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The Cross and Its Objectives
Galatians 3:10-29 ; Galatians 4:1-6
The Cross must ever stand forth in the limelight of Bible and spiritual study. Apart from Christ's Calvary work we have nothing to present to a dying world.
On one occasion the president of a college told us that his chief ambition was to present to his students the beautiful life of Jesus of Nazareth. We immediately replied that there could be no excessive imitation of the life of Christ until first of all we have known the regenerative power and saving grace of the death of Christ.
The beautiful and sinless life of the Nazarene acclaimed Him the Son of God. It gave unto the world a possible Saviour, but not an actual Saviour. In other words Christ's Deity apart from the shedding of His Blood could never have brought salvation. It is not the spotless Lamb, but the spotless Lamb slain that is the central theme of God's Word. Let us suggest a few things for your consideration.
1. Jesus Christ was given to die from before the foundation of the world. It was even before the creation of man that God the Son started His journeyings toward the Cross. The Bible speaks of Him as "the Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world." He was delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God; before even Adam was created God knew that he would sin. God knew the results of his sinning and how men would die in Adam. It was for this cause that God made provision for man's redemption before he had sinned.
2. Jesus Christ as a Babe born marched steadily toward His Cross, We do not say that the Babe saw Calvary, for we do not understand all of the ministry of the incarnate. We would say that the Babe was born to die. It was for this cause that Christ took upon Him a body of flesh and blood. We know that early He was consciously moving toward Calvary and His great sacrifice. He talked constantly of His death. He told Nicodemus that as the serpent was lifted up in the wilderness even so must the Son of Man be lifted up. He spoke to the disciples of John saying that the bridegroom would be taken away and the children of the bridegroom would fast. He spoke of the Good Shepherd who gave His life for His sheep. There is no disputing the fact that the Lord knew and foretold His anguish long before He went to the Cross.
3. Jesus Christ in the agony of His dying offered the Just for the unjust. It was for this cause, that, having loved His own He loved them unto the end. He knew that through His death many would live, therefore, He gave Himself as a ransom. He was not ignorant that He would lay down His life for the sheep. He was not ignorant that He had come to seek and to save that which was lost. He knew that salvation would be obtained through His laying down His life, and His taking it up again. It was for this cause that He went as a Lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers, He was dumb. Let us forever throw from us the statement that Christ died as a martyr to a lofty ideal. The reason Christ died upon the Cross was because He came from God to be a Saviour.
4. Jesus Christ crucified should be the message of every sermon. It is said that Christmas Evans never preached without the blood in the basin. We realize how vital the Resurrection, the Ascension, and the Second Coming are to the faith of the Church; however, none of these are vital apart from the Cross. Every blessed doctrine of the Bible is indissolubly linked to the substitutionary sacrifice of the Son of God.
When the Lord Jesus died He saw all of those objectives of His Cross. It is the purpose of this lesson to consider some of the great and outstanding reasons for Calvary. We propose to answer the query: Why did Jesus Christ die? The Epistles give us at least seven distinct perspectives of the Cross. Let us outline them for you.
1. Christ died to save us from the curse of the Law (Galatians 4:5 ).
2. Christ died to make us the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21 ).
3. Christ died to deliver us from the dominion of sin (Romans 6:17-21 ).
4. Christ died to save us from this present evil age (Galatians 1:4 ).
5. Christ died that we might live for Him (2 Corinthians 5:14-15 ).
6. Christ died that we might receive the placing as sons (Galatians 4:5 l.c.).
7. Christ died that we might live together with Him (1 Thessalonians 5:10 ).
I. CHRIST DIED TO SAVE US FROM THE CURSE OF THE LAW (Galatians 4:5 )
1. The demands of the Law. The Law of God is holy, just and good. Its standards never fall short of the righteousness of God Himself. God did not give unto man laws of conduct which were adapted to a sinful nature. He gave him laws that shone forth in the glory of unapproachable light. The Law of God presents the demands of the character of God. Its demands are absolutely beyond the possibility of any human compliance.
2. The curse of the Law. The Bible tells us, "Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the Book of the Law to do them." The sinner naturally throws up his hands in horror crying out that God gave us a Law that could not be kept and then cursed us for not keeping it. That is very true. It is for this cause that by the Law comes the knowledge of sin. The Law never was given as a method of redemption. It came that all men might realize their own iniquities and see their own sin. As the Law in His perfectness and glory shines down from Heaven the sinner is made to quail and to cower.
3. Christ made a curse for us. It was because the curse of the Law was upon the sinner that God sent the Saviour. He who knew no sin was made sin for us. The result is that the curse of the Law is forever taken away.
"Free from the Law, O happy condition
Jesus hath died, and there is remission;
Cursed by the Law, and bruised by the fall,
Christ hath redeemed us once for all."
II. CHRIST DIED TO MAKE US THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD IN HIM (2 Corinthians 5:21 )
Even with the curse of the Law transferred to Christ, and our being made free from the curse of the Law in Him, we yet would have been left with sinful hearts. It was for this cause that the work of the Cross went farther than to remove the curse. The Cross makes us the righteousness of God. There are three things to consider.
1. The heart is sinful by nature. No one can ever describe the villainy of the human heart. It is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. From the head to the foot there is no soundness in the human life. The feet are swift to shed blood; the tongue is full of deadly poison.
2. The sin of the sinner is placed on the Saviour. When Jesus Christ died on the Cross God put all of our sins upon Him. They were not there theoretically, but actually. He took our penalty; He did more He was made sin for us. These things cannot be explained, but nevertheless they are facts.
3. The righteousness of the Saviour is placed on the saved. This is what we call imputed righteousness. When God placed on Christ our sins, He placed on us Christ's righteousness. In the sight of God, because of Calvary, we are righteous and without sin. God sees no sin in us because He sees it in the Son. This righteousness, of course, is made real to us only when we by faith accept the Saviour.
III. CHRIST DIED TO DELIVER US FROM THE POWER OF SIN (Romans 6:6 ; Romans 6:17-21 )
With the curse of the Law removed and the righteousness of God imputed to the believer we might think that the great objectives of the Cross were completed, but not so. If the believer is to receive only the imputed righteousness of Christ, then he would be left a dupe and slave to sin's rule in his earth life. Thus the purposes of God went far beyond righteousness imputed. They also included righteousness imparted.
1. We were the servants of sin. This is the message of Romans 6:17 . There is little use to enlarge upon it because all of us know that we were slaves to evil. We once walked in divers lusts. We believe that it might truly be said that no one has ever been saved who did not recognize himself as a sinner.
2. We are the servants of righteousness. The Lord Jesus not only gave us His righteousness, but He proclaimed us as the servants of that righteousness. He not only saved us from sin's penalty, but He saved us from sin's power. He said, "Sin shall not have dominion over you."
Christ died that this body of sin might be made powerless; that it might be done away. Romans 6:1-23 opens with the question, "Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?" Then the Holy Spirit with great agitation cries out, "God forbid"! He adds, "How shall we that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?"
3. We have the fruit unto holiness. We who once were the servants of sin; we who have been saved from sin and its guilt; we who, in the risen Christ, through the Holy Spirit, Have now our deliverance from sin's power and dominion, are placed in a position to bring forth fruit unto holiness. This is God's will for us that we should be holy in our walk, our life, and our deeds.
IV. HE DIED TO SAVE US FROM THIS PRESENT EVIL WORLD (Galatians 1:4 )
1. The call of the world. The unsaved walk according to the course of this world, according to the principalities and powers of the air. We, too, of old had our conversation in the lusts of the flesh. We, too, were led captive by the evil world.
2. The call of the Cross. When we came to Jesus Christ, and the Lord saved us by His Blood, He saved us out of this present evil world. He said, "Ye are not of the world." He tells us that the world will hate us. Thus let the believer say with Paul, "God forbid that I should glory, save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world." The call of the Cross is, therefore, the call to separation from the world.
3. The call of another world. The Lord takes us out that He may lead us in. If we are saved from this present evil world, we are saved that we may become pilgrims to another world, and to another city. Strangers here, we journey to something far better. Even now we can hear the call of another country, and of another city, and, turning our back upon the present world, we press our way toward the mansions on high.
"I am a stranger here, within a foreign land,
My Home is far away upon a golden strand;
Ambassador to be in lands beyond the sea,
I'm here on business for my King."
V. CHRIST DIED THAT WE MIGHT LIVE FOR HIM (2 Corinthians 5:14-15 )
How wonderfully the objectives of the Cross are sweeping before us! First of all, we saw that Christ died to deliver us from the curse of the Law. Then we saw that He died to make us righteous in Him. Third, He died to deliver us from sin's dominion; fourth. He died to save us out of this present evil age.
Now we come to that great statement: He died that we might live the rest of our time in the flesh, unto Him.
1. Our life in times past. We would like to draw the curtain over the old days when we walked according to the course of this age, yet, sometimes, we need to remember the pit out of which we were digged. Once we lived for ourselves. Once we served the world. At that time we set our affections on things which are upon the earth.
2. Our new life in Christ Jesus. Since we are saved, we have a new life. New ambitions and new aspirations now govern our life. If any man be in Christ Jesus He is a new creation. The result is that the old things have passed away, and all things have become new. We are now to put off the old man which is corrupt according to deceitful lusts, and to put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.
3. The plea for consecration. As we think of our life in times past, and the new life which we now have in Christ Jesus, we catch the vision of the plea found in our text: "That we might live for Him." Christ died for this very purpose. He wants us to bring our bodies and present them unto Him as a living sacrifice. He wants us to yield ourselves unto Him, and to yield our members as the instruments of righteousness unto Him. What a tremendous plea, and what a righteous plea is this. If He died for us, we should certainly be willing to live for Him.
VI. CHRIST DIED THAT WE MIGHT RECEIVE THE PLACING OF SONS (Galatians 4:5 , l.c)
When the Lord Jesus Christ went to Calvary He had this eternal "placing" in His mind. He knew that we were to be recognized in the new creation as sons.
1. What we were. We were the children of wrath, the children of disobedience, cursed children. There is a great deal of talk these days of the universal fatherhood of God. Such talk is utterly unscriptural, and wholly impossible. The unregenerate are children of the wicked one; they are children of darkness, and not of light. Sonship demands fatherhood, therefore, only those who have been begotten of God are sons of God. God is the Father only of those whom He begets. We once were creatures of God; we never were sons of God until we were born again.
2. What we are. The very moment that regeneration took place, the very moment that we were born from above, we became the sons of God. John delighted to write, "Now are we the sons of God." There is a vast difference between creaturehood, and sonhood. When we were saved we passed out of death, and into life. How sacred and holy is this fact! How glorious and wonderful it is to be a son!
3. What we shall be. When our text says that Christ died that we might receive the adoption of sons, there was a far deeper meaning than our English translation expressed. The adoption of sons means the placing of sons. We who are born again are already sons, but we have not yet reached the maturity of our sonship; therefore we have not yet received our placing as sons. This placing will occur as soon as the Lord comes. How blessed is our destiny in the eternal ages with Christ! We are not to be slaves, but sons. If we are children, then we are heirs. If we are sons who suffer with Christ then we are joint-heirs together with Christ, of all that God is and all that God has, and we shall reign with Him.
VII. CHRIST DIED THAT WE MIGHT LIVE WITH HIM (1 Thessalonians 5:10 )
We now come to the great final climax of Christ's Calvary objective. He died to save us from the curse of the Law; that was good. He died to make us the righteousness of God; that was better. He died to deliver us from sin's power; that was blessed. He died to save us from this present evil age; that was necessary. He died that we might live for Him; that was a privilege. He died that we might receive the placing of sons; that is climactic. But listen now!
He died that we might live with Him. Wherever He is we also are to be.
1. Let us take a backward look. Let us remember the time when we were appointed unto wrath. At that time we were without God and without hope in the world.
2. Let us take an onward look. The believer's final glory is to be forever with the Lord. The placing of sons is glorious, but how much more glorious is the knowledge that we shall be sons at Home. Sons, not wandering afar, but sons cloistered in the presence of the Father, and He then our great, eternal Elder Brother. Let us live every day in blessed and hallowed anticipation of that hour when our Lord shall descend from Heaven, and we shall be changed and made forever like unto Him "So shall we ever be with the Lord."
WHEN LITTLE JIM GAVE HIS BLOOD
"Jonathan loved him as his own soul" (1 Samuel 18:1 ). The little daughter of a friend of mine, five-year-old Mary, underwent an operation and lost so much blood that it was necessary to resort to blood transfusion. Samples of the blood of all the adults of the family were taken, but none was found to match Mary's. Then a test was made of her older brother's blood. It was found to match. Jimmy is a husky boy, thirteen years old and deeply fond of little Mary. "Will you give your sister some of your blood, Jim?" asked the doctor. Jimmy set his teeth. "Yes, sir, if she needs it!" The need was very desperate so the boy was at once prepared for the transfusion, In the midst of the drawing of the blood, the doctor observed Jimmy growing paler and paler. There was no apparent reason for this. "Are you ill, Jim?" asked the doctor. "No, sir, but I'm wondering just when I'll die." "Die?" gasped the doctor. "Do you think people give their lives when they give a little blood?" "Yes, sir," replied Jimmy. "And you were giving your life for Mary's?" "Yes, sir," replied the boy, simply. Can you tell of a finer heroism than this? Christian Herald.
Turning unto Law-Works
1. It is passing strange that, after we have come to know salvation by grace, we could turn back to the beggarly elements of salvation by law-works. This many are doing today. History truly repeats itself. The Spirit of God certainly told us of the Galatians to warn us against stumbling at the same stumbling block.
The Galatians knew how the Lord Jesus Christ gave Himself for them, that He might deliver them from this present evil age. They knew that Christ was crucified, and that they were saved by His Blood; yet they insisted in returning again and again to the beggarly elements, whereby they were placed under bondage.
They became not only legalists, but they stressed observance of days, and months, and times, and years. They desired to establish themselves under Judaistic rites and ceremonies, all of which had been done away in Christ Jesus. They seemed to think that they would merit much by a slavery to past ceremonials.
Is there now among our churches any bondage of this kind? Are saints who regularly sit at the Lord's Table in remembrance of His shed Blood and broken body in danger of looking to the rites of the church, or to the works of their hands, as necessary to complete the redemption they have in Christ Jesus? When ordinances are made adjunct to Christ's finished work on Calvary, and a part of Christ's redemptive plan then Galatianism is in full force.
We go further and say that when anything besides Jesus Christ and the Word of God is placed as a feature of eternal life, and leaned upon as a hope of Heaven, there is a return to the folly that entered Galatia.
Here we must add that we believe that many, very many, throughout Christendom, are leaning on church rites and their own good deeds as the basis for their hope of eternal life.
Young and old, men and women, in many churches, and in many denominations, believe that the initial work of Christ on Calvary must be confirmed by the continued work of church fidelity and holy living, in order to make salvation sure.
I. GOD SENT FORTH HIS SON (Galatians 4:4-6 )
1. All the purposes of God run on schedule time. We are now facing the marvels of the incarnation; of Christ sent forth from the Father and becoming flesh. This, like all other events in the Divine chronology, came to pass on time. It came not one moment ahead of time, and not one moment behind time. It was when the fullness of the time had come, that Christ came.
Even so it was with everything that was connected with the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ. Each step was not alone in fulfillment of God's plan, but each occurred on time. He died at the going down of the sun, on the day of the Passover; He rose on the day of the Feast of the First Fruits; He ascended exactly 40 days after His resurrection, and 10 days before the Feast of Pentecost. Thank God He is coming again on schedule time, and will not tarry.
2. God sent forth His Son, Christ came to earth not merely with the Father's sanction, but under the Father's directive will. That was not all every day of His 33 years on earth, He spent doing the will of Him who had sent Him. Not once did He deviate one iota from that will. In Him there was no shadow of turning. He could truly say, I came to do My Father's will, and when He was about to return to the Father, He said, "I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do."
3. Christ "made of a woman," How marvelous was this; and what condescension. He who took the rib from the man and made a woman, was Himself made of a woman. Yes, "He humbled Himself" when He became flesh. However, that which was humiliation to Him, was Mary's glory. Blessed was she among women, because God chose her to be mother to Christ. As mother, Mary gave to our Lord a body, and He became flesh.
4. Christ was made under the Law to redeem them that were under the Law. Being found in fashion as man, He went a further step in His humiliation, and became obedient to death, even the death of the Cross.
We are overwhelmed with praise as we see Him steadfastly setting His face toward that hill lone and gray, known as Golgotha a place of skulls. He came to die, and He died. He came to become a sacrifice, a substitutionary sacrifice, and He died, the Just for the unjust; He came to bring us to God, and He brought us to God. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life.
II. WE ARE SONS, NOT SERVANTS (Galatians 4:5-7 )
1. Christ in coming found men as servants, under Law. That Law was written in commandments, which hung over men with its terrible penalty, pronouncing death; for man had broken the Law, was not in subjection to it, neither indeed could he be.
What a pitiful lot was man's shut up under the Law, and helplessly condemned to death. Not one ray of hope was in His sky; not one way of escape was possible: He was lost, lost, lost.
2. Christ came under the Law, fulfilled its just requirements, paid its full penalty, took us out from under its curse, and then raised us from the position of slaves, and made us sons. Galatians 4:5 says that this was a purpose of His being made flesh: "That we might receive the adoption of sons." What depths of grace and of glory lie hidden in this purpose of the Father, as He wrought it out through the Son.
(1) We are no longer slaves mercilessly driven by the Law to certain death. We are in Christ, free from the Law, and from its tyranny. We are not under bondage. We are not fetter-bound by chains we cannot break. Christ has opened the prison bars and set the captives free.
Did the Lord pronounce that we were cruelly and unrighteously condemned? Not at all. He distinctly said that death was the wages of our sins. Had He thought that the requirements of the Law, or its penalties were unjust, He would not have made them as He did.
What the Lord did say was that He took the curse of the Law for us. He who knew no sin became sin for us. He took the stripes that were our due. He came under the Law to redeem us from it.
(2) We are sons now, awaiting our adoption, or placing, as sons. As sons we have all the privileges of sonship. We may come into His presence with gladness and with full assurance of faith; we can reckon ourselves as heirs of God, and as joint heirs with Christ. We are no more strangers, no more aliens, but we are members of the Household of God. As sons, we are no longer slaves, or servants. We now cry, "Abba, Father." We now have His Spirit dwelling within us. Happy is the lot of a son, and great is his portion.
III. WHERE IS THE BLESSEDNESS OF OLD? (Galatians 4:13-16 )
1. The saints at Galatia had, at the first received Paul with gladness. They despised not his bodily affliction. They received him as an angel of God, yea, even as Christ Jesus. They delighted in the message of grace which he proclaimed. Thus they came to know God, or, rather, to be known of Him.
Those were blessed days and hours of fellowship and of gladness, filled with joy that belongs to those who have come to Christ and have found in Him a full and free salvation.
2. The saints at Galatia had now gone back to "beggarly elements." They desired to be once more in bondage. They left the strength of the Gospel of grace and its assuring blessedness, for the old yoke of Law-works.
These Galatians even placed themselves back again under bondage to the Law. They began to observe days, and months, and times, and years, according to Jewish religious rites.
Paul kindly but emphatically said "I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain."
3. The saints at Galatia were asked to remember the blessedness they once knew. This blessedness was now gone. It was sweet and precious to them while they were safely sheltered in grace; but now that they had gone back to the old order of Judaistic bondage, they were entangled again in a joyless and hopeless formalism.
We stop to ask many saints of today who seek salvation by the law-works route (which is not a route to salvation) if they are happy. They too are sitting under the Ten Commandments, a churchianity with its demands; while around them is flashing the lightnings and thunderings of Sinai. They do exceedingly quake with the fear of being ultimately lost through some inadvertent lack of ceremony or form, or by some unintentional departure from the demands of the Law.
Yes, we may weep with Paul. They are under bondage. They are running a race, looking unto themselves: forgetting, withal, the finished work of Calvary, and leaning upon the works of their own hands.
They know no peace, because the flesh cannot keep the Law; neither can the saved soul, walking according to the flesh, please God. Beloved, where is the old-time blessedness they once knew? We plead with them to fix their eyes again on Christ. If we live by Him, let us walk in Him. Let Him be the All and in all.
IV. PAUL'S TRAVAILING FOR THE GALATIANS (Galatians 4:19 )
1. Paul reminded the Galatian saints of how he had once travailed for them as He preached the Gospel of saving grace to them. It was a ministry of heart with the Apostle. It was not a cold orthodoxy, proclaimed with an air of scholarship, and of profound self-knowledge that dominated Paul's spirit as he preached the Word. Paul loved men. He loved his message. He travailed for those who sat under his ministry as one travails to bring forth children.
Thus may we be real soul winners. The man in the pew does not need an icy deliverance of truth, be it ever so correct in theological deliverance: he needs a truth borne upon the wings of a burning sincerity and longing for souls. Paul could say that he had great heaviness of heart. God gave us this passion for men; a passion which travails in their behalf.
2. Paul reminded the Galatians that he was travailing for them the second time. He was travailing until Christ should be formed in them. They had become not alone law-centered, and self-centered; they had left their first love.
It is always true: as we turn some phase of salvation by works, which centers itself in legalities, or religious rites, or self-attained righteousness, we get away from Christ.
Now Paul travails in birth once more, until Christ shall be formed in these Galatians. Paul would not center the affection or the redemptive hopes of the Galatians in himself, or even in his message; he would center it in Christ. Paul not only wanted to center them in Christ; he wanted Christ centric in them.
3. Paul reminded the Galatians that he was in doubt of them. Why the doubt? The Apostle well knew that salvation was in Christ alone. Therefore, even though they had once known Christ as the Saviour, Paul was in doubt as to whether, after all, they had truly so known Him?
Had they truly known Him, how could they so soon be turned away from Him; how could they so soon be enlisted under the flag of false teachers, who stood for a gospel which was not the Gospel. They had run well for a season, but that was when he was there, and there was no one to hinder. Now that these troublers had come, they were carried about by the winds of men's doctrine, and its cunning craftiness had bewitched them.
When we, in our day, see so many people who are members of something, and who follow after some church forms of worship; when we see so many who seem to know no more of the Gospel than a certain form of service, we are in doubt of them.
V. SEEKING TO GET UNDER THE LAW (Galatians 4:21 )
We wish now to have a heart-to-heart talk with those who desire to get under the Law. Galatians 4:21 says, "Ye that desire to be under the Law, do ye not hear the Law?"
1. Let us see if we can catch the voice of the Law. What saith it?
(1) The Law saith, he that doeth the Law shall live by the Law. That sounds well and good. What does it mean? It means, simply stated that if we would be saved by the Law, we must keep the Law, God described such an one when He said, "Thou that makest thy boast of the Law, through breaking the Law dishonourest thou God?" In another place God says, "Whosoever shall keep the whole Law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all." Thus we ask the would-be-saved-by-the-Law people, Do you keep the Law?
(2) The Spirit saith, "What the Law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh." The Law could not save because the flesh of man was so corrupted by sin that it could not keep the Law. When the Law entered, sin was not put away; the rather, sin abounded.
Thinkest thou that if righteousness could have come by the Law, Christ would have died? Never. God did not put His Son to death upon the Cross unnecessarily. Because there was none other name (even the name of the Law) by which sinners could be saved, Christ died.
(3) The Law saith, "That every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God." It also saith, "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." Then the Law standing over a guilty world, adds its sentence, "Sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death." Such is the voice of the Law. Shall mortal man seek to justify himself by the Law? Nay, the Law condemns him. Man is judged and found guilty by the Law.
2. Let us ask, Would you desire to get under the Law? If so, you desire to get under death. If so, you desire to shut yourself up in a darkness that is deep and eternal. If so, you desire to set sail in a ship that can never take you to port.
What, then, doeth the Law? As a schoolmaster it drives you to Christ. It confesses its own saving helplessness, it announces itself incapable of doing more than making sin exceeding sinful; and then it cries: "But now the righteousness of God without the Law is manifested." Where? How? It is manifested in Christ, by faith; for Christ's Blood can save, and Christ can justify.
VI. ABRAHAM'S TWO SONS, ISHMAEL AND ISAAC (Galatians 4:22-23 ; Galatians 4:28-31 )
1. Ishmael, the son of the flesh, tended to bondage. The mother of Ishmael was Hagar, Sarah's bondmaid. Because she had no son, Sarah decided to help God out; and thus she gave Hagar to Abraham for wife. The result was that Ishmael was born. Ishmael, however, was not of faith, neither was he the fulfilment of God's promise to Abraham. The bondmaid, Hagar, stands for no less than Mount Sinai which is in Arabia, and for the Jerusalem which now is.
2. Isaac, the son of Sarah, was the son of promise and of faith, and he stands for the liberty and the freedom which is in Christ. Isaac was a representative of the Jerusalem that is from above. He came after the Spirit, and not as Ishmael, after the flesh. He bore the name Isaac, which means laughter and joy. He was the child of grace and not of Law.
3. Ishmael and Isaac caused contention and conflict. There was no common ground on which they could abide in peace with each other. As it was then, so it is now: "He that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit."
The Book of Galatians brings all this out again, when it reads: "For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would."
What does this mean? Even this: there is an antagonism between salvation by the Law, and salvation by grace. The two cannot dwell together. They are contrary the one to the other.
The tendency of the legalist is always persecution of the adherent of grace. The reason is that their hopes are different; their mode of salvation is different. They find no common ground upon which to approach God. The one boasts in the flesh, the other in God; the one says, "I do it"; the other says, "God did it." The one pleads his own merits, the other pleads the merit of Christ and the Blood.
4. Ishmael had to be cast out of the home of Abraham. Two cannot walk together except they be agreed. There is no ground of fellowship between Law and grace. What the Law could not do, grace does. Wherein the Law worketh wrath, grace worketh life and peace. What then? If we accept grace, we of necessity reject the Law as a Saviour.
VII. MOUNT SINAI OR THE NEW JERUSALEM (Galatians 4:25-27 )
1. There are two great finalities in the outcome of "Law" and of "grace."
(1) The Law starts at Mount Sinai. It gendereth to bondage, and it answers to the Jerusalem which now is. It is only necessary to go to the Jerusalem that now is, to behold the failure and collapse of the Law as a method of approach to God. Jerusalem is wrapped up in ceremonies, and forms, and legalities. It is altogether foreign to that spirit of love which is gendered by the grace of God. It has lost the meaning of the sacrifices, which were built upon grace. It has substituted works for faith, and religious rites for heart experiences.
(2) Grace starts at Mount Calvary. It gendereth freedom, and centers in that Jerusalem which is from above. It leads to life and light, rejoicing and righteousness forevermore.
Grace is the author of all that is good. It tells of liberty as well as of love; of peace as well as of pardon; of rejoicing as well as of righteousness.
Grace is the fulfillment of every legal requirement of the Law. We would not for one moment teach that grace lends liberty to the lusts of the flesh. This is far from the teaching of the Word. It would be a great error to think that Isaac the son of love, the child of promise, and the product of grace, lived a lower life than Ishmael, the son of bondage. The very opposite is true.
Any man under the Law fails to keep the Law; however, every man under grace fulfills the Law, for the simple reason that "love is the fulfilling of the Law." It is the fulfilment of the Law, not to obtain justification, but upon the basis of justification obtained. Grace keeps the Law because the God of all grace, who is the perfect fulfilment of every demand of the law, indwells the life that is saved by grace.
Jesus Christ was made under the Law, and He fulfilled the demands of the Law. When we come to Him, His life is made manifest in us. It is for this cause we read that grace teacheth us to live soberly and righteously and godly in this present world (Titus 2:11-12 ).
The conflict between the Law and grace is a conflict of achievements, of results, of salvation. The law utterly fails in these achievements because it is weak through the flesh. Grace conquers, and fulfills the Law, because it creates a new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.
He who is after Ishmael uses the Law as steps through which he mounts to glory and eternal life. He who is after Isaac accepts salvation by grace, through faith, and finds within him a new life, unctionized by the Spirit, which brings in a love that is the fulfilment of the Law. This new life climbs the steps, not to get saved, but because it has salvation; not with effort, but without effort as a result.
After holding an open-air service in a mining village one of the workers, handing round tracts, said to a woman beyond the allotted span. "Well, is it all settled now?" Her reply was typical: "A' well, me laddie; if we dinna wirk oot oor ain salvation there's nae another'll dae't for us; but, eh! we're gled tae see you; when'll ye be back?" "Not by works."
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Neighbour, Robert E. "Wells of Living Water Commentary on Galatians 4". "Living Water". https://www.studylight.org/