"Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. 23 But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise. 24 Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. 25 Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. 27 For it is written,
“Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear;
break forth and cry aloud, you who are not in labor!
For the children of the desolate one will be more
than those of the one who has a husband.”
28 Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. 29 But just as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now. 30 But what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.” 31 So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman." (Gal. 4:21-31 ESV)
To know the history of Sarah and Hagar we must know the history of Abraham himself. God called Abraham out of a pagan nation and made a covenant promise with him. Here is that promise:
"Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
4 So Abram went, as the Lord had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. 5 And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother's son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people that they had acquired in Haran, and they set out to go to the land of Canaan. When they came to the land of Canaan, 6 Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. 7 Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him. 8 From there he moved to the hill country on the east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. And there he built an altar to the Lord and called upon the name of the Lord. 9 And Abram journeyed on, still going toward the Negeb." (Gen. 12:1-9 ESV)
God made this promise and here Abraham took his wife and family with him. On the journey God made the promise about his offspring. Abraham set off on this journey with his wife. God promised them that they would have a child. Abraham thought that perhaps God wanted to fulfill this promise through adoption so Abraham asked God if he was going to receive this child this way. God ensured him that he and his wife Sarah were going to have a child together who would be their heir.
Time went on and there was still no child. This is when Abraham’s wife now devised a plan on how they would have this child of promise. There was a middle eastern custom during that time in which if you were barren you would find a surrogate mother to give to your husband. Instead of heeding God’s promise they used this middle eastern custom and Sarah gave her handmaid Hagar to her husband. She then did become pregnant:
"Now Sarai, Abram's wife, had borne him no children. She had a female Egyptian servant whose name was Hagar. 2 And Sarai said to Abram, “Behold now, the Lord has prevented me from bearing children. Go into my servant; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai. 3 So, after Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan, Sarai, Abram's wife, took Hagar the Egyptian, her servant, and gave her to Abram her husband as a wife. 4 And he went in to Hagar, and she conceived. And when she saw that she had conceived, she looked with contempt on her mistress. 5 And Sarai said to Abram, “May the wrong done to me be on you! I gave my servant to your embrace, and when she saw that she had conceived, she looked on me with contempt. May the Lord judge between you and me!” 6 But Abram said to Sarai, “Behold, your servant is in your power; do to her as you please.” Then Sarai dealt harshly with her, and she fled from her." (Gen. 16:1-6 ESV)
Hagar gave birth to Ishmael. Hagar was in essence a slave women who had a child with Abraham. She was then cast out. The history of the division of the Middle East is traced back to this point in which the descendents of Ishmael and the descendents of Isaac are still at war with each other.
God kept his promise though by a miracle. Sarah was old and well past the barren years. Still she was given a child just as God promised:
"The Lord visited Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did to Sarah as he had promised. 2 And Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age at the time of which God had spoken to him. 3 Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him, whom Sarah bore him, Isaac. 4 And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him. 5 Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. 6 And Sarah said, “God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh over me.” 7 And she said, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”
8 And the child grew and was weaned. And Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned. 9 But Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, laughing. 10 So she said to Abraham, “Cast out this slave woman with her son, for the son of this slave woman shall not be heir with my son Isaac.” 11 And the thing was very displeasing to Abraham on account of his son. 12 But God said to Abraham, “Be not displeased because of the boy and because of your slave woman. Whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for through Isaac shall your offspring be named. 13 And I will make a nation of the son of the slave woman also, because he is your offspring.” 14 So Abraham rose early in the morning and took bread and a skin of water and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the child, and sent her away. And she departed and wandered in the wilderness of Beersheba." (Gen. 21:1-14 ESV)
Here we have the historical context of what would have been known by the audience Paul was writing to and hopefully now known by us. With this background we can get a better understanding of the message that Paul was communicating.
Allegory is a powerful communication tool. One of the greatest Christians books ever written is a book called Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan which is an allegory. The Song of Solomon is another allegory that we have in the Bible. What exactly is an allegory? Allegory is a story where there are some obvious parallels and lessons from the comparative situation. It is different than a metaphor. Let me give you an example. William Shakespeare says in "As You Like It" that the world is a stage and humans are actors in a show who enter and exit the stage. This is a metaphor because the world isn't a literal stage and humans aren't actors who live in accordance to a script. The stories in “Aesop’s Fables” are allegorical, as they are narratives with an underlying message. The story of the “The Boy Who Cried Wolf,” for example, is about a boy who claims to see a wolf when he does not. When he actually sees a wolf, no one believes him. The underlying story is that it doesn’t take much for a liar to lose the trust of others, which can hurt him in a time of need. Paul is saying that he is using the story of Sarah and Hagar allegorical to reveal the two covenants and in essence the two churches that exist in the world. The two churches are the unfaithful churches and the faithful ones.
This story is used allegorically to compare the two covenants. Upon first reading it is assumed that the two covenants are the Old and New Covenant. That cannot be the case. It is clearly a reference to what has been labeled as the covenant of works and the covenant of grace. Hagar represents the covenant of works. She was strong and able bodied to have a child. By her merit and natural processes she was able to give birth to a son. Still she was a slave though. Her son was a slave as well. Eventually they were cast out and did not have a part in the inheritance. The covenant of works is how the Judaizers were attempting to earn favor with God. They said they were in obedience to the Law thus earning their righteousness. Paul says the only thing that they are earning is condemnation. If we desire to earn favor with God by our works then the entire law of God stands as our judge. We must be obedient to every last part of it. The only thing it will do is enslave us. Many churches today base salvation on walking an aisle, saying a sinners prayer, baptismal regeneration and the likes. These are works. If we desire to be saved by works then we must fulfill it all the way. In essence the only thing a works based righteousness will do is to lead us into slavery.
"If we desire to earn favor with God by our works then the entire law of God stands as our judge."
The other covenant is the covenant of grace. This covenant is based on God’s promise and God’s Spirit. In essence this is a covenant of miracles. Sarah had the promised child according to God’s promise and the miraculous activity of the Holy Spirit. We as sinners become beneficiaries of this covenant on the basis of miraculous activity. God keeps His promise and regenerates us!
"The only thing a works based righteousness will do is to lead us into slavery."
Then he adds that Jerusalem at that present time are the children of the slave woman, not the free one like they claim. They have attempted to be justified by their works which only leads to slavery. This is their condition, says Paul. My friends, this is their condition at present day. Our hope for Israel is a hope that is found in Romans 11, that there is a day coming that they will repent of their sin and come to faith in Jesus Christ. In contrast to Jerusalem, Paul quotes Isaiah 54:1, which there proclaims that Gentiles would come to bear many children. Jerusalem is enslaved. Those that believe in God’s promises are free.
Paul is clearly indicating that there are two different churches that exist in the world. One is like Hagar trusting in her good works to earn favor. One is like Sarah trusting in the promises of God. My fear is that our church planting movement in America is concerned with finding Hagars rather than Sarahs. Consider it. It made logical sense that Hagar would have a son. She was young, strong, and in child rearing years. It was only natural that she would be able to get pregnant and have a child. This is so different from Sarah, as it was only by supernatural means that she would have a child. It seems when we look to start churches that we want someone who is young, strong, vibrant, charismatic, a great visionary, a great assembler, and someone who can pull the numbers in and get the baptisms up. Very little concern is given to their belief in the promises of God and their reliance on the Spirit of God. It makes logical sense and you can follow their marketing plan to see why they have the “success” they do. In reality though, as Hagar, the only thing they have done is give birth to Ishmael, a slave. The people have no victory over sin. Repentance is not found in the midst. Cultural transformation is not taking place. What is the problem? They are children of the slave women.
"My fear is that our church planting movement in America is concerned with finding Hagars rather than Sarahs."
In contrast I desire a church planting movement likened to Sarah. It doesn’t make sense by natural means. The only way she could have a child is because of the promises of God and the Holy Spirit. In essence, a miracle is required. That is what I want. It is my desire that when we look at ONElife what we see is a miracle that only came about by the promises of God to build His church and by the activity of the Holy Spirit to regenerate His people. Without it, the only thing we are doing is leading our people into slavery, which is no different than what the world has to offer. Rather, we want to lead people into freedom.
Contributor / Eric Stewart
Eric Stewart is the Lead Pastor of ONElife Church in Flint, MI.
It has been a consistent habit of mine over the last ten years to regularly have my nose in a book. My mentors have instilled this habit in me and for that I am truly thankful. Learning, I have found, is the most exciting thing that you can do. At the same time learning new things is often very inconvenient and very perplexing. In all honesty learning can be downright maddening. As one of my mentors has often told me, “Before the truth will set you free it will often tick you off first.” Just recently I found myself quite ticked off at something I discovered. I found myself asking questions like, “Why has no one ever taught me this before?” The reality is that they didn’t teach me because they didn’t know.
This historical fact I discovered recently was that the national anthem was not written during the revolutionary war and that it was not named the national anthem until about one hundred and fifty years after the founding of America. Now, I know the blind loyalist will say, “I don’t care when it is written that is still my song.” Unfortunately, my mind does not work that way. I am not sure if this is a curse or a blessing at times. It certainly causes me to lose sleep often. Upon discovering this truth I began diving deeper, doing some research, and was even more concerned about what I found. You see I was the person that looked at what Colin and many of the other NFL players were doing and said, “Why don’t you just stand? That is what an American does.” These new facts I was discovering began exposing my hypocritical legalism in which I wanted to bind others consciences to something that the Bible does not command and that the constitution itself does not command. Perhaps my response was more a result of my funky fundy (fundamentalist) background and was not founded in the truth of God’s Word and the truth of history.
Francis Scott Key
The author of The Star Spangled Banner was not a patriotic war hero like I had always envisioned. Francis Scott Key was an attorney who found himself aboard a British naval ship attempting to negotiate for POW’s that the British were holding. This was during the war of 1812 and not the revolutionary war. He wrote the song as he was aboard this ship while he was watching the battle rage on from the shore. The ironic thing is that he actually opposed America entering into the war of 1812.
Furthermore, there is a stanza of the song that we don’t sing. This stanza has been a point of contention and controversy. It describes how the black slaves died and gave their lives fighting the war of 1812. The stanza says:
"And where is that band who so vauntingly swore,
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion
A home and a Country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wash'd out their foul footsteps pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave."
Here we have an attorney attempting to negotiate freeing some POW’s while watching black American slaves fight valiantly to narrowly secure victory in this war. That is not the picture I always had of how the song was created.
In addition Francis Scott Key went on record stating that the Africans in America belong to an inferior race, "a distinct and inferior race of people, which all experience proves to be the greatest evil that afflicts a community.” Could we possibly see based on these facts how many Americans, particularly African Americans, would not necessarily have an infatuation with the song?
Another thing I discovered that deeply troubled me in my stance towards the national anthem was that it was first named the national anthem via executive order by Woodrow Wilson in 1919. This captured my attention on three different fronts. First, why was a president involved in “naming” a national anthem? That is clearly outside of the bounds of the God given role that he has to protect from foreign invaders and to make sure that evildoers are punished. Romans 13 outlines his role very clearly. Second, why did a president need to sign in a national anthem by executive order? It seems like there might be more important things to use that power for. Third, it was interesting to me that out of all presidents it was Woodrow Wilson that signed the order. Wilson was a man who led our nation through some of the greatest changes in history in which power was being shifted away from self government to centralized governmental power. He was a central figure in creating the federal beast that we know today which is completely antithetical to the founders vision of America.
During Wilson’s presidency he ratified the Federal Reserve Act of 1913. This created our national banking system and what is now referred to as the Federal Reserve Bank. Don’t let the terms fool you. This federal bank is not federal nor does it have a reserve. It is a private bank that is in bed with the federal government to manipulate and control the money supply. Now, this bank has complete control over the banks and the money supply. They have literally enslaved people financially. We can thank none other than Woodrow Wilson for leading the charge in this.
In addition, during Wilson’s presidency the sixteenth amendment was ratified. Not familiar with this? Here is what the amendment states:
The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.
What this means is that the federal government was given the power to tax the people with absolutely no limits placed on them. This has lead to excessive taxes of the American worker, stripping freedoms from them. The next time you look at your pay check and see the federal income tax that is taken out, you can thank Woodrow Wilson for leading the charge in this.
At this point many of you reading this may be responding to yourself by saying, “So what?” What does any of this have to do with the national anthem? The point is that the same person who changed the landscape of America was the same person who issued the executive order naming the “Star Spangled Banner” as our national anthem. Wilson was not concerned with following the constitution and carrying out the founder's vision. He was concerned with creating a statist god in which the people would fall down and worship. In redefining America he had to redefine what it meant to be an American. Since, he was not concerned with following the constitution he needed something else for the people to commit to. His solution? An American is patriotic. An American reveres the flag. To solidify this act of worship he needed an anthem. A song that the people could sing to declare their commitment to the new statist god. His solution: sign in a beloved song of the American people. He wrote in the “Star Spangled Banner” to be a worship song for the new statist god that he created which was not the America the founders envisioned. If you support his version of America then please yes keep telling other Americans that they must stand for the national anthem.
Thank You Colin
In light of this I must extend a thank you to Colin Kaepernick. (Let me be clear on that point, lest I get accused of being a Marxist again). This does not mean I am in favor of Colin’s version of what America should be. I am thankful that by you creating this controversy it caused me to do some more research and to learn this somewhat troubling history. I am thankful that you have caused me to see clearly what it means to be an American. An American is not defined by the way in which he or she behaves towards a song. An American is defined by whether or not he or she supports, defends, and abides by the constitution. The question is not whether or not Colin, or any American for that matter, should stand or kneel. The question is do we follow the constitution. The next time you hear the national anthem feel the liberty to respond to it anyway you deem fit whether that is standing or kneeling. Colin, and the rest of the players following suit, if you feel like it is the right thing to do to keep kneeling in order to take a stance against police brutality then please continue kneeling. This is your first amendment right. Also, know that it is the right of the NFL and any team to either allow you to keep doing it or to give you the boot. If you don’t support this position then you are not truly an American, my friend. You are a follower of the Wilsonian god that was created. You are the one that needs to repent.
Contributor / Eric Stewart
Eric Stewart is the Lead Pastor of ONElife Church in Flint, MI.