Lesson 62: "An Allegory: For These Are the Two Covenants. . ." (Galatians 4:24)
Paul's Missionary Journey Epistles. Welcome to lesson #62. Before we read new material; take a look at v. 13-14-15 briefly. Paul said when he was in Galatia he had preached the gospel with infirmity of the flesh. This statement has occasioned much speculation with reference to Paul's health. Do you remember back in II Cor. Ch. 12; where Paul said there was given him a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet him? Paul said in II Cor. 12:8, he besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from him; but the Lord said "My grace is sufficient for thee." What was Paul's disease or problem? No one really knows. There have been many theories and conjectures. But, in our last lesson, Gal. 4:15, Paul said back when he was preaching to the Galatians they would have plucked out their very own eyes and would have given them to Paul if it had been possible. Some have interpreted this to imply that Paul's disease or problem had to do with eyes or vision. Like I said, this is pure speculation.
hi v. 19, Paul said: "My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you." Paul wanted them to know that he still had confidence in them. Then in v.20, Paul said he would like to change his voice, i.e. speak much more forcefully than the way they remembered Paul. Then abruptly in v.21, Paul began to speak to the false teachers or as we have called them: the Judiazers. In this section, v.21 thru the rest of the chapter, Paul gave a very interesting allegory based on the Old Testament. Remember now, the Judiazers emphasized their fleshly relationship to Abraham and Moses in teaching circumcision and keeping the law. They were zealous and eager to persuade Galatian Christians to be circumcised and to begin keeping the old law. Although, Paul undoubtedly gave this allegory primarily for the benefit of the Judiazers; he spoke it as if speaking to his brethren. As a matter of fact, he says "brethren" a couple times (v.28, 31) and obviously is giving the Galatian Christians a deeper look and something to measure by. Paul said to them in effect, if you read the old law and the account of Abraham very critically; the book itself warns against doing the very thing you are doing. Now, you need to recognize here that the word law (v.21) has reference to the first five books of the Old Testament where the 10 commandments are found and not merely to the decalogue as such. The word "law" is consistently used that way through out the rest of the Old Testament as wall as in the New Testament except where specific references are made to the 10 commandments. If you study v.21-22 here closely you'll see that is true, even here. Alright, let's read Paul's allegory. We'll begin in v.21 and read the rest of the chapter. Are you ready? Here we go, beginning in v.21:
'Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do yo not hear the law? For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a free woman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; be he of the free woman was by promise. Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Hagar. For this Hagar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and in bondage with her children. But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all. 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 a husband. Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise. But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now. 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 free woman. So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free."
I think I should tell you, I'm not quite clear on the technical distinction between an allegory and a parable. But for all practical purposes I think we can call this a parable. In our discussion of parables back in the Four Gospel Course we said that to understand a parable there are certain keys and key phrases that give a parable away. Take just a moment and try to identify some of the keys in this parable. First of all, I trust you recognize this parable is built on historical information from the book of Genesis, ch. 16 and ch. 21 in that book. Quite frankly, it would be very hard for me to get this allegorical lesson from simply reading those chapters in the life of Abraham without Paul's help. Paul being an inspired apostle by the help of the Holy Spirit, I suppose, could pick up on certain keys with which you and I would naturally have trouble. Secondly, it is said very plainly in v. 24; THIS IS AN ALLEGORY pertaining to the two covenants, i.e. the law of Moses and the law of Christ. So, above every thing else, keep Paul's allegory in the right ball park. Back in v. 1 -7 of this chapter (Gal. 4), Paul contrasted these two covenants, you will remember; using the adopted son -vs- the servant idea. Here in his allegory, Pal went back to the very material his opponents, the Judiazing teachers, were undoubtedly using to support their doctrine. Focus in on v.21! He said: 'Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law?" That is, Paul is saying, the law teaches the very opposite of the Judiazing doctrine. Now, if you are not familiar with Gen. Ch. 16 and Gen. Ch. 21; you should go back and read that material right now. In v.22, here in Galatians, Paul said Abraham had two sons; actually, Abraham had more than two sons as well as more that two wives. After Sarah's death, Abraham married another woman named Keturah and had six more sons, this is in Gen. Ch. 25. But, obviously, Paul is excluding that part of Abrahams's life from his allegory. Abraham's wife was Sarah, spelled S-A-R-A-I at first; but later changed to S-A-R-A-H. Sarah is not mentioned here (b y name) in this allegory; bu t, she is referred to, e.g. in v. 22 as "the free woman." Hagar was an Egyptian slave girl, (or bondmaid) as she is called here in Gal. 4:22. Hagar lived with and served Abraham and Sarah. When God promised Abraham a son, Abraham was about 86 years old and Sarah was about 75 years old. Sarah, being above the normal child bearing age concluded that God could not fulfill his promise of a son for Abraham through herself, i.e. through Sarah. So, she tried to help out God by insisting that her slave girl, Hagar, have a son by Abraham. That son, by Hagar was named Ishmael, meaning in Hebrew: God shall hear. However, I trust that you know in this story; that some 12 or 13 years later when Abraham was 99 years old and Sarah was about 90 years old; Sarah conceived by Abraham and had that don God had promised to Abraham (that's Gen. 21: 1-2). That boy's name was Isaac, meaning hi the Hebrew: he laughs. Then after Isaac was born and later as they played together; Ishmael mistreated (I believe the word is "mocked") Isaac. Sarah then disowned the slave girl and her son and sent them away out of her house. You need to know that story pretty well to interpret Paul's allegory.
However, let's get back to that parable interpretation bit. In v.25, Paul said: "Hagar is mount Sinai in Arabia..." i.e. Hagar in this parable represented the law of Moses. I trust you know God gave the 10 commandments to Moses on Mt. Sinai, also called Mt. Horeb (H-O-R-E-B) some places in the Bible. Now, if Hagar is Mt. Sinai and thus represents that covenant (v.24) that we call the law of Moses; then, it follows that Sarah would represent Mt. Zion, the hill on which Jerusalem was built and from which Christ's law was given and where Christ was crucified to purchase us. You should read the prophecy in Isa. 2: 1-4 in connection with this. Mt. Zion is spelled: Z-I-O-N in the O.T. but S-l-O-N in the N.T. The word is used in the N.T. only in a spiritual sense, like in Rom., 9:33 or in Matt. 21:5. But, at the time of Paul, Jerusalem was looked upon as the capital of the Jewish religion and thus the seat of Judiasm. So, Paul said in v.25 that Jerusalem at that time answered to mount Sinai, or in other words were one and the same with reference to the Judiazing doctrine. Thus, Paul is saying in v.26, the new covenant, i.e. Christ's law, is associated with a spiritual Jerusalem or heaven, in other words, where Christ is now sitting on the throne of his kingdom, the church. Jerusalem at the time of Paul, represented here (as Hagar in bondage), was enslaved to the Mosaic system. But, in contrast to that; the Jerusalem above that serves as a headquarters for the church is free. Thus, Christ's law is free from the bondage of the Mosaic system. And Paul says that is implied in the law itself when properly interpreted. His final conclusion is (v.31), "So, then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free." Thus, the Judiazers were insisting on going back under a system of bondage. Now, with that much, I'm going to leave Paul's allegory with you. However, before we read any more, (while we are at this point), let me just mention this in passing., Three major religions in the world today go back to Abraham: the Jews, the Christians and Islam or the Arabic people. The Jews claim to be direct descendants of Abraham through Isaac. The Arabs claim descendancy through Ishmael, while Christians are the spiritual heirs of god's promise through Abraham.
Let's read some more! V. 1-15 in ch. 5; please turn there. Put your eyes on it. Let's read! "Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love. Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth? This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you. A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump. I have confidence in you through the Lord, that ye will be none otherwise minded: but he that troubleth you shall bear his judgment, whosoever he be. And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution? Then is the offense of the cross ceased. I would they were even cut off which trouble you. For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even this: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another."
Alright, in this section which continues to the end of the book; Paul restates and summarizes his arguments as well as infuses a little practical advice plus a few strong warnings to both his brethren and the false teachers. Look at v 1, "Stand fast. What does that mean? Brethren you have compromised and you are drifting away. Where were they to stand fast? In the liberty of Christ, i.e. in the gospel. The words: ";yoke of bondage" at the end of v. 1 obviously has reference to the Mosaic law on which the Judiazers were insisting. ?Be not entangled again" implies they were free from this curse once but are on the verge of being entrapped and enslaved again. To the gentiles this may have referred to the idle gods they once served. But, to once be free and then be entangled again, the N.T. Teaches worse than to never have been free to start with. Peter said (II Peter 2:21), "it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them" and you likely remember Peter's sickening proverb of the dog turning to his own vomit again. So, here in v. 1, Paul is saying it is very important not to become entangled again in the very things from which you have now been made free. In v.2, Paul brings his entire apostleship and reputation to bear upon this fundamental precept: "if you be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing.? If my understanding of Paul's point here is correct; the apostle refers to circumcision as a seal (or evidence) of entering into a covenant relationship of some kind and the keeping the same; in this case the keeping of the law of Moses. The act of circumcision itself, without this implication and without this association, was considered innocent, I'm inclined to think. Thus, down in v.6, Paul said "neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision." In other words, circumcision simply does not enter into Christianity in any shape or form. It is meaningless in Christianity except where it is taken to imply one is serving another system other than Christianity, as was the case with the Judiazers. Although it would appear the Judiazers had no objection to being baptized and following Christ in a secondary sort of way. But, you cannot serve Christ in the secondary sense; that was the problem. It is my understanding that circumcision was also associated with the Jewish nationality, i.e. it was used by some Jews to indicate they were of the lineage and race of Abraham without and old law or covenant keeping implication. I am inclined to think Paul had no objection to that. Thus, Paul did not condemn Jewish parents who circumcised their children in that way. But, to circumcise gentiles as in the case of the Galatian Christians; it could mean nothing else than that of covenant keeping of the old law, you see. This is the sense in which circumcision severe one's relationship with Christ (v. 2). Jesus made it clear that one cannot be halfway in and halfway out. Either, you give your allegiance to King Jesus, or you don't. Jesus said in Matt. 12:30, "he that is not with me is against me." It's just that simple. So, you can't stir in what you like and cull out what you don't like. Thus, if circumcision implies one is going to keep the old law as the Judiazers were insisting: that in itself eliminates from following Christ. That is Paul's point in v.3. Thus, if one is trying to be justified by the law; Christ is become of no effect; or to say it another way: "ye are fallen from grace." That is what Paul said in v.4 and that is simply a re-statement of v.2, in the sense we have discussed. The apostle John said in John 1:17, "the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ." There fore to fall from grace is to fall from the truth or the gospel by Jesus. In v.5, Paul said: "we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith." It's an either/or situation. You cannot serve Christ and serve the law, it's just that simple. I am not aware of any who teach circumcision as part of Christianity today. But, many religions today stir in a little of the old law and mix it up with Christianity; for example, keeping the sabbath day is a common example, tithing, instrumental music, burning of incense, and on and on. So, there's still a great lesson in this text today. We'll finish this in our next lesson. Until then, have a good day!