Well, two weeks in a row now, we have hit on topics in Galatians 4 that have inspired me and challenged me. These texts really get my emotions flowing because of their content and depth. Galatians 4:21-31 is definitely one of the most challenging texts to preach on and one of the most challenging to understand. My prayer is that I was able to preach it in a way that was clear and in a way that honored God and helped you.
From the cutting room floor:
Because of the depth of this text, as you can imagine, there was a lot that I had to leave out. So here are some tidbits that I found interesting:
- The allegorical section of this text is really cool. Paul is really showing us what Old Testament typology looks like. That’s when something in the OT points ahead to something in the New Testament. So, allegorically, here is what Paul showed us in this text. This graph by Timothy George put this best and for a visual learner like me, I need to learn by pictures.
Ishmael, the son of slavery Isaac, the son of freedom
Birth “according to the flesh” Birth “through the promise”
Old Covenant New Covenant
Mount Sinai [Mount Zion]
Present Jerusalem Heavenly Jerusalem
- As I said on Sunday, this would have been and very well still is, shocking news to the Jews. Paul is saying that the person who belongs to Israel (Rom. 9:6), is the person who puts their trust in Jesus. And he’s saying that the Jews who don’t do that are descendants of Hagar and Ishmael.
- A point of discussion that Paul addressed in this text is the fact that Hagar, was a slave and those who were her descendants are slaves as well. In that culture, a the birth parents determined a person’s status. So, if Hagar were a slave, then Ishmael was a slave. And all their descendants. So, in speaking of the spiritual significance of this, Paul means that any who try to achieve salvation by the law, are Hagar’s descendants, and thus, in spiritual slavery. This quote by Philip Ryken helps us understand this: “Isaac and Ishmael stand for something. There is an analogy between what God did for them and what he offers to us. In the eyes of God, everyone is either an Ishmael or an Isaac. Ultimately, their story is about the gospel of God’s free grace.”
- The last thing that I cut out what this little phrase from Galatians 4:30: “What does Scripture say?” I pondered this question for a long time the other. “What does Scripture say?” should be something we ask quite often and on many different topics in our lives and our world. What does Scripture say about friends? What does it say about business? What does it say about marriage, singleness, or being a widow(er)? What does it say about how to handle stress, anxiety, and fear? But most importantly: what does Scripture say about God? What does it say about our relationship with God? What does it say about our need for grace and mercy? Isn’t that a great question: What does Scripture say?
Quotes that I didn’t use:
Here’s a smattering of quotes I didn’t use that I highlighted.
- “We forget that Christianity is a form of liberty, and not slavery. We reduce faith in Christ to a list of rules or traditions. We evaluate our spiritual standing by what we do for God, rather than by what God has done for us in Jesus Christ. In truth, we are all recovering Pharisees, in constant danger of forgetting to live only by faith and choosing instead to go right back under the law.” Philip Ryken
- “From the very beginning there was a fundamental spiritual difference between the two sons. One son was born by proxy, the other by promise. One came by works; the other came by faith. One was a slave; the other was free. Thus Ishmael and Isaac represent two entirely different approaches to religion: law against grace, flesh against Spirit, self-reliance against divine dependence.” Philip Ryken
- “When Paul mentioned Jerusalem, he was speaking not only geographically, but also spiritually. Jerusalem stands for God’s people. In this case, it refers especially to the Jews and to the Judaism of Paul’s day—the institution of Jewish religion.” Philip Ryken
- “Hagar equals Mount Sinai, which corresponded to the present Jerusalem, because just as Hagar and Ishmael were both slaves so also were all those who sought to be made right with God on the basis of the law-observant system centered in Jerusalem in a state of spiritual servitude.” Timothy George
- “F. F. Bruce has put it, “Whatever moral or legal problems may have been raised by Sarah’s demand in its historical setting, in Paul’s application it becomes the statement of a basic gospel truth: legal bondage and gospel freedom cannot coexist.” Timothy George
From the cheap seats:
- This past winter, my friend, James Ellis, coached his 78th year of basketball at Days Creek (not really 78th, but he’s been there a long time). But this year was special because he was coaching his son, Blake, for Blake’s senior year. To say that it was a privilege and a joy to watch from a distance is an understatement. Days Creek finished 3rd in the state this year and Blake was the District Player of the Year, while James was the Coach of the Year. What a dream season for these guys.
- Now, that translates to me in a very small, yet tangible way because this is my 20th year at UVC coaching high school baseball and it will be my son, Nathan’s, 1st to play for his dad. On Monday of this week, Nathan was on the varsity roster and I was his coach. We’re looking forward to the next 4 years and we know from the experiences of others that time flies and we’re going to enjoy it. But I can say, as a dad, I’m very proud of Nathan for his hard-work, humility and his love for his teammates. Should be fun.
- Finally, when I think of all the ways that God is at work around us, I’m simply stunned by God’s kindness. Hearing and seeing God’s people, represent Him in our world, in so many different ways, reminds me of His varied grace and His immense greatness.
To watch or listen to the sermon described in this post, please click here.