Most North American Christians have heard of The Purpose Driven Church or The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. I don't want to tear apart Warren's work. There are plenty of others out there that already make their entire ministry about doing so. I would only dream of reaching as many people with the Gospel as Warren has. Really his work has challenged me to think deeper.
I wonder as I reflect on Galatians 4:21-31. Should “purpose” be the driving force in our lives and in the church? Do we need purpose and meaning in life? Absolutely! Too many of us wander through life without direction or any real purpose. The truth is that God has a purpose for all of us. But should purpose really be what drives us?
In Galatians Paul uses Sara and Hagar's story allegorically to explain a situation in Galatia. Notice all the pairs that He uses: Sara and Hagar, Isaac and Ishmael, slavery and freedom, law and grace , Flesh and spirit/promise
He writes in vs. 21 to those that are seeking to be justified by works of the law: Tell me, you who want to be under law, do you not listen to the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the bondwoman and one by the free woman. In vs. 23 he tells us the son by the bondwoman was born according to the flesh (or born in the ordinary way) and the son by the free woman through the promise
From the account in Genesis we are told that God promised Abraham that he would have a child and would be a Father of many nations. As time went on Sara reasoned that she was getting old and unable to bear child so she asked Abraham to sleep with their servant Hagar. The birth of Ishmael is not just an example of a natural pregnancy (Nothing supernatural was needed for it to take place). But his birth is an example of someone trying to help God. It is an example of God’s people understanding part of God’s purposes but not functioning through His Promise. Paul goes on to show that the slave woman and the freewoman as well as their children could not co-exist. Only children of the freewoman are heirs to the promise. The children of the slave woman are to be slaves according to Gal 4:24. Slavery to the law results from us looking at what God wants for our life and trying externally to make our life look like that by following a set of rules. It’s not the same thing as the transformation that takes place when Christ is formed within you through the work of the Holy Spirit.
Do not read modern Jewish/Arab relations into this. You will miss the point. Paul is arguing that you are either a child of the slave woman or the free woman. You are either functioning from the flesh or the spirit. You are either driven by the law or by the promise
The Judaizers attempts to force the Gentiles to live as Jews were much like Abraham’s choice to have a child with Hagar. Both could argue that they were attempting to fulfill God’s purposes. You could say they were purpose driven. They were not called to be purpose driven but promise driven. The law and God’s purposes for our lives are good they give us guidance and direction. But they do not empower us. All the purpose and law in the world can’t save us or make us Holy. That is God’s job and he does it through a promise.
Isaac was a child of the promise. He was conceived when there was no hope. Abraham and Sara were well beyond child bearing years. All of this was done not because of anything great that they did. Read their stories. Family therapists make a living off of people with histories such as theirs. The promises took place because of the irrevocable nature of a promise given by God. Why would we put our hope anywhere else than in the promises of God? God declares things to be and they are so. The same God that created the world out of nothing, allowed Sara to give birth at 90, had his son born of a virgin is the same God that empowers us today.
Psalms 119:140 Your promises have been thoroughly tested, and your servant loves them.
Be a promise driven Church. Live the promise driven life.