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4 :1 Now I say, [That] the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all; 2 But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father. 3 Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world:
In the old days a child was placed under a tutor. The tutor was rule, you did not do anything against him and you did everything he told you to do. This was a control that was delegated by the father for the proper rearing of the child.
This is a picture of the law. The Jew was to do the law and live as if it were his rule for life, for indeed it was. Yet, this was not to be the only way of life, for God had something better yet to come.
This also pictures the fact that there is no respecter between members under the law - all are treated the same. The child of the master is treated the same as the child of the servant - all must be trained and raised properly.
We might suggest this is lacking in our own day. The rich children and the prospered children often are coddled into all their glorious spoiledness while the poor and the lowly are taught the truths from life’s hard knocks. It might be good for our society to realize that the spoiling that has gone on by the baby boomer generation has caused its mountain of problems in their children.
1. In verse twenty nine we read "And if ye [be] Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise."
We observed earlier that "seed" indicates that all believers are figurative descendants of Abraham. We observed also that a physical link to Abraham is an impossibility, thus we may safely assume that this is a figurative use of the terms.
Just what does this "figurative" link to Abraham mean to the believer? Are we to benefit from any of the promises made to Abraham long ago? Are we to benefit from the future blessings of Abraham in the end time?
We will reign with Christ in the kingdom and whatever that entails, but we won’t be with the Jewish folks that will receive the land as promised to Abraham.
2. Just a little further study relating to "abba father."
"Abba” has its origins in the Chaldean language and is Hebrew in nature - it meant "father." It was used as a title for bishops and patriarchs in early oriental churches, thus indicating the thought of honor, respect and position rather than a familiar, endearing term. It became "abbot" in Europe, again a term of description and respect.
Christ used the term of God the Father in a number of passages: Matthew 11:25-26; Matthew 26:39; Matthew 26:42; Luke 10:21; Luke 22:42; Luke 23:34; John 11:4; John 12:27; John 17:24; John 17:25.
In Mark 14:36; Romans 8:15 and here in Galatians the term translated Father is preceded by the term Abba. The Mark passage says "And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt."
Some suggest that Paul’s use of both an Old Testament word and a Greek term is to also show the lack of difference between the Jew and the Gentile. God is a God of all not just the Jew.
Barnes states: "It is said in the Babylonian Gemara, a Jewish work, that it was not permitted slaves to use the title of Abba in addressing the master of the family to which they belonged. If so, then the language which Christians are here represented as using is the language of freemen, and denotes that they are not under the servitude of sin."
None of the commentaries I checked give any hint that this should carry the thought of papa or dada, but more the idea of respect, position, honor, trust and the other fatherly attributes. As a pet name for God, I think not.
It amazes me that one would take a phrase meaning "father father" and suggest that it should be a term that a child would use of their father such as dada or papa. Two words require two words, not one.
And finally, how can you interpret in the historical context of this passage and understand these terms as dada when the father was supreme in the family. He controlled all aspects of the family and I’m sure the terms abba or father were in the area of respect of the position. Not that there could not be more familiar and loving terms used, but just not these two in my mind.
One further final thought, just what does this phrase "sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father." mean. It seems to me that it is the Spirit that is crying to the Father, and I can’t imagine the Spirit of God calling the Father dada!
I will point out that it is we, the Christian, that calls out in Romans 8:15 "For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father." The next verse seems to tie the Spirits cry to that of the believer. "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:"
"We cry" is the same terminology as the cry of the Spirit of God - again dada doesn’t seem to fit.
Vincent states of the term "crying" "A strong word, expressing deep emotion. The verb originally represents the sound of a croak or harsh scream; thence, generally, an inarticulate cry; an exclamation of fear or pain." Again the term dada doesn’t quite fit the context of the usage.
Thayer states the following in relation to the term "abba" "acquired the nature of a most sacred proper name, to which the Greek speaking Jews added the name from their own tongue."
The only authors that suggest the term abba should be understood in a familiar relation suggesting the idea of "daddy” are modern evangelical people like Erickson and MacArthur. I find this of interest when related to all the older commentators and scholars. It would seem that there has been a change of attitude - from one of honor and respect to one of familiarity. They relate their thought to the fact that we are now sons.
I ran across another author that was of the current line of thought that it should be translated "daddy" but he did not go as far as to say it should give the idea of "dada" - only that it should show the intimacy of relationship whereby when we are in trouble we can call upon our dad for assistance. He seemed quite emphatic in saying that this is not the immature child calling "daddy" but the mature son calling "dad."
Again, I see no reason to see this or to translate this as "dada" or "daddy" since the lexicons say it means father - quite two different things in my mind. The above mentioned author (Dr. Constable) goes on to state that the term is used in other literature of a mature person claiming the inheritance left him by his father. Suggestion: Put "dada" in this context and see if it fits. Would you go before a judge to claim your inheritance and say, "I am here to claim my dada’s money and property?"
3. It has crossed my mind in understanding the father son relationship in the Old Testament that there is a grand illustration of theology in this part of their life style. The father was the top dog in the Old Testament economy and he could do as he pleased. He could farm out his kids to a servant to raise them, or he could do it himself. The illustration comes when you realize that the father could adopt into the family any child that he wanted to adopt - an illustration of God’s choosing or electing some but not others. It is also a grand illustration that he is electing some as sons but not electing others to non-sonship. The non-sonship is not a result of the election of one, it is the constant condition of the non-son prior to and following a man’s grace in electing one.
If that was an acceptable illustration, how many arguments might be saved from happening over the profound thought of electing the lost to hell.
I might add that it is not I that chose this illustration, but God through the apostle Paul that used it in God’s Word in the letter to the Galatians.
4. Well, now here we go again, getting theological - verse 6 "And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father." speaks to the theological term "trinity" - note the Father sent the Spirit of the Son - a clear reference to all three members of the trinity. Though the term trinity does not exist in the Bible, the truth that is taught under its name certainly does.
It always amazes me on internet boards when people state that the word "trinity" does not appear in the Bible as though that will wipe away the entire teaching in one sweeping statement that really does not relate to the teaching. It is their feeble attempt to cast doubt upon a doctrine that the church has taught for centuries.
This passage also tends to disprove the thought of a single god in three manifestations as the Jesus only cult teaches. They hold that there is only one god but that he appeared as God the Father in the Old Testament, as Jesus in the early New Testament and as the Spirit from the book of Acts on. This cult is one of the hardest to dispute because they use the same verses to attempt to prove their point as we use to prove the trinity.
After many conversations with them on the internet, I feel it is probably a waste of time to discuss the trinity with them. They, like those of the reform faith, assume they have the only true interpretation, so refuse to even consider whether your interpretation might have validity. Their interpretation is what God means and that is the end of the discussion - if you feel it means something else, you are automatically teaching falsehood and are to be rejected as a false teacher.
I have had numerous discussions with people like this on the internet and find that all that it will gain you is frustration and maybe a headache :-)
5. In relation to verse 28 "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus." we need to consider a couple of items. This is not a blanket statement that all differences between Jew and Gentile, between bond and free and between male and female are wiped away.
It only teaches that in the church all are equal; in the family of God all are equal and in value and worth, all are equal. Does it mean that the wife is no longer to be submissive to her husband? No, how can it for that would contradict other, clear teaching of the Word of God. It does not say that all servants should be freed either, for how could it? Servitude was a way of life in this historical context. Female subordinance was also a historical fact, as well as the Jewish/Gentile divide.
This passage does not suggest for a moment that we should attempt to wipe away these differences, it only speaks to the equality ALL have before God in their common salvation.
Feminists might camp on this verse while ignoring others to prove that God is a feminist, but they do so wrongly. ALL of Scripture must be related to this one verse to find the Biblical view of women.
NOR, is this as some might suggest that we should ordain women to the office of elder. It says nothing of the order of the sexes that God has laid out in His word, nor does it abrogate all that God has said of women in the Word. It is only one aspect that is to be considered along with all the other passages relating to women in the Bible.
This passage does speak heavily to the fact that all are equal before God, that all have the same free access to God, and that they are all believer priests before God for themselves. No man that believes in Christ needs to go through any other man to have direct and equal access to God.
NOR, does this passage prove or even speak to the thought that Israel and the Church are an integrated part of one another. They are distinctly separate in the New Testament and nothing can mix them. This only speaks to the oneness that we have in Christ. Indeed, the believing Jew is part of the church body now, rather than a part of Israel. I don’t know how all this will work out in the end time, but I do know you have to set the word on its ear to suggest that Israel and the Church are one.
In the first place most of Israel is lost at this point in time, as well as in Paul’s time. How can you even attempt to state that Israel and the Church are one, when common sense shows that most of Israel is lost and most of the church is saved?
6. Some suggest that there is a clear distinction that Paul is making in verses 1-3 that show the Jews obeying the law and the Gentiles obeying "the elements of the world." are different. I do not see this difference; Paul is saying that both heir and servant are under the tutors command until the father says differently. Paul goes on to say that we were in the same position - under the tutor, or the schoolmaster that was over us as immature children.
There then is great discussion as to what "elements of the world" might mean. There seem to be five primary suggestions.
a. That the elements are rules and regulations of pagan religions. Though they do not give answer to the idea that not all non-Jews were under a pagan religions influence.
b. Others suggest that this is the Demonic and Satanic influences set upon the world through all time.
c. Yet others suggest that this is basic philosophy and religious teachings.
d. Then there are those that feel these are the fundamental elements of the creation, fire, water, air and earth. Since the context is a discussion of being under the law, jumping clear over into the elements of creation seems a little too large a jump.
e. And finally one author suggests that it is a matter of maturity. The child is under the elemental laws of childhood, while the adult is free from these restrictions.
Take a few moments to read the verses and see if you can determine which of these might be correct.
I might suggest a sixth possible that seems from the context to be more plausible - that the lost Gentile was just under the rules, regulations, and beliefs that he had relating to God in his own individual life.
I might also reject my own possibility for if you watch the pronouns adequately you will note that Paul includes himself as being under these elements of the world. He was a Jew, and could not include himself if there really was a distinction in his mind in this passage. Read the context. "3 Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world: 4 But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, 5 To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons."
I think that Paul was simply suggesting that all were under the rules and regulations of whatever we were under (elements of the world) relating to this world and all it requires of any person, as opposed to the next world.
Hate to say it, but I think we theologians and teachers make things way to hard by considering the phrase without the context.
Just a little information, the term elements, can and is translated in other translations, as rudiments. It comes from the thought of lining up one after the other - you know when you finally get your life organized you say you have all your ducks in a row - that is the thought of the word originally. It then became related to the thought of the alphabet, thus the thought of elemental or elements.
This gives indication to me that Paul was just relating to the rules and regulations that go with trying to exist in this world without God and how wonderful the salvation is that puts us under God’s organizational system.
7. Swete suggests that "The purpose of the Son’s mission was to give the rights of sonship; the purpose of the Spirit’s mission, to give the power of using them." (The Holy Spirit in the New Testament; H. B. Swete; p. 204.)
8. The overall truth of the text seems to me to be that if we were under the law, then saved from it by the work of the cross, if we were outside the family, then saved into the family by adoption, why in the world would we go back under the law, why in the world would we thumb our nose at the one paying the price, and why in the world would we attempt to remove ourselves from the family by rejecting its freedom and placing ourselves back under the elements of this world?
9. In relation to the Judaizers, it is suggested that they were prone to want to return to the past. This is not uncommon for man. I don’t know if this is what the Judaizers did or not for we are not told, but if they did have a "hankerin fer the past" they surely could have come up with this mix of law and grace without too much trouble.
We need to beware that our desire to return to the good ole days doesn’t end us up in non-Scriptural areas of doctrine and practice. We need to desire the good of the past, but not to the detriment of the present or the future.
While we are on this subject we need to realize that when looking back we tend to exaggerate the positive and negate the negative to the point that all is glorious in the past. This is not so, for the past is full of pitfalls, and troubles, and problems that made the end seem positive.
10. There is another line of consideration when we come to the divisions within a church body. We tend to blame any divisions on the fact that the groups tend to clump together, and this is true, however there is the back side of this. Many there are in the church that doesn’t feel comfortable associating with those that are different from themselves. This is probably why we tend to clump.
It is wrong - even though we may feel uncomfortable we should attempt to be kind and considerate to ALL people in the church. We should make it a point to say hello to that lowly janitor (I have been that lowly janitor in a church so know the concept well.) Say hello to that rich doctor, say hello to that social climber, say hello to that poor old woman that is trying to get by on social security. "All" is the concept with God; we need to work at that which is right and proper.
Genesis 12:3 "And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed." shows that God has the whole in mind rather than the individual. One of the great shortcomings of Israel was their lack of inclusion of the world in their great God’s plan. They were seclusive and few Gentiles entered into the covenant with them.
11. We mentioned earlier that Christ came at the right time, the proper time, and the appointed time. God is also interested in your own needs and be assured that His time is in His mind for you - He won’t forget you, he won’t forget your need, and he won’t forget to fulfill your need at His time for you.
Often we are way in a hurry to get things taken care of, but He doesn’t seem to get it - we keep pestering Him to take care of a need and He just dawdles along while we sweat and worry. Maybe we need to give Him the need, give Him the time He desires and GIVE HIM A BREAK - stop worrying and start resting in His promise to care for you. He will get to it when it is time. He has never been late.
12. This passage is clear and to the point, anyone that believes in Christ is an heir with Christ, we are sons to the fullest extent. We inherit the riches of our Father. Personally, I have never grasped that concept in a personal way, even though I see the clear teaching of the Word. I understand the fact of it, I understand the implications of it, but I don’t think I have personalized it.
In the first place, I am saved by the pure grace of God - I was on my way to hell, and He reached down and stopped that progress and drew me abruptly back to be a part of His kingdom. So, where in that is there anything that I have done that would deserve anything else? Indeed, I am not deserving of being in His kingdom. I am His and He decides to shower riches upon me. Go figure. I am just very glad to be on my way to heaven, I don’t know that I care about the riches. I am sure when I have them I will enjoy them but they don’t seem to excite me like the usual coming attractions.
I suppose some will think back to what I have mentioned about a house full of toys and wonder why I am not anticipating riches, but then that is the disconnect we tend to have between this life and the next.
He will do as He will and I am sure I will enjoy it, but even now, I can’t grasp that life of sonship over and above the freedom from hell and ability to walk in righteousness here and now. The anticipation of that next life is filled with knowing Him and understanding all of this life.
4 But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, 5 To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.
In God’s time all came to pass. The "fulness" of time relates to the completeness of time. In God’s timing - His perfect timing the cross occurred. Not a moment sooner than planned and not a moment later than planned. The term is used of a ship that is full of not only its load, but loaded with its crew, soldiers and all that is needed for sailing - a full compliment.
In God’s full time table, He had His son present Himself to the Romans for crucifixion.
In Bible College a professor took an entire class period to present the fact that Christ came at the most opportune time in history. He presented from history the climate, the geographics, and the politics of the time, and it was obvious that the timing was perfect, the setting was the most advantageous, the Christ was on time. (No, I don’t have the notes on the class to share with you, sad to say.)
See also Romans 8:15; Ephesians 1:5 for further study.
I would wonder of the significance of Paul adding the phrases "made of a woman, made under the law," to this verse. Why would he add this information at this point? I have to wonder if there weren’t some aspects of the Judaizers teachings that were defective in the humanity of Christ and possibly in the thought of how Christ related to the law. I see no other reason for him to include this information.
It may be to emphasize the fact that in the fullness of God’s time He made Christ of a woman, and He made Christ under the law - the fact that God determined all of this, that nothing was accidental or by chance.
Verse five ("To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.") seems to add to the thought that we have considered which teaches that the Old Testament saints were not fully "vested" in their salvation. They still needed redemption and adoption for Paul places them with himself as needing these things. Christ in the fullness of time accomplished these things for the Old Testament saints so that they could finally be that complete "part of God’s family."
6 And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.
Now, I may step on toes here, but that is life in the theological scene. "Abba, Father" is described by some as an endearing term like "dada" or "daddy,” however I see nothing in the words themselves, nor the context to indicate we should address God as "dada" or even "daddy."
The term "abba" is the Aramaic word for father and the word "father" is the word "pater" which means father. In the lexicon it is mentioned that both words were used of God in prayer and in worship and used in great reverence, not great familiarity and endearment. I may be wrong, but I think "pater" is one of the terms that the Roman church uses of the Pope, certainly not a term they use like daddy!
This whole idea of "dada" is part of the bringing down to man, the God of the universe. It is the making of almighty God into Someone we can bond with, Someone we can relate to, and Someone that we can live with - not Someone that is high and lifted up, not Someone that is our Lord and Master, and not Someone that would be comfortable in the comforts of our wishy washy living style that is akin to the world, and not akin to the heavenlies.
This "dada" thought is akin to the movement that says God wants us to be rich, that says God wants us to be prosperous, and that wants us to never want for anything. If this is so, Paul wasn’t very spiritual because he had to work for a living; he had to walk long miles in the dust of the east. Jonah had to take a fish instead of his Corvette - how ludicrous to say that God wants us all rich! He wants us rich in the heavenlies, yet some pastors are telling us to lay up stores here on earth. (And I might say, most of those same pastors set a perfect example by amassing cars and riches.)
Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.
We are now full sons, mature and ready to take our place beside our father - full heirs of God through the work of Christ the promised seed.
Again, how can you consider this passage and not sit in awe and wander at the workings of God behind the scenes to bring all this to pass for your worthless soul. You must have a great and wonderful value to the Father and to the Son that gave His life for you.
And we complain about taking a couple three hours out of our week to go to church and learn of his wondrous love for us. Indeed, we have pastors preaching everything under the sun but the Son.
Christians, we are far from worshiping the God that orchestrated our salvation, we are far from worshiping the God of Abraham, and we are far from worshiping the God that yet has plans for the future that will just as surely come to pass - just as surely as our salvation, just as surely as our heirship, will those future events come to pass.
And who do we worship - the god of contemporary music, the god of bringing lost people into the church, the god of convenience, and the god of entertainment and ease. May God have mercy on the church leaders of our day.
Week Eight: 4:8-20 Paul Reminds Them Of His Labor And Love For Them
At one point in our lives we were asked to pioneer a work. We were asked to take over a small Bible study and move it into a church. We moved cross country because we were called of the Lord to do so, and we have never regretted the time and labor involved. We know that all of it was God’s purpose and that we grew immensely from the experience as a family.
On the other hand there was the other side of our thinking that we had given the greatest effort that we could to the people involved and yet there was nothing that indicated any growth or learning whatsoever.
I worked full time (45 hours a week) while preparing and teaching five lessons/sermons a week. As we moved through time with the work, it was obvious that the people were there to take and nothing else. None of them would do anything when asked. We met in our home and they wouldn’t even come a little early to help me move the furniture out of our living room so that we could set up chairs.
There were times of great frustration on my part and I am sure on my wife’s as well. We continued on wondering if things would ever change.
We ultimately left because we could see there were some fundamental differences of philosophy between myself and the people. The group of pastors that had started the Bible study in the first places promised that they would take over the flock and find someone else to shepherd them.
We heard a few months later that the pastors had disbanded the church, resulting in a little frustration on our part remembering their promise to care for it. Many years later we found out that the pastors had met with the people and it was obvious to them that the people had little desire to do anything, and that they had no intention of trying to prosper the work - thus the decision to close.
My point, finally is that I really wondered at the labor that we had put into that work - whether it was worth it or not. We knew we were there for God and that it was God that we served, but we wondered if our labor had been in vain as it related to the people.
In this section we see Paul wondering at some of his work as well.
4:8 Howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods.
What a backward, sneaky, backdoor way to call their former life idolatrous. They had been in bondage to their gods that were not gods.
I have always marveled at the concept that God knows He is one God among multitudes of gods and that He doesn’t really care. He even mentions it in the Old Testament.
He knows the reality of man having other Gods, yet he makes it quite clear that He is above all gods. Deuteronomy 10:17 "For the LORD your God [is] God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward: " Joshua 22:22 "The LORD God of gods, the LORD God of gods, he knoweth, and Israel he shall know; if [it be] in rebellion, or if in transgression against the LORD, (save us not this day,)"
The Old Testament is near clogged with references to gods, the gods that God’s people trusted, the gods that they served. Yet, He simply declares Himself to be what He is and trusts that some of His people will ultimately see and worship Him rather than his much lesser competitors.
He just ignores all the gods and does His Godly work as if the others didn’t exist - oh, whoops - they don’t exist – that is what Paul is making clear in this verse :-) No matter how real they are to man, no matter how convinced we are that they exist, and no matter how much we think they do for us, they don’t exist so they can’t do for us, they can’t exist, and they aren’t real.
The Old Testament also declares other gods are not gods at all. 2 Kings 19:18 "And have cast their gods into the fire: for they [were] no gods, but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone: therefore they have destroyed them."
Also 1 Chronicles 16:25 "For great [is] the LORD, and greatly to be praised: he also [is] to be feared above all gods. 26 For all the gods of the people [are] idols: but the LORD made the heavens." 2 Chronicles 2:5 "And the house which I build [is] great: for great [is] our God above all gods." Psalms 95:1 "O come, let us sing unto the LORD: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation. 2 Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with Psalms 3:1-8 For the LORD [is] a great God, and a great King above all gods." Psalms 136:2 "O give thanks unto the God of gods: for his mercy [endureth] for ever." And there are many more if you take a look in a concordance.
Probably the Old Testament passage I like most relating to idols is the one where the people go get the limb from the tree, and cut some of it up for fire wood and then they make an idol of the left over. Isaiah 44:15 "Then shall it be for a man to burn: for he will take thereof, and warm himself; yea, he kindleth [it], and baketh bread; yea, he maketh a god, and worshippeth [it]; he maketh it a graven image, and falleth down thereto. 16 He burneth part thereof in the fire; with part thereof he eateth flesh; he roasteth roast, and is satisfied: yea, he warmeth [himself], and saith, Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire: 17 And the residue thereof he maketh a god, [even] his graven image: he falleth down unto it, and worshippeth [it], and prayeth unto it, and saith, Deliver me; for thou [art] my god."
Note that the god comes from the residue or the left over of the wood. Kind of like us isn’t it, giving what is left over of our time and wealth to God. You’d think if you were making a god you would go looking for some of the nicest and best of woods so that you could have a great god, but not so. You’d think we would give of the best that we have to our God, the God of creation, yet we often only give Him the leftovers, the drivel of our lives.
Psalms 115:4-8 speaks to the gods of the gentiles. It is even worse than the above text in relation to idols and their effectiveness. 4 "Their idols [are] silver and gold, the work of men’s hands. 5 They have mouths, but they speak not: eyes have they, but they see not: 6 They have ears, but they hear not: noses have they, but they smell not: 7 They have hands, but they handle not: feet have they, but they walk not: neither speak they through their throat. 8 They that make them are like unto them; [so is] every one that trusteth in them.
1. We scoff at the ignorance of the Old Testament people worshiping other gods, gods made of gold, of wood, of stone, yet we do the same, only we have substituted steel, plastic and everything else as substance for our gods. We worship the airways that carry our trashy television, radio and music, we worship the cars of steel and the goodies of plastic. If we aren’t tied up in these, we are tied up in the god of self and self fulfillment. We are out to get all the toys, to climb all the hills and all the while leave God out of the whole mix.
The Old Testament is full of references to the fact that the Israelites took on the gods of other nations, and so we, the church have taken on the gods of the world. We have adopted their methods, we have adopted their music, we have adopted their viewing habits, we have adopted their world, we have just changed the name to Christian.
We have followed the Biblical view of coming out and being separate, but we have created our own little world that is just like the Devil’s world, cept we call it Jesusville. We claim it is Christian, but it is that in name only.
The Bible speaks to idolatry in the New Testament. Most relate idols to the Old Testament, that in the New Testament we are more educated and don’t believe in those old ways. After all the Romans didn’t worship sticks and stones, they worshiped a man - Caesar. In the book of Acts Paul spoke to the educated of his day of all the different Gods that they worshiped. They even had one in case they missed one, the unknown god. One must wonder if this was their Romans one illumination in action.
In Acts 17:23 he uses this unknown god to introduce them to his God, the God that they were really seeking. Earlier in the chapter (verse seventeen) he perceived that the entire city was given over to idolatry. Wow, an entire city given to the worship of all but God Himself.
No, idolatry is not just an Old Testament problem. In fact in 1 Corinthians 10:14 Paul admonishes Christians to flee idolatry. "Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry."
So, it seems that I am not way off base to assume that believers today can be involved in idolatry. Indeed, we are getting ahead of ourselves but in Galatians 5:19 we see that it is listed among the works of the flesh. "Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are [these]; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told [you] in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God."
Another of Paul’s letters mentions a similar string of horrible sins. Colossians 3:5 "Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: 6 For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience: 7 In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them."
Okay, now let’s get down to some brass tacks here. Notice, Paul mentions that "covetousness, which is idolatry" is not to be part of the Christians way of life. However, what is the reality teenagers? I gotta have those name brand jeans, I gotta have those name brand shoes - oh and what about the reality of adults? We gotta have that huge SUV, we gotta have that big screen tv, we gotta have that ..... well we all get the point I think.
Why do we "gotta?" Because we COVET those things. Plain and simple, we are a coveteous people in America. The lexicon says covetousness is the "greedy desire to have more" and that is the crux of America today - even many if not most Christians today.
Paul walked through history with a cloak, a few scrolls and what clothes he could carry. We gotta walk through history with a house, a car or two, a tv in every room, a stereo in most every room, a load of money in our pocket, a ton of money in our bank account, a great watch, a great .... and the list could go on for some time. In America we seem to be never satisfied with what we have and are always wanting more.
I don’t exempt myself from the finger pointing, though I could claim innocence since we live in a small apartment sized house and drive an older Hyundai, however that house is packed to the gills with toys and many of them are not needed, though we thought they were at the time of purchase.
2. Jamieson Fausset and Brown suggest an interesting point in relation to the fact that Christ came at the appropriate time. Not to sidestep the issue that God appointed the time, and that His plan was most certainly in effect, we might also understand that He had good reason to plan it this way.
"Had Christ come directly after the fall, the enormity and deadly fruits of sin would not have been realized fully by man, so as to feel his desperate state and need of a Saviour." This is quite an item to consider. Had Christ come just after the fall and died for Adam and Eve’s sin, would they have realized that they needed His work on the cross? I rather doubt it. They, after all, had only eaten one piece of fruit! Why would they need someone to die for them? Why would someone need to correct that problem any way? They were kicked out of the garden, they were cursed, what more could God want?
No, sin was not fully realized so time for it to grow might well have been necessary.
Now, that we are talking of sin and its result, just what are some of the results? Our physical death, our bent toward sin, the creation itself is suffering under the result of sin, disease is becoming worse, civilization is degenerating even though the humanists would have us believe otherwise.
Sin is having its way with the entire creation and with God’s creatures. It is progressing, no matter how good we humans make it look.
It is clear also that through time God has allowed man to prove that sin is rampant under all sorts of governing relationships. In conscience, in law and now in grace sin seems to rule supreme even though God starts all of these times out in relative Godliness - He gives man the opportunity to follow Him, but man always chooses to follow someone else.
3. In verse nine, Paul asks them a question. "whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?" He asks why they want to again be under the bondage of rules and regulations. By way of application, consider your own life.
When you feel the most safe is when you are in a known lifestyle, a lifestyle many call a rut. When you are in a rut you feel comfortable. This is not uncommon for the human existence. We like things and times when all is going along by the pattern, by the rules, by the norm. When the end of the rut gets kicked out and we have to face the possibility of change, of not being comfortable because we don’t know what is going on, we tend to get upset.
There may be a natural desire to get under some system that makes us comfortable. It may be the law or it may be just a church lifestyle. It gives us comfort to be controlled - our destiny so to speak.
4. Verse ten introduces the idea of "Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years." Now that is clearly something relating to the law and can’t possibly relate to the church age. Correct, though I wonder if some pastors don’t get into this rut. Sure, they would deny it, but how many of the pastors of your past "religiously" give Easter messages on Easter, Christmas messages on Christmas, Veterans messages on Veteran’s day, patriotic messages on the fourth of July etc. They even feel that the Gospel isn’t being preached properly if they don’t have a VBS and that the church is living in sin if there isn’t an Easter and Christmas cantata. AND BE SURE IF A MEMBER MISSES ONE OF THEM THEY ARE REALLLL SINNERS.
I think many churches/pastors are near to observing days, and months, and times, and years. Let’s be careful of how we view our little rut as churches as well as individuals.
5. In verses thirteen and fourteen Paul mentions some shortcoming that he had while with them. We don’t know what that was exactly, but at the least it was a shortcoming - not sin, but a shortcoming. Now, consider the last pastor candidate that your church rejected. Why was he rejected? Was it due to sin, to lack of qualification, or because he wasn’t perfect?
Many are rejected because they aren’t perfect in everyway, but here we have Paul the apostle confessing to an imperfection. If he can have one why not pastoral candidates today?
I was in a meeting with a candidate and a church congregation. The man was well qualified, he seemed to have a great family, and he was trained well. His only mistake was to confess that he had future plans for the church; plans that involved seeing the Lord grow the ministry. His imperfection cost him the position.
One further illustration, a man years ago wrote a theology book. I found the book very valuable. It was concise and it hit on topics that were of interest to me, topics that most books avoided. For years I enjoyed this mans work.
One day I was contacted on the internet by a man that had been searching the net for this author’s name. Since I quoted the author in some of my work I came up in the man’s search. Come to find out the man had sat under the author in college and loved the man’s teaching.
Through the email correspondence I found that the man had some tapes by the author and he offered to send me a cdrom with the sermons on it. When the cd arrived I quickly started listening to the man - he was nothing like the book, he was rather common and unassuming in his approach to the Word, and I am sure would not have been called to pastor a church due to his lack of delivery skills.
An imperfection of skill, of talent of ability should not automatically set a man aside in the Candidating process.
Our text actually goes further, according to some, than just an imperfection, but could relate to some loathsome appearance of Paul when he was there. It was some difficulty of the flesh, of the body. We tend to avoid those that are not like us. We tend to avoid those that have infirmity. This ought not be so. The Galatians were a good example to us in this area - they treated Paul as a gift of God even though he had this infirmity.
Look past the external and respond to the internal! You might find illustration material in 2 Kings 7:1-20 where the message of four leapers was gladly received even though they weren’t beautiful messengers.
6. "They zealously affect you," in verse seventeen gives a little insight to the Judaizers. They were zealous in their teaching of the people. This gives us two items of interest.
a. They were zealous, they were real workers, they really believed in what they were doing and they were intent on getting the Galatian believers to follow them. They didn’t, in my opinion, realize that they were false teachers. They thought they had the truth, so were putting that truth out there for everyone to see. Not like some Christians today, that know they have the truth, and don’t put it out there.
I have to wonder if some of these false teachers, when confronted with this letter, turned away from their false ideas to the truth of Grace. In looking at the arguments set forth, I would suspect that some at least would have seen their error.
b. How "zealous" are we as pastors, as leaders, and as lay people when it comes to bringing people to Christ, in bringing people into true discipleship, or in bringing them into the church so that they can be discipled?
We tend to lay back and leave all that to the pastor. This is not all our fault for many pastors through the years have fostered the thought that they are the soul winners, that they are the disciplers, and that they are the important ones. My goodness have they let us off the hook, and given us a wide comfort zone!
7. Verse eighteen should be stricken from the Bible. It can’t possibly belong there. Pastors have been decrying the sin of zealotry for years, they have demeaned many that do good work as zealots and used the term in the most harshest of ways, yet Paul says being zealous can be good. This can’t possibly belong in the Biblical record. "But [it is] good to be zealously affected always in [a] good [thing],"
Paul says zealousness is good. End of statement. If you hear someone decrying someone as being too zealous, ask them why and see if their answer stacks up with Paul’s simple, clear and concise statement.
If you have interest in the real Biblical story of zealousness, there is a study of mine that seeks to find out what is a balanced view of zeal. You can find it at my website.
8. The Seeming cooling of the Galatians relationship to Paul may indicate that he had prior discussion/letters with them relating to this false teaching. Sure, there is the first of the book that would have driven them away due to its bluntness, but he did not know if this was the case or not as he wrote. To know that they had cooled toward him would have required prior contact with them on the subject.
I would apply this to suggest that if you have confronted someone and you know in your heart the person is "BIBLICALLY" wrong, then a second or maybe third attempt at reconciliation might be the wise path. Matthew 18:1-35 suggests at least two attempts.
9. Paul rightly seems to deal with the wrong doctrine, but also relates to the people. Any doctrinal deviation is wrong, it is sin, but it is being done by a person. You can deal with the sin and leave the person out of it, but you will not deal correctly with the situation. Deal with the person while dealing with the sin.
Example: Many today are not attending church. This is not right, this is not how the Lord wants it. However to just pile on the person about his wrong, there is also the person that is behind the not going. There are reasons he is not going, there are situations that have brought them to this point and this decision. You must deal with this as well as the wrong.
I do not use the word sin in relation to non-attendance, as I believe there are times when there is no other choice for the believer. The churches today are so sick it would be wrong for the people to attend them and give credence to them.
Many quote the passage that mentions the forsaking the assembling of the brethren. First of all there needs to be brethren, secondly there needs to be the elements of a church to bring one to worship, not elements of the world that entertain. Worship is more than a greeting time preceded by standing around singing wishy washy verbiage that is unBiblical at best.
10. Learn well from Paul’s graciousness and kindness to these people he is confronting. He has blasted them verbally but he did it in a loving way. Many there are today that have just been blasted - this is one reason church attendance is down today. Blasting without kindness and love will drive people away very quickly.
Learn also that he was on solid Biblical ground not on opinion ground. There is a vast difference that many preachers fail to realize.
11. In verses thirteen and fourteen we have mentioned Paul’s sickness - now we should dwell a little more on the response of the Galatian Christians.
a. They were lost when they started responding positively to Paul. It was after they had responded to his physical need that their spiritual needs were met. Even as lost people they did what believers should do.
It has always cracked me up to hear the strong Calvinist, when speaking of total depravity, say unsaved man can do no good whatsoever. This verse teaches the opposite as does much of life if you observe. Many unsaved people do quite well at living the Christian life without the benefit of regeneration. Many live upstanding and moral lives.
More to the point of this passage Matthew 25:34-40 speaks to the fact that we are to be doing good works in the area of helping the poor and the suffering. We don’t do all that well with this one these days. We do have a unique situation in our society in America - we have many that are using the system, that are abusing the system, and that are making a mockery of the system. Many are using the Christian church to live the decent life without working to support them selves. They live off the system of welfare and social assistance rather than work for a living.
There are "homeless" that say they are making a good living panhandling. This is a perversion of what our society in America is about, and it is a perversion of what the Christian life is.
The point is really that we are to be involved in this assisting of the poor and destitute. We need to do the work and allow God to sort out the bad guys. He will judge when the time is right.
We need to give due diligence to determine the honesty of the need, but we don’t have to necessarily prove a need before we respond. Respond as best we can and allow God to hinder the one that does our charity wrong.
On a personal basis, we need to use wisdom and respond as the Lord leads. If you don’t know, just do for the person and remember that if they have wronged you and your charity, then the Lord will deal with them for it, you don’t have to worry about it.
We need to respond to all kinds, all shapes, and all conditions. I once heard the testimony of a missionary lady in South America. She had traveled for miles back into the jungle and had stopped at a little village. She was sitting by the fire when she smelled something foul, and shortly an old disgusting woman appeared and sat down beside her. She was sick and dirty and totally disgusting, but the missionary knew that her heart needed a change. The two talked awhile about things and then of Christ and his love for the woman.
At some point in the conversation the missionary leaned over and kissed the old woman on the cheek. A tear appeared and she said something along the line that Jesus must love her if the missionary could love her. The old woman became the main contact for the area and became a strong Christian.
We need to respond to all that come along and allow God to do His work with these people.
As far as churches go, I have given some thought to the response system that might be of help. It is not perfect, nor is it comprehensive - it is something that you might be able to build upon. You can find it on my website under the “Notes of Lots of Other things” under “deacon’s fund.”
12. We might insert here that many believers do not have a real joy in their lives. Many have observed that the law adds bondage, and that it lacks the joy giving qualities of the gospel. If you have no joy in life it may be that you are trying to live up to some standard - a standard that you have falsely set, or maybe a standard that someone else has falsely set.
Our standard is freedom in Christ, not subservience to some standard of living that we constantly try to attain or keep. If you are trying to live a standard, give it up and come to know the joy of living in the freedom of grace that comes to us through the Gospel.
I have known many that have accepted the standard set forth by a church or a group and they are usually totally miserable. They aren’t meeting the standard and decide that they are worthless and a failure. On the other hand if we realize our only standard is the Word we can live by it and know that the standards have been met. If we fail and miss the standard now and then, then we know we have 1 John 1:9 to find our forgiveness before the Lord.
13. It crossed my mind that Paul did very little explaining about some mighty deep doctrines. It must be that while he was with them he had covered some deep truths of the Word with them. He must have given them a strong foundation before moving on to his next work.
He speaks of adoption, but little is said of the background of it. He speaks of Christ, the Spirit, and the Father, but says little about Who and What They are. He speaks of their salvation, but little about the doctrine that is behind that salvation.
This brings forth another application: A minister should know his congregation and their knowledge of the Word. As he realizes where the people are he should then speak to their level of understanding.
Many are the preacher that preaches a gospel message every Sunday. How can they waste that kind of time on the possible one or two unsaved that might be there. Why not spend that time in helping your congregation mature instead of giving them time to daydream and sleep?
I have oft times looked around at the congregation to see what they are doing in a sermon. Nail manicuring, looking out the window, reading books, sleeping, playing with the kids, and a multitude of other things. This isn’t worship, this isn’t edifying, this is a total waste of time! Indeed, the fact that I am looking around at others probably tells us something about my own interest.
Pastors, we are boring our congregations to tears and just keep on doing it week after week. When will we wake up to the fact that these folks are there to learn, to feed, to nourish themselves from our ministry - when will we accommodate them and their God?
14. In relation to adoption there are only three cases of adoption mentioned in the Old Testament: of Moses Exodus 2:10, Genubath 1 Kings 11:20 and Esther 2:7; Esther 2:15 and these are all outside of Israel. Paul is the only writer that uses the word in the New Testament. This was a gentile thing and in different countries it meant different things. (See I.S.B.E. for further on the customs of the different areas.)
Since the customs were varied, it would seem that Paul was just using this picture in a general sense and that we should not get too carried away with the implications and applications. Only take the general idea of adoption as set forth and relate them to salvation - not go into great detail as to what all the items might mean as they relate to salvation.
The parables of Christ are to be understood in the same light - only the general characteristics not the minutia.
But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?
"turn ye back" is used of the person converting to Christianity, it has the idea of turning around to something else.
"weak" relates to the weakness of being sick, that puny dragged out feeling.
"beggarly" is just as it sounds, to beg.
"rudiments" or elements, this is the same word we discussed in verse three, the "elements of the world" which had the thought of the abcs or very elemental things.
How can you turn from God and go back to the puny, sickly, beggarly elemental stuff that is worthless when you have the God of creation right in front of you might be the thought of what Paul is trying to say.
Think back to the description of the idols - the same thing applies, how can you serve the leftovers of a branch when you have the creator of the branch sitting - waiting - desiring to communicate with you and assist you, and be your strength.
Not only have we accepted God, but WE ARE KNOWN BY HIM - let that seep down into the cracks of your brain - He knows you, He knows about you, He knows all there is to know about you and you are turning away from Him - HOW DUMB IS THAT? Yet, the Galatians did it and we Christians tend to do the same thing.
Why is it when we talk to God we give Him such great detail of who we are, of who we want to be, what we want Him to do. He knows us. We don’t have to explain who we are and what relationship we have with Him, he designed that relationship, He drew us to Himself because He knew us, He knows our very being!
Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years.
They not only had taken on part of Judaism, but they must have been adhering to the days and celebrations of the law. They were returning to those elemental things of Jewish life rather than rejoicing in the freedoms of grace.
Times means an unspecified amount of time as opposed to the other terms in the verse which specify specific amounts of time.
Most commentaries relate this to the Jewish days that were to be observed in the law. It may relate to the overemphasis and critical attitude of some today that almost require church attendance anytime the doors of the church are open.
Church attendance is important, but to miss now and then is not going to hinder your entrance into heaven nor your walk with God. We need to remember this. Most pastors relate someone missing one of their sermons as close to rejecting all truth. Yes, the messages are important, but not quite salvation keeping important.
I once made the comment that I was not going to a church service, due to the fact that they were having some music special that did not appeal to me - I was a marked man, I was an unspiritual man, I was a man that didn’t support my church, I was a man that didn’t support my pastor - ya, right!
I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain.
The word translated "afraid" is the Greek term from which we gain our word phobia. Paul is really afraid that he has wasted time on these people - his time taken in giving them the gospel and working with them.
I suspect many pastors know just what Paul was feeling. They go into a church and spend years of their lives laboring and when they leave, the people act as though they haven’t been taught anything.
I assisted in a church, for awhile, where their pastor had just resigned. He had planted the church, he had nurtured the church, and he had invested his life in the church. After he resigned, they called me to interim pastor. After about a year they called a full time pastor that proceeded to split the church in about a year.
That poor man saw his work turned into turmoil - how frustrated he must have been.
I say all this knowing that God is in control, that the pastor may have made mistakes, and that the people may not have been seeking God’s leading in the choosing of a new pastor, but to see all those years of labor thrown into the air must have given him great heartache.
Brethren, I beseech you, be as I [am]; for I [am] as ye [are]: ye have not injured me at all.
He reassures them that they have not injured him, but he is just wondering at their rejection of his teaching and the acceptance of the teaching of the Judaizers.
Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first. 14 And my temptation which was in my flesh ye despised not, nor rejected; but received me as an angel of God, [even] as Christ Jesus.
Paul had a problem when he was there originally, but he went ahead and preached to them anyway. He was ministering to them in spite of his limitations. In spite of this they accepted him and his message as from God, as though he was an angel from God. They realized their lostness and understood the salvation that he was offering.
Where is then the blessedness ye spake of? for I bear you record, that, if [it had been] possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me.
He continues on that they would have done anything for him when he was there the first time. Now, he asks them where that feeling was. They have lost that blessedness of salvation - they had taken on the law to their own unhappiness.
Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?
He calls for their acceptance of his rebuke for their turning from God to the law. He has not turned against them as they have turned against God, he is only trying to help them understand how damaging the Judaizers teaching was to them.
They zealously affect you, [but] not well; yea, they would exclude you, that ye might affect them. 18 But [it is] good to be zealously affected always in [a] good [thing], and not only when I am present with you.
He tells them that the Judaizers are zealous, but they are zealously affecting them in a negative way - they have taken the joy of salvation from them and saddled them with many observances.
“yea, they would exclude you, that ye might affect them.” The Judaizers were not stupid; they were separating themselves from the Galatians so that the Galatians would not affect them or their belief system.
My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you, 20 I desire to be present with you now, and to change my voice; for I stand in doubt of you.
He continues with his concern for them and his desire to move them away from these false teachers and their false doctrine.
Week Nine: 4:21-31 Paul Explains The Difference Between Isaac And Ishmael
Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? 22 For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman. 23 But he [who was] of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman [was] by promise. 24 Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar. 25 For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. 26 But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.
Paul sticks a board in their ear in the first verse of this section, "Hey, folks you are following the law but are you listening to what it says?" "You certainly aren’t listening to it from the looks of things." Now, I don’t claim to know what Paul was thinking or meaning, but if I were a follower of the Judaizers teachings, and Paul said that in a letter, I would have become indignant - "Of course I hear the law, that is why I am doing this stuff!" might be the response.
Immediately he lets them know where he is going with his comments - it should have been obvious to them that if they weren’t disgusted with his thinking by now, it was certainly time to leave the gathering, because it sure wasn’t going to get any better.
Then he gets into the basics of the Old Testament; things that they had learned early in their spiritual lives - what is the apostle doing? He is telling us the stuff we learned in Sunday school, why is he not giving us the deeper stuff? Bingo, that is just where he is going.
First, what is an allegory (mentioned in verse 24)? An allegory is, according to Webster’s 1828 dictionary: "ALLEGORY, n. [Gr. other, to speak, a forum, an oration.] A figurative sentence or discourse, in which the principal subject is described by another subject resembling it in its properties and circumstances. The principal subject is thus kept out of view, and we are left to collect the intentions of the writer or speaker, by the resemblance of the secondary to the primary subject. Allegory is in words that hieroglyphics are in painting. We have a fine example of an allegory in the eightieth Psalm, in which God’s chosen people are represented by a vineyard. The distinction in scripture between a parable and an allegory is said to be that a parable is a supposed history, and an allegory, a figurative description of real facts. An allegory is called a continued metaphor. The following line in Virgil is an example of an allegory.
"Claudite jam rivos, pueri, sat prata biberunt.
"Stop the currents, young men, the meadows have drank sufficiently; that is let your music cease, our ears have been sufficiently delighted."
Genesis 16:1 ff gives us the story of Sarah and her bareness and her impatience and her lack of faith in God’s promise of a son. She gave Hagar, her handmaiden, to Abraham to raise up a son - a son that became the Arabic nations of the Middle East. He was born out of a sinful relationship, and a lack of faith in God’s promise of a seed.
We might add that this was a normal practice in the culture in which Abraham lived. This is not license to do whatever "culture" does because "culture" is normally the Devil’s world, that of lost unregenerate people doing what they want. (See also Genesis 30:3-9; Genesis 30:13 for further example of this practice.)
I will get off the subject only briefly - divorce used to be a worldly thing, but it became culturally acceptable and the church has adopted it as an alternative to right and correct living. Soon homosexuality will be accepted in the culture, and the church is in some cases already embracing it.
Genesis 21:9 ff gives the account of the dispute between Hagar and Sarah which ended in Abraham sending Hagar and son packing.
We see the result of Hagar’s dismissal from Abraham’s camp in Genesis 21:17 ff “And God heard the voice of the lad; and the angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven, and said unto her, What aileth thee, Hagar? fear not; for God hath heard the voice of the lad where he [is]. 18 Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him in thine hand; for I will make him a great nation. 19 And God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water; and she went, and filled the bottle with water, and gave the lad drink. 20 And God was with the lad; and he grew, and dwelt in the wilderness, and became an archer. 21 And he dwelt in the wilderness of Paran: and his mother took him a wife out of the land of Egypt."
The generations of Isaac and Ishmael are listed in Genesis 25:12 ff.
Notice that all that was promised for Ishmael was that he would become a great nation. There is no explanation as to the meaning of that phrase; there is no indication of anything other than a great seed, so why does Paul give us this great meaning to Hagar’s seed? Is he embellishing history, is he sharing information that just isn’t recorded in Scripture, or is he just using "poetic license" to provide an illustration? It would seem that he assumed the Galatians would relate completely to what he said, thus they must have had the same information, or understood it as license.
The Genesis account says nothing of Ishmael’s bondage to the law which actually implies total complete lostness for all his seed and their seed. Are all Arabic peoples lost, are they all non-elect, are we not to take time to give them the Gospel? Some interesting questions - in my mind at least. It would seem that Ishmael was under bondage to the law, due to his being circumcised, but the following seed would seem to be external from that bondage.
They would have no relationship to God because they were outside of promise - outside of God’s people, and most likely as I understand it because of Ishmael’s rejection of God. The great seed was for Abraham’s benefit - to help him feel better about the situation.
We do see in Genesis 17:21 a note that Ishmael was under the same covenant as Abraham, as the son of Abraham. This is the connection that Ishmael had with the covenant - he was under the law. "And Abraham said unto God, O that Ishmael might live before thee! 19 And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, [and] with his seed after him. 20 And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation. 21 But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year. 22 And he left off talking with him, and God went up from Abraham. 23 And Abraham took Ishmael his son, and all that were born in his house, and all that were bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham’s house; and circumcised the flesh of their foreskin in the selfsame day, as God had said unto him. 24 And Abraham [was] ninety years old and nine, when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. 25 And Ishmael his son [was] thirteen years old, when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin.
1. We saw in Genesis 17:18 that Ishmael was not living unto God, that Abraham was concerned for his being. God, in his concern and love for Abraham told him that even though he was not walking with Him, that He would bless him anyway - bless him as much as he could.
This pictures God’s love in a little bit different perspective than usual. He loves the lost children of believers. That should be a comfort to believers that have lost relatives. His love may not be able to overcome their rejection of Him, but He can bless them as much as He can. This might well be a very important praying point for those that do not see their relatives coming to God.
It is also true that God blesses the lost in some manners just as He blesses the believer. Both lost and saved benefit from the rain, the sun, life and all those general items that man as a whole enjoys.
2. Again in Genesis 17:1-27 I am left to wonder, after reading it several times, IF Ishmael could have been the promised line. Note the flow of this text. God has announced the coming birth of a son to Sarah, and Abraham laughed at the thought. He then expresses his wish that Ishmael would walk with God. God then mentions that He would make a nation of Isaac, and in deference to Abraham’s concern for Ishmael tells him that Ishmael will also become a nation. Now, this had already been promised to Hagar, but is now information given to Abraham.
There are two possibilities here. One, that Ishmael could have been receiver of the promised line, or on the other hand this was just a comment of Abraham that God ignored and returned to Isaac, then after He is finished with Isaac, He consoles Abraham by telling him Ishmael will also be blessed.
Which of these is true? I suspect the first, but I’m not sure there is Scriptural proof of such. It would also give rise to great conversations with the staunch Calvinist and the relationship of the passage to election and free will.
Adam Clarke hints at this when he suggests that Abraham seems to be wishing that Ishmael could have had that relationship with God in Genesis 17:18 (His comment is in his Romans commentary.) Yet, in his Genesis commentary he clearly shows that God had other plans and that this was not a possibility.
I’d like to interject a brief overview of the Genesis account to see if we can sort this out.
12:7 the land is promised
13:14-15, 17 the land is again mentioned
13:16 His seed would be as the dust on earth
15:1-3 Abraham complains that Eliezer/servant is his only heir
15:4 heir promised from his own loins
15:5 his seed to be as the stars in number
15:6 Abraham believes and it is counted for righteousness
15:18 the land is given
16:1ff Hagar is given to Abraham and she conceives and of course Sarah is mad.
16:9ff Hagar is told her seed would be multiplied
16:12 Hagar is told that Ishmael will be a handful in adulthood
17:1-5 Abraham is mentioned to be father of nations (nations and kings 12:6)
17:7-8 the land is to go to Abraham’s seed/future generations
17:9-14 circumcision is set forth as a coming requirement
17:15-16 Sarah is to have son/mother of nations and kings
17:17 Abraham does not believe
17:18 Abraham laments Ishmael’s direction (God already set his course it seems in 16:12)
17:19, 21 his coming son through Sarah is to be Isaac -- covenant is to be with him and his seed.
17:20 Ishmael is to be a great nation
17:23-27 circumcision done to all in Abraham’s camp including Ishmael
18:1-15 Sarah still unbelieving (laughed) about child. Abraham’s belief/disbelief is not mentioned
21:1-8 Isaac comes on the scene
21:9ff Hagar is run off --
21:18 Ishmael is to be a great nation
22:15ff covenant is confirmed -- Abraham is to be blessed, large seed, and in his seed the nations would be blessed (Christ)
I know that Abraham thought Ishmael could possibly be the promised line, but whether this was ever a possible in God’s mind/plan, I don’t think we can determine. I think logically that since Ishmael came from an incorrect response from Sarah that this probably was not a possibility. It seems however, that Ishmael was not living in a manner consistent with being the promised line.
3. Paul seems to be saying, folks you are attempting to move from the place of sons to the place of rejects, of bondage, of ranker. You are not of the spiritual line of Ishmael, but of the line of promise, why are you trying to live like the other guys?
Is this not what Christians are trying to do today? Today we have all the "Christian" trappings that are identical to the world. We have:
Christian Hip Hop - even a hip-hop version of the Bible
Christian everything the world has in music
Christian action figures
Christian credit counseling
Christian romance novels - based on Biblical characters
Christians are living like the other guys!
Christians don’t want to be identified with the world, but they want to be just like the world, so they take everything of the world, tack on the term "Christian" and call it theirs. FOLKS THAT IS THE WORLD - tacking on the term "Christian" doesn’t change the sum and substance of anything!
God says, that we are to be lighthouses unto the world, how can we be a lighthouse if they can’t tell us from themselves?
4. I think Genesis 17:18 is a grand verse for parents, especially those that have an adult child that has not followed the Lord. Here, before God, Abraham laments his sons living, and yet God does not condemn nor reproach Abraham for not raising him properly.
Adult children make adult decisions and must live with the consequences. The parent, if they tried to parent correctly, are not responsible for wandering mature children.
The passage also pictures the great love that Abraham had for this child conceived in sin. This is natural, and should be the attitude of parents in that situation. It is not the child’s fault that the parent made a mistake.
This is parenthetical to the point of number four in application and clearly a rabbit trail that I would like to follow for a moment or two. I might mention that I used the phrase "conceived in sin" and I believe this to be the Scriptures analysis of the situation, but there is a major item to consider of Abraham, or any Old Testament saint and their lifestyle. They were not as we. They did not have the Holy Spirit indwelling them as we have. There are many in the reformed camp that would dispute this truth, but there is no reason for the Lord to promise the Spirit to the apostles if they already had Him within.
Without the Holy Spirit within you there is a great lack in the spiritual stalwartness that we enjoy; they had no leading of the Spirit, nor convicting of the Spirit as directly as we. Thus, we must understand that they were just as prone to sin as we, but equipped with fewer tools than we.
We, even enjoying the work of the Spirit, often choose to sin, how much more easily must it have been for the Old Testament saint to choose to sin. I can imagine, Sarah telling Abraham to take Hagar - "hey, whatever works for you, works for me." Yes, a little simplistic and possibly base, but this is about how I see the Genesis account. She offered, he did it, she got mad, and everyone suffered for it.
There is also the fact that the Old Testament saint was not yet regenerated, they were accepted because their sin was COVERED but they were not in the family of God in a complete manner until the work of the cross. Now, if that doesn’t ring a bell, that means that they were operating under their fallen nature - not an easy time to refrain from sin if you know the Scriptures.
Consider also, Ishmael - the one that didn’t have a vote in the soap opera - he was just dumped into it - people, THINK before you decide to satisfy your own lust, the offspring may suffer immeasurably for your moment of chosen sin.
And now to the real point of this diversion. We in the church age have the Spirit within us to aid us in our control of our inner man. The Old Testament saint did not. Will we not be held to a higher standard than they? We have no real reason to ever sin, other than our own desire to allow it to come to pass. With the Spirit within we have all capability of saying no to ourselves, but we so often opt to sin anyway.
5. We might take a little time to think about our Bible and how we view it. We would hold to inerrancy and defend it to the hilt, yet we allow some mighty sloppy interpretation on the part of pastors and teachers.
We were in a church years ago and the man was drawing things from the verse we were studying that just plain and simply were not there. I in my usual obnoxious fashion asked him how he could say those things came from that particular verse. His reply ran along the line that the quarterly says it so it is so. He would not question the quarterly nor its authority to teach him nor his students.
Inerrancy is important but we should not forget that accuracy of interpretation is as important if not the more. After all wouldn’t the Roman church agree with us on inerrancy, wouldn’t many cults agree with us on inerrancy, indeed the Calvinist and the Armenian would agree with us on inerrancy, yet look at the wide differences in interpretation that we get from the same inerrant Scriptures.
Of course all interpretations are completely accurate - to those that have interpreted. Each one believes he has the truth.
Thus I guess you need to understand that the Judaizers were honest in their beliefs, even though they were wrong.
This might bring up a question that I am not sure I can answer.
How do we determine who is right in this area of interpretation? Since we are all right (in our own eyes) how do we know we are right, how do I know that I interpret Paul’s comments correctly?
Let’s list some possible items to consider:
a. Compare Scripture with Scripture.
b. Compare your interpretation of a passage with other Scripture. Is your interpretation consistent with all other Scripture?
c. Be walking closely with God and seeking His guidance in all your study and thinking.
d. Compare your interpretation with that of other known scholars (notice that makes you one too by following this item :-)
e. Compare your interpretation with that of the church in years past. Are you consistent with what other church leaders of past ages taught.
If all these are done, then you have a fair chance of a proper interpretation, but be careful even then, for some of these people you are comparing to may be in error.
So, how did Paul know that he could be so definite on what he was telling the Galatians? He had received his information from Christ Himself - he didn’t need to compare with anyone, he was the authority of the day.
More to the point is the fact that the method of interpretation is critical. If you interpret Scripture allegorically, you will end up in the Roman or cultic camp. You will find that there is no authority as to truth in this method.
I might add that this passage is not showing that Paul interpreted allegorically. He was simply using a picture argument to disprove error. See the next item of application.
I might give you a little picture of the importance of being careful in interpretation. It would have been easy for me to continue on in my thinking about Ishmael and the possibility of his being the promised line and gone haywire with super new information for the church, however when I went back to the passage in Genesis and interpreted Scripture with Scripture it was much more clear that it was likely only Abraham that thought this might be a possibility rather than it being a real possibility with God.
6. In a further need of comment in this area, in verse 24 "Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the Mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar." Paul is not interpreting the Genesis account allegorically; he is using the account as an allegory to show a truth. There is a vast difference.
He is not saying that when Moses set down the account that it was meant as an allegory and that all believers since that time should interpret it allegorically, he is saying that this account pictures what I am trying to convey to you Galatians.
He goes on in the following verses to use other parts of the Genesis account in the same manner.
To the point, when you read the Genesis account you need to interpret it literally, and understand the plain literal meaning of the words, not look for some deep spiritual interpretation.
Allegorical interpretation treats the passage as only a vehicle or truck to carry the message. The message once understood enables the reader to discard the actual verse. This is a most dangerous method of viewing the Word.
I once asked a youth group to interpret Revelation 1:13-16 allegorically. The result was hilarious. One that has always stuck in my mind was from a very sharp teenage girl. She said it was a hippie in a Bahai robe standing in an old bathtub with brass claw feet with the water running. I asked the others in the class to prove her wrong and obviously they could not.
Christ in essence used allegory when he used parables. They were fictional accounts that He used to teach literal truths. Paul in this passage just uses a real account to teach his literal truth.
When Scripture uses allegory, it is quite evident in the passage where it is used.
Allegory is used to pass on information more easily to the listener. I once used a wall as an allegory. One day the students wanted to go to the cafeteria for class so they could have coffee with their class - not necessarily a commentary on the teachers interesting lectures, but then again it may have been.
At any rate the information I wanted to convey was the end times. When we arrived at the cafeteria, I realized my overlays would not be useful since there was no overhead projector. I leaned back in my chair about four feet from the wall and proceeded to divide the wall, imaginarily, into the sections of the end time. Each time I would speak of the tribulation I would point to where it was supposed to be on the wall. As the hour went on, I stopped pointing and noticed when I mentioned one of the areas some of the students would actually turn their eyes to that portion of the wall.
I was using the wall to visually teach and convey information. So, Paul used a historical series of events to convey his argument against the Judaizers, and I must say that he couldn’t have done a better job of giving forth this information.
7. One other item that some suggest, and probably rightly so, if all this is true, is that the Judaizers are of the law, are of sin, are of bondage, and are of Ishmael so to speak. Since Abraham kicked Hagar and Ishmael out should not the proper living Christians give the Judaizers a swift kick in the get out of here? I think that is probably the direct application that the Galatians should have made.
This would also give rise for immediate reconsideration of your belief system as a person that was following them - do I really want to follow bondage, and leave with the Judaizers or commit myself to the freedom of grace and stick with the good guys? This would have been a highly charged time in the life of the Galatian church.
Those that had rejected the Judaizers would be high on their superior thinking, knowing that they had finally been proven correct - that is just a little application of what I know of human nature, I trust I am incorrect. Anyway, they would have been readying themselves for the expulsion of the Judaizers and would have been turning their sights on those that had been bought into the false teaching.
What a time of soul searching some of the Judaizers must have gone through. Having seen their doctrine split open and exposed as falsehood. There must have been some that were convinced and turned away from their error - surely there must have been.
8. Okay, it is time to get nervous. I am going to talk about the covenants. No, I am not a covenant theologian, no I am not reform, I am unabashedly a dispensationalist, but the Bible talks of covenants and so must we if we are going to do the Bible justice.
There are two covenants mentioned here. The old and the new basically are in view at this point. Specifically it is the Old Testament Law compared to the Promise theology, if you will, of the Old Testament. Both worked together through the time of the law and into the time of Christ. At the point of Christ the Promise covenant was changed, or maybe a better term might be, fulfilled.
The one covenant, that of the flesh and Ishmael lead nowhere spiritually, but were a promise or covenant between God and Hagar/Ishmael whereby they were blessed with a great seed and a great nation. Unfortunately it was separate from the other covenant which lead to great spiritual peace.
The other covenant, the promise made to Abraham is usually tied up in four promises. I think that a fifth is clear from this passage in Galatians.
a. Abraham was to be blessed.
b. Abraham was to be given a land.
c. Abraham would have a great seed.
d. Abraham would bless all nations.
The fifth seems to be the singular seed that Paul mentions, Christ Himself. Christ was not only from the plural seed of Abraham, but was "the Seed" that was to fulfill this promise to Abraham and his progeny.
Galatians 3:16 "Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ."
Galatians 3:19 "Wherefore then [serveth] the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; [and it was] ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator."
Now, I may be splitting straws to make a fifth part of the promise, you could say that there are four and that the third one has two aspects - and you would be within bounds in my mind, but the specific thought of a plural seed or progeny, as well as a singular seed is required by the Word Itself.
9. Let’s list the two covenants and their information for ease of observation:
SEED OF ISHMAEL SEED OF ISAAC
of the flesh of the promise
of Ishmael’s promise of Isaac’s promise
of the old of the new
no singular seed singular Seed, Christ
results in physical numbers results in physical and spiritual numbers
of Sinai of Jerusalem
of the law of grace
of bondage of freedom
of the past of the future
of bareness of fruitfulness (vs. 27)
of conflict of peace (vs. 29)
cast off accepted as heirs
One wouldn’t want to miss the picture that Sinai brings forth either - that of idol production and the giving of the law.
10. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia suggests that the Sinai aspect relates to physical Israel even unto today and Jerusalem relates to spiritual, heavenly Israel. Let’s consider that for a moment. Is this true or not?
In reality it definitely is true. Present Jews are bound up in the Law while rejecting grace, though a few have left the law and are enjoying salvation through Christ, so indeed, this is true. It is also true that the illustration Paul uses is limited to the lost Jewish law abider versus the saved Jewish/Gentile grace acceptor. (Indeed, there is a possibility that there are Gentiles in the lost Jewish grouping as well because the Old Testament has a complete set of rules whereby a Gentile can be accepted into the Jewish faith as a sojourner or stranger, as they are called in the Old Testament.
In the selfsame day was Abraham circumcised, and Ishmael his son. 27 And all the men of his house, born in the house, and bought with money of the stranger, were circumcised with him."
The question now is this. Just why would Paul describe Ishmael as being in the bondage of the covenant as compared to Abraham which was under the promise? It would seem that Ishmael was under the covenant because dad forced it upon him, but not under any subservience or faith in God. God made a deal with Abraham for his son Ishmael thus putting Ishmael under another covenant. He was circumcised under the Abrahamic covenant, but was ultimately under a different promise of God, than the one given to Abraham - that which Isaac came under.
I suspect that Genesis 17:18 is the key and the answer, "And Abraham said unto God, O that Ishmael might live before thee!" Evidently Ishmael had rejected God but God wanted to bless him as much as He could for Abraham’s sake.
Thus, Agar (Hagar) and Sarah are pictured as the two covenants - one of the law and one of grace; one of bondage, and one of freedom; one of the flesh and one of the spirit; one of sin and one of salvation.
Ishmael had no promise, he had only the law that he could not keep. Abraham and Isaac’s seed were under the law, but they also had the promise and the results future of that promise.
Genesis 17:18 is of interest in the NASB. It adds a little to the conversation "But God said, "No, but Sarah your wife will bear you a son,” It seems God knew Ishmael’s heart and that it was not going to change so God was moving on the Isaac front. (The NET Bible, ASV, New King James also inserts the "no.")
Jamieson Fausset and Brown suggest that even though Ishmael did not produce the church that he may have enjoyed the benefit of it - not likely from what we’ve seen thus far.
Isaac is an interesting name in the Hebrew "yits-khawk" is how it is pronounced - imagine calling him to dinner - some would think you were sneezing me thinks. ("yitschaq" is the word.) Now here is the clincher, Isaac means "he laughs."
The comments concerning Jerusalem show once again that the city that is so prominent in the Bible is of spiritual importance as well. It, when contrasted to Mt. Sinai is the contrast between law and grace. Jerusalem is pictured as above Mt. Sinai. This is true geographically, it is north and some east of Sinai, but it is also always up from anywhere in the world to the Israelite - they always went UP to Jerusalem. It is the center of all God’s activities with the Jew and in my mind it is the center of all activity with man in general. (See my study on the location of the Garden of Eden.)
Jerusalem is also contrasted with Sinai as free, while Sinai is in bondage.
One further note concerning Jerusalem being the center of activity of God’s dealing with mankind - verse twenty-six "But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all." Mother of us all relates directly to spiritually in the context, of believers being free, but it may also look back to the city being the starting point of mankind. How else could it be the mother of us ALL?
You might find Hebrews 12:22 of interest in relation to Jerusalem - the city of God. "But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels,"
Jerusalem isn’t just a tourist destination to make the pastors and television evangelists of our day money; it is the City of God. It is that place where God has dealt with man for centuries and will for the future unto the end. Jerusalem is God’s place on earth to work with mankind. Something special, not just a place of interest.
For it is written, Rejoice, [thou] barren that bearest not; break forth and cry, thou that travailest not: for the desolate hath many more children than she which hath an husband.
Paul says it is written - where is it written might come to mind? This is from Isaiah 54:1 "Sing, O barren, thou [that] didst not bear; break forth into singing, and cry aloud, thou [that] didst not travail with child: for more [are] the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife, saith the LORD."
This seems to continue the picture message that Paul is giving. It relates to the fact that Sarah was barren, but that she was told by God that she would have a child - and she did - the seed that would produce Messiah.
Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise.
Isn’t that just what I said? :-) Messiah came to provide adoptability for all that would come to the Savior, through the promise.
But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him [that was born] after the Spirit, even so [it is] now.
This speaks to the fact that Ishmael gave trouble to the one promised, and that this was true even at that time - those in bondage to the law are persecuting those that are free from the law by grace. What a sharp jab at the Judaizers - Paul couldn’t have made a picture more plain for the folks listening to his letter - the Judaizers are after you - to cause you trouble.
Genesis 21:9-10 speaks to this trouble between Ishmael and the promised line. We aren’t clear from this passage just what the "mocking" was or who it was related too, but it is clear it was trouble between Ishmael the one under bondage, and the Promised, free, line of Abraham. "And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, which she had born unto Abraham, mocking. 10 Wherefore she said unto Abraham, Cast out this bondwoman and her son: for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, [even] with Isaac."
Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.
This is reference to the passage just quoted in Genesis twenty-one. We as believers are not of the bondwoman but of the freewoman and Paul states this in the next verse.
So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.
What a vivid picture Paul has painted with words to show once again in yet another manner that we are not under the law, we are not outside the family and that we are free, born of the Promised One Jesus Christ.
The further very clear implication is that those under bondage are not acceptable among the free - in short - kick those law following Judaizers out on their legalistic, bondage ridden pants and get back to being the free people that you are!
Just some misc. information that might interest some.
Note should be made of the sons gathering to bury their father (Genesis 25:9), an act of conciliation, though we don’t know if there was animosity between the two. Paul’s comment rather indicates this possibility as well as the jeering of Isaac early in life.
Smith’s dictionary lists pure Arabs as descendant from Joktan while mixed Arabs descend from Ishmael.
It seems that Hagar and Ishmael parted company as both, in the Chronicles, have their own lines, the Hagarites and the Ishmaelites.
Hagar means flight or stranger and was an Egyptian and may have been a gift from Pharaoh when Abraham was down there being a little dishonest.
The angel that appeared to Hagar when she first conceived is actually Christ pre-incarnate. If you do a study of the Angel of the Lord you will find He has qualities of the Godhead and is most likely The Son. There is a study of this on my website for those that are interested.
The seed of Ishmael have no relationship to God due to their father’s rejection of God. The implication is that there might have been a relationship had he not rejected God. None of these peoples have a special relation with God, other than what they can have through Christ in our day.
Copyright 2008. Used by Permission. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording or otherwise without the prior permission of the author, except as provided by U.S.A. copyright laws. Do feel free to make copies for friends that might be interested as long as you do not make profit from the copies. This is God's work and I don't want anyone to profit from it in a material way.
Derickson, Stanley. "Commentary on Galatians 4". "Derickson's Notes on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany