frequently asked questions

QUESTION:
  
blue bullet  What is Apostle Paul saying regarding The Flesh and The Spirit referred to in Galatians 4:29?

ANSWER:  
blue bullet The Flesh and The Spirit: Law vs. Grace

In Galatians 4:29 we read, "But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now." 

Paul is referring to the Scriptural incident in Genesis Chapter 21 where Isaac is being weaned and is possibly about five years old, and if so, Ishmael would have been about 19 years of age.  The Scripture says, "And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, which she had born unto Abraham, mocking" (Genesis. 21:9). The implication is that he was mocking Isaac and possibly Sarah as well.  The word "persecuted" stated by Paul in verse 29 is understood by some Greek Scholars as to imply "murder".  In other words, Ishmael hated Isaac, and actually wanted to murder him.  This was why Sarah asked that Hagar and her son be sent away.

True Christians will be persecuted, as Yeshua Himself taught (Matthew 5:10-12) and the Apostles confirmed such to be true (Philippians 1:29; I Thessalonians 3:1-4; II Timothy 3:12; I Pet. 4:12-13).  The remarkable thing is that this will not always be by the world, but more often by their half brothers - the unbelieving but religious people in the nominal Church, which far outnumber the true.

Here is a proven reality of history.  It was the Jews who killed the Prophets, their own Prophets incidentally, not the Gentiles.  It was the Pharisees and other religious leaders who opposed Yeshua and instigated His execution, which resulted in His crucifixion by the Romans.  As such, Paul's fiercest opponents were those of the fanatically religious Judaizers.  Today the greatest enemies of the believing Church are found among the members of the unbelieving Church, with the greatest opposition emanating from the pulpits and Church Hierarchies (Gaebelein).

PERSECUTION OF THOSE BORN AFTER THE SPIRIT

The phrase, "But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit," presents two realities.  They are as follows:

1. Isaac and Ishmael symbolize the new and the old nature in the Believer.  Sarah and Hagar typify the two Covenants, Works and Grace, of bondage and liberty, as Paul explains.  The birth of the new nature demands the expulsion of the old.  Why?  It is impossible to improve the old nature of man.

The Holy Spirit says in Romans 8:7 that "It is enmity against God, that it is not subject to the Law of God, neither indeed can be."  To this end, if it cannot be subject to the Law of God, how can it be improved?   Thus, how foolish, the Doctrine of moral evolution!

THE STRUGGLE WITH THE FLESH

The Divine way of Holiness is to "put off the old man" just as Abraham "put off" Ishmael.  However, man's way of Holiness is to improve the "old man," that is, to improve Ishmael.  Although, as stated earlier, the effort is both fruitless and hopeless.

Of course, the casting out of Ishmael was "very grievous in Abraham's sight," because it is a struggle to cast out any element of bondage, that is, Salvation by works.  Why?  Legalism is dear to the heart of mankind.

Ishmael was Abraham's fair fruit of his own energy and planning.

But the Epistle to the Galatians states that Hagar, the bondwoman, represents the Covenant of the Law, and that her son, Ishmael, represents all who are by "works of Law," that is, all who seek Righteousness on the principle of works alone.  However, it is impossible for a bondwoman to bring forth a free man!

The Son alone, Yeshua, makes free, and He makes free indeed.  Thus, Sarah, the freewoman, symbolizes the Covenant of Grace and Liberty, "So then, we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free (Galatians 4:31)."

The great struggle between the Spirit and the Flesh is at the center of the Believer's life, which commences at the beginning of his/her salvation, and never ceases until death.  This is far and away the greatest problem for the Child of God.  The only way this problem can be properly addressed, with assured victory, and on a continued basis, is through Faith and Trust in the all inclusive Cross, i.e., "what Jesus did at Calvary and the Resurrection for us."  Therefore, the moment the Believer reverts from the faith in the Cross to any degree, there is no place to go, but back to the broken Law, which is guaranteed to make the problem far worse.  The Believer must understand that the "Finished Work of Calvary" holds all victory for salvation, and more particularly, their Faith and Trust in that Finished Work - and that means on a daily basis (Luke 9:23).

THE APOSTATE CHURCH  vs. THE TRUE CHURCH

2. The other struggle which commences at conversion, and concerns the flesh persecuting "him that is born after the Spirit," is, as stated, the opposition tendered by the apostate Church against the True Church.

Paley said, "It does not appear that the Apostle Paul was ever sat upon by the Gentiles, unless they were first stirred up by the Jews, except in two instances. In fact, the persecutions of the Christians arose, therefore, mainly from the Jews - from those who were in bondage to the Law, and to Rites and Customs."

The word "persecuted" as Paul uses it concerning Ishmael and Isaac, according to Jewish traditions, says that Ishmael took out the child Isaac and "shot at him with arrows under pretense of sport."  While that tradition cannot be proven, from the manner in which Paul uses the word "persecuted," more than likely, that's exactly what happened.  Had Ishmael been allowed to remain in the family, he probably would have killed his freeborn brother, Isaac. 

"SO IT IS NOW"

The phrase, "Even so it is now," refers to the struggle between the children of bondage and the children of freedom as a problem which has always existed, and will continue to exist until the Resurrection, and more specifically, the Second Coming of Christ.

It is quite clear, that Satan does his finest work inside the Church instead of outside.  Actually, persecution from without, tends to have the opposite effect.  Instead of it hurting the Church, normally it builds the Church, causing Believers to unite together.  However, opposition from within, which is far more subtle and destructive, is the source of the greatest problem.

In the Church, everyone claims to be of God while the apostate Church claims Godliness and the right way, only the True Church is worthy of such a claim.  You will find these two normally intermingled, which makes it difficult for the unread to tell who's who.  Moreover, ultimately, those who are "born of the flesh," gravitate toward the flesh, while those who are "born of the Spirit," gravitate toward the Spirit.

What are the characteristics and differences between the two?

Pride and self-righteousness characterize the flesh, while humility and contending for the Faith, characterize the Spirit (Luke 18:9-14; Jude vs. 3).

Pride can oftentimes be cloaked, while humility, can seem to be other than what it actually is.  For instance, I seriously doubt that many people would have called the Apostle Paul "humble."  Most would have mistaken his strong contending for the Faith, his corrective Ministry, as mere arrogance.  But it wasn't arrogance!  By today's standards he would have been thought of as brash and ill-tempered or politically incorrect, when referring to some of his opponents as "fools" (II Corinthians 11:19); however, the Reader must be reminded, what Paul wrote was inspired by the Holy Spirit, which means that these words were not of his own choosing, but were given to him.

There is a fleshly pride of man, and a pride of the Godly Believer.  The pride of man stems from his own supposed ability and self-righteousness.  At the same time, it is perfectly proper for a Believer to take pride in his Lord, in the Word of God, and in the Ways of God.

Moreover, the world has its own type of humility, and of course, the Lord exemplifies humility also. The humility exhibited by the world, is meant to deceive, which sadly  does, while that exhibited by Believers, pertains to placing all confidence in Christ, and none in oneself.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE SIGNS OF AN APOSTATE CHURCH? 

1. It departs from the Word of God in a very subtle way, and if Believers do not properly understand the Word, they probably won't see the difference.

2. They always function from the realm of Law, in one way or the other. Actually, the premise of Law is the very thrust of the apostate Church.  That simply means, at least in such cases, that it's not depending on the Grace of God, but rather its own rules and regulations, which they occasionally change.

3. There is a tremendous pride in self-righteousness, which is generally cloaked.

4. There is a departure from the Holy Spirit, to the ways of the world. Once again, this is subtle, while at the same time they are mouthing phraseology that sounds right.

5. They have no time for the true Moving and Operation of the Holy Spirit, actually opposing the Anointing; however, they will promote demonstrations which look like a moving of the Holy Spirit, but really isn't.

6. Everything in the apostate Church functions from the realm of the flesh.  Man gives birth to all the decisions, with everything decided in committee, etc.  Consequently, it is man-berthed, man-made, man-directed, man-operated, etc.  Consequently, it cannot be of the Spirit.  That means that every single thing it does, while making itself look like God, it is actually of man, i.e., "the flesh," i.e., "the Devil."

Galatians 4:30, "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 free woman." 

The Christians of Galatia recognized the categorical incompatibility of man-made religion and God-made Salvation and respond by casting out the Legalizers.  Thus, those born after the flesh will never share in the inheritance God has reserved for His True Children, born after the Spirit.  Therefore, Christians are to reject both the bondage of Legalism and those who teach it.

It is interesting, that the Verse of Scripture (Genesis 21:10) that the Jews undoubtedly interpreted as a statement of the principle of God's rejection of the Gentiles, Paul now boldly turns around and applies to the exclusion of unbelieving Jews from Christianity. The procedure would probably have infuriated his opponents, but his point was well taken.  God does not look on physical descent but on faith and spiritual affinity.  The true sons of Abraham are those who are born of the Spirit and believe in the atoning work of Yeshua.

THE WORD OF GOD

The question, "Nevertheless what saith the Scripture?", proclaims Apostle Paul was referencing the Word of God in order to substantiate his Doctrine.  Everything written by the Apostles was always according to God's Word, as should be overly obvious.

If the Doctrine does not coincide with the Word of God, it should be dismissed out of hand.  Every question that pertains to Life and Godliness is addressed in the Word of God, and addressed in its totality (II Peter 1:3-4).

CAST OUT THE LAW

The phrase, "Cast out the bondwoman and her son," presents the language of Sarah, in an address to Abraham, requesting him to cast out Hagar and Ishmael (Genesis 21:10).

As stated, the word of Sarah was very grievous unto Abraham, and when he heard Sarah's request, his fatherly bowels were moved with compassion towards his son Ishmael; for he was born of his flesh, i.e., "a work of the flesh, with which all of us are loathe to part."

But God confirmed the request which Sarah had pronounced, saying to Abraham: "Let it not be grievous in thy sight because of the lad, and because of the bondwoman; and all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called" (Genesis 21:12).

Sarah was not merely an angry and petulant woman, but saw the terrible danger involved in allowing Hagar and Ishmael to continue as part of the immediate family.  She feared most that Isaac could have been spitefully killed by either Hagar or Ishmael.  Her decision was right and no doubt prompted by the Lord.

In Abraham's decision, by which Hagar and Ishmael were driven forth beyond the pale of God's most especial guardianship and blessing, the Apostle Paul hears the Voice of God bidding away from His Covenant all who disbelieve the Gospel - all, that is, who set aside God's assurances of His free unmerited Love and Grace to all who believe in (Yeshua) Jesus.

WHAT THE SPIRIT IS ACTUALLY SAYING THROUGH PAUL

The Apostle Paul is not thinking of the national cutting off of the Jews; he is contemplating, not nationalities, but habits of mind - servile legality on the one side, and on the other Faith accepting a free Gift of Grace.

It is at their extreme peril, Paul in effect tells the Galatians, that they forsake the latter Law to take up with the former free Gift of Grace:  God has shown that by so rejecting the latter, they will forfeit the inheritance altogether.  One cannot have it both ways, it is either Grace or Law, but cannot be a mixture of Grace and Law.

Continuing in this vein, Lightfoot has the following to say about these words of the Apostle Paul:

       "The Law and the Gospel cannot co-exist. The Law must disappear before the Gospel.
            It is scarcely possible to estimate the strength of conviction and depth of prophetic 
            insight which this declaration implie
s.

       "The Apostle thus confidently sounds the death knell of Judaism at a time when about 
           half of Christendom clung to the Mosaic Law with a jealous affection little short of
           frenzy, and while the Judaic party seemed to be growing in influence, and was strong
           enough even in the Gentile Churches of his own founding to undermine the influence
           of the Apostle and even endanger his life.
"

LAW IS AN ENEMY OF GRACE

When Paul quoted Sarah, which was sanctioned by God, this which hindered and even threatened Grace and Promise must be "cast out,".  Thus, he is telling us that there is no other way.  Law is an enemy of Grace.  If it is entertained at all, its very nature is always to rape the great principle of Grace.  Attempting to mix the two, is like attempting to mix oil and water, it simply has little value.  Paul was extremely acquainted with this subject, because the Seventh Chapter of Romans tells us, of the great struggle of the Apostle in this capacity, and then the great key to victory given to him, as he relates it to us in Romans Chapters 6 and 8.

The Believer must depend upon the Cross, or else he has no alternative but the broken Law.  The next phrase tells us what that alternative is, and it's not a pretty sight.

"SHALL NOT BE HEIR"

The phrase, "For the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the free-woman," proclaims to us that there can be no dividing of the inheritance.  Paul is giving a dramatic illustration of the irreconcilable conflict between "Salvation by Works" and "Salvation by Faith".  Those who are true sons - by Faith - are heirs of all God's provisions and promises.  This is a bold declaration of the incompatibility of Judaism vs. Christianity, of Works with Faith, of Law with Grace.

(Galatians 4:31) "SO THEN, BRETHREN, WE ARE NOT CHILDREN OF THE BONDWOMAN, BUT OF THE FREE."

Of such are the Galatians.  The "therefore" of this Verse is not designed to draw a special conclusion from the Verses immediately preceding, but rather to sum up the whole allegory and indeed the whole of Paul's doctrinal argument.  The shift to the first person "we," instead of "you" or "they," once again includes both Paul himself and all who embrace the True Gospel.

WE MUST CHOOSE SLAVERY OR FREEDOM

We learn from this, as indeed should be obvious from the entirety of the tenor of the Word of God, that Christianity is vastly superior to Judaism, i.e., "the Law of Moses." However, that should not come as a surprise, seeing that the Law was given only to serve a particular period of time, and when in fact, pointed to the New Covenant all the while.

By the Cross we are set free from all degrading servitude, and are not in bondage to Rites and Ceremonies. The atonement of  the Cross was designed to make us truly free, and by the Cross, we of Salvation are admitted to the privileges of God's adopted sons, which are not under laws, tutors, nor governors.  Thus, we are no longer as minors; children of a bondwoman, and born in slavery, but are as the children of a freewoman, who are born to grace and liberty.

In view of this, it is the birthright of Christians to think, feel, and act like free men and women, which we truly are; and that we should not allow ourselves to become the slaves of Customs, Rites, and Ceremonies, but should feel that we are the adopted Children of God, bought with a price, and to whom is freely imputed the Righteousness of God.  

Paul has beautifully contrasted the Way of Faith and the Way of Law.  Thus, he concludes that we are not Children of  Law but rather free Children of Faith.  The allegory, even as the Holy Spirit intended it to be, is thus a confirming illustration of the Truth he had already convincingly argued.

In summary, Paul wanted all concerned, to understood that the Message of the Judaizers was false.  Salvation could not be achieved by works, by living as a Jew, by natural inheritance as the seed of Abraham, or working to earn God's favor in any manner.  In fact, the Message of the Judaizers was one of damnation and not Salvation.  It is no less true now than it was then.  Salvation can only come by a free-will act of Faith in the blood atonement of Yeshua and His Cross.