Bondage under the law is like slavery, which keeps us from maturing in faith. At the right time, God sent Christ to bring us back to God and adopt us as spiritual children. Now, as believers, God is our Father, we have been given His Spirit to lead us, and we don’t have to be slaves to sin or law.
Before believing in Christ, the Galatians were slaves to sin and tried to please false gods. But now that they are in right relationship with the true God, they’re still choosing to live in slavery to rules and rituals. Paul worries that he wasted his time teaching them.
Paul urges the Galatians to return to his teaching. He reminds them that they were loving and respectful to him when he met them. Paul was ill when he first met them, but they welcomed him as God’s messenger. Now, he wonders if the Galatians think of him as an enemy.
Paul tells the Galatians that the false teachers are leading them astray. These teachers are excluding them in order to get them to want to belong to their “club.” Paul considers the Galatians as his children who he is trying to mature in their faith to God. He is perplexed and worried for their spiritual growth.
Paul makes a comparison to the Old Testament. Ishmael represents slavery to rule-following, Isaac represents spiritual freedom and sonship to God.
Believers should look to Isaac as a symbol of our spiritual state; we are children of God’s promises. Living like a slave to rule-following will harm our spiritual maturity and relationship with God. The Galatians need to remember their identity in Christ and get rid of legalism.
Paul shows the Galatians that living under the law is slavery, but living by faith in Christ is freedom. Christ reconciled us to God, making us sons and heirs of His promise. Paul reminds the Galatians of the personal history they’ve shared. In the past, they treated Paul with reverence and love, and now they are treating him like an enemy by ignoring his teaching and submitting to the competing Jewish “authorities.” Paul quotes the Old Testament to show the allegory of children of slavery and children of the promise: Abraham had two sons, Ishmael and Isaac. Ishmael was the son of a slave woman and was not an inheritor of God’s promises, while Isaac was the legitimate son of Abraham’s wife—a free woman. Believers in Jesus are free sons of God’s promise, not slaves to law-following or religious rituals.