“For it has been written that Abraham had two sons, one out of the bondwoman and one out of the freewoman, but the one from the bondwoman has been born according to the flesh, but the one from the freewoman through the promise” (Galatians 4:22-23).
We know that Abraham had two sons, Ishmael and Isaac, described as sons of the bondwoman and the freewoman respectively; another way of putting it is that Ishmael was the natural result of the will of man, whereas Isaac was “not from blood, nor from the desire of the flesh, nor from the will of man, but from God” (John 1:13). Isaac was the result of the promise of God that allowed the barren Sarah to conceive. So these two sons are representations of the natural man and the spiritual man.
“But just as then the one being born according to the flesh persecuted the one according to the spirit, so it is now also. But what says the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son! For the son of the bondwoman will not inherit with the son of the freewoman” (Galatians 4:29-30).
We see today that the Arabs, who are the sons of Ishmael, the type of the natural man, are at war with the Jews, who are the sons of Isaac, the type of the spiritual man. It has always been that way. But there is more to Paul’s allegorical application of Abraham’s story than the history of the struggle between Ishmael and Isaac.
In each person where faith exists, the natural and the spiritual war against each other; it is only in those who have been born again of the Holy Spirit that this struggle takes place; it is faith that quickens the spirit and brings life and those who have no faith remain dead in their spirit. The struggle between the natural man and the spiritual man continues throughout this life and Paul warns us that the natural man must be cast out, for while the natural man lives he cannot inherit what is promised to the spiritual only. Just as Abraham offered up Isaac as a sacrifice when God demanded it, so we too, must offer up ourselves as a living sacrifice to God; that is the sacrifice that each one of us must make; to cast out the natural man so that we may inherit the spiritual legacy that is the inheritance of the spiritual man only.
The story of Abraham is one that sets forth the ways of God at the very beginning of His revelation to man, if only we have eyes to see. Abraham, a type of God, sent His servant, a type of the Holy Spirit, into the far country, a type of the world, to find a bride, a type of the Church, for his son, Isaac, a type of Jesus. He found Rebekah, and she received from Abraham’s servant gifts and adornments of raiment and jewels that came from the groom whom she had not yet seen.
In the same way, the Spirit adorns us with gifts of holiness, righteousness and grace which, if we will receive them, prepare us for presentation to our coming Lord and King; these will be our only real beauty in His eyes.