Chapter # 4 Paragraph # 4 Study # 8
Thesis: Those who cease to resist the persuasion of God take their place in the Grand Plan.
Introduction: We have been considering Paul's analogy of how things worked out in Abraham's household in light of both his "faith" in the Promise of God and his "failure of faith" in that same Promise. His "failure" brought about the enormous numbers of children of bondage whose destiny is determined by the status of their "mother". On the other hand, his "faith" brought about the enormous numbers of those whose destiny is to inhabit the Jerusalem that is above as the free children of a free "mother".
This evening we are going to consider Paul's conclusion as it is stated twice in this part of this paragraph. In 4:28 he said that "we" who are "brethren" are children of Promise according to the standard of Isaac. In 4:31 he said that "we are not children of a slave but of a free woman". Since it is clearly better for us to be the children of freedom by Promise than children of slavery by Law, it is crucial that we grasp what Paul called "the standard of Promise".
January 6, 2013
- I. A Set of Critical Presumptions.
- A. The meaning of words, properly understood, have a real impact upon those who understand them.
- 1. In John 6:66 we are told that when certain "many" of the disciples of Jesus finally understood what He was saying, they "went back, and walked no more with Him".
- a. Peter's response to Jesus' response to this fact highlights what is at stake: eternal life (John 6:68).
- b. At issue is this fact: the experience of eternal life rests upon, not what we want to be true or what makes sense to us, but what is true and is declared to us by God.
- c. Thus, at issue is whether, in fact, we are going to "believe" what we are told by God through validated spokesmen.
- 2. Jesus reaffirmed this reality in John 8:21-24.
- a. He couched His claims in the reality that His hearers were "from beneath" while He is "from above": the absolute need for specific divine revelation can be no more apparent than for those who face the alternatives of eternal life and death to be "from beneath" where the only truth that can be established is delivered by someone "from above".
- b. The heart of this text is that Jesus is dealing with people who do not wish His words to carry the weight of truth.
- B. Paul wrote Galatians 4:28 so that his readers could enter more deeply into the experience of eternal life.
- C. The meaning of the method and outcome of Promise is, therefore, crucial.
- II. Paul's Declaration.
- A. There exists a "standard" by which outcomes are determined.
- 1. This "standard" is an inflexible reality that will eventually prove to be "truth".
- 2. Just as there is a "standard" of "fleshliness" (4:23), there is also a "standard" of "Isaac" as our text declares.
- B. The particulars of this "standard of Isaac" determine who will become a child of Promise and who will not.
- C. Thus we must ask, "What are the particulars of this standard of Isaac?".
- 1. Foremost of all: the determinate will of God as the Master Planner Who decides which promises to make and to whom.
- 2. Second: the reality that, though the content of the promises is determined by God as the Master Planner, that content has a very potent appeal to the one(s) to whom it is given.
- a. This means that people are not being subjected to something that is extremely distasteful to them; it makes no sense to promise something that no one wants.
- b. The very heart of "Promise" is that those to whom it is extended will get what they most greatly need.
- 1) It is at this critical point that all opposition is aimed, but not in terms of the what; rather, the opposition is always about the how.
- 2) At issue is whether a person will eventually become an heir of life in all of its particulars, or will be denied those particulars completely.
- 3. Third: the reality that participation in "Life" is impossible without "faith".
- a. This means that "the standard of Isaac" includes an absolute necessity called "belief in the content of the promises made".
- b. It is clear from Paul's argument that this is his compelling point: "You" who are "brethren" have "believed" the Promise.
- 4. Fourth: the fact that "faith" is not always in a content given to the one "believing".
- a. The promises were given to Abraham and to his Seed, not to Sarah or anyone else.
- b. But Hebrews 11:11 says that Sarah received the strength to conceive seed at the point when she believed what God had said to Abraham.
- 1) This did not have to be the case: God could have kept His word to Abraham by giving Sarah the ability to conceive seed without requiring that Sarah believe (He did this in Hagar's case).
- 2) That God extended the promises to Abraham to Sarah was a gracious act that brings a very difficult issue into play.
- a) Because "faith" is fundamentally a "content" issue involving critical promises, the identity of the one(s) to whom the promises are made is critical.
- b) But "faith" is also fundamentally a relational issue that only has an impact at the relational level: it affects whether persons will have a beneficial interaction with each other, or not.
- c) The question is this: how does a promise made to someone else become applicable to someone outside of that reality?
- i. First, the "someones" who are outside of the actual relationship between the One Who makes the promise and the one who receives it are necessary to the actual fulfillment (the promise of a nation automatically includes a vast number of people who will populate that nation; the promise of a seed automatically includes the existence of Isaac).
- ii. The question of which of those outside will be allowed to become "insiders" has to be based upon the issue of whether an outsider "believes" what God promised to someone else.
- iii. But how does someone become a "believer" in the issue of his/her inclusion in things promised to someone else?
- iv. The Bible reduces this to "the calling of God" wherein God takes the initiative to confront others in order to bring them into the scope of the promises (this is the heart of Peter's claim in Acts 2:39).
- v. God is the One Who decides who, when, and how to confront those He wishes to include in the fulfillment of His words to another.
- d) The human element is the willingness to cease resistance at the point when God speaks (Hebrews 3:7-8).
- III. Paul's Conclusion.
- A. Each of the Galatians who were involved in his efforts of persuasion were being confronted by God.
- B. Each of them who "believed" had become "children of Promise" in the same way that Isaac had.