For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all. For it is written, Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not; break forth and cry, thou that travailest not: for the desolate hath many more children than she which hath an husband. Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise. But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now. 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 freewoman. So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.
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 other above, which we have revealed to us as the mother of us all!
E2.1 Jerusalem – Now
Sinai in Arabia, and answereth [=corresponds /in the same rank ] to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children.
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 gives rise bondage and so does the Jerusalem below, 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 However the physical sacrificial system was still in place, and was not removed until the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.
The nation 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.
E2.2 Jerusalem – Above
But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.
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.
For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest, And the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that heard intreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more: (For they could not endure that which was commanded, And if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a dart: And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake:) But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel. See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven: Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven. And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: For our God is a consuming fire.
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! 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.
Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born [ =from above] again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
His foundation is in the holy mountains. The LORD loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob. Glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of God. Selah. I will make mention of Rahab and Babylon to them that know me: behold Philistia, and Tyre, with Ethiopia; this man was born there. And of Zion it shall be said, This and that man was born in her: and the highest himself shall establish her. The LORD shall count, when he writeth up the people, that this man was born there. Selah. As well the singers as the players on instruments shall be there: all my springs are in thee.
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. 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 are 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?
E2.3 The flesh persecutes the Spirit
But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now. 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 freewoman. So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.
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.
For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.
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 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 which God has done away with?