(4). Believers Are Free from the Law
Before we came to God in faith we were held as prisoners by the Law, but now that we have exercised faith in God we are no longer under the supervision of the Law; therefore the Law was only given to lead us to Christ; “Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law.” . Thus faith gave us freedom from the demands of the Law. Through faith in Christ we also attain adoption into the family of God, and as His children there is no distinction as to ethnic or social status, and believers are Abraham’s spiritual descendants as was stated in the promise .
Paul is using here an analogy of a child under the charge of a personal slave-attendant (NIV Study Bible) who’s job it was to accompany the child exercising some amount of discipline when and where necessary; and during such time the child is likened to a slave, even though the whole estate will be the inheritance, and will be subject to such supervision for the time set by the father. So we too, before “faith”, we were likened to such children . Similarly God, who in His Sovereignty, gave us the Law and it’s principles to show us our need for righteousness, until we came to Him in “faith”: “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.” Therefore, because of and through our faith in Christ we become children of God and have full rights as heirs of all God’s promises .
Paul now asks the question that is his great concern for the Galatian believers: “Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. But now that you know God — or rather are known by God — how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?” They were made free from the Law by the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was the demand of the Law, but now it appears as if they are returning to the confines of that same Law: “You are observing special days and months and seasons and years! I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you.” ; and by such actions it appears as if Paul’s effort of preaching the gospel was wasted.
This is the attitude of some believers in Christ today; they come to Him in faith believing in Him for their salvation, but try to mix faith with law as they attempt to live by the letter of the Law. Let us understand that as believers we are free from the demands of the Law and we must continue to live by the same faith that brought us our salvation.
(d). Galatians Receive Blessings by Faith, Not by the Law
Was Paul’s preaching the gospel message wasted on the Galatians? That seems to be his thoughts as he asks, “What has happened to all your joy?” They had welcomed him into their company when he had first visited them on his first missionary journey, and even though he was ill at the time they did not treat him with contempt or scorn him, and would have given him their most prized possession, “you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me.” ; but something had occurred in his absence: “Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?” ; so often when the truth is revealed we find out who our real friends are.
The Judaizers had no doubt disillusioned the minds of the Believers against Paul as is seen in his comment: “Those people are zealous to win you over, but for no good. What they want is to alienate you [from us], so that you may be zealous for them.” . Believers should be aware that such people are active in the Church today and be very careful of those who spread gossip and wrongfully accuse others in the congregation, including the leaders, that such do not act for the good of the Church but are eager to cause alienation among the body of believers. This type of behaviour is deadly and causes us to quickly lose the joy of our salvation.
It is fine for us to be enthusiastic or passionate for Christ providing that such enthusiasm does not alienate members of Christ’s body: “It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good” . We should strive not to be Pharisaic in our enthusiasm, adding Law to Grace, we must understand that God’s blessings come as a result of our faith in Him and not by our attempt to keep the Law. So Paul closes this section by stating: “I am perplexed about you!” ; he was bewildered at their turning away from God’s grace trying to please those who had no care for their spiritual lives.
(e). Law and Grace Cannot Co-exist
As an illustration of the truth he is teaching here, Paul uses the two women who bore Abraham’s sons; Hagar who give birth to Ishmael and Sarah who give birth to Isaac. Hagar is representative of the Law because she was Abraham’s slave, while Sarah was representative of freedom as she was Abraham’s wife, and gave birth to the son of the promise: “For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman. His son by the slave woman was born in the ordinary way; but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a promise.” He continues to portray another contrast; he compares Hagar to the covenant of Law who represents Mount Sinai and Jerusalem, and states that her children are born in slavery, which would have been the true case. He equates Mount Sinai and Jerusalem because Jerusalem is the centre of Judaism and is under the bondage of the Law (NIV Study Bible). He compares Sarai to the “Jerusalem that is above” and that her children are born free, not as slaves: “These things may be taken figuratively, for the women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar. Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother.” He quotes Isaiah’s prophecy of the future glory of Jerusalem when God places His chosen people back in their land of promise to Abraham .
He concludes his teaching by stating “Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise.”, and continues the contrast by referring to the conflict between Sarai and Hagar which has continued throughout history between the Jews and the Arab nations: “At that time the son born in the ordinary way persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit. It is the same now.”; and Paul experienced that persecution from the Judaizers of his day . God’s solution to the problem was given to Abraham through the words of Sarai; “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.” . So Paul declares “Therefore, brothers, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman.” indicating that all who come to God in faith are free from the demands of the Law and must continue to live in that reality of the gospel message. That was the whole purpose of God’s command to Abraham to send the slave woman and her son away from his house because Law and Grace CANNOT CO-EXIST!