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October 17, 2021 | Doug Sauder
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“Which things are symbolic. For these are the two covenants . . .”—Galatians 4:24a (NKJV)
Contextually, Paul is illustrating the contrast between man’s natural effort and faith in God through Abraham’s two sons, Ishmael and Isaac. Ishmael represents human effort while Isaac represents faith in God’s promises.
But now Paul takes the illustration to the next level by sharing how these two sons also represent two separate covenants. Keep in mind, Paul was fighting the false teaching among the Galatians that the Law of Moses was something Christians had to keep. So, in speaking of “two covenants,” he’s referring to the covenant of the law before Christ and the new covenant of the gospel of grace Christ has ushered in. Paul goes on to elaborate: “The one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar—for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children” (Galatians 4:24b-25 NKJV).
Galatian minds must have been blown as Paul makes a direct connection between Ishmael, the son of Hagar, and the Law of Moses. The apostle is saying Ishmael’s life, a departure from faith, represents the law which God gave Moses on Mount Sinai. He also says all of this applies to the Jerusalem of this world with all its worldly limitations. And now the contrast of all contrasts: “But the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all” (Galatians 4:26 NKJV).
In contrast to all Ishmael represents, including the law, there’s something else: There’s a Jerusalem from above, not subject to the limitations that define this world. This Jerusalem is a heavenly Jerusalem, which represents the new covenant of God’s grace through the gospel of Christ. The Law of Moses has no place there, but can only be understood and entered by faith in God’s promises!
Do you see how Paul is revealing the law’s limitations and how the only life worth living going forward is the life of faith? It’s Isaac, not Ishmael. It’s the heavenly Jerusalem, not the earthly Jerusalem. It’s freedom, not bondage. It’s faith in God’s promises, not the keeping of the law. The law is the past, faith is the future!
There’s not much more to add to this! Sometimes, as we look into the depths of God’s Word, it’s best to just behold what it’s telling us. So allow this passage to blow your mind. Be awed at how Ishmael and Isaac point to the importance of allowing faith to determine our destiny.
DIG: How does Paul take the illustration of Ishmael and Isaac to the next level?
DISCOVER: What compelling message does this send to the Galatians?
DO: Let this passage leave you in a state of awe today!
Pastor Dan Hickling serves our online community, also known as the Calvary Chapel Online Campus. He and his wife Becky have been married for 22 years and have two children, Lauren and Danny. Both Dan and Becky have been part of the CCFL church family for 22 years and have served in full time ministry for 20 of those years.