Abraham's Two Sons



                    In his epistle to the church at Colosse, Paul asserts that man's “certificate of debt” was canceled by God,  having been nailed to the cross by the atoning work of Christ Jesus (Col. 2:13-14).  This text has mistakenly been used to teach that the Old Testament was nailed to the cross and thereby ceased to hold any sway after the cross event.  If such was the case why didn't Paul refuse to cooperate with a directive from James (Acts 21:23ff).  Paul was asked to take a vow so as to assure all that he was walking orderly, keeping the Law (Acts 21:24).  This request came a number of years after the cross (Acts 21:26)!  Rather than acquiescing, would this not have provided an opportune occasion to publicly affirm that the Law (of Moses) had truly ceased to have any authoritative power after the cross?


                    Inter-connected with the message of Jesus' Olivet discourse is Paul's allegory in his letter to the Galatians (Gal.4:21-31).  Paul interprets the historical story of Abraham's two sons to be symbolic of two covenants.  By means of the flesh (man's own efforts), Abraham's son Ishmael arrived by means of Sarah's handmaiden Hagar.  Later, by the power of the promise of God , an aged Sarah would give birth to Abraham's son Isaac.  These two sons represented two differing Jerusalems (two covenants).  Ishmael was the son of the flesh, the fruit of a carnal Jerusalem; Isaac was the son of promise, the fruit of a spiritual Jerusalem.    


                    In the lead-up to Jesus' Olivet discourse Jesus told the leaders of Jerusalem:  Behold, you house is (about) to be left to you desolate (Mt.23:28).  This warning given by Jesus prior to His crucifixion was not fulfilled until forty years later in the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70.  Jesus' Olivet sermon predicted the coming of “the abomination of desolation” (Mt.24:15).  If we revisit Paul's allegory in Galatians 4:29-30, we see a remarkable parallel - - As at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the spirit, so it is now.  But what does the Scripture say?  Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be an heir with the son of the free woman.  This side-by-side, co-existence of Abraham's two sons is frequently overlooked or dismissed.  Yet Paul's allegory points clearly to the coming demise of the old Jerusalem.


                    One might ask, why did this changing of the covenants take so long?  The Biblical answer to that question is grounded in God's patience (not willing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance / 2Pet.3:9).  Not at all coincidental, God's forbearance via this protracted time of transition also facilitated an expansive proclamation of the gospel (Mt.24:14). Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God (Rom.11:33a).  


                                                                       Terry Siverd / Cortland Church of Christ