Full Text for Galatians- Volume 34 - Why does Paul resort to allegory about Abraham and his two wives in bringing his argument to a close? (Video)

No. 34. >> As we come to the end of Chapter 4, we also seem to be coming to the close of Paul's theological argument from Scripture. Why do you think he resorts to an allegory about Abraham and his two wives, Sarah and Hagar, in bringing his argument to a close? >>DR. ARTHUR A. JUST, JR.: Nick, that is such a fine question. Because it does indicate here that we are coming to the end of a section. And I can't emphasize that enough. This has been a long section. And you have been very patient with both Paul and me. Because it is a dense theological section. And it's -- in a way, it's almost unnecessary that he have this allegory. And yet at the same time without it, it would not have the punch that I think it has in terms of his exegetical argument from Scripture as to why the Gospel is Christ alone and without works of the law. Now, these ten verses here do provide an interpretation of Genesis that is unique to Paul. And I want to point out a few things that I think you're going to find to be very interesting. But I think the best way to approach this is simply to work through it. So let's just do that. And as we work through it, keep in mind that this is the final exegetical section in which he is talking about Genesis 16 to 21. And the same theme is here: The identity, the birth identity, the genetic identity of the Galatian congregations. Who are they? Who are they? Now, he starts here with his first imperative in a long time. And you're going to see that the imperatives are now going to come fast and furiously to the end of the epistle. And he starts by saying: Speak to me, tell me, those of you who wish to be under the power of the law. Now, this is law in its negative sense. As an enslavement. Those of you who wish to be that way. And he's speaking to the Galatians. And he's speaking somewhat facetiously, ironically here. You who want to be under the law, if that's what you want to do, why do you not listen to the law? Now, this is the first positive reference to the law in Galatians. And he's speaking here about torah. Why don't you listen to what Moses wrote in the first five books of the Bible, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. Why don't you listen to what it says? Now, there's sarcasm there. And he's appealing now to Genesis. Let's listen to Moses. Those of you who wish to live under the power of the law. And here he begins his allegory now in Verse 22. It is written -- notice that. It is written. So this is Scripture. This is the Word of God. Abraham had two sons. Very true. Never names the sons. Well, he does name Isaac. But he doesn't name Ishmael. Abraham had two sons. He talks about their mothers. One out of a slave woman. And one out of a free woman. Now, if you want the references there, the slave woman is referenced in Genesis 16:15. And the free woman is referenced in Genesis 21:2, 9 and of course in other places, as well. But that's where this language is used. Now, that's important. Two sons. One out of a slave woman. One out of a free woman. So slavery and freedom are now going to be the major topics here. And he says in Verse 23: But the one who was begotten out of the slave woman was begotten, born, begotten according to the flesh. And I think here we would want to translate that: By the power of the flesh. But the one out of the free woman was begotten by the power of the promise. The promise. Now, there you have slave woman, flesh. Free woman, promise. Now, we know who they are talking about. They are talking about Hagar and Sarah. And what's interesting is Sarah is never mentioned here. Hagar is. And Ishmael is never mentioned. But Isaac is. So the mother of the -- kind of the -- not illegitimate son but the son to whom the promise wasn't given. But the son to whom the promise is mentioned is given. Now that's not insignificant. And what we see here is the crucial point. The crucial point are the two mothers and their sons. Now, let me just speak parenthetically here for a minute. A number of years ago I had a chance to teach this to what are called the POBLO students here. These are People of the Book of Lutheran Outreach. These are a former people from Islam, from Muslim who have become Christians, they are Lutherans. And they are doing wonderful work particularly in the Detroit area but all over the country it for all intents and purposes. In Texas. Everywhere. And when we got to this point in Galatians, they were fascinated. Because Islam traces its roots through Ishmael and of course Christianity through Isaac. And so they wanted to know all about what Paul is doing here in it's allegory. So in other words, this allegory which may seem like an ancient kind of long, you know -- I don't know what you want to call it. It's kind of a -- something that doesn't apply to us anymore, for these people who have gone from Islam to Christianity, this is the most applicable section of Galatians that they had. And they told me something that I never knew. Maybe you know this. But I never knew it. That the people of Islam, in order to become Islam, you must be circumcised. I didn't know that. Now, whether or not that is insisted upon I think is another story. But that is in fact the way it should be if you are to become Islam. So they were also interested in the whole circumcision metaphor. So there's something going on here that's very, very pertinent today for people that are coming out of another religion into Christianity. Namely, Islam. Now, going back to Paul, Paul talks now here in Verse 24 about how he is speaking allegorically. Now, what that means is is that the two women point beyond themselves to something else. And allegory here is being tempered by what we call typology. It's not pure allegory. It is somewhat typological as well. But it's something that is a symbol or something that points beyond itself. And here is what he says: These two women are two covenants. Now, the idea that there are two covenants in Genesis is a new thought. They are not described. There's only one covenant. And that's the covenant with Isaac through Abraham and the promise given to him by God. There is no covenant given with Hagar and Ishmael. But Paul now speaks of it as two covenants. One he says from Mt. Sinai, which begets churches, bears children. But really it's churches into slavery, which is Hagar. Again, this is interesting because Mt. Sinai is not mentioned in Genesis or in connection with Hagar or Sarah. It's only mentioned in Exodus. But Paul is suggesting here that Mt. Sinai is the covenant that is given to Hagar and Ishmael. This is what he's trying to say. The law. They live under the law. And he even describes that. You know, Hagar is the one -- and let me make sure I translate this right. Now, Hagar is -- yeah, that's exactly right. Now, Hagar is Mt. Sinai in Arabia. Speaking now of the law. Which kind of has as its parallel here he says Jerusalem now. This is the earthly Jerusalem. Who is enslaved now with her children. Now, this is an interesting point of view. Remember, Paul's opponents are saying they are from Jerusalem. They are men from James. And Paul is saying: If you want to go that route, Jerusalem now is the equivalent to Mt. Sinai and Arabia, to Hagar, to Ishmael. Now, you know -- you know that the Jews from Jerusalem who are now Christians who are coming to Galatia trying to get them to keep the law, they would in no way claim Hagar or Ishmael as their descendents. They are Abraham and Isaac. And I think it's important for us here to see what perhaps Paul's opponents are saying. Now, we don't have this written anywhere. So in a sense you could say I'm making this up. But I think you can see from Paul's argument here, we can read between the lines to see that perhaps this is what they are teaching. They are the ones -- this is Paul's opponents using the language of Sinai, seed of Abraham. Our mother Jerusalem. So Paul turns the tables on them. And this is what they are saying -- and you can see how Paul's argument goes against this. Paul's opponents are saying this: That the law observant descendants of Abraham through Sarah, these are the Isaacs these are the free people. This is who we are. The law observant descendants. Those who keep the law. Whereas they are saying the lawless Gentiles, the Gentiles who have no law, they are descendants through Hagar, the Ishmaelites. They are slaves. Okay. Did you get that? That's what the opponents are saying. Here is what Paul would be saying: The descendants of Abraham through Sarah are free from the law. They are the Isaacs. They are the ones who receive the Gospel and the Gospel alone. Whereas the keepers of the law, they are descendants through Hagar. They are the ones who go through Ishmael. They are slaves. Now, that's sometimes hard for us to read through this. Because we don't know the context. But I think what you're seeing Paul say here is that this is a good example of how Scripture can be twisted. Now, Paul goes on in Verse 26: The Jerusalem above is free she, that Jerusalem, the heavenly Jerusalem, the one above, she is our mother. For it is written -- and this is the passage that's very difficult from Isaiah 54: Rejoice, oh, barren one, who does not bare. 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, let me read that again. And listen carefully. This seems to be absolutely contrary to what a Jew would expect. Rejoice, oh, barren one, who does not bare. Break forth and cry aloud, you who are not in labor. Now, that's absurd. Nobody rejoices over being barren. Nobody rejoices over not having children. The greatest blessing for a Jew is to have children. The greatest blessing for a Jew is to be a man or woman who had a full quiver of children. So to not bare children is a curse. Remember Elizabeth? You know when she had John how she had such bitterness but now that was taken away from her because she bore a child. And then it says: The children of the desolate one, the whom in whom there are no children will be more than those of the one who has a husband. Desolate meaning without a husband. Now, this is where Paul is reaching back into the context of Isaiah and using the same situation in Isaiah to illustrate what's happening in Galatia. If you go back to Isaiah, you will see that Jerusalem, the city of Jerusalem, really had two different phases to it. It was a barren phase and it was a phase that was -- in which it was fertile. Fecundity. In which it was fertile. Bearing children. When it was with God, it was fertile. When it was without God, it was barren. It was overrun by enemies that dragged them away to Babylon in the Babylonian captivity and things like that. At one time it had a husband. Giving birth to children. And then it had no husband. So really what you have here is in a sense one woman, one city, but two pictures. A picture of barrenness and desolation. Or a picture of fecundity and power. And Paul is saying that even though it appears as if the opponents are right, that the Galatians are without a husband, without fecundity because they haven't kept the law. They haven't submitted to circumcision, they are in fact in Christ by his Spirit giving birth to children. They are to rejoice because they are actually bearing more children, more churches through the Gospel of God's Spirit of the Son of Jesus -- the Son of the Father than they are as if they were submitting themselves to the law. Now, I have to confess, this is a very complicated argument. Paul is using Scripture in a way that we might not ourselves use it. But I think his opponents would have understood it. That the Jerusalem, the heavenly Jerusalem of which Paul is a part is a Jerusalem in which there is great fertility. That there are many churches being born into it. But if you're the Jerusalem below, the Jerusalem of this earth, the Jerusalem of the law, then even though it looks as if you are bearing children, you are really barren. You are really desolate. You are really without -- and this is what it means to be without a husband, without the sustaining presence of God. The presence of God is with the heavenly Jerusalem. With those who are bearing children according to promise. Not according to the flesh. The children of Sarah. The children of Isaac. Not the children of Hagar and Ishmael. Now, that's how Paul concludes this, Verse 28. He says: Okay, now, you brothers -- again that familial language. You are children according to Isaac. Children of promise. Now, that's very important. There is the connection. You who are baptized into Christ, you're not children of Ishmael or Hagar. Contrary to what the opponents are saying of you. You are the children of Isaac, the children of promise. And then in Verse 29 and 30, he brings his exegetical argument to an end. He says: 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. Namely, if you go back to Genesis, you may be able to see that the one born according to the flesh, namely, Ishmael, persecuted the one born according to the Spirit, that is Isaac. Now, if you read between the lines very carefully in Genesis, you can see that. But it's not as prominent as you might think. But he says: So also now. And what he means by that is now the children of Ishmael, namely, my opponents, are persecuting you, the children of Isaac. Don't let them do that. They are trying to turn the whole thing on its head. But that is not -- that is not what has happened. And so he concludes now in Verse 30 -- and this is -- if you haven't gotten it so far, this is where it's going to come from. And read this now in the context of persecution. Persecution is affirming their identity. Showing them that they are in fact children of the promise. And he says this: Cast out the slave woman and her son. Now, the slave woman of course is Hagar and her son is Ishmael. But here the slave woman are the opponents of Paul and all those they have given birth to by means of circumcision. Throw them out. Because those children, the son of the slave woman, will not inherit with the son of the free woman. In other words, those who submit to circumcision now under the powerful persuasion of the opponents, they will not inherit, they will not be the inheritors of Abraham's promise with those who are free, namely, those who are baptized. Now, that is a powerful statement. And he is taking the text in Genesis and applying it directly to the Galatians and the situation in which they find themselves. And so he concludes Verse 31: Therefore, brethren, we are children not of the slave woman but of the free one. We are the children of Sarah. We are the children of Isaac. We are not children of Ishmael and Hagar. And so you can see how there are -- they are both reading the text. The opponents and Paul are both reading Genesis 16 to 21. And yet they are coming to totally different interpretations. And Paul is saying very clearly here: Don't listen to them. Because they are saying exactly the opposite of what you were taught by me. And up until this point I have shown you how the law enslaves, how the law brings us to our knees. How the law is an imprisoning jailer. And if you go that route, you under the law are children of Hagar and Ishmael. But if you go with the Gospel that I've preached, the Gospel of freedom, then your mother is Jerusalem. Not here now. But Jerusalem above. And you are free. You are free because you believe in the Gospel, the pure Gospel, of Christ crucified and risen from the dead without any law added. Without having to do anything to cooperate with God for your salvation. Now, if you look at this argument that began in Chapter 3 and ends here now at the end of Chapter 4, this is as powerful an ending to his interpretation of Scripture around what faith is, what law is, what promise is, what ultimately the truth of the Gospel is. This is as powerful an ending as you can see. And it takes us back into the very heart of the Old Testament. Abraham. Isaac. The sacrifice of Isaac. And the fact that there was this division between Isaac and Ishmael. And that division could take place now in the Christian church founded on the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Let it not be so says Paul. Because he sees that his preaching is bringing forth children of promise, which you, Galatians, he says are. Remember that. Remember your identity. And that's something we need to remember, too. That we are the baptized. We are not slaves to the law. We are freed by Christ. And as Lutheran Christians, we know that the freedom of the Gospel is at the heart and soul of our faith.