Paul teaches us how to gather instruction from the ancient story of Ishmael and Isaac. Writing to those who were anxious to introduce Jewish ceremonialism into the Christian church, he says in—Galatians 4:21-31.
Are ye not able to see a meaning in the incidents it records? Will ye only learn one part of its teaching, and shut your ears to the rest?
We were not made sons of God by the energy of nature, but by the power of divine grace.
Pharisees and self-righteous persons display great enmity towards those who depend upon the grace of God in Christ Jesus. They call them presumptuous, and revile their doctrine as tending to licentiousness.
The system of salvation by works must be banished if grace is to reign; you cannot mix the two systems. The power and energy of self must also be no longer our trust if we desire to be saved through the promise. Human merit, the child of the flesh, will never agree with faith, the offspring of the promise.
Do not go back to legal hopes, and ceremonial observances. You are freeborn; do not submit to the yoke of bondage.
If a man could be justified by the law he would have left the system of grace altogether, for the two are diametrically opposed. Thanks be to God, we dare not even hope for a legal righteousness, and if we never fall from grace till we have become justified by the law, that evil will never befall us.
Our confidence is in the promise and grace of God; thus we are true Isaacs, born of the promise of God.
The outward is disregarded and the inward becomes all-important. The flesh, like Ishmael, is sent away, and the newborn nature abides with the father, and inherits the covenant promises. All believers understand this riddle: can all of us in this household interpret it?
Once all my servile works were done
A righteousness to raise;
Now, freely chosen in the Son,
I freely choose his ways.
“What shall I do,” was then the word,
“That I may worthier grow?”
“What shall I render to the Lord?”
Is my enquiry now.