Tell me, you that desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law?…
Writing to men who were unduly subservient to the Jewish Law, St. Paul clenches his argument with an appeal to what he regards as the typical meaning of the history contained in that very Law. This was an argumentum ad homines. It is important, when possible, to convince men on their own ground. Among believers in Scripture, arguments are naturally drawn from Scripture, Only it is necessary to bear in mind that there are different "views ' of Scripture; so that we must not be impatient if the dogmatic assertion of our own interpretation as Scripture itself is not acquiesced in. To many the allegory of Hagar seems to be an illustration rather than an argument. A reference to it is chiefly useful to move our sympathies. It needs to be preceded by solid reasoning founded on direct statements of Scripture. Thus St. Paul argues from the history of Abraham (Galatians 3:6) before making use of the typical significance of Hagar.
I. BOTH SARAH AND HAGAR WERE OF THE HOUSEHOLD OF ABRAHAM. The very honours conferred upon Hagar led to her ultimate rejection from the home through the spirit of insubordination they bred in her. The Law was given by God. We must not assume that all things of Divine origin possess equal value, nor because a thing is only intended for some lower use and is set aside when that use has been made of it, that it is therefore inherently bad and cannot have come from God.
II. HAGAR WAS ONLY A BONDWOMAN, WHILE SARAH WAS A WIFE AND A FREEWOMAN. Herein is a type of the fundamental distinction between the Law and the gospel.
1. The Law imposes bondage
(1) to constraint and compulsion;
(2) to definite precepts and irksome details; and
(3) to the burden of past transgression and omissions.
2. The gospel brings freedom
(1) in forgiveness of the past and justification by faith for the future;
(2) in revealing general principles of righteousness and giving us liberty to apply them for ourselves; and
(3) in infusing love as the motive of obedience.
III. ISHMAEL WAS A SLAVE, WHILE ISAAC WAS FREE. The children took the status of their mothers. We enjoy only the privileges of the religion under which we live. The Law cannot develop liberty. As it is a system of bondage, all who follow it lose their freedom, whether they will or no. The gospel confers liberty on all who accept it-even on those who at first have not faith, or hope, or desire to be free.
IV. ISAAC ONLY RECEIVED THE PROMISE. God's blessing comes to the free soul. If we cling to our fetters we lose the grace of God. Liberty is the parent of innumerable good things, politically, socially, religiously. As we free ourselves from superstition and needless restraints we rise into the healthy atmosphere where the largest Divine blessings flourish.
V. ISHMAEL WAS FINALLY CAST OUT. The Law, having done its part, is discarded. The Jews lost their peculiar position as the central spiritual light of their age when their mission was completed. The tutelage of Law may be useful for a time, but to dwell in it perpetually will be to become ultimately castaways. - W.F.A.
Parallel VersesKJV: Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law?