I am continuing my series on the book of Galatians today. We are going to look at the difference between works and fruit as Paul describes in Galatians 4:21-31. So many times in modern Christianity, we get confused about what is works and what is fruit. Works is generally defined as trying to earn your salvation and fruit is defined as how well you are keeping the law. This is not at all the definition that Paul was talking about. So let’s take a moment to step back and look at the example that Paul gives concerning the difference between trying to live right with God by keeping the law and trusting in God to produce in you a life that is pleasing to Him.
Hagar And Sarah – An Example Of Works Vs. Fruit
21 Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman, the other by a freewoman. 23 But he who was of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and he of the freewoman through promise, 24 which things are symbolic. For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, 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.
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.”
28 Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise. 29 But, as f he who was born according to the flesh then persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, even so it is now. 30 Nevertheless what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.” 31 So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free.
Now Paul specifically states that the story of Abraham, Hagar, and Sarah are symbolic of the differences between the old testament law and the new covenant. He equates the old testament law to works of the flesh, whereas he equates the new testament as the promise. So lets take a look at this story a little closer and see if we can draw some correlations between this story and our lives today.
Genesis 16:1 Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. And she had an Egyptian maidservant whose name was Hagar. 2 So Sarai said to Abram, “See now, the LORD has restrained me from bearing children. Please, go in to my maid; perhaps I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram heeded the voice of Sarai. 3 Then Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar her maid, the Egyptian, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan. 4 So he went in to Hagar, and she conceived. And when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress became despised in her eyes. 5 Then Sarai said to Abram, “My wrong be upon you! I gave my maid into your embrace; and when she saw that she had conceived, I became despised in her eyes. The LORD judge between you and me.” 6 So Abram said to Sarai, “Indeed your maid is in your hand; do to her as you please.” And when Sarai dealt harshly with her, l she fled from her presence.
Reasons Why People Fall Into A works Mentality
You can see in this passage that there are some very real temptations involved with operating in a works mentality. The first temptation you can see is that Sarah, then called Sarai, decided to take responsibility for fulfilling the promise given by God into her own hands. She decided to make it happen. So she went to Abraham and offered a “human” solution.
The second temptation we can see in this passage about the works mentality is that Hagar became prideful because she seemed to fulfill that promise. Once she conceived, she looked down upon the one that God gave the promise to. Spiritual pride is a very real temptation to operate in with works mentality. It gives you a litmus test to compare yourself to others. Hagar started comparing herself to Sarai and thought she was better and more blessed than Sarai.
Reasons Why People Resist A Fruit Mentality
After Sarai dealt with Hagar, God appeared again and reiterated the promise that had been made earlier. We can once again learn a lot by looking at this passage and seeing how Abraham and Sarah reacted to the promise.
Genesis 17:15 Then God said to Abraham, “Regarding Sarai, your wife – her name will no longer be Sarai. From now on her name will be Sarah. 16 And I will bless her and give you a son from her! Yes, I will bless her richly, and she will become the mother of many nations. Kings of nations will be among her descendants.” 17 Then Abraham bowed down to the ground, but he laughed to himself in disbelief. “How could I become a father at the age of 100?” he thought. “And how can Sarah have a baby when she is ninety years old?”
Genesis 18:1 The Lord appeared again to Abraham near the oak grove belonging to Mamre. One day Abraham was sitting at the entrance to his tent during the hottest part of the day. 2 He looked up and noticed three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he ran to meet them and welcomed them, bowing low to the ground. 3 “My lord,” he said, “if it pleases you, stop here for a while. 4 Rest in the shade of this tree while water is brought to wash your feet. 5 And since you’ve honored your servant with this visit, let me prepare some food to refresh you before you continue on your journey.” “All right,” they said. “Do as you have said.”
6 So Abraham ran back to the tent and said to Sarah, “Hurry! Get three large measures of your best flour, knead it into dough, and bake some bread.” 7 Then Abraham ran out to the herd and chose a tender calf and gave it to his servant, who quickly prepared it. 8 When the food was ready, Abraham took some yogurt and milk and the roasted meat, and he served it to the men. As they ate, Abraham waited on them in the shade of the trees.
9 “Where is Sarah, your wife?” the visitors asked.
“She’s inside the tent,” Abraham replied.
10 Then one of them said, “I will return to you about this time next year, and your wife, Sarah, will have a son!”
Sarah was listening to this conversation from the tent. 11 Abraham and Sarah were both very old by this time, and Sarah was long past the age of having children. 12 So she laughed silently to herself and said, “How could a worn-out woman like me enjoy such pleasure, especially when my master – my husband – is also so old?” 13 Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh? Why did she say, ‘Can an old woman like me have a baby?’ 14 Is anything too hard for the Lord ? I will return about this time next year, and Sarah will have a son.” 15 Sarah was afraid, so she denied it, saying, “I didn’t laugh.”
But the Lord said, “No, you did laugh.”
I believe that the biggest reason that people resist living according to the promise is because they do not see how it can work from a natural viewpoint. In our modern world we have elevated the philosophy of naturalism to such a point that anything that we cannot explain or understand based on our 5 senses is considered laughable. It was the same with Abraham and Sarah. Even though Abraham had just fathered a child by Hagar, he still could not see with his natural understanding how he could father a child by Sarah. He outwardly acted religious by bowing and seeming to accept the word of prophecy given to him, but on the inside he was only thinking with his natural understanding.
Sarah had the same mentality. She laughed at the idea that she could bear a child and also laughed at the idea that her old coot for a husband could even perform up to the task.
It really comes down to this. Is anything to hard for the Lord? The issue is not our ability but God’s ability.
Works Vs. Fruit Today.
The issue today is not whether or not we will have a child of promise. The issue today is whether or not God will transform us from sinners into saints. Will we trust Him to work out His fruit in our lives or whether or not we have to work to produce works of righteousness? Will we pursue our Christian life based on what we can see will work or will we trust Him to do something that we see is too hard to do in the natural without our help?
I recently had an experience of this. I have been single for 13 years now with a few failed relationship during that time. The last one hurt me so bad that I made a covenant with God. I was not going to look anymore. I was done. My woman picker was obviously broken. I told the Lord that He was going to have to bring the woman to me just as He did with Adam. I stopped working and just trusted His promise in
The man who finds a wife finds a treasure, and he receives favor from the Lord .
I trusted that God would bring me His choice and that I would just stumble upon her and “find” her without looking or seeking. I trusted that when that happened I would know I had received favor from the Lord. Well, He did it. It is an amazing story I will tell sometime but here shortly, I will no longer be single.
Now that might not have been a miraculous thing on the outside but listen to the challenge. I would not look. I live in a community of less than 500 people. I pastor the only church in that town. I am restrained by ethical reasons not to date from within my congregation. I can only marry someone who is equally yoked to me spiritually, emotionally, and in calling. Now do you see how it was such a tall order?
So I ask you. Is anything to hard for God? If He can cause Sarah to conceive a son at such an old age, If He can find me a wife that meets the criteria He laid out for me to look for in the middle of nowhere Wyoming, then isn’t He capable of producing in you the fruit that He wants to see in your life to be pleasing to Him and stay in right relationship with Him without your having to work at it to make it happen? I think so.