AUSTRALIAN BIBLE CHURCH - FEBRUARY 12, 2006
SWAMP CHILDREN OR SPIRITUAL SKIERS … Galatians 4:8 – 5:6
I THE LAPSE - Galatians 4:8-18
a) Itself 4:8-11
You seemed to know God, but rather were known by God, but now are being sustained in false premises without promises, concepts of little things, tags instead of truth, symbols clung to, as if holding to air, things past their due date, so sullen in spirit that one could almost think you were a vain labour for me, amounting now to nothing, deluded into substitutes for the faith.
b) By contrast 4:12-18
Paul now reminds them of their vital enthusiasm when they first heard the Gospel from him – so great that in view of some optical trouble he had, they would have willingly torn out their eyes to cover his need, if they could! You are being courted by spiritual crooks, he insists, but it is in a good thing that zeal counts for good! In itself, it is instrumental: it is the objective that counts.
II THE LONGING - Galatians 4:19-20
How I labour for you! the apostle exhorts, till Christ be formed within you, till your teething troubles are over, or indeed perhaps for some, your birth itself is assured! This is the stress of the apostle.
III THE LAW AND THE PROMISE - Galatians 4:21-31
a) The analogy 4:21- 30
Just as the child of Abraham’s maid, Hagar, was not that of the promise, but rather began to persecute the child of promise, Isaac, so now do those not of the promise mislead, if it were possible, the saints. The parallel is between these two contrasting children, and the other case, that of Jerusalem of old, with the sin-affirming law, showing rigtheousness but not in itself conferring it, and the Jerusalem which is from above, which is ‘mother of us all’, the city of freedom, where Christ as gracious king, rules, in which all His saved people are already citizens (Phil. 3:20-21), granted place.
b) The Exhortation 4:31
In the comparison Paul evokes, it is true that Hagar’s child was the apparent result of an impatient lack of faith – one with enormous historical consequences of a most unpalatable kind for Israel, while on the other hand, the Law through Moses was simply a preliminary step. Yet the point in common is the preliminary aspect, and that this must always yield to the crux that comes, in the former case in the promise, to Isaac, and in the latter, to Christ, the effulgence of the light of the prophecy, when it shone in Galilee and beyond.
The crux is the promise, and Christ is the centre of it and the power, supernatural and indeed divine, provided in Person. The beginning is prelude to the end, the prelude fades to the actual performance, and the caption for the coping stone is GRACE (as in Zechariah 4:7).
This needs to be seen in the context of Zechariah 6:12-15, where the 'stone' is seen as living (for it is the 'living God', as in Isaiah 28:16, and in fact Christ - Matthew 21:14, Psalm 118), the One and ONLY one in whom man must put his absolute trust (Jeremiah 13, 17, Psalm 71, 56, Luke 14:27ff.). It is He, the Messiah, He who is one both priest and prince, with peace in this dual office, and He can be both unlike all others (II Chronicles 26:16-20), since He has the grace for it, being full of grace and truth (John 1:14), since as Messiah, as the LORD Himself on this earth for our salvation (as in Zechariah 12:10ff.), He is omni-competent, all-sufficient.
In that Zechariah Ch. 4, then, it is declared of the Capstone, the consummation there pre-figured,
¨ “And he shall bring forth the capstone, with shouts of “Grace, grace to it!”
That Grace! always has been, and after the Fall must be, the nature of God’s dealings with sinners, for how else are they to be restored from the fallen essence of their beings, but like that (cf. Ephesians 2:1-12, Romans 3:23ff.), saved by faith through grace. Even, then, if the Law gave grace more meaning to it, yet it could never be another method for salvation, only a step of emphasis.
As children of God, you are children of the gracious promise given at the first by the Lord of liberty, for all time, and outstretched to all people (Psalm 67, 145:12, Isaiah 42:6, 49:6).
This is that liberty that allows man if he will, to ignore or rather through grace to embrace the principles imparted, to realise their place, either as stimulant to realisation of the truth, a piercing reminder or a goad for guilt. Yet the divine law is for those who find Him, a testimony to the extent of our pardon and the scope of our need (as in Romans 6-7). These principles and laws are as guides to our way, not the course itself, light posts, not the light itself, structure, not the power to perform, goads, not the grace that grants.
IV SWAMP CHILDREN AND SPIRITUAL CHILDREN - Galatians 5:1-6
Paul then tells us to stand fast with the liberty with which Christ has made us free. Re-created by grace, we are governed by it, led by love and mastered by divine power. Let us then relish this filial relationship with the Lord, and not depart for the goads that remind of sin, as if they were steps to heaven. They are nearer to reminders of the way to hell! If indeed, says Paul, you start REQUIRING things like circumcision, Old Covenant symbols now replaced (in this case by baptism, as in Colossians 2:11-12), then you are in principle acknowledging your need to keep THE WHOLE law.
This type of error is part of the folly of Seventh Day Adventism, with its ‘sabbath’ insult to Christ *, as if HIS resurrection and prior death were not the GREATEST WORK of God and the one to replace any other testimony through the new work, that of salvation, now being immediately impressed as the summit on the globe of sinners. Not only is it the very epitome of grace for us, but of work for Him! He laboured that we might be free, and rest with Him, Sunday the final symbol, the day of His breach of death, available to every one who, aware of his sin, so receives Him (Heb. 2:9, I John 2:1ff.).
If you insist on past symbols like that, says Paul, as ministering to salvation, then you have fallen from grace! (Galatians 5:4). It is like the case of the Matthew 13 parable, where the seed of the word of God came up only a little, for it had no root, because of the hard, unbroken soil under it, symbolising a lack of real repentance (Matthew 13:20). To be sure, there was “rejoicing for a season”, but the thing was only a little germinating thrill, and the root system never went down, the soul was not saved, though it had some preliminary experience.
No, it is not like that at all, says Paul, for the Christian. For those who eagerly await the promise of righteousness through faith, both now appropriated and to come in the resurrection in a new and sinless form, altogether (Romans 8:23, Hebrews 12:23), it is far otherwise. In fact, in Christ Jesus, he cries, neither circumcision nor the opposite mean anything, for it is a matter of faith working through love.
Let us apply that. The spiritual children part (Galatians 3: 26-29) aspect refers to status, children of grace, of promise, in which knowing God and your place in His eternal gift, you are free to WORK by FAITH for the sake of love. The gift is granted already.
In our title, however, reference was made to spiritual skiers! This refers to function. On the sunny slopes of pure, Alpine grace, protected by His ransom (Matthew 20:28), covered by His peace, you have the thrust of His Spirit, and the energy of being strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man or person (Ephesians 3:16). You can thus ski with confidence, and speed with skill as you grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ (II Peter 3:18), asking and receiving wisdom as needed (James 1), and praising God for it as you swish past the obstacles, your ski poles helping balance, as the word of God ministers the same to your heartened souls and awakened spirits (Isaiah 33:16).
* If you want to pursue this topic, in general, there are some references for you, below.
Barbs, Arrows and Balms
III, with Appendix
8 - Easter Alert,
Biblical Blessings Ch 12, p. 148, Things Old and New Ch. 2, End-note 1A;
Impossible to Men, Open to God Ch. 3