Slave or Free?
May 21, 2017
Scripture: Galatians 4:21-31
I. You are either a slave.
A. Before Paul gets into his allegory he asks in vs. 21, “Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law?” Paul’s argument to these Jews who want to turn these Galatian Christians back to the law of the Jews is that the Law itself does not teach that we should live under the law. The Law instead teaches that if you are under the Law you are a slave to sin. In order to make his argument about what the Law truly taught Paul begins looking at the history of Abraham. Abraham had two different sons (vs. 22) by two different women.
B. We see from this history that the important question to ask is not whose your daddy? Both Christians and Jews claim Abraham as their father. The important question to ask is whose your mama? Are you a child of the free woman or of the slave woman (vs. 23)? Beginning in vs. 24 Paul uses this history of Sarah and Hagar as an allegory to explain why being under the law leads to slavery while living by faith leads to freedom. One son was born by proxy, the other by promise. One came by works; the other came by faith. One was a slave; the other was free.
C. In the Old Testament we read that God gave the Law at the top of Mount Sinai. And in his allegory Paul writes that Mount Sinai and Hagar and the Jerusalem of his day all correspond to one thing: the Law. And if you are under the law of God what is your condition according to vs. 25? You are in slavery. Here is why Paul could say that seeking to follow the Law leads to slavery: the law of God demands perfect obedience. But at the same time the Law does not give you any power to obey the Law. You are a slave because you are not free to keep the law.
II. Or you are free.
A. Those are your only two choices: slavery or freedom. Paul had written about the present Jerusalem in vs. 25 which stands for Judaism and its attempt to please God by following the Jewish Law. We have seen though that no one can fully follow God’s Law so any attempt to do so will lead to slavery. So we need to become part of the Jerusalem above (vs. 26). The Jerusalem above is the church which we join by God’s grace alone – not by any good works that we do. And then we see we can be children of the present Jerusalem of Judaism. But if we go down that road what is our status according to vs. 25? Slavery. Legalism does not set you free.
B. The desire to please God by obeying His laws and rules leads only to slavery. So how can you be free? By becoming a child of the Jerusalem above, the church (vs. 26). And we become a child of God not by doing all these good works for God. We become a child of God simply by faith. We trust that Christ died for our sins and God then declares us to be righteous and adopts us into His family. We receive our righteousness by faith. But if we try to earn a righteous status with God by the Law what are we? We are slaves. We are not free. How can you know if you are living in freedom under grace rather than living by the law? 1) Are you devastated when people criticize you? 2) Are you crushed when you cannot achieve your goals? 3) Are you joyless when you come to God in worship? These are characteristics of those who are slaves, not free.
Choose freedom rather than slavery. Rejoice in the grace that sets you free.
The letter to the Galatians
Commentaries on Galatians by Philip Ryken and Thomas Schreiner