Galatians 4:23 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Galatians 4:23, NIV: His son by the slave woman was born according to the flesh, but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a divine promise.

Galatians 4:23, ESV: But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise.

Galatians 4:23, KJV: But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise.

Galatians 4:23, NASB: But the son by the slave woman was born according to the flesh, and the son by the free woman through the promise.

Galatians 4:23, NLT: The son of the slave wife was born in a human attempt to bring about the fulfillment of God's promise. But the son of the freeborn wife was born as God's own fulfillment of his promise.

Galatians 4:23, CSB: But the one by the slave was born as a result of the flesh, while the one by the free woman was born through promise.

What does Galatians 4:23 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

The Galatian Christians are being deceived by a group known as the Judaizers. These false teachers claim that one must follow the law of Moses, in addition to believing in Christ, in order to be saved (Galatians 2:4). In this passage, Paul continues building an illustration based on the two sons of Abraham, Ishmael and Isaac. He will compare their legal standing to slavery under the law and freedom in Christ.

In spite of the fact that God had promised a child to Abraham and his wife Sarah (Genesis 15:3–6), they eventually chose to have a child through Sarah's Egyptian slave-girl, instead (Genesis 16:1–2). This succeeded, and Ishmael was born, but he was not the child of God's promise. Paul describes him as being born "according to the flesh." Eventually, Sarah did give birth to a son—when she was 90 (Genesis 21:1–3)! This boy, Isaac, was indeed the child of the promise. He was the long-awaited one. Once he was born, Ishmael's status became even less significant.

Paul will continue by explaining that this echoes the difference between seeking salvation through works, as opposed to accepting it through faith in Christ.