Sunday, September 10, 2017

[Matt's Messages] "Abraham Had Two Sons"

“Abraham Had Two Sons”
Galatians: The Truth of the Gospel
September 10, 2017 :: Galatians 4:21-5:1

Our current series is called “The Truth of the Gospel” because that’s what Paul was trying to preserve for and in the Galatians.

The Galatian churches, founded by Paul himself, were on the brink of spiritual disaster. False teachers had snuck into these churches and had just about convinced the Galatians to believe a different gospel than the one Paul had taught them.

What was it?

The Galatians were being taught that they had to add keeping the Law of Moses to their faith in Jesus to be right with God.

These Gentile Galatians were being told that they had to get circumcised. They had to eat kosher. They had to observe special days, months, seasons, and years. They had to obey the Ten Commandments to be justified and to stay justified.

But Paul says, “That’s not how it works!”

And for four chapters, he’s been trying to convince them that believing this alternative gospel would be disastrous for them. Ruinous.

He’s come at it from lots of different ways. Last week (in verses 11-20), he pleaded with them. He reminded them of their long warm history together and warned them that the false teachers were just flattering them for their own selfish purposes. And he opened his heart to them about how perplexed and concerned he was for their spiritual well-being.

And Paul is not done trying to win the Galatians back to the truth of gospel of grace.

In this next paragraph, he takes yet another tack.

He goes on the offensive against the false teachers and takes the battle right to them.

And he goes back to Father Abraham.

Paul is a careful and deep student of his Old Testament, and he knows that the false teachers must had been drawing heavily from their Old Testaments. Especially the Law, the Torah, the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament.

So Paul goes back to the Old Testament, back to the Pentateuch, back to Father Abraham, whom they were undoubtedly proud to be connected to, and shows again how Abraham’s story proves the truth of his gospel, not theirs.

And he does it in a very surprising, unexpected way.

Paul has already talked about Abraham’s faith in the promises of God and how they came before the Law.

But now he draws from another story in Abraham’s life. And I would have never thought to do it this way. He draws from the story of Abraham’s first two sons.

I’m going to call this sermon, “Abraham Had Two Sons,” from verse 22.

Of course, Abraham ended up having more than just two sons, but these two sons were the two potential heirs of all of God’s promises in the Abrahamic Covenant.

That word “heir” has been pretty important in this letter so far, hasn’t it?

And these two potential heirs were two very different sons because they came from very different mothers in very different ways.

And Paul sees in these two sons a recognizable pattern that appears again and again in the Bible and corresponds to the two different gospels that are duking it out in the Galatian churches in Paul’s day.

It’s very surprising and little hard to follow, but the upshot is very obvious.

It’s the same upshot that has been running through this whole letter.

And Paul spells it out verse clearly in verse 1 of chapter 5, so we will read through to that as our conclusion this week.

Before we try to understand Paul’s argument here, I think it would help to back up and remind ourselves why this whole thing is so important.

I mean, Paul obviously thinks it’s important or he wouldn’t go to all of this trouble to make these arguments.

What is he so concerned about?

He’s concerned about the truth of the gospel.

Remember the gospel is the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16).

Salvation comes from believing the gospel.

So it’s very important.

What happens if you don’t have the gospel?

You don’t have salvation!

What if you believe the wrong gospel?

You don’t have the power of God for salvation.

That’s why it’s so important.

Paul is afraid that these Galatians are going to throw out the truth of the gospel for legalism and the results will be spiritually disastrous.

And that’s not just for the Galatians.

That’s for us today.

We need to get the truth of the gospel right so that we have the power of God for the salvation of all who believe.

It is that important.

So Paul says (v.21) right after confessing his perplexion with the Galatians, “Tell me, you who want to be under the law, are you not aware of what the law says?”

You want to talk Old Testament? You want to talk Torah?

Okay, let’s go back to Genesis. V.22

“For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman.”

What are the names of those two sons? Do you know this story?

What was the name of Abraham’s first son? Ishmael. Right. What was the name of his mother? Hagar.

What was the name of Abraham’s second son? Isaac. Who was his mother?  Sarah.

Which of those mothers was a slave woman?  Hagar. Right.

So Sarah was a the free woman.

These two sons had the same father, but that was just about the only things they had in common. V.23

“His son by the slave woman was born in the ordinary way [literally “according to the flesh”]; but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a promise.”

Do you remember the story of how their births came about?

It’s not a pretty story. It’s kind of like a Soap Opera or an episode of Jerry Springer or Doctor Phil.

If you have time, go back and read Genesis 16 through 21 this afternoon and refresh your memory.

Basically, Abraham married the slave woman Hagar and had a baby by her because of unbelief.

It was actually Sarah’s idea!

Which of these two ladies had been promised a son?

Sarah had. But ten years had gone by and she was 90 years old and she didn’t really believe that God was going to do it.

Maybe God needed some help. So, she got Hagar involved believing, I think, that “God helps those who help themselves.”

I think that’s what Paul means by saying that Ishmael was “born in the ordinary way” or “according to the flesh.” Now that “flesh” could mean born through physical means or even by sinful means. “Flesh” is used in both of those ways.

But I think Paul is emphasizing that Ishmael was born by these people taking matters into their own hands. Ishmael was conceived by works. By doing.

Not by faith. Not by trusting in God’s promises, but by the opposite.

By making God’s promises come true by forcing His hand through their efforts.

You see that?

See what he contrasts it. Verse 23 again.

“His son by the slave woman was born in the ordinary way; but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a promise.”

Not nature but super-nature.

Not naturally but supernaturally.

Not by works but by faith.

Not by what God does but by what these people did.

Do you see that?

But when Isaac came about, he was the result of God’s promise. He was a gift. He was grace.

He was not what Abraham or Sarah deserved. Clearly!

But He was what God had promised.

Do you see that?

Now, Paul makes a big deal out of their social statuses. Of the mother.

Which mother was a slave? Hagar.

And Paul has been harping on this idea of slavery. Hasn’t he?

Look where he goes with it. Verse 24.

“These things may be taken figuratively, for the women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar.”

Now just a sec.

It’s easy to get lost at this point. Especially if you have a translation like the King James or the ESV that uses the word “allegory” in that verse.

The Greek word is “allaygoroumena” where we get our word “allegory” from and it means to use one set of things to speak of another set of things.

But we tend to use the word “allegory” to mean using “one set of things that is not real” to speak of “another set of things that is real.”

Like maybe a parable or something.

The greatest allegory in English literature is Pilgrim’s Progress.

A fictional story where everything stands for a spiritual reality.

But that’s not how Paul is using the word here.

He is using one set of things to speak of another set of things but the first set of things is historical and real.

Paul discerns a real recognizable pattern here in the Bible that he then lines up all of the points of correspondence so that we can see the pattern for ourselves.

That’s what he means by “allegory” here. It’s stronger than the old NIV makes it. It’s not just that these thing can be taken figuratively. It is that these things are to be seen as lining up in this way.

That’s why the 2011 NIV says, “These things ARE BEING taken figuratively.” Because they do represent a recognizable pattern.

Let’s see what it is:

“These women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves. This is Hagar.”

Got it?

Hagar stands for the old covenant. The Mosaic Covenant.

The Law that was given at Mount Sinai.

And if you think that the Law is going to give you freedom, you’ve got another think coming. V.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.”

Now THAT would have flabbergasted the false teachers!

They would have never associated themselves with Hagar. Not in a million years!

But Paul says, “Oh yeah, that’s who those guys are. They are the children of Hagar.”


Because Hagar’s children come from the flesh (according to the flesh, according to works and getting things done for God), and they are slaves.

They love the Law and the Law does not free. The Law actually makes slaves.

Not because the Law is bad. We always have to add that.

But because we are sinners, and we can’t keep the Law. The Law shows us that we need Christ. But it doesn’t justify us. Because by works of the Law no one will be justified.

And if you add Lawkeeping, you will be slave.

Hagar is your momma.

“Now Hagar ... corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children.”

Jerusalem should be the center of faith, but that’s where the Lawkeeping trouble is coming from.

Now, those are fighting words.

I’m sure that they would have infuriated the false teachers who had infiltrated the Galatian churches, but they needed to be said.

Legalism is a false gospel, and it enslaves.

But. V.26

“But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother.”

Do you see the contrast?

He’s lining up Sarah (when she’s got her faith on!) and the heavenly Jerusalem, the Jerusalem that is still to come, the people of God who believe the promises of the Abrahamic Covenant and the New Covenant ratified by Jesus’ blood.

And he says, that’s all us.

“But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother.”

If you believe the gospel of grace in Jesus Christ, you belong to this side of the column!

Do you see how he’s got everything in columns?

In the one column is Ishmael, Hagar, the flesh, Sinai, the Law, the Old Covenant, the present Jerusalem, slavery.

In the other column is Isaac, Sarah, the promise, the Jerusalem above, the New Covenant, and freedom.

And he’s asking: Which one do you want?

And he pulls out another stop in the Old Testament. Isaiah 54, verse 1.

The first verse after the amazing chapter about the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 53. V.27

“For it is written: ‘Be glad, O barren woman, who bears no children; break forth and cry aloud, you who have no labor pains; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband.’”

Now, that’s from a different time period.

Isaiah is prophesying to the people of God in exile.

And he’s promising them that even though it looks like they are barren (Jerusalem was destroyed) God had plans for a great reversal.

He is still going to bring all of His promises to fruition.

The exile will end and through the suffering of the Servant, there will be massive blessing unleashed on the people of God.

I think Paul draws from this Isaiah here because in the context it talks about Sarah and she also was a barren woman who was eventually given a promised child over against a woman who temporarily had the affections of her husband.

The point is that God is in the business of surprising people with the miraculous keeping of His promises and bringing blessing where it never seemed possible.

Even from the suffering of Jesus on the Cross!

“Be glad, O barren woman” because you’re going to have a baby when you least expect it.

Trust in God and His promises and you will be children of promise. V.28

“Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise.”

That’s who you are!

If you believe.

If you put your faith in Jesus and Jesus alone.

Do you see how Paul is dead set on helping these people to see who they really are?

Sons in the Son.
Heirs of the promises.
Known by God!

If you believe the true gospel, the one about grace, the you are “like Isaac, children of promise.”

You’re on this side of the ledger!

And it’s gonna hurt.

Just because you’re on the right side of the ledger, doesn’t mean that it’s all a bed of roses.

In fact, it’s the opposite.

You can expect persecution for believing the gospel of grace. V.29

“At that time the son born in the ordinary way [Ishmael] persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit. It is the same now.”

It’s gonna hurt.

Ishmael mocked Isaac and gave him a hard time in Genesis chapter 21.

It’s part of the consequences of sin that these conflicts come.

Those who are legalists and are trying to be justified by their law-keeping will not like it if you hold to the gospel of grace.

So in the short run, you’re going to have trouble.

And lots of it.

Don’t be surprised if you believe the right gospel and have a very hard life.

Don’t expect to have your best life now.

Jesus said to expect trouble.

“In this world you will have trouble.”

Paul says elsewhere, “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12).

“It is the same now.”

But that’s just the short-run. See what happens? V.30

“But what does the 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.’”

That’s what happens to those who believe the false gospel of law-keeping.

Do you see how important this is?

Do you see what’s at stake?

Paul quotes Genesis 21:10 which were Sarah’s words (perhaps sinfully motivated), but were authorized in the end by the Lord Himself (cf. Genesis 21:12).

“...the slave woman's son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman's son.’”

Which do you want to be? V.31

“Therefore, brothers, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman. [That’s why Jesus died! Chapter 5, verse 1] It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

Two points of application this morning.

They’re both the logical conclusion of Paul’s allegorical argument from Genesis.


Paul says “Jesus died to set us free.”

Believe that and live free!

Stand firm on Christ alone.

You are a child of promise.

You are child of the free woman.

You are a citizen of the Jerusalem above that is still to come.

She is your mother!

That’s who you are!

I love that Paul gets that from a very careful detailed study of the Old Testament.

There is so much in the Old Testament to get.

We will never exhaust the riches of our Bibles.

Especially if we don’t study them!

I can’t believe how many professing Christians don’t bother to read their Bibles carefully.

Look what Paul found just by reading his Bible!

God doesn’t help those who help themselves.

That’s not in your Bible!

Don’t do things the Hagar way.

Trust in Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ alone.

Trust in the Suffering Servant and the Suffering Servant alone.

“He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.”

And that’s enough!

So that we are free!

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.”

Stand firm.

Have you put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ and Him alone?

There is no greater thing.

Like a 90 year old barren woman who then miraculously gives birth in total joy!

Stand firm.

Live out of your identity in Christ.

Remember what column you are in and live like it.

Stand firm in Christ alone.


“Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

Don’t go back.

Don’t go back to sin.

And don’t go back to the Law.

Don’t trust in Law-keeping for your justification!

You want to be tossed out on your ear?

You want to be associated with Ishmael?

I’m sure that rankled the false teachers! To be lumped in with Hagar and Ishmael when they surely saw themselves as the heirs of Abraham and Isaac.

But they weren’t. They were the children of the slave woman.

Because they were choosing slavery all over again.

Don’t let that be you.

Don’t go back to sin, don’t go back to the Law, don’t go back to the elementary principles of the world.

Put your faith in Jesus Christ alone and stand right there.

Don’t back down.

Don’t go back to slavery.

Paul is not done yet. He has some of the strongest words he ever written yet to come.

Next week we will look at that.

At more of the consequences that come when you go back to slavery.

It’s really bad.

That’s why Paul is worked up.

Because this is all important.

Who and what you are trusting in for your justification before God is very important.

Don’t trust in your own obedience.
Don’t trust in your church-going.
Don’t trust in your relationship with some organized religion.
Don’t trust in your good works.
Don’t trust in your law-keeping.

Trust in Jesus Christ alone and what He did for you on the Cross.

Because that’s where freedom is.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.

Messages in this Series:
01. To the Churches in Galatia
02. Turning to a Different Gospel
03. Preaching the Faith He Once Tried to Destroy
04. So the Truth of the Gospel Might Remain With You
05. Acting in Line with the Truth of the Gospel
06. I Live By Faith in the Son of God
07. You Foolish Galatians!
08. You Are All Sons of God Through Faith in Christ Jesus
09. So You Are No Longer a Slave
10. I Plead With You