but just as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now. but what does the scripture say? “cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.” so, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman. [galatians 4:29-31]
born according to the flesh.
what does this mean? in our context, paul is referring to ishmael, the older son of abraham, born because abraham tried to take God’s promise into his own hands. seeing his wife’s barrenness, as well as her age and his own, he was striving to earn the promise in his own strength by taking another route, another wife, hagar, to bear him a son. so in human terms, this son was the heir. born out of this striving, born in the flesh, born of man’s efforts. but these efforts would not gain God’s promise. no one’s efforts will gain God’s promise.
born according to the Spirit.
this is the beautiful and mysterious transformation that Jesus calls rebirth. he tells nicodemus that unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God. [john 3:3] nicodemus did not understand what this meant [at the time], but Jesus was talking about being brought from death to life, having been called by God, out of darkness, into his marvelous light, being given new eyes to see that light, and given a new heart to love that light.
this may not be an overwhelming “aha” moment for everyone, but it will bring about overwhelming heart change that leads to overwhelming life change. we are a new creation, adopted into the family of God, bearing his character and his name, aligning with his mission of showing his glory. growing in awareness of our own sinful state, which daily makes his grace look sweeter than it did the day before, we can live out of the sheer joy that flows out of his unconditional love that is being poured in. this is what it means to be born according to the Spirit. nothing of our own doing. not by our own efforts. not to our own glory, but to his.
he persecuted him.
those who seek the promise of God [being made right, true satisfaction, peace with God] according to the flesh cannot understand those who live according to the Spirit because their eyes are darkened. they are still blind to their own striving, deaf to the good news of God’s grace, and therefore still dead in their sin. this lead to ishmael in some way mocking isaac when isaac was being celebrated as heir. today, we would just chaulk it up to teenage stupidity, but in reality, this was evidence that children of the flesh will not understand how the promise of God works.
when others mock us, alienate us, revile us, walk away from us, or any other sort of persecution, we should not be surprised. we can even rejoice in our suffering, for suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope. and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. [rom 3:5] so what do we do in these situations? we let God do the work. he gives abraham instructions on what to do between the two sons. and abraham [this time] obeys carefully. our job is to shine the light of Christ, even to our persecutors. we never know what God may do in their hearts!
when we are brought into the marvelous light of God’s presence, we are made heirs through adoption, born of the Spirit, given the name “child of God”, not by our own efforts, but by grace through faith. we will be hated by the world because they do not know God. but this hatred will produce a brighter light of God’s glory in us, so we welcome it, and press on to know the Lord as we rejoice that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. rejoice in this today!