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But remember this, that if a father dies and leaves great wealth for his little son, that child is not much better off than a slave until he grows up, even though he actually owns everything his father had. He has to do what his guardians and managers tell him to until he reaches whatever age his father set.

And that is the way it was with us before Christ came. We were slaves to Jewish laws and rituals, for we thought they could save us. But when the right time came, the time God decided on, he sent his Son, born of a woman, born as a Jew, to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law so that he could adopt us as his very own sons. And because we are his sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, so now we can rightly speak of God as our dear Father. Now we are no longer slaves but God’s own sons. And since we are his sons, everything he has belongs to us, for that is the way God planned.

Before you Gentiles knew God you were slaves to so-called gods that did not even exist. And now that you have found God (or I should say, now that God has found you), how can it be that you want to go back again and become slaves once more to another poor, weak, useless religion of trying to get to heaven by obeying God’s laws? 10 You are trying to find favor with God by what you do or don’t do on certain days or months or seasons or years. 11 I fear for you. I am afraid that all my hard work for you was worth nothing.

12 Dear brothers, please feel as I do about these things, for I am as free from these chains as you used to be. You did not despise me then when I first preached to you, 13 even though I was sick when I first brought you the Good News of Christ. 14 But even though my sickness was revolting to you, you didn’t reject me and turn me away. No, you took me in and cared for me as though I were an angel from God or even Jesus Christ himself.

15 Where is that happy spirit that we felt together then? For in those days I know you would gladly have taken out your own eyes and given them to replace mine[a] if that would have helped me.

16 And now have I become your enemy because I tell you the truth?

17 Those false teachers who are so anxious to win your favor are not doing it for your good. What they are trying to do is to shut you off from me so that you will pay more attention to them. 18 It is a fine thing when people are nice to you with good motives and sincere hearts, especially if they aren’t doing it just when I am with you! 19 Oh, my children, how you are hurting me! I am once again suffering for you the pains of a mother waiting for her child to be born—longing for the time when you will finally be filled with Christ. 20 How I wish I could be there with you right now and not have to reason with you like this, for at this distance I frankly don’t know what to do.

21 Listen to me, you friends who think you have to obey the Jewish laws to be saved: Why don’t you find out what those laws really mean? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one from his slave-wife and one from his freeborn wife. 23 There was nothing unusual about the birth of the slave-wife’s baby. But the baby of the freeborn wife was born only after God had especially promised he would come.

24-25 Now this true story is an illustration of God’s two ways of helping people. One way was by giving them his laws to obey. He did this on Mount Sinai, when he gave the Ten Commandments to Moses. Mount Sinai, by the way, is called “Mount Hagar” by the Arabs—and in my illustration, Abraham’s slave-wife Hagar represents Jerusalem, the mother-city of the Jews, the center of that system of trying to please God by trying to obey the Commandments; and the Jews, who try to follow that system, are her slave children. 26 But our mother-city is the heavenly Jerusalem, and she is not a slave to Jewish laws.

27 That is what Isaiah meant when he prophesied, “Now you can rejoice, O childless woman; you can shout with joy though you never before had a child. For I am going to give you many children—more children than the slave-wife has.”

28 You and I, dear brothers, are the children that God promised, just as Isaac was. 29 And so we who are born of the Holy Spirit are persecuted now by those who want us to keep the Jewish laws, just as Isaac, the child of promise, was persecuted by Ishmael, the slave-wife’s son.

30 But the Scriptures say that God told Abraham to send away the slave-wife and her son, for the slave-wife’s son could not inherit Abraham’s home and lands along with the free woman’s son. 31 Dear brothers, we are not slave children, obligated to the Jewish laws, but children of the free woman, acceptable to God because of our faith.


  1. Galatians 4:15 to replace mine. It is traditional to suppose that Paul was handicapped by a disease of the eyes.

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