Study 29: Gal. 4:25-31
After considering, in the last study, two sons and two Covenants we now turn our attention to the final comparison that Paul makes in this section: namely the two Jerusalems, the one below on earth and the one above, which we have revealed to us as the mother of us all!
The word 'answereth ' is a military term, and refers to soldiers marching along in the same rank. So Paul is saying that Sinai and the earthly Jerusalem that was then, are of the same rank, or order. Sinai was where the Old Covenant was given, that gendered bondage and so does the Jerusalem that then was in Paul's day. Whereas the Jerusalem above in contradistinction is free.
Why did Paul say the earthly Jerusalem that was then in the same rank as Sinai? To answer this question we need to understand what place it had in God's economy. When Israel conquered Canaan, the Tabernacle was set up at Shiloh Jos. 18:1, but when that was destroyed the ark had no place and became itinerant, so to speak, eg. I Sam.5:1; 7:1; II Sam.6:1-11. King David was concerned about this and eventually brought the ark back I Chr.15. He wanted to build a Temple for God in Jerusalem, but it was Solomon that was charged with its construction from the divine pattern I Chr.28:11-21. Jerusalem became the centre of worship for the nation. It was the place where the males came three times a year at the feasts; it was there that the whole of the sacrificial system took place. Earthly Jerusalem became, and remained for many centuries, the centre of the nation's life.
Sinai gave birth to bondage, and so did earthly Jerusalem. It was because it was the centre of Judaism that it answered to Sinai. As we have seen the Old Covenant was only a temporary measure, and by the time Paul wrote Galatians the Old Covenant had been wound up and the New Covenant established, but the physical sacrificial system was still in place, and was not removed until the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.
The Pharisees et. al continued in the Old Covenant, even though, as far as God was concerned it was finished, (as was demonstrated by God renting the Temple vail at the time of the crucifixion Mtt.27:51.) They and those who followed it remained in bondage to the law. They were still in the slave state - they refused to leave it. Whilst some came into the New Covenant, many did not. During the earthly life of the Lord the religious authorities rejected Christ, and what more did not recognise the day of their visitation. Lk.19:43. And it has to be said that legalists, unless convicted, know not the time of their visitation, for God's movings do not fit in with their rules. Jesus said that the time would come when Jerusalem, or any other mountain come to that, would no longer be the centre of the worship of God Jn.4:20-21: the 'carnal' ( outward forms) would be abolished and the spiritual established.
By continuing with the OC sacrificial system the Jews were associating themselves with an abomination! For having sacrificed His dear Son at Calvary all had been fulfilled and completed. Christ's death was the substance that the sacrifices foreshadowed, Heb.10:1-10. Therefore to offer sacrifice for sin after that is blasphemy and an abomination to God. For by offering the such like is essentially to deny, in practice, what Christ has done. No wonder in the great Messianic prophecy of Daniel we have the sacrificial system called 'the abomination of desolation, and no wonder God had to have the whole city of Jerusalem destroyed, it and with it the whole of the old Jewish religion Dan.9:24-27, Mtt.24:15-18.
But there is another Jerusalem; it is above, not below. And we are told it is the mother of us all! The language here is remarkable and wonderfully consistent with other references in the New Testament. Firstly to a famous passage in the Hebrew letter.
The Hebrew epistle was written to Jewish converts who were in danger of going back to Judaism, not because of legalistic teachers but, because of the persecution they faced. So in some ways the exhortations in Hebrews, are similar to that of the Galatian letter. In this famous section the writer uses similar language to Paul in Galatians: as Christians we have not come to Sinai, the law that gives rise to legalism, the system that produces fear and darkness and all the rest that goes with it. Instead we have come to the heavenly Jerusalem. Our spiritual home is different! And we have not come to a Moses, who himself was quaking in his boots, but to JESUS Himself! The blessed Son of God who loved us and died for us whilst we were sinners. He is our mediator in this Covenant, what have we to fear?
This city is the city of God note, not earthly Jerusalem! It was this heavenly city and heavenly country that men and women of faith sought in their earthly pilgrimage Heb.11:10; 14-15 This heavenly country they chose to seek, and forsook the earthly, or to put it in terms of the Galatian letter, they went after the Spirit and rejected the flesh. They couldn't have had both, they chose well, now what about us? What are we going to choose: the Jerusalem above or the city that genders bondage? The Spirit or the flesh? It is one or the other we can't have both.
But there is a second aspect to 'Jerusalem above', consider the words of Jesus to Nicodemus, and a certain Psalm.
The language of Jesus leaves us in no doubt as to the link between these passages: in order to even see the Kingdom of God you must be born from ABOVE, and the Jerusalem which we have come is ABOVE and is the mother of us all; and is free. Sinai gives birth to bondage, for it is a legal system; Jerusalem above gives birth to freedom, for it from there that we are born anew, and it is life from above; in fact it is God's life itself that is planted in us at regeneration II Pet.1:3-4 The Psalm quoted above is also of interest for speaking prophetically of Jerusalem above we have the insight that our springs are in her. That is the roots of our life is now in New Jerusalem. The mainspring of our life was changed at new birth. No longer are we of the first Adam made from the earth , but of the last Adam from heaven.
New birth brings us into the life of God, by it we are baptised into Christ. We are translated from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of His dear Son. From death into life, from bondage into freedom. The source of our life is now, not a legalistic one, but rather God Himself; one that is life and liberty in the Spirit. With all these truths before us there can be no doubt that, if we are in Christ we not under any legal bondage, then why do believers want to go back to an inferior way of life?
Going back one last time to the analogy Paul highlights the time Ishmael mocked Isaac Gen.21:9-10. Here Paul uses the word 'persecuted'. And concludes that the bondwoman can not be heir with the freewoman. We have thus illustrated the principle that there is a perpetual conflict between that which is flesh and that which is Spirit. The flesh ever conflicts with the spirit, how else can it be? They are mutually exclusive.
Those believers who go back into bondage, and a life of legalism, always, at some stage, end up persecuting, mocking those who remain in the liberty of Christ. Eventually, unless one party yields their ground, there has to be separation, for they can not dwell together. And indeed those free in Christ will at some have to cast out the legalists, if they will not move, lest they mar their own inheritance in Christ.
There can be no peaceful existence between the two camps. On example that we have been coming back to time and again in these studies, has been the situation where where a group has insisted that every body should rid their homes of certain items because they ( note that: they!) deem them unspiritual. If this is persisted in those who are on the receiving end of this pursuit ( same word as persecute in Galatians) will either give in and thus come under bondage themselves, or have such conflict with those legalists that sooner or later separation becomes inevitable. What is happening is a conflict of spirit: one being of the law and the other of life from above. One party is law controlled the other Spirit led.
The conflict between Spirit and flesh is ever present, but by walking in the Spirit we will not fulfil the desires of the flesh. Having been born from above, and receiving His life from above let us forever be found walking in the Spirit, rejecting all temptation, whether from without or within, to go back to the ways of the flesh; we have a better life why go back to that which is less, and that God has done away with?