of waiting on God or because we thought we knew better than God?
• How much pain and conflict have we caused in the lives of others for the same reasons?
Verse 28 -Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise.
• But there is hope!
• Christians are children of the promise!!!!
• God expects us to act like it!
• Yet we often act like we are children of the flesh.
• We often try to kick doors open instead of waiting for God’s timing and God’s way.
• Though in our own efforts and in our own ways we might be able to accomplish some portion of the goals God has put on our hearts, it will never be as effective or as healthy as if we had waited on the Lord.
• We can look at history and at our own lives and find numerous stories that prove doing things our way results in pain and conflict.
• What should we do when we realize our plans and methods are not God’s plans and methods?
Verse 30 - But what does the Scripture say? Throw out the slave and her son, for the son of the slave will never inherit with the son of the free woman.
• Paul was not suggesting that we literally throw people away.
• Every person has value and every person is equal in the eyes of God, even those caught up in difficult situations.
• Paul was trying to convey the idea that we must “throw away” the plans we have made in the flesh so that we are not tempted to follow them.
• If we have plans to accomplish good but those plans require us to do something against God’s plan, we must completely and totally toss our plans out. The end DOES NOT justify the means!
• We must stop kicking doors open and start waiting on God.
• We must learn that God’s will can only be accomplished effectively when done in God’s time and in God’s way.
• God has a plan for each of our lives.
• As we begin to discover that plan, we can be tempted to try to help God out by doing things our way instead of waiting on the Lord.
• Though “our way” may produce some temporary “progress,” in the end it will always be less than perfect and full of difficulty and heartache.
• We must stop kicking doors open and wait on the Lord’s timing and methods.