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With New Testament Eyes: 4 - Sarah and Hagar; Law and Grace

By Henry Mahan

      Genesis 4:21-31

      There are no two things in the Bible more different than law and grace, which is nothing more than salvation by our works or salvation by free grace through the obedience and death of our Lord Jesus. The first assignment in learning the gospel is to learn the difference between law and grace. He who learns the lesson well can call himself a theologian.

      Paul calls the story of Sarah and Hagar an allegory (Gal. 4:24). An allegory is a story in which the characters are used to picture other real characters and real actions.

      God promised Abraham a son by his true wife, Sarah. Time passed and no son was born; so Sarah gave her servant, Hagar, to Abraham to bear him a son. Ishmael was born to Hagar by Abraham. In due time the promised son, Isaac, was born to Sarah. The son of the servant, Hagar, mocked Isaac and proved that the two could not live together; so Hagar and Ishmael had to be put out of the household. Isaac reigned alone as the heir of Abraham.

      Paul said that these two women represent the two covenants. Hagar, the servant, represents the covenant of law, works, and ceremonies from Mt. Sinai. In the covenant of law and works God says, 'Do this and live.' Sarah, the true wife of Abraham, represents God's eternal covenant of grace in Christ Jesus. This covenant was first, was from all eternity, was not made between God and men but between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Heb. 7:22; Heb. 13:20; John 17:2-3). The covenant of grace says, 'Do this, O Christ, and men shall live.' God gives eternal life without works from men (Rom. 3:19-24).

      Though Hagar bore the first son, as the covenant of works gave us fallen Adam and a depraved race, yet Sarah was the original and first wife of Abraham, as the covenant of grace was the first covenant. The covenant of works was revealed first: but before there was ever a sinner, there was a covenant of grace and its surety, Christ Jesus. Jesus Christ was the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8; Rev. 17:8; 1 Peter 1:18-21). We were chosen in Christ before the world began (Eph. 1:3-4; 2 Thess. 2:13).

      Hagar was never intended to be the wife of Abraham, nor was Ishmael that seed which was promised. Hagar was the handmaid of Sarah. So the law was never given nor intended to save anyone. It was only a handmaid to grace to point men to Christ, the seed (Gal. 3:21-29; Gal. 3:16). The law properly used is a blessing. It shows our sins, our inability; it shuts men up to Christ. If the law is the servant to grace, that's well and good; but when the law tries to be the master or on equal footing with grace, it must go! (Gal. 4:30-31.)

      Hagar was never free and Sarah was never in bondage. The covenant of works and none of her children are free. All who live by the law are under the curse (Gal. 3:10-13). But the seed of Abraham by faith are free: 'for if the Son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.'

      Hagar must be cast out as well as her son (Heb. 10:1-10).

      The covenant of works has ceased, being fulfilled by Christ. It cannot have a place in the redemption and reign of Christ Jesus. Nor is he a son of Abraham who is one by flesh or natural birth. He is a son of Abraham who is one by faith in Jesus Christ (Rom. 2:28-29; Gal. 3:7-9, 16, 29).

      As the two women are types of the two covenants, so the two sons are types of those who live under each covenant.

      Ishmael is the man who trusts his works and seeks a righteousness before God by his deeds. Isaac is the man born supernaturally of God (John 1:13), brought to faith in Christ, and walks in the spirit, not the flesh, whose wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption is Christ (1 Cor. 1:30; Col. 2:9- 10).

      Ishmael is the older, as the old man is older than the new man created in Christ Jesus. We are all born flesh first, then born again with that new nature which lives forever.

      Ishmael is the son of the flesh; Isaac is the son by divine power. We are all born sons of men, then sons of God.

      Ishmael's attitude toward Isaac (Gal. 3:29) is the same attitude the legalist displays toward sons of grace today. You will never find a free-will legalist to be tolerant toward the gospel of grace. The gospel of grace destroys his very foundation, which is merit, not mercy!

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See Also:
   Foreward & Acknowledgements
   1 - The Fall
   2 - Abel's Offering
   3 - The Ark Of Noah
   4 - Sarah and Hagar; Law and Grace
   5 - The Lord Will Provide
   6 - A Bride for the Heir
   7 - Bethel - The House of God
   8 - Peniel - The Face of God
   9 - Joseph Opens the Storehouses
   10 - Joseph and His Brothers
   11 - Shiloh
   12 - The Passover
   13 - The Manna
   14 - Water from the rock
   15 - The Blood Before the Lord
   16 - The Ram of Consecration
   17 - The Day of Atonement
   18 - Caleb - The Faithful Dog
   19 - The High Priest Intercedes
   20 - The Brazen Serpent
   21 - A Prophet Like Moses
   22 - The Cities of Refuge
   23 - Joshua
   24 - The Scarlet Line in the Window
   25 - The birth of Samson
   26 - The Kinsman Redeemer
   27 - The Song of Hannah
   28 - Give us a King
   29 - Saul's Great Sin
   30 - David and Mephibosheth
   31 - Why God Permitted David to Fall
   32 - Comfort from God's Covenant
   33 - I Will Not Offer to God that which Cost me Nothing
   34 - The Queen of Sheba Comes to Solomon
   35 - Three Examples of Faith
   36 - Where is the Lord God of Elijah?
   37 - Empty Vessels Filled
   38 - Naaman, the Leper
   39 - Open his Eyes that He may See
   40 - Four Lepers Teach us a Lesson
   41 - Nehushtan--A Piece of Brass
   42 - Bringing Back the Ark
   43 - Uzziah's Great Transgression
   44 - Four Things Learned in Trouble
   45 - How Can Man be Just With God?
   46 - Three Vital Questions
   47 - I Know that my Redeemer Liveth
   48 - Now Mine Eye Seeth Thee
   49 - The Psalm of Messiah the King
   50 - God's two great books
   51 - The Psalm of the Cross
   52 - The Lord is my Shepherd
   53 - True God - True Israel - True Redeemer
   54 - Eight Great Precepts
   55 - My Hope is in Thee
   56 - Many, O Lord, Are Thy Wonderful Works
   57 - A Song of Love
   58 - The Sinner's Prayer
   59 - My Rock and my Salvation
   60 - Our Lord's Sufferings for Our Sins
   61 - Mercy and Truth are Met Together
   62 - The Victory of the Messiah
   63 - Bless the Lord, O my Soul
   64 - Let the Redeemed of the Lord Say So
   65 - The King-Priest
   66 - The Chief Cornerstone
   67 - The Observer and the Observed
   68 - Praise the Lord O my Soul
   69 - Wisdom in Christ
   70 - The Conclusion of the Whole Matter
   71 - Remember Now Thy Creator
   72 - My Beloved is Mine and I am His
   73 - What is Thy Beloved more than Another Beloved?
   74 - The Lord Our Righteousness
   75 - The Believers Hope
   76 - From Nothing to Everything
   77 - Lost, Driven Away, Broken, Sick
   78 - Can These Bones Live?
   79 - Four Things God Taught Nebuchadnezzar
   80 - Thy God Will Deliver Thee
   81 - Hosea--Type of Christ
   82 - A Famine to be Feared
   83 - Salvation is of the Lord
   84 - A Fountain Opened for Mourners
   85 - The Messenger of the Covenant


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