Keep Standing Firm
Sunday, June 26, 2016
Gal. 4:21 Tell me, you who want to be under law, do you not listen to the law? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the bondwoman and one by the free woman. 23 But the son by the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and the son by the free woman through the promise. 24 This is allegorically speaking: for these women are two covenants, one proceeding from Mount Sinai bearing children who are to be slaves; she is Hagar. 25 Now this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem above is free; she is our mother. 27 For it is written,
"Rejoice, barren woman who does not bear; Break forth and shout, you who are not in labor;
For more are the children of the desolate Than of the one who has a husband."
28 And you brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise. 29 But as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now also. 30 But what does the Scripture say?
"Cast out the bondwoman and her son, For the son of the bondwoman shall not be an heir with the son of the free woman."
31 So then, brethren, we are not children of a bondwoman, but of the free woman.
5:1 It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. NASB
From verse 21 “you who want to be under law”
Surely there are no Christians that want to be under law! What did Paul mean? You who want to be under law... This is the same old struggle that mankind has had since the very beginning. God has rules for us to live by and we take those rules and turn them around and look at them from our cockeyed point of view. In some ways it is easier to follow the rules than it is to follow God. We would rather “do it ourselves”. This is the cry of every two year old child. “Me no do what you say me do. Me do what me say me do.” This was what my sister-in-law said as a very precocious two year old. This perfectly expresses human nature seeking to do things its own way.
God has a better plan. He wants us to follow Him, to walk with Him, to live with Him, as He leads us through the rules.
Yes, if we are human, there is this part of us that wants to be under law. If we are living by the law, instead of by faith in God, we can say to God, I am following your rules, now leave me alone and let me do it my way. But God has a better plan!
Paul is concerned. He is perplexed. He desires to help these new Christians to live free of the bondage that holds people in chains. Here he uses an Old Testament story to illustrate the difference between the children of bondage, and the children of promise. He says this goes back to Abraham and Sarah.
God had promised them a son. Before God fulfilled that promise, Abraham and Sarah got impatient. They sought to carry out the promise on their own. After all, Sarah was getting old and was past the time when women usually had children. So they called in the second string, Sarah's bond servant, Hagar. Abraham had a son by Hagar: Ishmael.
But God said this did not fulfill the promise. He would still give a son to Sarah and Abraham. They laughed and this became the name of the son God did give to Sarah when she was ninety years of age. Isaac means laughter.
As Paul indicates, out of jealousy, Sarah sends Hagar and Ishmael away, not wanting her son's inheritance to be endangered by the son of Abraham by another woman; not wanting Isaac's life to be endangered by Hagar and Ishmael.
Children of promise, or children of bondage. Who are we? Paul tells the disciples in Galatia they are children of promise if they are living by faith, and not by law. Verse 28 And you brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise.
He speaks of Jerusalem below and Jerusalem above. He draws a distinction between natural Jerusalem and Jerusalem above. The Jerusalem above is our mother. The Jerusalem below is compared to the children of bondage. They are living under law. The Jerusalem above is living by grace through faith.
The Jerusalem above put their faith in God's promise instead of trying to save themselves. They rely on God to save them, not their own goodness. They believe God loves them and it is a good thing that He is their Lord.
In Matthew's gospel there is an incident recorded about Jesus's concern for people putting their faith in themselves instead of in God's promises.
5 And the disciples came to the other side and had forgotten to take bread. 6 And Jesus said to them, "Watch out and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees." 7 And they began to discuss among themselves, saying, "It is because we took no bread." 8 But Jesus, aware of this, said, "You men of little faith, why do you discuss among yourselves that you have no bread? 9 "Do you not yet understand or remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets you took up? 10 "Or the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many large baskets you took up? 11 "How is it that you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread? But beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees." 12 Then they understood that He did not say to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. NASB
The Judaiser's who were causing a problem in the early church were teaching what the Pharisees and Sadducees had been teaching. They were putting their faith in their own ability to keep the law in order to maintain their relationship with God. Jesus had warned the disciples about them.
We must not put our faith in our ability to obey God's rules. We must be certain our faith is in God who can keep us and protect us from the enemy.
Verse 28 And you brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise.
To whom was Paul speaking? The Gentile Christians in Galatia, and God would have us know that this message is for us today, as well. There were Jewish believers as well in those congregations in Galatia, but the main problem Paul was addressing was the problem of the Judaisers who wanted Gentile believers to submit to circumcision and to the rest of the Jewish laws and traditions. Paul wanted them to know that Jews and and Gentiles alike are saved by grace through faith – through the promise of God.
The people of God are they who are circumcised in heart, not in the flesh. The Jerusalem above is the city of God. It is composed of those who belong to Christ and have “clothed themselves with Christ.” Going back to chapter 3 of Galatians, Paul said:
Gal 3:27 For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise. NASB
True Israel is not a geographical location, or the continuation of a bloodline, or the keeping of certain traditions. True Israel, as taught in the Old and New Testaments is made up of those who are walking in fellowship with God. They have submitted to His Lordship and are trusting Him to save them. They keep the law because they trust God. They do not trust God because they are keeping the law.
True Israel, Abraham's offspring are the heirs of promise. “Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness.” We are one in Christ when we put our faith in what God has done for us through His Only Begotten Son, Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, God's Anointed One. We receive forgiveness of sin, so that we can live in a relationship with God. This relationship should be the core of our being, the center of our lives, the hope of our future. This relationship will influence everything we do.
5:1 It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.
Stand firm. This is the nature of faith. As we have been looking at the first three chapters of Genesis, and the first 3 chapters of John on Wednesday, we have seen what faith is and what the opposite of faith is. Faith is accepting the truth. Faith is clinging to the truth of God's love for us. Faith is holding on to the truth that we are loved by the Creator of the Universe. Faith is trusting God so much that we follow Him as He leads us in obedience to the rules He has given us.
Faith is standing firm and not being subject again to a yoke of slavery. Slavery to the lie that we can, on our own earn or deserve the gift of life that God offers us. Slavery to the rules without a relationship with the Rule Giver.
Faith is taking that first step in this relationship with God and trusting Him to work in us to maintain that relationship. Faith is standing up to the enemies of our soul and telling those enemies to get lost, we are on the Lord's side now. We will live for Him. We will die for Him if that is where He leads us. Faith standing firm and saying with Job “though He slay me, yet will I serve Him.”
Faith is the key to living in a relationship with our Creator.
God loves me. He is my Lord. Faith is living as if these statements are true.
God has a plan for your life. It begins by putting your faith in Him. It will continue as you live your life as a child of promise, as a member of God's family, seeking Him and living in relationship with Him every day. Be filled with the Spirit. Offer yourself as a living sacrifice to God.
Keep Standing Firm.