So then, brethren, we are not children of a bondwoman, but of the free woman.Galatians 4:31(NASB)
The Word of God needs to be read literally and in its correct historical context, for it is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness. The Word of God is given so that the man or woman of God may be complete and thoroughly equipped for every eventuality in life. It provides us with every good word we speak, every good deed we do, and every good thought we think. But there are times when a very specific picture is painted or an illustrative metaphor, allegory, or parable is used to bring out an important scriptural truth for our understanding.
A metaphor is a figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to an object or action to which it is not literally applicable, while an allegory draws a comparison between one thing and another for the purpose of greater explanation or clarification. And in this passage in Galatians, we see examples of metaphors and allegories. We read of the two sons of Abraham 1) Ishmael and 2) Isaac and we read of two women 1) Hagar, the bond-woman and 2) Sarah, the free-woman. We hear about two covenants 1) the Old Covenant of Law and 2) the New Covenant of Grace and, finally, we hear of two cities 1) the earthly Jerusalem in Israel and 2) the new heavenly Jerusalem which comes down from above.
The two named women represent the two covenants. Hagar symbolises the covenant of LAW while Sarah stands for the covenant of GRACE. The covenant of Law, which was given by God to Israel on Sinai, resulted in slavery to the Law. The slave-girl Hagar fits this biblical symbolism and is referred to as the earthly Jerusalem - Jerusalem below. However, the covenant of Grace, which was given through Christ at Calvary, resulted in freedom. Sarah, the mother of Isaac, represents the free-woman and the heavenly Jerusalem and fits this biblical symbolism beautifully.
The historical record of Abraham is used to teach a fundamental truth which, if understood, would help to remove much of the legalistic confusion that surrounds 1) Israel and the dispensation of Law, which was pre-Cross and 2) the Church and the dispensation of grace, which is connected with post-Cross teaching. The story of Abraham's two sons, Ishmael and Isaac, and the struggle that took place between the two women - Hagar, the bond-woman (who represents slavery to the Law) and Sarah, the free-woman (who represents our freedom in Christ) resulted from the fleshly schemings of Abraham who decided to help God to fulfil His promise to give him a SON. This historic happening not only helped to fuel an ongoing feud between the descendants of Ishmael and the Jewish nation - but represents a deep spiritual truth regarding those that are under LAW and those that are under GRACE.
Sadly, many misunderstand this allegory. Legalists like to say that because Sarah is the free-woman and also linked to Abraham, Christians are linked to the Law. They insist that we must live under bondage to the Law. Others sadly use this passage to make the false claim that God has finished with Israel and that the Christian Church has taken their place as God's chosen people - because Sarah, the mother of Israel, is now the free-woman! However, the bias of BOTH groups has blinded them to the real, important, spiritual truth that is in plain view for those with eyes to see.
Those connected with Ishmael, Hagar, the Old Covenant of Law, and the earthly Jerusalem, represent the unsaved who are in bondage to sin, slavery, and Satan. They include all unbelievers who are dead in their sins, enslaved by Satan, at enmity with God - as well as many religious legalists and pious Judaisers who insist that we are still under the Law of Moses and not under the Law of the Spirit of life which is in Christ Jesus.
Those connected with Isaac, Sarah, the New Covenant that was cut at Calvary, and the heavenly Jerusalem, represent those that are saved by grace through faith - and by God's grace their faith is credited as righteousness. They live by faith and have been removed from the curse of the Law, for the wages of their sin was paid in full by Christ's sacrifice at Calvary. By faith, we are no longer under God's condemnation because we trusted in the Lord Jesus for the forgiveness of sins and life everlasting. As Paul writes in this passage to believers: "Brethren, we are not children of a bondwoman, but of the free woman."
May we be those that understand the spiritual truth that is being taught in this beautiful analogy. Before the Cross we were in bondage to the Law, but by grace through faith in Christ, we have been released from the deathly strangle-hold of the Old Covenant and its power over us has been severed. We are now ministers of the New Covenant of grace... and all who have trusted Christ for the forgiveness of sins and life everlasting are children of the free-woman- children of promise. May we never forget that by faith in Christ we are not children of a bondwoman, but of the free woman - for which we praise His holy name.
Heavenly Father, what a blessing it is to know that we are not under bondage to sin, Satan, and the Law, but by grace through faith in Christ, we have been set free. Thank You that I am a citizen of heaven and connected with the Jerusalem above. In Jesus' name, AMEN.