In Galatians 4:21-31, Paul implies that his readers do not really understand the Mosaic Law (Gal 4:21), summarizes a portion of it concerning the births of Isaac and Ishmael (Gal 4:22-23; cf. Gen 16-21), announces that "this may be interpreted allegorically" (Gal 4:24; cf. 4:24-27), and applies his interpretation to the situation of the Galatians (Gal 4:28-31).
In trying to understand the difficulty of this text-Paul's use of allegory-we should remember that Paul does not deny the historicity and literal meaning of the story of Hagar and Sarah. Neither does Paul change the meaning of the story. Rather, Paul assumes the original meaning of the story in order to give it a figurative meaning that, as best I can guess, Moses himself would not have gathered.
Let's attempt a summary from the facts of Gal 4:22-23 and their allegorical interpretation in Gal 4:24-27. Hagar represents the Mosaic Covenant given at Mount Sinai. Though in Arabia, this Hagar-Sinai-Mountain represented the Jerusalem of Paul's day-a people in bondage to the Law who found no freedom by faith in Christ. As the slave woman gave birth to the enslaved, so also Jerusalem's theology enslaved its adherents to the Law. As Abraham's human effort with Hagar produced a child who persecuted the child of promise and would not receive an inheritance, so also those who persecuted the Galatians and attempted life by the Law would inherit nothing. In contrast, Sarah represents the Abrahamic covenant. Just as she had Isaac by God's initiative in fulfilling His promise to Abraham, a miracle of the Spirit through their aged bodies, so also God gives life through the Spirit of promise to those who have faith in Christ-something they can never achieve in and of themselves. An eternal inheritance will come as well.
Gal 4:28-31 then applies the allegory in Gal 4:24-27-the readers were to realize that they were truly God's children who were being persecuted and were responsible to put these false teachers out of the church.
Why did Paul use the OT in this way? Maybe he was correcting an improper use of these texts by his opponents. Maybe he was being creative to make a point. Either way, the allegory would have seized his readers' attention to highlight the truths they needed to hear.
Can we interpret texts in this way today? My answer would be this-we are prone to misunderstand a given text as it is. If we sometimes lack illumination to understand the original meaning of a text, why should we attempt a figurative meaning of a text, something done only rarely by those who were inspired? In other words, I would suggest that we let the biblical authors be the ones who interpret texts in this way. May we be faithful to understand the Word as it is and communicate it clearly to others.
Dear pastors, deacons, and brothers and sisters in Christ,
Holiness is what makes God uniquely God and should be reflected in his people, personally and corporately, and certainly in those who lead the church. I hope you’ll be able to join us for our annual Conference on the Church for God’s Glory as we promote holiness in our theme this year.
What is more, we will tackle this theme in a unique way: “A Call to Holiness by a Rising Generation.” There are younger pastors and leaders who have been able to find a voice in their own ministries and perhaps in an online presence, but we do not always have the privilege of hearing some of them in person as much as we would like. While there are many good men that we could ask to speak, this year we will have a small sample of “younger guys” addressing holiness as it relates to various topics important to each of us in our ministries.
While this conference is an opportunity for some of the younger guys to have a voice, it is not meant to exclude those upon whose shoulders we stand as if we have something new or better to say. If anything, we hope that those who taught us will attend and be honored as we stand in the pulpit before them and preach of the Word of God.
Our schedule and topics for the day are as follows:
• 10:00 AM – David Huffstutler, Opening Sermon: “Fit for the Master’s Use” (2 Timothy 2:20–26)
• 11:20 AM – Michael Riley, Historical Fundamentalism Today
• 12:15 PM – Mark Herbster, Personal Holiness in the Life of a Leader
• 1:00 PM – Lunch at Local Restaurants
• 2:45 PM – TJ Klapperich, The Unsung Heroine: The Role of a Pastor’s Wife
• 3:50 PM – Tim Potter, Principles for Purity in Gospel Partnership
• 4:55 PM – Nathan Crockett, Holiness in Training the Next Generation
• 6:00 PM – TJ Klapperich, Closing Sermon: “The Holiness and Mercy of God” (Isaiah 57:14–21)
• 7:15 PM – Dismiss
I hope you can come. It will be well worth your time, whatever age you may be. As always, registration for the ladies is free of charge, and we hope that the session on “The Unsung Heroine” will be a special blessing to them, just as we hope every session will be. May God bless each of you in your ministries.
Pastor David Huffstutler
First Baptist Church, Rockford, IL
“A Call to Faithfulness”
Rather than a book about the Book for this Men’s Bible Fellowship, we will study Malachi, a book within the Book, so to speak. Look for study handouts on the church Information Desk or at ProclaimChrist.org the week before each time we gather to study.
If desired, to read through a shorter commentary for each passage, I would recommend Herbert Wolf, Haggai & Malachi (Everyman's Bible Commentaries; Chicago: Moody, 1976).
Date Bible Reading
March 11 Malachi 1–4
March 25 TBA
April 15 Malachi 1:2–5
May 6 Malachi 1:6–14
June 10 Malachi 2:1–9
July 1 Malachi 2:10–16
July 15 Malachi 2:17–3:5
August Malachi 3:6–12
August Malachi 3:13–4:3
Bible Study Description
We will get an idea of Malachi as a whole and then work our way through the book, passage by passage. While our time together will certainly be beneficial, if you are able to work through study handouts in advance, you will glean from our study of Malachi all the more.
Pastor David Huffstutler
Pastor Huffstutler regularly writes articles for our Sunday bulletin. See his bio on our pastoral bio page.