8Before you Gentiles knew God, you were slaves to so-called gods that do not even exist. 9So now that you know God (or should I say, now that God knows you), why do you want to go back again and become slaves once more to the weak and useless spiritual principles of this world? 10You are trying to earn favor with God by observing certain days or months or seasons or years. 11I fear for you. Perhaps all my hard work with you was for nothing. 12Dear brothers and sisters,f I plead with you to live as I do in freedom from these things, for I have become like you Gentiles—free from those laws.
You did not mistreat me when I first preached to you. 13Surely you remember that I was sick when I first brought you the Good News. 14But even though my condition tempted you to reject me, you did not despise me or turn me away. No, you took me in and cared for me as though I were an angel from God or even Christ Jesus himself. 15Where is that joyful and grateful spirit you felt then? I am sure you would have taken out your own eyes and given them to me if it had been possible. 16Have I now become your enemy because I am telling you the truth?
Are you living joyfully and gratefully, willing to give of our most precious possessions (eyes!)?
Does someone become your enemy if they tell you the truth?
17Those false teachers are so eager to win your favor, but their intentions are not good. They are trying to shut you off from me so that you will pay attention only to them. 18If someone is eager to do good things for you, that’s all right; but let them do it all the time, not just when I’m with you.
19Oh, my dear children! I feel as if I’m going through labor pains for you again, and they will continue until Christ is fully developed in your lives. 20I wish I were with you right now so I could change my tone. But at this distance I don’t know how else to help you.
Abraham’s Two Children
21Tell me, you who want to live under the law, do you know what the law actually says? 22The Scriptures say that Abraham had two sons, one from his slave wife and one from his freeborn wife.g 23The son of the slave wife was born in a human attempt to bring about the fulfillment of God’s promise. But the son of the freeborn wife was born as God’s own fulfillment of his promise.
24These two women serve as an illustration of God’s two covenants. The first woman, Hagar, represents Mount Sinai where people received the law that enslaved them. 25And now Jerusalem is just like Mount Sinai in Arabia,h because she and her children live in slavery to the law. 26But the other woman, Sarah, represents the heavenly Jerusalem. She is the free woman, and she is our mother. 27As Isaiah said,
“Rejoice, O childless woman,
you who have never given birth!
Break into a joyful shout,
you who have never been in labor!
For the desolate woman now has more children
than the woman who lives with her husband!”i
28And you, dear brothers and sisters, are children of the promise, just like Isaac. 29But you are now being persecuted by those who want you to keep the law, just as Ishmael, the child born by human effort, persecuted Isaac, the child born by the power of the Spirit.
30But what do the Scriptures say about that? “Get rid of the slave and her son, for the son of the slave woman will not share the inheritance with the free woman’s son.”j 31So, dear brothers and sisters, we are not children of the slave woman; we are children of the free woman.
I find this analogy to be one of the most powerful in the Bible. The entire story of Hagar and her son (Genesis 16 & 17) is difficult, but an incredible teaching moment. God had promised Abraham a son but he and Sarah were VERY old and without a son. Abraham’s wife Sarah told Abraham to have a son by their slave girl Hagar. He did, and Ishmael was born. Well, a little later Sarah did have a miracle baby when she was 80 years old – Isaac. It wasn’t long before God told Abraham to send Hagar and Ishmael out into the desert because Ishmael was not the chosen heir.
So what is the lesson? Whether it is salvation or a lot of other things in our life, if it comes from God and it is part of God’s plan, it is miraculous and wonderful. If we try to do things our way and “help God along” by going outside his design, it won’t work, and there could be awful consequences.
Think of a time in your life when you did things your way, when you knew it wasn’t God’s way? What happened?
Now think about the times when you followed God’s lead? How did it work out?
How does this lesson apply to salvation?