Sunday Evening Bible Study
March 10, 1996
Paul is writing to a group of churches which he had helped to establish.
After having established these churches, there were a group of teachers called "Judaizers" who came in and began spreading their own doctrines.
The Judaizers felt that a Gentile couldn't really be saved apart from first becoming a Jew, and that started by being circumcised.
Setting the scene:
Before we get any further into tonight's study, we need to do some Biblical groundwork laying, to better understand our teaching in Galatians.
God made promises to Abram concerning offspring:
Abraham is 75 years old, and God speaks to him -
when leaving Ur and arriving in Canaan
when separating from Lot
after rescuing Lot and refusing Sodom's reward
Abraham is not 85 years old, and he still doesn't have a child.
God doesn't speak, but Abram takes Sarai's maid and they have a child.
Instead of letting God fulfill His promises, they take the matter into their own hands, and with their own works they try to fulfill the promise.
God speaks again, promising to bless Abraham's seed, but Abraham is probably thinking that God means Ishmael.
God clarifies it, Sarah will have a child, and this will be the heir, not Ishmael.
It's only the promised child that will be the heir, not the child born of human, fleshly scheming.
Isaac, the child of promise, is born.
Ishmael mocks his little brother, and ends up getting kicked out.
vs.11 It was grievous to Abraham to obey his wife in this thing, but it wasn't when she said to take her handmaid!
Isn't it funny that Sarah is held up in 1Peter 3 as the example of women everywhere to submit to their husbands, and yet the only one I see submitting is Abraham to Sarah!
As we've seen, Ishmael was born because of the human scheming of Sarah, trying her best to figure out how God's promises were going to be fulfilled when she herself couldn't get pregnant.
Isaac, on the other hand, was born simply by the work of God in Sarah's life.
She seemed to even have a hard time believing that it could happen, yet it did!
Be careful of taking things into your own hands!
Certainly there are times when we ought to get up off our seats and get moving.
But there are times when things just aren't right, things aren't in place, and we try and push to make them fit and make them get going.
I have felt a calling to be a senior pastor for over twenty years.
Almost Calvary Placentia -
About ten years ago, I almost took things into my own hands. We had a small Bible Study meeting in our condo in Placentia, and decided we'd start Calvary Chapel of Placentia. We got four other couples to make a committment with us, and we were almost on our way! But four days before we were going to be prayed for and sent out by Calvary Anaheim, I started realizing what was happening. I realized that we were twisting peoples' arms and trying to come up with the right amount of people to start a church. But not everyone was really in it correctly. I gulped hard, and called it all off. Within one month, everyone we were depending on was gone, one couple moved to San Diego, two couples ended up divorcing. If we had started a church, it would have been disastrous, and there wouldn't have been anyone there. We also found out that at that same time, Bob Kopeny actually started the real Calvary Chapel Placentia. We would have been tripping over each others' feet.
When we started Fullerton, it was totally different.
God began to speak to all our hearts that it was time. There was no arm twisting. Instead of just a few couples starting off, God put together about fifty people to start with. He brought together worship leaders, Children's Ministry leaders, even a beautiful crew of sound people and set-up people.
It's a lot easier when God's the one doing the work.
Be careful of trying to fulfill God's promises on your own.
You'll sense the uphill battle the whole way.
This story we've just gone through with Abraham and Sarah has another level to it.
We've only seen the outward, historical level, yet Paul is telling us that there is a deeper, spiritual level to it.
Be careful with allegories!
The problem with looking for allegories or symbolical meanings in the Scriptures, is that it's a practice that's been horribly abused.
You can literally make the Scriptures say anything you want to when you start looking for symbolism.
That's not to say that there isn't a deeper meaning, but you better be REAL CAREFUL if you're going to try and teach on this level.
The beautiful thing about this allegory, is that we already have God's understanding to the story, through the apostle Paul.
Paul is now going to show how the Old Covenant of trying to earn God's favor through works, which is the Law is parallel with Hagar and Ishmael.
The New Covenant, which is salvation by grace through Jesus Christ, is the parallel with Sarah and Isaac.
Mount Sinai was where Moses received the ten commandments from God.
It was where God wrote up a "contract", or, "covenant" of works with the people through the keeping of the Law.
Paul is saying that this attempt at keeping the Law is just like what happened to Abraham with Hagar.
Remember that God had made promises concerning an heir to Abraham, and Abraham took it upon himself to try and make the heir the best according to his understanding.
This is just like a person who thinks they can achieve God's righteousness by keeping the Law.
In other words, looking at Hagar is like looking at how the people are trying to achieve God's pleasure through keeping of the Law which came from Mount Sinai.
And these people are just like the ones in Jerusalem in Paul's day, the very center of Judaism.
Hagar was never more than a purchased slave in Abraham's household.
She never was considered a full wife of Abraham.
And so, her children would be considered as slaves too.
Those who are trying to keep the Law are in a type of slavery, a type of bondage to the Law.
There's more than one Jerusalem.
There's an earthly city, and a heavenly city.
And Sarah is like the heavenly city.
She wasn't a slave of Abraham, but was a free woman, the very wife of Abraham.
This picture of Sarah is that of her being a mother of those of us who have been born again, who are free in Christ.
Paul illustrates the allegory by quoting #Isa 54:1, a song of triumph looking for deliverance from a foreign yoke.
You have to be a little careful here, because Isaiah 54:1 isn't talking about Sarah and Hagar, but only generally about women who can't have children and women who can.
The reference to "she which hath an husband" is talking about a woman who was able to have kids as opposed to one who didn't even have a husband.
It gets confusing when comparing directly with the allegory because the woman who was able to have kids was Hagar, who wasn't really the one married to Abraham.
The implication is that Sarah, the woman who couldn't have children, would be rejoicing be she would end up having more kids than the woman who was able to give birth to children.
The understanding is that in eternity, in heaven itself, there's going to be a whole lot more spiritual descendants of Sarah than there are of Hagar!
Those of us who are trusting in Christ by faith, rather than works.
Here's another interesting parallel in this allegory.
In Genesis 21 we say how Ishmael mocked Isaac at the party for his weaning.
In the same way, these Judaizers are persecuting those who are preaching the truth of grace, like Paul.
Paul takes the allegory one further step, and doesn't bother to elaborate on it.
His meaning is clear enough.
The Galatians need to get rid of these heretical, legalistic teachers!
He's just clarifying which side we're on, the side of being free.
He's going to start building on this in the next chapter, our freedom in Christ.