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In this webinar on Galatians 4, Lives Transforming examines the extensive allegory Paul uses to illustrate the stark differences between being under the law or under grace.
Paul starts his allegory off with Abraham. Abraham had two sons – his firstborn was Ishmael, the son of a bondwoman named Hagar, and Isaac, the son of his wife, Sarah.
Abraham was promised by God that his wife would have a son in her old age. However, as time passed and they both continued to get older, Abraham and Sarah took matters into their own hands. Abraham had a won by his wife’s handmaid, a slave. Later, God fulfilled his promise and gave Sarah a son.
In the spiritual realm, Paul says that the bondwoman, Hagar, represents the law. This is easy to see, because as we have learned in other webinars on Galatians, the law is all about human effort. Ishmael was Abraham’s work, not God’s.
Going further, Hagar represents Mount Sinai, or the Mosaic Covenant set up when God led the Israelites out of slavery. This covenant was designed to be temporary, as an imperfect solution.
The Mosaic covenant was one of rules, which left the people in bondage to the law, the Torah. Jews today still follow the commands of the Torah and the Mishna, the explanation of the Torah.
People today who follow legalism as the way to salvation are slaves to what they can do. Their ‘justification’ is tied to personal performance and what other people think of them.
On the other side is grace, represented by Sarah’s son, Isaac. God miraculously brought life to Sarah’s barren womb, just as He had promised. Isaac represents Christianity because just as he was the work of God, justification through Christ’s redemptive work on the cross is the work of God alone. We can take no credit for it. This covenant is unconditional, and is represented by the Abrahamic covenant (righteousness by faith).
Just as God brought life to the ‘dead’ womb of Sarah, He brings spiritual life to our dead spirits when we receive His righteousness through faith in Christ.
Derek Wilder points out that although Paul effectively utilizes this allegory to illustrate the concepts of law verses grace to the Galatian believers, there is a danger in using allegory as a method of teaching. Some early Church fathers and teachers tended to focus more on the allegorical concepts of Scripture and belittle the historical facts they are based on.
In the final two verses, Derek shares the three different viewpoints that are presented in the rest of his webinars – Dallas Theological Seminary, John Calvin, and Martin Luther.
Dallas Theological Seminary interprets Paul’s reference to an earthly Jerusalem and a heavenly Jerusalem to be quite literal. During the 1st century, Jerusalem was ‘enslaved’ to the control of the Roman Empire. They believe the heavenly Jerusalem to refer to an actual heavenly city that, according to the Book of Revelation, will one day come down to rest on the earth.
There is no problem with interpreting this literally, but Calvin views the two Jerusalems as metaphors for the law and grace. The law is what comes from the world, the ‘Jerusalem which is below,’ and grace comes from above, from the heavenly Jerusalem.
Luther holds yet another view of these verses, that the heavenly Jerusalem is a metaphor for the Church, the body of believers. He believes then, that the Church is the mother spoken of in verses 26 that brings forth spiritual children, as the Gospel is spread and results in new believers.
Yet again, we see that the law is the equivalent of legalism – trying to accomplish righteousness through works, plagued by the need to prove ourselves and gain the approval of others. Legalism is binding and cannot lead to righteousness or self-worth. Living under grace means accepting Christ’s righteousness as our own through justification and allowing Him to live it out through us.