The Glad Tidings
by E. J. Waggoner
The Adoption of Sons
IT is absolutely impossible to exhaust any portion of Scripture. The
more one studies it, the more one sees in it, and not only that, but the
more one becomes conscious of the fact that there is much more in it
than appears to view. The Word of God, like Himself, is absolutely
unfathomable. One's understanding of any given portion of the Scripture
depends on the thoroughness of his knowledge of that which precedes it.
Let us, therefore, give a little further attention to that portion of
the third chapter of this Epistle which treats of
First of all, it must be borne in mind that Christ is the Seed. That
is plainly stated. But Christ did not live for Himself, and He is not
heir simply for Himself. He has won an inheritance, not for Himself, but
for His brethren. God's purpose is to "gather together in one all things
in Christ." He will finally put an end to divisions of every kind, and
He does it now in those who accept Him. In Christ there are no
distinctions of nationality, and no classes and ranks. No Christian
thinks of any other man as English, German, French, Russian, Turk,
Chinese, or African, but simply as a man, and, therefore, a possible
heir of God through Christ. If that other man, no matter what his race
or nation, be also a Christian, then the bond becomes mutual, and,
therefore, still stronger. "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is
neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female; for ye are all
one in Christ Jesus." It is for this reason that it is impossible for a
Christian to engage in war. He knows no distinction of nationality, but
regards all men as his brothers. But the chief reason why he can not
engage in warfare is that the life of Christ is his life, for he is one
with Christ; and it would be as impossible for him to fight as it would
be for Christ to seize a sword and wield it in self-defense; and two
Christians can no more fight against each other than Christ can fight
However, we are not now engaged in discussing war, but are merely
showing the absolute unity of believers in Christ. They are one. There
is, therefore, but one Seed, and that is Christ; for, however many
millions of true believers there may be, they are only one in Christ.
Each man has his own individuality, but it is in every case only the
manifestation of some phase of the individuality of Christ. In a human
body there are many members, and all members have not the same office,
but differ in their individuality; yet there is absolute unity and
harmony in every healthy body. With those who have put on the new man,
which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him,
Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free; but Christ is all, and in all."
In Christ's explanation of the parable of the tares and the wheat, we
are told that "the good seed are the children of the kingdom."
Matt.13:38. The man would not allow the tares to be pulled out of the
wheat, because in the early stage it would be difficult to distinguish
in every case between the wheat and the tares, and some of the wheat
would be destroyed. So he said, "Let both grow together until the
harvest; and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye
together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them; but
gather the wheat into my barn." It is in the harvest that the seed is
gathered. Everybody knows that. But what the parable especially shows is
that it is in the harvest that the seed is fully manifested; in short,
that the seed comes at harvest time. The harvest only waits for the seed
to be fully manifested and matured. But "the harvest is the end of the
world." So the time when "the seed should come to whom the promise was
made," is the end of the world, when the time comes for the promise of
the new earth to be fulfilled. Indeed, the seed can not possibly be said
to come before that time, since the end of the world will come just as
soon as the last person who can be induced to accept Christ has done so;
and the seed is not complete as long as there is one grain lacking.
Read now, in the nineteenth verse of the third chapter, that the law
was spoken because of transgression, "till the seed should come to whom
the promise was made." What do we learn from that?--Simply this, that
the law as spoken from Sinai, without the change of a single letter, is
an integral part of the Gospel, and must be presented in the Gospel
until the second coming of Christ, at the end of the world. "Till heaven
and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in nowise pass from the
law." And what of the time when heaven and earth pass, and the new
heaven and the new earth come?--Then the law will not be needed written
in a book, for men to preach to sinners, showing them their sins, for it
will be in the heart of every man. Heb.8:10,11. Done away?--Not by any
means; but indelibly engraved in the heart of every individual, written
not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God.
With the truth concerning the seed before us, and the parable of the
wheat and the tares fresh in our minds, let us proceed in our study.
"But I say that so long as the heir is a child, he differeth nothing
from a bond-servant, though he is lord of all; but is under guardians
and stewards until the term appointed of the father. So we also, when we
were children, were held in bondage under the rudiments of the world;
but when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of
a woman, born under the law, that He might redeem them which were under
the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are
sons, God sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying,
Abba, Father. So that thou art no longer a bond-servant, but a son; and
if a son, then an heir through God.
"Howbeit at that time, not knowing God, ye were in bondage to them
which by nature are no gods; but now that ye have come to know God, or
rather to be known of God, how turn ye back again to the weak and
beggarly rudiments, whereunto ye desire to be in bondage over again? Ye
observe days, and months, and seasons, and years. I am afraid of you,
lest by any means I have bestowed labor upon you in vain.
"I beseech you, brethren, be as I am, for I am as ye are. Ye did me
no wrong; but ye know that because of an infirmity of the flesh I
preached the Gospel unto you the first time; and that which was a
temptation to you in my flesh ye despised not, nor rejected; but ye
received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus. Where then is that
gratulation of yourselves? for I bear you witness, that, if possible, ye
would have plucked out your eyes and given them to me. So then am I
become your enemy, because I tell you the truth? They zealously seek you
in no good way; nay, they desire to shut you out, that ye may seek them.
But it is good to be zealously sought in a good matter at all times, and
not only when I am present with you. My little children, of whom I am
again in travail until Christ be formed in you, yea, I could wish to be
present with you now, and to change my voice; for I am perplexed about
"Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law?
For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, one by the handmaid, and
one by the freewoman. Howbeit the son by the handmaid is born after the
flesh; but the son by the freewoman is born through promise. Which
things contain an allegory; for these women are two covenants; one from
Mount Sinai, bearing children unto bondage, which is Hagar. Now this
Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to the Jerusalem that now
is; for she is in bondage with her children. But the Jerusalem that is
above is free, which is our mother. For it is written:-- "Rejoice, thou
barren that bearest not; For more are the children of the desolate than
of her which hath the husband." Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are
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.
Howbeit what saith the Scripture? Cast out the handmaid and her son; for
the son of the handmaid shall not inherit with the son of the freewoman.
Wherefore, brethren, we are not children of a handmaid, but of a
freewoman." Galatians 4, R.V.
A Statement of Fact
It must be apparent to all that the chapter division makes no
difference in the subject. The third chapter closes with a statement as
to who are heirs, and the fourth chapter proceeds with a study of the
question of heirship. The first two verses explain themselves. They are
a simple statement of fact. Although a child may be heir to a vast
estate, he has no more to do with it until he is of age, than a servant
has. If he should never come of age, then he would never actually enter
upon his inheritance. He would have lived all his life as a servant, so
far as any share in the inheritance is concerned. Now for
"So we also, when we were children, were held in bondage under the
rudiments of the world." If we look ahead to the fifth verse, we shall
see that the state here known as "children" is that before we receive
"the adoption of sons." It represents the condition before we were
redeemed from the curse of the law, that is, before we were converted.
It does not, therefore, mean children of God, as distinguished from
worldlings, but the "children" of whom the apostle speaks in Eph.4:14,
"tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by
the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to
deceive." In short, it refers to us in our unconverted state, when we
"were by nature the children of wrath, even as others."
The Rudiments of the World
"When we were children," we were in bondage under the rudiments of
the world. No one who has the slightest acquaintance with the Lord needs
to be told that the rudiments of the world have nothing in common with
Him, and do not proceed from Him. "For all that is in the world, the
lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is
not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and
the lust thereof." 1Joh.2:16,17. The friendship of the world is enmity
with God. "Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the
enemy of God." Jam.4:4. It is from "this present evil world" that Christ
came to deliver us. We are warned to "take heed lest there shall be any
one that maketh spoil of you through his philosophy and vain deceit,
after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not
after Christ." Col.2:8. The bondage to the rudiments of the world is the
condition of walking "according to the course of this world," "in the
lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the
mind;" being "by nature the children of wrath." Eph.2:1-3. It is the
same bondage that is described in Gal.3:22-24, before faith came, when
we were under the law, "under sin." It is the condition of men who are
"without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and
strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God
in the world." Eph.2:12.
All Men Possible Heirs
It may be asked, If such is the condition of those here referred to
as "children," how can they be spoken of as heirs? The answer is plain.
It is on the principle that it is not manifest who constitute the seed,
until the harvest. God has not cast off the human race; therefore, since
the first man created was called "the son of God," it follows that all
men are heirs in the sense that they are in their minority.
As already learned, "before faith came," although all were wanderers
from God, we were kept under the law, guarded by a severe master, "shut
up," in order that we might be led to accept the promise. What a blessed
thing it is that God counts even the ungodly, those who are in the
bondage of sin, as His children,--wandering, prodigal sons, but still
children. God has made all men "accepted in the Beloved." This
probationary life is given us for the purpose of giving us a chance to
acknowledge Him as Father, and to become sons indeed. But, unless we
come back to Him, we shall die as slaves of sin.
"The Fullness of the Time"
Christ came in the fullness of time. A parallel statement to this is
found in Rom.5:6: "When we were yet without strength, in due time Christ
died for the ungodly." But the death of Christ serves for those who live
now and for those who lived before He was manifested in the flesh in
Judea, just as well as for the men who lived at that time. His death
made no more change eighteen hundred years ago than it did four thousand
years ago. It had no more effect on the men of that generation than on
the men of any other generation. It is once for all, and, therefore, has
an equal effect on every age. "The fullness of time" was the time
foretold in prophecy, when the Messiah should be revealed; but the
redemption was for all men in all ages. He was foreordained before the
foundation of the world, but was "manifest in these last times."
1Pet.1:20. If it had been God's plan that He should have been revealed
in this century, or even not until the last year before the close of
time, it would have made no difference with the Gospel. "He ever
liveth," and He ever has lived, "the same yesterday, and to-day, and
forever." It is "through the eternal Spirit" that He offers Himself for
us (Heb.9:14), so that the sacrifice is equally present and efficacious
in every age.
"Born of a Woman"
God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, and, therefore, a veritable
man. He lived an average lifetime on this earth in the flesh, and
suffered all the ills and troubles that fall to the lot of "man that is
born of woman." "The Word was made flesh." Christ always designated
Himself as "the Son of man," thus forever identifying Himself with the
whole human race. The bond of union can never be broken.
"Born under the Law"
Being born of a woman, Christ was necessarily born under the law, for
such is the condition of all mankind, and "in all things it behooved Him
to be made like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and
faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation
for the sins of the people." Heb.2:17. He takes everything on Himself.
"He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows." "Himself took our
infirmities, and bare our disease." Matt.8:17, R.V. "All we like sheep
have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord
hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all." He redeems us by coming into
our place literally, and taking our load off our shoulders. "Him who
knew no sin He made to be sin on our behalf; that we might become the
righteousness of God in Him." 2Cor.5:21, R.V. In the fullest sense of
the word, and to a degree that is seldom thought of when the expression
is used, He became man's substitute. That is, He permeates our being,
identifying Himself so fully with us that everything that touches or
affects us touches and affects Him. He is not our substitute in the
sense that one man is a substitute for another, in the army, for
instance, the substitute being in one place, while the one for whom he
is substitute is somewhere else, engaged in some other service. No;
Christ's substitution is far different. He is our substitute in that He
substitutes Himself for us, and we appear no more. We drop out entirely,
so that it is "not I, but Christ." Thus we cast our cares on Him, not by
picking them up and with an effort throwing them on Him, but by humbling
ourselves into the nothingness that we are, so that we leave the burden
resting on Him alone. Thus we see already how it is that He came
"To Redeem Them That Were under the Law"
He does it in the most practical and real way. Whom does He
redeem?--"Them that were under the law." We can not refrain from
referring for a moment to the idea that some have that this expression,
"to redeem them that were under the law," has a mere local application.
They would have it that it means that Christ freed the Jews from the
necessity of offering sacrifices, or from any further obligation to keep
the commandments. Well, suppose we take it as referring only to the
Jews, and especially to those who lived at the time of His first advent;
what then?--Simply this, that we shut ourselves off from any place in
the plan of redemption. If it was only the Jews that were under the law,
then it was only the Jews that Christ came to redeem. Ah, we do not like
to be left out, when it comes to the matter of redemption! Then we must
acknowledge that we are, or were before we believed, "under the law;"
for Christ came to redeem none but those who were under the law. "Under
the law," as we have already seen, means condemned by the law as
transgressors. Christ did "not come to call the righteous, but sinners
to repentance." But the law condemns none but those who are amenable to
it, and who ought to keep it. Therefore, since Christ redeems us from
the law, from its condemnation, it follows that He redeems us to a life
of obedience to it.
"That We Might Receive the Adoption of Sons"
"Beloved, now are we the sons of God." 1Joh.3:2. "As many as received
Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that
believe on His name." John 1:12. This is an altogether different state
from that described in the third verse as "children." In that state we
were "a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear
the law of the Lord." Is.30:9. Believing on Jesus, and receiving the
adoption of sons, we are described "as obedient children, not fashioning
yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance." 1Pet.1:14.
Christ said, "I delight to do Thy will, O My God; yea, Thy law is within
My heart." Ps.40:8. Therefore, since He becomes our substitute, as
described in the last paragraph but one, literally taking our place, not
instead of us, but coming into us, and living our life in us and for us,
it necessarily follows that the same law must be within our hearts when
we receive the adoption of sons.
The Witness of the Spirit
"It is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth."
1Joh.5:6. "Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His
Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father," or, Father, Father. Oh,
what joy and peace come with the entering of the Spirit into the heart
as a permanent resident; not as a guest merely, but as sole proprietor!
Being justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus
Christ, so that we "joy in God," rejoicing even in tribulations, having
hope that never disappoints, because "the love of God is shed abroad in
our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us." Rom.5:1-5. Then we
can love even as God does; we have the same love, because we have the
Divine nature. "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that
we are the children of God." "He that believeth hath the witness in
"No More a Servant, but a Son"
"Thou art no more a servant, but a son." It will be seen that as
there are two kinds of children, so there are two classes of servants.
In the first part of this chapter we have the word "children" used to
designate those who are not "of full age," and have not their senses
exercised to discern both good and evil. Heb.5:14. The promise is to
them, even as it is "to all that are afar off," but it remains to be
seen if they will, by accepting it, become partakers of the divine
nature, and so sons of God indeed. While thus the children of wrath, men
are servants of sin, not servants of God. The Son of God is a servant,
but a servant in a far different sense from the servant here referred
to. The character of the servant depends on the master whom he serves.
In this chapter the word "servant" invariably applies, not to servants
of God, who are really sons, but to the bond-servants of sin. Between
such a servant and a son there is a vast difference. The slave can not
possess anything; he has no control over himself, and this is his
distinguishing characteristic. The free-born son, on the contrary, has
dominion over every created thing, as in the beginning, because he has
the victory over himself; for "he that is slow to anger is better than
the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city."
"If a Son, Then an Heir"
When the prodigal son was wandering from the father's house, he
differed nothing from a servant, because he was a servant, doing the
most menial drudgery. In that condition he came back to the old
homestead, feeling that he deserved no better place than that of a
servant. But the father saw him while he was yet a long way off, and ran
and met him, and received him as a son, and, therefore, as an heir,
although he had forfeited all right to heirship. So we have forfeited
our right to be called sons, and have squandered away the inheritance;
yet God receives us in Christ as sons indeed, and gives us the same
rights and privileges that Christ has. Although Christ is now in heaven
at the right hand of God, "far above all principality, and power, and
might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this
world, but also in that which is to come" (Eph.1:20,21), He has nothing
that He does not share with us; for "God, who is rich in mercy, for His
great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath
quickened [made alive] us together with Christ, and hath raised us up
together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ"
(Eph.2:4-6). Christ is one with us in our present suffering, that we may
be one with Him in His present glory. He "hath exalted them of low
degree." Even now "He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth
up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make
them inherit the throne of glory." 1Sam.2:8. No king on earth has so
great possessions, nor so much actual power, as the poorest peasant who
knows the Lord as his Father.
The apostle Paul, writing to the Corinthians, said, "Ye know that ye
were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led."
1Cor.12:2. Even so it was with the Galatians. To them he wrote, "Not
knowing God, ye were in bondage to them which by nature are no gods." If
this fact is borne in mind, it will save the reader from falling into
some very common errors in opinion concerning this Epistle. The
Galatians had been heathen, worshiping idols, and in bondage to the most
degrading superstitions. Bear in mind that this bondage is the same as
that which is spoken of in the preceding chapter,--they were "shut up"
under the law. It was the very same bondage in which all unconverted
persons are, for in the second and third chapters of Romans we are told
that "there is no difference; for all have sinned." The Jews themselves,
who did not know the Lord by personal experience, were in the same
bondage,--the bondage of sin. "Every one that committeth sin is the
bond-servant of sin." John 8:34, R.V. And "he that committeth sin is of
the devil." 1Joh.3:8. "The things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they
sacrifice to devils, and not to God." 1Cor.10:20. If a man is not a
Christian, he is a heathen; there is no middle ground. If the Christian
apostatizes, he immediately becomes a heathen. We ourselves once walked
"according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the
power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of
disobedience" (Eph.2:2), and we "were aforetime foolish, disobedient,
deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy,
hateful, hating one another" (Titus 3:3, R.V.). So we also were "in
bondage to them which by nature are no gods." The meaner the master, the
worse the bondage. What language can depict the horror of being in
bondage to corruption itself?
In Love with Bondage
"Now that ye have come to know God, or rather to be known of God, how
turn ye back again to the weak and beggarly rudiments, whereunto ye
desire to be in bondage over again?" Is it not strange that men should
be in love with chains? Christ has proclaimed "liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to them that are bound" (Is.61:1), saying
to the prisoners, "Go forth," and to them that are in darkness, "Show
yourselves" (Is.49:9); yet men who have heard these words, and have come
forth, and have seen the light of "the Sun of Righteousness," and have
tasted the sweets of liberty, actually turn round and go back into their
prison, submit to be bound with their old chains, even fondling them,
and labor away at the hard treadmill of sin. Who has not had something
of that experience? It is no fancy picture. It is a fact that men can
come to love the most revolting things, even death itself; for Wisdom
says, "All they that hate Me love death." Prov.8:36. In the Epistle to
the Galatians we have a vivid picture of human experience.
Observing Heathen Customs
"Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years." This was an
evidence of their bondage. "Ah," says some one, "they had gone back to
the old Jewish Sabbath; that was the bondage against which Paul would
warn us!" How strange it is that men have such an insane hatred of the
Sabbath, which the Lord Himself gave to the Jews, in common with all
other people on the earth, that they will seize upon every word that
they think they can turn against it, although in order to do so they
must shut their eyes to all the words that are around it! Anybody who
reads the Epistle to the Galatians, and thinks as he reads, must know
that the Galatians were not Jews. They had been converted from
heathenism. Therefore, previous to their conversion they had never had
anything to do with any religious custom that was practiced by the Jews.
They had nothing whatever in common with the Jews. Consequently, when
they turned again to the "weak and beggarly elements" to which they were
willing again to be in bondage, it is evident that they were not going
back to any Jewish practice. They were going back to their old heathen
customs. "But were not the men who were perverting them Jews?"--Yes,
they were. But remember this one thing, when you seek to turn a man away
from Christ to some substitute for Christ, you can not tell where he
will end. You can not make him stop just where you want him to. If a
converted drunkard loses faith in Christ, he will take up his drinking
habits as surely as he lives, even though the Lord may have taken the
appetite away from him. So when these "false brethren"--Jewish opposers
of "the truth of the Gospel" as it is in Christ--succeeded in seducing
the Galatians from Christ, they could not get them to stop with Jewish
ceremonies. No; they inevitably drifted back to their old heathen
Read the tenth verse again, and then read Deut.18:10: "There shall
not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to
pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of
times, or an enchanter, or a witch." Now read what the Lord says to the
heathen who would shield themselves from just judgment that is about to
come upon them: "Thou art wearied in the multitude of thy counsels. Let
now the astrologers, the star-gazers, the monthly prognosticators, stand
up, and save thee from these things that shall come upon thee."
Is.47:13. Here we see that the very things to which the Galatians were
returning, were forbidden by the Lord when He brought Israel out of
Egypt. Now we might as well say that when God forbade these things He
was warning the Israelites against keeping the Sabbath, as to say that
Paul was upbraiding the Galatians for keeping it, or that he had any
reference to it whatever. God forbade these things at the very time when
He gave the commandment concerning Sabbath-keeping. So far back into
their old ways had the Galatians gone that Paul was afraid lest all his
labor on them had been in vain. They were forsaking God and returning to
"the weak and beggarly elements of the world," which no reverent person
can think of as ever having had any connection with God. They were
changing their glory for "that which doth not profit" (Jer.2:11); for
"the customs of the heathen are vain."
There is just as much danger for us in this respect as there ever was
for any people. Whoever trusts in himself, having any confidence
whatever in the flesh, is worshiping the works of his own hands instead
of God, just as truly as does any one who makes and bows down to a
graven image. It is so easy for a man to trust to his own supposed
shrewdness, to his ability to "take care of himself," and to forget that
the thoughts even of the wise are vain, and that there is no power but
of God. "Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the
mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches;
but let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and
knoweth Me, that I am the Lord which exercise loving-kindness, judgment,
and righteousness, in the earth; for in these things I delight, saith
the Lord." Jer.9:23,24.
The Messenger Not Personally Affronted
"He whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God." John 3:34. The
apostle Paul was sent by God and the Lord Jesus Christ, and did not
speak his own words. He was a messenger, bearing a message from God, and
not from any man. The work was not his, nor any other man's, but God's,
and he was but the humble instrument, the earthen vessel, which God had
chosen as the means of carrying His glorious Gospel of grace. Therefore,
Paul did not feel affronted when his message was unheeded or even
rejected. "Ye have not injured me at all," he says. He did not regret
the labor that he had bestowed upon the Galatians, on his own account,
as though it were so much of his time wasted; but he was fearful for
them, lest his labor had been in vain as far as they were concerned. The
man who from the heart can say, "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but
unto Thy name give glory, for Thy mercy, and for Thy truth's sake"
(Ps.115:1), can not feel personally injured if his message is not
received. Whoever becomes irritated or angry when his teaching is
slighted or ignored or scornfully rejected, shows either that he has
forgotten that it was God's words that he was speaking, or else that he
had mingled with them or substituted for them words of his own. This is
what has led to all the persecution that has disgraced the professed
Christian church. Men have arisen speaking perverse things to draw away
disciples after themselves, and when their sayings and customs were not
heeded, they have been offended, and have visited their vengeance on the
so-called heretics. No one in all the ages has ever suffered persecution
for failure to obey the commandments of God, but only for neglect of
human customs and traditions. It is a grand thing always to be zealous
in a good thing, but let the zeal be according to sanctified knowledge.
The zealous person should frequently ask himself, Whose servant am I? If
he is God's servant, then he will be content with delivering the message
that God has given him, leaving vengeance to God, to whom it belongs.
Power in Weakness
"Ye know that because of an infirmity of the flesh I preached the
Gospel unto you the first time." From the incidental statements in this
Epistle we can easily gather the history of the experience of the
Galatian brethren, and of Paul's relation to it. Having been detained in
Galatia by physical weakness, he preached the Gospel "in demonstration
of the Spirit and of power," so that the people saw Christ crucified
among them, and, accepting Him, were filled with the power and joy of
the Holy Ghost. Their joy and blessedness in the Lord was testified to
publicly, and they suffered much persecution in consequence; but this
they counted as nothing. Paul, in spite of his unsightly appearance
(compare 1Cor.2:1-5; 2Cor.10:10), was received as God's own messenger,
because of the joyful news that he brought. So highly did they
appreciate the riches of grace which he had opened up to them, that they
would gladly have given their own eyes to supply his deficiency. All
this is referred to in order that the Galatians may see from what they
have fallen, as they consider their present barrenness, and that they
may know that the apostle was disinterested in his solicitude for them.
He told them the truth once, and they rejoiced in it; it is not possible
that he is become their enemy because he continues to tell them the same
But there is still more in these personal references. We must not
imagine that Paul was pleading for personal sympathy when he referred to
his afflictions, and to the great inconvenience under which he had
labored. Far from it. Not for a moment did he lose sight of the purpose
for which he was writing, namely, to show that "the flesh profiteth
nothing," but that everything of good is from the Holy Spirit of God.
The Galatians had "begun in the Spirit." Paul was naturally small of
stature, and weak in body, and was suffering special affliction when he
first met them; yet, in spite of his almost absolute helplessness, he
preached the Gospel with such mighty power that none could fail to see
that there was a real, although unseen, presence with him. The
Gospel is not of man, but of God. It was not made known to them by
the flesh, and they were not indebted to the flesh for any of the
blessings that they had received. What blindness, what infatuation,
then, for them to think to perfect by their own efforts that which
nothing but the power of God could begin! Have we learned this lesson?
Where Is the Blessedness?
Everybody who has ever had any acquaintance with the Lord, knows that
in accepting Him there is joy. It is always expected that a new convert
will have a beaming countenance, and a joyful testimony. So it had been
with the Galatians. But now their expressions of thanksgiving had given
place to bickering and strife. See Gal.5:15. Is it not strange that
people do not expect that old Christians will have as much enthusiasm as
young converts? that it is taken for granted that the first joy, and the
warmth of the first love, will gradually die away? So it is, but so it
should not be. That which God has against His people is this, that they
have left their first love. Rev.2:4. "The path of the just is as the
shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day."
Prov.4:18. Note that this is the path of the just, and the just are they
who live by faith. When men turn from the faith, or attempt to
substitute works for it, the light goes out. Jesus said, "These things
have I spoken unto you, that My joy might remain in you, and that your
joy might be full." John 15:11. He gives the oil of joy--the Holy
Spirit--for mourning, and that is abiding. The life is manifested that
we might have fullness of joy. 1Joh.1:1-4. The fountain of life is never
exhausted; the supply is never diminished. If, therefore, our light
grows dim, and our joy gives place to a dull, monotonous grind, we may
know that we have turned aside out of the way of life.
Desiring to Be under the Law
"Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the
law?" After what we have already had, there will be no one to come with
the objection that to be under the law can not be a very deplorable
condition, else the Galatians would not have desired to be under it.
"There is a way that seemeth right unto a man; but the end thereof are
the ways of death." Prov.16:25. How many there are who love ways that
everybody except themselves can see are leading them direct to death;
yes, there are many who, with their eyes wide open to the consequences
of their course, will persist in it, deliberately choosing "the
pleasures of sin for a season," rather than righteousness and length of
days. To be "under the law" of God is to be condemned by it as a sinner
chained and doomed to death, yet many millions besides the Galatians
have loved the condition, and still love it. Ah, if they would only hear
what it says! There is no reason why they should not hear it, for it
speaks in thunder tones. "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear."
"What Saith the Law?"
It saith, "Cast out the bondwoman and her son; for the son of the
bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman." It speaks
death to all who take pleasure in the beggarly elements of the world.
"Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written
in the book of the law to do them." To what place shall the wicked
bond-servant be cast out?--"Into outer darkness; there shall be weeping
and gnashing of teeth." "For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as
an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be
stubble; and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of
hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch." Therefore,
"Remember ye the law of Moses My servant, which I commanded unto him in
Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments." Mal.4:1,4. All
who are under the law, whether they be called Jews or Gentiles,
Christians or Mohammedans, are in bondage to Satan,--in the bondage of
transgression and sin,--and are to be cast out. "Every one that
committeth sin is the bond-servant of sin. And the bond-servant abideth
not in the house forever; the son abideth forever." Thank God, then, for
"the adoption of sons."
Those false teachers would persuade the brethren that in turning from
whole-hearted faith in Christ and trusting to works which they
themselves could do, they would become children of Abraham, and so heirs
of the promises. They forgot that Abraham had two sons. I myself have
talked with a Jew according to the flesh, who did not know that Abraham
had more than one son; and there are many Christians who seem to think
that to be descended from Abraham, after the flesh, is all-sufficient to
insure one a share in the promised inheritance. "They which are the
children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the
children of the promise are counted for the seed." Rom.9:8. Now of the
two sons of Abraham, one was born after the flesh, and the other was by
promise, born of the Spirit. "By faith even Sarah herself received power
to conceive seed when she was past age, since she counted Him faithful
who had promised." Heb.11:11, R.V. Hagar was an Egyptian slave. The
children of a slave woman are always slaves, even though their father be
a freeman; and so Hagar could bring forth children only to bondage. But
long before Ishmael was born, the Lord had plainly signified to Abraham,
who wished that his servant Eliezer might be his heir, that it was not a
bond-servant, even though born in his house, that He had promised him,
but a free-born son,--a son born of a freewoman. God has no slaves in
"These Are the Two Covenants"
What are the two covenants?--The two women, Hagar and Sarah; for we
read that Hagar is Mount Sinai, "which gendereth to bondage." That is,
just as Hagar could not bring forth any other kind of children than
slaves, so the law, even the law that God spoke from Sinai, can not
beget freemen. It can do nothing but hold them in bondage. "The law
worketh wrath:" "for by the law is the knowledge of sin." The same is
true of the covenant from Sinai, for it consisted merely of the promise
of the people to keep that law, and had, therefore, no more power to
make them free than the law itself had,--no more power than they already
had in their bondage. Nay, rather, it "gendered to bondage," since their
making it was simply a promise to make themselves righteous by their own
works, and man in himself is "without strength."
Consider the situation: The people were in the bondage of sin; they
had no power to break their chains; but the speaking of the law made no
change in their condition; it introduced no new feature. If a man is in
prison for crime, you can not release him by reading the statutes to
him. It was the law that put him there, and the reading of it to him
only makes his captivity more painful.
"Then did not God Himself lead them into bondage?"--Not by any means;
since He did not induce them to make that covenant at Sinai. Four
hundred and thirty years before that time He had made a covenant with
Abraham, which was sufficient for all purposes. That covenant was
confirmed in Christ, and, therefore, was a covenant from above. See John
8:23. It promised righteousness as a free gift of God through faith, and
it included all nations. All the miracles that God had wrought in
delivering the children of Israel from Egyptian bondage were but
demonstrations of His power to deliver them and us from the bondage of
sin. Yes, the deliverance from Egypt was itself a demonstration not only
of God's power, but also of His desire to lead them from the bondage of
sin, that bondage in which the covenant from Sinai holds men, because
Hagar, who is the covenant from Sinai, was an Egyptian. So when the
people came to Sinai, God simply referred them to what He had already
done, and then said, "Now therefore, if ye will obey My voice indeed,
and keep My covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto Me above
all people; for all the earth is Mine." Ex.19:5. To what covenant did He
refer?--Evidently to the one already in existence, His covenant with
Abraham. If they would simply keep God's covenant, that is, God's
promise,--keep the faith,--they would be a peculiar treasure unto God,
for God, as the possessor of all the earth, was able to do with them all
that He had promised. The fact that they in their self-sufficiency
rashly took the whole responsibility upon themselves, does not prove
that God led them into making that covenant, but the contrary. He was
leading them out of bondage, not into it, and the apostle plainly tells
us that covenant from Sinai was nothing but bondage.
Further, if the children of Israel who came out of Egypt had but
walked "in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had
being yet uncircumcised" (Rom.4:12), the law would never have been
spoken from Sinai; "for the promise, that he should be the heir of the
world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through
the righteousness of faith" (Rom.4:13). Faith justifies, makes
righteous; if the people had had Abraham's faith, they would have had
the righteousness that he had; and then there would have been no
occasion for the entering of the law, which was "spoken because of
transgression." The law would have been in their hearts, and they would
not have needed to be awakened by its thunders to a sense of their
condition. God never expected, and does not now expect, that any person
can get righteousness by the law proclaimed from Sinai; and everything
connected with Sinai shows it. Yet the law is truth, and must be kept.
God delivered the people from Egypt, "that they might observe His
statutes, and keep His laws." Ps.105:45. We do not get life by keeping
the commandments, but God gives us life in order that we may keep them.
The Two Covenants Parallel
Note the statement which the apostle makes when speaking of the two
women, Hagar and Sarah: "These are the two covenants." So then the two
covenants existed in every essential particular in the days of Abraham.
Even so they do to-day; for the Scripture says now as well as then,
"Cast out the bondwoman and her son." We see then that the two covenants
are not matters of time, but of condition. Let no one flatter himself
that he can not be under the old covenant, because the time for that is
passed. The time for that is passed only in the sense that "the time
past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the
Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine,
revelings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries." 1Pet.4:3.
Difference Between the Two
The difference is just the difference between a freewoman and a
slave. Hagar's children, no matter how many she might have had, would
have been slaves, while those of Sarah would necessarily be free.
So the covenant from Sinai holds all who adhere to it in bondage
"under the law;" while the covenant from above gives freedom, not
freedom from obedience to the law, but freedom from disobedience to it.
The freedom is not found away from the law, but in the law. Christ
redeems from the curse, which is the transgression of the law. He
redeems us from the curse, that the blessing may come on us; and the
blessing is obedience to the law. "Blessed are the undefiled in the way,
who walk in the law of the Lord." Ps.119:1. This blessedness is freedom.
"I will walk at liberty; for I seek Thy precepts." Ps.119:45.
The difference between the two covenants may be put briefly thus: In
the covenant from Sinai we ourselves have to do with the law alone,
while in the covenant from above, we have the law in Christ. In the
first instance it is death to us, since the law is sharper than any
two-edged sword, and we are not able to handle it without fatal results;
but in the second instance we have the law "in the hand of a Mediator."
In the one case it is what we can do; in the other case it is what the
Spirit of God can do. Bear in mind that there is not the slightest
question in the whole Epistle to the Galatians as to whether or not the
law should be kept. The only question is, How shall it be done? Is it to
be our own doing, so that the reward shall not be of grace but of debt?
or is it to be God working in us both to will and to do of His good
Mount Sinai and Mount Zion
"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." As there are the two
covenants, so there are two cities to which they pertain. Jerusalem
which now is pertains to the old covenant--to Mount Sinai. It will never
be free, but will be replaced by the city of God, the heavenly
Jerusalem, "which cometh down out of heaven." Rev.3:12; 21:1-5. It is
the city for which Abraham looked, the "city which hath foundations,
whose builder and maker is God." Heb.11:10; Rev.21:14. There are many
who build great hopes--all their hope--on Jerusalem which now is. For
such the veil remaineth "untaken away in the reading of the old
testament." 2Cor.3:14. They are in reality looking to Mount Sinai and
the old covenant for salvation, and it is not to be found there. "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 entreated
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 first-born, 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."
Whoever looks to the present Jerusalem for blessings, is looking to
the old covenant, to Mount Sinai, to bondage; whoever worships with his
face toward the New Jerusalem, and who expects blessings only from it,
is looking to the new covenant, to Mount Zion, to freedom; for
"Jerusalem which is above is free." From what is it free?--Free from
sin; and since it is our mother, it begets us anew, so that we also
become free from sin. Free from the law?--Yes, certainly, for the law
has no condemnation for them who are in Christ Jesus.
But do not let anybody deceive you with vain words, telling you that
you may now trample God's law underfoot,--that law which He Himself
proclaimed in such awful majesty from Sinai. Coming to Mount Sion,--to
Jesus, the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of
sprinkling,--we become free from sin,--from transgression of the law.
The basis of God's throne in Zion is His law. From the throne proceed
the same "lightnings and thunderings and voices" (Rev.4:5; 11:19) as
from Sinai, because the selfsame law is there. But it is "the throne of
grace," and, therefore, in spite of the thunders, we come to it boldly,
assured that from God, the Judge of all, who sits upon the mercy-seat,
we shall obtain mercy. Nay, more, we shall also find grace to help in
time of need,--grace to help us in the hour of temptation to sin,--for
out of the midst of the throne, from the slain Lamb (Rev.5:6), flows the
river of water of life, bringing to us from the heart of Christ "the law
of the Spirit of life." We drink of it, we bathe in it, and we find
cleansing from all sin.
"Why didn't the Lord bring the people directly to Mount Zion then,
where they could find the law as life, and not to Mount Sinai, where it
was only death?"
That is a very natural question, and one that is easily answered. It
was because of their unbelief. When God brought Israel out of Egypt, it
was His purpose to bring them to Mount Zion as directly as they could
go. When they had crossed the Red Sea, they sang an inspired song, of
which this was a part: "Thou in Thy mercy hast led forth the people
which Thou hast redeemed; Thou hast guided them in Thy strength unto Thy
holy habitation." "Thou shalt bring them in, and plant them in the
mountain of Thine inheritance, in the place, O Lord, which Thou hast
made for Thee to dwell in, in the sanctuary, O Lord, which Thy hands
have established." Ex.15:13,17. If they had continued singing, they
would very soon have come to Zion; for the redeemed of the Lord "come
with singing unto Zion," and everlasting joy is upon their heads.
Is.35:10; 51:11. The dividing of the Red Sea was the proof of this. See
verse 10. But they soon forgot the Lord, and murmured in unbelief.
Therefore "the law was added because of transgressions." It was their
own fault--the result of their sinful unbelief--that they came to Mount
Sinai instead of to Mount Zion.
Nevertheless, God did not leave Himself without witness of His
faithfulness. At Mount Sinai the law was in the hand of the same
Mediator, Jesus, to whom we come when we come to Zion; and from the Rock
in Horeb, which is Sinai, flowed the living stream, the water of life
from the heart of Christ. Ex.17:6; 1Cor.10:4. There they had not merely
the picture, but the reality, of Mount Zion. Every soul whose heart
there turned to the Lord, would have beheld His unveiled glory, even as
Moses did, and, being transformed by it, would have found the
ministration of righteousness, instead of the ministration of
condemnation. "His mercy endureth forever;" and even upon the clouds of
wrath from which proceed the thunders and lightnings of the law, shines
the glorious face of the Sun of Righteousness, and forms the bow of
"The Son Abideth Ever"
"Cast out the bondwoman and her son; for the son of the bondwoman
shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman." "The bond-servant
abideth not in the house forever; the son abideth forever." John 8:35,
R.V. Here is comfort for every soul. You are a sinner, or, at best,
"trying to be a Christian," and you tremble with terror at these words,
as you realize that you are in bondage,--that sin has a hold upon you,
and you are bound by the cords of evil habits. Ah, you must learn not to
be afraid when the Lord speaks, for He speaks peace, even though it be
with a voice of thunder! The more majestic the voice, the greater the
peace that He gives. Take courage! The son of the bondwoman is the flesh
and its works. "Flesh and blood can not inherit the kingdom of God;
neither doth corruption inherit incorruption." But God says, "Cast out
the bondwoman and her son," and if you are willing that His will shall
be done in you as it is done in heaven, He will see that the flesh and
its works are cast out from you, and you will be "delivered from the
bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God."
That command which so frightened you is simply the voice commanding the
evil spirit to depart, and to come no more into you. It speaks to you
victory over every sin. Receive Christ by faith, and you have the power
to become the son of God, heir of a kingdom which can not be moved, but
which, with all its people, abideth forever.
"Stand Fast, Therefore"
Where shall we stand?--"In the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us
free." And what freedom is that?--It is the freedom of Christ Himself,
whose delight was in the law of the Lord, because it was in His heart.
Ps.40:8. "The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me
free from the law of sin and death." Rom.8:2. We stand only by faith.
In this freedom there is no trace of bondage. It is perfect liberty.
It is liberty of soul, liberty of thought, as well as liberty of action.
It is not that we are simply given the ability to keep the law, but we
are given the mind that finds delight in doing it. It is not that we
comply with the law because we see no other way of escape from
punishment; that would be galling bondage. It is from such bondage that
God's covenant releases us. No; the promise of God, when accepted, puts
the mind of the Spirit into us, so that we find the highest pleasure in
obedience to all the precepts of God's Word. The soul is as free as a
bird soaring above the mountain-tops. It is the glorious liberty of the
children of God, who have the full range of "the breadth, and length,
and depth, and height" of God's universe. It is the liberty of those who
do not have to be watched, but who can be trusted anywhere, since their
every step is but the movement of God's own holy law. Why be content
with bondage, when such limitless freedom is yours? The prison doors are
open; walk out into God's freedom.
"Out of my shameful failure and loss,
Jesus, I come. Jesus, I come.
Into the glorious gain of Thy cross,
Jesus, I come to Thee.
Out of earth's sorrows, into Thy balm,
Out of life's storm, and into Thy calm,
Out of distress to jubilant psalm,
Jesus, I come to Thee.
"Out of unrest and arrogant pride,
Jesus, I come. Jesus, I come.
Into Thy blessed will to abide,
Jesus, I come to Thee.
Out of myself to dwell in Thy love,
Out of despair into raptures above,
Upward for aye on wings like a dove,
Jesus, I come to Thee."