- Locate the Passage
4:21-31 is the final preaching unit in Galatians 4 and follows Paul’s passionate expression of pastoral concern in 4:12-20.
- Identify the Genre
The macro level is epistolary. The micro level is expository. The passage has only one imperative command
- Determine the Structure of the Passage
There are four components to the structure of this passage:
extension of challenge to the Galatians (21)
introduction of illustration (22-23)
explanation of allegorical interpretation (24-27)
application of allegorical interpretation (28-31)
- Exegete the Passage
Verse 21 begins immediately with the single imperative command in this passage: Tell (legete-“say”-present active imperative) me. This command in question form is directed to those desiring (thelontes-participle) to be under the law. Paul extends the question by querying further: Do you not listen (akoute-“hear”) to the law?
In verse 22, Paul introduces the illustration which will serve as the basis for his argument to the Galatian readers. It concerns the slave woman (Hagar) and the free woman (Sarah). It has been written (gegraptai-perfect passive) that Abraham had two sons. We know that Ishmael was born to Hagar and Isaac to Sarah. Verse 23 specifies that Hagar’s son was born according to the flesh (kata sarka) and that Sarah’s son was born through promise (di epaggelias).
Vere 24 indicates Paul’s use of a stated allegory. The verse is fronted with the statement: This is being allegorized (allegoroumetha-present middle participle). Hagar and Sarah represent two covenants (diathekai). Hagar is associated with Mt. Sinai (where the law was given). As such, she corresponds (sustoichei-“put things in order”) to the present Jerusalem and slavery (verse 25). In contrast, verse 26 informs the reader that the Jerusalem above (represented by Sarah) is free (eleuthera) and that she is the mother of us. In verse 27, Paul cites Isaiah 54:1 in order to reinforce his argument.
Verses 28-31 apply the allegory. The Galatians (note the address as “brothers”), like Isaac, are children of promise (verse 28). In verse 29, Paul offers a then-and-now comparison. Just as the one born according to the flesh (Ishmael) persecuted (edioken-imperfect) the one born according to the Spirit (Isaac), so also it is now. The Judaizers are persecuting the Galatian believers. Verse 30 includes a reference to Genesis 21:10, which records Sarah’s demand of Abraham regarding Hagar and Ishmael. Verse 31 summarizes the application for Paul’s readers: They are not children of Hagar but of Sarah.
- Let the Structure of the Text Drive the Sermon
- Extension of Challenge (21)
- Introduction of Historical Illustration (22-23)
- Explanation of Allegorical Interpretation (24-27)
- Application for the Galatians (28-31)