The Two Covenants

By Olin Williams
February 1, 2024

Galatians 4:22, “For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a free woman.”

In Genesis 12:2, God promises to make a great nation from Abraham. Sarah was his wife. The Messiah was to be born through Abraham’s line. But time passed, and no son was born. Sarah began to believe that Abraham and she would not bear the promised son and began to take it upon her own suggestion of having the promise fulfilled. She suggested Abraham bring in a concubine and have a son by her.

Abraham took her advice and brought in an Egyptian slave by the name of Hagar. From this union, Ishmael was born. Abraham hoped God would keep his promise through Ishmael.

But in Genesis 17:19, “And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and shalt call his name Issac; and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him.”

There is a spiritual lesson in this account. Verse 24 tells us that this is an allegory.

These two sons symbolize two covenants, one of works (or law) and the other of grace. Thus, the word of God shows us that the one who expects to live by what he does is under the law of works. And belongs to the tribe of Hagar and Ishmael, her son.

Those who are saved by believing in the works of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross and have the righteousness of Christ imputed unto him are like Isaac, the child of promise.

Ishmael was born to Hagar, an Egyptian slave, after the works of the flesh. It gendereth to bondage. Isaac was born to Sarah, a freewoman, and was by promise.

Abraham and Sarah were young enough to bear children, so they worked to help God fulfill his promise of a son. But God waited until they were too old to bear children before He performed a miracle and gave them a son.

Often, we produce Ishmael Christians by works and not Isaac Christians by waiting on God to save them by his grace.