Galatians 4:21-31 one of Paul’s strongest arguments against the law

In Galatians Paul uses the story of Abraham, Sarah and Hagar to demonstrate his point regarding not being under the law in the 2nd covenant.In the argument Paul uses Ishmael (unnamed) , the child of the bondwoman, Hagar, metaphorically as the first covenant, the covenant of the flesh and Isaac who is mentioned by name, the child of the freewoman, Sarah, metaphorically to represent the promise, the New covenant of the spirit.

We can find this in Galatians chapter 4 verses 21-31 


Galatians 4- 21Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? 22For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman. 23But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise. 24Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar. 25For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. 26But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.

27For 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.

28Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise. 29But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now.

30Nevertheless 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.

31So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.

This argument,  along with Paul’s argument in Romans chapter 7 where he uses the Mosaic Law regarding divorce to show that we are dead to the law, are the 2 strongest arguments Paul gives regarding those that were under the law. 



So let’s break this story down and show the point that Paul was making. 

Paul starts here by asking those who were desiring to be under the law if they actually heard the law. 


21 Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law?

This is important to note. Paul is writing to the Galatians (gentiles and messianic Jews) NOT the Jews who had not accepted Jesus. He was writing to those who DESIRED to be under the law. Those who were not Jews but were wanting to join Israel and follow the law and those who were Jews who were trying to remain under the law.

This is something Paul had already referred to in verse 9 

Galatians 4-  9But 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? .  

They were already doing so 

Galatians 4-10 Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years.

The Greek word translated as hear is ἀκούω akouó and it means to hear as in comprehend, understand it. So Paul is asking those who wanted to be under the law if they actually understood the law.

Paul then states that it is written that Abraham had 2 sons one by the bondwoman and one by the freewoman 

22-For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman.

This is an important part of Paul;s whole argument regarding the law which he said is bondage. 

Paul rather than going to when the law was given, goes back instead to the promise given to Abraham. It is the promise that is vital. Paul uses the 2 children metaphorically as the 2 covenants. 

Paul then shows that the child of the bondwoman was of the flesh (human), the result of Abraham, through being prompted by Sarah, taking it upon himself to bring about the child that God had promised.  but the child of the freewoman was of the promise (spiritual.) was eventually the child that God had promised Abraham and Sarah. The child of the promise

23But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise.

Paul then further reiterates his point and specifically states that there are 2 covenants.  The first being the one made at mount Sinai which is bondage, this covenant is HAGAR. The first covenant that God made which put the Israelites into bondage of the law.

24Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar. 

Now Paul even states that Hagar, the bondwoman, is mount Sinai BUT that she answers to the Jerusalem which is now and she in bondage with HER children.

25For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children

The Greek word translated as answereth is συστοιχέω sustoicheó and means to correspond to, be equal to 

Her children the children of bondage is the “same as, equal to it corresponds to” the Jerusalem that is now. WE MUST REMEMBER this is NOT the Jerusalem that exists today. Paul is writing nearly 2000 years ago and is referring to the Jerusalem of 2000 years ago,  which was in bondage to the law.. Those who were in the first covenant, under the law.

However Paul then refers to Jerusalem as one which is above (spiritual)  and which is free.

26But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.

This Jerusalem is free as opposed to the Jerusalem that was in bondage under the law. The Jerusalem which is above being referred to as the mother of us all. This represents the New covenant, the covenant of the freewoman Sarah who as being the mother of the free child is allegorically the mother of us all.

Clearly distinguishing between the free and the bondage and linking the covenant of bondage to that which is of mount Sinai and the New covenant as being from above.



27For 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.

This is a reference  of Isaiah 54-1 

Isaiah 54-1 Sing, O barren, thou that didst not bear; break forth into singing, and cry aloud, thou that didst not travail with child: for more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife, saith the LORD.

This prophecy was given to Israel while they were in captivity in Babylon. Israel or as some understand this, Jerusalem, is referred to as being barren, being rather small in number at this time or maybe even the fact that Israel was failing to be a light to the gentiles as they were supposed to be and so limited to those of Israel.  However she is yet being encouraged to sing and cry aloud. Israel is promised constant protection and a future increase beyond what she had been before. Many Jews did and still do believe this to be referencing the time of the Messiah. The children of the desolate, Israel, at a future time will be plentiful. 

Paul links this prophecy to those of the second covenant brought in by the Messiah, Jesus. 

Paul then links us to Isaac, the child of the promise (the freewoman) being free. 

28Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise. 

Paul says in Romans that it is not the children of the flesh that are the seed of Abraham but the children of the promise.

Romans 9-8 That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.

Although we may not be physical descendants of Abraham we are classed as his seed through the promise and not the flesh. Spiritual not flesh. 

Then Paul tells how the child born after the spirit was persecuted by the child of the flesh. 

29 But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now.

Even so as it is NOW. Paul referring to the Jewish persecution of the Christians back in the first century. .

In Genesis we are told that Ishmael mocked Isaac

Genesis 21-9 And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, which she had born unto Abraham, mocking.

The law, bondage, prosecutes those that would be free. But as Paul has already stated the children of the bondage answer to the spiritual. 

The child of the bondwoman the covenant of bondage would not be heir along with the child of the promise, the freewoman. 

So what did Paul state that must be done. He referred back to the statement of Sarah in his argument.

30Nevertheless 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.

This is a reference to Genesis 21-10 where Sarah asked Abraham to cast out Hagar and her child Ishmael. Sarah stating that the child of the bondwoman would not be heir along with the child of the free 

Genesis 21-10 Wherefore she said unto Abraham, Cast out this bondwoman and her son: for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac.

Paul then clearly stating that the covenant of bondage must be cast out.

Those who remain in the first covenant, under the bondage of the law will not be heirs of the promise. They will be cast out as the child of the flesh was. 

In order to be heir of the promise you have to be free, a child of the promise which is not the child of bondage. The covenant of bondage must be cast out in order to be a child of the new covenant, that of the promise. 

Paul then states that we are children of the freewoman not the woman of bondage. 



31So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.



We in the covenant of the freewoman are not under the bondage of the covenant of the bondwoman which is the covenant at Sinai. 

Paul in the very first verse of the next chapter, which as the Bible was originally written without chapter and verse immediately follows verse 31 in the Greek, states for us to stand fast in the LIBERTY which Christ made us FREE. Paul warns NOT to be tangled again with the yoke of bondage. 


Galatians 5- 1Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. 

Liberty is the Greek ἐλευθερία eleutheria which means freedom/liberty ESPECIALLY a freedom from slavery. 

Paul continues that if you be circumcised then Christ shall profit you NOTHING

Galatians 5-2 Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing

Paul saying that circumcision made Christ nothing to you but we know that a person could not be part of Israel under the covenant of the law without being circumcised. 

Paul further argues that circumcision means a person must keep the whole law and so Jesus has become no effect to those that must follow the law. 

Galatians 5- 3For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. 4Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.

Paul’s argument being that if you are a child of the flesh, a child of the bondage of the law then you are not a child of the promise. You cannot be both. 




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