The Difference Between the Law and Grace

The Difference Between the Law and Grace

Galatians 4:22-25 – Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise. Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children.

For some odd reason, people often think of the believers in the Old Testament as moral giants and nearly spiritual superheroes. But they are as faulty and flawed as the rest of us. Take, for example, Abraham and how he wound up with two families with two women (Genesis 16). He and his wife Sarah were told by God when he was seventy-five years old and she was sixty-five years old, that despite being barren and childless, God was going to give them a son through whom would come a nation of people who would bring forth Jesus Christ as a blessing to all the nations (Genesis 12, 15).

They waited for ten years, and they assumed God had failed to fulfill His promise. So, Sarah devised a plan to have her husband Abraham sleep with a young and unbelieving Egyptian woman named Hagar. In this event, the pattern of Adam and Eve was repeated as the wife handed her husband something forbidden, and he partook of it which is sin. Sarah’s plan was to help God out, which goes to show when we try and give God a hand, we hurt everyone and help nothing.

Hagar got pregnant and had a boy named Ishmael. Then, an additional fourteen years later God allowed Sarah to become pregnant even though she was around eighty-five, and her husband Abraham was around one hundred years old. Their son was named Isaac. Since the promise of God was to the firstborn son, the battle was on between two mothers with two sons and only one promised blessing from God. Ishmael is the father of the Arab people today. Isaac is the physical father of the Jewish people today. The Arabs to this day, and their religion of Islam, say that their father Ishmael is the true son of Abraham. Conversely, the Jews and Christians say that Isaac is the true son of Abraham. Yes, much of the conflict in the world started when one man slept with two women and the family feud has kept going for thousands of years.

In Galatians, Paul uses this story to make a point. In his allegory, Hagar and Ishmael represent the law. Sarah and Isaac represent grace. Here’s the difference:



You have to do things for God’s love

You get to do things from God’s love

Non-relational control through rules

Relational influence through love



Beats you up

Builds you up

Love is at the finish line if you earn it

Love is at the starting line because Jesus earned it

Just as Ishmael was born first, and Isaac was born later (fourteen years to be exact), so too the law came first and was overtaken by grace once Jesus Christ lived, died, and rose to fulfill the law for us.

Do you have any unhealthy relationships that are law based? Who could you give grace to that needs it right now? 

Mark Driscoll
[email protected]

It's all about Jesus! Read More