Galatians – A Call to Freedom –
12. The Two Options
We are in week 12 of our study through Galatians. Tonight turn with me to…
Galatians 4:21-31New International Version (NIV)
Hagar and Sarah
21 Tell me, you who want to be under the law, are you not aware of what the law says? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman. 23 His son by the slave woman was born according to the flesh, but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a divine promise.
24 These things are being taken figuratively: The women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar. 25 Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother. 27 For it is written:
“Be glad, barren woman,
you who never bore a child;
shout for joy and cry aloud,
you who were never in labor;
because more are the children of the desolate woman
than of her who has a husband.”[a]
28 Now you, brothers and sisters, like Isaac, are children of promise. 29 At that time the son born according to the flesh persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit. It is the same now. 30 But what does 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.”[b]31 Therefore, brothers and sisters, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman.
This passage follows Paul’s heart-felt plea to the Galatians churches to avoid burdening themselves with righteous demands to prove their salvation.
And if you haven’t picked it up this is a bit of a theme in Galatians so far.
Essentially to recap; preacher had come into these churches in Galatia and basically had started preaching that if you want God to save you, to honour you, for you to be a child of God you have to fulfil the Law.
To put it in simpler English; if you want to be saved; prove that you are good enough to be saved, but doing work.
Which is essentially the motive of every culture and world religion in the world; it is performance determines your worth.
Paul preached the gospel which is unique in all the world; it states your worth is given to you by grace; through faith in the finished atoning work of Christ and this frees you to truly do good.
Paul goes into the defence of this from the very Law that they were trying to use to justify their false view of the gospel; he goes to the Law itself to the book of Genesis and the story of Abraham.
In this story we see the gospel displayed. Essentially when it comes to religion (and I would argue all of life), church, you only have two options…
You can only be one of…
1.The two women
If you don’t know the story; Abraham was promised by God that he would have a son and through that son there would come a great nation and all people of the earth would be blessed through this heir.
Now, Abraham and Sarah had gotten older and still no son.
So, one day Sarah thought she would help God out, and she offered her slave to Abraham to take away her shame.
Now I need to interject a reality here. There is a shame reality that Paul is trying to deal with in the passage; there was the shame of the Galatians; who would have been keenly aware of the life that they had come out of when they turned from their Polytheistic faith to Christianity.
Paul connects the reality of the Galatians to the story of Sarah and the shame she carried due to the fact that she was Barren.
To overcome her shame she offered up her slave; she worked out her plan and made her own actions to try and deal with the shame of being barren.
Church, I need to tell you this; shame is a chronic problem for every person; the funny thing about modern man is that we have no idea why? We have this airy sense that we are guilty, but we live in a culture that says you mustn’t feel this way you are okay; there is not essential wrong; you are the product of your social construct.
There is a book by Franz Kafka called the trail, where a man is arrested by a remote government but he is never told why he is arrested. And the rest of the novel spends its time with the protagonist Josef K. questioning everything he did in his life to figure out what he did wrong.
The story ends with a guard killing him anyway; with no answer given to Josef K or the reader what he did wrong. Nice story. The whole point of the story is that it is a commentary of the state of modern man, we are told that we are essentially good, that nothing is wrong in of itself, and yet we all live with a sense of judgment a sense of guilt within us.
Shame seems to be the experience of man. Our standard method of trying to deal with that sense of shame is to work at it, to make plans and do things to cover it in our own strength; and the lesson here is that always ends in slavery…
2.The two covenants
Now Paul links this reality to the two covenants; one made at Sinai, which is the Law; which he says is the slave child, it is the covenant of shame, and if you are trying to work at your worth; and work at your problem of shame, by showing that you are good enough; by proving it through some act. Paul says you are falling into slavery.
This is the problem with the Law, and this is the problem with our human default view of the world. The Law was designed by God to expose our short comings; to show our need for a savior.
The problem is that we take that knowledge of our shortcomings and we live our entire lives trying to prove that we are good enough.
You see this most clearly at 10 year school reunions. Don’t you find it amusing that the opinions of people who you didn’t really like who you haven’t seen in 10 years matters so much; and what is the proof of our validation in these reunions? What have you done? What have you become.
And in fact, ever sphere of life works like this; you push in school to do well so people can know you are smart and thus validate your character somehow.
You then move from that into college and work and unless you do something worthy with your life; you aren’t worth much.
All the while you are constantly being judged (by yourself and others) on your ability to be witty and funny while being interesting to hang around with.
And all this is nothing compared to when kids come around; then you are fully judged on the outcomes of this other independent beings; and you are judged as a failure because your child spoke when they weren’t supposed to.
Life is a never ending demand of “perform and then you will be worthy.” And Paul argues that this leads to slavery.
And church it truly does, because you can never be good enough; never, be successful enough, you can never be rich enough, your children will constantly wring you through joy and hardship as they make their own life choices.
Nothing brings us peace, everything forces us to be more, do more, prove more and so we are eternally enslaved.
Which leads us to the question for tonight? How do we overcome this? How can we escape our shame? How do we rise above all that is trying to enslave us in this world?
Well it comes down to whose son you are?
3.The two sons
There are two very important statements that Paul makes that address our concerns tonight; and it is the point of this passage.
The first is found in verse 26
26 But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother.
And the second is found in verse 28;
28 Now you, brothers and sisters, like Isaac, are children of promise.
Remember these are Gentile Christians who had come to the faith, by faith, who then were “tricked” into proving their worth.
To be a Child of Abraham, and a Child of God was not a given it was a great honour. And so these new preachers had come along and said; how can you be children of Abraham? How can you say you are children of God? Look at what you have done.
You will have to prove that you are good enough for God to love you.
Paul reject this reality; he says you are citizens of heavenly Jerusalem; and she IS our mother! In other words there is nothing left to prove, we are securely her’s.
You are children of promise Paul says; in other words; it is not by your actions that you prove this; it is God declaration of this because you are in Christ!
The temptation will always be there to prove yourself.
God says; the Scriptures says; you are worthy; don’t prove it; it is undeserved. You cannot prove it.
We are children of the free woman!
As I said earlier; you are caught in an endless reality to prove your worth to yourself and to others; and effetely you will be caught in an endless cycle of feeling guilty and unworthy.
You are caught in it only as long as it defines you. If you want to be free you have to be caught up into something greater than these; and the only thing that will truly free you from all of this endless seeking of worth and approval is to find your worth in the only one whose opinion matters; in Christ.
And he says you are worthy; not because of what you do, or can bring or achieve, you are worthy because all your shame, and sins have been paid for. He lived the perfect life; so that you could receive his beauty.
Christ Himself becomes our worth and because of this nothing in this world actually owns us; nothing enslaves us because nothing can come close to the God of heaven and earth saying you are worthy!
And church I want to say that it is in that freedom; in that utter worthy state that we are truly free! Free to do real good.
Because if we succeed it doesn’t go to our head and define us; we already have our identity in Him. And if we fail it doesn’t crush us because we know we are sinners saved by grace.
You have two options church; prove your worth through work, through achievement, through showing the world that you are good enough. I guarantee that you will never be free; you will never find peace.
Or you can believe that Jesus in fact did take all your sin and died in your place, and now in Him you are completely forgiven, completely worthy and completely free. If you grasp this; I promise you nothing in this world will be able to take your peace.
There are two options; believe or do? Where are you? What are you building your life on; if it is in Christ and His sacrificial death for you on the Cross you have already found your worth!