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RCCG Miracle Land Dundalk
Thursday, August 15 2019

Contributor: Leye Olayiwola

INTRODUCTION: In our last study, we considered and reiterated the truth that we (as believers in Jesus Christ) are children of God through our faith in Christ Jesus and not by our observance of the law given to Moses. We will continue in digging deeper into this truth as we consider the allegories between two distinct covenants, distinguishing the life of faith (freedom) from that of the flesh (bondage). This is key to successful Christian living under this current dispensation. 

VERSES 8-11: “But then, indeed, when you did not know God, you served those which by nature are not gods. But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage? You observe days and months and seasons and years.  I am afraid for you, lest I have labored for you in vain.”

According to Scripture, there are two kinds of people in the world: the free and the enslaved. The categories are not physical but spiritual. The free are those who, by faith in Jesus Christ, are no longer under the dominion of sin, guilt, condemnation, and death. Jesus purchased an eternal redemption from this spiritual bondage by his atoning sacrifice on the cross. And this glorious freedom is for all who put their trust in Christ (John 8:36).

On the other hand, those outside of Christ are in a state of spiritual bondage. This describes the natural condition of all of us. Because of sin, we are helpless to make ourselves right before God and escape his just judgment. Nothing we can do can atone for our past sin, and we are unable to do anything meeting God’s perfect standard of holiness. This is the bleak reality Jesus taught. “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin” (John 8:34).

The apostle Paul tells the Galatians that, because God sent forth his Son into the world, they are no longer slaves but sons of God (4:4-7). And they have come into this freedom not on the basis of the good works they have done, but because they put their faith and trust in Christ as their Savior. Our justification, which is true liberty, is by faith alone.

But because false teachers have crept into the churches and have persuaded the Galatians they need to keep Jewish laws in order to be saved, Paul fears the Galatians may be losing the very freedom that the gospel promised.

VERSES 12-14:Brethren, I urge you to become like me, for I became like you. You have not injured me at all.  You know that because of physical infirmity I preached the gospel to you at the first.  And my trial which was in my flesh you did not despise or reject, but you received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus.”

Become like me – This means to give up relying on works and self-righteousness like Paul had already done. See Philippians 3:4-10. They needed to realize what Paul already realized, that works could not save them.

For I have become as you are – 1 Corinthians 9:22. Paul ministered among them. He adopted their customs, ate their food, stayed in their homes. He became like one of them to win them for Christ. He became like them (outwardly) so that they could become like him (inwardly).

Firstly, we should follow Paul’s ministry example. We should not be separate from those we minister to. We should make sure that our habits, language, and dress do not offend them. Secondly, we should remember the goal. Our goal is not just to fit in. We try to become like those we minister to (outwardly) as a mean to an end. The end goal is their salvation. We want them to become like us. We must therefore be careful that we only become like them outwardly and not inwardly. Some churches have attempted to become like the world to win the world. But if you become like the world then there is nothing left to win the world too because we aren’t any different than they are.

You know that because of physical infirmity I preached the gospel to you at the first – God uses all things to work together for good. Even suffering, illness, disasters, and disease are used by God to accomplish His purposes. At the time, Paul’s illness certainly wouldn’t have seemed like a good thing. It was obviously painful and inconvenient, painful enough to change his ministry plans. What good could come out of such agony? The answer is: a lot! The church at Galatians was evidently established because Paul went there to recover from his illness.

VERSES 15-20: “What then was the blessing you enjoyed? For I bear you witness that, if possible, you would have plucked out your own eyes and given them to me. Have I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth? They zealously court you, but for no good; yes, they want to exclude you, that you may be zealous for them.  But it is good to be zealous in a good thing always, and not only when I am present with you. My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you, I would like to be present with you now and to change my tone; for I have doubts about you.”

  • You would have plucked out your eyes for me – What changed? Sometimes our relationships gradually fall apart like the relationship between Paul and the Galatians. This is not something that happens overnight. Instead it happens little by little. Why? How can we prevent this slippery slope into disunity? (See Ephesians 4:3*)
  • I have become your enemy? – While we should never strive to be an enemy to others, sometimes people will consider us as an enemy if we tell them the truth. In those cases, we must fulfill our responsibilities faithfully. We answer to God for our actions. Hopefully we will keep a clear conscience that we are blameless if those relationships fail. In like manner, the other side also answers to God for their actions. We are responsible for what we do, not for what others do.
  • Be honest and sincere in proclaiming the gospel (vs 18). Paul sought them out in a commendable manner. His motivations were sincere and genuine. Unfortunately, the false teachers did not match his sincerity. Instead they took advantage of his absence to approach them deviously. Don’t use manipulation or trickery.
  • My children – Paul considered himself as a father to the Galatians. They were not just strangers or even friends. He viewed them as his children. He loved them dearly. He felt responsible for them. He couldn’t bear to see them going down the wrong path. If you follow Paul’s footsteps as a discipler you will have the same experience.

VERSES 21-26: “Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and he of the freewoman through promise, which things are symbolic. For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar— for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children— but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all.”

  • When Paul says in Galatians 4:23 that Ishmael was born "according to the flesh," it means that he was the product of self-reliance. Abraham ceased to rely on God's power to fulfill his word and instead relied on his own power and ingenuity to get a son.
  • Isaac was not born on the basis of self-reliance like Ishmael; because his birth was the result of God's supernatural intervention in fulfillment of his own promise. Abraham had learned his lesson: the only acceptable response to God's merciful promise is trust in that promise.
  • According to verse 24, Hagar and Sarah represent two covenants. Hagar's giving birth to Ishmael is done "according to the flesh" (v. 23). That is just what happened when the law was given at Mt. Sinai. Instead of humbling themselves and trusting God for help to obey his commands, Israel says confidently, "All the words which the Lord has spoken we will do" (Exodus 24:3; Deuteronomy 5:27). All that Israel produced when they tried to keep the law on their own was a legalism which would inherit nothing.
  • Then in verse 26 Paul turns his attention to the other half of the allegory—Sarah and her child, Isaac. He contrasts the present Jerusalem in verse 25 with the "Jerusalem above" in verse 26. What he means by the Jerusalem above can be seen in Colossians 3:1–3*. The Jerusalem above represents the dwelling place of God.

VERSES 27-31: “For it is written: “Rejoice, O barren, You who do not bear! Break forth and shout, You who are not in labor! For the desolate has many more children Than she who has a husband.” Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise. But, as he who was born according to the flesh then persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, even so it is now. Nevertheless what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.” So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free.”

Therefore, spiritually speaking, Sarah is the mother of all Christians—of people whose lives are not merely the product of human resources but of God's supernatural work in their heart. Our real life is not, like Ishmael's, simply owing to the work of man. Our real life is owing to the work of God in us fulfilling his promise to make for himself a people (Genesis 12:1–3) and to put his Spirit within them (Ezekiel 36:27) and write his law on their hearts (Jeremiah 31:33).

  • "Born according to the Spirit" is interchangeable with "born through promise." This confirms that "children of promise" in verse 28 refers to people whose inner life is the work of God's Spirit in fulfillment of his promise. The difference between Ishmael-types and Isaac-types is a supernatural work of the Spirit of God.

CONCLUSION:  Finally, Paul concludes in verse 31 that we—that is, we who live by faith in the Son of God and don't rely on what we can achieve on our own—are not in the slave category but in the category of the free.

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