Galatians 4:30-31 To keep believers prospering, the church must safeguard and purify itself continually

Galatians 4:30-31 To keep believers prospering, the church must safeguard and purify itself continually

30 But what does the Scripture say?
“Cast out the bondwoman and her son,
For the son of the bondwoman shall not be an heir with the son of the free woman.”

31 So then, brethren, we are not children of a bondwoman, but of the free woman.

Background

Paul urges the Galatians to be vigilant in purifying the church from the legacy of the bondwoman which are hypocrisy and fleshly ambitions. The Galatians must cut off the evil influences of the Judaizers by teaching the truth and living in the Spirit continually. Today’s devotions teaches: To keep believers prospering, the church must safeguard and purify itself continually.

Observation

Cast out the bondwoman and her son, For the son of the bondwoman shall not be an heir with the son of the free woman…

Paul retrieves a lesson from the Old Testament (Genesis 21:10) to show the Galatians how they should respond to persecutions. Sarah, the free woman acted decisively in insisting that Abraham cast out the bondwoman and her son. The justification: Sarah’s values and legacy are incompatible with that of the bondwoman and her son. And there can never be two legacies under one household: “the son of this maid shall not be an heir with my son Isaac”.

Sarah was not impulsive when she decided to cast out Hagar and her son, neither was she malicious in depriving Ishmael of his inheritance. After all, it was Sarah’s idea to have Hagar bear a child on her behalf. Ishmael’s mocking was probably the last straw for Sarah who was already very disturbed for a long time. The crux of the matter is: Hagar’s legacy (manifested through Ishmael’s despicable behaviour) was grotesquely incompatible with Sarah’s. Ishmael was not contented with his lot, but in wanting to be heir apparent, persecuted Isaac. To allow Hagar and her son to remain would only subject Isaac to further persecutions. And perhaps, to the ruin of Abraham’s lineage of faith.

What is Paul’s intent when he mentioned the casting out of the bondwoman and her son? Paul wanted the Galatians to cast out their persecutors as Sarah did to the bondwoman who persecuted her son. The bondwoman and her son represents the Judaizers who persecuted the Galatians by ostensibly providing an easy and grandiose way to salvation through the Mosaic law. And the Galatians, represented by Sarah and her descendants, must not live under one roof with the Judaizers as represented by Hagar and her descendants. Indeed, one according to the Spirit cannot be in fellowship with one according to the flesh lest a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough (Galatians 5:9). Paul uses the rest of the epistle to urge the Galatians to cut off the influence of the Judaizers and to continue in the way of the Spirit.

Truth

To keep believers prospering, the church must safeguard and purify itself continually.

The purpose in casting out the bondwoman and her son is to safeguard and purify the church by actively ridding it of evil influences. However, it does not mean that the church hunt down every supposed “bondwoman” to ex-communicate them. For that will create fear within the community which only drives the vices deeper underground. Members, especially leaders, for fear of being cast out mask their true colours by putting on their best behaviour. This is no different from the Judaizers who uses the law to oppress others and circumcision as a cover for their vices.

Nevertheless, God desires not a perfect man (for there is none perfect). And He takes pleasure in a broken and contrite heart, in one who turns from his sins (see Psalm 51:17). But God rejects the hypocrites, who put on a front to deceive, to divide and to destroy. The apostle Paul taught about safeguarding the church from wicked and unrepentant men,

But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves. 1 Corinthians 5:11-13

The church is called to love all people including the hypocrites. However, the church must be vigilant to safeguard itself by removing wicked and unrepentant men. For a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough (Galatians 5:9). However, this measure can be employed only when one is deemed no longer teachable (see 2 Timothy 4:3-4). That said, a church that continually reproves, rebukes and exhorts its members according to the ways of Jesus (see 2 Timothy 4:2) gives no foothold for persecutors to do their work.

The most heinous and destructive of behaviours are ambition and hypocrisy.

Hagar and her son, Ishmael are part of Abraham’s household. But their attitudes are far from the righteousness that Abraham stands for. Ishmael is not contented with being an heir, he wanted to usurp Isaac’s place as heir apparent to the Abrahamic covenant. And Hagar, as Ishmael’s mother was complicit. Therefore, Hagar’s legacy is of hypocrisy, false righteousness, fleshly ambition, envy, dominance and strife. As Hagar’s descendant was part of the Abraham’s household, they are also part of the church today unless they are cast out.

One of the most insidious evil in the church is fleshly ambition; the desire to gain prominence and through unrighteousness means. Jesus taught that none should be greater than another, “But none of you should be called a teacher. You have only one teacher, and all of you are like brothers and sisters.” (Matthew 23:8). Those who are in bondage do everything for the purpose of gaining praise and approval from men. Just like Ishmael, who in desiring to be heir apparent mocked Isaac in a constant bid to enslave him. Similarly, there are those who seek to manipulate others by virtue of their knowledge, heritage, and abilities. Such seek out the supposedly weak among the flock and enslave them by sowing guilt and fear. These people are most dangerous and must be summarily dealt with so that they may know their place.

The consequences for not putting a stop to such oppressive behaviours in the church are internal strife and division. For in no time, these rogue, self-styled “leaders” (who make themselves look like legitimate leaders) will rise up to mock, gossip and cause trouble.

Christians whose lives are endangered must employ divine love and power to overcome persecution.

Persecutions that endanger human lives and properties must be dealt with through divine love and power. It must be assumed that persecutors know not what they are doing. Hence, believers who are persecuted must not harbour a vindictive spirit towards their persecutors. Jesus responded to persecution by teaching the truth and exemplifying it. He warned the crowds and his disciples concerning His persecutors,

“The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law are experts in the Law of Moses. So obey everything they teach you, but don’t do as they do. After all, they say one thing and do something else.” (Matthew 23:2-3).

Jesus demonstrated divine wisdom by exposing the evil of His persecutors, but He did not set the people against them. In the same breathe, He warned His persecutors of the consequences to come (see Matthew 23:23-36).

That said, Christians are not sitting ducks waiting to be trampled upon. They can employ the heavenly armies to push the persecutors back without destroying them. In the process, these persecutors can see for themselves divine power working in divine love. The prophet Elisha mustered the heavenly armies of angels to protect the city from the Aramean army (see 2 Kings 6:15-19). He employed the angelic forces to incapacitate them. Thereafter, he demonstrated divine love by feeding them before returning them back to their country. Leaders and parents must learn to utilise the heavenly armies to protect their children and communities from harm. The Old Testament contains many examples of angels keeping God’s people from their persecutors. Daniel was protected by the angels who shut the lions’ mouths (see Daniel 6). And Jacob, prior to blessing his sons, invoked the angel saying, “The angel who has redeemed me from all harm…” (Genesis 48:16a).

Application

When someone constantly belittles you, do not engage him to try to change him. Neither should you speak evil of him, but let those who are in authority correct him. But instead, be kind to him for he knows not what he is doing. Pray for him so that he may change his ways.

As a parent, and leader of your church/organisation, do you scrutinise your children/members/workers and shepherd them continually? If you do that, you are safeguarding and sanctifying your children/church/organisation towards success.

Dear Lord, I safeguard my heart from the oppressions of my persecutors and will not fall prey to their belittling and false teachings. Give me wisdom to safeguard my family, church and community from bullying and false doctrines. I send out the warring angels to protect my people from all harm. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.


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