INTRO.- Are two better than one? It depends on what you're talking about.
ILL.- It's been three years ago that my daughter and her family visited us. You may recall an incident that I told you about and maybe not. I offered to wash their car so my son-in-law, Chris, and I went to the car wash behind Wal-mart on Parker St. On the way home we stop at the traffic light on Southwest drive. Directly in front of us were two sport bikes waiting for the light to turn green. One of those guys put his brake on and did a burnout, smoking the air and spraying tire rubber on the windshield of our van.
When he finished smoking his rear tire, I immediately got out of the van and walked up to him, saying, "What in the world do you think you're doing?" (and he was bigger and younger than me!). He said, "Well, cry me a blankety blank river!"
And instantly, an angel appeared. Not exactly an angel but an angelic Jonesboro Police officer. His car was setting to our left and he had witnessed the whole incident. He asked us all to drive into the BP station to the right of us. My son-in-law quizzed me, "What does he want us for?" I said, "I don't know. Let's go." When we pulled into the station I got out and the officer asked, "Did he damage your van?" I said, "No, but he sure used some terrible language." He said, "I know and he's going to get several tickets." GOD STRIKES AGAIN!
On the way back to my house, my son-in-law said, "If he'd hit you I would have got out and helped you." YEAH SURE!
Two people might be better than one person by themselves, especially, if you're talking about a fight but I'm not sure about my son-in-law!
Are two better than one? How about marriage? Is being married better than being single? That may well depend on the marriage or the persons in the marriage.
God made the woman to complete the man. I guess God figured that man wouldn't be good alone or that he would need help in life. And often, the wife does complete the man. She can do things he cannot do and vice versa.
Rare is the person who prefers to be alone and can do everything for himself or herself!
Are two better than one? Normally, you would think so. Are two heads better than one? Could be. Should be. It depends on the heads.
What about two churches? Are two churches better than one? Perhaps, if they both believe the same thing and worked together. Two can accomplish more work than just one.
What about the variety of churches that claim to follow Christ? Is this good? I'm not sure that God is thrilled with all the churches in our world that claim Christ as Savior.
Ephesians 4:4-6 "There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called— one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all."
God is pretty hip on this "oneness" business. He is the one, true living God! His son, Jesus, is the one true Savior of the world! His Word is one true, living Word.
What about two covenants with God? Is there such a thing? Can there be? Are not two better than one? Is there more than one approach to God?
Our text speaks of two different covenants or agreements with God. Which is right? Which is better?
PROP.- Consider the two covenants and which is the best of the two. (in reality, we already know)
1- The covenant of law
2- The covenant of faith
I. THE COVENANT OF LAW
24These things may be taken figuratively, for the women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar. 25Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children. 26But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother. 27For it is written:
"Be glad, O barren woman,
who bears no children;
break forth and cry aloud,
you who have no labor pains;
because more are the children of the desolate woman
than of her who has a husband."
In this text, we see a comparison that Paul is talking about. Hagar is the slave woman. Her son Ishmael was born according to the flesh, the way any normal child would be conceived and born.
But Sarah represents the freewoman whose child was conceived miraculously when she was 90 and Abraham was 100 years old. WHAT A MIRACLE!
Here's a brief outline of what happened in Abraham's life.
- At age 75 - Abraham was called by God and promises him many descendents.
- At age 85 - The promised son had not yet arrived and Sarah became impatient. She suggested that Abraham marry Hagar and have a son by her.
- At age 86 - Hagar got pregnant and Sarah got jealous! Things were so difficult in the home that Sarah threw Hagar out of the home but the Lord intervened and sent Hagar back and promises to take care of her and her son. When Abraham is 86 the son is born to Hagar and calls him Ishmael.
- At age 99 - God spoke to Abraham and promises again he would have a son by Sarah and said to call his name Isaac.
- At age 100 - The son is born to Sarah and he is named Isaac as commanded by God. But the arrival of Isaac creates a problem in the home. Ishmael has a rival. For 14 years, Ishmael has been his father's only son and very dear to his heart. Now there's a new kid on the block! Well, a new son in the home.
- At age 103 - It was customary at the age of 3 to wean their children. At the feast, Ishmael mocks Isaac and to create trouble in the home.
GUESS WHAT? There is only one solution. Hagar and her son Ishmael must go! There will always be problems when you have more than one woman in the picture!
ILL.- Remember the recent problem of Governor of SC, Mark Sanford? From June 18 until June 24, 2009, the whereabouts of Governor Sanford were unknown to the public.
This included his wife and the State Law Enforcement Division, which provides security for him, garnering nationwide news coverage.
Well, we all found out where Gov. Sanford was! He was in Buenos Aires with his so-called "soul mate" named María Belén Chapur, a 43-year-old divorced mother of two.
And the latest is this: Jenny Sanford and her sons moved out of the governor's mansion in Columbia and is now divorcing him.
The moral of the story is that most of the time, if not all of the time, two women vying or competing for the affection of one man won't work! And it didn't work with Sarah and Hagar either. But God had a plan! He always a plan and it's a good one!
On the surface, this appears to be nothing but a family problem but there is a great lesson here and it's a spiritual lesson. Abraham, the two wives and the two sons represent a spiritual truth. One represents a physical birth (Ishmael) and the other represents a spiritual birth (Isaac).
What was God's solution to the problem? Hagar and her son had to go! She represented the old law and it, too, had to go! It is impossible for law and grace to stay together. And God did not ask Hagar and Ishmael to make occasional visits to the home. The separation was permanent. It is impossible to mix law and grace together!
II. THE COVENANT OF FAITH
28Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. 29At that time the son born in the ordinary way persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit. It is the same now. 30But what does the Scripture say? "Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman's son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman's son.31Therefore, brothers, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman.
We Christians are like Isaac. We are the children of promise by grace. The old law (pictured by Hagar and Ishmael) wants to persecute us and bring us back into bondage.
The two do not go hand-in-hand. So we have problem and it's a problem that many people have not solved yet today, because we many churches that claim to follow Christ but at the same time, they also want to follow or adhere to the old law.
ILL.- Sign in the middle of the Royal Gorge bridge in Colorado, the tallest suspension bridge in the world, rising 1053 feet above the water level: "No Fishing From This Bridge."
How would they fish anyway? They couldn't. Likewise, there are those who try to live by the old law want to be saved by the law and IT CAN'T BE DONE! The old law was booted out, taken away!
God says that there is no way that any human person can be saved by keeping the old law. It can't be done. No one can keep the law perfectly, therefore, nobody can be saved by the law even people are still trying today.
ILL.- These are the people who say such things as, "You can't eat this or that." "You can't do this or that." Like, you can't eat pork. You can go to dance. You can't watch movies. You can't smoke, etc., etc. Well, you shouldn't anyway but some do.
No one can be saved by adherence to any law. That's not God's program. That doesn't honor Him. What honors Him is when we accept His will and do things His way. And His way is the way of grace. His way is the way of promise by faith. Our trust is in Him, not in us. We trust Him for our salvation, not ourselves by trying to obeying the letter of the law. WE CAN’T DO IT.
ILL.- A story is told about Fiorello LaGuardia when he was mayor of New York City during the worst days of the Great Depression and all of WW II. He was called by adoring New Yorkers 'the Little Flower' because he was only five foot four and always wore a carnation in his lapel. He was a colorful character who used to ride the New York City fire trucks, raid speakeasies with the police department, take entire orphanages to baseball games, and whenever the New York newspapers were on strike, he would go on the radio and read the Sunday funnies to the kids.
One bitterly cold night in January of 1935, the mayor turned up at a night court that served the poorest ward of the city. LaGuardia dismissed the judge for the evening and took over the bench himself. Within a few minutes, a tattered old woman was brought before him, charged with stealing a loaf of bread. She told LaGuardia that her daughter's husband had deserted her, her daughter was sick, and her two grandchildren were starving. But the shopkeeper, from whom the bread was stolen, refused to drop the charges. "It's a real bad neighborhood, your Honor" the man told the mayor. "She's got to be punished to teach other people around here a lesson." LaGuardia sighed. He turned to the woman and said "I've got to punish you. The law makes no exceptions--ten dollars or ten days in jail."
But even as he pronounced sentence, the mayor was already reaching into his pocket. He pulled out a bill and tossed it into his famous sombrero saying: "Here is the ten dollar fine which I now remit; and furthermore I am going to fine everyone in this courtroom fifty cents for living in a town where a person has to steal bread so that her grandchildren can eat. Mr. Baliff, collect the fines and give them to the defendant."
So the following day the New York City newspapers reported that $47.50 was turned over to a bewildered old lady who had stolen a loaf of bread to feed her starving grandchildren, fifty cents of that amount being contributed by the red-faced grocery store owner, while some seventy petty criminals, people with traffic violations, and New York City policemen, each of whom had just paid fifty cents for the privilege of doing so, gave the mayor a standing ovation.
That judge could have lived by the letter of the law and made that woman pay, but instead, he went beyond the letter of the law and paid for her.
And, of course, that's exactly what Jesus did for us. He could have made us pay for our sins and misdeeds but instead He paid for us. Consequently, living by the covenant of faith is far superior to living by the letter of the law.
Living by faith far exceeds the law. Living by grace exceeds the law by leaps and bounds. This is why our covenant is better. It's better, better, better!
We need to rejoice that we're living on this side of Calvary and not the other side! We need to rejoice and live by the grace of God!
There is nothing better than knowing that you've been set free from the bondage of sin and the old law. We're saved by grace, not by law.
ILL.- Two bosses: one demanding and explicit. The other is gracious and motivating. Whom would you choose to work for?
Be thankful. We serve a gracious God, not a demanding, harsh, legalistic God.