Welcome to this Monday’s podcast. My name is James Brown – I’m part of the team here at STC and I’ll pick up our journey through Galatians from Tom Finnemore who did an incredible job. Thank you Tom.
Today we’re looking at Galatians 4:21-31 but focusing on verse 22 and 28 and 31:
For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman. Now you, brothers and sisters, like Isaac, are children of promise…
Therefore, brothers and sisters, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman.
Isn’t it funny how children sometimes say in an argument, “yeah well… my Dad is better than your Dad!” It might be a long way to throw your mind back to primary school days like that where we learned phrases such as this – even then we knew we knew we were scraping the barrel for a reply when we churned this one up. It seems some people never grow out of this mindset, even when they are in charge of nations.
Let me connect our reflection today with that of my colleagues in the last two weeks. This book is about an outworking of a debate found in Acts 15. As Helen has stated, two weeks ago, Paul is looking to counter the corrosive and deeply divisive thinking that had entered the church. We cannot earn our salvation. It’s a gift. It’s grace and we receive it. She did a fantastic job at unpacking that.
Building on this Tom drew out for use Paul’s main the theme of the book – freedom. Justification by faith in Christ.” We will explore that more again tomorrow as we have one of the most beautiful summaries of freedom in the New Testament as we start chapter 5.
But today, Paul reminds us of the story of Abraham (not for the first time – this is clearly an important story) that Abraham had two sons. Representing two paths. One to freedom and the other to slavery. Abraham was declared righteous by having faith. That all nations would be blessed through his offspring. It was always Gods plan to have one big family who relate to him on the basis of faith not on the basis of law. Even when Gods people received the Ten Commandments (remember Moses and Mt Sinai?) – that did not replace the previous promise. Tom reminded us of the Abraham story last Monday. What we bring to the relationship is an acknowledgement of his power and love – we position our hearts to Him it and God does the rest. Faith.
Now remember that playground phrase? “My Dad is better than your Dad?”
It seems that Pauls opponents had used this argument – kind of like the ace up their sleeve. In our passage today Paul’s reply is that righteousness with God (in other words, being in right standing with God) is not about having Abraham as your father but the crucial question is, ‘Who is your mother?’ In other words, and to quote the God Father of Soul and someone I share a name with, James Brown “This is a mans But it would be nothing, nothing, without a woman or a girl”. So consider this, “who is your mother”. These people whose insistence on ‘the law’ – basically, Jesus plus Jewish customs made them slaves to ‘the law’ and children of Hagar. Born in slavery, born in human striving as opposed to being born in freedom. Paul in a sophisticated way connects his point to their history – to help them understand. Remember the child of promise, the child of freedom. A word that means ‘liberty’ or ‘release from slavery’ … that can be ours if we relate to God by faith.
What does this mean for you and me? Does it matter if my Dad is better than you Dad?
Not anymore. Even if your Dad has a cupboard FULL of mugs that declare him THE BEST Dad in the whole world. That will not make God love us any more or any less. Even if that is not so in your experience of Father… and that word for us brings up a whole host of different meanings – it certainly does for me. Because of Jesus we are drafted into one big family who relate to Him on the basis of faith not on the basis of law. Gods purposes are not for one single ethnic family. But for all of humanity, all nations to be blessed – simultaneously this becomes a point of unity for all of us and celebrates our diversity as different people with different stories. How beautiful is the gospel of Jesus Christ.
For many of us what these times are teaching us is the importance of family. I parent two beautiful children alongside my wife Lucy and we certainly miss time with our extended family. Especially our parents. We didn’t often take time with them for granted before and we certainly will not again. We can pray for those as well as the gift of faith to grow.
Our Heavenly Father… help us to be unified as followers of Jesus in our pursuit of you… help us to celebrate our diversity as human beings of different earthly families and not to be threatened by things that may be unfamiliar. In this time of change, would you protect our families. Increase our love and connection with those closest to us even if we are far away. In Jesus name, Amen.
BIBLE READING: Galatians 4:21-31
Tell me, you who want to be under the law, are you not aware of what the law says? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman. His son by the slave woman was born according to the flesh, but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a divine promise.
These things are being taken figuratively: the women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: this is Hagar. Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother. For it is written:
‘Be glad, barren woman,
you who never bore a child;
break forth and cry aloud,
you who were never in labour;
because more are the children of the desolate woman
than of her who has a husband.’
Now you, brothers and sisters, like Isaac, are children of promise. At that time the son born according to the flesh persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit. It is the same now. But what does 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.’ Therefore, brothers and sisters, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman.