Chapter # 4 Paragraph # 4 Study # 9
Thesis: Opposition to the truth by the pursuers of self-aggrandizement is as natural as breathing.
Introduction: The message of the Law has many particulars. Among them is its brutal, self-defeating nature. In Galatians 4:29 Paul declares that one of the outcomes of Abraham's failure of faith was the way Ishmael treated Isaac, and he says that this treatment by one person of another is as automatic as breathing. That this is the case means we need to be clear on the various outcomes of legal theology. The most destructive of them is the way Ishmael treated Isaac.
January 13, 2013
- I. The Objective of "Law" For Legalists.
- A. It's stated objective is "to enable a man/woman to be recognized and accepted by God".
- B. It's unstated objective is "to enable a man/woman to be recognized and accepted by men".
- C. It's most fundamental outcomes are two: a severe case of smug superiority; and the willingness to destroy all opposition.
- II. The Identities of Those Involved.
- A. Clearly, those involved occupy opposite theological camps.
- 1. The "legal" camp.
- 2. The "grace" camp.
- B. Just as clearly, Paul decided to make the distinctions on the basis of "how" one comes to be in one camp or another.
- 1. The "legal" camp consists of those who exist in that camp "according to the standard of flesh".
- 2. The "grace" camp consists of those who exist in that camp "according to the standard of Spirit".
- III. The Progression of Paul's Development of His Concept of the "Grace" Camp.
- A. In 4:23, Paul first (in this paragraph, not the letter as a whole) raised the issue of a "standard" by which things happen.
- 1. He declared that the son of the slave came into being "according to the standard of flesh".
- 2. But, when he presented the son of the freewoman, he refrained from announcing a "standard".
- a. Instead of a standard, he declared a methodology: "through promise".
- 1) This methodology meant that it would be rooted in divine initiative as God decides what promise to make and to whom He would make it.
- 2) This methodology also meant that it would be rooted in a legitimate human response: faith in the promise made.
- a) But, because promises cannot be abandoned to the responses/efforts, or lack thereof, of others (God cannot allow His integrity to rest upon someone other than Himself), the "faith" issue had to have a "sub-methodology" in place so that the promise(s) would be believed.
- b) And, because "boasting" simply cannot be allowed without putting the system in total jeopardy, the "sub-methodology" had to be such that no one could "boast" of participating in it (Romans 3:27).
- b. This set up a certain need for a later, more compatible, "opposite" for "the standard of flesh".
- B. Then, in 4:28, Paul moved from his focus upon the methodology of "grace" (note Romans 4:16) to his first description of the "standard" for the "grace" camp: "the standard of Isaac".
- 1. This "standard" focused upon the fact of Isaac's presence in the household of Abraham by God's pursuit of his parents' "faith".
- a. In order to keep either Abraham or Sarah away from the tendency to introduce the destructive element of "boasting" into the system, God refrained from fulfilling His promise until it was beyond obvious that "fulfillment" would be only by His activity.
- b. But this restraint by God made the human element of "faith" much more difficult because most human beings "believe" only when they retain some element of control and capacity.
- 2. The bottom line in this declaration of the standard by which anyone becomes a "child of promise" is this: human "faith" is the outcome of divine persistence in persuasion.
- C. Finally, in 4:29, Paul reaches the actual bottom line for the "grace" camp: the standard of the Spirit".
- 1. In this statement it is clear that the Spirit of God is the actual, effective, "Agent" of the production of both the human element of "faith" and the divine element of actual fulfillment.
- 2. The virgin birth of the Christ is the premier illustration of this reality: birth according to the standard of Spirit allows nothing of Adam except those parts that are directly of God (Eve was "of Adam" only by divine action and Mary's contribution to the existence of the Christ was only by divine action).
- IV. Paul's "Inevitable" Outcome.
- A. Paul declares in our text that it is inevitable that, as long as both camps exist, "persecution" will arise out of the legal one.
- 1. It is impossible for the grace/faith camp to produce "persecution": that method cannot lead to the persuasion required for "faith".
- 2. It is impossible for the law/performance camp to refrain from persecution: any basis for boasting will be used and all opposition will produce violence.
- B. This is Paul's argument that the Galatians should "hear" the message of the Law.
- 1. Law always produces conflict.
- 2. Conflict is always self-defeating.
- 3. The one(s) defeated are always those gendering the conflict.