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Sun, Feb 21, 1999

38 - Slavery or Freedom?

Galatians 4:24-31 by Robert Dean
Series:Galatians (1998)
Duration:1 hr 4 mins 38 secs

Slavery or Freedom?
Galatians 4:24-31

Romans 4:16 NASB "For this reason {it is} by faith, in order that {it may be} in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all."

"For this reason {it is} by faith" is ek [e)k] plus the genitive of pistis [pistij]. pistis is a crucial word for interpreting a passage. At first glance we think of it in terms of its basic meaning which is an internal conviction of truth. As such we want to relate that to the operation of the faith-rest drill—trusting God and resting upon His provision and promises. That is the active sense of faith: believing something to be true and resting upon it. But there is also a passive sense of pistis which is what is believed, i.e. the body of truth that is believed, and in this sense it refers to the doctrinal principles as given in the Word of God. The question we have to ask here is whether we have an active or passive sense of pistis in this passage. It is an active sense of pistis, we are talking about Abraham using the faith-rest drill here and the first stage of the faith-rest drill is mixing the promises of God with faith. Stage two of the faith-rest drill is developing doctrinal rationales. Now we have learned some promises and have learned some things about God, and we begin to reason on the basis of those doctrines that of God is omniscient and He knows all the knowable then He knew every problem that I would ever face in life. If God knows every problem that I will face in life and God is omnipotent then God has made a perfect solution. That is using a doctrinal rationale and then using it to reach a doctrinal conclusion. Abraham has a specific promise of God that has been reiterated by God several times to him, that God will give him many descendants. At the point at which God begins to give these promises to Abraham, Abraham and Sarah are in their sixties and are childless. At that time they lived to be about 120-140 years of age and the age of fertility would be much longer than it is now. So when God first gave that promise it seemed reasonable to them but as time went by and nothing happened they began to worry, especially Sarah, that there would not be an heir.   

"in order that {it may be} in accordance with grace," kata [kata] plus the accusative of charis [xarij], the word for grace. kata means according to a standard. God's standard throughout all of human history is grace. Grace means God does all the work and man simply rests in that work, accepts it by faith. Faith is non-meritorious and all of the merit resides in the object of faith. Te object of faith in this case is the promise of God. "For this reason from faith, that in accordance with grace, for the purpose that the promise may be certain to all descendants." God is going to bring certainty here on the basis of grace. He is going to make it very clear here that this whole operation and plan for Abraham is on the basis of grace. So immediately we are going to have a contrast set up between grace and works. "…to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all."

 Romans 4:17 NASB "(as it is written, "A FATHER OF MANY NATIONS HAVE I MADE YOU") in the presence of Him whom he believed, {even} God, who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist." In terms of the quote, when God first made the promise to Abraham his name was Abram [exalted father], a reference to his own father and the fact that he came from an aristocratic family. Then God gives him a new name in Genesis 17:5, Abraham which has the significance of "father of a multitude." This name was given to him after the birth of Ishmael but he was still not the father of the seed. So he is wandering around and his friends and family are asking why he is now calling himself "father of multitudes." This would give him an opportunity to give his testimony: that the Lord had appeared to him and promised that He would make him the father of multitudes. So for thirteen years he had the opportunity to use this to tell people about the grace of God. Sarai, too, received a new name. Sarai meant "my princess—the ai suffix meant "my."" Her name was changed to Sarah, meaning "princess." God is now emphasising their new position within the plan of God.

At first glance when we look at this it our minds go to resurrection, giving life from the dead. But the context is not talking about resurrection, it is talking about a dead womb: that Sarah has a dead womb and that God is the one who can make a dead womb reproductively alive. That is the primary interpretation of the passage. We have already covered the subject of the six barren women in Scripture. The first three—Sarah, Rebecca and Rachel—are the wives of the three patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The point of their barrenness is that God is going to show that this new Jewish race has a miraculous physical birth as well as a supernatural spiritual birth. With the case of Sarah there are two children. Isaac is the only one of the two who is regenerate and so the line goes through the regenerate one. Then Rebecca has two sons. Jacob is the younger and the only one who has a spiritual rebirth as a believer, and so the line descends through Jacob. This is the beginning of the Jewish race and emphasises the unique physical birth and spiritual birth, that God has brought life out of death. Then there is the mother of Samson and Hannah the mother of Samuel. In the New Testament there is Elizabeth who is the mother of John the Baptist. These six women are all barren and their children are uniquely used in the plan of God, in the plan of salvation in the Old Testament, leading up to John the Baptist as the precursor and announcer of the Messiah. All six are types of the virgin Mary. Their wombs were dead; hers has not yet been opened. Mary out of a virgin womb has a virgin conception and a miraculous virgin birth for our Lord Jesus Christ. That is the reason barrenness is emphasised in the Scripture: to show that God can bring forth physical life where there is physical death. Ultimately this illustrates the principle that God is able to make that which is spiritually dead spiritually alive.    

Roman 4:18 NASB "In hope against hope he believed…" That means that against all odds, as hopeless as the situation looked from the human viewpoint, he was confident that God would fulfil the promise. The Greek word translated "hope" has a much different meaning to how we normally use hope in the English language, like a sort of optimistic wish. It is the word elpis [e)lpij] which means a confident expectation. It carries with it the nuance of certainty; it is the fruit of faith. When we have faith we have an inner conviction of the truth of something, of the truth of God's Word, and that gives birth to hope: a confident expectation looking forward to the fulfilment of the promise. "…so that he might become a father of many nations according to that which had been spoken, "SO SHALL YOUR DESCENDANTS BE." This is the exercise of the faith rest drill; the object of his belief is the promise of God, that he will become the father of many nations. 

Romans 4:19 NASB "Without becoming weak in faith he contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah's womb." God kept them waiting until it was obvious to one and all that they were too old to have children. The words "Without becoming weak in faith" refers to not becoming weak in the faith-rest drill. What was true for Abraham should be true for us. When we are operating on the faith-rest drill the truth of the Word of God should be more true to us than our experience. [20] "yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, [21] and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform." Experience is not the issue; the Word of God is the issue. "God said it; that settles it."

Romans 9:6 NASB "But {it is} not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are {descended} from Israel." Paul makes the issue here that physical birth is not the issue. [7] "nor are they all children because they are Abraham's descendants, but: 'THROUGH ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS WILL BE NAMED'." That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God but the children of the promise who are regarded as descendants.

The son born to the promise is Isaac; the other son is Ishmael. From Isaac the promise descends; Ishmael is the father of many of the Arab tribes. There is a vast distinction between the two. The son by the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, i.e. human viewpoint solution to the problem which just created further problems. The son by the free woman through the promise: dependence upon God. Ishmael had a natural birth and that is the end of it; Isaac's birth is supernatural and is the beginning of the development of the Jewish race. What we are learning from this is that there is a distinction between promise and law. Isaac's birth depended exclusively upon God and the birth of Ishmael was the product of human planning, human energy and human effort. This is the issue when it comes down to the spiritual life. Is this going to be a life that is uniquely produced by God or is it going to be a life produced in the power of the flesh. This is the point that Paul is making in 1 Corinthians 3: "Are you walking like mere men?" The spiritual life to a certain degree can be imitated by walking in the power of the flesh—it is called morality, ethics; it looks good, it has this external appearance. Remember, anything an unbeliever can do is not part of the spiritual life. Morality is for both believers and unbelievers and the spiritual life is far beyond morality. It is a higher standard than simple morality because it is a life that is uniquely based on the promise of the Spirit, associated with the Abrahamic covenant.  

Galatians 4:24 NASB "This is allegorically speaking, for these {women} are two covenants: one {proceeding} from Mount Sinai bearing children who are to be slaves; she is Hagar." So now we have two covenants. We have the Abrahamic covenant and the Mosaic covenant. These are in conflict with one another because the Abrahamic covenant was unconditional and everlasting and the Mosaic covenant was conditional and temporary. They are going to be represented by Sarah on the one hand and Hagar on the other hand. These women represent two covenants, one from Mount Sinai, bearing slaves. She is Hagar.

Galatians 4:25 NASB "Now this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children." This Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia. Who is the father of the Arabs? Ishmael. So the way Paul's argument is developing here, he is saying that if you want to follow the law you are going outside the land of promise to the land of the Arabs, the land of Mount Sinai. This is the region of slavery. So they are putting themselves in a position of being slaves to the law in order to try to achieve spirituality. Mount Sinai = the present Jerusalem. Why is that? Because the present Jerusalem was negative to the Word of God. They had rejected Jesus Christ as Messiah and they held on to the law code of the Pharisees. They ended up being enslaved to this human system of conduct.    

Galatians 4:26 NASB "But the Jerusalem above is free; she is our mother." There is a contrast between them present Jerusalem and the Jerusalem above which is related to grace and the future coming of the Messiah in fulfilment of all of the promises given to Abraham in the Abrahamic covenant. [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'." This is simply a quote from Isaiah 54:1 which emphasises the grace of God in providing a solution to the problem of Sarah's barrenness. The problem of Hagar in trying to solve it through human viewpoint created more problems and created desolation instead of the solution of freedom which comes through the descendants of Sarah. 

Galatians 4:28 NASB "And you brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise." Now he is driving the point home to us. We as believers in the church age are descendants of Abraham by faith alone in Christ alone, we are children of the promise just like Isaac. Because of our position as children of the promise we have true spiritual freedom. We are not enslaved to the law so why go back and put ourselves in that position of being enslaved to the law. 

Galatians 4:29 NASB "But as at that time he who was born according to the flesh [Ishmael] persecuted him {who was born} according to the Spirit, so it is now also." What happened when Isaac was born was that Ishmael who had been the designated heir up to that time lost his inheritance. The inheritance goes to the son of promise. The inheritance does not belong to the person enslaved to the law but belongs to the person who lives on the basis of grace and operates in the power of God the Holy Spirit. That has been the thrust of this whole chapter from verse one. "…so it is now also." There is always going to be a war between legalism and grace. The believer is always going to run into the antagonism of the religious crowd. Those who are under the law hate those who are teaching grace. The freedom that we have in Christ is not the freedom to sin and get away with it, the freedom that we have in Christ is the freedom to live for Christ without worrying about failure. What happens in religion is that the focus is always on one's failure and the motivation is always on guilt.

Galatians 4:30 NASB "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." Application: Get rid of the legalism. [31] "So then, brethren, we are not children of a bondwoman, but of the free woman." So get rid of the legalists in your midst and reject all legalism. Legalism will destroy your spiritual life.