Two Women Represent Two Covenants: Laws vs Grace (Galatians Sermon 13 of 26)
February 16, 2014 | Andy Davis
Salvation by Promise, Allegory, Zion
Pastor Andy Davis preaches a verse-by-verse expository sermon on Galatians 4:21-31. By the allegory from Sarah and Hagar we are reminded to trust in the Lord and not in ourselves or the Law.
- SERMON TRANSCRIPT -
So this text is very deep, very difficult, very complex. It mentions an allegory, it mentions women in labor, so this morning this sermon gave birth to two sermons. What I want to do is go through the text all the way through and give you what I consider the simple interpretation of these words. Next week I want to go deeper and look more at the meat or the difficulties and the allegory that Paul brings us. I'm going to mention allegory this time, I'm going to touch on it lightly but I'm not going to go into detail this time on what Paul is doing with this allegory. What I want to do is make very plain and clear the simple lesson of these verses, what is Paul saying to you, to each one of us. And I'll just say it straight out. I believe what Paul is saying here is that, every single one of us who are genuine Christians, we are miracles of grace. We are Christians because God has interfered with our lives, has stepped into time and space by his sovereign grace and changed everything, and we have been made children of the living God by sovereign grace, and we ought to live like it.
Look with me at verse 29 this is where I'm getting it from, at the end in verse 29 he says, "At that time the son born in the ordinary way... " That's NIV. Son born according to the flesh in the simple straightforward natural way. "The ordinary son persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit." So we see the Ishmael symbolism and the Isaac symbolism leading to two realities they're just two different kinds of people in this world. There are people who are born in the natural way and then there are people who are born supernaturally. And if you're a child of God, you have been born supernaturally and you ought to know it, and you ought to give thanks for it every day and you ought to live according to that birth. So that's the simple straightforward message. Now Paul roots it in very deep things. But I want you to understand this message, if you're a Christian you're a miracle of grace, and I say it directly to you it doesn't matter how you came to faith in Christ.
I've spoken to people at the time of baptism and they need to give a testimony of how they came to faith and some who are born in good Christian families who were raised under the hearing of the gospel who never knew a time that they didn't know Jesus. Maybe their parents spoke the gospel to them while they were still in the womb, I did. Please don't think that's weird, but I did that with all five of my kids, I told them to repent and believe in Jesus... All of them. And that they needed to come to faith, and I wanted them to come to an early conversion. I wanted them to come to faith in Christ early and so it's easy for someone raised in that circumstance say, "I have no testimony." Let me tell you something if you believe that Jesus is the Son of the living God, that God raised him from the dead, if you've called on him because you know that you're a sinner, you're a child of grace, it doesn't matter how you came to those convictions, I think it's better to come to an early conversion and not run in sin for a while. Sin never does us any good. If on the other hand like me, you're converted in your adult years and you remember distinctly times when you were dead in your transgressions and sins. And you also have a testimony of grace and you're no less or more a child of sovereign grace and someone born in that other circumstance and living through that.
I just want you to know if you believe that Jesus is the Christ the son of living God, and he died on the cross, in your place for your sins, and that you have called on him, "For everyone who calls in the name of the Lord will be saved." You've called on him for forgiveness of sins and you have received the gift of the Holy Spirit, the testimony that you are a child of God, you are a miracle of grace.
"You've called on Him for forgiveness of sins and you have received the gift of the Holy Spirit, the testimony that you are a child of God, you are a miracle of grace."
And you ought to know it. And you ought to live like an Isaac and not like an Ishmael. Alright that's the simple lesson of these verses. But there's nothing simple about this text. I hope some of you are having some pity and compassion on me as Taylor was reading that text, well I'm glad I'm not the Pastor. What's he going to do with this allegory? What's he going to do? What indeed? So I actually bought another week of time to answer that question, but I have some ideas. Paul in verse 21 is speaking directly to some people who apparently seem to want to live under the law.
Do you see it? Verse 21, "You who want to be under the law tell me... " He is speaking them to these Galatians to be under the law. What does that mean to be under the law? Well it means to rely on self-effort at keeping the law to rely on yourself to get into or maintain a right relationship with God, that's what it means to be under the law. John Piper puts it this way, “to look on the law as a job description for earning the wages of God's favor.” You know what a job description is? When you get a job there's some bulleted things you're going to be responsible for, if you do these things you can be a good employee of this company. You won't get fired, this is what you're supposed to do in this position. And so the legalist, a person who is under the law has in the law a job description in order to maintain a good relationship with God. You have to earn God's smile, you have to earn His favor you have earn his approval, you have to earn right standing with God. You have to come in to it by your own efforts and you have to keep it or maintain it by your own efforts that's what it means to be under the law.
Paul here calls it slavery, it's slavery, it's bondage. Why would you want to live in that kind of bondage? Why would you want to live as a slave like that? Tim Keller in commenting on this text says, I think he does a great job of just diagnosing the kind of people there are in this world. He says there are four types of people when it comes to these issues. First there are law abiding, law relying people. Law abiding, law relying people. They live in constant reliance on their own obedience to the moral standard. That has been given by God, the law of Moses. They tend to me smug, self-righteous and superior, but they also ironically tend to be deep down insecure. So they're touchy and sensitive to criticism. They're irritable. They tend to shoot the messenger if anyone comes and says there's anything wrong with them. They're devastated when their prayers go unanswered. This could be people from other religions actually who are living up to some moral standard, but also people who go to church can live like this. This describes a lot of the Pharisees of Jesus' day.
Secondly, you've got law disobeying, law relying people. Law disobeying, law relying people. These are people who have a developed religious conscience based on strong works righteousness, but they're failing to live up to it consistently. Therefore they're more humble and broken hearted than the first group, more tolerant of others, but they're guilt ridden and they're given to despair. They may attend church, but they stay on the outskirts, on the periphery of church life because they feel so worthless spiritually. They know that they're sinners, but their only remedy is to try harder and that only leads to more depression.
Third category, law disobeying, not law relying. Law disobeying, not law relying. These people have thrown off the concept of God's holy laws. They've thrown off the idea of a moral standard coming from God. They are totally secular and relativistic or they are vague spiritually. They invent and choose their own moral standards. They put it together a la carte, like a Golden Coral just putting on the tray what they want and so they put their own moral system together and then they try to live up to that standard. Thus, they are often in many ways just as judgmental as the Pharisees. By the way, are you feeling that? We're judged if we don't live up to their odd moral standards these days. If you don't stand up and give a standing ovation at key moments as it has happened even this week, you're wicked, you're evil, you're judged by this new kind of Pharisee. They're trying to earn their own version of salvation by feeling morally superior to others, but their system of righteousness is self-invented, it's self-defined, self-assessed. It's the third category.
Then the fourth category, you're hoping you're in here somewhere right? Fourth category, law obeying, not law relying. These are spiritual Christians who understand the gospel and are living out the freedom of the gospel. They obey God's moral law by the power of the spirit and the grateful joy of knowing that they're totally secure, they're adopted sons and daughters of God. They know that their failures and they do fail, but their failures are covered by the grace of God in Christ.
However, most Christians in this category still struggle and tend to see the world from time to time either as a number one, a Pharisee or as a number two, a law relying failure or number three, a secular moralist. We all struggle and go back in some ways to that from time to time and the degree to which they have these false views is the degree to which they are impoverished spiritually. That's Tim Keller. I think he does a great job of analyzing these things. Where do you fit in that matrix? And what do you struggle with even if you are in number four? So we're coming to the issue here in which Paul is addressing directly, those who apparently want to live under the law. And he uses an allegory based on the Old Testament to teach the same principle that he's been teaching, which is that salvation is by grace through faith in Christ. It's not based on self-effort in the law. So let's give a little bit of review here and let's try to get our bearings.
Some of you maybe haven't been with us through all the time we've been preaching in Galatians. Galatians, one of the most powerful writings in the history of the human race. It's only a 147 verses. It's a very very short writing and yet explosive in its implications and its ramifications for the human race. It searches out some of the deepest issues of human experience, maybe the deepest one. How can a sinner like me stand in a right relationship with the holy God? How can we be in a right relationship with God? So Paul is writing to Galatian churches that he planted. He was there sharing the gospel and he proclaimed the clear pure gospel of Jesus Christ, of him crucified, resurrected of repentance and faith in Christ for the forgiveness of sins. They heard the gospel, these Galatians. They believed it. They repented and believed it by grace. They received the gift of the outpoured holy spirit and they began living a joy filled, fruitful, powerful Christian life. Paul left town because he was a traveling itinerating church planting evangelist and missionary and apostle. He wasn't going to stay there forever.
"Galatians, one of the most powerful writings in the history of the human race, ... searches out some of the deepest issues of human experience, maybe the deepest one. How can a sinner like me stand in a right relationship with the holy God?"
And after he left, some other teachers came along claiming to be Christians, but really who weren't. They're called by many theologians or interpreters the "Judaizers" and they came with a toxic brew of combination of faith in Christ crucified and resurrected plus obedience to the law of Moses equal salvation. That's what it takes. You have to obey the laws of Moses. You have to become Jewish basically. Circumcision just the beginning of that journey. So if you will be circumcised and then obey the law of Moses, you can be saved. Paul calls this a different gospel, which is no gospel at all. In Galatians chapter 1, it says evidently some people are throwing you into confusion or trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. Paul then spends almost two full chapters establishing his own supernatural calling from God, how God called him by grace and how God gave him the gospel from heaven.
And this isn't a message that man made up, it's something that God gave to him directly and not only to him, but also to those who are reputed to be pillars in Jerusalem, they're preaching the same gospel. And when it comes down to the key issue, justification. How can a sinner be made right with almighty God? He says so plainly in Galatians 2:16, "We know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we too have put our faith in Christ Jesus so that we maybe justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law, no one will be justified." It couldn't be clearer. That's Galatians 2:16. In many ways that's the pinnacle of the doctrine of this book. And he says plainly with his own relationship with Christ is in Galatians 2:20, says, "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me and the life that I now live and the body I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me."
Having established his own proclamation of the gospel, his own walk with Christ, he then launches in in Galatians three and four to support this idea from scripture. He supports it first from their own experience saying, "Hey, you received the holy spirit when you heard and believed." But then he goes from that into a scriptural support of this. This isn't a new idea, this isn't a new doctrine. This is something that God established long ago. And he brings up the case of Abraham in verse 5 of Galatians 3. He says, "Consider Abraham, he believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness." So all you have to do is just believe in God, believe in Jesus Christ and righteousness will be given to you as a gift. This is not a new idea he's saying. Conversely, he says, "Everyone who relies on the law is under a curse. [Galatians 3:10] for it is written, ‘Cursed it is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the book of the law.’" As we said all the law all the time or you're cursed. Cursed with death, cursed with hell. So if you're trying to live under the law, that's what you have.
But Christ redeemed us from that kind of life. He redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us. He absorbed the punishment we deserved on the cross. Galatians 3:13 and 14, as it is written, "Curse it is everyone who's hung on a tree." He redeemed us, verse 14, "In order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the gentiles through Christ Jesus so that by faith we might receive the promise of the spirit." Now why was the law given while it wasn't given to justify us? And it doesn't change the promise. The law was giving as a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ and at the right time then once we have come to faith in Christ, we become heirs of the whole estate. All of these things he's been saying, this is scriptural support. Now in many ways these verses culminate or finish his scriptural appeal. So Galatians 4:21-31 as he goes back one more time to the old testament, he's finishing up his old testament support of this idea, justification by faith alone. Now Galatians 5 and 6 is going to bring us into some awesome practical applications. And we're going to learn in those chapters how we can live out a life of faith.
I. The Historical Background: Isaac and Ishmael, Sarah and Hagar (verses 21-23)
How we can live out a fruitful life not doing whatever we want as people accuse those that believe in justification by faith apart from works of doing. They say that we throw off the law, we're antinomian. We do whatever we want. No, no, no we're going to find out Galatians 5 and 6 is really the answer to that. Walking by the power of the spirit, we live holy and godly lives characterized by the fruit of the spirit. We put to death the deeds of the flesh, we make a live fruit in the spirit, it's a whole different kind of life. We're going to talk about that, God willing. Alright, now let's look back at some of the historical facts that Paul is bringing us to here. The historical background, he's bringing us to the story of Hagar and Sarah and Abraham of course and their sons, Hagar's son, Ishmael and Sarah's son, Isaac, and he's drawing some spiritual principles from this history. So first of all he speaks directly to the Galatians in verse 21. "Tell me, [he says] You who want to be under the law, are you not aware of what the law says?" So he's speaking very directly, somewhat in your face here. Very concerned about these Galatians, he's making a direct appeal to them, these drifting brothers and sisters in Christ who are breaking his heart and he appeals to them very directly here.
And he says, "It seemed like you want to be slaves. I don't understand it, but it seems like you want to be slaves under the law. Why would you want to do that?" But now he makes his appeal, he says, "Aren't you aware of what the law says?" Isn't it amazing how often this happens? Jesus did this a lot. They'd come to Jesus with a problem and he'd say "Haven't you read? Are we reading the same book here? Haven't you read?" This and that. Jesus does that again and again, "Haven't you read, what David did when he and his companions were hungry? How he took the consecrated bread and he ate it." Or, "Haven't you read, that in the law those in the temple desecrate the Sabbath and yet they're held innocent." Or, "Haven't you read, that at the beginning the creator made them male and female…" instead of the question on divorce? Or about resurrection, you're asking me about resurrection, "Haven't you read, in the passage about the burning bush? What God says to you? "‘I am the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.’" Haven't you read these things?
And so Paul's doing this, "You who want to be under the law, aren't you aware of what the law says?" You could almost say, this is like a friendly lawyer saying, "Have you read the fine print here." "Do you realize what's in this contract? Do you know what you're signing on for?" "Before you put your signature at the bottom, let me tell you. I'm your friend, I'm a friend of the family and I'm a lawyer and I'm telling you what's going to happen if you sign this." "So if you go off in this direction, I just want to tell you what the law says." That's how he's arguing here. And what he's saying here is, the big picture is, being a physical descendant of Abraham was never enough for the Jews. It doesn't save you.
There are different sons of Abraham. He has two sons in this case, we're going to look at Ishmael and Isaac. But what really matters is to be an elect son or daughter of the living God, a child of promise, a child of the spirit, that's what he's getting at here. John the Baptist, remember when the Pharisees and Sadducees came to where he was baptized? You remember he said "You brood of vipers. Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourself, 'We have Abraham as our Father' For I tell you out of these stones God can rise up children for Abraham." Very strong word isn't it? Don't rely on just being Jewish. Don't rely on the fact that you have Abraham as your Father. Jesus said the same thing in John 8 to his enemies, the Jews that were in his face and opposing his ministry. Very strong. "Abraham is our Father," they said to Jesus, remember that? And Jesus said, "If Abraham were your father, you would do the works of Abraham. You would walk in the steps that Abraham walked, but as it is you're trying to kill me. Someone who's told you the truth from God, Abraham didn't do those kinds of things. You are of your father the devil." So both John the Baptist and Jesus speaking very plainly to Jewish people that it's not enough to be physically descendant from Abraham. It's not enough.
And so Paul reminds us here what the law says, Abraham had two sons, and he's going to draw some spiritual lessons from that. We now need to go back to the tragic story of Abraham and Sarah, and Hagar and what happened with them. Look at verse 22 and 23, it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman. His son by the slave woman was born in the ordinary way, but his son by the free woman was born as a result of the promise. We have to go back a little bit again to that great chapter Genesis 15 in which God makes that beautiful promise to Abraham. As you remember, the word of the Lord came to him, "This man Eliezer of Damascus would not be your heir but a son coming from your own body will be you heir." Then he took him outside and he said, "Now, look up at the heavens, look at the stars and count them if you can." Then he makes this incredible promise, "So shall your offspring be." It's going to be like that. And Abraham believed the promise and it was credited to him as righteousness. Key moment, redemptive history so that's the promise. But then comes Genesis 16, the story unfolds. One of the great beauties of the bible as it tells us the truth. Even about its great heroes, and we could wish that Genesis 16 didn't happen but it did. So what happens there? Well, some years are passing. Many years had passed from the starry night and nothing's going on. God is very patient, we're not so patient.
And God is waiting and then nothing's happening. God apparently is not acting on what he had promised and Sarah saw that she continued to be barren and by then she is 76 and Abraham was 86. Back then, the ages were different than they are now. People died at age 175, Abraham did and now things are different but even then pretty much Sarah said the time for me bearing children is long passed. It's over. She was barren anyway, they were barren and they couldn't have children and that have been proven for years. But now even just in the normal course of things as a woman, she's passed that time and so, it's over. What are we going to do? I believe the Lord is waiting for that. I do believe He was waiting for her to be well beyond the time of bearing children and for Abraham to be well beyond even that even an expectation, he was waiting so that the child born could be so clearly a miracle baby. He wanted the baby to be a miracle of grace. But what happens now in Genesis 16? Sarah gets an idea. She has a thought, "I think I'm going to help the situation along." And what's so amazing here is that we think God actually needs our help. he needs our cleverness, he needs us to intervene, he needs us to get involved. This is the mind of the flesh. And so, she says in Genesis 16:2, "The Lord has kept me from having children." That is true. It's true. But she drew the wrong conclusion. "Go sleep with my maidservant. Perhaps, I can build a family through her. And Abraham agreed to what Sarai said." Now, Abraham himself, at that point, acted in self-reliance according to self-wisdom. God did not commend this. Abraham was not looking to God to fulfill his promise and, as a result, Abraham lay with Hagar, she conceived and gave birth to a son, Ishmael. What the text says, what Galatians 4:29 says, "The son born in the ordinary way or born according to the flesh." It's just a normal course of events. It's the son of the flesh, the son born in the ordinary way, the son of the slave woman.
Now, the essence of the life under the law is: I'm on my own. I must think. I must act. I must choose. I must make this happen. If it's going to happen, I've got to do it. And take that to the nth degree. If I'm going to heaven, I need to do something about it, I need to change… It's the mind of the flesh. And so, this is a very tragic venture into the flesh. And Ishmael was the son born of that way of thinking. Human power on its own, unaided, doing that. And trouble came into Abraham's family immediately because of it. As soon as Hagar was pregnant, she saw that she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress, Sarai. Think lowly ever, "I don't have to do that. Do you know who I am now? This is Abraham's baby I'm carrying. Who are you?" And so, there's some disrespect going on there. Where upon then Sarai starts to mistreat her and so is trouble immediately. Son of the flesh immediately bringing distress into the world.
By contrast, we have Isaac. Isaac is the child of the promise. God waits sometime. Genesis 17, God speaks very plainly. If you know what to look for, Genesis 17:1, I think is the verse very clear rebuke. "I am God Almighty," he says to Abraham, "Walk before me and be holy." So, if you know what to look for, that's a rebuke. He says, "Don't do that. Trust me and do holy things and walk before me." And he changes his name to Abraham. And then he says this in Genesis 17, God also said to Abraham, "As for Sarai, your wife. You're no longer to call her Sarai, her name will be Sarah. And I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of Nations. Kings of peoples will come from her." See, very clear about what woman is going to give birth to the miracle baby. Very, very clear. Genesis 18 is even clearer about the time frame. Remember when the three visitors came and Abraham entertained angels unaware? He didn't know who they were. And God Almighty there and the Lord said, "I will surely return to you about this time next year and Sarah will have a son." So now, we've even got the time frame set. We got the woman and then you've got the time frame.
So then, the fulfillment comes in Genesis 21. God fulfilled his promise by his sovereign power. By the power of his grace, he fulfilled his promise in Sarah's life. I don't know if you're there, but just listen, just listen, don't turn there, it won't take too long. But Genesis 21:1 is a God saturated verse if you know what to look for. "Now, the Lord was gracious to Sarah as He had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what He had promised. [Verse 2] Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age at the very time God had promised him. And Abraham gave the name Isaac to the son, Sarah bore him." Alright, let me reread Genesis 21:1 emphasizing God, emphasizing the Lord's activity. "Now, the Lord was gracious to Sarah." The sovereign Lord gave her grace. Just "as the Lord had said to her." In other words, based on the promise he had made. "And the Lord did for Sarah, [sovereign grace] what the Lord had promised her." It's like four times he says, "This is something I am doing." This is a supernatural, this is a miracle baby being born here. He would not be born if I weren't involved. And so the Lord showed her grace and she gave birth to Isaac.
And Abraham we are told in Romans 4, through this time, was filled with faith about all of this. And this is really the whole point here. Listen to the words of Romans 4:19-21: "Without weakening in his faith, Abraham faced the fact that his body was as good as dead since he was about 100 years old and that Sarah's womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised." And if you go even a few verses before that in Romans, Romans 4:17, it speaks of the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were. Now, this is the whole point. What is Jesus doing for you? You know what He's doing? He's rescuing you from sin and death. He's going to raise you from the dead. He's going to give you a resurrection body. You're going to live forever and ever. Now what can the arm of flesh do to achieve that? Nothing. As we said before, what are your plans on raising yourself from the dead? This is important.
I want to sit down with you like an insurance salesman. I want to say this is important. It's more important than any financial planning you'll do. What are your plans? You're going to die. How are you going to raise yourself from the dead? What do you think about doing about that? I want each of you to face that question. What are your plans on raising yourself from the dead? Various strategies I could suggest to you, friends. Don't you see the point? You can't raise yourself from the dead. You need to trust in the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were. Only God can raise the dead. And so Isaac was born. He's a miracle baby. He's a fulfillment of the promise. He's born as a direct result of the supernatural work of God's grace by the Holy Spirit. He was born only to the glory of God, not to the cleverness of some human scheme or plot, or plan or act of the will. Born only to the glory of God, and this is exactly what God has said Christians are. This is what we are.
"You can't raise yourself from the dead. You need to trust in the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were. Only God can raise the dead."
Think about John 1. "He came to His own and His own did not receive Him" [Speaking about the Jews] "But as many as did receive Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but born of God." That's exactly what this text is all about. We're not born in the natural way. We're born by God and by his grace. As it says in John three, Jesus saying to Nicodemus, "Truly, truly, I say to you unless someone is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God. Whatever is born of flesh is flesh, but whatever is born of the Spirit is Spirit." And then he says in verse eight of John 3, "The wind blows wherever it wishes, wherever it wills, and you hear the sound of it, you cannot tell where it comes from and where it is going." So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit. That's what he's talking about here. Ishmael then is a type of a normal human being, normal passions, normal pleasures, normal appetite, normal drives, and he will die. Unless he's converted, he will die as a slave. But Isaac is a miracle baby, supernaturally born, supernaturally sustained by the Grace of God and by the Grace of God, and by the promise of God, he is an heir of the kingdom.
So what are you? What are you? Next week, we're going to talk about this allegory. We're going to talk about allegorical interpretation. We're going to give a little bit of the history of it. This is why I said, look, I practice a sermon this morning. There is no hope of us getting an allegory right now. No hope, whatsoever. I'm on page eight of a 20-page sermon.
II. The Allegorical Meaning: Two Covenants, Law vs. Grace (verses 24-27)
But let me just give you a general sense of the allegory, okay? Hagar represents the old covenant which gives birth, law gives birth to law children who are slaves for the rest of their lives and they're condemned. They're under the curse of the law. Sarah who's actually not mentioned, but she's implied here. The free woman is the Jerusalem that's above and she is our mother. And our true home is heaven, the heavenly Jerusalem. Paul actually presses it. We'll go into this next week, but he says, "The Jerusalem that's below, the physical Jerusalem, she's in bondage. She's in slavery." Do you realize what he's saying there? He's saying, "Jews who have not come to faith in Christ are no different than Ishmael." Wow, that's not going to be very popular, but that's exactly what he's saying, "Spiritually, they are Ishmaels. They are Esaus." In another verse. Alright? There's no difference. They are unbelievers and they're in bondage. This Jerusalem that's below is earthly and law-oriented and bonders, and he's speaking to these gentiles. "Why would you want to live there?"
"Let's live above, in the Jerusalem that's above. Let's live in the heavenly home that is our country. Our citizenship is where it's in heaven," And we're looking forward Hebrews 11 "To a city with foundations whose architect and builder is God." That's the heavenly Jerusalem. If I'm not careful I'll preach next week's sermon. I'm going to stop. Alright? We'll talk about the allegory.
III. The Application: Living Like Free People, Enduring Persecution (verses 28-31)
Now application for us, verse 28, "You brothers, like Isaac, are children of the promise." I gave it to you at the beginning. I'll give it to you here at the end. You are supernaturally born if you're truly a Christian, truly a Christian. Understand who you are. Understand how you got here. How did you get to believe in Jesus? It wasn't as an act of your will. It wasn't because you had more cleverness or more as God gave you birth. He sovereignly worked in your life. He took out your heart of stone and he gave you a heart of flesh. That's what happened. You should know that. You should know that. But I want to stop and say, has that happened to you? I'm speaking to a large group here. I'm speaking to a mixed group. I'm speaking even to you people on the balcony. I know I forget to look at you but I love you. And I want, I just... But I know you're there, but there's a group up and below, a big group, I don't know you all and I don't know necessarily what's happening in your hearts even if I do know you.
Has this happened to you? Have you been born again by the Spirit? Are you clinging to the promises of God and not to your own works? Are you saying, "I am saved by grace and there's nothing I can do to pay for my sins. I know I'm a sinner. I know the law has convinced me I'm a sinner, but there is no remedy for me other than Jesus, I trust in him." Has that happen to you? Are you born again? Born again by sovereign grace? And how do you fit in into Tim Keller's Matrix? How are you living? Are you living as, as a law relying so called law abiding (nobody is that way), but you think you are. Are you pharisaical, trusting in your own obedience to a legalistic standard, is that you? Are you law relying, but law disobeying? You're miserable, you think "I've got to earn my way, I've got to earn, earn, earn but I'm not and I'm failing, I'm so depressed and so discouraged all the time." Is that you? Or maybe you have friends, coworkers or neighbors who make up their own moral standards and live up to them as best they can, but they are very judgmental if you don't live up to their moral standards. Are we reaching them with the gospel?
Are you truly law obeying, but not law relying? That's a Christian, right? In order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us. Romans 8, "We do not live by the flesh, but by the Spirit." We'll get into that in Galatians 5. Is that the life you're living? And Keller says very wisely, "You have tendencies toward the others." What are your tendencies? Are you legalistic? Are you depressed? Because you're not living up to that standard? Do you just not care that much what the law says, it doesn't matter to you because you're Christian and we're saved by grace anyway.
What are you living like? I know you cling into the promises, do you realize how rich we are in the promise? I've got a listing here of promises. These are amazing, and I'm not going to read them all, but think about a full forgiveness of sins is promised to us, we're clinging to that, our sins are forgiven, God's promised that. He's promised that we will be have been adopted into his family, he's promise that we will be heirs of the world, the righteous will be heirs of the world. The meek will inherit the earth. Are you clinging to that? Do you have the Holy Spirit in your heart as a deposit guarantee in your full inheritance, do you feel how rich you are as a child of God? That you're an heir of a coming kingdom. Do you have your heart set fully on that coming kingdom, even though you can't see it with your eyes, can you read it in Revelation 21? The new Jerusalem coming down from heaven as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband, and it's described in those two magnificent chapters and it's just a radiant beautiful perfect place and you know you're going to go there, you're qualified to go there because of imputed righteousness, trusting in Jesus. Praise God.
Is that the kind of life you're living? Now I'm going to talk more about this next time, but do you expect to be persecuted by Ishmael? Look at verse 29, “At that time, the son born in the ordinary way persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit, it is the same now.” Now we'll talk about this more next week, but the most vicious and the bitterest persecutors of true Christians in history have been religious people, religious people. Again and again right away it was the Sanhedrin that cracked down in Jerusalem and started beating and killing, who was it that killed Steven? Religious people, who stoned Steven to death and on it's gone since that time all of history has seen this pattern again and again. The bitterest attacks have come from those who have fiercely committed to religion and it's been going on all the way through. Nowadays, the most vicious persecutions of true Christians are done by religious committed people mostly Muslims, mostly Muslims. I think, nine of the top 10 most viciously persecuting nations, political nations on earth are Muslim nations. I think that's the ultimate fulfillment of the things this chapter is talking about. We'll talk about this next time, but this is the Spirit of Ishmael, the Spirit of self-salvation through legalistic works righteousness flowing right from Arabia and from the law that comes from that mountain.
It's the Spirit of Ishmael and it's what is persecuting the church today. So, what does that have to do with us? Well, just understand what it says about the present and what it says about the future. At present, your brothers and sisters are suffering at the hands of religious zealots, not just the Muslim countries but also in India. There's zealotry there as well. Let's be faithful to pray for them, let's be faithful to know their suffering, to understand what their going through and then what does it say about our future? Just expect, to be persecuted more and more here in this country because we just don't fit in, and we're going to fit in last 25, 50 years from now if the Lord tarries, we do not expect that persecution. And then finally if I could just urge you live like a free born son and daughter of the living God. Let's not have that legalistic mindset, when you sin bring it to the cross, receive by grace forgiveness and restoration, don't go legal at that moment that's our tendency, "I've done wrong, I've sinned, what can I do to make it right?" Repent and believe.
Come again to the flow, the blood of Christ for forgiveness and then by the Spirit allow that supernatural life to be working in you. Now, next time we're going to talk about allegory, we're going to talk about allegorical interpretation. We're going to say what it is, when it's appropriate, when it's not. Pray for me that I'd have better insight and clarity, but we'll have some time next time to discuss. Let's close in prayer. Father, we thank you for the time we've had today to study your word and I pray that you would help each one of us to take to heart the things that we've learned here. Help us to realize that if we're Christians we are miracles of your grace and help us to live by the power of the Spirit, not out of the acts of the flesh, In Jesus's name. Amen!