Chapter # 4 Paragraph # 4 Study # 5
Thesis: The bondage of Jewish legalism consists, fundamentally, of being "belief-subjected" to a concept that makes a good relationship with Yahweh an impossibility.
Introduction: In our last study we considered several of the facets of Paul's use of Hagar to explain the message of the Law. She/it is a Justice-based covenant that can only produce slaves and she/it was a producer of disaster in Abram's household just waiting for another opportunity to capitalize upon any further vacillations by Abram into unbelief.
At the "covenant" level, Hagar existed in Abram's household as a testament to his failure of faith in the "land" aspects of Yahweh's promise and was a tool of disaster in light of the "seed" aspects of that Promise.
Tonight we are going to look into the final elements of Paul's use of Hagar to explain the message of the Law. Paul's focus is upon Arabia and Jerusalem's "present" (first century) bondage.
December 9, 2012
- I. Paul's Reference to Arabia.
- A. One of the problems of the use of "words".
- 1. At the most superficial level, "words" have a minimalist meaning in respect to the physical world.
- a. A very large amount of our speech has to do with attempting to "make things work" in the universe of physics.
- 1) The "laws of physics" are men's reduction of how things work in a material, physical, cause-and-effect creation (the "law" of gravity; the "second law of thermodynamics"; etc.).
- 2) A large portion of our speech is significantly involved with our lives in a physical world.
- b. As such, the significance (not meaning), of words is often missed because we do not only live in a physical universe.
- 1) Some words have critical links to our "metaphysical" experience (who we are and what we know) because of mental/emotional crises that we have experienced.
- 2) In order to grasp the significance of "words" we have to look for whether they carry "metaphysical baggage" in the speaker, or hearer, of them.
- 2. When we are looking for the significance of an author's words, we have to have some evidence of how he/she is thinking in regard to his/her choice of words.
- B. Paul's reference to "Arabia" is rare in the New Testament and, in this text, is superficially unnecessary.
- 1. Paul alone used "Arabia" in the New Testament and both of the uses are in Galatians.
- 2. In 1:17 Paul revealed that he had left Damascus shortly after his "conversion" (a fact deemed unnecessary by Luke in his record in Acts except by his use of one of the very few pluperfect verbs found in the New Testament (Acts 9:21).
- a. In 1:17 there is no indication of the significance of Arabia except that it was after his trip that he was able to "preach the faith" and, Luke says, was so adept at it that he was able to confound and refute his Jewish opponents (Acts 9:22).
- b. It seems to be a legitimate implication/conclusion that it was "in Arabia" where Paul got the content of The Gospel (Galatians 1:16).
- 3. That Paul returns to an apparently "redundant" reference to "Arabia" in our current text sets off some "caution bells".
- a. Mount Sinai is in Arabia -- as is extremely well-known and makes us say "Duh".
- b. However, if Paul is giving us a hint regarding "the message of the Law" by his reference, it means we need to give it some thought.
- C. The issue at hand is how Paul can dogmatically say that Judaism as he knows it is "Egyptian deceit".
- 1. The answer seems to be what is bound up in the significance of "Mount Sinai in Arabia" in respect to Paul.
- 2. In order for Paul to be able to "buy into" the Damascus event wherein he saw and heard evidence that Jesus is the Lord's Christ, he had to understand two critical things.
- a. First, he had to ask and answer the question: How could I have been so wrong?
- 1) It was Paul's "belief" that "error" begins with a false "love" and, then, is compounded by deceitful explanation.
- 2) The answer to Paul's first question is given in multiple places in Paul's writings.
- a) His well-known "chief of sinners" comment to Timothy indicates that he saw his vile behavior as being produced by a "chief" motivation.
- b) He clearly teaches that his "motivation" was "to be regarded as the best" in Pharisaism both by men and by God.
- 3) Thus, we conclude that "in Arabia" Paul got "clarity" about the demand of the Law that "love" be directed outwardly toward Yahweh: it was the most vile wickedness for any man to put himself at the center of his "love" in the stead of Yahweh.
- 4) The answer to "How could I have been so wrong?" has its answer in the error of self-love and self-promotion.
- b. Second, he had to ask and answer a second question: Why did Yahweh give Israel "Law" at Mount Sinai in Arabia?
- 1) Since "Law", properly understood, demands that men love God with all their hearts, minds, souls, and strength, but does nothing to empower such love, it cannot be seen as helpful under a "judicial" umbrella, but rather, only condemning.
- a) There are other "umbrellas".
- b) Under a different "umbrella", "demand" can be helpful as "revelation".
- 2) It is a small step from seeing the Law as an unhelpful demand (Galatians 3:21) to seeing a "revelational" purpose for it: to expose men to their depravity so that they might seek some way to be delivered and reconciled to God.
- II. Paul's Claim that Hagar is Jerusalem.
- A. The claim's "shock value": Hagar was an Egyptian slave and to claim that she is Jerusalem can only mean that Jerusalem is now totally, and viciously, pagan.
- B. The claim in Paul's argument: Hagar stands for "unbelief in the promise of God".
- C. The commitment in Jerusalem to Law-keeping was both hypocritical and enslaving.
- III. Paul's Concept of Bondage.
- A. Bondage is all about "attitude", not circumstances.
- B. "Attitude" is going to always, ultimately, boil down to one thing: the presence or absence of final joy (not the temporary experience of the pleasure of the moment -- Hebrews 11:25).
- C. For Paul, "bondage" is "alienation from the life of God" (Ephesians 4:18 on the heels of Ephesians 2:12) because of the impact of wicked works upon the mind (Colossians 1:21).