Standing and Resisting: Galatians 4:21-5:1 (Sermon)



 

STANDING AND RESISTING 

Galatians 4:21-5:1 

 

WELCOME - 

Welcome. I am pastor Rob, and it is great to be with you. If you are tuning-in online, welcome. Thanks for joining us. It is always great to hear where you are viewing from, so chat on the sidebar to let us know. 

LAKE

My grandfather retired to Long Prairie, Minnesota. He lived on a small inland lake, Charlotte. We would visit in the summer, pan fishing off his dock. I remember being there for hours catching, or more accurately, trying to catch sunnies, perch, and rock bass. It was fun, except for one day. I had forgotten where I was standing. I was at the end of the dock. I started to back up and walked right into the lake. Man, I was wet. If I caught anything that day, it was a cold. So here is a tip: Remember where you are standing when you are on a dock. The same goes for when you are not. Remember where you are standing. 

INTRO

Where you stand is critical. Where are you standing? I mean that metaphorically. What do you stand for? What are you about? When do you speak up, and when do you quiet up? When do you resist, and when do you make concessions and compromises? Do you bring up every issue or complaint? Do you stand up to the government when it comes to mandates? What rules do you have to follow, and what problems can you agree to disagree with? What matters? There seem to be gradients of answers. How do we know where the line is? The Bible is our guide. We need to stand on God’s Word and resist conflicting worldviews and life decisions.  

STANDING 

Today, we will address this question in regards to ultimate things by going back to the Bible and the book of Galatians. We are continuing our series in Galatians. Let’s read the verses for ourselves. 

TEXT 

I am going to have R.C. read for us this morning. So please stand with me in honor of reading the Word. 

 

Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise. Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. For it is written, “Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear; break forth and cry aloud, you who are not in labor! For the children of the desolate one will be more than those of the one who has a husband.” 

 

Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. But just as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now. But what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.” So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman. For freedom Christ has set us free; 

 

stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 4:21–5:1)

 

PRAYER

Thank you R. Let’s pray. 

Dear God, thank you for sending your Son. Thank you for dying in our place and forgiving our sin. Please speak to us. We need more of you than we know. Open our eyes to see the incredible things you have done. Help us to know what to stand on and stand firm in that. And help us to resist the evil one and his ways, in Jesus’s name, amen. 

You may be seated. 

CONTEXT 

You may remember that the Apostle Paul wrote to the churches in Galatia. Here is a picture for those of you who are visual learners. (I find this helpful.) This is where Paul’s letter went. 

Why did he write this letter? What was the occasion? He wrote because other teachers came in and distorted the message after teaching the gospel to the churches in the area. They began to teach that God wanted everyone to follow the Mosaic law to be right with him. They introduced something like: “If you want to have peace with God, if you want to be free from your guilt, if you want to be in good standing, then follow the rules.” It was part religious, part nationalistic, and part moralistic. The church began courting this teaching. Paul found out about it and had some strong words in response. This letter is the firmest rebuke he gave in the Bible. We can summarize Galatians in one sentence, “Return to the gospel of grace so you can walk in freedom with the Spirit.” Say this with me, 

“Return to the gospel of grace so you can walk in freedom with the Spirit”. 

We want to avoid #gospeldrift. 

SPECIFIC PASSAGE - Allegory vs. 24

In this specific passage, R. read, Paul wrote using the Genesis account of Abraham’s two sons. Often, Paul cited the Old Testament to prove his position. However, that is not what he did here. Instead, he called his use of the story an allegory. That meant he wasn’t interpreting the account but illustrating his argument. 

ORGANIZATION 

Admittedly, the passage is a bit complicated. We pastors read it aloud this week, and I got confused. Maybe it was confusing to you just now. We can break down this passage into three sections, with verse 1 of chapter 5 offering the conclusion. (Remember that the numbering of the chapters and verses were not inspired. The chapters and verses were added to the English Bible by translators in A.D. 1560.) That being the case, 

  • Verses 21 through 27 describe the principal conflict through Abraham’s two sons. 

  • Verses 28 through 31 connects the allegory to the church, 

  • And chapter 5 verse 1 reminds the church what to do. Paul’s main point was that the, 

Church, stand for your freedom and resist slavery

Let me repeat that, 

Church, stand for your freedom and resist slavery

LAW 

Let’s go back to chapter 4 verse 21,

Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law? (Galatians 4:21). 

 

Note that Paul used the word “law” in two different ways. The first concerned the Mosaic law, specifically, as we will see next week in the practice of circumcision. The second described the Bible or the Old Testament. Why did he use the word “listen,” not read? Well, most people were illiterate, although some could read. The letters and the Old Testament books were read aloud in the synagogues and churches. As we read earlier in Galatians, the law or the Torah, recorded that Abraham was justified by faith, not by works of the law. Did people listen to that? Not exactly. They were listening to other voices and falling for a gospel distortion. The gospel was from God and predated Paul’s ministry. Paul was just the messenger. 

TWO 

Galatians 4 goes on into a series of comparisons: two sons, two moms, two origins, two covenants, and two locations.  

 

Two Sons—Isaac and Ishmael (vs. 22)

Two Moms—Hagar the Slave and referred to Sarah the Free  (vs. 22) 

Two Origins—the Flesh and the Promise (vs. 23)

Two Covenants—the Old and implied the New

Two Locations —Mount Sinai or Jerusalem (vs. 25) and Jerusalem above (vs. 26). 

 

BACKGROUND - TWO WIVES AND TWO SONS

This allegory grew out of the details in Genesis chapters 16, 17, and 21. Paul ended this section by quoting Isaiah 54, demonstrating that God can take a barren woman and give her children. God can bring life out of death. God does the impossible. Paul’s audience was the fulfillment of Isaiah 54. He spoke to Christians who were once dead in their sin. He spoke his message to Jews and Gentiles alike. They were men and women, slave and free, and young and old. Likely, Paul’s detractors used some of the same Old Testament passages to prove their points. As Paul argued his case, the letter recipients would have some of the contexts in mind. 

STORY

God spoke to him and promised a child. That was incredible. Abraham waited and waited and waited for God to keep his promise. That would have been hard. Maybe you are there today. Proverbs says that a hope deferred makes the heart sick (Proverbs 13:12). I don’t think God regularly spoke to Abraham. It seems like we have the light reel. God gives some extraordinary revelation to him. Then he goes about his day-to-day life with God. We don’t know what Abraham’s relationship with God was like during those years. We know that God didn’t give Sarah any children for a long while. Every month I bet she wondered if some little person was growing inside her. Perhaps, she doubted. Was Abraham making up this revelation? Did God really say that? Maybe Abraham had his doubts. Did they wait long? Ten years! That is 120 months. I wonder if they thought they got God’s message wrong during that holding pattern. Did they misunderstand him? Maybe they need to do their part to help make this happen. 

FLESHLY SOLUTION 

Sarah had an idea. She had a slave, Hagar. Abraham would get her pregnant, and they would have a surrogate child. The slave woman would have a son and the promised heir. Simple. Abraham could try it and see if it worked. If God is the one who gives life, maybe they thought his blessing would be pregnancy? Regardless of motivation and rationale, their choices made sense to them. They lived in a culture where barrenness meant embarrassment and shame, while slavery and polygamy were normal. Everyone did it. 

RESULTS IN DEATH 

However, like their chosen path, a compromise was not how God designed family or property or procreation. Abraham and Sarah were operating in the flesh, not faith. As Paul wrote, our "mother" and the man of "faith" promoted another faith, faith in themselves. Instead of waiting on God, they did what their hearts and minds wanted to do. They did things their way in their time. And guess what? God blessed them with a child. But with the child came another addition to the home, bitterness. Immediately, resentment and jealousy set in. Sarah, who suggested the idea, regretted it. Her idea backfired. And it went from bad to worse. First, she had to live with Hagar and her son for years, at least fourteen, before having her one and only son. After that, the Bible says her womb was as good as dead. (But God can bring life out of death.) 

PERSONAL

I bet Abraham wished he didn't do what he did. So what seemed like a good idea one day resulted in anger, envy, harshness, conflict, and fear. (You don't fix a problem with sin, sin leads to more corruption.) Have you ever seen that before? This gives us the context for Paul's communication to the Galatians about slavery and the flesh.  

SINAI

In verse 24, Paul moved from quoting and illustrating to metaphor. 

 

Now this may be interpreted allegorically: [See the metaphors] these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. (Galatians 4:24–26)

 

In what way did Paul use metaphors? Hagar was one of two covenants; she was also a mountain, Mount Sinai. She was “Jerusalem.” On the other hand, the Jerusalem above is our mother. Do we talk like that? Around here, we have Miss Blossomtime. She represents our community. 

PARALLEL

In the same way, Paul was saying Hagar represented the community or activity centered around Mount Sinai and Jerusalem, and the Old Covenant. Now, what do they all have in common? What is the common denominator? You may remember that God gave the law to Moses at Mount Sinai. That is where we got the Ten Commandments. You may recall that Jerusalem was where the Temple was. It was the center of the Jewish religion. The opposition to Christianity flowed from this city. Thus, Paul equated his opponents with the law, Jerusalem’s opposition, and Hagar’s son born out of a fleshly desire to fix. 

OUR MOTHER

In verse 26, Paul connects his allegory to his reader, the free woman, Jerusalem above, is our mother. In verse 27, Paul quoted Isaiah, a prophet, as his reasoning. What does it say? 

 

For it is written, “Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear; break forth and cry aloud, you who are not in labor! For the children of the desolate one will be more than those of the one who has a husband.” (Galatians 4:27) 

 

God predicted, by the Holy Spirit, through Isaiah, that one day his promise to Abraham in Genesis 12 and 17 would be fulfilled. He promised Abraham his children would be more numerous than the grains of sand in the seashore. He only had Isaac with Sarah. However, the barren woman would have more children than the others. Sarah was a barren woman. She was not in labor. She was desolate. The Galatian church was a living demonstration of God keeping his promise. Christians, Jews, and Gentiles alike are children by the Holy Spirit, not by flesh or by keeping the rules. God promised to bless all nations through Abraham. Through missions, God is still accomplishing this promise today. He calls people to himself from every language, tribe, and nation. God is building the church and calling people to himself. 

PERSECUTION

We come to the second section. Let’s keep reading.  

 

“Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. But just as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now”  (Galatians 4:28–29).

 

Paul experienced persecution, and so did Sarah. In what sense? In Genesis 21, verse 9 says Ishmael laughed at her or mocked her. 

CAST OUT 

Paul connected what Sarah and Abraham did with Ishmael and Hagar with what we should do with those who want to enslave us in an alternative way. Look at verses 30 and 31. 

 

But what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.” So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman. (Galatians 4:30–31)

 

In context, Paul is paraphrasing. This is not a direct quote. In Genesis 21, Sarah told Abraham to cast out the slave woman and her son to protect Isaac’s inheritance. Abraham did what his wife asked. He gave Hagar some provisions, and she left. There was more in the story. (God protected Hagar and her son. He blessed her). God blessed Sarah and her son. God kept his promise regardless of the faithlessness of Abraham and Sarah. He didn’t renege.) God was faithful. The free woman’s child was a child of a promise regardless. God did what a person could never do.

BLESSING

The blessing was done based on God keeping his Word. And God offers that to the Galatians as well. The believer is the child of the promise, not by works of the law. They are born free in the new birth, the soul’s conversion from death to life with God. We have, by faith, an extraordinary inheritance that won’t perish, spoil, or fade. It is kept in heaven for us. It is going to be amazing. We get a little taste today when we sing and enjoy being adopted sons and daughters of God. We get a hint of heaven when we experience the freedom from the bondage of sin or tyranny from false religion. 

FREEDOM

A movie from my college days was Brave Heart. William Wallace, a Scottsman, wanted his country to break free from the oppression of England. His rallying cry was FREEDOM! Did you see it? It reminds me of Galatians 5 verse 1. 

 

“For freedom Christ has set us free” (Galatians 5:1)

 

The children of the promise are free. How? Christ has set us free and said as much in John 8. 

 

“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31–32).

 

What did Jesus mean? What was his word? He is the Messiah. He is the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through him (John 14:6). He came as a ransom to give his life for ours. He came to heal the sinful souls. He came to serve. He came to die. Jesus taught that out of hearts comes all types of evil. We can’t follow a list of rules to right our wrongs. We can’t offer a sacrifice that will adequately fix our relational breakdown with God. We can’t ignore our guilt toward God. We can’t hide it from him. We can’t scrub it out. A drastic work must be done. We are slaves to sin apart from Jesus. We are stuck apart from Jesus. We are broken people, apart from Jesus. He died to fix us. [Can I get an AMEN?] He died for sin. He died so that all who would believe in him would not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16). He died to make us free to obey God. 

STAND 

Look at verse 1 of chapter 5 again. 

 

“For freedom Christ has set us free” (Galatians 5:1)

 

Verse 5b repeats that idea again with two commands, one positive and one negative. 

 

“Stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1).

 

So we come full circle to the main idea: 

 

Church, stand for your freedom and resist slavery

 

Where do we stand? What should we stand for? We should stand for this freedom, this promise, this historical fact that Jesus came, lived, died, and rose to set those enslaved free. That truly is more important than political identity; that is more important than skin color. That is more important than nationality. That is more important than the school or job or neighborhood or family. Your relationship with God is the most important thing about you. Do you believe that? Your relationship with God is based on Jesus and “in Jesus.” Stand on that. Stand for that.  

RESIST

Paul went on to end verse 1 with this command to not do something.

 

“Do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1).

 

Resist alternatives. What is this yoke in our day? We are not tempted to circumcise all the adult males in our church like the Galatians. Thank the Lord. That would be worse than forcing people to drink curdled milk and eat moldy bread. But we can be enslaved by other things. There are ways in which we in our flesh can take shortcuts like Abraham and Sarah. There are ways we distance ourselves from faith in God and put more stake in ourselves or alternative paths. How so? A materialist solution finds our identity and life in God’s gifts rather than him. How does materialism work? Do you ever feel the adrenaline rush at purchasing something, a click on Amazon, or thought of a home improvement? That rush isn’t sinful; however, if that rush is what I live for, what I hope for, what I focus on more than God, it enslaves me. It controls. It consumes.

CANOE 

For example, if I like the idea of a canoe. I need one. I will use it to explore the Galien River. So, I search and search and search. It is exciting. What if I did find one and buy it? Then I would be happy. But in a bit, I would not. I would need more. I would need a roof rack or a new car to haul it or a trailer. So I research and research and research. What if I found what I need? What if I buy it? I am happy for a while. Then, I need more. I need to find a place and time to use it. The “needs” go on and on and on. They are not needed. They are “wants.” That is a materialistic approach to life. The Judiazers looked at life from a legalistic approach or adherence to the law as their solution. 

 

  • Materialists stand on their obtaining material goods for happiness. 

  • Hedonists stand on their pursuit of pleasure. 

  • Moralists stand on their behavior for happiness. 

  • Environmentalists stand on their impact on the environment for happiness.

  • Protectionists stand on their sense of safety and control for happiness. 

 

Church, stand for your freedom and resist slavery. We must resist all alternatives to standing firm on Christ, our solid rock. Christ alone is our hope in life and death. He has freed us from the bondage to sin. He has promised us an inheritance that we know in part now and will enjoy in full soon enough. So, friends, what are you standing for today? Where is your hope? Where is your love? What are you consumed with? 

STAND 

Whether you are new here or have been trusting in Christ since you were a little child, whether you are a guy or a gal, young or old, let’s take a stand right now, literally. Will you stand? Please stand with me. Picture the ground beneath us as Jesus, the Word of God made flesh. Jesus ended his sermon on the mount this way, 

 

Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it. (Matthew 7:24–27)

 

Jesus is your Rock. He is our only hope in life and death. The substitutes are enslaving, shifting, empty, and deadly. Church, stand for your freedom and resist slavery today, tomorrow, and forever. 

PRAY

Let’s pray. 

Dear God, thank you so much for sending your Son Jesus in our place. We love you. We need you. Help us to stand for our freedom and resit slavery. You are our rock and our redeemer, amen. 


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