Law or Grace
If you would please, take your Bibles and turn to Galatians chapter 4, and weíre going to begin reading in verse 21.
>The apostle Paul has been writing to the Galatian Christians...
Because they were in the process of deflecting from the Christian faith.
Now they were not just completely turning their back on Christianity and going into a pagan cult...
But they were deflecting from the faith in that they were on the verge of going into a religious system that was dead...
A religious system that had already passed its usefulness.
They had been convinced by some Judaisers that they needed to adhere to the keeping of the law...
And that they needed to participate in Jewish rituals...
And that the men of Galatia needed to be circumcised...
And that the men and women all had to live by the minutest details of all the participles of the law.
>Paul is writing to discourage them from doing that.
Already weíve seen him writing authoritatively as an apostle.
And then last Sunday we saw him writing affectionately as a parent.
But now he writes as a teacher, and he uses a portion of the OT and uses it to portray deeper spiritual truth.
>Now I want you to know that Paul knew the OT.
Not only did Paul know the OT, Paul believed the OT.
Paul believed the OT literally.
But Paul also believed the OT spiritually...
And what Paul is doing in these verses is taking a part of the OT, which was absolutely historically true...
And using that historical truth of the OT to portray a deeper spiritual truth.
Thatís why he uses the word "allegory" in the KJV, itís "figuratively" in the NIV.
The OT account is really not an allegory, but he is using it as an allegory to demonstrate spiritual truth.
Paul knew that Abraham was a real literal man...
And that Hagar and Sarah and Isaac and Ishmael were real literal people...
And they lived in a real literal period of history.
And he is not trying to deny the historical accuracy of the OT.
Paul believed in the historicity of the OT.
He believed in a literal Adam and a literal Eve...
And he believed in all of the OT, especially the verses that Iím sharing with you today.
But Paul understood that in the story of Abraham and his two wives and sons...
That there was a deep spiritual significance and thatís what heís sharing.
Heís not referring to an allegory because it is not an allegory.
Heís allegorizing a historical event.
And thatís very legitimate under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit of God.
>In this passage of scripture there are a number of twos.
There are two wives.
Abraham had two wives Ė Sarah and Hagar...
Sarah being his first wife, Hagar being the second wife.
When Sarah considered herself unable to conceive, she gave Abraham to her handmaiden, Hagar...
And said, "Let her be a wife unto you."
So we see the story of two wives here, Hagar and Sarah.
>We also see two births.
We see a birth that is very natural, and we see a birth that is very supernatural.
And as a result of these two births, we see two sons.
We see a man by the name of Ishmael.
He was Abrahamís son by Hagar.
His birth was not miraculous at all.
Hagar was a younger woman.
It was not a miracle for her to give birth to a baby.
And so Abraham had sex with his wife, Hagar, and this son Ishmael was born.
But then later there is another birth of a son by his wife Sarah.
Sarah was 89 years old when she conceived.
It was miraculous for her to even be able to have children.
The book of Romans reminds us that from her sexual ability to bear children she was already as good as dead.
But God intervened and rejuvenated her body and gave her a miraculous ability to conceive...
And then to actually give birth to her son Isaac.
We see two wives...we see two births...we see two sons.
>Also we see two cities in this passage Iíve read for you.
He refers to "Jerusalem which now is."
That is the earthly Jerusalem over in Judea, over in Israel today.
But he says there is the Jerusalem that is above.
That is the heavenly Jerusalem.
It is the very center of government in heaven itself.
It is the place where Jesus Christ rules and reigns as Lord.
Two wives...two sons...
Two births...two cities.
>But also in this passage of scripture there are two covenants.
He says, "there are two covenants."
One is a covenant of law, and the other is a covenant of grace.
But also implied in this passage of scripture...
There are two mountains from which these two covenants come.
One is Mount Sinai.
You remember that Moses went up on the top of Mount Sinai and received there from God the law.
When Moses came down the mountain, he looked and saw the children of God already breaking the law...
And he took those stone tablets and threw them on the ground and smashed them to smitherings.
But then he goes back up on the top of the mountain and receives a second set from God.
Mount Sinai, the mountain of law.
But the other mountain that is implied in this text is Mount Calvary.
From Mount Calvary comes the grace of God.
All that are longing to see his face, will you this moment his grace receive?
Look there is flowing a crimson tide. Whiter than snow you may be today.
There is a mountain of law, Mount Sinai.
But there is a mountain of grace, Mount Calvary...
Upon which Jesus Christ the Son of God gave his life for our sins.
Two wives...Hagar and Sarah.
Two sons...Ishmael and Isaac.
Two births...natural and supernatural.
Two cities...Jerusalem, which now is and Jerusalem, which is above.
Two covenants...law and grace.
And two mountains...Mount Sinai and Mount Calvary.
Paul uses these twos to illustrate what the Christian life is all about.
I want to share with you from this passage of scripture three very simple truths.
>First of all, in this passage of scripture I find that a Christian is one who has been born two times.
First of all, there is our physical birth.
Every one of us here was born physically.
As strange as some of you are, you did not parachute out of the sky.
Neither were you discovered under a rock.
Every one of you, as strange as you are, was born as a result of a human father and a human mother.
Weíre born physically.
That is to be born of the flesh.
And Jesus said in John 2, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh"...
And thatís all it ever will be.
Thatís all it ever can be.
You are born of the flesh.
You cannot leave your flesh.
It would be nice sometimes to be able to do that, but we cannot do it.
Sometimes people say, "Now Bro. Joe, I cannot be there in body but Iíll be there in spirit."
Well theyíre just lying.
You cannot be anywhere in spirit that you are not in your body because thatís the way God made us.
"That which is born of the flesh is flesh."
Iím limited by my flesh.
I can only do what my flesh allows me to do.
Some peopleís flesh allows them to walk, and yet there are some peopleís flesh, they cannot walk.
Some peopleís flesh allows them to think great thoughts, and there are some that do not.
But that which is born of the flesh is flesh.
>Now there are different kinds of flesh.
Some have white skin...some have tan skin...some have brown skin...
Some black skin...some red and some yellow...and all hues in between.
All flesh is not the same.
Some have blue eyes...some have brown eyes...some have hazel eyes...some have no eyes at all.
All flesh is not the same flesh.
Some have red hair...some have blonde hair...some have amber hair...some used to have hair.
All flesh is not the same flesh.
Some are tall...some are short...some are fat...some are thin.
All flesh is not the same flesh.
Some live to be 110...some live to be only 10.
All flesh is not the same flesh.
Some are men...some are women...some are somewhere in between.
All flesh is not the same flesh.
But that which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the flesh is very natural, very earthly.
There was nothing miraculous about your conception, and there was nothing miraculous about your birth.
It is the natural procreation of the human race.
Your father and mother may not have been married...
But you still had an earthly father and an earthly mother.
Your father may have died before you were born, and your mother may have died at your birth...
And you may have never known your father and your mother.
But that does not deny the fact that you had a biological father.
You had a biological mother.
They had a sexual relationship together.
Maybe a one-time thing.
Maybe a prolonged lifetime thing.
But they had a physical relationship.
Your mother conceived you and you were born.
It is natural and earthly.
Thatís being born of the flesh.
Thatís physical birth.
>But then the Bible tells us that there is a second birth for the Christian.
In John 3, Jesus was sought by a man named Nicodemus.
The Bible says, "There was a ruler of the Jews named Nicodemus: the same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, ĎRabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God; for no man can do the things that thou doest, except God be with him."
I do not know how Nicodemus had heard about Jesus but he had.
Nicodemus was high up in Judaism.
He was a member of the Sanhedrin.
He was a teacher...
He was a ruler of the Jews...
He was a man of great importance...
He was a man all of whose peers had already decided that Jesus was a fake and a fraud...
And who had rejected him.
And yet something struck the heart of Nicodemus about this man Jesus.
And while all about him were denying him and laughing at him and ridiculing him and turning their backs on him...
Nicodemus was curious and he had to find out for himself.
And so the Bible tells us that by night, under the shadows of darkness...
He makes his way to where Jesus was.
And he starts off by flattering Jesus.
He said, "Oh, I know youíre a teacher come from God.
There are those who say you are of the devil.
There are those who say youíve been birthed out of the pits of hell.
There are some who say you are of Beelzebub.
But I know that you are come from God because no one can do the things you do without God being with him."
Jesus interrupted that elderly statesman of Judaism in the middle of his flattery...
And Jesus said to Nicodemus, "You must be born again."
He did not say, "Nicodemus, you need to go and study other passages of the OT."
He did not say, "Nicodemus, you need to go and re-educate yourself in the cultural fineries of Judaism."
He said, "You must be born again."
He didnít say, "If in your spare time and you donít have anything else to do...
You might ought to consider the possibility of being born again."
He didnít say, "You know it might be beneficial for you if you were to be born again."
He didnít say, "It is a request of mine that I make of you. You need to be born again."
Jesus said, "Nicodemus, I say unto thee, you must be born again."
May I say to you, no one is a Christian who has not been born again.
>The second birth, the new birth, being born again, is not a natural birth.
My physical birth was natural.
I was born of James Riley Thompson and Evelyn Jackson Thompson.
Thatís my dad and my mom.
I was born into their relationship, into their family.
It was a natural thing.
It was an earthly thing.
But I want to tell you, my second birth had nothing to do with James Riley Thompson and Evelyn Jackson Thompson...
Because it was not a natural birth.
It was not an earthly birth.
It was a supernatural birth.
It was a heavenly birth.
Jesus said, "You must be born again."
The word "again" is the Greek word "anothen"...
And it literally means you must be born from above.
In other words, God himself invades the ordinariness of the natural human life...
And he by his Holy Spirit imparts into my life the very life of Jesus Christ.
Thatís what it means to be born again.
It doesnít mean that I walk down the aisle.
It doesnít mean that I filled out a card.
It doesnít mean that I got baptized.
It doesnít mean that I joined a church.
It means that God invaded my life and changed me from the inside out...
Transformed me by his power and deposited the Holy Spirit into my life.
Thatís what it means to be born again.
Every one of us was born physically like Ishmael.
But every one of us who are really saved have also been born supernaturally like Isaac.
We have received a second birth, and here is Godís mathematics.
>If you are born one time and only one time, you must die two times.
You will die physically and you will die spiritually.
If you are only born physically, then you will die physically...
And you will die spiritually and spend eternity in hell forever.
One birth...two deaths.
But if you are born two times, you will only die one time.
If you are born physically and you are born again spiritually, then you will only experience physical death.
And Iíve got good news for you.
You may not even have to get in on that.
Jesus is coming soon, amen?
>But I find a second thing in this passage of scripture.
I find that all true Christians face persecution.
Look in Galatians 4:29. Paul says:
At that time the son born in the ordinary way (thatís Ishmael) persecuted the son born by the power of the spirit (thatís Isaac). It is the same now.
Ishmael was 14 years old when Isaac was born.
When Isaac was three years old, his parents put him through the ceremony of weaning the child from the motherís breast.
In that culture children nursed at their motherís breast until they were three.
Now in our society, most children are weaned much earlier than that.
But in that day and time they didnít have Similac and all the little canned substitutes for breast milk.
They didnít have pediatricians on every corner.
And so children were not weaned until they were three years of age.
But when a child had its third birthday it was sort of a big celebration.
Everybody came to have a time of celebration...
Because finally this little fellow was old enough to be weaned from his motherís breast.
>At that ceremony when Isaac was three years old...
Now Ishmael would have been a 17-year-old boy...
Sarah saw Ishmael making fun of Isaac.
He was laughing at him, putting him down, persecuting him.
Paul says, "Just like it was back then with the one naturally persecuting the one born supernaturally...
As it was then, it is just like that today."
And not only was it like that in Paulís day...
Friends, I want to tell you, itís still like that.
Christians face persecution.
Paul wrote to Timothy and said, "All that live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution."
He didnít say "some"...he didnít say "most"...
He said, "All that live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution."
Christians are a persecuted people.
>First of all, we are persecuted by the world of paganism, the world of ungodliness.
Did you know that you and I are in a minority?
And did you know that we are in a shrinking minority?
If there has been nothing else proven over the last 12 months in America...
It has been clearly proven that what you and I believe is not very popular in this land.
We are a shrinking minority.
Those of us who believe the Bible is the word of God are shrinking in number.
Those of us who believe the values taught by this book...
Not the values of politicians...
But the values taught by this book...
Those of us who believe in them are shrinking in number.
We suffer persecution from the world of paganism.
The world of paganism says to us, "Sit down and shut up...
Donít interrupt our lifestyle...donít dare impose your values on us...
Donít tell us we cannot drink our alcohol...donít tell us we cannot squander our living at gambling casinos...
Donít tell us we canít invade the womb of a mother and butcher a little baby...
Donít tell us we canít marry who we want...
You sit down and shut up...itís none of your business."
Thatís what they say.
They say it with their words...
They say it with their laugh, and sometimes they say it with their actions.
>But not only do we suffer from the world of paganism...
As Christians we often are persecuted from the world of religion.
The world of religion looks at us who believe in grace and they say, "Oh, you grace people, you just donít do enough."
I wish theyíd follow me for a week.
"Oh, you just donít do enough...you donít dot the Is and cross the Ts...
you donít have the rules and regulations...
you donít have the ritual and the ceremony...
You just arenít doing enough...
You cannot just be saved by grace."
I tell you, they are false teachers.
We can be saved and are saved by grace.
>And then there are those that say, "Well, you may be saved by grace, but youíre not kept saved by grace."
Hey, if youíre not kept saved by grace you never were saved by grace to start with.
There are some who say, "Oh yes, youíre saved initially by grace...
But then you have to follow that with a life of hard work for Jesus...
Youíve gotta do this and do that and do that and go here and there and be this and that...
Youíre saved by grace, but then after you get in itís up to you from there on.
And if you are good enough and fine enough and behave enough and do enough, then you can go to heaven."
I tell you, thatís not grace at all.
>I want to tell you, thereís not possible way under Godís heaven that it can ever be grace and law.
It is "Grace or Law".
Because if it is grace, it can have no mingling of law whatsoever...
Because the slightest smidgen of law cancels out all of the grace.
It is not grace and law...it is grace or law.
>And oh, they love to laugh at us.
They persecute us.
"Why you Baptists believe in once saved, always saved."
And I confess, I believe it.
I believe it because the Bible teaches it.
If the one who saved me does not keep me saved...
Then his grace has a flaw from the first.
And I tell you, God has no flaw in his grace.
They say, "Why, you preach that a guy can get saved and then go out and live like the devil for the rest of his life."
Iíve never preached that.
I donít know of any Baptist preacher that ever believed that or preaches that.
If a guy goes out and lives like the devil the rest of his life...
Thatís a good indication he never did get in on grace to start with.
But I tell you, once a person has experienced the grace of God...
Does that mean weíre going to be perfect for the rest of our life?
"Bro. Joe, do you still sin?"
Yes, but I want to tell you, I donít want to sin.
And there is the difference.
Sometimes things will come before us and weíll think something on the spur of the moment that we shouldnít have thought.
Sometimes weíll speak a word we shouldnít have spoken.
Sometimes we might even do something we shouldnít have done.
Itís not something we laid awake at night planning to do.
It was not some premeditated sin that we thought about and dreamed about and planned.
It was something that just happened, and the moment we did it the HS of God revealed to us...
"That was not right", and we confess it to God and get it right.
Grace...I like grace.
>But I see a third thing in this passage of scripture.
I see two births of every Christian.
I see the persecution of every Christian.
But I also see the decision that every Christian must make.
Look there in verse 30: But what does the scripture say? Get rid of the slave woman and her son.
The slave woman and her son are the old covenant, the covenant of law.
That was the covenant that the Judaizers were trying to get the Galatians to come into.
Paul said, "Get rid of it."
You do not live your life before God and merit his favor.
You do not ever place God in debt to you.
God will be indebted to no man.
God does not owe you anything because you do the dos and donít the doníts.
All you ever have from God is on the basis of grace...
Because if you really got what you deserve youíd go to hell forever.
And so he says to that old covenant, that covenant of law, he says, "Get rid of it."
>What about that new covenant?
Look in verse 1 of chapter 5:
That new covenant of grace he says, "it is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery."
>And so the issue is today, "Where do you want to live?
Do you want to live in the Jerusalem that now is, or do you want to live in the Jerusalem that is above?
On what mountain do you want to exist?
On Mount Sinai where there is law, or on Mount Calvary where there is grace?
Do you want condemnation of law, or do you want salvation of grace?
Do you want bondage of law, or do you want liberty of grace?
Do you want regulation of law, or do you want celebration of grace?
Do you want death of law, or do you want life in grace?
Do you want hell of law, or do you want heaven of grace?"
Cast off the old and stand on the new.
>Maybe youíre here this morning and youíve never received Christ.
Maybe youíre a religious person.
Maybe you believe the Bible.
Maybe you believe in Jesus as a real person.
Maybe you have even joined a church, maybe even this church.
But inside your heart you know youíve never been born again.
Youíve been born physically...
You see your hands, your feet.
You know you are born physically.
But Jesus said, "Thatís not enough. You must be born again."
If youíre born once, you die twice.
But if youíre born twice, youíll only have to die once.
Which is it for you?