Love, Truth, and the Jerusalem Above

Galatians 4:12-31  In these verses we see the great Love between Paul and Galatians (whereas there is no love between Judaizers and anyone).  Love leads Paul to concern, to labor again, to admonish with truth and reassure the Galatian churches, so that they would realize they are children of the free woman, born according to the Spirit.

Verse 12  Paul tells these churches to ‘Become as I am,’ that is to say: full of love, vulnerability, openness, TRUTH, and  walking by faith instead of lawkeeping. “You have done me no wrong,” though the Judaizers had, the Galatians did not; so there was no need to skulk or be shy!  

Verse 14 ‘received as an angel of God.’  Think through, how did the OT prophets greet angels? One example is amazement, (Zechariah 1:12ff)  Zechariah was amazed. How did John, while on Patmos, greet the angel who brought visions of heaven?  How did Mary act toward Gabriel? Would not the Galatians then have been in awe of Paul’s teaching, amazed at the Gospel, and  perhaps even enamored with Paul?

Verse 16–so what changed?  Has the truth come between them, making Paul an enemy?  Do they loathe the truth, and therefore the preacher? This happens still today in many a church; gossip is much more acceptable than truth, and the prosperity gospel rather than the True Gospel.  

Verses 17 -18 The Judaizers want to shut you out, just as the Law once did!  Apart from faith in Christ alone we are condemned, and they seek out the Galatians to create a codependent relationship.  The Judaizers intend to feed their pride on being so necessary to the law-keeping of the Galatians. However, in Christ it is good to be sought.  Not the “I am of Paul, I am of Apollos…” sort of seeking, which feeds pride and idolatry; but the seeking of a teacher, seeking fellowship with an older brother, seeking the blessing we receive from one another (i.e. serving one another with our gifts, cf Romans 1:9-12).  Ponder the following examples:

     1 Thess 2:1-12, Paul seeking out disciples for Jesus

     2 Timothy 1:15-17  Paul being sought out as a teacher

Paul tells the Galatians he is in labor again, with birth pangs again; but this is all worth it!

Verse 21 Important question and illustration.  Not rhetorical, but intended to be left unanswered, as if they knew they didn’t really listen and obey and know all the ins and outs…

Verses 22-31, Paul takes a historical account from the “law”  (first five books of the Bible) and turns the real historical account into an allegory–showing how it points to a deeper truth, standing for something other (like Bunyan’s Pilgrims’ Progress) similar to what Jesus teaches in John 3.  Being born of the Spirit.

Two options, not many.

You are either: Slave or free; God’s child or not; flesh or Spirit; life or death

And if Spirit, then also promise!

As a child has one mother, so you have one of these for your mother:  the slave Hagar, earthly; or the bride, Sarai, heavenly.

Verse 26–When Paul wrote this to the Galatians, Revelation had not been written yet; this is the first NT allusion to the heavenly city, the New Jerusalem, the Jerusalem above.  There are plenty of references in the OT to let us know that Paul is indeed talking about heaven.

Keep life and die, or lose it and live…  Keep it, live on Mt. Sinai here, slave, and receive your wages.  Or lose it, looking for the Jerusalem above which is free (not slave) and which is populated with children innumerable, and receive the promises!!!

Verse 28, what a beautiful and refreshing proclamation!  Brethren. You are. Children of promise. (let us commit to reminding our true brothers and sisters in Christ of the unchangeableness of His calling and purposes!  Despite the troubles caused by Judaizers, it is not too late, they have not changed their Union with Christ.)

Verse 29 Flesh persecuted Spirit then, historically, and will ever do so now also.  We are co-heirs with Christ–and each other–but not with children of the slave woman, who are not born of the Spirit.  (Romans 8:17; 5:17). There will always be those who find this exclusivity offensive, but then the cross has always been offensive.  God’s will is offensive to those unwilling to humbly submit that He is God and we are therefore not captains of our own ships.

Verse 30  So cast out the bondwoman and her son.  Ancient Near Eastern practice, according to the code of Hammurabi for example: the children of the wife shall divide the property of the father’s house equally with the sons of the bondmaid; the son and heir, the son of the wife, shall choose a share first and take it.  As for the case of a childless wife, it is stipulated in marriage contracts fr that she shall provide her husband with a slave wife and that the son of such a slave wife shall not be expelled. 1 So Sarai, by demanding Hagar be thrown out–was showing God’s true character, preserving His intentions for marriage rather than culture norms.  She was breeching with cultural customs, and we can all at this point in history rejoice. We cannot make God’s promise come about on our own, claim it by force, bring it to pass before the fulness of times, or in anyway tweak it.

The miracle of Isaac’s birth, points to the miracle of our being born of the Spirit.  By birth, the Galatians were not of Isaac’s line!  All the more reason to rejoice that these Gentiles, and that we too, are truly children of the promise, of the Spirit, of free grace.  

The gist of the whole allegory:  So–do you not listen to the law?  The Law says the son of the bondwoman [the self seeking, striving] is cast out, so why seek to be that son?  The trouble making Judaizers would have appealed to the same story, no doubt, in order to say “you are sons of Ishmael!  We have the covenant, the law, the blessings (think upon Ephesians2:12!) If you want in on these promises, submit to the law, cut your flesh and thereby join us as sons of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob!”  Yet, Paul turns the story around, saying in Christ we have the promise, but those who are outside of Christ, whether Jew by birth or not, are sons of the bondwoman.

  1. F.F. Bruch, The Epistle to the Galatians, a Commentary on the Greek Text, (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1982), 216.