B.C.P. Lent 4 - 30/3/03 : Galatians 4:21-31
Ga:4:21: Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? 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. 27: 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. 28: Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise. 29: But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now. 30: 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. 31: So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.
"Faith is a living, daring confidence in God's grace, so sure and certain that a man could stake his life on it a thousand times." Martin Luther 1483-1546.
The letter to Galatia was written to oppose the Judaisers. They said that to be put right with God you had to trust in Jesus and obey the O.T. Law. Paul is saying that you solely have to trust in Jesus.
Here he uses two O.T. characters to illustrate the O.T. and N.T. This illustration would have been very familiar to the Judaisers who were rooted in the O.T.
Paul is talking about the first two of Abraham's sons. Ishmael and Isaac.
Ishmael was born to Hagar who was the maid to Sarah, Abraham's wife. Ishamel's conception was natural. As the child of a slave he would not receive the same inheritence as a child of Abraham and Sarah.
Ishmael represents those who rely on the O.T. to put themselves right with God. They would rely on the fact they were descendants of Abraham. They sought to be justified by keeping God's laws. However, this resulted in them being in slavery to the law. Unable to keep it in their own strength and, therefore, being condemned by the very thing which they held dear.
Isaac represents the N.T. Those who are born by a miracle. Who have been given life, faith as a gift from God, 'born again'. This faith frees the people of God to live for him in the power of the Holy Spirit. They are forgiven, and will inherit what God has prepared for them in Christ Jesus.
Which leads us to an important question. Am I an Ishmael or an Isaac ?
Do I think that God will accept me because I try my best to be good and act in a 'Christian' way ? That is the way of Ishmael. The way of the Judaizers. The way of the flesh. It will fail, and leads to slavery and condemnation.
If we rely only on God's free gift to us of Jesus then we are an Isaac. Born again of God's gracious gift of faith. Being put right through Jesus death for us. Forgiven and free to serve God. Relying on his Holy Spirit who lives within us. Secure in his unconditional love. Looking forward to the eternal hope that is ours in Christ Jesus.
We need to actively trust in God, not just in our head, but in our whole life. The African impala can jump to a height of over 10 feet and cover a distance of greater than 30 feet. Yet these magnificent creatures can be kept in an enclosure in any zoo with a 3-foot wall. The animals will not jump if they cannot see where their feet will fall. Faith is the ability to trust what we cannot see, and with faith we are freed from the flimsy enclosures of life that only fear allows to entrap us.
As we receive the bread and the wine during this service let it be a physical reminder that we are put right with God solely by his undeserved gift of Jesus. Who died in our place on the cross, so we may have a supernatural life.