Skip to content

Cast Out the Bondwoman

In the letter to the churches of Galatia, Paul urges his
brothers and sisters in Christ to not be bewitched by those who wish to bring
them under the bondage of the Law. We will demonstrate that the Law was a
covenant of bondage in order to magnify the liberty we know have in Christ

For a little over two thousand years, God operated through
the seed of a man named Abraham in order to fulfill a promise He made at the
dawn of creation[1].
“Now the LORD had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, From your
family And from your father’s house, To a land that I will show you. I will
make you a great nation; I will bless you And make your name great; And you
shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who
curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed”” (Genesis
12:1-3)[2]. Four
hundred and thirty years after this promise was made, God called the
descendants of Abraham – specifically those of Isaac – out of the land of Egypt
in order to establish a covenant with them for the purpose of brining humanity
one step closer to the realization of the promise in Christ[3].
Within this covenant made with the Israelites and the accompanying prophecies
scattered throughout the entire corpus of the Hebrew scriptures, we find the
promises of the prophet like Moses, the lion of the tribe of Judah, the star of
Jacob, the New Covenant, and the everlasting kingdom of God[4].
All of these promises indicate that the Law would not be the final answer to
man’s sin problem, but there was coming a better covenant that could fulfill
all of man’s spiritual needs. In this essay, we will demonstrate that the Law
was a temporary solution and was considered a yoke of bondage through the
witness of Paul’s comments in Galatians, his other inspired writings, and,
finally, in the allegory found in Galatians 4. In examining the bondage of the
Law, we hope to magnify the liberty found in Christ.
begins by Paul warning against false gospels and against those who questioned
his apostleship even after he firmly established that he was called by God
through demonstration of the Spirit and through the testimony of those such as
He then brings to attention the events of Acts 15 in order to demonstrate an
example of the Jewish false teachers who were teaching the false gospel of the
old wine in new wineskins[6].
Concerning them, he wrote, “And this occurred because of false brethren
secretly brought in (who came in by stealth to spy out our liberty which we
have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage)” (Galatians 2:4).
The bondage that Paul is discussing is not the bondage of chains and shackles,
but the bondage of the Law. Those Jews that were compelling Titus to be
circumcised were trying to ultimately bring him under subjection to the whole Law[7].
Even Jesus said that the Jews were under bondage, and it is for this reason
that He said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will
give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and
lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and
My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30)[8].
John also wrote, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments.
And His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3).
            The reason
why the Law was considered a yoke of bondage is because, “It was symbolic for
the present time in which both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make him who performed the service
perfect in regard to the conscience
– concerned only with foods and drinks,
various washings, and fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of reformation”
(Hebrews 9:9-10; emp. added). The Hebrews writer also says, “For the law,
having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the
things, can never with these same
, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect. For then would they not have
ceased to be offered? For the worshipers, once purified, would have had no more
consciousness of sins. But in those
sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year
. For it is not possible
that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins” (Hebrews 10:1-4; emp.
            It is with
this information that Paul said, “Even so we, when we were children, were in
bondage under the elements of the world” (Galatians 4:3). He also said,
now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you
turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be
in bondage?” (Galatians 4:9). We see then that the Law is a covenant that gives
birth to bondage. Paul not only dealt with this subject in Galatians, but he
addressed the issue in most of his other epistles. After all, can you imagine
living a certain way for fifteen hundred years and being told that it was time
to change? No wonder the Jews (and many in our day) had so much trouble coming
out of the Old Covenant and into the New.
Colossians, Paul wrote, “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and
empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic
principles [elements –DR] of the world, and not according to Christ” (Colossians
2:8). In the same chapter, he wrote, “Therefore, if you died with Christ from
the basic principles [elements – DR] of the world, why, as though living in the
world, do you subject yourselves to regulations?” (Colossians 2:20). The Colossians
had become dead to the Law by the body of Christ, so Paul encouraged them, as
he did the Galatians, to not be entangled by those who were enemies of the
gospel of Christ[9].
            Not only
does Paul use the terms “elements” and “bondage” to describe the Law, but he
also employs other language that gives us insight to God’s view of the Law
versus liberty in Christ[10]. For
example, in Romans, Paul calls the Law the “body of this death” (Romans
7:24-25). In like manner, Paul wrote, “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves
to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God,
who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit
gives life. But if the ministry of death,
written and engraved on stones, was
glorious, so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the face of
Moses because of the glory of his countenance, which glory was passing away,
how will the ministry of the Spirit not be more glorious?” (2 Corinthians
            This type
of language reminds us of what the Old Testament writers prophesied about
concerning the time of Christ: “Because you have said, “We have made a covenant with death, And
with Sheol
we are in agreement.
When the overflowing scourge passes through, It will not come to us, For we
have made lies our refuge, And under falsehood we have hidden ourselves.” Therefore thus says the Lord GOD:
“Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, A tried stone, a precious
cornerstone, a sure foundation; Whoever believes will not act hastily” (Isaiah
28:15-16; see Psalm 118:22)[11].
            The New
Covenant, that Paul said he was a minister of, would not be like the covenant
that was given on Mount Sinai. Jeremiah said, “Behold, the days are
coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel
and with the house of Judah –  not
according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took
them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they
broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD” (Jeremiah 31:31-32).
Instead, as Paul indicated in II Corinthians 3, it would be a life-giving
covenant because it would be able to completely wash away sins through the
power of Jesus’ blood (Jeremiah 31:34).
            In the
midst of an entire book dedicated to encouraging the Christians to not be entangled
in bondage, Paul gives an eloquent allegory from the Israelite’s past that
would perfectly illustrate the environment of  jealousy and persecution in the first century
due to the struggle between the Law and the gospel[12].
me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law? For it is
written that Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman, the other by a
freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and
he of the freewoman through promise, which things are symbolic. For these are
the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which
is Hagar – for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to
Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children – but the Jerusalem
above is free, which is the mother of us all. For it is written: “REJOICE,
we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise. But, as he who was born
according to the flesh then persecuted him who was born according to the
Spirit, even so it is now. Nevertheless what does the Scripture say? “CAST
WITH THE SON OF THE FREEWOMAN.” So then, brethren, we are not children of
the bondwoman but of the free” (Galatians 4:21-31; emp. in original).
point in this passage is to demonstrate that being a son of Abraham according to
the flesh did not automatically cause one to be an actual son of promise.
Paul’s argument is that the Jews of his day that had not accepted Jesus as
their Messiah by obeying the gospel were actually sons of bondage. In this
allegory, we have two sons, two types of birth, two covenants, two Jerusalems,
and two inheritances[13].  As Ishmael and Isaac dwelled in the same
house for a season, God was longsuffering with the Jews allowing them ample
time to obey the gospel before demonstrating his wrath upon them in the events
surrounding and including the abomination of desolation (Matthew 24:14f). As
Ishmael persecuted Isaac, so the Jews persecuted the church.
            In order to
bring the focus back to the subject of bondage, consider this interesting
point: of what nationality was Hagar? Genesis 16:1 shows that she was Egyptian.
When one thinks of Egypt from a biblical perspective, they are reminded of
Isn’t it interesting that Paul, in his letter about bondage under the law,
would, through the Spirit, use the example of an Egyptian maidservant to
demonstrate the bondage that Jerusalem was in with the Jews. The bondage that
Jerusalem was in was that of the Law; however, the time was swiftly approaching
where she would meet her full end: “In that He says, “A NEW
COVENANT,” He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete
and growing old is ready to vanish away” (Hebrews 8:13)[15].  Also, the Hebrews writer wrote, “See that you
do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who
spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who
speaks from heaven, whose voice then shook the earth; but now He has promised,
Now this, “YET ONCE MORE,” indicates the removal of those things that
are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be
shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be
shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence
and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:25-29).
            It is
evident, then, that the shackles of bondage under the Law were giving way to
the liberating gospel of Jesus Christ and His eternal kingdom. We as God’s
children are members of the heavenly Jerusalem which is free. The Hebrews
writer said, “Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His
own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore let us go forth to Him, outside
the camp, bearing His reproach. For here we have no continuing city, but we
seek the one to come” (Hebrews 13:12-14). John also said concerning the bride
of Christ – the New Jerusalem, “Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the
first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea.
Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from
God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from
heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell
with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be
their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no
more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former
things have passed away” (Revelation 21:1-4).
            Under the
New Covenant, the tears of captivity have been dried up and we are now able to
bask in the glorious sunlight of liberty in Jesus as the Bride of Christ. As
another warning to the Christians, Paul said, “Stand fast therefore in the
liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a
yoke of bondage” (Galatians 5:1). Finally, Paul said, “For you, brethren, have
been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh,
but through love serve one another” (Galatians 5:13).
            The Law
under the Old Covenant was a Law that brought the people under bondage. It
could never fully deal with man’s sin problem, so Jesus had to come in order
that He may offer life and liberty in His kingdom. We have demonstrated that
the Law had this negative effect from the writings of Paul in Galatians, his
other writings, as well as his allegory in Galatians 4. Having this knowledge
of the Law, we can now appreciate the full salvation we enjoy in Christ. One
cannot truly appreciate light until they understand darkness. One cannot truly
appreciate life until they understand the effects of death. And one cannot
truly appreciate the gospel of Christ until they understand the shortcomings of
man under the Law.

[1] In Genesis 3:15, God made
a promise to Satan that He would use the seed of woman to completely crush him.
This promise was then carried down through Abraham, his son Isaac, then Judah,
then David, and, finally found its fulfillment in Jesus.
[2] All Bible quotations are
from the New King James Version unless otherwise noted.
[3] Galatians 3:14-17
[4] References listed in order
mentioned: Deuteronomy 18:17-22; Genesis 49:8-10; Numbers 24:17; Jeremiah
31:31-34; Daniel 2:44-45
[5] Galatians 1:6-12; I
Thessalonians 1:5; Acts 9:27
[6] Luke 5:36-39
[7] Galatians 5:3
[8] “Then Jesus said to those
Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples
indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in
bondage to anyone. How can You say, ‘You will be made free’?” Jesus
answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a
slave of sin” (John 8:31-34). The Law concluded that all were under sin
(Galatians 2:22). Through Christ, they could escape the weak and beggarly
elements, and, thus, come out of the dominion of sin (Romans 6:14).
[9] Romans 7:1-4; Romans 11:28
[10] Elements: Hebrews 5:12;
Bondage: Romans 8:15, 21; II Corinthians 11:20; Galatians 5:1; Hebrews 2:15
[11] The cornerstone theme is
mentioned in the following passages: Matthew 21:42; Mark 12:10; Luke 20:17-18;
Acts 4:11-12; Romans 9:33; Romans 10:11; I Corinthians 3:11; Ephesians 2:20; I
Peter 2:6-8
[12] For examples of the
tension, see Acts 18:5-6 and Acts 22:21-24.
[13] promise and bondage,
spirit and flesh, new and old, heavenly and earthly, and kingdom and fire. 
[14] Perhaps this is what John
meant in Revelation 11:8
[15] This passage is from the
Hebrew writer’s application of Jeremiah’s prophecy of the New Covenant in
Jeremiah 31. 

1 thought on “Cast Out the Bondwoman”

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.