An Appeal from Allegory - Page 2 of 4 (series: Lessons on Galatians)
by John Lowe
Hagar gave birth to a slave.
Ishmael was a “wild man” (Ge. 16.12 ), and even though he was a slave nobody could control him, not even his mother or his father Abraham. Like Ishmael, the old nature (the flesh) is at war with God, and the Law cannot change or control it. Galatians 5.17 tells us that by nature, the Spirit and the flesh are “contrary one to the other,” and no amount of religion is going to change that. Whoever chooses Hagar (Law) for his mother is going to experience bondage (Gal. 4.8-11, 22-25, 30, 31; 5.1). But whoever chooses Sarah (grace) for his mother is going to enjoy liberty in Christ. God wants His children to be free (Gal. 5.1 ).
Hagar was cast out.
It was Sarah who gave the order: "Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that slave woman's son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac" (Ge. 21.9, 10), and God subsequently approved it (Ge. 21.12 ). Ishmael had been in the home for at least seventeen years, but his stay was not meant to be permanent, and eventually he had to be “cast out.” There was not room in the home for Hagar and Ishmael and Sarah and Isaac; someone had to go.
It is impossible for Law and Grace, the flesh and the Spirit, to compromise and live together under the same roof. God did not allow Hagar and Ishmael to make occasional visits to the home, because the break was permanent. The Judaizers in Paul’s day—and in our day as well—are trying to reconcile Sarah and Hagar, and Isaac and Ishmael; however, such a reconciliation is contrary to the Word of God. It is impossible to mix Law with grace, and works with faith, and God’s gift of righteousness with man’s attempts to earn righteousness.
Hagar was not married again.
God never gave the Law to any other nation other than Israel, nor did He give it to His church. By attempting to impose the Law on the Galatian Christians, the Judaizers were opposing the very plan of God. In Paul’s day, the nation of Israel was under the Law, while the church was enjoying liberty under the gracious rule of the “Jerusalem which is above” (v. 26). Once Jerusalem was the proud capital of Palestine, the seat of the mighty king David the envy of the world in the days of Solomon! The Jerusalem of Paul’s day was a very unholy “Holy City.” It was full of injustice, violence, and murder, and subject to the cruel and wicked rulers imposed upon them by the Roman Empire. But over against this Jerusalem of slavery lay an ideal celestial city, which though unseen at present is destined to supersede it. Paul called it the “Jerusalem which is above”; the New Jerusalem which is presented to us in the twentieth chapter of Revelation as it comes down from God out of heaven. Paul speaks of Jerusalem above, because this new city already exists in heaven where Christ is, where the souls of those who have died in Christ abide. Its constitution is the new covenant, and its citizens are the men of faith in Christ, a new kind of freemen, who can trace their spiritual ancestry through the line of Isaac and his mother Sarah as heirs of God’s promise to Abraham. Just as old Jerusalem is the mother city of those under the Law, so the New Jerusalem is the mother city of the believer under grace. The believer neither then nor thereafter has any connection with legalism. The Judaizers wanted to wed Mt. Sinai and the heavenly Mt. Zion (Heb. 12.22 ), but doing this would have the effect of denying what Jesus did on Mt. Calvary (Gal. 2.21 ).
Hagar was not to be married again.
From the human point of view it might seem cruel for God to command Abraham to send his son Ishmael away permanently, when he loved him so much. But it had to be done, because there was no way the “wild man” could live in close proximity to the “child of promise;” it was the only solution to the problem. But consider this: How much did it cost God to give His only begotten Son to bear the curse of the Law to set us free. Abraham’s broken heart meant Isaac’s liberty; God’s giving His Son meant our liberty in Christ.
The Practical Blessing
30 But what does the Scripture say? "Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman's son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman's son."
31 Therefore, brothers, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman.
We Christians are like Isaac in that we are children of the promise by grace. The covenant of grace, represented by Sarah is our spiritual mother. The Law and the old nature (represented by Hagar and Ishmael) want to persecute and put us into bondage. How are we going to solve this problem?
We can try to change them.
This is sure to fail, because we cannot change either the Law or the old nature. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh” (John 3.6), and we might add, it will always be flesh. God did not try to change Hagar and Ishmael either by force or education; neither can you and I change the old nature or the Law.
We can try to compromise with them.
This did not work in Abraham’s home, and neither will it work in our lives. The Galatians were trying to create such a compromise, but their efforts were only gradually leading them deeper into bondage. False teachers tell us, “Don’t abandon Christ; simply move into a deeper Christian life by practicing the Law along with your faith in Christ.” Invite Hagar and Ishmael back home again. But this is a path back into slavery: “But now that you know God--or rather are known by God--how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?” (Gal. 4.9)
We can cast them out.
This is what we are supposed to do. First Paul applies this to the nation of Israel (Gal. 4.25-27); then he applies it to the individual Christian. The nation of Israel had been in bondage under the Law, but this was a temporary thing (at least it was meant to be), preparing them for the coming of Christ. Now that Christ had come, Law had to go. Jesus Christ, like Isaac, was a child of promise, born by the miraculous power of God. Once He had come and died for the people, the Law had to go.