For most of my life as a believer in Jesus Christ, I have lacked a stunning vision and understanding of who He is. As a result, I routinely missed seeing the person of Christ. This has especially been true for me while reading scripture. Unfortunately, Christless scripture reading is actually quite normal for most people. Studying the Bible and seeing a revelation of Jesus Christ in the scriptures are often very different things.
In the past, I may have read scripture and gotten a lot of good principles out of it, but I regularly missed seeing the point of each word and letter of scripture. The person of Jesus Christ is the point of all scripture!
Now that my eyes have been opened to a greater revelation of the person of Christ (not that I have arrived), everything I read in the scriptures looks different. This is especially true in the Old Testament scriptures. A great example of this can be seen in the story of the two women in Abraham’s life, Sarah & Hagar.
I’d like to tell you about these two women because these two women represent the two ‘systems’ that are affecting your life right now whether you know it or not. I have heard many teachings about these two women, but sadly each one has missed the main point. Most like to focus on the struggle between Sarah and Hagar as being the beginning of the Arab-Jewish struggle. I don’t wish to contribute to this conversation as most of it is fruitless and simply political. Jesus Christ is actually the main point of the story of the struggle between Sarah and Hagar, and chances are, you are right in the middle of this struggle. Let me explain:
Both Sarah & Hagar Are A Response To God’s Promise
The story of the struggle between Sarah and Hagar can be found in Genesis 16-21. You know the story…God promises that through Abraham’s seed all the nations of the earth will be blessed. Christ is eventually the one whom will bless all the nations of the earth. Obviously, (in the flesh) He is the seed that comes from Abraham’s lineage. This was an amazing promise that the Lord gave to Abraham.
The only problem is that Abraham had no kids. Sarah, his wife, was barren. The older they got, the more it seemed that God’s promise would fail. As a result, Sarah took matters in her own hands. She gave her servant Hagar to Abraham for the purpose of conceiving a ‘surrogate’ child for Abraham. Obviously, how would God’s promise be fulfilled? This seemed like the only way.
You know the rest of the story. Ishmael is born to Hagar and Sara eventually conceives through a miracle and Issac is born. This gives rise to conflict between the two women and their offspring.
In addition to the Jewish- Arab conflict, I have often heard that this conflict also represents the conflict that believers have with the non-religious ‘worldly’ system. I no longer believe this. The stories of both women are intimately connected to God’s promise of a seed (Christ) that will eventually bless the whole world. This brings me to my second point:
Hagar & Ishmael Represent A Human attempt to Fullfill God’s Promise & Sarah & Isaac Represent God’s Fulfillment Of His Own Promise
This is a stunning realization. God made a promise to Abraham and Sarah, yet they took matters upon themselves when they used their own human logic and wisdom and tried to solve the problem on their own. God’s ways are not our ways. Only one woman and her offspring (Sarah & Issac) eventually led to Jesus Christ. Hagar’s offspring were at odds with the child of promise.
Hagar represents the man made religious system. Hagar & Ishmael were a result of the promise given to Abraham & Sarah. On the surface, they seemingly are connected to God and His purposes. Because they are a result of man’s wisdom and effort to do God’s work however, they stand opposed to the real promise of God.
Again, while many religious scholars like to draw physical parellels with the conflict between Sarah & Hagar and the Arabs & Jews, almost all miss the real spiritual conflict that this story reveals. In reality, Hagar’s lineage represents man’s religious system. Her spiritual lineage also includes the religious system that rejected Jesus and persecuted the New Testament church.
Like Hagar & her offspring, the prominent religious system that existed in Jesus’ day was man’s attempt to be ‘obedient’ to God’s promise. Because this religious system mixed God’s promise with man’s wisdom and system, it not only missed the very promise of God, (Jesus Christ and His Church), it actually opposed Him in the same way that Ishmael opposed Issac!
If you think my comparison of Sarah & Issac with Jesus Christ & His church, and Hagar & Ishmael with the man made religious system that opposed Christ & the first century church is a stretch, consider what Paul the apostle had to say to the church in Galatia as a result of their struggle with and persecution by religious people who claimed to believe in Jesus yet were trying to put them back under religious bondage under the guise of ‘obedience’ to God’s law (sound familiar?):
And you brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise. But as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now also. (Galatians 4:28-29 NASB)
Wow, what a statement! You might want to go back and read that passage of scripture over again. Pay close attention to the words “SO IT IS NOW ALSO.”
This conflict that Jesus Christ & His Church have had with man’s religious system did not end in the first century, rather it has continued down to this very day. I’m convinced that Man’s religious system is satan’s main weapon against the church & mankind. The “SO IT IS NOW ALSO” from Galatians 4:29 still applies. This brings me to my third point:
Both Will Clash…There Will Be No Peace Between The Two
Until we have been brought out and ‘detoxed’, those of us who operate in Hagar’s man made ‘system’, so to speak, will oppose those who are from Sarah’s lineage. This is clearly illustrated in the passage of scripture mentioned above. Conflict is inevitable. I wish I could tell you that it is possible to avoid this conflict, but it is a battle that we all will face. The conflict between Christ and man’s religious system did not end in the first century, rather if we study church history we’ll see that this conflict has endured for the last 2000 years.
When institutional religious thinking and practices crept into the church in the second and third centuries, there were courageous brothers and sisters in Christ who resisted. There are examples of this occurring throughout the dark ages until the Protestant reformation. While many of the Protestant reformers reacted against the Roman Catholic system of their day, unfortunately most had not been ‘detoxed’ of the same man made religious thinking that they opposed. As a result, they ended up creating a system made up of much of what they opposed in the Roman system. Sadly, they simply changed the terminology.
You may be shocked to know that many of the protestant reformers actually murdered and severely persecuted the brothers and sisters in Christ who refused to come under their newly made state institutional religious systems. A group of brothers and sisters in Christ commonly labeled the ‘Anabaptists’ are an example of this.
The Anabaptists refused to honor the man made clerical system of the Roman institution and also of the new Protestant stste institutions as well. They embraced the Headship of the church by Jesus Christ alone. They understood the role of the participation of the whole body of Christ in church life and the role of living by divine life, not religious ritual & law. As a result of their stance, these precious saints were attacked and killed by those in the Roman Catholic institution, and they also were brutally slaughtered by the Protestant ‘Reformers’ of their day as well. Man’s religious system, in every form, always opposes Christ and His body. Sarah’s lineage is fulfilled in Christ and His bride, but Hagar’s ‘system’ is that of mankind. So, what should we do?
According to Paul in His letter to the Galatians, we should recognize the correct ‘woman’ that we belong to. We are a part of Sarah’s lineage that is fulfilled in Christ and His Bride, but Hagar’s religious ‘system’ is that of mankind. This ‘system’ may use the same terminology in its attempt to fulfill God’s promise, but it is blind to the reality of the ultimate promise, who is Jesus Christ. I’ll leave you with these words from Paul to the church in Galatia:
But what does the Scripture say? CAST OUT THE BONDWOMAN AND HER SON, FOR THE SON OF THE BONDWOMAN SHALL NOT BE AN HEIR WITH THE SON OF THE FREE WOMAN. So then, brethren, we are not children of a bondwoman, but of the free woman. (Galatians 4:30-31 NASB)
The fact that we are no longer sons and daughters of a ‘woman’ in slavery, but we are sons and daughters of a free woman is great news! Because of this, let’s walk in this freedom and cast off any remaining restraints. I have a feeling that you know what that means:)