Galatians 4: “Born of the Free Woman”

The story of Sarah and Hagar is so symbolic of the promises of God that the apostle Paul uses it to explain how we, as followers of Jesus Christ, are children of the free woman, not the slave woman — that we are saved by grace as a free gift from God, not bound as slaves to the law to be judged by our failure to obey. Why, Paul asks the Galatians, would you want to rebind yourselves to the law when God through His Son has freed you by His grace! Why would we, as His followers today, want to bind our souls to the misery of being slaves to our works, our fears, our doubts — our guilt. Jesus has freed us from all of that!

“So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.” (Galatians 4:7 NIV)

“There is a Scripture that tells us what to do: ‘Expel the slave mother with her son, for the slave son will not inherit with the free son.’ Isn’t that conclusive? We are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman.” (Galatians 4:31 MSG)

This meditation is Part 4 of a 6-part series on Galatians. Part 1, “No Other Gospel,” is available here. Part 2, “Crucified With Christ,” is here. Part 3, “Law and Promise,” is here.

Missed a blog post? Find prior posts at LoveAndGrace and tweets at Twitter.

THERE WAS A FAMILY THAT HAD A YOUNG SON AND ALSO OWNED A  SLAVE.

51. adam-eve-teaching-children-82611-galleryAt first, when the boy was young, the slave, who was an adult and trusted by the child’s father, watched over the boy and guided his steps. You might say, the slave “ruled over” the child.

As time went on, however, their roles changed. The child grew to be a man, while the slave remained … well, a slave.

As the child became a man, he was entitled to an inheritance from the father. Not so the slave, whose term of service never changed.

Enter a benevolent outside force that scrambled the picture in a way the world had never seen before. This external force said it could do for the slave what the law was unable to do.

This external force could graft the slave onto the family tree, giving him the same rights as the natural child; in fact, freeing him from his servitude, making him a co-equal son with the natural son, and granting him an equal inheritance from the father.

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THAT’S ONE WAY OF LOOKING at Paul’s letter to the Galatians. In what our Bibles call 51. Envelope-to-the-Galatians“Chapter 4,” (the chapter headings were not in the original text of the letter), the apostle explains the migration that God the Holy Spirit provides everyone of us who progresses from our natural state — that of “unbelief” — to a new, born-again, state, that of “belief.”

In Paul’s terms, we are all slaves from birth by virtue of Adam’s and Eve’s rebellion against God, which ushered in our sinful state. To correct our behavior, God issued the Law, which started with the Ten Commandments. Paul tells us that the Law could not make us virtuous because we could never obey it entirely and consistently.

It’s main function, Paul said, was to show us our inequities, our imperfections, our sins, so that we would realize our need for the saving power of God the Son.

Once we accept the saving power of the Son, the Holy Spirit floods our hearts and takes up residence, creating within us a new person. Paul explains, “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT)

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TO EXPLAIN HOW THIS SLAVE-SON-HEIR transition takes place, Paul took the Galatians (and us) back to the days of Abraham, the Jewish patriarch, and his wife, Sarah.

51. abraham-and-sarah-bible-storyGod had promised Abraham and Sarah that He would provide them with a son and that through that son, Abraham’s descendants would populate many nations and would become as numerous as the stars in the sky.

Speaking of Sarah, God said to Abraham, “I will bless her, and moreover, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall become nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.” (Genesis 17:16 ESV)

As time went on, Abraham and Sarah, by this time 90 to 100 years old, felt that God had not provided the son He had promised them, so they wanted to help Him out, without asking His consent. So Sarah “gave” Abraham her maidservant, Hagar, to bear a son for her.

They named this son “Ismael.” Ismael was beloved by Abraham, but God said Ismael was not the child of God’s promise to Abraham. There would be a second son, this one born of Sarah. They would name him “Isaac,” and Isaac would be the son of God’s promise. The covenant would pass through Isaac, not Ismael.

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PAUL WALKS US THROUGH the story by recounting the tension that developed in Abraham’s house between the two son-bearing women—Hagar, the maidservant who provided a son (Ismael) for Sarah when Sarah remained barren, and Sarah, who later provided a son (Isaac) when the Lord opened her womb.

The Bible tells us that when Isaac was weaned, Abraham threw a great feast for him, but Sarah pleaded with him to discard Hagar and her son, saying Ismael’s continued presence could jeopardize Isaac’s inheritance. (“That slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac,” Sarah told Abraham. Genesis 21:10 NIV)

When Abraham asked God what he should do, God told Abraham to obey his wife, Sarah, reaffirming for Abraham that the covenant that God declared would pass through Isaac, not Ismael.

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THAT BRINGS US BACK to the beginning of our account where there are two sons — one son born of a slave woman into slavery and one son born of a free woman into the rights 51. Hagar & Ishmael Augo4of inheritance.

Here’s where Paul wants us to take special note. As he continues his letter from the points made in Galatians 1-3, that it is God’s grace that provides us with salvation, not our good works, Paul reinforces this amazing truth: that the Lord transforms us, we who are born with sinful natures as slaves of sin, into sons of the Father and, as sons, then as heirs of his good fortune (Galatians 4:7).

Paul tells us that the Law, expressed in the Old Testament, was meant “to lead us to Christ” (Galatians 3:24 NIV) so that He could save us through our faith and His grace (Ephesians 2:8 NIV).

Once the we have been led to God the Son through God’s grace, we become sons of God the Father. Because we are sons, along with the Son, God the Father then sends God the Holy Spirit into our hearts.

Through that transition, done entirely by God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we are transformed from slavery into sonship and, as sons, “God has made [us] also an heir” (Galatians 4:7 NIV).

51. Holy-Spirit-descendingIn effect, we who once were born of the slave woman now are children of the free woman and, thus, of God’s promise.

Born into sin; reborn into salvation!

All because of God’s grace.

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PRAYER: O LORD, our Heavenly Father, it is only by Your grace and mercy that we can enjoy life and have it abundantly, as Your Son assured us. We give You all the glory for the blessings You have given us. Help us understand, or at least appreciate, the transition You have provided for us from our birth into sin and slavery under the Law to sonship with the Eternal Son and, with Him, being heirs of the promise. We thank You, we praise You, we honor You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

Galatians 3: “Law and Promise”

Trying to make it on our own instead of relying on God’s grace is as human as sin, which, of course, is why we try to make it on our own — we suffer the sin of pride. God knows us and has told us that we are better off living our lives His way, which includes accepting the grace of salvation by believing in His Son. The apostle Paul wrestled with this same issue when he told the church in Galatia to stop relying on their own efforts to earn salvation and rely on God’s promise of grace.

This meditation is Part 3 of a 6-part series on Galatians. Part 1, “No Other Gospel,” is available here. Part 2, “Crucified With Christ,” is available here.

Missed a blog post? Find prior posts at LoveAndGrace and tweets at Twitter.

“How foolish can you be? After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort?” (Galatians 3:3 NLT)

So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law.” (Galatians 3:24-25 NIV)

I KNOW I CAN DO BETTER THAN THIS.

I can’t believe what I just said; what I just did. That just isn’t me. I mean, I’m more even-50. Backslidingtempered than that. I don’t know what came over me. I’m tired, hungry even, certainly  stressed by work, family. You know, the usual things.

I can do better than this. I just need to try harder.

Becoming perfect by our individual human effort is the ultimate New Year’s resolution, and, besides, the idea of taking charge is so American, isn’t it? No way are we going to sit back and wish things were different! No, siree! We’re going to do something about it!

Buck up … and try harder.

Despite our best intentions, the outcome of our self-help promises are just as predictable as the rest of our resolutions. After a few tries, with diminishing enthusiasm, we give up.

Maybe we’ll try later, give it another go over the summer or maybe just wait until the following year. We aren’t really quitting, we tell ourselves. We’re delaying our effort. The timing just wasn’t right.

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THE APOSTLE PAUL must have felt the same way with the church in Galatia.

We can see his frustration when he saw those new Christians backsliding. One massive New Year’s resolution fail, but this time a slipping away from God’s saving grace.

No, this is not a discussion of whether a person can lose his or her salvation, but  Man goes on concrete pier in the sunrisewhether once saved, a person can miss the closeness and love for the Father that comes from a growing and continuing relationship with Him.

Jesus referenced this slipping away in Revelation 2:4 (MSG), when He told the church in Ephesus, “You walked away from your first love.”

That is, a person can remain saved but not progress in his/her spiritual walk with the Lord by remaining in place at the very point where they started their walk, like a newborn who never outgrows diapers or starts crawling.

Paul admonished the church in Corinth along those same lines, when he accused them of not growing in their faith. “I fed you with milk, not solid food,” Paul wrote, “for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready” (1 Corinthians 3:2 ESV).

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HOW COULD WE MISS the unmistakeable promise that our Lord and Savior has given us? The great gift of grace! We don’t have to do life on our own. When we accept the Holy Spirit into our hearts, God pours His grace into us and relieves us of the burden and responsibility.

“Come unto Me, all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest,” Jesus says (Matthew 11:28 MEV).

Okay, so there’s a catch, right? Once we surrender our lives to God, we are “owned” by  someone else, required to live up to someone else’s agenda and match their standards. 

50. Making_DecisionsYes, absolutely true! The Bible is very clear about that. In 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 ESV, Paul states, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”

But, wait!

According to the Bible, God’s revealed testimony, you always were owned by someone else.

Listen to what Jesus says about that. Here He is in John 8:34 GW: “Jesus answered them, ‘I can guarantee this truth: Whoever lives a sinful life is a slave to sin.’”

Here’s Paul again: “Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living.” (Romans 6:16 NLT)

So, either way, you’re owned, right? Either you’re owned by sin, which leads to death, or you’re owned by righteousness, which leads to life.

You pick. Your choice. God’s gift of free will.

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SOMEWHERE, THERE’S THAT VOICE of doubt that whispers, “Maybe not everyone. This cops-and-robbers stuff might affect those people, but surely not me.”50. Open_Bible

Yes, you and me. Paul tells us in Galatians 3:22a NIV that we’re all engulfed in this sin mess, everyone of us. “But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin.”

Paul doesn’t leave us hanging. Instead, he goes on to tell us that God has provided an escape for us, if we would just trust Him. What is that escape? Well, verse 22 continues with the answer: “so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.”

What was promised?

The promise, as the following verses (23-25) explain, is that we are no longer prisoners under the law but justified (considered righteous) through Jesus Christ. “Now that faith has come,” Paul writes, “we are no longer under the supervision of the law.”

The law was about works, doing the right things and trying to earn God’s favor by our actions. Replacing the law with grace, through Christ’s perfect life, death on the cross, and resurrection means we are recipients of God’s free gift of grace (Romans 3:24).

That was the point Paul was trying to drive home to the struggling Galatians. God, through His mercy, has given you the kingdom through your faith in His Son. Why are you falling back on old habits of trying to merit salvation through your own efforts, when Scripture tells us you are destined to fail … every time?

Better to accept God’s gift of grace through His Son. God reconciles us to Himself and grants us an eternity in His rest.

As we reflect on that gift, we are moved to join Paul in his prayer of praise: “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15 NIV).

Amazing.

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PRAYER: O Heavenly Father, Creator of the Universe, Who made us in Your image, we confess we have failed You in our willfulness, striving to earn salvation on our own merits despite the sinful natures of our hearts. Forgive us, O Lord, and change our hearts from hearts filled with anger and lust and pride and sloth and covetousness and treachery and guile, and give us hearts that love the Lord and want to serve only Him. In Jesus’ precious Name we lift this prayer. Amen

 

 

Galatians 2: “Crucified With Christ”

Grace is God’s free gift to mankind. It is a gift that was bought with the lifeblood of Jesus Christ, a man without sin who bore God’s wrath against all of our sins so the Father could reclaim us — those who believe in Him — to share an eternity in Paradise. We cannot earn salvation through our own efforts, but we are given the gift of salvation from God’s grace when we believe. It’s that simple; yet, for most of mankind, it’s that difficult.

This is Part 2 of a 6-part meditation on Galatians. Part 1, “No Other Gospel,” is available at Galatians 1.

Missed a blog post? Find prior posts at LoveAndGrace and tweets at Twitter.

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20a ESV)

“Yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ … because by works of the law no one will be justified.” (Galatians 2:16 ESV)

49.ChristCrucifiedForMeGRACE IS GOD’S FREE GIFT TO MANKIND.

It is a gift that was not chiefly bought nor casually given. In fact, the apostle Paul says our very bodies are temples in which the Holy Spirit lives. “You are not your own,” he writes. “You were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God with your body” (1 Corinthians 6:20 BSB).

What boggles the mind is this: Considering the stakes at hand — our eternal, everlasting, without-end destiny — you might think mankind would rush into the open arms of Jesus Christ, thanking Him profusely with tears and hugs for providing God’s grace through His sacrifice on the Cross for us.

You would be wrong.

Most people appear to be stuck on the words “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me,” and that’s where they stop. They don’t want any part of it, no shifting of controls from me to Him. It’s my life, and I’ll live it the way I want to. Stay back, Jesus.

Unless I need Your help, then I’ll let You know.

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DOES THAT BOTHER YOU?

It bothers me.

Aren’t you totally bummed to realize that most of the smiling faces you’ll encounter today are not remotely interested in receiving the grace offered by their Savior, nor are they willing to let Him take the controls of their earthly lives, even though the payoff is eternal life instead of eternal punishment.

Even the introductory clause of having been “crucified with Christ” is a meaningless  49.ChristDiedForMemess of words for most people, who have no idea what that means.

Really, for most people who have ever lived, the Cross was just a tragic end a long time ago in a primitive culture for a man who might well have been a gifted teacher and, possibly, an extraordinary healer, but it was nothing more than that.

Those who lived before the Cross ignored the law and the prophets.

For those of us who believe, however, it is the most incredible act of love and self-sacrifice the world has ever witnessed — at least, that part of the world that’s paying attention.

Paul, again, tells us that “God made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we would become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21 NET). The apostle Peter called the crucifixion the shedding of “the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God” (1 Peter 1:19 NLT).

But what is that to an unbelieving world?

Paul, again, states it this way: “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18 ESV).

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SO, WE’VE SEEN THAT MOST PEOPLE do not want to cede control over their lives to the One who can give them life, and life abundantly (John 10:10), but what about that second part, about being “justified” by works or by faith? What’s up with that?

“Justification” is just a big word that means a person has been made “righteous in the sight of God.”

49.ImputationDiagramPaul says it this way: “not because I have my own righteousness derived from the law, but because I have the righteousness that comes by way of Christ’s faithfulness—a righteousness from God that is in fact based on Christ’s faithfulness (Philippians 3:9 NET, emphasis mine).

In other words, Jesus lived a sinless life, and God credits His righteousness to my account — blotting out my sin-stained life — the moment I accept His Son as my Lord and Savior.

That transfer of Christ’s righteousness for my unrighteousness is my Ticket to Paradise!

The really big deal with that is that the alternative way to earn God’s favor is for me to live a sinless life — and I lost that one a long time ago.

“There is none righteous, no, not one,” Paul writes. “There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. … There is none who does good, no, not one” (Romans 3:10-12 NKJV).

The prophet Isaiah was just as blunt, saying that in God’s eyes, “All of us [that includes you and me] have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6 NIV).

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Most of us probably figure we’re on the good side of the Bell Curve. We haven’t killed anyone, or cheated on our spouse, or stolen our neighbor’s car, so we’re good.

Not so fast. Not in God’s eyes.

See, God is perfect; we are sinful.

James, the half-brother of Jesus (they shared a mother), tells us this: “If someone obeys all of God’s laws except one, that person is guilty of breaking all of them” (James 2:10 GW).

49.FocusOnJesusAll of them. Murder. Rape. Adultery. Theft. Slander. Lying.

Lest we think somehow God only keeps a record of what we do, no, He also keeps a record of what we say and what we think, as well.

Try this from Jesus’ own lips: “But what comes out of the mouth [our words] comes from the heart, and this defiles a man” (Matthew 15:18 HCSB).

And what about thoughts? “Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, ‘Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts?’” (Matthew 9:4 NIV).

How about this one from Jesus: “You have heard that it was said to our people long ago, ‘You must not murder anyone. Anyone who murders another will be judged. But I tell you, if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be judged’” (Matthew 5:21-22a NCV, emphasis mine).

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THERE’S JUST NO WAY AROUND IT.

What we do, God sees as “filthy rags”; what we say, God sees as “defiling” us; and what we think, God sees as “evil.”

So, we are totally dependent for our salvation on Jesus Christ.

Considering how we don’t measure up in God’s eyes, those words from Scripture that we quoted earlier now sound beautiful and reassuring. I have been crucified with Jesus Christ. Christ lives in me. We are justified not by our good works but through faith in the Christ.

Paul said it clearly in Ephesians 2:8 NLT: “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.”

Amen, brother.

Now, that’s Grace!

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PRAYER: Holy Father, Lord God Almighty, we are so unworthy to approach the throne with our petitions except through the blood of Jesus Christ. Would You forgive us for our lack of faith? Would You soften the hearts of our family members, friends, and neighbors who do not know You or care to learn about You? Would You just grab us in Your loving arms and never let go, even when we act, talk, and think viciously evil, self-defiling filth? God be praised with all power, honor, and glory forever. Thank You, Lord Jesus, for Your amazing sacrifice for us. Thank You, eternally, Lord Jesus, for claiming us as Your own. Amen