TWO COVENANTS

By

Shelby G. Floyd

The New Covenant

On his evangelistic journeys, Paul established congregations of the Lord in Antioch in Pisidia;  Iconium, Lystra and Derbe in Galatia. These Christians had been taught the truth of the gospel. But after Paul left them “wolves in sheep’s clothing”—false teachers who came in and taught the members of the church that they had to keep the Law of Moses and “the traditions of the fathers” in order to be saved. This was a false doctrine. Paul wrote the Galatians a letter to refute these teachers and to bring the Galatians back to the freedom we have in Christ.

ABRAHAM HAD TWO SONS

Paul advised those who wanted to be under the Law of Moses to actually hear what that Law had said, “…Abraham had two sons; the one by the bondwoman, the other by a freewoman” (Galatians 4:22). This is a reference to the birth of Ishmael and later the birth of Isaac.

When God first appeared to Abram, he promised that he would become a great man and would be richly blessed, he would become a mighty nation, and through his seed (offspring) all the families of the earth would be blessed—a reference to Jesus Christ (Genesis 12: 1-3; Galatians 3:16).

When Abraham and Sarah were almost a hundred years old and Sarah was still barren, it appeared that God would not keep his promise. So Sarah took things into her own hands and gave her servant Hagar to Abraham to bring up children on her behalf. From this union Ishmael was born. Afterwards, God appeared to Abraham and Sarah and repeated the promise previously given. They were skeptical, but Isaac was born and fulfilled the promise.

“WHICH THINGS ARE SYMBOLIC”

To the churches of Galatia, Paul wrote about these historical events and put them in stark contrast. He states “…which things are symbolic. For these are the two covenants” (Galatians 4: 24). In the above text “symbolic” is a verb form from [αλληγορεω-allegoreo]. It means to give a symbolic meaning instead of the literal meaning—thus to allegorize. This is the only time this word is used in the New Testament. An allegory is a continued metaphor. We will list “these things” in the following chart to help the reader better understand the thrust of his argument.

“FOE THESE ARE TWO COVENANTS” (Gal. 4:24)

*The Bondwoman—Hagar; The Freewomen—Sarah.
*Ishmael was born according to the flesh; Isaac was born according to the promise.
*Hagar is Mt. Sinai in Arabia; Sarah is Jerusalem above.
*The Law from Sinai brings bondage; The Law from Jerusalem above brings freedom.
*Hagar and Mount Sinai corresponds to the Jerusalem on earth; Jerusalem above is the mother of us all (Col. 3:1-2; Heb. 12:22; Rev. 21:2).
*Hagar and her children are in bondage; The spiritual children of Abraham are many more than the children of the Law.
*“It is written: Rejoice, O barren, you who do not bear! Break forth and shout, you who do not travail! For the desolate has many more children than she who has a husband” (Isa. 54:1; Gal. 4:27).

NOW THE APPLICATION

Having presented the salient features of the allegory, Paul next makes the application to God’s people living under the New Covenant. This he does by the use of the adverb of time—“now”—“Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise” (Galatians 4:28). In this same letter Paul defines how we become the children of promise:

Galatians 3:26-29
You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
NIV

PERSECUTION THEN AND NOW

While on the first and second evangelistic journeys, Paul and company were persecuted mainly by the Jewish establishment. Here is also an application from the allegory of the two sons. Ishmael mocked and persecuted Isaac. Therefore, again an allegorical application is made to encourage those who were being persecuted: “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 4:29, NASV). Persecution may be the lot of God’s people; therefore, one should not give up.

“CAST OUT THE BONDWOMAN AND HER SON”

When it was observed that Ishmael was mistreating Isaac, Sarah would have none of it and she instructed Abraham with God’s approval to stop the mistreatment. Again, Paul refers the Galatians to the written word of God:

Galatians 4:30
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.”
ESV

The application of this allegory is referenced to the two covenants. Hagar and Ishmael answer to the Old Covenant, while Sarah and Isaac answer to the New Covenant. Just as Hagar and Ishmael were cast out, so the Old Covenant has been cast out or abrogated and annulled. The Galatians in Christ were not under the Old Covenant, but were in relationship to God bound to the New Covenant. This had been foretold by the prophets.

The best example of the New Covenant superseding the Old Covenant is the statement of Jeremiah, written hundreds of years before Christ:

Jeremiah 31:31-34
31 “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— 32 not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them,[a] says the Lord. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34 No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” NKJV

This scripture is quoted verbatim in Hebrews 8:7-12 with the addendum: “In that He says, ‘A new covenant,’ He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away” (Hebrews 8:13). It is a fact that the Old Covenant has been annulled and nailed to the cross of Calvary, “…having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross” (Colossians 2:14). The most prominent feature of the New Covenant in contrast to the Old Covenant is that God will “…forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” (Hebrews 8: 12).

CONCLUSION

In concluding this allegory, we have this grand declaration, “So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free” (Galatians 4:31, NKJV). Since this is the case, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.” (Galatians 5:1, NKJV).

Copyright © 2009 2016 Shelby G. Floyd, All Rights Reserved

Shelby G. Floyd

Shelby Preaching

Heartland Church of Christ
1693 West Main Street
Greenwood, Indiana 46142

 

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