1. THE SON OF PROMISE
a. Why is Isaac called the son of promise? Genesis 15:2, 3; 17:15, 16; 18:9–14 (compare with Galatians 4:22, 23, 27, 28).
b. How did Abraham and Sarah try to help the Lord fulfill His promise of a son? Genesis 16:1–4.
“Abraham had accepted without question the promise of a son, but he did not wait for God to fulfill His word in His own time and way. A delay was permitted to test his faith in the power of God; but he failed to endure the trial. Thinking it impossible that a child should be given her in her old age, Sarah suggested, as a plan by which the divine purpose might be fulfilled, that one of her handmaidens should be taken by Abraham as a secondary wife. Polygamy had become so widespread that it had ceased to be regarded as a sin, but it was no less a violation of the law of God, and was fatal to the sacredness and peace of the family relation. Abraham’s marriage with Hagar resulted in evil, not only to his own household, but to future generations.”—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 145.
2. A SON OF BONDAGE
a. How did God react as Abraham presented Ishmael as the son of promise? Genesis 17:15–21.
“When Abraham was nearly one hundred years old, the promise of a son was repeated to him, with the assurance that the future heir should be the child of Sarah. But Abraham did not yet understand the promise. His mind at once turned to Ishmael, clinging to the belief that through him God’s gracious purposes were to be accomplished. In his affection for his son he exclaimed, ‘O that Ishmael might live before Thee!’ Again the promise was given, in words that could not be mistaken: ‘Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish My covenant with him’ (Genesis 17:18, 19).”—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 146.
b. Why did God refuse to accept Ishmael as the promised seed? Galatians 4:22, 23, 30; Romans 14:23 (last part).
“The lack of faith on the part of Abraham and Sarah had resulted in the birth of Ishmael, the mingling of the righteous seed with the ungodly. The father’s influence upon his son was counteracted by that of the mother’s idolatrous kindred and by Ishmael’s connection with heathen wives.”—Ibid., p. 174.
c. What essential truth would Abraham have missed if God had accepted Ishmael as the promised seed? Romans 4:1–5, 21, 22.
“The reward is not of works, lest any man should boast; but it is all of grace.”—Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 401.
“When we individually rest upon Christ, with full assurance of faith, trusting alone to the efficacy of His blood to cleanse from all sin, we shall have peace in believing that what God has promised He is able to perform.”—Selected Messages, bk3, p. 181.
“[Philippians 4:4–7 quoted.] The promise itself is of no value unless I fully believe that He that has made the promise is abundantly able to fulfill, and infinite in power to do all that He has said.”—This Day With God, p. 156.
3. CHILDREN OF BONDAGE
a. Explain which class of people Ishmael and his mother Hagar spiritually represent, and why. Genesis 16:4–6; Galatians 4:22, 23.
b. Why does the apostle Paul describe the Jews living in Jerusalem in his day as bond servants, like Hagar and Ishmael? John 8:31–36; Romans 9:6–8.
“Every soul that refuses to give himself to God is under the control of another power. He is not his own. He may talk of freedom, but he is in the most abject slavery. He is not allowed to see the beauty of truth, for his mind is under the control of Satan. While he flatters himself that he is following the dictates of his own judgment, he obeys the will of the prince of darkness. Christ came to break the shackles of sin-slavery from the soul.”—The Desire of Ages, p. 466.
“God has done so much to make it possible for us to be free in Christ, free from the slavery of wrong habits and evil inclinations. Dear young friends, will you not strive to be free in Christ?”—Our High Calling, p. 29.
c. In whom and in what did the Jews of the flesh (the literal descendants of Abraham) place their confidence in receiving the blessing of God? John 8:37–40; Philippians 3:3–9; Galatians 6:12, 13.
“The Jews claimed to have descended from Abraham; but by failing to do the works of Abraham, they proved that they were not his true children. Only those who prove themselves to be spiritually in harmony with Abraham by obeying the voice of God, are reckoned as of true descent.”—Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 268.
“Paul says that as ‘touching the righteousness which is in the law’—as far as outward acts were concerned —he was ‘blameless’ (Philippians 3:6); but when the spiritual character of the law was discerned, he saw himself a sinner. Judged by the letter of the law as men apply it to the outward life, he had abstained from sin; but when he looked into the depths of its holy precepts, and saw himself as God saw him, he bowed in humiliation and confessed his guilt.”—Steps to Christ, pp. 29, 30.
4. AN ALLEGORY
a. When we trust in our own works for acceptance with God, rather than in Christ, what covenant are we falling under? Galatians 4:21–25; 3:10; 2 Corinthians 3:14, 15.
“The people did not realize the sinfulness of their own hearts, and that without Christ it was impossible for them to keep God’s law; and they readily entered into covenant with God. Feeling that they were able to establish their own righteousness, they declared, ‘All that the Lord hath said will we do, and be obedient’ (Exodus 24:7); . . . yet only a few weeks passed before they broke their covenant with God, and bowed down to worship a graven image. They could not hope for the favor of God through a covenant which they had broken; and now, seeing their sinfulness and their need of pardon, they were brought to feel their need of the Saviour revealed in the Abrahamic covenant and shadowed forth in the sacrificial offerings. Now by faith and love they were bound to God as their deliverer from the bondage of sin. Now they were prepared to appreciate the blessings of the new covenant. . . .
“The ‘new covenant’ was established upon ‘better promises’––the promise of forgiveness of sins and of the grace of God to renew the heart and bring it into harmony with the principles of God’s law. . . .
“The same law that was engraved upon the tables of stone is written by the Holy Spirit upon the tables of the heart. Instead of going about to establish our own righteousness we accept the righteousness of Christ. His blood atones for our sins. His obedience is accepted for us. Then the heart renewed by the Holy Spirit will bring forth ‘the fruits of the Spirit.’ Through the grace of Christ we shall live in obedience to the law of God written upon our hearts. Having the Spirit of Christ, we shall walk even as He walked.”—Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 371, 372.
b. Why is it evident that a person cannot make himself or herself righteous before God by keeping the law? Galatians 2:21; 3:11, 12.
“Were it not for Christ’s atoning sacrifice, there would be nothing in us in which God could delight. All the natural goodness of man is worthless in God’s sight. He does not take pleasure in any man who retains his old nature, and is not so renewed in knowledge and grace that he is a new man in Christ.”—God’s Amazing Grace, p. 66.
5. BROTHERLY PERSECUTION
a. What event does the apostle Paul use to illustrate the Jewish persecution of the Christian church? Galatians 4:28, 29; Genesis 21:6–10.
b. Why will the children of the spirit always be persecuted by the children of the flesh? John 15:17–22; John 3:19, 20; Galatians 5:17 (first part).
“Cain hated and killed his brother, not for any wrong that Abel had done, but ‘because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous’ (1 John 3:12). . . . Abel’s life of obedience and unswerving faith was to Cain a perpetual reproof. . . . The brighter the heavenly light that is reflected from the character of God’s faithful servants, the more clearly the sins of the ungodly are revealed, and the more determined will be their efforts to destroy those who disturb their peace.”—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 74.
“The early Christians were indeed a peculiar people. Their blameless deportment and unswerving faith were a continual reproof that disturbed the sinner’s peace. Though few in numbers, without wealth, position, or honorary titles, they were a terror to evildoers wherever their character and doctrines were known. . . . It was for the same reason that the Jews rejected and crucified the Saviour—because the purity and holiness of His character was a constant rebuke to their selfishness and corruption. From the days of Christ until now His faithful disciples have excited the hatred and opposition of those who love and follow the ways of sin.”—The Great Controversy, p. 46.
PERSONAL REVIEW QUESTIONS
1. How only can God’s promises be fulfilled?
2. Why will God never accept the works of the flesh as righteousness?
3. Why can we never place trust in our heritage, our flesh, or our works?
4. Why is it impossible to be justified by the works of the law?
5. Describe the type of warfare Christians must expect because of their faith.