Allegory of Galatians 4

"Allegory of Galatians 4"

  In Galatians 4:21-31, the inspired apostle Paul gives an “allegory”. An allegory is defined by Webster as “a story in which people, things, and happenings have another meaning”. W.E. Vine, in his Expository Dictionary Of New Testament Words, states that an allegory “came to signify to speak, not according to the primary sense of the word, but so that the facts stated are applied to illustrate principles. The allegorical meaning does not do away with the literal meaning of the narrative.” (Vol. 1, page 47). 

    The verses already referred to in Galatians 4 give the literal story of an event in the life of Abraham involving his wife, Sarah, her son, Isaac, Sarah’s handmaid, Hagar, and her son, Ishmael. We can read the details of this story in Genesis 16. What makes Galatians 4 an allegory is the principle that is being taught based upon this literal story. Each of these characters are used to represent something and Paul is very clear to identify what each represents. He states in verses 21 through 24 that this is an allegory about the two covenants. Hagar, the bondwoman, represents the covenant given at Mount Sinai which corresponds to the law God gave to Moses for the children of Israel in Exodus chapters 19 and 20. Her son, Ishmael, represents those who keep that law, who answers to Jerusalem that now is, and are in bondage under that law. The bondage referred to is the bondage of sin. The law of Moses could not forgive sin unto those who lived under that law. “But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.” (Hebrews 10:3,4). This is why in Galatians 4:24, Paul states it is a law “which gendereth to bondage”.

    However, Sarah represents the covenant which is from “Jerusalem which is above” (verse 26). It is a covenant which makes us “free”. Jesus said, as recorded in John 8:32, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” In John 14:6, “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” We also read in John 1:17, “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ”. Since Jesus is “truth” and “truth came by Jesus Christ” and truth is what makes us “free”, then the covenant which Sarah represents is the New Covenant or the New Testament which reveals the law of Christ. (Hebrews 1:1,2).

    Sarah’s son, Isaac, represents Christians, the children of promise (Galatians 4:28). For we, like Isaac, “are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free” (verse 31). The covenant we are under today is the gospel and it is “the mother of us all” (verse 26). “And he said unto them, Go ye into ALL the world, and preach the gospel to EVERY creature.” (Mark 16:15). (Emphasis mine, ERH)

    What happened to the covenant of which Hagar represents. The story of Genesis 16 continues into chapter 21 and Paul quotes from Genesis 21:10 in Galatians 4:30 when he says, “Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.” The lesson to be learned from this allegory is that, today, you and I have been redeemed from the law of Moses that God gave at Mount Sinai. In Galatians 3:13,14 we read, “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” The law of Moses served the purpose God intended it to serve and that is found in Galatians 3:19,24: “(19)Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator. (24)Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” And now since that purpose has been served and that system of faith or belief, the New Testament, has come “...we are no longer under a schoolmaster.” (verse 25). Being under the New Testament which is the law of Christ, we are of the seed of Abraham and heirs according to the promise (verse 29). When did this occur? “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”(verse 27).

    In chapter 5 of Galatians, Paul shows that we cannot do part of the law of Moses without becoming a debtor to do all of it. “For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.” (5:3,4). What is true of circumcision under the law is true of animal sacrifices, incense, mechanical instruments of music, keeping the Sabbath day, eating pork and catfish, and any other thing which we do not find commanded in the New Testament.

    If we are to offer animal sacrifices and burn incense today, we must find authority for such in the law of Christ, the New Testament. If we can use mechanical instruments of music in worship to God today, we must find authority of them in the law of Christ, the New Testament. If I, as a Christian, am to keep the Sabbath day, I must find authority for it’s observance in the law of Christ, the New Testament. If I, as a Christian, am to refrain from eating pork, catfish, rabbit, or any other kind of meat prohibited under the law of Moses, I must find the prohibition for it in the law of Christ, the New Testament. In all we do or refrain from doing, we must find authorization in no other law other than the law of Christ, the New Testament. 

-E.R. Hall, Jr.