Hagar the Horrible
Paul is about to use another great illustration using Hagar and Sarah, opposing wives of Abraham. First, a little groundwork is laid...
Howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods [Gal. 4:8].
Paul is speaking of the fact that the Galatians had been idolaters. Paul describes idols as vanities -- "nothings." In 1 Corinthians 12:2 Paul called them "dumb idols." They were nothing and could say nothing. He is telling the Galatians that idols are not real and cannot make themselves real to those who worship them.
But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage? [Gal. 4:9].
Most of the believers in the Galatian churches were Gentiles. Now that they were Christians, they were turning to the Mosaic Law, which is, as Paul says, like going back into the idolatry they came out of.
Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years [Gal. 4:10].
So many traditions.
We have come now to a personal section (vv. 12-18). It is a polite word that Paul is injecting in this epistle.
Brethren, I beseech you, be as I am; for I am as ye are: ye have not injured me at all [Gal. 4:12].
Now Paul makes an appeal to them on the basis of his thorn in the flesh. What was that thorn? Let's read on.
And my temptation which was in my flesh ye despised not, nor rejected; but received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus [Gal. 4:14].
"And my temptation which was in my flesh" means his thorn in the flesh.
Where is then the blessedness ye spake of? for I bear you record, that, if it had been possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me [Gal. 4:15].
Probably Paul's thorn in the flesh was some sort of eye trouble, and it evidently made him very unattractive. I cannot conceive of them wanting to pluck out their eyes and give them to Paul if what he really needed was another leg. Apparently Paul had an eye disease which is common in that land and is characterized by excessive pus that runs out of the eyes. You can well understand how unattractive that would be to look at while he was ministering to them. Paul says, "You just ignored it, and received me so wonderfully when I preached the gospel to you."
Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth? [Gal. 4:16].
J. Vernon McGee said, "I had always wanted to place on the pulpit, facing the preacher, the words, "Sir, we would see Jesus." A very fine officer of the church I served in downtown Los Angeles did this for me after he heard me express this desire. There is another verse I wanted to place on the audience side of the pulpit, but I never had the nerve to do it. It is these words of Paul: "Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?"
As you know, many today really don't want the preacher to tell the truth from the pulpit. They would much rather he would say something complimentary that would smooth their feathers and make them feel good. We all like to have our backs rubbed, and there is a lot of back-rubbing from the contemporary pulpit rather than the declaration of the truth.
They zealously affect you, but not well; yea, they would exclude you, that ye might affect them. But it is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing, and not only when I am present with you [Gal. 4:17-18].
Paul is saying that it is good to seek that which is the very best, but these Judaizers are after you in order to scalp you. They want to put your scalp on their belt and be able to say, "We were over at Galatia, and we had so many converts" -- which, of course, would not be actually true.
False teachers are often very attractive. I am amazed at the very fine presentation the cults make. I have watched them on television programs that are done to perfection. That is the subtle part of it. Everything is beautiful to look at, and those taking part are attractive individuals. Also they present a certain amount of truth. You see, the warning of Paul is very timely for our generation also.
Allegory Of Hagar And Sarai (4:19-31)
This chapter concludes with an allegory of Hagar and Sarai. All is contrast in this section between these two women. Hagar represents the Law. Sarah represents faith in Christ.
My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you [Gal. 4:19].
Paul addresses his allegory to the Galatian believers by using this tender expression, "My little children" - children is the Greek word teknia meaning "born one." Paul has a very tender heart.
I desire to be present with you now, and to change my voice; for I stand in doubt of you [Gal. 4:20].
Paul wanted to be present so that he could speak differently. He was deeply concerned about these people. He had been using strong language in his letter, but you can see his tender heart.
For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman [Gal. 4:22].
Using an illustration from the life of Abraham (Gen. 16; Gen. 17; Gen. 18; Gen. 20; Gen. 21), Paul is going to make a contrast between these two boys that were born, one to Hagar and one to Sarai. One was the son of a bondwoman; the other was the son of a freewoman. The freewoman represents grace, and the bondwoman represents the Mosaic Law. He is going to point out the contrast between them in an allegory.
But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise [Gal. 4:23].
"He who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh." The Code of Hammurabi, which governed the culture in Abraham's day, stated that the son of a slave woman was a slave. So even though Ishmael was Abraham's son, he was a slave.
"He of the freewoman was by promise." Isaac was a miracle child, that is, his birth was miraculous. Abraham was too old to father a child, and Paul says that the womb of Sarai was dead. She had passed the age of childbearing. The womb of Sarai was like a tomb, and out of death God brought life.
Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar [Gal. 4:24].
"For these are the two covenants" -- the first is the covenant of the Law which Moses received from God on Mount Sinai.
"Which is Agar" (Agar is the Greek form of the name Hagar). Paul compares Hagar to Mount Sinai which is synonymous with the Mosaic Law.
For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children [Gal. 4:25].
In Paul's allegory Hagar is Mount Sinai which corresponds to Jerusalem (the earthly Jerusalem of Paul's day), because she was still in slavery with her children. In other words, Jerusalem (representing the nation of Israel) was still under the bondage of the Law.
But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all [Gal. 4:26].
"Jerusalem which is above" is the New Jerusalem which is presented to us in the twentieth chapter of Revelation as it comes down from God out of heaven. 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 here nor hereafter has any connection with legalism.
For it is written, Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not; break forth and cry, thou that travailest not: for the desolate hath many more children than she which hath an husband [Gal. 4:27].
From Sarai (who was barren until the birth of Isaac) there came more descendants than ever came from Hagar. Today the Arabs are fewer than the children of Israel. In this allegory, Paul is saying that God is saving under grace more members of the human family than He ever saved under the Mosaic Law by the sacrificial system.
Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise [Gal. 4:28].
Believers today are also children of promise. Our birth is a new birth, which comes about by our believing God's promise: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). God has said that if we trust Him, we'll be born again. "Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever" (1Pet. 1:23).
But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now [Gal. 4:29].
This is true of Islam, which came thru Hagar. Her children are still persecuting Sarah's kids, the Jews. And Hagar the horrible also hates any of us who support Sarah's children...or that believe in Christ and grace!
The natural man hates the gospel of the grace of God.
Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman [Gal. 4:30].
God commanded the expulsion of the bondwoman and her son (see Gen. 21:10). Today God is saying to you and to me, "Get rid of your legalism. Put all of the emphasis on Jesus Christ." And on a practical note, I think God would have us deal more surely w/ Islam.
So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free [Gal. 4:31].
Abraham could not have both the son of Hagar and the son of Sarai. He had to make a choice. Paul is saying that you can't be saved by law and grace. You have to make a choice. If you try to be saved by Christ and also by law, you are not saved.
Let me ask you, have you really trusted Christ, or are you carrying a spare tire on your little bus; that is, do you feel that you are doing something or being something or trying to attain to something which adds to what Jesus Christ did for you on the cross? If you do, forget it and look to Christ alone; receive everything from Him. He is our Savior. He is our Lord. He is to receive all praise and glory.
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