Firstborn Sonship

Vol 24 No 03
March 1999
Slave Sons in a Slave Sonship
Series Number: 5


      This allegory in Gal 4 very explicitly in no uncertain terms foreshadows a sonship of slavery in very striking contrast to a sonship of freedom. This theme runs throughout the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, and the distinction between the firstborn sonship and the servant sonship has been terribly distorted and has no significance in contemporary theology.


      19 "My little children, for whom I am travailing in birth AGAIN until Christ is formed in you," Gal 4:19.
      The tone of this entire letter of Galatians is that of urgency be-cause of the perverted gospel the Galatian churches were adopting, Gal 1 & 2. Paul, who so thoroughly understood the resurrection birth and the transformation of the mind and lifestyle required for that birth, is here (Gal 4:19) also referring to the current transformation of both the mind and lifestyle as suffering birth pains.
      That is, the transformation of both mind and lifestyle is also a travailing in birth process as we bear about in our mortal body the dying of the Lord that the life of Christ may be manifest in our daily life, 2Co 4:7-12; 1Co 15:31; 2Ti 2:10-13; Rom 8:36. "As it is written: "For Your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter," Rom 8:36.


      19 "My little children, for whom I am travailing in birth again until Christ is formed (morphothe) in you, 20 "I would like to be present with you now and to change my tone; for I have doubts about you," Gal 4:19.
      The image of Christ had been formed in the Galatian church members when Paul and Barnabas first established them in the faith. However, emissaries out of the Jerusalem church (as in Act 15) were persuading them to try to keep both the Law Covenant and the New Covenant, Gal 4:19–5:4.
      The Law Covenant would put them back under the curse, under the condemnation, wrath of God, death sentence, yoke of slavery, etc., of the Law Covenant, Gal 5:1-4. This would cut them off from Christ, from the freedom of Christ, and from all that is promised in all the covenants, Gal 5:1-4; 3:10. This would destroy the "form" (the image) of Christ in their minds and in their manner of life.
      God's first purpose in the Law Covenant was to emphasize to the covenant people and to all mankind that man in his natural state is "dead in sins," and therefore dead (separated) from God. This passage (Gal 4:19– 5:4), along with many, many others, makes it necessary for us to understand that there are two major groups of saved people in God's redemptive plan: 1) those who are slave sons, and, 2) those who are free sons.
      The free sons are the faithful covenant people, while the slave sons are saved people who either have never entered into covenant relationship with God or who within the covenants have become unfaithful to covenant requirements. That is what we have in the dichotomy of this allegory. Unsaved people are not under consideration at all in this passage.


      21 "Tell me, you who desire to be under the Law, do you not hear the Law?" Gal 5:21.
      The Law Covenant has many very important things to say, and though we are not under the Law Covenant we need to study it thoroughly and listen very closely to what it says. Paul is writing to saved covenant people in the Lord's churches, therefore the meaning of the many ordinances of the Law Covenant has a very direct application to us. Furthermore, Paul wrote these words to New Covenant people long after the Law Covenant had fulfilled its purpose as a governing economy and was set aside; therefore, again, the Law Covenant still has some very important things to say to us – very important indeed for a proper understanding of all the covenants!


      Abraham was the husband of both Sarah and Hagar and therefore the father of both Isaac and Ishmael. To better reveal His eternal purpose in producing two kinds of sons, God permitted Abraham to take Hagar as a concubine in order to produce this vital part of the allegory, and thereby express this secondary, slavery sonship with much greater clarity and emphasis. Abraham representing God in the allegory is similar to any and every husband representing Christ as the Bridegroom. The allegory, however, is meaningless if we do not clearly grasp that God's purpose in the beginning in creating mankind was and is to produce two immeasurably different kinds of sons from the same human stock. This allegory does not represent a "patch up" job, but is a very meaningful part of God's eternal purpose before creation.
      Every husband is required by the covenants to be like Abraham and like Christ to bear and rear free firstborn children like Isaac, and every wife is required by the covenants to be like Sarah to bear and rear free firstborn children like Isaac. This can be done only if we are constantly looking into the mirror of God's Word and are thereby constantly having our minds renewed so that the Holy Spirit can transform our minds to reflect the image of Christ in our daily lives, Rom 12:1-2; 2Co 3:17-18; 1Pe 3:1-7; Deu 6:4-9.


      22 "For it is written that Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman, the other by a freewoman," Gal 4:22.
      God purposely caused Sarah to be barren and permitted her to suggest to Abraham to take Hagar and have the promised son by this slave woman. God did this to produce this very important dichotomy of sonships: that of a slave son and that of a free son; and this was done that God may portray in an allegory His eternal purpose in generating two very different kinds of sons in all ages to come.
      There will be slave sons who will forever be enslaved to the elements (rudiments) of this physical world, and there will also be sons who will be free from the physical laws of the universe, Gal 4:3,9,21-31; Col 2:8,20–3:10; Eph 4:22-24; 2Pe 1:4-11; 1Co 15:1-2,44-50; et al. Paul was urgently warning the saved Galatian church members that they were in grave danger of forfeiting (aborting) the free firstborn sonship of Christ.
      We must remember that the Law Covenant condemns, curses, enslaves, and cuts one off from the firstborn sonship of Christ, Gal 4:21–5:4. When this happens, the saved person is still saved, but will be a mere flesh son enslaved in a mere flesh body forever in the nations on the new earth, Rev 21:23-26; 22:1-2; Mt 18:17; Rom 11:11-22; Jn 15:1-6; et al.


      23 "But he who was of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and he of the freewoman through promise," Gal 4:23.

    1. After the Flesh

      Abraham and Hagar gave birth to Ishmael after the normal pattern of conception and birth. It was a natural birth with nothing miraculous and supernatural about it. The result was what God planned: a natural, earthy, slave son born through a slave woman to represent God bearing earthy, slave sons (slaves to the physical universe) through the instrument of the covenants, beginning with the covenant with Adam, and magnified in the Law Covenant versus New Covenant. The Law Covenant was and is holy, just, good, and spiritual (Rom 7:12,14), but when applied to sinful flesh it produced a flesh walk, Rom 7:7-25; Gal 5:16-26. The Law Covenant therefore represents the earthy, while the New Covenant represents the spiritual and heavenly, 2Co 3; Heb 7:16; Rom 7:7-25.

    2. According to Promise

      God promised Abraham and Sarah a son and they looked forward with great anticipation, hoping against hope for that precious heir which God so solemnly promised, but God made them wait until there was no earthly hope possible. The promise and the hope were based upon miraculous divine intervention: God had to perform a miracle for this birth to take place.
      A living hope is set before us of the birth of our earthy, flesh body into a spirit, heavenly, divine body in the resurrection when Christ returns, 1Co 15:1-2,44-55; 1Pe 1:3-5; Col 1:5,21-23,27; et al. The faithful covenant people are the "children of promise," but we can forfeit that firstborn sonship: we can abort this divine birth, as this allegory (Gal 4:21-31) and its application (Gal 4:19–5:4) unequivocally reveal.
      We must faithfully endure through our assigned period of testing, proving, and qualifying. We must desire that divine sonship as much as Abraham and Sarah passionately desired the birth of the promised son, though God would provide that son after all earthly hope was gone and divine intervention was required. We must be transformed from an earthy mind-set into one that reveals a persevering faith and one that reflects the image of Christ, 2Co 3:17-18; 4:1-18; 5:1-21; Phi 3:7-14,21; Rom 8:1-32; Mt 19:16-30; Heb 12:1-29; et al.


      24 "Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar," Gal 4:34.
      We will now enumerate the things Hagar represents and the things Sarah represents in the symbolism.

    1. Hagar and the Law Covenant

      "...the one from mount Sinai, which gives birth to bondage," Hagar gave birth to a slave son according to this allegory. Again, Abraham represents God giving birth to sons who will be forever enslaved in an earthy body: enslaved to the elementary laws of the universe, Gal 4:3,9, 21-31; Col 2:8–3:10.
      Neither this allegory (Gal 4:21-31) nor its application (Gal 4:19; 5:1-4) is arbitrary, but were predestined by God before creation, Ex 4:22-23; 19:4-6; Deu 7:6; 14:2; 26:18; Mal 3:17; 1Pe 2:9; Titus 2:14; Eph 1:5-6,11,14; Act 2:23; Rom 8:17-30; 9:4; 11:11-22; 1Pe 1:18-20.
      These passages reveal that God is working all things according to His purpose which He purposed before the creation. We must understand that past, present, and future are all present with God at all times. Time is also God's creation. God's divine person is not governed by time, though He appointed time related matters, and abides by His appointment. It appears necessary for us to understand that we and all creation have always existed in the mind of God and in the actual experience of God. God is infinite and omniscient – His knowledge and experience have never been limited. They did not evolve in a time capsule over eons of time.
      This allegory says Hagar gave birth to Ishmael as a slave son, and the application of the allegory is that the saved and scripturally baptized Galatian church members (covenant people), by trying to keep the Law Covenant along with the New Covenant, would be cut off from Christ and lose everything involved in the freedom of the firstborn sonship of Christ, Gal 4:19–5:4. That is precisely what the curse, condemnation, and enslavement the Law Covenant requires. The saved person would still be saved and be in the nations on the new earth (Mt 18:17; Rom 11:11-22; 1Co 3:15; Rev 21:23-26; 22:1-2), but would never share in the firstborn sonship of Christ.
      Mount Sinai in Arabia, the Jerusalem that now is, and the Law Covenant are associated together with the curse and condemnation from the covenant promises, and also with enslavement to the physical world (the earthy, material world) to which all these belong.

    2. Sarah and the New Covenant

      26 "But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all," Gal 4:26.
      Sarah represents the New Covenant, the New Jerusalem, and the freedom of the firstborn sonship of Christ.
      Hagar represents flesh works under the Law Covenant, a flesh walk under the Law Covenant, the "old man," separation from the promises of the covenants, and enslavement to the earthy – an earth bound sonship. The second application of the Law Covenant was a "by grace through faith" (bring your lamb) application with a view to deliverance from that covenant into the New Covenant, but the blood of bulls and goats only postponed that deliverance, Rom 3:25-26; Heb 9:12-16; 10:1-4. The blood of bulls and goats did not remove the curse, condemnation, death from Christ sentence, and enslavement to the material world which the Law Covenant required of those who broke its commandments.
      Sarah represents the New Covenant, God's works in us "by grace through faith," by deliverance from all the above by the miraculous virgin yet human birth of Christ, His perfect life as the second Adam in a human earthy body, His crucifixion, death, burial, and His new birth resurrection into a heavenly, spirit, divine body. Sarah represents God giving birth to all the faithful covenant people in all ages through the altogether by grace through faith principle in all the covenants. This birth is into the divine freedom and divine inheritance of the firstborn sonship of Christ.


      27 "For it is written: ‘Rejoice, O barren, You who do not bear! Break forth and shout, You who are not in labor! For the desolate has many more children than she who has a husband,'" Gal 4:27.
      This is a quotation from Isa 54:1, and was first applied to Israel as the covenant people. The quotation and context speak of God (Elohim) as the husband of Israel. Is God the Father the husband of the covenant people or is Christ the husband of the covenant people? It makes no difference for they will all be "one" entity, without erasing individual identity, after the resurrection into the divine body and divine oneness, within which all the firstborn sons will possess all the fullness of deity, Eph 5:31-32; 1:22-23; 3:19; Col 1:19; 2:9-10; 2Pe 1:4; Jn 10:30-36; 14:8-11; 17:21-23; et al.
      All the faithful covenant people from the first Adam on will be one and the same covenant people, will share in the firstborn sonship with Christ as the bride of Christ, and will be joint heirs with Christ above the angels and above all creation, Rom 4:13; 8:17,32; 1Co 3:21-23; 6:3; Heb 1:14; 2:5. This is represented in the faithful covenant people being the bride of Christ; "they two shall be one flesh," Eph 5:31.
      The New Covenant and the New Jerusalem have only one son right now, but after the resurrection they will have many more sons than the earthly Jerusalem and the Law Covenant have ever had at any one time, and probably all time put together.


      28 "Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise," Gal 4:28.
      Isaac was fortunate to be born of Sarah and not of Hagar. However, though that meant Ishmael's descendants could not be the line of promised descendants, it did not exclude Ishmael individually or any of his descendants individually from seeking God by grace through faith and qualifying for the firstborn sonship of Christ as any other Gentile could or can do.
      The "will" of every human being is a slave of sin, with no exceptions, and is utterly unable to make Godward decisions. However, God works through nature and through human instrumentality and brings every rational human to the point where, by God's amazing grace, every person can believe and be saved from going to hell, Ps 19:1-6; Ps 40:10; 65:5; 67:7; 98:3; Jn 1:9; Act 14:16-17; 17:26-28; Rom 10:18; 1:18-20.
      In addition to that, to be one of God's elect and share in the firstborn sonship of Christ, one must believe and continue to walk daily by grace through faith, 2Pe 1:5-10; Rom 11:11-22. God chose Abraham because He knew Abraham would persevere by grace through faith:
      17 "And the LORD said, ‘Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing, 18 "'Since Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? 19 "'For I have known him, that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the LORD, to do righteousness and justice, that the LORD may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him,'" Gen 18:17-19.
      The same is true with Isaac, Gen 26:1-5. The same with Jacob, Gen 28:10-22. The same with Joseph, Gen 37:1-11. In each of these and all other cases God knew they would yield to His grace and humbly obey and serve Him according to His plan. The past, the present, and the future are all always present with God. Time is His creation, not His master.
      All creation, all things that have ever happened, are happening, and will ever happen in all eternity, every track made by every creature, every flapping of the wings made by every bird, every swishing of the tail of every fish, the movement and erosion of inanimate matter – all these have been in the mind of God and are experienced by God eternally, or else there would have been a time when God was not omniscient and infinite. God himself, in that impossible scenario, would be evolving and growing in knowledge, in experience, and in other ways.
      Paul was telling the Galatian churches that the Law Covenant had served its purpose as a tutoring school master and governing economy, (Gal 3:24-25; 4:1-2), and that they had been redeemed from the Law Covenant, Gal 4:5. They had been "children of promise" under the curse, condemnation, and enslavement of the Law Covenant (Gal 3:10; 4:21-31), but now were redeemed from all that into the freedom of the deified body of Christ under the New Covenant, Gal 4:4-7,21-31; 5:1-5.
      To return to the Law Covenant would cut them off from the deified Christ and from all the covenants – even from the Law Covenant to which they were returning. The Law Covenant, without exception, cursed, condemned, and pronounced wrath and the death sentence of separation from Christ. Those who returned to the Law Covenant would no longer be "children of promise" (freeborn sons), but slaveborn flesh sons, and therefore eternally earth-bound beings, Gal 4:19–5:4.


      24 "Which things are an allegory. For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to slavery, which is Hagar -- 25 "For this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children – 26 "But the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all," Gal 4:25-26.
      Paul warns the Galatian churches against trying to keep the Law Covenant because it produced slave sons and foreshadowed an eternal slave sonship. Should the Galatian churches (or anyone else) persist in trying to keep the Law Covenant they would fall under the curse, condemnation, etc., of the Law Covenant. This curse and condemnation would require that they be cut off from Christ, from all the covenants, and from the firstborn sonship of Christ, promised to all the faithful covenant people in all the covenants. The saved and scripturally baptized Galatian church members would no longer be "firstborn" sons. The curse, condemnation, and wrath of the Law Covenant would not send the Galatian church members to hell; rather, they would end up as servant sons serving the firstborn sons, and would forever be slaves of the elementary laws of the physical universe, Gal 4:3,9; Col 2:8,20-21. The glory of God belongs to the faithful covenant people only:
      4 "Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises (covenant promises, Rom 9:4; Eph 2:12): that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust," 2Pe 1:4.
      7 "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap. 8 "For he that is sowing to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that is sowing to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. 9 "And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not," Gal 6:7-9.
      We reap what we sow in this life, but the emphasis here is on reaping when Christ returns – we must not faint, but continue constantly sowing to the Spirit in well doing by grace through faith. The unfaithful saved will reap corrupt flesh bodies, while the bodies of the faithful covenant people will be swallowed up by divine life and escape the corruption of the flesh, 2Pe 1:4; 2Co 4:17--5:5.
      Paul is still warning the Galatians churches about trying to keep the Law Covenant. The Law Covenant was holy, just, and good, but when applied to sinners (saved or lost, church members or otherwise) the Law Covenant produces flesh works, with no exceptions, because the Law Covenant in its first requirement and application was "not of faith", Gal 3:12. The Law Covenant required everyone under the Law Covenant to perform perfect works in the flesh body, which no one could do, except Christ. This left every Israelite under the curse and condemnation of the Law Covenant, with the divinely appointed result that the whole world may recognize that they are all sinners, Rom 3:9-19.
      However, although the Law Covenant was not of faith, yet it required faith through the offering of animal sacrifices which portrayed Christ as the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world, Jn 1:29,36; 1Pe 1:18-21. Because the Israelites (all of them) broke the Law (Ja 2:10), they were required to offer animal sacrifices every morning and evening, on the day of atonement (Ex 29:38-41; Lev 16; Num 28:1-4), and on a great many other occasions, Lev chapters 1 through 7. Though Satan and man's sin nature succeeded in blinding many to the true faith-significance of the animal sacrifices, there were many who understood the animal sacrifices to mean that God would send a kinsman Redeemer who would take away the sin of the world, Job 19:25-27; Isa 53. Furthermore, the ordinance of circumcision required a circumcised heart – a heart of faith-obedience, a daily pursuing of the righteousness of the Law Covenant (God's righteousness) by grace through faith, Deu 10:16; 30:6; Jer 4:4; 9:26; Eze 44:7,9; Act 7:51; Rom 2:28-29; 9:30-33.
      See also, Deu 30:11-14 (Rom 10:5-8); Lk 1:5-6; Rom 3:27-30. 30 "What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith; 31 "But Israel, pursuing the Law of righteousness, has not attained to the Law of righteousness. 32 "Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the Law (by flesh works). For they stumbled at that stumbling stone. 33 "As it is written: "Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense, And whoever is constantly believing on Him will not be put to shame."