Summary: Paul’s teaching against salvation by works is brought to a climax here in Galatians 4:21-31. Paul breaks his discussion into three sections. First, Paul gives historical facts. Second, he gives spiritual truths. And third, he gives us some practical appli


When my children, Lauren and Jon, were little they had a book titled Are You My Mother? Here is how that story begins:

A mother bird sat on her egg.

The egg jumped.

“Oh, oh!” said the mother bird. “My baby will soon be here! He will want to eat.

“I must get something for my baby bird to eat!” she said. “I will be back!”

So away she went.

The egg jumped. It jumped, and jumped, and jumped!

Out came the baby bird!

“Where is my mother?” he said.

He looked for her.

He looked up. He did not see her.

He looked down. He did not see her.

“I will go look for her,” he said.

So away he went.

Down, out of the tree he went.

Down, down, down! It was a long way down.

The baby bird could not fly.

He could not fly, but he could walk. “Now I will go and find my mother,” he said.

He did not know what his mother looked like. He went right by her. He did not see her.

He came to a kitten. “Are you my mother?” he said to the kitten.

The kitten just looked and looked. It did not say a thing.

The kitten was not his mother, so he went on.

Then he came to a hen. “Are you my mother?” he said to the hen.

“No,” said the hen.

The kitten was not his mother.

The hen was not his mother. So the baby bird went on.

The story continues with the bird looking for his mother. He goes to different animals and vehicles and asks them if they are his mother. Finally, a bulldozer picks up the bird and puts him in his nest just as his mother arrives back. She says to him, “Do you know who I am?”

“Yes, I know who you are,” says the baby bird. “You are not a kitten. You are not a hen. You are not a dog. You are not a cow. You are not a boat, or a plane, or a snort! You are a bird, and you are my mother.”

The little bird in this story did not know who his mother was. We might call this story The Story of the Mistaken Mother.

Today’s sermon is also titled “The Story of the Mistaken Mother.” In Galatians 4:21-31 Paul shows that the Galatians were confused about who their spiritual “mother” was. Due to the teaching of the false teachers they thought that they were Works’ Children when in fact they were Grace’s Children. But I am getting ahead of myself.

Let’s see how the apostle Paul puts it in Galatians 4:21-31:

"21 Tell me, you who want to be under the law, are you not aware of what the law says? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman. 23 His son by the slave woman was born in the ordinary way; but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a promise.

"24 These things may be taken figuratively, for the women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar. 25 Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother. 27 For it is written:

“Be glad, O barren woman,

who bears no children;

break forth and cry aloud,

you who have no labor pains;

because more are the children of the desolate woman

than of her who has a husband.”

"28 Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. 29 At that time the son born in the ordinary way persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit. It is the same now. 30 But what does the Scripture say? “Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman’s son.” 31 Therefore, brothers, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman." (Galatians 4:21-31)


Commentator John Stott notes that many people regard our text for today—Galatians 4:21-31—as the most difficult passage in Paul’s letter to the Galatians. There are at least two reasons why it is considered a difficult passage.

First, Galatians 4:21-31 is considered difficult because it presupposes a rather good grasp of the Old Testament, which not many people—even believers—possess. Paul makes reference to Abraham, Hagar, Sarah, Ishmael, Isaac, Mount Sinai and Jerusalem; who are these people and how do they relate to Paul’s point?

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