Galatians 4:21-31

Talks for Growing Christians

Paul Refers to Abraham: Justification is By Faith Alone

Galatians 4:21-31

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Lesson Number 10

Background Notes

Doctrinal Point(s)

  1. Hagar and Ishmael represent salvation by works.
  2. Sarah and Isaac represent salvation by faith.

Practical Application

  1. Cast out the teaching of Judaism.


  1. T or F? Did the Arabia of Bible days include the Sinai Peninsula?
  2. How did Paul use Mount Sinai as part of his illustration?
  3. Why is it that human nature always wants to add human works to the finished work of Christ on the cross?
  4. When Paul says in Galatians 4:24 that these things are symbolic, does he mean that they are not historical?
  5. What do Hagar and Ishmael represent in Paul’s illustrations?
  6. What do Sarah and Isaac represent?


  1. True
  2. Mount Sinai represented the law. But justification is not by law, but by faith alone.
  3. Because human works appeal to human pride.
  4. No. These events really happened, but the apostle was using them as an illustration.
  5. They represent salvation by works.
  6. They represent salvation by faith.


  1. Re-read Genesis 16. Abraham did not wait on God in faith for the promised son Isaac, but went ahead on his own and wrongfully had a son, Ishmael, with Hagar, Sarah’s servant. In the illustration given by Paul, Hagar represents the law, the covenant made at Mount Sinai. Ishmael was born of Hagar through an act of the flesh, so the law was wrongly used and produced a religion of human works. Salvation by works doesn’t save – then or today. If you are thinking that by keeping the works of the law, or by doing any good works that they will earn your salvation, you are wrong.
  2. Conversely, Sarah and Isaac represent salvation by faith. Isaac was the promised son born to Sarah supernaturally. Paul used these illustrations to represent the difference between the law and works of the law, and salvation by faith alone. Re-read Galatians 4:28.
  3. Sarah, in this illustration, is likened to the New Jerusalem. The New Jerusalem is the heavenly Jerusalem, the home of all the faithful. See Hebrews 12:22-23. All the faithful are in the heavenly Jerusalem – the church, which consists of all believers of the New Testament, and the spirits made perfect, which are the believers of the Old Testament. In the future, this New Jerusalem will descend from its heavenly location to this earth. Refer to Revelation 21:2. If you have come to God through faith in Jesus Christ, and not by works, then you can look forward to living in the New Jerusalem.


  1. Refer to Galatians 4:29-31. In these verses, Paul continues his illustration from the Genesis account of Hagar and Sarah. After Isaac was born, Ishmael, a teenager at that point, mocked young Isaac. As a result, Sarah asked Abraham to send Hagar and Ishmael away. Read the account in Genesis 21:10; quoted in Galatians 4:30. Now, 2000 years after the event, Paul is using this as an illustration of casting out any teaching suggesting that salvation or sanctification comes through works. Law and grace cannot be mixed. Beware the subtle ideas of works-oriented salvation or sanctification. Serve the Lord out of a heart of love and cast out the teaching of Judaism.

Key Verses

  • “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.” (Galatians 4:22-24)

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