Stop it! That’s essentially what Paul is saying to the Galatians, “Stop it!” Stop turning to a “different gospel” (1:6). Stop trying to be justified by works (2:16). Stop trying to perfect in the flesh through works what was begun by receiving the Spirit through faith (3:2-3). Stop turning back to “the weak and worthless elementary principles [of righteousness] of the world” (4:3). Just stop it!
But actualizing what to do would only happen through personalizing who they were. And so, Paul tells them a story. A real-life store concerning their past which, according to the Spirit who moved Paul to write, should be allegorized to impact their present.
The story of Abraham who had two sons, “one by a slave woman and one by a free woman.” The son of the slave, Ishmael, was born according to the flesh — conceived by human wisdom and delivered in human ways (Gen. 16:1-2). But the other son, Isaac, was “born through promise” (Gal. 4:23). The promise of God, according to the wisdom and ways of God, made to a man and woman who were too old to bear children apart from God (Gen. 17:17-19).
And this morning, I’m hovering over the point of the story which, if internalized, might compel these grace nullifying (Gal. 2:21) Galatians to “stop it.”
Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise.
(Galatians 4:28 ESV)
Children of promise. Children not of a slave woman but of a free woman (4:31). Children born “not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (Jn. 1:13). Children “born according to the Spirit” (Gal. 4:29). That’s who they were. And that’s why they should stop it!
And that’s who I am. A child of promise.
No longer a slave to my best efforts, but emancipated through the Savior’s finished work. Unencumbered by trying to earn God’s favor, but released to walk in God’s freedom. The law no longer my task master, but obedience now the fruit of my unmerited sonship.
Knowing who I am, key to being who I’m called to be.
A child of promise. Resting in the promise. Responding to the promise. Realizing the promise. Soon to reap the full inheritance of the promise (Gal. 4:30b).
Only by the grace of God. Only for the glory of God.