The Difference Between Law (slave) and Grace (free)

The essence of legalism is trusting in the religious activity rather than trusting in God. It is putting our confidence in a practice rather than in a Person. And without fail this will lead us to love the practice more than the Person. (Jack Deer, Surprised by the Power of His S … More


Paul addresses those who want to be under the law (v. 21) and there are many who appear to want this. In his argument he takes the Galatians back to events in the Old Testament that actually happened but he uses them as an allegory. He takes them back to the life of Abraham and his two sons, Ishmael and Isaac (Gen. 21:2,9), who were born to two different wives (legal in that society but not in the will of God). (vv. 22-23) Note the comparison that shows the difference between law and grace:

Paul explained that what happened to Sarah and Hagar is a picture of the relationship between God and man. Paul was using a type of argument that was common in his day. And that probably was being used against him by his enemies (vv. 24-26). Just as the Judaizers taught that the keeping of the law made the believer more spiritual we find certain churches and individuals doing the same today. This is what “legalism“ is. Legalismdoes not mean that setting spiritual standards is wrong. However it does mean that worshiping these standards and thinking that we are spiritual because we obey them is wrong. As an example, a person can refrain from smoking, drinking and taking drugs and still not be spiritual. The old nature cannot be controlled by law; eventually it will break out and when it does - watch out! This explains why legalistic groups often have fights and divisions (Gal. 5:15) and at the same time get involved in immorality and sins of the flesh (Gal.5:19). We who are born again are not children of a slave woman, but of the free woman, the supernatural.



Lord, help me to never put religious activity ahead of you. In times past I can think of priding myself in the keeping of certain standards and I know that is not the right thing to do.

Galatians 4:21-26 (English Standard Version)

Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise. Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother.

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Mother (Hagar) -a slave

Mother (Sarah) -a free woman

She rep. old covenant

She rep. new covenant

Old given at Sinai

New given at Calvary

Born natural birth

Born supernatural birth

Rep. legalistic religion

Rep. true Christianity