Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 2 * PART 1 * BOOK 34
GRACE THROUGH FAITH PLUS NOTHING
Our goal is to just simply teach the Word of God. We don’t want you to just sit and let other people throw stuff at you and you not know whether it’s right or wrong. I always like to give this example – I’ve been told that when a new employee goes to work for the US Treasury Department in view of going against counterfeit money, for the first 6 months all they do is study legitimate American bills. Well the idea is that if you know what the legitimate looks like, a counterfeit will be easy to spot. Well you can also use that same analogy with the Word of God.
If folks would just know what the Bible says, and know it forward and backwards then when this counterfeit stuff comes along you’ll see it right away. So that’s really my main purpose of teaching. Be able to separate the Scriptures between Law and Grace. Separate what was written to the Jew and what’s written to the Gentile Body of Christ. Be able to separate the writings of Paul the apostle to the Gentiles and the rest of the Scriptures. Then you’ll be able to see the Scriptures you can claim for your own, and the Bible will become exciting and just open up to you.
Now in our last lesson we got down to Galatians Chapter 4:15 so let’s just pick up where we left off. Now remember that the Book of Galatians is Paul proving that we’re not under the Law, but rather we’re under Grace. And Galatians is so appropriate even today. I think after our teaching today that you’ll agree with me that we’re totally under that beautiful freedom of Grace.
“Where is then the blessedness ye spake of? for I bear you record, that, if it had been possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me.”
Now what’s Paul saying? That there was such a bond of affection between these pagan Galatians who had come under Paul’s Gospel, and the transforming power of it. These Galatians love the man in spite of his physical inadequacies, and they would have given their healthy eyes to replace his sickly ones. Let’s turn to II Thessalonians for a moment and I think this is typical of all of Paul’s converts with the exception of some of the Jewish believers. Whenever Paul went into a pagan community it was all steeped in idolatry, but when they heard his Gospel message here are the results –
I Thessalonians 1:9
“For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.”
Now doesn’t that say it all? He came into this strange city with no fanfare, no trumpeting introducing him and he merely began to confront people with the Gospel of the Grace of God, how that Christ had died for their sins, and had been raised from the dead And they believed it, and they turned from their idols to the true and living God. Now in Galatians it was the same way. They had entered into such a joy of their salvation realizing that it was all of Grace.
And then just like it happens all the time today, I see it over and over how that when we have a new believer who comes under the power of the Gospel and they’ve come away from all this other stuff, and they enter into salvation by Grace, what happens? Oh they start getting bombarded with all of the pressure to come back to all that stuff. I had a phone call just this morning where the poor man was just beside himself because he’d come out of this false teaching, he had seen the truth of the Word the way we teach it, and believed it for salvation. But oh, the constant pressure to come back to where he was before. Listen this is not new. The Galatians were under the same thing. Paul had told them that they were in such a state of blessedness, that they would have plucked out their own eyes for him…and now –
“Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?”
Can I show you what the truth did? Turn to II Timothy Chapter 1 for a moment. Now listen if you think you get discouraged sometimes and wonder why you or I or anybody else cannot have the results that we’d like to have, listen it’s always been that way, and that’s why I don’t get discouraged. My lands, when you come to Noah’s flood with probably a few billion that were on the earth at that time, how many were saved? Eight! You get to Jesus at the end of His 3 years of ministry in the area of Jerusalem and how many true believers were there? 120. Just 120 people. Hey that’s next to nothing. That’s the way it’s been all the way up through Scripture. So here again, look what happened to these converts that Paul had brought out of paganism. Now remember Galatia was in Asia Minor. Always remember geography when you read Scripture because geography and history all fit together with the overall working of the Holy Spirit. So look what happened here in II Timothy.
II Timothy 1:14-15
“That good thing (the Gospel) which was committed unto thee keep by the Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us. 15. This thou knowest, (in other words it wasn’t just Paul’s idea. Even Timothy and Titus and his other helpers realized it.) that all they which are in Asia (and that would include Galatia) be turned away from me;…”
In other words how much effect did the letter have on the Galatians in the long term? Well almost none. Oh this little letter is so good for us, don’t get me wrong. It’s part of the Word of God, but so far as it’s impact on this Galatian congregation, it evidently fell on pretty much deaf ears because several years later when he writes to Timothy in the verses we just looked at he has to say by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, “that all they which are in Asia be turned away from me.” Well you know what I think they did? They all succumbed to legalism, and consequently none of those churches survived. There isn’t one of those cities left today, they’ve all fallen into the dust of history, and all because they refused to stay with Paul’s simple Gospel of Grace. Now that’s sad isn’t it? But listen the world hasn’t changed a bit, it’s still the same way today. Oh they just almost ridicule this concept of Faith + Nothing? Just where in the world are you coming from? I’ll tell you where I’m coming from, the Book! Now back to Galatians Chapter 4 and looking at verse 16 again.
“Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?” That hasn’t changed either. Usually people don’t like the truth do they? Now verse 17.
“They zealously affect you, but not well; yea, they would exclude you, that ye might affect them.”
Now in order to explain that verse, let’s let the Scriptures do it for us by coming back to Chapter 1. See a lot of these verses are kind of hard to comprehend. Just what is the apostle driving at? See, what he was driving at was that they were beginning to believe these Judaisers who were coming in and demanding circumcision, and Law-keeping over against Paul’s pure Gospel of Grace. And what does he call it?
“I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel;”
The Grace of Christ is what brought them out of their idolatry, but what were they slipping into? The influence of another Gospel. Now verse 7.
“Which is not another; (it’s not something that is totally different, but a perversion) but there be some that trouble you and would pervert the gospel of Christ.”
And the perverters finally succeeded evidently, otherwise Paul wouldn’t have written to Timothy, “that all they which be in Asia have turned away from me.” Now coming back to Galatians Chapter 4. Now we’re going to see how the apostle Paul is going to miraculously use the Scripture to teach us a lesson. If the Galatians didn’t catch it at least let’s hope that we do. Now verse 18.
“But it is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing, and not only when I am present with you.”
In other words, when Paul was in their physical presence they could evidently hold everything pretty much together. But as soon as he left, then in would come the false teachers like hungry wolves, and they would just simply tear these little congregations apart. Now verse 19, and here is one of my very favorite portions of Scripture. I’ve always told my classes here in Oklahoma if you’re ever put on the spot to have a devotional for your Sunday School or one of your men or women’s group, then here’s the best one you could use. Oh this is a dandy, and it’s so easy to present.
“My little children of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you.”
In other words, Paul is saying? “Just like the mother’s birth pains of bringing forth that beautiful innocent baby,” Paul felt these pagans who also had been transformed and had made a regularly burping process into the eternal things as a result of his Gospel. And Paul was thrilled by that, but now they were in trouble. They were listening to false teachers and he says –
“I desire to be present with you now, and to change my voice; (or raise my voice and get your attention so that you hear what I’m saying) for I stand in doubt of you.” Why? Because they were falling for this stuff. Now verse 21.
“Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, (you who desire to want to do something in addition to the Gospel) do ye not hear the law? 22. For it is written (in the Old Testament)that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman.”
Now of course most of you know what’s he talking about, but there may be some out there that have never heard this before so for their benefit we’re going to go over it again, and that takes us back to the Book of Genesis Chapter 16. Now this is written within a couple of chapters of the Abrahamic Covenant, but years have been rolling by chronologically, and so Abram, as we still know him here, has already been waiting 36 years for the promises in Genesis 12 to be fulfilled. And that is that he would have a son, and out of that son would come a special race or nation of people.
Now as we read this don’t get too impatient with the old fellow, because I think most of us would have felt the same way, that God had forgotten that He had given him this promise. 36 years is a long time in any period of time in human history, and no child. Sarai has no signs whatsoever of ever being able to have a child. So finally she’s the one that gives up first in Chapter 16. Now, I’m not going to be able to finish this lesson in this half hour so the conclusion will come in the next lesson. Now as we read, Sarai and Abram’s names will not be changed to Sarah and Abraham until some time later.
“Now Sarai Abram’s wife bare him no children: and she had an handmaid, an Egyptian, whose name was Hagar. 2. And Sarai said unto Abram, Behold now, the LORD hath restrained me from bearing; I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her. And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai.”
Now when we teach this I always make the point, who is totally lacking in this conversation? Well God is. God hasn’t said a word yet. All God has said back in Chapter 12 was:
“And I will make of thee a great nation,”
Now all this had to start with a son. But here in this conversation in Chapter 16, God hasn’t said a word, and that’s why when we get back to Galatians this whole scenario of Hagar and Ishmael is called, “after the flesh.” This is after the flesh, and when Isaac comes along it will be the, “promise of God.” Can you see the difference? God isn’t involved here at this time. Now I know sovereignly He is. I know that the Sovereign God had to be somehow or other controlling the flow of all these events, but nevertheless so far as the text is concerned God has nothing to say about having a child by the slave woman after the flesh. Now don’t forget that. Now verse 3.
“And Sarai Abram’s wife took Hagar her maid the Egyptian, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife. (so that she could have a child by him, and of course she does in verse 4.) 4. And he went in unto Hagar, and she conceived: and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her eyes.”
Now in verse 5, I guess we have to understand the female of the species, and we have to under the customs of the day, and according to the laws of the old Babylonian czar, if a wife could not have a child physically then it was perfectly moral and upright in their culture to have a child then by a servant or slave girl, and that’s what they practiced here. They were not going against morality of their day, but on the other hand God has not told them to do it this way. But they did it in the energy of the flesh, and now is with child, and looks what happens in verse 5.
“And Sarai said unto Abram, My wrong be upon thee: I have given my maid into thy bosom: and when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised (that enters into the make-up of the species) in her eyes: the LORD judge between me and thee.”
Now all of a sudden Hagar was literally making a fool out of Sarai, simply because Hagar was able to bare a child and Sarai wasn’t. And it just infuriated poor Sarai and she said, “the LORD judge between me and thee.” Now verse 6.
“But Abram said unto Sarai, Behold, thy maid is in thy hand: do to her as it pleaseth thee. (and bingo, what happened? Sarai kicks her out. Let’s just put it in plain English.) And when Sarai dealt hardly with her, she fled from her face.”
Because after all Sarai was the boss I guess we’d say, she was the mistress, and so Hagar the Egyptian slave girl fled. Now remember Hagar hasn’t had her child yet. Now verse 7.
“And the angel of the LORD (this was Christ or God the Son in His Old Testament appearance) found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness by the fountain in the way to Shur. 8. And he said, Hagar, Sarai’s maid, whence camest thou? and whither wilt thou go? And she said, I flee from the face of my mistress Sarai. 9. And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Return to thy mistress, and submit thyself under her hands.”
Now that was a command from God. “Go back to Sarai and Abram.” No ifs, ands, or buts about it. Now verse 10.
“And the angel of the LORD said unto her, I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, (that is coming out of Ishmael) that it shall not be numbered for multitude. 11. And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Behold, thou art with child, and shalt bear a son, and shalt call his name Ishmael; because the LORD hath heard thy affliction.”
So Hagar goes back to the tent of Abram or Sarai, and let me explain that. Iris and I had the privilege many, many years ago of visiting a Arab Sheik (I hope I’m pronouncing that right) out in the desert of the Negev and it was a very interesting situation. He served us in what he called his tent, and there really wasn’t much there. But out behind his tent were 4 smaller tents. While he was making coffee for us and we were sitting there on the ground, all of a sudden here come 24 of the prettiest little kids you can imagine. They were all pretty much the same size, and they just about smothered Iris. They tried to get the rings off her fingers and were looking at her hair, and she was just having a ball, and all of a sudden the old fellow just made one bark like a dog and those kids were gone. Well, after we’d had our coffee and we were able to roam around a little bit we saw those 4 tents out behind his tent and we found out that those were his four wives. So if you divide 24 X 4 then they had an average of 6 kids. But it just immediately set the setting for this lesson here.
Now when we speak of Hagar coming back and dwelling with Abram and Sarai, they weren’t in the same tent. The women had their own individual tent out behind Abram’s (and that’s evident when you read a little later when the Lord comes and says that they’re going to have a child). And then Sarai was standing in her tent door as the Lord was dealing with her. You know the account. Just picture that in your mind. Now come on over to Chapter 21. Ishmael is now nearly 14 years old, a typical teenager.
“And the LORD visited Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did unto Sarah as he had spoken. 2. For Sarah conceived, and bare Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him. (now remember Sarah is 90 and Abraham is 100) 3. And Abraham called the name of his son that was born unto him whom Sarah bare to him, Isaac.”
Alright, do you see the difference? This child is a result of God’s promises. God has said you’re going to have a son, and you’re going to call his name Isaac which means laughter. So now we find that the promised child is finally making his appearance. The child of the flesh, Ishmael, is still with them, because that’s where God told Hagar to go, but now you see it’s coming to a head. Now reading on.
“And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac being eight days old, as God had commanded him. 5. And Abraham was an hundred years old, when his son Isaac was born unto him. 6. And Sarah said, God hath made me to laugh, so that all that hear will laugh with me. 7. And she said, Who would have said unto Abraham, that Sarah should have given children suck? for I have born him a son in his old age. 8. and the child grew, and was weaned: and Abraham made a great feast the same day that Isaac was weaned.”
Now I always make a point that chronologically now Isaac has to be 5 years old when he’s weaned, and that of course makes Ishmael about 18 or 19.