Chapter # 4 Paragraph # 4 Study # 6
December 16, 2012
26 But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.
27 For it is written, Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not; break forth and cry, thou that travailest not: for the desolate hath many more children than she which hath an husband.
28 Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise.
29 But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now.
30 Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.
31 So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.
1901 ASV Translation:
26 But the Jerusalem that is above is free, which is our mother.
27 For it is written, Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not; Break forth and cry, thou that travailest not: For more are the children of the desolate than of her that hath the husband.
28 Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise.
29 But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, so also it is now.
30 Howbeit what saith the scripture? Cast out the handmaid and her son: for the son of the handmaid shall not inherit with the son of the freewoman.
31 Wherefore, brethren, we are not children of a handmaid, but of the freewoman.
- I. Our Mother.
- A. The "Above Jerusalem".
- 1. The most likely parallel in Paul's thought is Colossians 3:1-2 in comparison with Jesus' claim in John 8:23.
- a. Colossians declares that Jesus "is seated" at the right hand of God in the "above" realm. It goes further to tell us to seek the "things" of that realm rather than the "things" which exist on the earth.
- b. John has Jesus using His claim to be "from above" to explain the lack of understanding that existed in His opponents' minds. He went on to explain that the "things" on the earth had to do with issues related to "dying in your sins".
- c. The overall significance seems to be that there is a "realm" in which relationships are the key "stabilizer" rather than the laws of physics. When people are dominated by a "physical" perspective, they have no ability to grasp a "metaphysical" reality, and with God the critical issue is not the "physical" aspects of experience, but the relational aspects that have to do with whether "people" can get along with each other.
- 2. There is a "Jerusalem" of the "above" realm, but its physical existence is significantly secondary to its identity as a dwelling place of God and His Redeemed in perfect unity and love. It is described as a physical place with physical components, but each of those components is a material representation of an actual personal characteristic that has everything to do with the interrelationships of persons -- Divine, angelic, and human.
- 3. This "above" Jerusalem is presented as the fundamental reason for Abraham's lifestyle while on the earth (Hebrews 11:10). It is given an extensive block of Scripture in order for its nature to be expressed (Revelation 21), but the description arises out of a plethora of Old Testament texts which emphasize the issues involved in people getting along with God and each other.
- 4. The "above" Jerusalem is the final state and the goal of the progress of this material state. This Jerusalem is the final reality; all things will finally come into play as components of the Grand Plan that ushers the saints into Eternal Life at its greatest expression.
- B. Is Free.
- 1. Here, again, the issue(s) of freedom dominate(s) Paul's thought.
- 2. Freedom seems to be a certain kind of crux for Paul. The reason is not hard to find: at the heart of the "above" reality is the ability (freedom) persons have to enhance the lives of those surrounding them. It is all about "edification" (1 Corinthians 10:23). Eternal Life was defined and circumscribed by Jesus in terms of individuals having a "knowledge" of God and Himself. Thus, all enhancement of others' abilities to enter into the practical elements of "knowing" God is key to whether people experience eternal life, or enter into Hell. Thus, to be "free" is to be unconstrained by any/every "driver" (motivation and belief) that ultimately proves to be a drag upon the process of getting to know God. This "freedom" includes an exemption from any subjection to the wrath of God of any kind. This "freedom" does not include any kind of automatic exemption from subjection to bondage (anyone who is "free" can become "enslaved" at any point and for many causes -- this is the reason for the letter to the Galatians). This "freedom" also does not carry any guarantee that losses will not occur (wrath is not the only reason people "lose" with God).
- C. She is our mother.
- 1. Is Paul's point anything at all like the Roman teaching that the "Church" is our "mother"?
- a. Paul's "point" is that, for the promise of God to have meaning and fulfillment, Abraham had to have had a "woman" involved in the process.
- b. His point is not that a "mother" has any further significance. The "mother" of those in bondage was a slave; the "mother" of those who are free was, in some sense, "free". Sarah and the Jerusalem from above represent a certain theological construct that leads to participation in the blessedness of the Kingdom of God, just as Hagar and the present Jerusalem represent a certain theological construct that leads to rejection from the blessedness of the Kingdom of God.
- c. Thus, "participation in the blessing of Abraham" does not require a "mother" in any physical or metaphysical sense: it requires an "identity" called "a child of promise". Just as Jesus did not need a physical, human, "father", believers in Jesus do not need a "mother" that is any more than a metaphor for "faith in the truth". The fixation upon "mother" in any sense that leads to the notion of "a more gentle, more compassionate, more approachable" person is simply untrue altogether.
- 2. What is the point of believers having a "mother"?
- a. Mothers exist as the instruments through whom children are produced for fathers. There are no children without mothers (but remember that we would have said the same thing before the virgin birth of Jesus about fathers).
- b. Mothers exist as the instruments by whom children are nurtured for the goals set by the fathers.
- c. "Mother" is a functional description of a female person, not an identity description. A woman does not need to be a "mother" to realize her identity, but no person can be a "mother" without being a woman.