1. THE BONDWOMAN BY FLESH
a. How does Abraham’s experience show the spiritual bondage of living in our own finite strength? Genesis 16:1–4, 11, 12, 15; Galatians 4:22–25.
“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.
“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. . . .
“Ishmael was driven to choose the wild, marauding life of the desert chief. . . . The powerful nation descended from him were a turbulent, heathen people.”— Ibid., p. 174.
2. THE FREEWOMAN BY PROMISE
a. When Abraham and Sarah fully trusted in God’s promise of a son—what happened, and why? Genesis 18:11–14; 21:1, 2; Hebrews 11:11.
b. Like the miracle of elderly Sarah giving birth, describe the miraculous privilege available to the children of faith. Galatians 4:26–28.
“Christ is able to lift the most sinful out of the pit of degradation, and to place them where they will be acknowledged as children of God, heirs with Christ to an immortal inheritance.
“Many are utterly discouraged. Because they have been despised and forsaken they have become stoical. They are looked upon as unable to comprehend or to receive the gospel of Christ. Yet by the miracle of divine grace they may be changed. Under the ministration of the Holy Spirit the stupidity that makes their uplifting appear so hopeless will pass away. The dull, clouded mind will awake. The slave of sin will be set free. Spiritual life will revive and strengthen. Vice will disappear, and ignorance will be overcome. Through the faith that works by love the heart will be purified and the mind enlightened.”—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 7, p. 229.
c. Why did Hagar and Ishmael have to be utterly cast out of Abraham’s household—and what are some deep spiritual lessons we can learn from this? Genesis 21:9–12; Galatians 4:29–31; Romans 13:12.
“If God had sanctioned polygamy, He would not have thus directed Abraham to send away Hagar and her son. He would teach all a lesson in this, that the rights and happiness of the marriage relation are to be ever respected and guarded, even at a great sacrifice. Sarah was the first and only true wife of Abraham. She was entitled to rights, as a wife and mother, which no other could have in the family. She reverenced her husband, calling him lord, but she was jealous lest his affections should be divided with Hagar. God did not rebuke Sarah for the course she pursued. Abraham was reproved by the angels for distrusting God’s power, which had led him to take Hagar as his wife and to think that through her the promise would be fulfilled.”—The Story of Redemption, p. 80.
a. How does Paul invite us to accept deliverance through Christ? Galatians 5:1.
“Those who believe on Christ and obey His commandments are not under bondage to God’s law; for to those who believe and obey, His law is not a law of bondage, but of liberty. Everyone who believes on Christ, everyone who relies on the keeping power of a risen Saviour that has suffered the penalty pronounced upon the transgressor, everyone who resists temptation and in the midst of evil copies the pattern given in the Christ life, will through faith in the atoning sacrifice of Christ become a partaker of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. Everyone who by faith obeys God’s commandments will reach the condition of sinlessness in which Adam lived before his transgression.”—In Heavenly Places, p. 146.
b. What appeal does Paul make to keep our focus and avoid dissension caused by going beyond what is written? Galatians 5:2–4.
“Judaizing teachers . . . urged that converts to Christianity should observe the ceremonial law in the matter of circumcision. They still maintained that the original Israel were the exalted and privileged children of Abraham, and were entitled to all the promises made to him. They sincerely thought that in taking this medium ground between Jew and Christian, they would succeed in removing the odium which attached to Christianity, and would gather in large numbers of Jews.
“They vindicated their position, which was in opposition to that of Paul, by showing that the course of the apostle, in receiving the Gentiles into the church without circumcision, prevented more Jews from accepting the faith than there were accessions from the Gentiles. Thus, they excused their opposition to the results of the calm deliberations of God’s acknowledged servants. They refused to admit that the work of Christ embraced the whole world. They claimed that He was the Saviour of the Hebrews alone; therefore they maintained that the Gentiles should receive circumcision before being admitted to the privileges of the church of Christ.”—The SDA Bible Commentary [E. G. White Comments], vol. 6, pp. 1110, 1111.
4. FAITH MISUNDERSTOOD
a. What summarized the humble, faithful position of Paul? Galatians 5:5.
“Rest your case with the Lord, and believe in His Word. Believe, oh, believe the Word of the Lord, and walk by faith, not by sight. Consecrate yourself anew to God. Be loyal and true to a ‘Thus saith the Lord,’ and stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ doth make you free.”—The Upward Look, p. 337.
b. How was the apostle often misunderstood by dissenters both in Galatia and elsewhere in the church? Galatians 5:7–12; 1 Corinthians 1:10–13.
“The council [of disciples at Jerusalem] had . . . decided that the converts from the Jewish church might observe the ordinances of the Mosaic law if they chose, while those ordinances should not be made obligatory upon converts from the Gentiles. The opposing class now took advantage of this, to urge a distinction between the observers of the ceremonial law and those who did not observe it, holding that the latter were farther from God than the former.
“Paul’s indignation was stirred. His voice was raised in stern rebuke: ‘If ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing.’ The party maintaining that Christianity was valueless without circumcision arrayed themselves against the apostle, and he had to meet them in every church which he founded or visited: in Jerusalem, Antioch, Galatia, Corinth, Ephesus, and Rome. God urged him out to the great work of preaching Christ, and Him crucified; circumcision or uncircumcision was nothing. The Judaizing party looked upon Paul as an apostate, bent upon breaking down the partition wall which God had established between the Israelites and the world. They visited every church which he had organized, creating divisions. Holding that the end would justify the means, they circulated false charges against the apostle, and endeavored to bring him into disrepute. As Paul, in visiting the churches, followed after these zealous and unscrupulous opposers, he met many who viewed him with distrust, and some who even despised his labors.
“These divisions in regard to the ceremonial law, and the relative merits of the different ministers teaching the doctrine of Christ, caused the apostle much anxiety and hard labor [1 Corinthians 1:10–13 quoted].”—The SDA Bible Commentary [E. G. White Comments], vol. 6, p. 1111.
5. WHICH KIND OF ACTION?
a. While the ceremonial law and circumcision were given by God for a purpose within the ancient Hebrew economy, what are all who accept Christ as the only Source of eternal life to realize? Galatians 5:6.
“Genuine faith always works by love. When you look to Calvary it is not to quiet your soul in the nonperformance of duty, not to compose yourself to sleep, but to create faith in Jesus, faith that will work, purifying the soul from the slime of selfishness. When we lay hold of Christ by faith, our work has just begun. Every man has corrupt and sinful habits that must be overcome by vigorous warfare. Every soul is required to fight the fight of faith. If one is a follower of Christ, he cannot be sharp in deal, he cannot be hardhearted, devoid of sympathy. He cannot be coarse in his speech. He cannot be full of pomposity and self-esteem. He cannot be overbearing, nor can he use harsh words, and censure and condemn.”—Selected Messages, bk. 2, p. 20.
“The labor of love springs from the work of faith. Bible religion means constant work. ‘Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.’ ‘Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God that worketh in you, both to will and to do of his good pleasure.’ We are to be zealous of good works; be careful to maintain good works. And the true Witness says, ‘I know thy works.’
“While it is true that our busy activities will not in themselves ensure salvation, it is also true that faith which unites us to Christ will stir the soul to activity.”—The SDA Bible Commentary [E. G. White Comments], vol. 6, p. 1111.
PERSONAL REVIEW QUESTIONS
1. How do we similarly err as when Hagar was to bear a son for Abraham?
2. What blessing and duty came when Abraham and Sarah trusted God more?
3. How might I be in danger of either adding or subtracting from what God has written in order to possibly gain a larger number of converts—and why would this be wrong to do?
4. In what ways might I be causing dissent over issues that are not salvational?
5. What needs to be the real motivation behind all that I do in life?