Children of God Because of God’s Work and Will
12 Brothers, I entreat you, become as I am, for I also have become as you are. You did me no wrong. 13 You know it was because of a bodily ailment that I preached the gospel to you at first, 14 and though my condition was a trial to you, you did not scorn or despise me, but received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus. 15 What then has become of your blessedness? For I testify to you that, if possible, you would have gouged out your eyes and given them to me. 16 Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth? 17 They make much of you, but for no good purpose. They want to shut you out, that you may make much of them. 18 It is always good to be made much of for a good purpose, and not only when I am present with you, 19 my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you! 20 I wish I could be present with you now and change my tone, for I am perplexed about you.
21 Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. 23 But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise. 24 Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. 25 Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia;[e] she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. 27 For it is written,
“Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear;
break forth and cry aloud, you who are not in labor!
For the children of the desolate one will be more
than those of the one who has a husband.”
28 Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. 29 But just as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now. 30 But what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.” 31 So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman.
In the continuing saga of Paul working to keep the new believers in the Galatian area of Asia Minor believing well, this passage highlights two things. First of all Paul begins by emphasizing his relationship with the Galatians. People have come behind him and undercut him. He is going to respond to that. Secondly Paul looks back at the Old Covenant and shows that there are ways to approach God that come from the ideas of people and there is a way to approach God that comes from God. And that will always be true. If there is a way that is God’s way to live, then every other way is not gonna please Him, even if it seems right to a lot of people, which it invariably seems to do. Let’s start by looking at Paul’s relationship with the Galatians.
These parts of Paul’s letters are the hardest to apply and at times even understand because they are so personal. But Paul wants to emphasize that they have cared for him in the past, that those who came after him have not taught the truth and that the truth is the basis for any relationship with a God who is invisible!!
- Paul’s Relationship with the Galatians
- Begins with mutual care
Galatians are taking care of Paul. He has been stoned “to death.”
He mentions v.16 gouging out eyes. Perhaps Paul has a vision problem as a result of a concussion. In any event, God is working through Paul’s trial to establish a relationship with these people.
Paul is taking care of the Galatians: Paul is telling the Galatians about Jesus and the grace of God made available through him. This is a process of discovery for them. Paul describes it like childbirth. It is a process, it can be painful. It ends in a joyous occasion.
- Others are undercutting Paul’s teaching and example
Paul is on the go. He is a pioneer missionary. He is all the time looking for a place where people have never heard the gospel.
18 For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience—by word and deed, 19 by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God—so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ; 20 and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation, 21 but as it is written,
“Those who have never been told of him will see,
and those who have never heard will understand.”
As a result, he has people criticize him for not staying. And he has people take advantage of the fact that he is not around and they come in and undercut the gospel.
- They make much of the people of Galatia. V.17 You can think of this as flattery. You can think of this as appealing to people’s insecurity. It’s trying to attract people by helping them to see that they are important to you. This is a sales technique. The church, unfortunately uses this as a way to attract people as well. If it’s really important that we feel this way to people, then we will only be temporary in our allegiances!
- They teach that Jesus alone for salvation is not enough. We must add some works to Jesus in order to establish our relationship with God. Circumcision, observing days, months, seasons and years. (Rabbit trail of Jehovah’s Witnesses and not observing birthdays or Christmas or any holidays.) Cults create distinctives with their behavior that “creates holiness”. You see, it doesn’t matter that you observe these days, months, seasons and years or don’t observe them. If you do it to maintain a relationship with God or don’t do it to maintain a relationship with God it’s bad both ways.
Jesus only for our salvation.
- People are used for no good purpose. What is it that promotes the kingdom of God? It is following Jesus Christ. It’s not becoming like us, it’s not making sure that you submit to what we think is right. It’s becoming like Jesus!! Trust Jesus to pay for your sin, to reconcile you to God and then trust Jesus to show you how to live best!
- Healthy relationships are built on truth
Truth about who you are.
You are created in the image of God
You are very important to God
Your sin has marred the image of God that you are to bear.
Truth about your sin.
The result of your sin is that you are separated from a real relationship with God.
The result of your sin is that you are separated from the life that God wants you to live.
The result of your sin is that you cannot make these two things right without divine help.
Truth about God’s grace.
Jesus Christ has lived and died and rose again to pay the penalty for our sins.
Jesus Christ has given us teaching, a living example and the Holy Spirit to enlighten and empower our lives today.
Truth about how to access grace.
We must choose to trust Jesus’ death for our life. We must choose to trust in Jesus’ teaching and Spirit for our life.
It will always be easier to measure rules than the above to decide whether or not someone is “In the kingdom”
Parable of the wheat and tares.
- Allegory of Sarah and Hagar’s Children
- Listen to the law
Let’s define the word law quickly. It refers to the first five books of the OT. OT is typically described in either two or three parts. Law and Prophets. OR Law, Prophets and Writings. (Writings are the wisdom literature)
The law speaks to this issue of righteousness. It says things like: Romans 3 is Paul quoting exclusively from the Old Testament in different places:
9 What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one;
11 no one understands; no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good, not even one.”
13 “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
14 “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16 in their paths are ruin and misery,
17 and the way of peace they have not known.”
18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
Or think about David in Psalms 51:
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!
3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words
and blameless in your judgment.
7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
8 Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones that you have broken rejoice.
9 Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.
16 For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
Or Psalms 32:
1 Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.
2 Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
- Hagar slave and Sarah free
Abraham has a promise from God. Abraham has a problem as a result of the promise.
Your descendants will be as the sands of the sea. Gen 12. Gen 15 Abe has been asking about an heir and God says the heir will come from him.
Hagar is a slave. Hagar is Sarah’s handmaid. And it is perfectly culturally appropriate for Hagar to help to resolve the infertility problem. 1. Hagar is a slave. 2. Hagar is a metaphorical Egyptian (worldly ideas and power) 3. Hagar’s availability seems logical to people.
Hagar has a child. This approach to fulfilling the promises of God exists in the OT as an example and contrast. God works His plans out in His ways.
Sarah has a child. It’s a miracle. No one can believe it, it’s too good to be true. It’s obvious that Isaac is born because of the power and will of God. God was necessary. And God has acted. Because God has acted, one should easily see that God’s promises will come through Isaac and not Ishmael.
When there was no understanding of the way of the free woman, the way of the slave woman made sense.
But now that we see that God has acted in His power and grace, we understand and trust in what He has done!
- Jesus is to the Law as Sarah was to Hagar
This can be confusing because we associate Sarah with the promise, but there is no promise that is not now “in Christ”
So, trusting in God’s grace given in Christ is now the pathway of freedom and promise, just like not trusting in Ishmael, but in God’s grace through Isaac.
III. Free as Children of God in Christ
- We are children of promise
Not born of human will. Not born of the flesh. Born of God’s effort and will.
John 1: 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
If you are born of the effort of God, what will you add to that to make it happen?
- There is often conflict between free and slave
In Galatia, those not comfortable with freedom in Christ, who do not understand the quality of the work of Christ seek to keep people safe in tradition instead of in Christ.
- Cast out slave thinking from your life
Get rid of all thought of deserving and of striving to deserve.
Only act out of gratitude, honor and love.
Celebrate the work of Christ in saving you and follow Him!!!