Reposted from 2011:
Previously: Galatians 4:8-20, elements of the world
Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and he of the freewoman through promise, which things are symbolic. For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar— for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children— but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all. For it is written:
“ Rejoice, O barren,
You who do not bear!
Break forth and shout,
You who are not in labor!
For the desolate has many more children
Than she who has a husband.”
Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise. But, as he who was born according to the flesh then persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, even so it is now. Nevertheless what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.” So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free. Gal 4:21-31
Paul is reiterating the point he has already made: that what is in opposition to each other is not obedience vs. faith, but the flesh vs. the Spirit, or the promise. When he says that Mount Sinai gives birth to bondage, I am convinced that he means as he has meant elsewhere in Galatians: that to try to obey the Law out of the flesh, without the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, is a heavy burden and bondage. He is not telling those with the Spirit to cease obeying, but to cease trying to gain righteousness or justification under the Law instead of under grace, under the blood of Jesus.
The Torah portion that Paul quotes here is prophetic (all the Torah is history which prophesies of Messiah and the gospel of grace!): the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman. No one who tries to establish their own righteousness based on their works of obedience to the Law shall inherit the promise of Abraham. But only those who receive righteousness by the promise, shall be heirs.
And we who believe in Jesus Christ are not children of the bondwoman but of the freewoman, if in fact we have placed our faith in Him for righteousness, and not in our obedience. 🙂 But because we place our faith in Him, we do not throw obedience out of the window! We become a member of the household of faith, by faith, under the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, but as good children, now that we are members, we obey the rules of the house, which are not burdensome for us if we love our Father! Historical Christianity equally emphasized the same thing that Paul emphasizes: that two verbs sum up our faith: trust and obey! It is only modern Christianity which has thrown out the obey part and made Christianity about trust alone, which is a perversion of Scripture!