The nation of Israel had the privilege of adoption (Romans 9:4). As God’s firstborn, the nation was protected and greatly blessed under the former covenant (Exodus 4:22). However, after Israel broke the covenant (Jeremiah 31:32), God in His love sent His only Son to die so that all would have the opportunity to enter a relationship with God the Father (John 3:16-18; 1 John 4:7-10).
One becomes a child of God by being born of God. In Galatians 3, Paul discussed the blessings of sonship and explained, “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (vv. 26-27). To be in Christ means I am an heir of God’s promise (Galatians 3:29). Even if one is an Israelite, a physical descendant of Abraham, a new birth is still absolutely required to be in Christ’s kingdom. To Nicodemus, Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). He further explained, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again’” (John 3:5-7). This is the way that all families of the earth are blessed through Abraham’s seed (Genesis 12:3); the Seed is Christ (Galatians 3:16) in whom all spiritual blessings are found (Ephesians 1:3).
When Isaac, Abraham’s child of promise, finally came, a great feast was held in celebration (Genesis 21:8). However, Abraham’s son Ishmael, who was fourteen years older than Isaac (Genesis 17:24, 25; 21:5), mocked Isaac (Genesis 21:9). Ishmael was soon cast out along with his mother Hagar, an Egyptian slave, because Sarah saw them as rivals (Genesis 21:10-14). While the reader’s heart goes out to Hagar and Ishmael, God made a point here about His purpose for blessings and sonship. In response to Judaizing teachers who were trying to bring Christians under the bondage of the law of Moses, Paul appealed to the account of Hagar and Sarah (Galatians 4:21-31). While space forbids exploring much of what is said in this section, the thought of verses 28-31 is interesting:
Now 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 out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.” So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free.
God fulfilled His promise to make us free from our sins by His Son Jesus Christ so that we can truly know Him (Jeremiah 31:34). There is a sharp difference between the world and its children (children of the flesh) and God’s children (John 1:11, 12; 8:19, 31-47; 1 John 3:1, 10; 4:4-6; 5:1-2, 19, 20). Those of the flesh may still continue to persecute us today as fleshly Israel persecuted spiritual Israel in the first century. It may have taken longer for God’s promise to be realized than the quick results of the flesh, but the faith to continue to wait on God always results in far greater blessings than the flesh could ever provide (Romans 4:14-24). The flesh equals bondage, corruption, and being cast away from the Father because of condemnation under His law. The Spirit, however, means freedom, inheritance, and abiding forever in the Father’s kingdom because of His promise. Which will you choose to follow, the pull of the flesh or the teachings of the Spirit?