21 Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. 23 But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise. 24 Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. 25 Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. 27 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.”
28 Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. 29 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. 30 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.” 31 So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman.
In Galatians 4:21-31, Paul uses the story of Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar as an illustration to help us understand that God’s salvation has never come through human effort. Rather, God’s salvation has always and will always come through his gracious acts for us. These Galatians were being tempted to produce through salvation through their Law-keeping—through their human effort (like Abraham and Hagar tried to produce the promised child themselves). But Paul reminds them that in order to be justified before God all we need is to trust God’s promise to save in Jesus (like Abraham and Sarah later did, exemplified in Isaac being born to them in their old age). Paul further uses this illustration to remind us that anyone who is trying to earn their own salvation is simply in slavery. But those who trust Jesus are free because through faith everything he did in his life, death, and resurrection counts for them. In Christ, we are already children of God through faith.
In the end, the gospel is bad news for those who want to save themselves because the gospel highlights the fact that we could never be good enough to earn God’s blessing—we were so wicked Jesus had to die for us. On the other hand, the gospel is good news for those who know they can’t save themselves and trust in Jesus’ work in their place. The gospel not only highlights the fact that we were so wicked Jesus had to die—it also highlights the fact that he was willing to die, to take away our sin and make us righteous. As Paul says elsewhere, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost” (1 Timothy 1:15).
1. Was there anything from the sermon, big idea, or Galatians 4:21-31 that stood out to you, challenged you, or confused you?
2. How much faith did Abraham need to have to have a son with Hagar? How much did he need to have a son with Sarah?
3. What does Paul say each mother represents (v 24-26)? Why?
In the end, the gospel is bad news for those who want to save themselves because the gospel highlights the fact that we could never earn God’s blessing.
4. Why do you think some people don’t like the idea of the gospel of grace?
The gospel is good news for those who know they can’t save themselves and trust in Jesus’ work in their place…
Martin Luther once said, “When Satan tells me I am a sinner he comforts me immeasurably, since Christ died for sinners.”
5. How does what Luther said give you joy even in light of your sin? Pray for each one in your group to be strengthened to go out and proclaim the good news of the grace of Jesus in all spheres of life.
The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost (1 Timothy 1:15).
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