But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. (Galatians 4:26)
So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman. (Galatians 4:31)
The World Mission Society Church of God (or simply, the Church of God) believes “Mother God” not only exists in the Bible, but exists in the flesh today in South Korea.
This continues my analysis of the Scripture the Church of God (COG) uses to justify their belief in Mother God. (See a list of earlier articles below.) To read the introductory article about the COG and Mother God, click here.
(God From the Machine has published a book titled Searching the Bible for Mother God: Examining the Teachings of the World Mission Society Church of God, available in paperback and Kindle on Amazon. Click here to learn more.)
Above are two verses from the Bible (Galatians 4:26 & 4:31) that the COG quotes on their website as evidence for Mother God in the Bible. Now, you may be thinking Galatians 4:26 even mentions the word “mother,” so it must be about Mother God! But let’s look at what Paul is writing about in Galatians.
Remember context is always the key…
What’s Paul So Angry About?
Galatians is considered Paul’s most angry letter. It even excludes Paul’s normal thanksgiving in his opening introduction for those receiving the letter. Its absence is very noticeable because we see similar friendly openings in all of his other letters – even the more stern ones. So what’s Paul so upset about?
This is what Paul’s upset about: The Galatians had reverted back to legalism, believing that Christians must still follow the Jewish religious laws for salvation. This was a big issue with the first Christians because Christianity came out of Judaism, the first Christians were Jews, and Jews faithfully follow the Old Testament law.
But Christians have been set free from the law because Jesus Christ fulfilled it by his death and resurrection. The religious law was temporary until the good news of Christ came and freed us from it (See Galatians 3:15-25).
The Christians in Galatia had backslid and had gone back to believing and teaching someone must still follow the Old Testament law, even as a Christian (See Galatians 4:8-20).
When we come to Galatians 4:21-31, Paul uses a story from the book of Genesis about Abraham’s wives Hagar and Sarah and their sons to support his argument. The idea Paul is arguing is that someone can choose to be a slave to the law or free through Christ, but one cannot be both.
Abraham & his Wives = Domestic Trouble
Abraham (Abram) is the father of the Israelite nation, the Jews. In Genesis 12:1-3, God speaks to Abraham and promises him that he will make a great nation through Abraham’s descendants, through which the whole world will be blessed. (This promise was fulfilled with the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, a descendant of Abraham.)
But later, in Chapter 15, Abraham and his wife Sarah (Sarai) still do not have a child. God reaffirms his promise, telling Abraham that his descendants will be as numerous as the stars in the sky (Genesis 15:5).
In Chapter 16, we get the story of Sarah (Sarai) and Hagar. Sarah has grown weary of waiting for God to give them a child, so she tells Abraham to sleep with their servant/slave Hagar. Abraham listens to his wife, and Hagar becomes pregnant and gives birth to Ishmael.
This was sinful for both Abraham and Sarah. Beyond the obvious sexual sin, both Abraham and Sarah didn’t trust God to fulfill his promise and they took matters into their own hands. As you can imagine, the situation also leads to domestic trouble.
Fourteen years later, in Chapter 21, Abraham is one-hundred years-old, and Sarah is in her nineties, and as God promised, Sarah becomes pregnant! She gives birth to Isaac. Again, as you can probably guess, the birth of Isaac doesn’t help the domestic situation.
Sarah witnesses Ishmael, now a teen, mocking either her or Isaac, so Hagar and Ishmael are cast out of the home of Abraham. Though Ishmael wouldn’t receive an inheritance from his father, God cares for him and his mother and promises that Ishmael’s descendants would become a great nation as well.
The Free Woman & The Slave Woman
Now, back to Galatians 4:21-31: Paul uses Sarah (the free woman) and Hagar (the slave woman) to make a point about being free through Jesus Christ or a slave to the Old Testament law. (Take a moment to read Galatians 4:21-31 here.)
First, let’s take note that Paul clearly states in 4:24 that he’s using the story as an allegory, a symbolic tale to convey a message:
“Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants.”
Thus, he’s clearly speaking figuratively here, not literally.
Basically, Paul’s whole analogy in 4:21-31 goes like this: God gave two covenants — one of slavery and one of freedom, symbolized by Sarah (the free woman) and Hagar (the slave woman).
“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.” (4:24-25)
The covenant of slavery is the Old Testament law, represented by Hagar and Mount Sinai (the place where Moses received the Old Testament law from God). This covenant of slavery is also represented by the “present Jerusalem” – the non-Christian Jews of Paul’s day, who still follow the Old Testament law. They are the “children” of the slave woman because they’re enslaved by the Old Testament law.
Paul then writes the line used by the COG:
“But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother.” (4:26)
Following Paul’s analogy and argument, “Jerusalem above” is contrasted with the present, worldly Jerusalem, which is still in bondage to the Old Testament law. “Jerusalem above” is the heavenly Jerusalem – the true, free Jerusalem. This looks forward, past the present age to the future – to the New Heaven and New Earth where the New Jerusalem will come with Jesus’ Second Coming (See Revelation 21). Keeping with the Hagar/Sarah (slave woman/free woman) analogy, Paul states in 4:26 that the New Jerusalem is the “mother” of Christians because they’re not slaves; they are free.
Keeping with the imagery of Sarah (who was old and barren when she became pregnant) and the future victory of Christianity and the New Jerusalem, Paul quotes Isaiah 54:1 in Galatians 4:27:
“Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear;
break forth and cry aloud, you who are not in labor!
For the children of the desolate one will be more
than those of the one who has a husband.”
Paul goes on to explain in 4:28-30 that Christians, like Isaac, are the children of God’s promise. And just like Ishmael (“who was born according to the flesh”) showed contempt for Isaac (who was “born according to the Spirit”) when he was born, the non-believing Jews are persecuting the Christians of Galatia. Yet — Paul points this out by referring to Genesis directly — Ishmael was cast out and didn’t get the inheritance of his father Abraham, and the same will happen to the Jews who still hold to the Old Testament law and don’t believe the good news of Jesus Christ.
Then Paul concludes with the other line used by the COG:
“So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman.”
Thus, Christians are not slaves, but free. To be a child of “the slave” would make someone a child of Hagar. Likewise, the “free woman” is not some divine goddess, but Sarah.
This may help you to follow the argument made by Paul:
Slavery = Old Testament law = Mount Sinai =
“Present” Jerusalem =
Hagar (slave woman) =
Freedom = Salvation through faith alone = Jesus Christ =
Jerusalem above/New Jerusalem=
Sarah (free woman) =
Receives the inheritance.
***God From the Machine has published a book for evangelizing, educating, and refuting the World Mission Society Church of God titled Searching the Bible for Mother God: Examining the Teachings of the World Mission Society Church of God, available in paperback and Kindle on Amazon. Click here to learn more.
MOTHER GOD: Analyzing the Biblical Evidence: REVELATION 19:7 & 21:9-10.
My earlier articles on the Church of God:
Also, I do not intend to debate here if the World Mission Society Church of God is a “cult” or not, and I prefer my readers to decide. (Please feel free to comment, discuss, & debate below!) Earlier articles I wrote will hopefully be helpful: