In Galatians 4:19-31 Paul used an Old Testament story to illustrate the fact that the believer in Christ is no longer bound by law. Notice that I left out the article “the” before law, as this is the way it appears in Greek. In this passage law is a reference to legalism in general (not merely the Mosaic Law). These believers apparently had forgotten, or never knew, that the principle of grace has always been God’s way of providing salvation in every age. Paul therefore points them to the story of Abraham’s two sons, Ishmael and Isaac to demonstrate the point. (Genesis 16:1-16, 21:2)
Ishmael was Abraham’s illegitimate son by his wife’s maid Hagar, but Isaac was Abraham’s legitimate son by his wife Sarah. Ishmael was conceived outside of God’s will, since Abraham and Sarah were given a promise by God that they would have a son, but they chose not to believe it. Isaac was the promised son and was conceived within God’s will as the fulfillment of God’s promise. Paul said that Ishmael represented law (legalism) and Isaac represented grace (freedom).
Galatians 4:24 tells us that there were two covenants in view - one represented by Hagar and one represented by Sarah. Hagar allegorically was law and Sarah allegorically was grace. Hagar, who was a slave, corresponds to Jerusalem as it existed when Paul wrote this letter. Jerusalem was the center of apostate Judaism and therefore represented the bondage of the law. On the other hand, the heavenly Jerusalem (which eventually would come to earth) was a place of freedom.
Galatians 4:27 is speaking of Sarah’s barrenness in not being able to bear children until God in His grace performed a miracle so she could conceive. (Isaiah 54:1) Galatians 4:28 reinforces the truth that as children of the promise made to Abraham, the believers in Galatia were related to God on the basis on their faith in Christ and not because they were related by birth to Abraham.
Galatians 4:29-30 tells us that Ishmael persecuted Isaac. This also includes Ishmael’s descendants even to this day. For this reason Hagar and Ishmael were cast out from Abraham and Ishmael lost his inheritance. Paul was illustrating the point that the law was always superceded by grace. The ultimate demonstration of this truth was the Cross. Therefore, Paul said that believers are not children of the slave (which makes them slaves), but they are children of the promise (which makes them free).
“And you who were spiritually dead having deviated from God’s norms and standards and fell short His glory; wherein in the past as an unbeliever, your manner of living was according to Satan’s cosmic system. Satan being the ruler of this world system, working in those who refuse to believe, among whom we all had our manner of living in the past. This manner of living was according to the desires of the sin nature, which fulfill the desires of our flesh and causes us to think perverted immoral thoughts. We are at birth the children of strong passions, possessing a sin nature, even as others. But God, Who is rich in mercy because of His great love for each one of us, even when we were in spiritual death because of sin, has made us alive together with Jesus Christ (we receive salvation by God’s grace). And He has raised us together and made us to sit with Christ in the heavenlies because we are in union with Him; that in the ages to come He might manifest the exceeding riches of His grace towards us through Jesus Christ, in all generosity. For by grace you have been saved, with the result that you are saved forever, through faith, the only non-meritorious system of perception and this is not from yourself. This salvation is a gift of God and not a result of human good or you would have reason to boast. For we are God’s workmanship (a new spiritual species in Jesus Christ) for the purpose of producing divine good, which is God’s predesigned plan for us and we should be walking in this plan.” (Ephesians 2:1-10)
Prior to salvation a person is spiritually dead and separated from God. Upon faith in Christ, a person becomes alive spiritually and is no longer separated from God. Regeneration is the theological term that means the supernatural work of God whereby He imparts spiritual life to a spiritually dead person. All three members of the Trinity are involved in regeneration. It is the will of the Father that everyone comes to know Christ as Savior. Regeneration is made possible by Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death. It is the work of the Holy Spirit that produces this new birth in the believer. (Ephesians 2:5-6; Colossians 2:13; James 1:18; I Peter 2:24; Titus 3:5)
Spiritual death means that a person is “in Adam,” does not possess a human spirit, is minus the righteousness of God and has no ability within himself to remedy the situation. Being “in Adam” means that every member of the human race is born with “Adam’s original sin,” which was imputed to each person at birth. It is Adam’s original sin that condemns us at birth. Spiritual life means that a person is “in Christ,” possesses a human spirit, has the righteousness of God and that God has remedied our formerly hopeless situation. Being “in Christ” means that at salvation God the Holy Spirit places us into union with Jesus Christ. It is this union that removes all condemnation from the believer. (John 3:17-18; Romans 5:12-14, 8:1; I Corinthians 2:14, 15:22)
It is the human spirit that provides the believer with the ability to have a relationship with God, to learn, to understand and to apply Bible doctrine and to produce divine good (service to God). (Romans 1:9; 8:16; Job 32:8) An unbeliever does not possess a human spirit and is, therefore, unable to have a relationship with God, to understand spiritual things or to produce divine good. Since the unbeliever does not possess a human spirit, God the Holy Spirit must act as his human spirit enabling the unbeliever to understand spiritual truth.
(I Corinthians 2:10-14; Titus 3:5) After salvation it is the human spirit that the Holy Spirit teaches and this becomes the positive influence in your soul. Divine Viewpoint Thinking is the result of this influence and overrules Human Viewpoint Thinking when properly applied. The soul of man has the potential to be corrupted since it contains “free will.” The human spirit, on the other hand, does not contain free will and, therefore, has no potential for corruption. The creation of the human spirit also sets up a battle in the soul. This battle between the sin nature and the new spiritual nature is for the control of the soul. (Galatians 5:16-17; I John 3:9)
Regeneration also sets up the potential for the production of divine good by the believer. Producing human good can be accomplished by the believer or the unbeliever. It is divine good that is rewardable in eternity, whereas the believer’s human good will be “burned up” at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
After salvation, the believer is commanded to do good works. The question is what are good works as outlined in the Word of God. In Ephesians 2:10 the Greek word for “good works” gives us great insight as to the proper meaning. The Greek word for “good” is “agathos” and means “good of lasting value or of high character”. The Greek word for “works” is “ergon” and simply means “a task or production of any kind”. Together they mean divine production, which is the only kind that is of lasting value.
The Scriptures are very clear that divine production can be produced only if properly motivated under the control of the Holy Spirit. The believer that is not controlled by the Holy Spirit is controlled by the sin nature and can produce only “wood, hay and straw” (human good). This does not imply that human good is necessarily evil. Human good becomes evil when it is substituted for divine good. (I Corinthians 3:12-13)
Regeneration also sets up a potential for the believer to have fellowship with God. Prior to salvation a person is separated from God without the ability to have a relationship with Him. Upon faith in Christ, a person’s relationship with God changes from merely being His creation to being His child. Once a child, the believer can choose to have fellowship with his heavenly Father as a matter of personal volition. This fellowship is broken when the believer, of his own free will, chooses to sin. The good news is that God knew the believer would sin after salvation and designed a magnificent recovery system for this purpose. It is the utilization of this system that enables the believer to spend a maximum amount of time in fellowship with God.
This system is outlined in I John 1:6-10. When a believer chooses to sin he loses his fellowship with God and must use God’s system in order to recover that relationship. Restoration to fellowship is a matter of naming, admitting or acknowledging your sin to God. This system is the way in which the believer regains the filling (control) of the Holy Spirit. It is impossible to have fellowship with God apart from the control of the Holy Spirit.
Verse 9 says that not only does God forgive the sins we name, but He also purifies us from all wrongdoing. Wrongdoing can be any sin - ones that we have forgotten or ones that we did not know were sins. This means that God in His magnificent grace “covers all the bases” and the slate is wiped clean. Once the believer is restored to fellowship with God and is being controlled by the Holy Spirit, he is ready to resume the Christian Way of Life. Resuming the Christian Way of Life is analogous to what I John 1:6-7 calls “walking in the light.” Since Jesus Christ is the True Light, walking in the light is tantamount to allowing God to control your life. The more of the Light (Bible doctrine) that you have stored in your soul, the more information the Holy Spirit has available to guide you in your “walk.” Confession of sin is passive on our part, whereas walking is active. Success in the Christian Way of Life requires both. It is impossible to “walk in the light” if you’re out of fellowship with the Light. It is also impossible to advance spiritually as a Christian if you’re “walking in darkness” (not controlled by the Holy Spirit).