Galatians Chapter 4
Gal. 4:1 Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all;
Gal. 4:2 But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father.
Gal. 4:3 Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world:
Gal. 4:4 But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,
“As long as he [the heir] is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all....Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage.” The pronouns “he” and “we” apply to the Jew(s), who were under the Law arrangement before Christ came. Those Jews who followed the Master, believed his teaching, and consecrated ceased to be under the Law and became heirs of the Abrahamic promise. Previously, they were servants under the Law; now, having accepted Christ, they were sons of God.
“The heir, as long as he is a child, ... is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the [heavenly] father.” The Heavenly Father does the calling. We are called of God, and we come to Christ, who is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). And so Paul said that the Father appointed “the time” for Jesus to come.
Jesus came in “the fulness of the time,” which can be thought of as either a process or a period of time, but there was also a specific fulfillment in point of time; namely, he died on the Cross in the fullness of the moon. Immediately after Jesus’ death, the moon, which pictures the Law Covenant, began to wane, showing that the nation was responsible for his death.
When were the people “in expectation” of Messiah (Luke 3:15)? That was at the time of his birth. Many, including some from other nations, had become familiar with the 70 weeks’ prophecy in the Hebrew Scriptures through Daniel when he was in Babylon (Dan. 9:24-26). Although they could not pinpoint the date, they could certainly approximate it. In other words, they knew that the 70 weeks were symbolic, being 70 weeks of years, but they had a little difficulty in knowing where they were on the stream of time. Others expected Messiah’s coming through Balaam’s prophecy that “a Star” would arise out of Jacob (Num. 24:17). Daniel was the head of the magi; that is, he was put over the college of the magicians in Babylon. Therefore, the three magi, or wise men, who traveled a long distance to see Jesus after his birth had been either directly or indirectly influenced by Daniel. By putting two and two together, they got enough clues and then saw something very unusual in the heavens, so they knew they were in the period prophesied but did not know where to start it.
“God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law.” In other words, Jesus was made flesh, he was born of a woman, and he was Jewish. The reason Paul said that Jesus was “made of a woman” will be seen later in the chapter.
The clause “when the fulness of the time was come” indicates that God conducts His providences according to a schedule or fixed plan. When the time was right according to what He had predestined, Jesus was born of a woman. Thus the “fulness of the time” can also be thought of in connection with Jesus’ birth.
The Jews “were in bondage under the elements of the world.” We will discuss this terminology when we consider verses 9 and 10.
Gal. 4:5 To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.
One reason that Jesus was born a Jew under the Law was for the purpose of redeeming not only the world of mankind (the Gentiles) but also the Jews, for the latter were under double bondage. The Jews were (1) under the curse that came on the human family through Adam’s sins and (2) under the curse of the Law. What feature of the Law made it possible for Jesus to redeem the Jews? The Law promised everlasting life to anyone who could keep it perfectly.
Through perfect obedience, Jesus gained the prize of everlasting human life, which he will pay as a ransom on behalf of humanity to redeem them from the curse. Paul was saying that Jesus was born under the Law to capture the booty, or prize, of that Law, namely, eternal, everlasting human life.
Gal. 4:6 And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.
The spiritual calling is a heavenly calling to sonship with the Messiah. “Abba,” an endearing and affectionate term such as a child would use, means “Father” in Aramaic. Therefore, those who respond to the gospel in the present age and consecrate are dealt with as sons. The repetition “Abba, Father” shows that they develop an affection for God in due time.
The Phillips Modern English translation reads, “... God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts to cry ‘Father, dear Father.’”
Romans 8:15 also uses “Abba, Father”: “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” The use of the double term—“Abba” is Aramaic and “Father” is Greek—shows that both Jews and Gentiles could be adopted as sons.
Gal. 4:7 Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.
The way Paul addressed the Galatians in verse 7 suggests that the greater percentage were Jewish Christians. The relationship of father and son before the age of responsibility changes when individuals become children of God. They forsake Adam, their former father, and now have God as their Father.
Gal. 4:8 Howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods.
Gal. 4:9 But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?
Gal. 4:10 Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years.
Paul asked the Galatians, “How turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?” For example, they observed days, months, times, and years. Under the Law, it was proper to observe mandatory days (the sabbath, new moon, Day of Atonement, Feast of Passover, Feast of Pentecost, etc.), but the Talmudic teachings went beyond the Law by inventing new feasts and ordinances. It is wrong to add traditions, rituals, and ordinances. Catholic and Episcopalian churches have been especially guilty of filling up the calendar with saints’ days and teachings other than the Memorial. The Christian “law,” as laid down by Jesus, was to remember just the Memorial of his death, his commandment being, “This do in remembrance of me” (1 Cor. 11:24,25). The Bible does not tell us to observe Christmas, Easter, Lent, etc.
Some of the early Christians desired to return to bondage—not only to the Law and its God ordained ordinances but also to traditions and ordinances added by rabbis, to commandments of men. However, the Christian is to be separate from both kinds of bondage.
The “weak and beggarly elements” refer to the Law of God and, in addition, based on Paul’s reasoning, the commandments of men. The term “beggarly elements” conveys the wrong thought. In Galatians 4:3, the preferable expression “elements of the world” is used.
“Elements” are rudiments and principles; that is, they are more childlike and elementary, being the first steps. In elementary school, children are taught the basics of grammar, reading, writing, and arithmetic, but these will not get one a high school diploma or a college degree. These are merely the basic (or beginning) training that one needs before progressing to higher things. Therefore, Paul was saying, “You can attain the higher things not by the Law but by faith in Christ, the new and living way.”
In what sense is the Law of God “weak”? Romans 8:3 says that the Law “was weak through the flesh” because imperfect man could not keep it; hence the Law could not bring life. The Law was perfect, but it brought death. The word “beggarly” incorrectly implies disapproval—that the Law was wrong and unnecessary. No! The Law was perfect! Many Christians think all they need is the New Testament or even just the Gospels; they feel that the Law and the Old Testament are no longer pertinent. But Paul constantly referred to the Law as an authority.
Galatians 4:21 reads, “Do ye not hear the law?” Then Paul discussed the seed of promise and Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar, using the Law as an authority to teach the Grace Covenant. He did not abrogate the Law as being no good—period! But the Law was no good for justification, for justification comes only by faith in Christ, not by works. In addition, the Law has many valuable lessons for the Christian, and the types that teach about Christ and the various covenants are very important. The Law was “weak” in the sense that it was ineffectual for obtaining life. The Law was actually strong, but it was weak in not producing justification and life. The weakness lies in the individual’s incapability to obey rather than in the Law itself.
The word “beggarly,” a poor translation, improperly casts a stigma on God’s perfect Law. Paul’s reasoning was as follows. The Law was ineffectual not only because the flesh was weak but also because there was another intent; namely, it was a “schoolmaster” to bring the Jews to Christ (Gal. 3:24). Paul said, “We were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed” (Gal. 3:23). In other words, the Law was designed to be a temporary expedient up to a certain point of time—until Christ came.
“As long as the heir is a child, he does not differ from a servant ... but is under tutors and governors [the ordinances of the Law] until the appointed time” (Gal. 4:1,2 paraphrase). The Law, which was like elementary school, had its place, but it was to be abandoned when no longer needed. The “child” was under the Law (tutors and governors) until the appointed time of the Father. The Jews under the Law were like children under a tutor, or servants, but once they accepted Christ, they became heirs, a different category.
“Beggarly” elements are like elementary school development only—nothing higher. The higher and more noble things are attainable only in Christ. Therefore, a Christian will not grow and make his calling and election sure unless he leaves the Law behind and goes on to superior training.
The “elements” Paul was referring to were the poorer elements, those that were on a lower plane or level; they would not enable the Christian to attain that which he is seeking. The Old Testament alone is ineffectual in that it cannot bring life. The New Testament is needed.
However, the Christian, who is not to go back under the bondage of the Law, needs to search out the basic principles of God’s Law and to investigate the prophecies (the types and pictures) from a spiritual standpoint.
Unfortunately, some think the Law has been utterly done away with, but it has been done away with only to the believing Jew in Christ. All other Jews are still under the Law. The Law is crucified only to consecrated believers, Jews or Gentiles. The Law “decayeth and waxeth old [and] is ready to vanish away,” but it has not vanished yet (Heb. 8:13). The Law is still obligatory upon nonbelieving Jews. Only to Jews who have accepted Christ has the Law been nailed to the Cross.
Galatians 3:11,12 shows that Paul did not regard the Law in a derogatory sense. “That no man is justified by the law in the sight of God ... is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.” In other words, everyone is dying because the Law is not of faith, but “the man that doeth them [the works of the Law] shall live in them.” Paul was saying that the Law will give life to any who can obey it perfectly, but only Jesus could do this. Therefore, the Law was ineffectual as far as producing results, but the problem is with us, with our humanity, not with the Law. Therefore, “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the Law [from death].”
“Weak” means impotent, without strength to bring life. “Poor” is a better thought than “beggarly,” meaning poor as far as obtaining results. If one tries to get justification by the deeds of the Law, he will still be poor and impoverished.
By taking examples of how God dealt with the Israelites—by seeing what He approved and disapproved—we can get an idea of what He thinks with regard to spiritual Israelites. In other words, the Old Testament principles, which are on a human plane, can be transferred to a spiritual plane for the Christian. Thus by studying the features of the Law, we can extract principles that apply to us as Christians. In fact, we must see the value of those principles in order to be balanced and mature Christians.
Gal. 4:11 I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain.
Paul was “afraid” that if the Galatians kept up these practices indefinitely, they would be sidetracked from the main issue at hand. He founded this little group in Galatia, and they grew and prospered. But now they were getting derailed from the spiritual calling.
Gal. 4:12 Brethren, I beseech you, be as I am; for I am as ye are: ye have not injured me at all.
Paul was saying, “I was a Jew too, so we should be in agreement on this matter.” The thought is well expressed in the Living Bible: “Dear brothers, please feel as I do about these things, for I am as free from these chains as you used to be. You did not despise me then when I first preached to you.” In other words, “I used to be in bondage to the letter of the Law, but I am now free as you were. However, things have changed, and now you are under bondage again.”
Gal. 4:13 Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first.
Gal. 4:14 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.
Paul’s “infirmity of the flesh” was impaired vision. At the time of his conversion, he was blinded by the vision he saw on the road to Damascus. That experience left him without sight, until Ananias, a disciple in Damascus, prayed over him and his sight was partially restored.
Subsequently Paul prayed three times to have this affliction completely removed from him, but the Lord replied, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9). In other words, Paul, having learned at the feet of Gamaliel, was so brilliant that God deemed it best for him to have this impairment to keep him humble.
Many people are impressed with a stately bearing, costly clothes, money, influence, power, etc., and few are impressed with the message, with truth, which is much more enduring than food, raiment, and position in life. All go into the grave; the rich eventually come down to the same level as the humblest peasant, so no one should be impressed with his own importance.
However, those who are interested in God and the future life and are doing His will become important in His sight. As little children, they are willing to be taught of God.
The Galatians were very unusual. Not only had Paul initially come to them with his infirmity, but also he was short of stature and partly bald and had a voice that was weak and much inferior to that of the Greek orators. Thus outwardly, Paul appeared unimportant, yet when this little man spoke, his logic and message were POWERFUL. The Galatians so appreciated his words that they overlooked the exterior. “The LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart [the inner man]” (1 Sam. 16:7).
As the Bible teaches in many places, our inner person is far more important than the exterior, which most people are governed by in the present life.
“Ye ... received me as an angel [messenger] of God, even as Christ Jesus.” Earlier the Galatians felt that Paul had providentially come into their midst as a messenger. Certainly they did not respect him on a level with Christ, for Paul always pointed out the primacy of Jesus. Rather, the Galatians felt that Paul had the same wonderful message, and they enthusiastically received it. Thus they had regarded Paul as God’s messenger and similar to Jesus as far as his thinking and teaching were concerned.
Gal. 4:15 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.
The Galatians were so impressed with Paul on his earlier visit—they were so enthused with his message—that they would have “plucked out” their own eyes and given them to him! If transplants had been possible back there, several donors would have gladly given at least one of their eyes to Paul to restore his sight to normalcy. That is how much they respected him. Imagine—they would have willingly sacrificed in this manner on his behalf while they were alive and healthy!
The zeal of the Galatians was great while Paul was with them. But what happened after his departure and a year or two had gone by? Their memories grew dim, and their zeal abated. Paul was now concerned lest he had labored in vain (verse 11). There was a real problem.
“Where is then the blessedness ye spake of?” Paul reminded the Galatians of the happiness and joy they had experienced in receiving his message.
Gal. 4:16 Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?
Verse 17 is related to verse 16. For “They zealously affect you, but not well,” the Living Bible has, “Those false teachers who are so anxious to win your favor are not doing it for your good.” In other words, in the meantime, after Paul’s earlier visit, the false teachers had tried to turn the Galatians against him. These Judaizing Christians were influencing the Galatians to regard Paul as their enemy.
It seems strange that many people are not truly observant. As an example in one sphere of activity, people read, but do they analyze what they read, especially if the document is of substance? Do they reflect or meditate on the written words? In an effort to straighten out the Galatians, Paul asked, “Am I now your enemy because I am trying to tell you the truth about what has happened since my departure from your midst? Back there you thought I was like an angel, like Christ Jesus, but now you regard me as an enemy. Why do you assume this attitude?” He was trying to make the Galatians think and listen to him. In fact, he was such a blessing originally that they were willing to give their eyes to him, but now they would not even give him an adequate hearing because, as has been stated, false teachers had come in and gotten their ear and were instructing them and turning their affection away from him.
Gal. 4:17 They zealously affect you, but not well; yea, they would exclude you, that ye might affect them.
“They zealously affect you.” The false element was inspiring the Galatians with wrong thinking.
Romans 10:2 expresses the principle, “For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.”
Those who were producing this estrangement, this changed attitude, were not wishy-washy. Indeed they were very zealous in their discussions with the Galatians. Ostensibly they had a zeal for the Lord that impressed the Galatians. These false teachers were Christian Jews who were going back to the thinking of the Law. They were trying to saddle the Galatians with the ordinances of the Law plus additional creedal restrictions in connection with their Christian behavior.
One cannot be too consecrated or too dedicated to the Lord. However, one must be careful that the efforts are for the Lord and not for individuals who are not strictly in harmony with him.
Gal. 4:18 But it is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing, and not only when I am present with you.
We have to be careful with the Living Bible because it takes certain liberties in the translation, but it is good for verses 17 and 18. “Those false teachers who are so anxious to win your favor are not doing it for your good. What they are trying to do is to shut you off from me so that you will pay more attention to them. It is a fine thing when people are nice to you with good motives and sincere hearts, especially if they aren’t doing it just when I am with you!” In other words, when this false element saw that Paul was coming, they were suddenly especially solicitous for the Galatians, currying them with favor, buttering them up, and giving advice supposedly for their good to keep them in the truth. But actually, the false teachers feared what Paul would say and do if he came in their midst. They did not have a real interest in the Galatians—they merely simulated interest at a time when they felt it was expedient to behave that way. This was hypocrisy!
Probably, they relied much on their zeal; perhaps they maintained, as errorists and deceivers are very apt to do, that zeal was sufficient evidence of the goodness of their cause, and that persons who are so very zealous could not possibly be bad men. How often is this plea set up by the friends of errorists and deceivers!
It is one thing if a person is truly interested in other people—if his motive is sincere and the interest is sustained. However, these false teachers had ulterior motives; they feigned interest only when it was propitious to do so. In short, they did not have the eternal welfare of the Galatians at heart.
Not only when I am present - You were thus attached to me when I was among you, but now ye have lost both your reverence and affection for me. Your false teachers pretended great concern for you, that you might put all your confidence in them; they have gained their end; they have estranged you from me, and got you to renounce the Gospel, and have brought you again into your former bondage.
Gal. 4:19 My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you,
What was Paul saying in effect? How do we empathize with what he was telling the Galatians?
Paul had originally expended much time and effort with the Galatians and had achieved results.
Upon finding that the results were fizzling, he now asked, “Do I have to go all through this again?” He was experiencing a feeling of frustration and exasperation after all his labor on their behalf. He did not speak empty words, for he had suffered much: shipwreck, beatings, hunger, imprisonment, poverty, misrepresentation, slander, etc. Paul was not like a paid minister or professor—he was not salaried. Rather, he did his preaching and teaching at self-expense and suffering. For example, in order to catch a boat to an island off the coast of Asia Minor, he walked 30 miles one night after preaching all day and up until 2 or 3 a.m. He even labored with his own hands for necessities. (Paul said that a faithful minister could receive gifts and support, but he preferred to serve at his own expense.) Incidentally, if financial support is given, it should be spontaneously rendered and not given as a fixed salary. “God loveth a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7). Spontaneous giving is more satisfying to everyone—to the giver, to the recipient, and to the Lord, who is observing what is being done.
Gal. 4:20 I desire to be present with you now, and to change my voice; for I stand in doubt of you.
If Paul came in person, he would treat the Galatians differently in order to correct them; that is, he would correct them in a different tone of voice. He would rather come as a friend and treat them as dear children, but admonitions were necessary. He had to speak sternly.
Gal. 4:21 Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law?
Gal. 4:22 For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman.
Gal. 4:23 But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise.
Gal. 4:24 Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar.
Gal. 4:25 For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children.
Gal. 4:26 But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.
In verse 21, Paul was referring to the ordinances that God had instituted back in the Old Testament. Since the Christian Jews desired to be under that Law, Paul would now use a line of reasoning to show that even the Law, which they were trying to follow, supported him, and not the false teachers.
Paul asked in effect, “Do you desire to be under the Law? Then let us go back to that Law.” Then he referred to what happened to Abraham, who had two sons, Ishmael and Isaac. Ishmael was born of Hagar (Agar), an Egyptian “bondwoman,” and Isaac was born of Sarah, the “freewoman.”
Paul was saying that these relationships were an allegory, which was designed to be a picture. The two women, these two mothers, represent two covenants. (1) Hagar, the Egyptian slave girl, Abraham’s concubine, represents the Law Covenant, which was given to Moses at Mount Sinai. (2) Sarah, Abraham’s wife, the one he especially loved, represents the Grace Covenant.
Ishmael was the first son born to Abraham, but God had determined that Abraham would have a particular son, Isaac. Not only was Sarah an old woman in her nineties, but also she was barren, so it seemed impossible for her to have a child. Moreover, Abraham was almost 100 years old. Nevertheless, Sarah had Isaac, the child of promise—the promise God had given to Abraham, before he had any children, that in him and his seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed. Who would have expected that this old couple would have such a child? Isaac was truly a miracle child, particularly from the woman’s standpoint.
In this allegory, Mount Sinai corresponds to the Law Covenant. Accordingly, Hagar is called the “Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children”; that is, she pictures the Law Covenant, the earthly Jerusalem. However, Sarah is called the “[new] Jerusalem which is above [and] is free, which is the mother of us all”; that is, she pictures the Grace Covenant, the spiritual Jerusalem, in the Gospel Age.
As a little review, verse 21 introduced the subject of the significance of Hagar’s and Sarah’s each representing a covenant. Paul asked, “Do ye not hear the law?” The Law embraces the allegory of the two covenants as well as the religious ceremonies and practices and the pictures and types, plus the Ten Commandments. Paul continued, “For it is written [in the Book of Genesis], that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman.” Therefore, the Law also includes the history in Genesis—in fact, it includes the whole Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible. Next Paul drew the analogy with regard to Hagar’s representing the Law Covenant and Sarah’s representing the Grace Covenant, the covenant under which the superior seed is established.
As the free Jerusalem that is above, Sarah is the “mother of us all”; that is, she is the “mother” of all the consecrated of the Gospel Age, the mother of both the Little Flock and the Great Multitude. (Incidentally, Sarah’s name is not mentioned, but the account is obviously referring to her.) From the present standpoint, the Grace Covenant is the mother of all the consecrated, of all who are called, in the Gospel Age. But from the final standpoint, the Sarah Covenant embraces only those of the consecrated who make their calling and election sure.
Similarly in regard to the Passover picture, the firstborn class embraces both the Little Flock and the Great Multitude. Both classes are “passed over” by the “destroying angel.” In the type, only the firstborn sons were liable to death by the destroying angel. Thus two pictures include the Great Multitude.
Gal. 4:27 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.
The “barren [one] that bearest not” is told to rejoice. In the type, Sarah mourned because she had no children. Hagar, the bondmaid, had a child before Sarah did, so why was Sarah told to rejoice? She was given this instruction because ultimately she would have more children than Hagar.
Verse 27 has puzzled many. Hagar and Sarah each had only one child, so how would Sarah have more children?
“The desolate [Sarah] hath many more children than she which hath an husband [Hagar].” The King James and some of the other translations can sound confusing—for Sarah, who was married to Abraham, seems to be the one who “hath an husband,” whereas Hagar was a bondmaid. The Living Bible is good: “That is what Isaiah meant when he prophesied, ‘Now you can rejoice, O childless woman; you can shout with joy though you never before had a child. For I am going to give you many children—more children than the slave-wife has.’”
In addition, the King James can be explained this way. When Hagar brought forth Ishmael, barren Sarah thought of that slave girl as being on more intimate terms with Abraham than she was. Even though Sarah was the wife, she thought Abraham’s affection would be directed more toward Hagar for bearing him a son. She feared that her barrenness would alienate her from Abraham. In time, therefore, Sarah asked permission to have Hagar cast out.
Verse 27 sympathizes with Sarah’s longings for a child of promise—the child whom God had promised but who had not yet become a reality. Sarah was barren and desolate, so when Hagar bore Abraham a son, Sarah feared Hagar would be knit to Abraham as in a husband-wife relationship. Even though Sarah was technically the wife and Hagar was the concubine, Sarah thought Hagar would become more like a wife than she. Sarah’s feelings and fears, as well as the scorn and ridicule she received from Hagar with regard to Ishmael, caused her to think it best if Hagar and Ishmael left the household completely. (Hagar and Ishmael both looked down on Sarah, who was supposed to be the honorable one but felt alienated instead.) The Lord concurred and instructed Abraham to follow Sarah’s advice. God told Abraham not to worry about Hagar and Ishmael, for He would give Ishmael adequate reward and make of him a great nation (Gen. 17:20; 21:1-21).
We should keep in mind the question Paul asked in verse 21: “Do ye not hear the Law?” Since the Law was of God, it was really the Law that told Hagar to leave. Sarah made the suggestion, but the Lord agreed with her advice. Although she had reacted emotionally, God approved because the situation furnished a picture. Thus the Law stated the matter, not just Sarah.
Sarah and Hagar each had one son, but we need to consider the next generation. Ishmael had 12 sons, and they were the origin of the Ishmaelites, who settled mostly in the desert country toward the east (Gen. 17:20; 25:6,12-16). In contrast, Isaac had only two sons: Jacob and Esau.
Thus far verse 27 seems to be a discrepancy in saying that Sarah would have more children than Hagar, for the ratio was 1:1 and 2:12. However, God said to Esau and Jacob that He would make each of them a nation—the same thing He had said of Ishmael (Gen. 35:11). Esau and Jacob each had 12 children. And in the third (or grandson) generation, 70 souls came out of Jacob and went down to Egypt (Gen. 46:27). Moreover, God said that He would make a great nation of these 70 souls, and the Jacob line multiplied exceedingly in Egypt (Gen. 46:3; Exod. 1:7). Hence, from a literal standpoint, the Sarah seed far outnumbered the Hagar line in succeeding generations; the Isaac line began to overtake the Ishmaelites. Also, Hagar’s line (through Ishmael) became nomads, or bedouins, in the desert, and that type of life was not conducive to numerical prosperity.
Verse 27 is true both literally and spiritually. (Of course the spiritual application comes later.) Thus this verse must be considered on various levels, the literal being the bottom level wherein the Sarah children literally far exceeded the Hagar children. The next level is the picture where Hagar represents the nation of Israel underneath the Law Covenant, and Sarah represents all Christians under the Grace Covenant in the Gospel Age. On this level, Christianized Gentiles far outnumber the Jews, whether the comparison is nominal Christians with nominal Jews or spiritual Israelites indeed (true Christians) with fleshly Israelites indeed (true Jews).
The introduction of Keturah, Abraham’s third wife, demonstrates this disparity even more. Nowhere did Paul say that Keturah represents a covenant, but the logic is obvious. If Hagar represents the old Law Covenant and Sarah represents the Grace Covenant, then Keturah would represent the New Covenant. Keturah had six children, who picture the world of mankind under the New (Law) Covenant, which will include all who obey its terms, not just Jews. However, Paul compared only Hagar and Sarah here in Galatians—they are the ones he included in the old Law Covenant picture he was presenting.
There is a third level. Those of the Sarah class who develop into the Little Flock will be the “mother” class, the “second Eve,” who regenerate the entire human family. Thus the Eve class will be the mother of thousands of millions, the mother of the whole human race. Jesus, the Second Adam, will be the Father of the human race, and the Church will be the mother. In this way too, the Sarah seed will far outnumber the Hagar line.
Even still higher, on a fourth level, the Sarah seed will, after the Millennium, create other beings on other planets. The Sarah seed class will eventually populate the universe. On this level, the Sarah seed will so far outnumber the Hagar line that a comparison cannot even be made, for the Hagar line is limited to planet Earth.
Gal. 4:28 Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise.
We, the consecrated of the Gospel Age, are the children of the promise made to Sarah that she would have more children than Hagar. Of barren Sarah, Paul said, “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” (verse 27).
Gal. 4:29 But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now.
Just as Ishmael and Hagar persecuted Isaac, so natural Israel was the particular persecutor of Christians in the early Church. In fact, that was the main problem of the Galatians, who had trouble either (1) from Jewish Christians who were wobbly and never really became children of faith or (2) from Jews who had never adopted the Christian religion and opposed it as a dangerous heresy.
“If ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3:29).
The analogy is to The Christ, Head and body. Therefore, Isaac represents not just the Church but Jesus and the Church. Just as Abraham was Isaac’s father, so God is the Father of The Christ.
Therefore, Abraham represents God in this allegory. In other words, The Christ, Head and body members, is the seed that God has been planning since before the world was prepared for man (Eph. 1:4,5; Rev. 13:8). In addition to Jesus, the true Christian Church was preconceived in the mind of God “before the foundation of the world.” Thus The Christ is a predetermined class begotten of God—and hence is the class of promise. As Isaac was the son of Abraham, so The Christ is The Son of God.
Gal. 4:30 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.
Although Sarah first said, “Cast out the bondwoman and her son,” God concurred. He told Abraham to obey her advice because Ishmael would not be “heir” with Isaac.
Gal. 4:31 So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.
We, the consecrated of the Gospel Age, are children of Sarah.