Why Jerusalem? (69) – Chapter 8 – Jerusalem and the allegory of Galatians 4

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By Rev Willem J.J. Glashouwer.. From the book Why Jerusalem? Chapter 8 – Jerusalem and the allegory of Galatians 4

Blessings and Covenants
God promised blessings for Ishmael, but His everlasting Covenant with Abraham, later confirmed to Isaac and Jacob. The problem in the Middle East is not one of ethnicity, because there are great blessings for the Arabs, being descendants of Ishmael. The crux is that the Arabs, including Palestinians, are almost totally dominated by Islam. They serve Allah, like so many other peoples and nations in Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, the former USSR-republics and half of Africa. The conflict in the Middle East is a spiritual conflict. On the one side stands the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of Israel, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, while on the other are found all the other gods of this world, including Allah. Christian Arabs and Christian Palestinians are therefore in a very difficult situation. This is not so much because of threats by the Jews and Is- rael, but just the opposite, because of threats by their fellow Islamic Arab and Palestinian “brothers”.


We will now consider Galatians 4:22-31 verse by verse. Verses 22-23: So the question is, “Who is your mother? Listen to me, you people in Galatia, do you want to be a child of a slave or of a free woman?” That is the question! “Are you born by a miracle of God, or by human planning? Are you living in the flesh, or are you born again by the grace of God, a miraculous birth by the Holy Spirit? Are you living in the power of the flesh or by the power of the Holy Spirit?” Ishmael, the forefather of the Arabic people, was born of the natural human strength of his ‘maid mother’ Hagar, while the birth of Isaac, the forefather of the Jewish people, of his free mother Sarah. This was by a divine supernatural act of God that Paul calls “by promise”. So Paul started to explain the differences between “by promise” and “by the flesh”, using Hagar and Sarah as examples of these principles. “Promise”, “Faith” and “Grace” relating to Sarah are the opposite of “Flesh” and “Law” which pertain to Hagar.


Hebrews 11:11-12: “…By faith Abraham, even though he was past age – and Sarah herself was barren – was enabled to become a father because he considered Him faithful who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore…”


Romans 4:16-21: “…Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring – not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. As it is written: ‘I have made you a father of many nations.’ He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he

believed – the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were. Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’ Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead – since he was about a hundred years old – and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what He had promised…”


In Judaism in the days of Paul there was some teaching that all Jews who had Abraham as their father and Sarah as their mother were children of the promise. All other people, including Arabs, were totally out of the picture, and considered some kind of bastards, children of a slave. Some teachers in Galatia in those days therefore taught that Gentiles who want to be true Christians should convert to Judaism. Their argument was that one could only belong to the chosen people of God by accepting Judaism. But Paul took a differ- ent tack. He turned the whole matter upside down. He said clearly that it was possible to belong to the seed of Abraham and have a Jewish woman like Sarah as your mother, but still be a child of a slave! He meant that a person who was trying to obey the law in the power of the flesh, and not living by the promise of God’s grace, was a slave-child.


Verses 24-26: Paul stated that this was an allegory of two Covenants. One was the Covenant “of the Law” from Mount Sinai, represented by Hagar. The other was the Abrahamic Covenant “of promise” from God, represented by Sarah, which was “…confirmed before of God in Christ…” (Galatians 3:17 KJV). “The Law” was given on Mount Sinai 430 years after Abraham and Sarah, and after Isaac and Jacob and God’s Covenant promises to them. This Law could not disannul (or make void) “the Promise”. Galatians 3:17-18: “…What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the Covenant pre- viously established by God and thus do away with the promise. For if the inheritance [salvation] depends on the law [Hagar], then it no longer depends on a promise; but God in His grace gave it to Abraham [through Sarah and her seed as the context shows] through a promise…” This means that Paul heard in ‘Hagar’ a peculiar sound and a hidden meaning with Hagar (or Agar) referring to “Arabia”! Thus Paul said that Jerusalem and its Judaism in his day was on the same level as “Arabia”, which was outside the Promised Land! Sinai in Arabia was the Old Covenant. It was the Law with its curses for all those who trespassed the Holy Commandments – connoting Hagar, Sinai, servitude and slavery. In such a situation one was in Arabia, with the Arabs, outside of Israel. Then one was not a true son or daughter of Abraham. According to Paul that was typical of the “Jerusalem-that- is-now”, with its Judaism as he knew it in his days.


Now two more opposites enter the allegory. The Jerusalem that was “above” was “free”, while the Jerusalem that was “below” on earth was not free, but in “bondage” because of its Judaism that made Jerusalem into a slave. It is obvious that Paul was not launching a frontal attack on the “old city” of Jerusalem, or saying that the city should be given to the Arabs. And with nowhere did the Apostle state that there were no promises left for that “old city”. He “only” disqualified the now-Jerusalem of his day because of the quality of its form of Judaism with its spiritual poverty. He said that it was   a dead-end, but has metamorphosed into a Covenant of works. No mortal being should take that view – in Galatia nor anywhere else in the world – in Paul’s day or in our times. The now-Jerusalem was with her children dressed in slaves-clothes. But there was another Jerusalem. And if the “old city” of the Jewish people wanted to be really “Jerusalem”, then it should no longer focus on Sinai and Hagar. It should not behave in such an “Arabic” manner. It should focus on her true mother, the free one. For this is the true freedom that is in Christ Jesus. This “old city” must grasp its true spiritual mother, the “above-Jerusalem” – even though it has Abraham and Sarah as its father and mother after the flesh.


Verse 26: “…But the above Jerusalem that is free is the mother of us all…” The Greek αvω, ano, used for “above” has the same thought, that the grace and promise given by God from above are better than the works of man, law and flesh here below. This, of course, could never have meant that Jerusalem in “heaven” would be replacing God’s plan for the “earthly” Jerusalem, as the following context clearly shows. Paul did not mean a Jerusalem that was only above the clouds and stars. He was talking about the people of God, the chosen people, who had their origin in the grace of heaven and of God. “Who is your mother?” is the decisive question. He hoped his read- ers could answer it by saying, “I come from the Jerusalem-above. I belong to the chosen people of God that are born of the Spirit who is from above – and that makes me free! I’m carrying the name of the true children of ‘Zion’. I’m a true inhabitant of ‘Jerusalem’ By grace I live by faith!” 

To be continued.. with: Chapter 8 – Jerusalem and the allegory of Galatians 4 – Jerusalem on earth

The book Why Jerusalem? and other books from Rev Willem J.J. Glashouwer can be ordered from the webshop of 
Christians for Israel International.


Rev Willem J.J. Glashouwer
President Christians for Israel International


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