5. Exhortations, 4:8-6:10

ii] Do not submit again to the slavery of the law, 4:21-5:1


In this, the second of his exhortations to the Galatian believers, Paul takes the story of Hagar and Sarah, v21-23, expounds its meaning, v24-27, applies it, v28-29, and then ends with the exhortation - "stand firm and do not submit again to the slavery of the law", v30-5:1.


i] Context: See 4:8-11. Most commentators treat this passage as the last step in the theological argument that Paul commenced in 2:15/3:1. Betz actually suggests that it is Paul's "strongest argument." These notes follow Longenecker who argues that this passage is the second of Paul's "appeals and exhortations headed by the imperative 'become like me!' of 4:12." Note the imperatives, "be glad", "break forth", "cry aloud" and particularly "cast out the slave woman and her son". These imperatives are encapsulated in 5:1, although there is some doubt as to whether or not this verse should be included in the passage ("tell me", 4:21, and "look here", 5:2, seem to open new paragraphs, so Martyn).


ii] Background: See 1:1-10.


iii] Structure: Do not submit again to the slavery of the law:

Exhortation #2, 5:1:

"Stand firm, therefore,

and not submit again to the yoke of slavery", 5:1.

Biblical illustration, 4:21-23;

The story of Hagar and Sarah.

Exposition, 4:24-27;

The two women represent two covenants.

Application, 4:30-5:1.

"We are children, not of the slave but of the free woman."


iv] Interpretation:

The second exhortation: By the use of the Hagar-Sarah illustration, Paul makes the point that the Galatian believers are confronted with a choice of two ways forward in the Christian life; the choice is between the present Jerusalem / Mount Sinai, or Jerusalem above, ie., the choice is between flesh or promise; law or Spirit; slavery or freedom. Paul reminds the Galatian believers that they are the children of the free woman, the children of promise / grace, v31, and that therefore they are to live out that reality, casting out the nomism of the judaizers, v30, reaffirming the freedom they possess in Christ and refusing to submit again to the slavery of law for blessing, 5:1.


It is unclear why Paul has used the Hagar-Sarah illustration. Most commentators argue that Paul is seeking to reverse the Judaizers' use of the Hagar-Sarah story, ie., Paul's "lawless" believers are the children of Hagar, while those believers who respect the law are the children of Sarah, and are thus the children who properly inherit the Abrahamic promises. From Paul's perspective, the story of Hagar and Sarah draws out the conclusion that the New Testament church is presently divided between a predominately nomist Jewish faction that rests on grace plus Law, a faction finding its support from the circumcision party in the Jerusalem church, and a Gentile / Hellenistic faction that rests on grace apart from Law, a faction coalesced around Paul and his missionary churches.


v] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage can be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

Text - 4:21

The Hagar-Sarah Allegory, 4:21-5:1: i] The story of Hagar and Sarah, v21-23. Addressing those members of the church who now feel it necessary to place themselves under the law of Moses, Paul asks them if they really understand how the law impacts on their life.

legete (legw) imp. "tell" - "I want to pose a question to those of you ...", TH.

moi dat. pro. "me" - to me. Dative of indirect object.

oiJ qelonteV (qelw) pres. part. "you who want" - the ones desiring, wanting, willing. The participle serves as a substantive. The present tense indicating an ongoing desiring of some church members, although Longenecker argues that Paul is addressing all members. Longenecker also argues that the members' desire to be under the law means that they have not yet fully placed themselves under the law; it is still an intention. This is unlikely, since intentions are usually followed up by action and in any case, the context surely implies that even now some members of Paul's mission churches have adopted the nomist / pietist message of the judaizers.

einai (eimi) pres. inf. "to be" - The infinitive is usually classified here as complementary, but it can also be taken as introducing a dependent statement of perception expressing what some members of the congregation desire, namely, to be under the law.

uJpo + acc. "under" - Expressing subordination; in the sense "subject to", "controlled by", for the purpose of restraining sin and progressing holiness to access the promised blessings of the covenant, as realized in Christ, namely, the fullness of life in the Spirit.

nomon (oV) "the law" - law. As already indicated, the law Paul has in mind is open to some debate. The lack of the article indicates that "Law" in mind is the law addressed in this letter, namely the Torah, the Law of Moses, Old Testament law, extending to God's law in general.

ouk akouete (akouw) pres. "are you not aware?" - do you not hear [the law]? The negation ouk implies a positive answer to the question. Often understood as "hear the scriptures", cf., Moffatt v22, ie., the second use of the word "law", in this verse, refers to the scriptures as such, rather than the Torah, God's laws contained in the scriptures. Yet, given the context of the passage, it seems more likely that both references to nomon, "law", refer to the Torah. The message of the Torah is that it enslaves and condemns us. There is probably a touch of irony in the question; "tell me then, you who are so eager to be subject to the law, have you listened to what the law says?", NJB.


Three facts are pinpointed in the story of Hagar and Sarah, v22-23. a) Abraham has two sons, Ishmael and Isaac; b) There are two mothers, one a slave and the other free; c) The birth of the two boys is different: Ishmael is born in the normal manner, but Isaac, although he underwent a natural conception and birth, was a child of promise. With Ishmael, Abraham relied on his own ingenuity and effort, while for Isaac, he relied on promise / God's grace.

As already indicated, it is possible that the Hagar and Sarah story would be well known to Paul's readers because it was used by the judaizers to argue that only those who submit to the Sinai covenant share in the promised Abrahamic blessings and thus Gentile believers must submit themselves to the Mosaic law if they are to share in Isaac's blessings, as opposed to being cast out with Ishmael. This case is argued by Barrett, and noted by Longenecker. If Barrett is correct, then Paul is using a debating technique which, even today, scores high points. It is best described as heading for the high moral ground and throwing water on the slippery slope below.

gar "for" - Introducing a causal clause explaining what the Law says, namely, scripture tells us that .....

gegraptai (grafw) perf. pas. "it is written" - it has been written. Not referring back to "the Law" as if "the Law" means "the scriptures", "it says", TEV, but rather a formula term for a scriptural reference; "scripture tells us", Bruce; "in the scriptures we learn that ..", CEV.

oJti "that" - Introducing a dependent statement of indirect speech explaining what the scripture says.

ek + gen. "by" - [abraham had two sons, one] from, out of [and one] from, out of [the free woman]. Here expressing source / origin.

thV paidiskhV (h) "the slave woman" - the maidservant. A shorthand description of Hagar's status in Abraham's home, given that most Jews would know the story back to front. Dumbrell notes that Paul uses "slave woman", "free woman", here, rather than their names, since he wants to establish the central theme of the illustration, namely, the worth of freedom over slavery. "A woman (Hagar), who was his wife's slave, gave birth to one of his sons (Ishmael), and his wife (Sarah) gave birth to the other (Isaac)", TH.


alla "-" - but. Here probably not adversative, but rather "other matter for additional consideration", BDAG 445.3. A textual variant exists, "indeed", ie., Paul agrees with the Judaizers at this point; "but the son of the slave", ESV.

oJ "-" - the one. The article serves as a nominalizer turning the prepositional phrase "of the one of the maidservant according to the flesh" into a substantival construction, subject of the verb "to be born." This construction is repeated in the second half of the adversative comparative construction.

men .... de ..... "..... but ...." - on the one hand [the one from the maidservant has been born according to flesh] but on the other hand [the one from the free woman through promise]. An adversative comparative construction.

ek + gen. "[his son] by [the slave woman]" - out of, from. As above, identifying source/origin of the child.

gegennhtai (gennaw) perf. pas. "was born" - has been born. An allegorical perfect where an action referred to in the Old Testament is applied in the present.

kata + acc. "born in the ordinary way" - according to [flesh]. Expressing a standard; "in the ordinary course of nature", REB.

dia + gen. "as the result of a [promise]" - through, by means of [a promise / the promise]. Translators tend toward "because of", "on account of", and therefore "as a result of", so NIV, but the preposition followed by a genitive usually expresses means; "through" or "by means of", "by the agency of", so "by the power of God's promise", Knox.


ii] The story expounded, v24-27. Paul presents an interesting typological interpretation of this story. He doesn't suggest that the original writer intended these conclusions, just that in light of the revelation of the mystery of the kingdom of God in salvation history, figurative conclusions can be drawn. The two women stand for two agreements ("covenants"). Hagar, the slave, represents the agreement between God and Israel on Mount Sinai, an agreement which promised access to the Abrahamic blessings through obedience to the law. This of course was an impossible demand, thus inculcating the curse of the law, and so reinforcing the primacy of the Abrahamic covenant based on promise / grace, appropriated through faith. As Hagar, the slave, bore children into slavery, so the law bears children into slavery. The law's message is that the law enslaves us to sin and death.

atina pro. "these things" - which things. Nominative subject of the periphrastic present. This longer form is used instead of the simple plural relative pronoun; an example of Pauline style. "These things" = all that has been said about the Hagar Sarah story so far.

estin allhgoroumena (allhgorew) pres. pas. part. "may be taken figuratively" - are allegorized. A periphrastic present, possibly serving to emphasize duration. Paul announces that he is going to treat the Hagar-Sarah story as an allegory, spiritualizing the story and applying its truths to the life of his present readers. To do this he will use an inductive method of exposition, rather than deductive. Paul's Biblical theology will control the exposition such that it is more typology (the identification of theological correspondence) rather than allegory, even so, it is hard to know to what extent he thought his conclusions properly exegete the text. "Interpret allegorically", Longenecker.

gar "for" - More reason than cause, or just transitional and so left untranslated.

auJtai pro. "the [women]" - these. Demonstrative pronoun, nominative subject of the verb to-be, singling out "the women."

eisin (eimi) pres. "represent" - are. The sense of the verb to-be here is something like "represents", or "stands for", both terms being used in the bulk of translations. "Signifies", Bruce.

diaqhkai (h) "covenants" - [two] covenants, agreements with God. Predicate nominative. The two women represent two agreements between God and humanity, one represents the Sinai agreement. The primary function of the Mosaic law is to expose sin and thus enact the curse of divine judgment. By doing this, the Sinai covenant refers back to the Abrahamic covenant and the facilitation of the promise on the basis of the faithfulness of God appropriated through faith, apart from law. The law, of itself, only enslaves and thus submission to the law for God's promised blessings gives birth "to offspring destined for slavery", Cassirer.

men ..... de "-" - Adversative comparative construction; "the women represent two covenants: on the one hand, one from Mount Sinai ....... v26, but on the other hand, Jerusalem (Zion) ....."

apo + gen. "from" - [one] from [mount sinai]. Expressing source / origin.

gennwsa (gennaw) pres. part. "bears children" - bringing forth, bearing [children to slavery, who is hagar]. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting the "one from Mount Sinai". Possibly referring to Hagar, but more likely to the "one covenant" whose children end up as slaves, as do the children of Hagar.


Paul makes the point that the slavery of Hagar and her children represents the slavery of Israel under the Sinai covenant encapsulated in the Law of Moses. The shorter reading, "Sinai is a mountain in Arabia and represents ....", REB, is not widely accepted. There are also textual variants related to the opening of the verse, either a connective, "now, but, and" or a causal "for, because."

estin "stands for" - [but/and hagar] is = represents [mount sinai in arabia]. The literal translation "Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia", NRSV, makes no sense, so it is likely that the verb to-be again takes a meaning like "stands for, represents", as NIV, or better, "serves as a type". "Corresponds", Bruce.

sustoicei (sustoicew) pres. "corresponds" - [and] stands in the same line. Note the military sense of soldiers standing in the same line. "Represents", even "a figure of", so possibly "tells us something about the present Jerusalem (the children of the law, the people of the Sinai covenant)."

th/ .. Ierousalhm dat. "to the [present] Jerusalem" - to the [now = present] jerusalem. Dative of direct object after the verb sun prefix verb "to correspond to."

gar "for" - because. Causal.

douleuei (douleuw) pres. "she is in slavery" - she is in bondage, slavery. The subject is probably Jerusalem, although Hagar is possible.

meta + gen. "with" - Expressing association / accompaniment. The present earthly Jerusalem and her children, that is, all who adhere to the law as the means of facilitating the Abrahamic promise - "life" = new life in Christ.

authV gen. "her [children]" - [the children] of her. The genitive is adjectival, relational.


When it comes to Sarah, she represent God's eternal agreement, the promise of life, in all its fullness, as a gift of grace appropriated through faith, a promise even now realized in "the Jerusalem above" as believers gather with Christ in the heavenlies, Eph.1:20, 2:6.

de "but" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step to a contrasting point, "but".

anw adv. "[the Jerusalem] that is above" - [the jerusalem] above [is free]. The adverb is used here as an attributive adjective. Different descriptors are possible: "the heavenly Jerusalem", Barclay; "the Jerusalem on high", Moffatt; "Jerusalem in heaven", CEV. The crucial issue is to understand what this image represents. "The community of the new covenant", Bruce, certainly fits with the heavenly assembly image of the eschatological Zion, which image is dominant in both Jewish and Christian writings. Paul steers clear of the obvious parallel, "the now Jerusalem" with the "Jerusalem to come."

hJtiV pro. "she" - Nominative subject of the verb to-be. The longer compound personal pronoun is again a feature of Pauline style.

hJmwn gen. pro. "our [mother]" - [who is mother] of us. The genitive is adjectival, relational. The textual variant, "mother of us all", seeks to underline the inclusiveness of "our", the mother of all believers, but is probably not original. The simple "our" makes the point well enough.


The quote, Isaiah 54:1, promises that Jerusalem, now desolate due to the Babylonian exile, will be restored and will outshine the old Jerusalem. The children of the free woman will exceed that of the slave. Ultimately, the children of faith will surpass the children of obedience.

gar "for" - for [it has been written]. More reason than cause, confirming the truth of v26, namely that believers, the children of grace, the heavenly Jerusalem, are the children of promise (Sarah's children), and that even now the heavenly Jerusalem is being realized and is outshining the present Jerusalem (the children of law).

hJ ou tiktousa (tiktw) pres. part. "you who never bore a child" - [rejoice, barren] the one not giving birth. The NIV treats the participle as a substantive, standing in apposition to "barren woman", but it can also be taken as adjectival, attributive, limiting "barren woman"; "O barren one who does not bear", ESV.

hJ ouk wdinousa (wdinw) pres. part. "you who were never in labor" - [break forth and shout] the one not suffering birth pains. The participle serves as a substantive.

oJti "because" - Here adverbial, introducing a causal clause.

thV erhmou gen. adj. "[the children] of the desolate woman" - [may the children] of the desolate, deserted. The adjective serves as a substantive, while the genitive is ablative, source/origin,"the children born from the desolate woman", or adjectival, relational; "The deserted wife", REB.

h] "than" - [rather] than. Comparative.

thV ecoushV (ecw) gen. pres. part. "of her who has [a husband]" - the one having [the husband]. The participle serves as a substantive, the genitive being adjectival, relational.


iii] The story is applied, v28-29. The Galatians are not Hagar's children, but the children of Sarah, and along with Isaac, are the inheritors of a promise that is by grace through faith and not works of the law.

de "now" - but/and. Transitional, indicating a step in the argument, here probably logical, "So", in the sense of "so here is the point that I have been making in v21-27."

uJmeiV "you" - you. Nominative subject of the verb to-be. Variant "we" is probably not original. Paul is reinforcing the fact that believers, many of whom are now Gentiles, are the children of promise; they are Sarah's children, and are therefore the inheritor's of Abraham's promised blessings. "You Gentiles."

adelfoi (oV) "brothers" - Used of fellow believers.

kata + acc. "like [Isaac]" - according to [isaac]. Expressing a standard, "in accordance with, corresponding to"; "but you brothers are children of promise, as Issac was", Barclay.

epaggeliaV (a) gen. "of promise" - [are children] of promise. Emphatic, due to the position of the word in the sentence. The genitive is probably adverbial, causal, "you were born because of this promise", CEV; consecutive, "as a result of his promise", TEV; even instrumental, "we are children born by promise", Phillips. Possibly better adjectival, attributive, limiting children; "children who owe their existence to God's Promise", Ridderbos, or ablative, source / origin, "children born out of a promise."


As Ishmael persecuted Isaac, so Jews, particularly Judaizers (nomist believers), will harass Christ's disciples.

alla "-" - but. Unlikely to be transitional, "and", Longenecker, probably adversative, "but", REB, etc.

wJsper tote ..... ouJtwV nun "at that time ....... it is the same now" - as then ...... so now. A temporal conditional clause where Paul draws another correspondence from the Sarah-Hagar story, namely, the harassment of the child of promise by the natural born child, ie., believers by Judaizers.

oJ ... gennhqeiV (gennaw) aor. pas. part. "the son born" - the one having been born. The participle serves as a substantive.

kata + acc. "according to [the flesh]" - Expressing a standard, "according to, corresponding to." Note though the second use, "according to the Spirit", where the NIV, Moffatt, .. has opted for an adverbial sense, instrumental, expressing means, "by", with Barclay opting for a consecutive sense, "as a result of the action of the Spirit", and Berkeley going for a modal sense, "one born in a Spirit-working way." Martyn opts for an adverbial usage, means / agency, and does so with both uses in this verse, so "the son begotten by the power of the flesh .... the son begotten by the power of the Spirit."

ediwken (diwkw) imperf. "persecuted" - was harassing, pursuing, persecuting. "Made trouble for the child", CEV.

pneuma (a atoV) " the Spirit" - [the one born according to] spirit, [so also now]. Possibly just the human spirit is intended, "the spiritual son", Phillips, but more likely the Holy Spirit, even though there is no article. The language switch from "promise" to "Spirit" indicates, certainly in Paul's mind, that the agent of the promise, both the giving of it and its realization, is the Holy Spirit.


iv] Concluding exhortation, 4:30-5:1. Since the Galatian believers belong to Paul's faction, they should recall their true identity, v31, expel the false teachers / Judaizers / members of the circumcision party from their midst, v30, and refuse to return to the slavery of a false gospel, 5:1, cf., Martyn 433. The quote comes from Genesis 21:10.

alla "but" - but [what says the scriptures]? Adversative. "Yet", Phillips.

ekbale (ballw) imp. "get rid of" - cast out [the maidservant]. Possibly a strong "drive out", Barclay, or a lighter "send away", TEV, even lighter still, "separate from / disengage." Either, "drive out" nomism, or "drive out" the judaizers ("be thrown out of the Christian assemblies in Galatia", Garlington, so Martyn, Dunn, etc.), possibly "exclude", Betz.

authV gen. pro. "[and] her [son]" - [and the son] of her. The genitive is adjectival, possessive / relational.

gar "for" - because. Causal.

thV paidiskhV (h) gen. "the slave woman's [son]" - [never will the son] of the maidservant, slave woman [inherit]. The genitive is adjectival, relational.

ou ... mh "never" - Emphatic negation, here with a future tense rather than a subjunctive.

klhronomhsei (klhronomew) fut. "will [never] share in the inheritance" - The children of promise should disengage from the natural born children because the natural born will never receive what God has promised.

meta + gen. "with [the free woman's son]" - with [the son of the free woman]. Expressing association / accompaniment.


Leaving aside the analogy, the sense is: "Who then are Abraham's true children and heirs of the promise made to Abraham and his descendants? Those who, by faith, rest on God's promise of life." "Whatever you do, never surrender the freedom Christ has won for you", Hunter.

dio "therefore" - therefore [brothers]. Introducing a logical conclusion to 4:21-30 (so Lightfoot, although Bruce suggests 2:14 on), a conclusion which probably includes this verse and the next and introduced by the text in v30. "So then", TEV.

esmen (eimi) "we [are not children]" - Paul now includes himself in the children of the free woman; "we".

paidiskhV (h) gen. "of the slave woman" - of a maidservant. The genitive is adjectival, relational.

alla "but" - Strong adversative standing in a counterpoint construction, as NIV.

thV eleuqeraV gen. adj. "of the free woman" - The adjective serves as a substantive, while the genitive is adjectival, relational.


"Christ has set us free so that we should put our freedom to its proper use. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be caught once again in the yoke of slavery", Cassirer.

th/ eleuqeria/ dat. "for the freedom" - to, by, with, for the / this freedom. Dative of destination. Up till recent times this dative was usually treated as instrumental, "with freedom Christ has set us free", Bruce. Bruce argues that the freedom is "the freedom" of the gospel of liberty, so, "by the liberating power of the gospel Christ has liberated us." On the other hand, some modern commentators have taken the dative as one of interest, advantage, expressing goal, destiny or purpose, so "for freedom ..", as NIV. cf., Moule IB, or dative "of place whither", Smyth, so "to bring us into the realm of freedom", Martyn. However we read the dative, the point of the exhortation is clear enough; "whatever you do, never surrender the freedom Christ has won for you!", Hunter. The Galatian believers are to "protect and preserve their liberty given by faith from the danger of falling back into the slavery of the law", Dumbrell.

hleuqerwsen (eleuqerow) aor. "set [us] free" - [christ] freed, released. "The freedom that Christ has won for us", Phillips.

hJmaV pro. "us" - Direct object of the verb "to set free." Again Paul includes himself.

sthkete (sthkw) imp. "stand firm" - [therefore] stand fast [and not again be held by a yoke of slavery]. In the sense of "stand your ground"; "hold onto your freedom", CEV.

oun "then" - therefore. Inferential, drawing a logical conclusion from the proposition that Christ has set us free for freedom.

mh enecesqe (enecw) + dat. pas. imp. "do not let .... be burdened [again] by" - do not be ensnared, entangled / be subject to, be burdened by. "Don't let yourselves be caught again in the shackles of slavery", Phillips.

zugw/ (oV) dat. "a yoke" - Dative of direct object after the en prefix verb "to be held by." Martyn suggests that the yoke is "the universal state of human affairs" and that if the Galatian believers return to law-obedience to progress the Abrahamic promises they will find themselves back "again" where they came from, enslaved to the "beggarly rudiments" (basic principles of the world), 4:9. Paul happily equates the "rudiments" of pagan ethics with the Torah, such that the end of a Jew under the law, or a pagan under his cult, is the same end, slavery and death. It is clear from Paul's argument in Galatians that a believer is liberated from submission to the law as a means of progressing their Christian life in order to access God's promised blessings. In Christ we are set free to experience the fullness of God's promised blessing of life, and this apart from the law.

douleiaV (a) gen. "of slavery" - The genitive is adjectival, attributive, limiting "yoke"; "enslaving yoke."


Galatians Introduction.



[Pumpkin Cottage]