REPOST Today’s Spiritual Food for Thought, first posted on June 12, 2016, is provided by Phillip Chen who is associate pastor at Kairos Christian Church in San Diego. Phil is a graduate of University of California, San Diego (BS) and Talbot School of Theology (M.Div.).
Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend
Galatians 4:21-31 (ESV)
Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. 23 But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise. 24 Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. 25 Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother.27 For it is written, “Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear; 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.” 28 Now you brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. 29 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. 30 But what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.” 31 So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman.
When God called Abraham to leave all that he had to follow Him, He made a promise to make Abraham a father of a great nation. However, Abraham had no son, because Sarah was barren. As Abraham and Sarah continued to wait year after year, they began to waver in their faith that God would give them a son. Over ten years passed by and they still had not given birth to a son. Sarah was already beyond the natural-child bearing age, and probably began to wonder if they had heard God wrong. Sarah ended up reasoning that perhaps, through Hagar, her servant, they would be able to have children. Abraham and Hagar end up conceiving, and gave birth to a son, Ishmael. However, Ishmael was not the son that was to fulfill the promise that God had given to Abraham. Fourteen years later, Sarah, at the age of 90, gave birth to Isaac, the son that God had promised to Abraham.
Paul uses this story to help us understand the difference between those justified by the law, and those justified by grace. Ishmael, who was conceived by Hagar, is a representation of human effort. Ishmael was the result of a lack of faith in God, being born of natural means. On the other hand, Isaac, who was conceived by Sarah, is a representation of God’s grace. Isaac was the result of faith in God, being born of supernatural means. Now, Paul contrasts these two and brings it into context for the Galatians — Those that want to be justified by the law are descendants of Ishmael, a lineage marked by human effort. Those that want to be justified by grace are descendants of Isaac, a lineage marked by God’s grace.
Paul reminds us that we are sons of grace, descendants of Isaac and not Ishmael. We are His children by His grace and not by our efforts. But why does he continue to re-emphasize this point about grace over works? Paul seems to know something about our human nature and what we are influenced by. We live in a works-based society, and are heavily influenced by that. In fact, if we do not take regular pauses out of our day to remember His grace in our lives, we will fall into the lie that we deserve everything we have because we have worked hard for it. It is so easy to be influenced by legalism that we are actually told to cast it out of our presence. Legalism leads to spiritual pride. Spiritual pride blinds us to the needs of others around us, to the point where we are unable to extend grace and mercy to those around us. Grace, on the other hand, leads to humility. Humility leads to receiving grace from God and extending grace to others.
Have you accepted His grace? Humble yourself today and remind yourself that you have been made a child of God because of His grace. May this be a refreshing reminder that we are recipients of amazing grace and may it cause our hearts to leap with true joy!
Prayer: Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now am found! Was blind, but now I see. Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: Exodus 26