Posted in Devotions

Ephesians 4 Part 1–Walking in a manner Worthy of Your Calling

In business, the story is all too familiar.  A company starts out as a modern-day Camelot. Its founder is brilliant and, possesses a heart and personality that are both selfless and amiable. He carefully surrounds himself with like-minded leaders who, in turn, foster a team of individuals sharing the same values. The outcome is a company that thrives and prospers, even amidst a chaotic time. Unfortunately, as the founder retires,  new leadership emerges and they are devoid of those core values. They walk a different path. Within a short span of time, the new leadership destroys what was so carefully built and the company meets its demise.

When this happens, it serves as a poignant reminder of the importance of walking in a manner worthy of our calling. In the story, the successor to the founder tragically transformed a humble and selfless thriving company into a self-serving entity, squeezing it dry for personal gain. The result is the company no longer resembles what made it great and its people lose everything they worked hard to build.

In our journey with God, we are called to humbly build lives of selflessness, surrounding ourselves with like-minded individuals. As we do so, God safeguards, equips, and provides for us. Our lives become enriched with purpose, leaving a lasting legacy. 

Moreover, when each circle of individuals walks in this worthy manner, they have the power to touch and transform lives wherever they go. Chaos yields to peaceful order and division gives way to lasting unity.  We must remain vigilant  for evil individuals will always seek to infiltrate and corrupt, selfishly taking all that is good from the group. They resemble viruses or cancers and rob us of goodness, leaving behind death and destruction. Their focus lies solely on what they can take with no regard for the havoc they wreak.

Despite our circumstances, we are each called to walk in a manner worthy of our calling. In our personal, spiritual, professional and social lives, we must strive to consistently live in ways that promote unity and keep our focus on the Lord. Even if the world around us crumbles into disarray, we can lead lives that reflect God and His divine purpose. I pray that the Lord empowers us to live such lives.

God Bless You

4 Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.

But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore [a]it says,

“When He ascended on high,
He led captive a host of captives,
And He gave gifts to men.”

(Now this expression, “He ascended,” what [b]does it mean except that He also [c]had descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things.) 11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the [d]saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the [e]knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature [f]which belongs to the fullness of Christ. 14 [g]As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness [h]in deceitful scheming; 15 but [i]speaking the truth in love, [j]we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together [k]by what every joint supplies, according to the [l]proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.

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Ephesians 3 Part 2–What Drove Paul

It is not enough to merely know who God is and be aware of the history of Jesus and His sacrifice. We must cultivate a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ, our Lord. This truth resonated deeply with Paul, igniting his commitment to defending and spreading this message to anyone who would listen. Throughout his ministry, Paul endured incredible hardships, as he recounts in 2 Corinthians 11: “I have toiled tirelessly, been imprisoned frequently, endured countless beatings, and faced death repeatedly.” (2 Corinthians 11:16)

So, what drove Paul to minister with such unwavering intensity, risking his life day after day? He reveals to the Ephesians that his fervor stems from a desire to help them – and all believers – experience the fullness of God’s blessings. Paul longed for those who heard the word to receive the boundless riches of God’s glory and to be strengthened by the power of the Holy Spirit. His ultimate goal was for each person who embraced Christ to intimately know Him and follow Him with a faith firmly grounded and rooted in love.

Above all, Paul yearned for every chosen individual to truly grasp the immense gift they had received. He wanted us all to embrace the immeasurable breadth, length, height, and depth of the Lord’s love so that we might be filled to overflowing with the fullness of God. Paul, having personally tasted the richness of knowing the Lord, wanted to share this abundant experience with everyone he encountered.

In our own lives, we too can experience this richness by surrendering control to God and allowing Him to lead us. Similar to Paul’s journey, such faith comes at a cost. We will inevitably face trials and tribulations, grapple with unsettling questions, and encounter challenging emotions. We will taste the pain and sorrow that accompanies a life centered on others. Yet, in the end, we will also discover the extraordinary richness and fullness that result from inviting Christ Jesus to dwell within us and fill us to overflowing.God Bless You.

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom [l]every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the [m]saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.

20 Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, 21 to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations [n]forever and ever. Amen.

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Ephesians 3 Part 1–Paul and Our Mission

From both the world’s perspective and a Jewish perspective,  Paul seemed to have received an unfair deal. He was an “up and comer” in Jewish culture, trained by Gamaliel – the “Rabbi to the stars.” Paul was a young Pharisee who gained fame and prestige as the enforcer against the heretical Jesus of Nazareth followers. However, during a trip to Damascus to round up these upstarts, Saul met Jesus and became one of them.

If that was not enough, he started preaching to Gentiles all over Europe and Asia, causing a stir among his newfound friends in the church. He started Gentile churches everywhere, which upset the folks back in Jerusalem. The truth is, Paul had it right. God intended to draw all people back to himself. He did not set the nation of Israel apart to form a social club, but to be His ambassadors to the rest of the world. Through Abraham, God would reunite the remainder to a personal relationship with Him.

Paul sensed the irony more than most, as he was on a mission to wipe out this movement. Instead, God took the least likely human and made him the tool to spread His gospel across the globe. This is the same God who used a woman who had been barren for 90+ years to build His nation of priests, a murderous Egyptian prince turned fugitive and shepherd to free and build His people, and a shepherd boy with a handful of rocks to kill a nine foot tall super warrior.

God focuses on using the least likely but best-equipped to complete His plan. It is this proven model that gave Paul the confidence to pour out his life for the Gospel. God wants His chosen to accept the amazing grace and all-powerful Spirit that He provides to empower and propel us into a life of ministry and service. Paul grasped it and even in the midst of persecution and scorn, he was able to spread the gospel all over the Mediterranean, to Rome and then to the world.

We can also take heart that, like Paul, we are chosen by God to execute His plan in our lives. We are each uniquely qualified to reach our world for Him. Our unique journeys provide an audience and a message that God can use to change lives. We, like Paul, need only accept that it is God and not us leading the mission. If we do, it really does not matter what others think or how odd our service may seem. That is God’s business and we can joyfully accept it and walk in confidence that He will prepare us to complete the mission He has set before us!

God bless you

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Ephesians 2 Part 2–Christ the Unifying Cornerstone

The plan was masterful. God demonstrated His love for all people by completing the work He had planned for His chosen people, Israel, to accomplish. In Exodus 19, God tells Moses His plan: “Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. You shall speak these words to the sons of Israel” (Exodus 19:5-6).

Jesus’ sacrifice united all people. He became the cornerstone of a united kingdom where there is neither Jew nor Gentile, only the adopted children of God. In addition, the relationship between people and God transformed from a national one to a personal one. As Paul pointed out in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”

As a united people, we are given the opportunity to release our grip on life and turn control over to the master designer and executor of plans. When God is in control, He leads us to a life of transformation from defeated people to fulfilled and purposeful evangelists and disciples. We remain focused on Him and His plan, and He continues His work in us until we join Him in Heaven or in the air!

God has always loved us. As His creation, He has done everything to assure that we can spend eternity in fellowship with Him and with the entire body of believers. We must choose each day to relinquish control of our lives and allow God to lead us through the power of His Spirit. As we do, the tools the enemy employs to divide us will be of no use, as we remain united in Christ, our Cornerstone.God bless you.

11 Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called “Uncircumcision” by the so-called “Circumcision,” which is performed in the flesh by human hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, [i]excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off [j]have been brought near [k]by the blood of Christ. 14 For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the [l]barrier of the dividing wall, 15 [m]by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might [n]make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, 16 and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, [o]by it having put to death the enmity. 17 And He came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near; 18 for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the [p]saints, and are of God’s household, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy [q]temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.

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Ephesians 2 Part 1–It is the Greatest Gift

Human beings are such a mess.  In fact, scripture says we are born dead. Dead men walking. We are born into a world of sin, and then as we grow, we seem to fit right in. Our nature drives us to be the personal God of our life and the enemy cheers and coaches us on toward sinfulness and destruction. Sin is so prevalent and rampant among people that even if we tries to live a life apart from sin, we are beaten down in failure because we are simply unable to overcome sin’s power on our own.

God’s word goes on to give the best news of all time – “BUT GOD…” God, through Christ Jesus, stepped in. Jesus’ sinless life and sacrificial death conquered the sin and death problem for us! When we believe in Him, we are given the power through the Holy Spirit to be made alive again! He paid the penalty for our sin and released us from its grip and resulting punishment.  

The most beautiful part of the story is that we did not have to do anything to receive the new life prepared by God through His son.  Some of the sweetest words in the Bible are the words Paul uses in this scripture:  “For it is by grace you have been saved—through faith”! This is the new pronouncement by our Creator and Father in Heaven.  

Imagine sitting in a courtroom, Satan as the prosecutor.  He has just finished presenting the case against you. As he reviewed your life, the occasions where you failed were so numerous that the shame of it was overwhelming. Jesus, your advocate, rises and in defense simply holds up His nail-scarred hands and says, “I died for those sins.”

The Father, as Judge, taps the gavel and asks that you, the defendant, please rise. You stand, with Jesus by your side. Then the Father, with the smile that only a father can wear, repeats these words to the entire court of Heaven – NOT GUILTY!  Here is your gift from God! 

Despite the sin of the world and our personal failure, God created us to have fellowship with Him.  He anticipated our sin and created a way to defeat sin and death in order to redeem us. We only need to accept the gift and allow the Savior to stand with us.  Now, we walk confidently and joyfully in the midst of a broken and chaotic world by the perfect grace and perfect plan of God!

God Bless You

And you [a]were dead [b]in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the [c]course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, [d]indulging the desires of the flesh and of the [e]mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead [f]in our transgressions, made us alive together [g]with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and [h]that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

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Ephesians 1 Part 2–The illustrious Gift of Knowing God Deeply

Faith carries with it a profound irony. As believers and non-believers walk through this world, they experience many of the same joys, trials, disappointments, and events. The crucial difference lies in their perspectives on cause and effect and how they handle those situations. As Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:17, when we become new creations in Christ, we receive a new perspective on life. All things become new, and the old passes away. This new perspective also requires us to include the Lord in our daily affairs and seek His guidance for direction and needs.

In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul reminds us of this need to know our heavenly Father deeply. The Church in Ephesus was a crucial hub for the Christian world, led by renowned preachers such as Paul, the Apostle John, and Timothy. After acknowledging their faith and ministry, Paul reminds the Ephesians that, as God’s chosen people, they have access to all of the knowledge and power that God possesses. This power is the same depth that raised Christ from the dead and seated Him at the Father’s right hand. This power remains available to them and is passed on through generations as they leave a legacy of faith for others to follow.

We are not human doings, my friends; we are human beings. As His chosen people, we need to focus on who we are in Christ and allow that focus to direct our paths and determine our identities. The world often tells us that our purpose and identity are entangled in what we do and what we collect in this life. However, the collections of accomplishments and treasures often tarnish and fade. What truly lasts is the impact we have for the Lord in the lives of those we know.

Our legacy is built on thriving children, Christian friends, and disciples, a good name, and a word that can still be sealed with a handshake. These things come from knowing God and following Him closely. They pass on through generations and leave an unshakable and eternal legacy.  May God reward you as you seek to know Him deeply and leave a lasting legacy of faith for others to follow.

God Bless You

15 For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, 16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. 17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit[f] of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

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Ephesians1 Part 1–Our Triune God

The Lord had a plan.  Since He first exclaimed, “Let there be light!”, God in three persons created, filled, and executed His plan to build personal relationships with His chosen.  John 1 reminds us that Jesus was “Logos” – the Word -and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He executed the Father’s command “Let there be light.” In addition, He came and showed the world the true nature of the Father. 

God was not some impersonal and vain being who ignored the people he was supposed to love. God was a father that loved HIs chosen and healed, fed, freed, and welcomed all who would accept His love.  What is more, God was willing to give His most precious gift – His son – to redeem us. Then, Jesus showed through His resurrection, that God was able to defeat the enemy and erase the curse of hopelessness that sin had instilled in mankind.

Once redeemed, God sealed us with the Holy Spirit to comfort, guide, and remind us that God is with us and will remain available 24/7 to meet us where we are and transform us into His image. Our transformation is no small task, but He has promised not only to begin the work, but also to carry it to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6.  

Holy Trinity, fresco painting on the ceiling of the church

We are so blessed to serve one God – the master and creator of all – who is three persons:  Father, Son, and Spirit. Since the Father put the plan together, He has executed it flawlessly across history and will continue to do so until Christ’s return.

God Bless You

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he[b] predestined us for adoption to sonship[c] through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he[d] made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.

11 In him we were also chosen,[e] having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.

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Galatians 6 Part 1–Responding Differently and Reflecting Christ

As the chosen of the Lord, we are called to respond differently from the world. When those around us fail, we are not to judge or condemn them but to humbly and selflessly restore them to the faith. This is the path of love and forgiveness, the path of grace.

In Jesus’ restoration of Peter, we see a beautiful example of this approach. Jesus did not condone or ignore Peter’s denial, but He met him where he was and gently brought him back. Jesus didn’t give Peter a lecture or scold him; He simply asked him, “Do you love me?” and then commissioned him to feed His sheep.

We too must follow this example, for we are all sinners saved by grace. We cannot become the judges of another; instead, we must provide support to assist them on their journey back to God. When we faithfully follow this model of restoration, the body of believers becomes stronger and more unified.

God, the ultimate farmer, will always reward our sewing of love and good deeds with abundant blessings that we cannot even imagine. But if we choose to judge and abandon those around us, we will reap the consequences of selfishness and pride.

Let us seek to love and restore others so that He can love and restore us. When we are focused on the mission and on the lives of others, He is free to focus on us. May we be selfless and focused on His mission, and may God bless us abundantly as we seek to restore those who have fallen away.

God Bless You

Brethren, even if [a]anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But each one must examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another. For each one will bear his own load.

The one who is taught the word is to share all good things with the one who teaches himDo not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. 10 So then, [b]while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.

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Galatians 5–Freedom Through Submission to Christ

Ironically, true freedom in Christ means we become servants of God.  Bob Dylan probably spoke to the issue better than anyone with his song, You Gotta Serve Somebody.   He says, “It might be the devil, or it might be the Lord, but you gotta’ serve somebody.”

Our freedom in Christ brings joy and absolute satisfaction when we stop focusing on personal gain and instead focus on the Lord Jesus and the needs of others. As the scripture says in Philippians 4:19, God is faithful to supply all our needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus. If we cling to that truth, we can release the tight grip on our lives and allow the Holy Spirit to lead us.

When the Spirit takes control, bickering stops, focus intensifies, and the fruit of the Spirit begins to pervade the scene. Unrest, fighting, riotous living, and selfishness are replaced with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control. This brings unity and harmony in every situation.

Paul made it clear that unity was needed in the Church at Galatia and it is still something we need today in the body of Christ.  Sometimes, we focus on what we might gain from following the Lord instead of focusing on the selfless choice to serve others and to serve the Lord. That leads to bickering and division.  It also robs us of the peace and the fruit of the Spirit.

Today, Lord, help me to deny myself and choose to be filled with your Spirit so I can serve others in Your name..  

God Bless You

13 For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.

16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. 17 For the flesh [g]sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you [h]please. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. 19 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: [i]immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, [j]factions, 21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentlenesses, self-control; against such things, there is no law. 24 Now those who [k]belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also [l]walk by the Spirit. 26 Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another.

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Galatians 4 Part 2–The Irony of Freedom of Choice

The idea of remaining tied to the Jewish laws and traditions parallels that of a bondslave.  The unique position of a bondslave was that when a slave was given their freedom, they could choose to remain a servant to the household by choice.  When that choice was made, the owner would mark the bondservant with a special earring, but then the servant was tied to them for life.

Paul reminds the Galatians that they are children of freedom, not slavery.  As children of freedom, they do not have to do anything to become free.  They could, however, choose to be enslaved like a bondservant.  It is much the same with any other addictive sin. Ironically, you are free to make the choice to become a slave to sin. We are human “beings”, not human “doings”. We are saved by grace and not by any work or achievement we can personally attain.  

Paul is urging the Galatians to simply trust the Lord and follow Him.  They must not leave the freedom of trusting and submitting to God for a life as a bondslave to traditions and rules that have no impact on our eternal life and standing with God.  

That message is still ringing today.  So many Christians are trading their freedom in Christ for a list of tasks and objectives to complete.  We want to achieve a level of faith.  The irony is that faith is trusting God to do His work in our lives.  We are called to follow and trust; He then does the transforming through the power of His Spirit.

It is difficult to live in complete freedom because we constantly like to seize control. We willingly submit to a to-do list rather than to God. Once we fall into that trap, we can never do or achieve enough to meet the standard.  We must relinquish our personal control and lay it on the alter before the Lord and allow Him to take control of our lives.

God Bless You

21 Tell me, you who want to be under the law, do you not listen to the law? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the bondwoman and one by the free woman. 23 But the son by the bondwoman [r]was born according to the flesh, and the son by the free woman through the promise. 24 [s]This is allegorically speaking, for these women are two covenants: one proceeding from Mount Sinai bearing children [t]who are to be slaves; [u]she is Hagar. 25 Now this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem above is free; [v]she is our mother. 27 For it is written,

“Rejoice, barren woman who does not bear;
Break forth and shout, you who are not in labor;
For more numerous are the children of the desolate
Than of the one who has a husband.”

28 And you brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise. 29 But as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now also. 30 But what does the Scripture say?

“Cast out the bondwoman and her son,
For the son of the bondwoman shall not be an heir with the son of the free woman.”

31 So then, brethren, we are not children of a bondwoman, [w]but of the free woman.