“And you brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise. But as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now also. But what does the Scripture say? ‘Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be an heir with the son of the free woman.’ So then, brethren, we are not children of a bondwoman, but of the free woman.” Galatians 4:28-31 (NAS)
The apostle Paul here cites an Old Testament passage from the first book of the Bible, Genesis.
It’s located specifically in chapter twenty-one, verse ten. Here’s the context surrounding the verse from which Paul quotes: “9 Now Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, mocking. 10 Therefore she said to Abraham, ‘Drive out this maid and her son, for the son of this maid shall not be an heir with my son Isaac.’ 11 And the matter distressed Abraham greatly because of his son. 12 But God said to Abraham, ‘Do not be distressed because of the lad and your maid; whatever Sarah tells you, listen to her, for through Isaac your descendants shall be named.’” Genesis 21:9-12. This week’s bulletin “offering” will build somewhat on the previous week’s general concepts of being the descendents or heirs of Abraham. The persecution the early church suffered through came predominantly at the hands of the Jews or those who were manipulated by them, as the book of Acts records. It is clear from the overall gist of the letter that the apostle is talking about the persecution the early church in Galatia suffered through at the hands of the Judaizers (Jews converted to Christianity wanting to go back under the law) who sought to lessen the pressure from their Jewish kinsmen in the flesh. Paul, a Jew himself, recognized the danger, as Sarah had previously perceived, of a “blended” family pulling in two different directions. She understood the child of promise, the child of the covenant had “an exclusive” with the LORD in His covenant. In case you may have forgotten, Ishmael, the son of the flesh by the bondwoman Hagar, had also received a promise from God similar to that given Abraham, his father. When Hagar had fled from Sara the first time (Gen. 16), the angel of the LORD told Hagar to return to her mistress and submit to her authority. The angel of the LORD then said “I will greatly multiply your descendants so that they shall be too many to count.” (Gen. 16:10). The Lord then reaffirmed this promise concerning Ishmael to Abraham (Genesis 17:18-21) while reminding Abraham that His covenant, the eternal covenant, was going to be run through the child of promise born of Abraham and Sarah, Isaac. Two children, both given promises, two different destinies. Though Ishmael was a direct physical descendent of Abraham, he was to have no part in God’s covenant with Abraham. The Jews, as Paul wrote to the Roman brethren, had been “entrusted with the oracles of God.” They had a history, they had the promises, they had the progressive plan of God revealed through Moses and the prophets. Unfortunately they seemed to have missed that part concerning the New Covenant that the LORD intended to bring about due to the failure of the people to keep the law. When the LORD implemented the plan of the New Covenant in Abraham’s seed, Christ Jesus, they didn’t see it. Being deeply concerned about things of the flesh such as proving their physical lineage from Abraham, they missed the promised paradigm shift to the spiritual. The result was a raging jealousy and persecution by the “children” of the flesh against the children of promise, also called “sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus”, those who “were immersed into Christ” and been “clothed …with Christ.” (Gal. 3:26-27) Only those who belong to Christ (by means of the indwelling Holy Spirit, (Rom. 8:9) can claim to be “Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise” and correspondingly, can claim to be children of the New Covenant. That promised indwelling Holy Spirit only comes to those immersed into Christ. As it was with Isaac, so it is with the spiritual seed, it’s an exclusive covenant. If you’re not a child of promise, born from above, you’re still considered as one born according to the flesh, and you’re cast out. That message brethren, as you can imagine, does not go down easy for those who think they are part of God’s program. When we hold fast to the Lord’s plan as Paul did, those still in the flesh will persecute us. So it was then, “so it is now also”.