ABRAHAM is the father of all who believe
(Rom.4:16) and Jerusalem above is the mother of all who are free
from the law (Gal.4:26), quite apart from all administrational distinctions. Such
fundamental matters as faith and freedom are not confined to any one group of saints, but
embrace them all, though of course they come to their highest unfolding where God's
purpose is furthest developed. Circumcision and Uncircumcision, in the past, the present,
and the future, need only have faith in God to find in Abraham their father, irrespective
of their other distinctions.
In the Scriptures the term "father"
embraces far more than with us, and includes "forefather" as well. Physically
and literally, Abraham was the forefather of the Circumcision. Even here he is not
restricted to one nation, Israel. Many nations can trace their ancestral lineage back to
him. He is the father of them all. He was not a Jew, nor is that which goes back to him
Jewish, for how could he be a descendant of his great grandson? He was a Syrian, one of
the nations. The faithful of the Uncircumcision are related to him in uncircumcision. By a
fine figure he is called their father, because the whole family of the faithful have his
characteristic, a belief in God's word despite all impossible appearances.
Abraham, Sarah, Hagar as
"Those of faith, these are sons of Abraham" (Gal.3:7). Those
who follow the footprints of his faith enter into his family. This does not involve an
alliance of any kind with the nation of Israel, his physical descendants, nor with their
special hopes and expectations, for they were not promised until long after the time of
Abraham. Nothing was said to him of any kingdom. That goes back only to Saul and David.
Nothing was said to him of any law. That goes back only to Moses at Sinai. His faith
antedated the rite of circumcision. It is to Abraham, uncircumcised, without law, without
royal rights, a perishing Syrian, that all believers, as such, look back as their
At the same time that Abraham's faith was being
tested, events were taking place in his family which set forth the relation of faith to
the law. His wife, Sarah, and her maid, Hagar, are allegorical figures, representing the
two future covenants, one of which, the law of Sinai, corresponds to Hagar, the slave
girl, who could only generate slaves; the other, the new covenant, corresponds to Sarah,
the freewoman, who could only bear a freeman. The important point was the fact that the
first was not an act of faith, but of unbelief, and led into bondage. It was an act of the
flesh, contrary to faith, so could not stand for the generation of believers. Hagar is not
the mother of believers.
But Sarah, notwithstanding her own lack of
faith, is the allegorical figure in Abraham's family which stands for the fruit of faith.
We are not the children of the maid, but of the freedman (Gal.4:31). Let it be noted that
the Scriptures carefully avoid saying that we are the sons of Sarah.
Sarah did not have the faith of Abraham, or she would not have tried to help out God by
giving her maid to Abraham, nor would she have laughed when the messengers announced the
birth of Isaac. Sonship implies likeness, and we should not be like Sarah in
regard to faith. But we have her freedom, hence we are children
of the freewoman.
Let us note also that all of this was staged
before there were such distinctions as Circumcision and Uncircumcision, Israel and the
nations. This was done advisedly, so that they should not be confined to any of these, but
have a universal application. Just as Adam was the head of the whole race, so
Abraham is father of all the faithful, and the freewoman is mother of all
who are free.
In order to put the matter more practically,
the apostle adapts the allegory to the special circumstances under which he is writing.
Jerusalem had become the center of those who called themselves sons of Abraham, yet were
zealous keepers of the law. Hence he calls the city their mother, and compares it with
Hagar and the slavery of her children. In effect he says that these emissaries from
Jerusalem who were persecuting and troubling the believers in Galatia and elsewhere by
seeking to put them under law are really in the same rank with Ishmael, hence in slavery.
If Jerusalem is in line with Hagar, what city may represent Sarah, the freewoman? Alas, no
such city existed on earth at that time. And the application can be understood only if
applied to the period in which Paul is speaking.
All of the early saints looked to Jerusalem.
Paul himself kept returning there. Whatever changes came with fresh revelations did not
alter the fact as to the origin of the elementary truths common to all. All believers were
sons of Abraham, and remained so in regard to their faith. All who knew their freedom in
Christ were children of the freewoman. In these things Jerusalem was divided. Paul makes
it clear that the Jerusalem of that day was in slavery with her children, like Hagar. Yet
he did not point to another time, but a higher location, where there was
a Jerusalem which was free like Sarah. Above the fleshly slaves, as it were, was a higher
city whose sons were free. This he acknowledged as mother of all the free.
Abraham and Sarah Prefigure all
In the promises to Abraham there was a sharp
contrast between two classes, flesh and faith, and this was illustrated by giving one a
higher place than the other. There was the seed like the soil, and there was that like the
stars. The apostle falls back upon the same device, by making Jerusalem above the
mother of those who are free, that is, those in the city who correspond with the star seed
of Abraham, who are really his sons by faith. These correspond with Isaac, and form a
higher community. From these it is that the evangel went forth at first, and these it was
that Paul visited and recognized, not the nether Jerusalem, these Ishmaelites who were
seeking to enslave the Galatians.
There was a time when the Uncircumcision were
guests at Israel's board. They had no allotment of their own. Now that they have a
celestial destiny, does this denote that all the bonds between them have been broken? By
no means! Much is still ours in common. The figure of father does not demand that he have
only one son, or that all of his children share identical destinies. The figure of one
mother does not deny vast differences between her offspring. We have the same God as
Israel, and the same Messiah. Adam and Noah are common ancestors of all. In faith, Abraham
and Sarah embrace all. Then, however, the division commences. Some believers are
circumcised, and some are not. Some have a terrestrial destiny and others a celestial. But
their relation to Abraham and the freewoman remains.
The time element must not be ignored in
considering this passage. It is not simply Jerusalem of all times which is in bondage, but
Jerusalem which now is, that is, in the apostle's time (Gal.4:25). This will not
be the case in the new Jerusalem, or even in the thousand years. In fact we cannot use it
of Jerusalem today with any propriety. At that time it was the seat of the apostles of our
Lord, and of the greatest importance in connection with such questions as are considered
in the Galatian epistle. Therefore Paul carefully indicates his contacts with Jerusalem
(Gal.1:17,18; 2:1), and submitted to them his evangel, even though it was distinct from
theirs and he had not received it from or through them (Gal. 1:12; 2:2). He wished to warn
against the Jerusalemites who were bringing them into bondage, yet did not wish to include
the spiritual in his condemnation.
At that time an emissary from Jerusalem, who
had been with the apostles, would be able to exercise a tremendous influence over the
believers among the nations. They were Paul's most dangerous enemies in relation to the
law and the ritual of Judaism. They were practically the only ones who were to be feared
in this regard. Therefore it was necessary for Paul to particularize. As a matter of fact
all Jews who held to the law were in bondage, not only in Jerusalem, but in Judea and
among the nations. Yet how much more forceful to limit his charge to the sacred city!
Jerusalem, where the apostles are, the head of Judaism--she is not free in Christ but in
bondage to the law! She is not like Sarah, Abraham's wife, but like Hagar, her slave. She
is not our mother. We should not recognize those who come from her.
We, among the nations, are sons of Abraham, the
Syrian, by faith. We have no part in Moses or David, dependent on physical bonds. Being
sons of Abraham by faith, we are sons of the freewoman, not of the slave-girl. As
to Jerusalem, we will not take our stand with those in her who are united to Abraham by
physical ties and in bondage to the law. But we do acknowledge those in her who, like us,
are children of the freewoman, who partake of the faith as well as the flesh of
Abraham. Such form a Jerusalem high above the fleshly city, and we will gladly recognize
such as the mother of all who are free.
The New Jerusalem is a Different
As Jerusalem no longer holds the
special place accorded to her in the days of the apostles, it has become difficult to
understand this reference to her by Paul. Hence it seems wiser, in these days, not to
press the transient aspect of this truth, connected with Jerusalem. Jerusalem above is in
line with the freewoman. We are not the children of Hagar, the maid, but of Sarah, the
freewoman. We are not in bondage to the law. Christ has freed us, and we walk in spirit.
Before circumcision was instituted, ere the law was given or the kingdom set up--before
all these divisive factors came in--Abraham believed God and Sarah was free. Hence all
who believe are sons of Abraham and all who are free are
children of the freewoman.
I was once taught that the Jerusalem here
mentioned is the new Jerusalem of Revelation 21:10. But, in time, this became more and
more untenable, until I was forced to give it up. Jerusalem, in fact, must always be the
same city, but in figure it may stand for very different ideas. It creates a strange
mixture when we make the bride of the far future a mother of those who
lived long before. No clearness is possible, for the literal truths which these two embody
are very different. In one we have an exclusive covenant relationship expressed under the
figure of a bride. It is between husband and wife, Jehovah and Israel. The other shows the
lack of legal bonds under the figure of a freewoman. It is between a mother and her
children, a city and those related to it.
Even if we violate the figure of the bride and
introduce children, the result is contrary to the further details of the figure, for children
of the New Jerusalem could never be non-Israelites, even though they walk in its light.
They have no entrance into the city. Only their kings, probably sons of Israel, bring
their honor into it. In fact they receive a place much like that of Hagar and Ishmael, who
were cast out of the tent of Abraham, rather than children of Sarah, the freewoman, like
Isaac. The new Jerusalem brings before us an entirely different administration, in which
the nations have no such place as is accorded them in Galatians.