“But just as at that time he was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now.” (Gal. 4:29)
Paul’s reference here is to the story in Genesis 21 where the birth of Isaac is told. Isaac means, he laughs, and we know that Sarah laughed at the prospect of his birth. However, in verse 9 we are told that Ishmael was laughing at the weaning of Isaac. The word there could mean to laugh in mockery and that is how Paul is using it in the Galatian letter. Sarah had already suffered from the hands of Ishmael’s mother and perhaps the son as well but she was not putting up with it towards her son of promise.
Again, Paul is using his allegory of Sarah and Hagar, Isaac and Ismael as a parallel of the Galatian Christians and the Judaizers. In Paul’s mind, what the Judaizers were trying to do amounted to a type of persecution. This may seem a reach for us but it makes good sense to Paul who has been a part of the slavery and is now a part of the liberation to freedom. Following the promise is ‘good’ to Paul and following slavery is ‘evil.’
Keep in mind that Paul is viewing these two courses as a means to salvation, not as a cultural problem. Returning to the system of salvation by law means that the Galatians would forfeit grace. Paul just can’t imagine anyone doing that. He knows what is required to keep the law 100% all of the time and he knows that it can’t be done. Going back to a system of salvation by law would mean losing heaven and a home with God. He keeps saying that salvation is not by law but by grace.
Task for Today: Which system of salvation are you following? Living by grace or by works? Were you saved by the system of grace but now are trying to maintain that salvation by dos and don’ts? Whatever you do today, do not swap the free gift of grace for the system that requires you to do. Obey God’s commands but not for the purpose of being saved. To do to be saved means you are contributing to your own salvation and grace says you cannot do that.