Children of Promise
Read Galatians 4:28-31
Now you, brothers and sisters, like Isaac, are children of promise. At that time the son born according to the flesh persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit. It is the same now. But what does Scripture say? “Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman’s son.” Therefore, brothers and sisters, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman.
How is Isaac an illustration of Christians today?
To understand today’s passage, we have to understand some Old Testament history. The history of Abraham and the covenant God made with him is being referred to in this Scripture. If you want to brush up on Abraham’s story, you can find it in Genesis 12-25.
God made a covenant with Abraham and promised him many descendants. Which was interesting because his wife, Sarah, was barren. But Abraham followed God’s command and went where He sent him in faith that God would bless him with many descendants. But Sarah was not bearing any children. So Sarah convinced Abraham to take her maid, Hagar, as a wife to have a child through her.
This was legal in their culture at the time but it was not God’s plan for Abraham and Sarah. So even though Hagar did bear him a son, Ishmael, he was not the son God promised. In Galatians, Ishmael is the son “born according to the flesh”.
Again, God promises Abraham that he will have a son through Sarah and that they are to call him, Isaac. Abraham and Sarah were elderly by this point. It was a miracle that a barren woman and a man so old would ever conceive a child. Isaac was a son “born by the power of the Spirit” because only the Spirit could have accomplished this miracle.
At Isaac’s weaning feast, Ishamel begins to mock and mistreat Isaac. God ends up telling Abraham to send Hagar and Ishmael away because Ishmael was not the promised son who will receive his inheritance.
What does this Old Testament historical account have to do with the Christians Paul was writing to in Galatia? And what does it have to do with Christians today? Paul was comparing and contrasting two births. Physically, we are first born in the flesh as sinners because in Adam, all have sinned. Spiritually, we are born again in the Spirit when we accept Christ.
It is this spiritual birth that makes us children of God and eligible to be His heirs.
Ishmael was born according to the flesh just like our old selves and he persecuted Isaac. Isaac was born in the Spirit just as we are also born in the Spirit when we are in Christ. Ishmael represents the unbelievers who have always persecuted the believers that Isaac represents. Hagar was a slave woman who represents the slavery of the law. Sarah was a free woman who represents the freedom we find in Christ.
Friends, Paul is telling us that we are like Isaac, children of the promise! Isaac’s birth represents that we are born of the Spirit when we have faith and are given grace like Abraham. Don’t turn back to slavery under the law (represented by Hagar). We are not children of the law but children born of the Spirit. We are children of the promise!
Father, I know that I don’t deserve it but thank you for your grace. It has given me the opportunity to choose faith, life, and freedom in You. Because I am now born of the Spirit, help me to walk in the Spirit rather than returning to the slavery of the past. Amen.