|Christian Life and Doctrine||April 1987|
Sarah and Her Child
ABRAHAM had three wives: Sarah, his original spouse; then later, Hagar, Sarah’s maid whom she urged upon him as a supposed assistance to God in the carrying out of the covenant after a long delay and waiting; and third, after Sarah’s death, Abraham took Keturah to wife giving inheritance to her many children, while by the primary wife and the maid, there was but one each.
The apostle’s language, in Galatians, chapter three, justifies us in considering this matter allegorical, or typical. The Holy Spirit, through St. Paul, tells us that Sarah represented the essence of the original covenant, and that Hagar represented the Law Covenant. He explains that the Jewish people were in bondage under their Law Covenant and therefore the antitypes of Ishmael, Hagar’s son. And he also tells us that these were cast out from divine favor, even as Hagar and her son were cast off from Abraham’s family by divine instruction, to make the type complete. The apostle introduces this lesson to show us that the covenant of grace, under which the Gospel church is developed, has nothing whatever to do with the covenant of the Law; that the two were separate and distinct.
Hagar’s child might indeed appear to be the child of Sarah for a time, but it was not, even as Sarah’s child, Isaac, was in no sense Hagar’s son. The apostle’s argument is, “So, then, brethren, we, as Isaac was, are the children of the promise”—the original covenant, and not children of the Law Covenant. Similarly, we fancy, the apostle, if writing today to those who claim to be under the New Covenant, represented in the type by Keturah, would tell them plainly, “You cannot be children of two covenants, children of two mothers.” If you are children of the Keturah Covenant in any sense or degree, you cannot be children of the Sarah Covenant; and if you are children of the Sarah Covenant, then in no sense or degree can you be the children of the Keturah Covenant, or New Covenant—which is not yet in existence.
The original covenant with Abraham, typified by his wife, Sarah, is the one which God bound with an oath, and which the apostle describes in Hebrews 6:13-20 and which he calls “the hope set before us in the Gospel,” and our “anchor sure and steadfast within the veil.” We, then, are the children of the oath of God, the children of the promise. Our begetting promise, through Christ to the new nature is wholly different from the promise by which the Jews were made the house of servants; and wholly different also from the promises by which restored Israel and all the families of the earth will be brought forth to the human nature through restitution processes, as the children of the Keturah Covenant.
What is the difference between the promises by which we came into the family of God, and the promise by which others may come into the family of God hereafter? We answer, the differences are very great indeed. God will not deal with the world directly during the Millennial Age. He has committed all things to his Son, and the Son, in harmony with the divine program during this Gospel Age, has been accepting as his members such as the Father has drawn to him, granting them the spirit of adoption (sonship) and thus bringing them into new spirit relationship. No such promises will prevail in the begetting of other children of God, the other sheep which are not of this fold. (John 10:16) These children of the oath, or children of the promise of God, are the special “little flock” (Luke 12:32) to whom it is the Father’s good pleasure to give the kingdom, as the Master declares.
On what basis, different from that of the world, are these acceptable to God? We answer that the world will be accepted only when they reach actual perfection, under the processes of restitution at the close of the Millennial Age. The Father will have no dealing with the world until, mankind being perfect at the end of the millennium, Christ shall deliver up the kingdom to the Father. Then men will fall into the hands of the living God, but be perfectly secure because of their perfection, if they are at heart loyal to God and the principles of his government.
Jesus Christ (and his bride and joint-heir) will stand as “mediator between God and men” (I Tim. 2:5) during the millennium. All of mankind’s communications and relationship to God must come to them through Messiah, and all of God’s dealing and relationship with mankind will be in and through the Messiah. How different from that is the dealing of God with the church of this age, “Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise.” (Gal. 3:29) These are drawn by the Father, as Jesus declares, “No man can come unto me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him.”—John 6:44
Some of our Lord’s followers were drawn to him by the Father before he had completed the sacrifice for sins at Calvary, and others have been drawn throughout the Gospel Age, as the apostle declares, “even so many as the Lord your God shall call.” (Acts 2:39) Here is a reversal of the divine purpose. The Gospel church, under the Abrahamic Covenant arrangement, are drawn to the Son by the Father. (John 6:37) The world, in the next age, the Father will not draw, but the Lord Jesus will draw them to himself. “I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me” (John 12:32), and whoever comes unto me, drawn by the Father, I will in no wise cast out. And even after the Son draws them unto himself, he must, as the mediator, keep them unto himself until he shall have instructed them, disciplined them, and made their knees to bow and their lips to confess, and taught them the necessary lessons and brought them back to all that was lost, before the Father will have any direct relationship with them, at the close of the Millennial Age.
Who will say that the children of the free woman, the Sarah Covenant, have not a great advantage every way over the children of Keturah. And, not only have they this more favorable reception of the Father, but they receive directly his begetting to the spirit plane. As we read, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” (I Pet. 1:3) These are his elect, as the apostle says, “whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.”—Rom. 8:29
Why should God make such a difference in his dealings? Surely there is a logical reason connected with the matter, if we can but ascertain it. And surely it is true that the “Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants.” (Amos 3:7) If all mankind had been at heart Israelites indeed, there would have been no need of a mediator and a New Covenant. The Abrahamic Covenant would have been quite sufficient. It is because the world of mankind is estranged from God, rebellious against the divine law, and lovers of sin, that the mediatorial work is a necessary one. The great mediator, Head and members, after making “an atonement for the sins of all the people” (Lev. 16:3), at the close of this age, will take all the people in hand. Through education in righteousness an opportunity will be afforded for every knee to bow and every tongue to confess, in harmony with the divine arrangements.
All men are sinners and all are children of wrath and under divine sentence of death, but there are other respects in which all are not alike. Some hate the chains of sin, wherein they are held, and long for freedom and for reconciliation to God, while others love the sin and are estranged from God. God is not in their thoughts. Here, then, we have the ground for the difference in God’s dealings with the two classes. He takes note of those who are weary and heavy laden, and these, feeling after God if haply they might find him, he is pleased to draw to Jesus during this Gospel Age. At his hand, through the knowledge of the truth, they may be justified and become acceptable, if they will suffer with him now as members of his body. Then they will reign with him by and by. The ungodly are not drawn or called to consecration with the high calling of this Gospel Age, but left to be dealt with by their Redeemer when he shall assume the office of mediator between God and men—the world.
But is it not scripturally declared of believers that “We were enemies of God through wicked works”? (Col. 1:21) And, does not that place them on the same level with the world, in enmity against God? We answer, there is a difference. Many in the world are real enemies against God, not merely in respect to their works being imperfect, such as he cannot accept, but also and specially because their hearts are estranged from him. They love unrighteousness. The ones he calls are from those who, though enemies through wicked works, are not enemies at heart. God, who reads the heart, deals with them from that standpoint and leads them to Christ, that the merit of his sacrifice may offset the demerits of their sin and their imperfect or wicked works.
There is a difference between atonement for sin, and mediation between God and the sinner. There are certain senses in which we might correctly say that the person who made atonement for the sins of another was his mediator, but this is not the scriptural use of the word mediator. The Bible speaks of Christ as the mediator of a covenant, not as a mediator for sins. However true it is that he mediated an atonement for the sins of the world, that is not a scriptural form of statement. Believers, as well as all the world, need to have an atonement made for their sins as a basis for reconciliation to the Father. But believers are under a covenant which needs no mediator, as Paul distinctly points out. “A mediator is not of one.” (Gal. 3:20) That is to say, where a covenant has only one side to it, it does not have, nor require, a mediator. On the contrary, covenants which have conditions demand a mediator, as, for instance, Moses was the mediator of the Law Covenant, and Christ will be the mediator of the New Covenant. Under both of these covenants there is a conditional proposition: “If ye will do those things, I will do this thing. If ye will obey my laws and keep my statutes, I will bless you,” etc.
Let us notice carefully why the original, or Sarah Covenant, “the mother of us all” (Gal. 4:6), needed no mediator. It was because in it God made no conditional promises. They were all unconditional to whoever would become the seed. “In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.” (Gen. 12:3; 26:4) There are no conditions in that promise, and, hence, there would be nothing for a mediator to set straight. God himself undertook to choose who should constitute the seed of Abraham. He chose our Lord Jesus to be the “head over all things to the church, which is his body” (Eph. 1:22,23), and he foreordained, and in harmony with that forordination, chose and called throughout this age, such as he desired might have the privilege of membership in that seed of Abraham. There was no place for a mediator in connection with it, for God did his own selecting. As it is written, we are God’s workmanship; “The Father himself loveth you”; “Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me”; “No man can come unto me except the Father which hath sent me draw him.”—Eph. 2:1; John 16:27; 17:11; 6:44
[Condensed from Reprints, pp. 4367-4368.]