Introduction: What started our Galatians discussion about the extent
to which Gentiles should have to adopt Jewish theology in order to
become Christians? Wasn’t it circumcision? See Acts 15:1. This causes
many Christians to say that the “law” to which Paul constantly refers
in Galatians is the “ceremonial law,” and not the Ten Commandments.
Of course, a logical problem with that argument is that circumcision
was not given as part of the ceremonial law. It was a command given
long before to Abraham. Genesis 17:9-10. Our study this week is the
clearest statement that when Paul refers to the “law” he includes the
Ten Commandments (as well as the ceremonial law and circumcision).
Let’s plunge into our study of the Bible and learn more about this
- What the Law Says
- Read Galatians 4:21. What question does Paul ask? (Do you
know what the law says?)
- What would you need to know to answer to this
question? (It depends on what Paul means by the law.
If he means the Ten Commandments, it says something
different than the ceremonial law or the law of
- Read Galatians 4:22-24. What is the covenant (contract)
given at Mount Sinai? (Read Exodus 31:18.)
- Were promises exchanged with the Ten Commandments?
(Read Exodus 19:3-9. Yes! Just as we have been
studying for several weeks that the “contract”
between Abraham and God was that Abraham would trust
God, and God would credit it to him as righteousness,
so there is a contract here that God will make the
people of Israel His treasured possession if they
- Read Exodus 32:1-4, Exodus 32:15-16, and Exodus 32:19. How
long did God’s people keep their side of the contract?
(They broke their promise before Moses even returned with
the tablets on which God had written the Ten
- Re-read Exodus 19:5. The Hebrew word translated
“obey” in the NIV is “listen carefully,” or “listen
intelligently.” Did God’s people even listen to Him?
(I think God is saying, “Pay close attention to our
agreement and follow its terms.” What we see instead,
is that before the people even read or heard what the
Ten Commandments said, they were off worshiping an
- Hagar’s Story
- Read Genesis 16:1-4. Why did Sarai (Sarah) tell Abram
(Abraham) to sleep with Hagar? (She said “the Lord has
kept me from having children.”)
- Read Genesis 15:4-6. What had happened in the chapter of
the Bible immediately preceding the Hagar story? (We have
God’s promise to Abraham of a huge number of descendants,
and “Abram believed the Lord, and He credited it to him as
- How do you account for Abraham accepting the advice
of Sarah? (The two of them thought that God needed
some help in fulfilling His promise.)
- Read Galatians 4:25. What is the “slavery” that Hagar
represents? (Review what we studied two weeks ago:
Galatians 4:1-5. Those who have not accepted by faith what
Jesus has done on our behalf (lived a perfect life, paid
the death penalty for our sins, and arose to eternal life)
are in slavery to the law. Hagar represents those who
believe that by obedience to the law they can be saved.
Hagar is the poster child for those who think God needs
- The Son By the Promise
- Re-read Galatians 4:22-23. Who is the son “born as the
result of a promise?” (Read Genesis 17:15-19. Isaac is the
son of the promise. If you read the context, it shows that
circumcision was instituted as part of this promise. Thus,
you can see why those who argued in favor of circumcision
could misunderstand what is meant by faith alone.)
- What other “covenant” could God be speaking of in
Genesis 17:19? (The Genesis 15:4-6 covenant, trust
God and He will credit that as righteousness.)
- Read Galatians 4:25-28. What parallel does Paul make
between Hagar, slavery and “the present city of
Jerusalem?” (Paul is telling us that those who are pushing
righteousness by works (the Jerusalem people)are trying to
make us slaves.)
- What parallel does Paul make between Isaac, the free
son, and “the Jerusalem that is above?” (Those who
believe in the promise of righteousness by faith are
“free” and are aligned with heaven.)
- Which would you rather be, a slave or a free son?
Would you rather be associated with the Jerusalem on
earth or the New Jerusalem in heaven?
- Do you agree that the choice is between
righteousness by obedience to the Ten
Commandments and righteousness by faith?
- Let’s circle back to where we started this discussion. Re-read Galatians 4:21. We did not get to Paul’s question
because I immediately asked you “How can we say what the
law says if we do not know which law Paul is talking
about?” I think we have now seen that the law Paul is
talking about is, at a minimum, the Ten Commandments. What
do you think Paul is really asking when he says, “are you
not aware of what the law says?” (Are you not aware that
righteousness by works makes you a slave, just like Hagar?
Are you not aware that righteousness by faith comes as a
result of a promise, and if you accept that promise you
become a free son of God, just like Isaac?)
- The Conflict Between the Sons
- Read Galatians 4:29 and Genesis 21:8-10. Why would Hagar’s
son (Ishmael) mock Isaac? (It would be a natural thing
because he is being displaced by this new son.)
- Does this mocking still take place? Do those who
promote salvation by works mock those who believe in
righteousness by faith?
- If so, why do you think this is happening? (I
do not know about all cultures, but many
cultures value hard work and success. If you
work hard and earn something valuable, you are
praised. This is contrary to righteousness by
faith, in which you cannot earn anything with
regard to your salvation. It is all the result
of God’s work. Thus, it seems natural that the
“hard workers” should mock the “slackers.”)
- Before I move forward, I want you to notice a phrase in
Galatians 4:29. How does this say that Isaac was born?
(“By the power of the Spirit.”)
- Is that how your new life of grace is powered?
(Exactly! We are not depending on our hard work, we
are depending on the power of the Holy Spirit.)
- Read Galatians 4:30. If you read the story found in
Genesis 21:11-18, it is rather distressing when you
consider the human emotion involved. Why is Paul stressing
that part of the story?
- Are we to “get rid of” those in the church who
promote righteousness by works? Or, is Paul
suggesting that we should “get rid of” righteousness
by works thoughts from our minds?
- What is Paul’s point in saying “get rid of” and “the
slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance
with the free woman’s son?”
- Read Galatians 4:31. Whose child are you?
- If you are the son of Sarah, the son of the promise,
are you acting like it? Or, are you acting like the
son of Hagar?
- Consider another aspect of this. One of the sad
things about the story of Hagar and Ishmael is that
neither one of them had any choice in the matter. Did
Isaac have any choice in his birth as a son of the
- Is there a spiritual point in this? (We did not
create the cosmic battle between Jesus and
Satan. Those who want to be saved by their
works will come to realize that they really do
not have much control over their situation.
That is why it is so much better to simply
accept the promise of God. Just accept His free
- Read the words of Jesus in John 6:28-29. What are the
“works” that “God requires” of you and me? (“To believe in
the One He has sent.”)
- Friend, if you do not believe, why not make that decision
right now? Why not go from being a slave to being the free
son of God? Why not trust God by believing in Jesus?
- Next week: Freedom in Christ.