"Slave or Free?"
How can our view of God enslave us? The story of Sarah and Hagar is used by Paul more than once to help us see what it means to be children of promise.
Slave or Free?
A. I love good stories; especially ones that draw from history. One way to tell a new story is to take an old story and use it as an allegory. An allegory is a figure of speech in which abstract principles are described in terms of characters, figures and events. One of the most famous is C.S. Lewis’s “The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.”
B. Paul is going to do just that in our text today. Paul is going to try and describe what it means to be free in Christ by telling a story based upon an OT true situation. He is not seeking to define what happened then, but to use those facts as a way to tell us about something we need to understand.
C. So I want to begin by telling you the story Paul is going to use to teach us a lesson about freedom. The story is found in Gen. 16 & 21.
D. TELL THE STORY: Key parts: Sarah’s logic vs 2, Hagar’s reaction vs 4, Abram’s response vs 6. In Gen. 17 God tells Abraham that it is Sarah that will have the child of promise and God establishes a covenant with Abraham. Jump 13 years later to Gen. 21, Sarah has Isaac and Ishmael laughs at him, Gen. 21:10-12.
I. Two Covenants
A. So we come back to Gal 4 and we see that Paul uses this story to explain a larger principle. READ Gal. 4:24-26. Understand, Paul is not giving a theology lesson about Ishmael and what took place. He is using that story to make a point about how we live today.
B. In Paul’s story, the Jewish covenant is seen in the character of Ishmael. That alone would have cause some anger among the Jews. Because Paul is dealing mostly with Gentile, uncircumcised Christians who are being told they must be circumcised, Paul want them to understand that they are Isaac. Listen to Paul (READ Gal. 4:28-31).
C. Paul makes it clear there are two different covenants. While there is a connection to the difference of the Old and New Testaments, Paul is seeking for them to see a difference between what enslaves them and what frees them. As Christians we are children of promise, children who are free, but sadly there are those who persecute us in the name of God. The calling from Paul is that those who bind where God has not bound are not really heirs of the promise and we can cast out those teachings that seek to enslave us.
D. Brothers and Sisters, I want to step out here and let God’s teaching in this matter challenge us today. When spiritual rules are placed upon that define our salvation in a way that God has not taught, they are simply ways to enslave us in the name of Christ. When you study Reformation History you see this very thing happening in Europe. There was a backlash against teachings that stemmed from the church that some bold leaders began to call out as false. Many of them died because of their call for reform, but the movement began to swell and it cause a major division in the church during those years. Fast forward to the Second Great Awakening and the Restoration movement within this country and again you will find preachers calling for a freedom that comes in Christ only when we follow God’s teaching and not denominational doctrines. Again, it was met with persecution by major denomination councils, but it could not stop the swelling and call for freedom.
E. Now, here we are in the 21st century in America with church building all over, and teachings inside them that can bind Christians just as much as was done in the days of Paul and the region of Galatia. All done in the name of Jesus.
F. Why isn’t law keeping enough? We were not made to know and love laws. We were made to know and love God. Hagar represents the covenant of Mt Sinai, the earthly Jerusalem, that which enslaves. But Sarah is about the heavenly Jerusalem and brings freedom in Christ. What enslaved the Jews of Paul’s day is that they did not see the purpose of the Cross of Christ. They failed to accept by faith the freedom and grace that the Messiah has given.
A. Paul drives home a point that he wants the Gentile Christians to use as their mantra – There is Freedom in Jesus! Listen to Gal. 5:1. That’s Paul’s message through this entire book. Don’t get bound up in the slavery of the law that you are no longer under. The Law was a teacher to bring you Christ, not a replacement for Christ. Stand firm in your freedom. Now understand, Paul knows that some people will take this freedom to an ungodly extreme.
B. So he challenges them to make sure their freedom is done correctly. Listen to Gal. 5:13-15. Love is a part of what freedom gives you. You and I are not free to indulge in the flesh, but we are called to let the Spirit flow through us, produce God in us. Just because you have freedom from the law, does not mean you have freedom to sin.
C. Love is the key. Love God first, love God only, Love God’s name. When I love God, God’s will, will be done. But loving God is also seen in how I love you. There were a group of people traveling through the churches of Galatia causing strife in local congregations. They stirred up anger, jealously, and pride between Christians and had Christians fighting Christians. The call is for love.
A. Loving you the way I love me. God created me with a healthy degree of self-love and care. I don’t hate me, but love me. That’s not all bad unless it done to extreme. The calling is to love you at the same level I love myself. It shows how important you are both to me, and even more so, to God.
B. I have freedom in Christ. I am a beloved child of God. I am an heir of the eternal life in Christ. I have a personal relationship with God that is so close I call him my Dad and know that He will always have my back. I don’t follow man-made rules and church protocol to the point of making them God’s doctrine. Instead, I live in freedom to love. Love you, cherish you, help you become the best you that you can be. If I can share the love of God with you this day, come as we stand and sing.
Because of Jesus,
Jeffrey Dillinger, minister