CHAPTERS 2.16 - 5.12
A Question of Salvation (Continued)
Terms: Is the gospel what God does for man or what man does for God; or a bit of both?
Central question: What do we believe?
In Part 3 we considered the order of God’s salvation as revealed in the three covenants given to Abraham, Moses and Christ in Galatians 3. 14-29. It was blessing and not cursing promised to Abraham, which came to us by his seed, Christ Jesus.
Chapter 4 now teaches us how that gospel redeems us not only from the curse of the law, 3. 13, but also the control of the law as an authority for our lifestyle, 4. 5. The gospel brings each one of us into a new relationship with God; from servants to sons. It gives us a new principle of living for God; from the letter of the law to the newness of spirit. All things are indeed new. To accomplish this ‘liberty wherewith Christ has made us free’, 5. 1, two great acts of God are stated as that He sent something:
1. ‘God sent forth his Son’ and that was to the cross, 4. 4.
2. ‘God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son’ and this is into our hearts, 4. 6.
Free from the control of the law as children, we now have the Spirit in our hearts as sons. This is the subject of Chapter 4. Chapter 3 recorded how we received the blessings as sons, now in Chapter 4 we learn how we can live as sons and not go backward to the child stage.
4. 1-2 A rich household is pictured where there are servants and a child who by inheritance is to be ‘lord of all’, some day. However, while there is a difference in promise there is no difference in principle of how the servant and the child live their lives. As a servant is controlled from evening to morning with rules and threats so is the child by its tutors and governors – ‘until the time appointed of the father’. Then everything changes.
The spiritual reality, 4. 3-7
3-4 God is now speaking ‘dispensationally’ rather than ‘personally’. The time appointed of the Father is the incarnation of Jesus Christ. God’s people before Christ were in the child stageunder the bondage of the law. Law is the elementary way of producing behaviour among children – regulations, restrictions and visuals. The children of Israel were restricted in their approach to God. An ordained priest had to represent them in God’s house. They had visual symbols by the score with sight, sound and smell in their worship and service (Levitical musicians and singers; choir, praise or worship team), 2 Chron. 7. And they had specific rules governing everything from the marriage bedroom to the farmer’s plough.
5-7 Now since the ‘time’ has come, (that is the coming of Christ) God’s people are freed from the control and style of law (by Christ’s death, Rom. 7). We now are sons, mature adults rather than children or servants. Though we don’t have law over us as sons, we do have the Spirit of His Son in our hearts. This brings us into a whole new level of living for God.
The Spirit cries ‘Father’ not ‘Master’. (Servants can be fired, sons are in a relationship), Gal. 4. 6.
The Spirit provides power to overcome indwelling sin, Gal. 5. 16.
The Spirit produces fruit: Christ-likeness, Gal. 5. 22, 23.
The Spirit creates the love of God in us, Rom. 5. 5.
The Spirit will change our bodies, Rom. 8. 11.
The Spirit intercedes for us in prayer, Rom. 8. 26.
The Spirit reveals the deep things of God to us, 1 Cor. 2. 12
The Spirit gifts us for service, 1 Cor. 12. 7.
The Spirit gives access to the Father (not only in heaven but in the church), Eph. 2. 18.
The Spirit produces melody in every believer’s heart, Eph. 5. 18, 19.
Sons, because of their maturity, know the Father’s desires and seek to do them: a higher way of obtaining good behaviour.
The great fear, 4. 8-11
8-11 To be saved from not knowing God and to be known of God Himself, having become sons and indwelt by His Son’s Spirit, does not envisage any turning back to the elements of childhood lifestyle! Yet here we have God’s sons turning, not to worldly sin, but back to a beggarly system of law with its requirements in keeping holy days, of ritualistic garments and rules: the visuals and limitations of childhood.
These religious trappings are called ‘elements’, baby ways of learning. They are called ‘weak,’ nice to look at and feel, but they have no power to change lives. They are called ‘beggarly’, which is to have no value or wealth to bless.
We would show the same alarm if our 22-year-old came home from college graduation and wanted a sandbox, rattle or ‘veggie tales’ for a present. Things that were helpful and meaningful perhaps for a child would not be appropriate for an adult son.
Yet, we see churches today in the name of ‘liberty’ going back to the ‘bondage’ of the ‘law’ way. There are the ordained professionals to ‘do’ the service, ‘praise teams’ to lead the worship, and ‘drama visuals’ to communicate the gospel message. We, who now can all sing to God, Eph. 5. 18, 19, are involved in the assembly with our gifts, service and hearts, 1 Cor. 14. We all have the Spirit and very mind of Christ to understand the deep things of God, 1 Cor. 2. Yet we revert to being treated like children – and accept it.
The persecution of the truth, 4. 12-20
12-18 Paul was now in danger of becoming these believers’ enemy. Why? Did he steal from them? Did he violate them? No, he simply stayed true to the truth of the gospel that is meant to express itself in our daily lifestyle and local church function. This ‘truth’ now cut across what they had been seduced into believing was progress.
19-20 The solution was to go back to the principles of their new birth. Again they needed to learn that the Christian life is not ‘law over us’ as children but ‘Christ in us’ as sons.
The argument from typology, 4. 21-31
21-23 These verses give us the Allegory. For those that thought the law was part of the Christian gospel in justification or sanctification Paul now exhorts them to listen to the law. The fact was that the law itself rejects the law as a means of justification.
The law reveals that Abraham had two sons, Ishmael and Isaac, Gen. 16-21. Both boys had the same father. But each had a different mother and each was born to that mother in a different way.
Ishmael’s mother was a slave under bondage. Barren Sarah advised Abraham to produce a child with fertile Hagar. Ishmael was born through the natural effort and desire of human wisdom and flesh.
Isaac’s mother was a free woman. God had made an unconditional promise that the promised seed would come through Abraham and Sarah even though they could not have children, Gen. 17. 18, 19. To keep His promise God did the work in opening Sarah’s womb in a supernatural way. Isaac was a miracle child.
24-27 These verses give us the Meaning. Ishmael’s slave mother, Hagar, represents the religion of earthly Jerusalem where man does his best to keep the all the rules and rituals given at Mt. Sinai.
Isaac’s free mother, Sarah, represents the heavenly Jerusalem from above where Jesus the mediator of the new covenant now sits. This shows God keeps His promises in Christ by His power (as with Isaac) and not ours.
The real question is not, ‘who is your father’ for most say ‘God’ – but ‘who is your mother’? How does one claim to have been born into God’s family: flesh or promise, man’s efforts or Christ’s death, works or grace, law or Spirit?
28-31 – These verses show us the Reality. Christians are sons of promise like Isaac, born by the work of God. Ishmael, the child of the flesh (human effort) persecuted Isaac, the son of promise. Even so now earthly religions persecute God’s sons of grace. We have the privilege of promise but also the pain of persecution.
But what did the scripture say concerning these two boys? When Sarah saw Ishmael mocking her Isaac she asked Abraham to cast Ishmael out of the family tent and society. God agreed with Sarah. Hagar and her son had to go. The lesson is the two boys were not to be joint-heirs.
If Ishmael was to stay and Isaac was sent away, the message would be that receiving the promise of blessing is dependent on what I do for God. If the two boys were allowed to stay together the message would be that receiving the promise is a compromise of what God does for me and what I do for God. But Isaac being left alone says that receiving the promise is all of God apart from our fleshly effort in any way.
The religion of Ishmael is natural; what man does for God. The promise to Isaac is supernatural; what God does for man. And so this allegory demonstrates that the flesh has no part in receiving the promises either in justification or sanctification. True descent from Abraham in order to receive the promise of blessing is not physical but spiritual. We cannot claim to belong to Abraham unless we belong to His seed, God’s Son of promise, Christ Jesus the Lord.
The next article will consider section three of the epistle contained in chapter 5. The question will be: How do we then live if we are free from the bondage of law?