We have the following question from Salpy:
Dear JDisciple,Can u please explain Gal.4:26. Can wwe say Sarah is our mother vs. Catholician Mary is our mother?
First, we apologize for this late reply, hoping that you bear with us patiently as for one month we were in our first general meeting as co-workers on this weblog and we couldn’t reply to your question earlier.
Now, concerning your question, first I want to note the misunderstanding about the expression “Catholician Mary”. The real Mary is the virgin Mary about whom the Bible tells us and about whom the whole catholic Church teaches. In another article, we have seen the details about the confusion about the catholic Church, so I encourage you to read it. But I guess that by “Catholician Mary” you mean the Roman Catholic version or understanding of who the virgin Mary should be, so I pass to the answer of your question. I only made the comment about the catholic Church for those who do not know that the catholic Church is not the Roman Catholic heresy.
Let’s begin with the verse to which you referred, and let’s first read it together:
“But the Jerusalem above is free; she is our mother.” (Galatians 4:26)
As you can see, the verse is more than clear: it is the Jerusalem above that is our mother. Both Sarah (through us — cf. Hebrews 11:39-40) and Mary are part of this spiritual Jerusalem who is free, and Sarah is one of the Old Testament shadows of this free mother of believers. Actually, the Apostle Paul says in the context that Sarah represents this spiritual mother who is the Jerusalem above:
“For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the bondwoman and one by the free woman.
But the son by the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and the son by the free woman through the promise.
This is allegorically speaking, for these women are two covenants: one proceeding from Mount Sinai bearing children who are to be slaves; she is Hagar.” (Galatians 4:22-24)
“And you brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise.” (Galatians 4:28)
So our mother is in the New Covenant which is the Covenant of the real freedom from sin that could not be received through the Old Covenant which is the Covenant of the Law (cf. Hebrews 10:1-4). This New Covenant is the Covenant of the Church of Christ which is not only for the Jews, but also for the Gentiles who believe, as it is according to the promise (cf. Romans 4:13-17). And this mother of the believers is called the Jerusalem above, i.e. the people of God according to Grace, and not the Jerusalem which is on earth and which was the center of worship under the Old Covenant which is the Covenant of the Law and of death. The Jerusalem above is the reality that came in the New Covenant to which the earthly Jerusalem was only a shadow that stays in slavery (cf. Galatians 4:25). The believers of the New Covenant are under Grace and thus they are not the slaves of sin anymore (cf. Romans 6:14); they are not even sons who are like slaves as was the case with the Old Covenant believers (cf. Galatians 4:1-3) who are made perfect with us, the believers of the New Covenant, and not apart from us (cf. Hebrews 11:39-40). In 2 Corinthians 3:5-18 the Apostle Paul explains the difference between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant, showing that the Old Covenant is the Covenant of the Law, of the letter that kills, as the Law declares a condemnation against sin and cannot save the sinner. Therefore, this Covenant is called the ministry of death and of condemnation. It is the ministry that declares the curse of the Law against our sins, and thus keeps us in slavery (cf. Romans 3:20, Hebrews 2:14-15). This Old Covenant is annulled in Christ. However, this Covenant is glorious, although not as glorious as the New Covenant. The earthly Jerusalem had a glory, but it cannot equate the glory of the reality which is the Jerusalem above. While the New Covenant is the Covenant of the Spirit who quickens and gives life, as we were dead in our trespasses and sins and the Lord made us alive by His Righteousness by Grace through faith in Christ Jesus (cf. Ephesians 2:1-5; Romans 1:16-17). So this Covenant is the Covenant of Grace that abides, the ministry of the Spirit and of Righteousness, and the Word of this Covenant is the Gospel of Grace, the Word of God’s Grace (cf. Acts 20:32, Acts 20:24). This Covenant is more glorious than the Old Covenant which was annulled. It is through this New Covenant that we could become sons, and not slaves, by the Spirit of the Son (cf. Romans 8:15, Galatians 4:6), and thus we are the children of the free woman as says the context of Galatians 4.
Now, this New Covenant which is according to Grace (i.e. according to the promise that is received by faith alone — cf. Romans 4:16) is even before the Old Covenant in the Plan of God. Many think that the Law came before Grace as the Covenant of the Law was established before the Covenant of Grace through Jesus Christ, but look what the Bible says:
“Even as Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. Know then that they that are on the principle of faith, these are Abraham’s sons; and the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the nations on the principle of faith, announced beforehand the glad tidings to Abraham: In thee all the nations shall be blessed. So that they who are on the principle of faith are blessed with believing Abraham. For as many as are on the principle of works of law are under curse. For it is written, Cursed is every one who does not continue in all things which [are] written in the book of the law to do them; but that by law no one is justified with God [is] evident, because The just shall live on the principle of faith; but the law is not on the principle of faith; but, He that shall have done these things shall live by them. Christ has redeemed us out of the curse of the law, having become a curse for us, (for it is written, Cursed [is] every one hanged upon a tree,) that the blessing of Abraham might come to the nations in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. Brethren, (I speak according to man,) even man’s confirmed covenant no one sets aside, or adds other dispositions to. But to Abraham were the promises addressed, and to his seed: he does not say, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed; which is Christ. Now I say this, A covenant confirmed beforehand by God, the law, which took place four hundred and thirty years after, does not annul, so as to make the promise of no effect. For if the inheritance [be] on the principle of law, [it is] no longer on the principle of promise; but God gave it in grace to Abraham by promise. Why then the law? It was added for the sake of transgressions, until the seed came to whom the promise was made, ordained through angels in [the] hand of a mediator. But a mediator is not of one, but God is one. [Is] then the law against the promises of God? Far be the thought. For if a law had been given able to quicken, then indeed righteousness were on the principle of law; but the scripture has shut up all things under sin, that the promise, on the principle of faith of Jesus Christ, should be given to those that believe. But before faith came, we were guarded under law, shut up to faith [which was] about to be revealed. So that the law has been our tutor up to Christ, that we might be justified on the principle of faith. But, faith having come, we are no longer under a tutor; for ye are all God’s sons by faith in Christ Jesus. For ye, as many as have been baptised unto Christ, have put on Christ. There is no Jew nor Greek; there is no bondman nor freeman; there is no male and female; for ye are all one in Christ Jesus: but if ye [are] of Christ, then ye are Abraham’s seed, heirs according to promise.” (Galatians 3:6-29)
So the promise was already given to Abraham, and it was not a new promise that came with Christ. Christ came to fulfill that promise given to Abraham and received by Abraham’s faith. It is on the principle of Abraham’s faith that a person becomes a heir of this promise given to Abraham before the Law was given, as the promise was to Abraham and to his seed and not to his seeds. The promise is given to Christ who is the real and unique Seed in which we also are that one seed as we are one with Christ. As this promise was given to Abraham through the covenant that God made with Abraham, so Abraham is the original receiver of this promise, and Jesus Christ is his seed, and we in Christ are his seed. Thus, allegorically speaking and understanding our position in Christ, Abraham is our father, as it is on the principle of Abraham’s faith that we become heirs of the promise. And as Sarah is the wife of Abraham to whom the promise was made and who believed that promise (cf. Hebrews 11:11), so Sarah is allegorically the mother of believers. It is for this reason that the Bible calls Abraham “the father of all who believe” (cf. Romans 4:11) and “the father of us all” (cf. Romans 4:16), etc. Abraham is our father as the original receiver of the promise. The Bible never calls him our father in the meaning of “source of our spiritual life”, because that is not true as Jesus explained in Matthew 23:9: we should not call any human our father in the sense of “source of our spiritual life”. The only one who can be called Father in that way is our Heavenly Father. And the only one who can be called father in the sense of “original receiver of the promise which we also receive by faith” is Abraham, and no one else, as the promise was made to Abraham and to his seed, and not to any other human. And Sarah is our mother in the same sense, and only as an allegory to our real mother which is the Jerusalem above.
It is for this reason that when an Apostle wants to encourage believers to godliness, he remembers the example of Sarah, instead of doing like today’s Roman Catholic and other heretical teachers who automatically remember the virgin Mary as example. Read with me:
“just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear.” (1 Peter 3:6)
Why didn’t Peter mention the virgin Mary here? If Peter were a Roman Catholic, was this not a good opportunity to glorify Mary as Roman Catholics do today? Well, it would be wrong to mention the virgin Mary in this verse as the one whose children the faithful are, as the promise was not originally given to Mary. The Bible nowhere says that Mary is our mother in the sense of “the original receiver of the promise to have a son (Isaac)”. Godliness is by faith alone, as the promise was received by Abraham through faith and not through the works of the Law. So in the context of 1 Peter 3:6 the example of godliness for Christian women is Sarah, and not Mary. That’s the point that Roman Catholics cannot get. The promise received by faith was not originally made to Mary, but to Sarah.
But there is also another sense in which the virgin Mary can be called “mother” by a Christian who is contemporary to her. The Lord said:
“Someone said to Him, “Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside seeking to speak to You.”
But Jesus answered the one who was telling Him and said, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?”
And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, “Behold My mother and My brothers!
“For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.””” (Matthew 12:47-50)
We have the same attitude of our Beloved Jesus: whoever does the Will of our Father, he is our brother and sister and mother. And Mary is one of those who did the Will of our Father! If we lived in the days of Mary, we would not be ashamed to call her our mother just as we call any godly old sister our mother in the sense of affection towards those who honor our Heavenly Father (cf. 1 Timothy 5:2), and again not in the sense of “source of spiritual life” as the Roman Catholics and other similar heretics do. When Jesus answered in the way He answered in Matthew 12:47-50, He neither meant that Mary is not His mother in flesh nor that she’s not a mother like all those who do the Will of His Father. But the Lord practically showed us what His following words mean:
“If any man come to me, and shall not hate his own father and mother, and wife, and children, and brothers, and sisters, yea, and his own life too, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26).
This doesn’t mean that we should hate our parents; this means that we should not be emotionally and carnally attached to our parents in a way that makes us deny Christ and disobey Him. It is good to have affections for our father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters and for our life. But if this affection is not in agape love, is not unconditional but is selfish, so if it is not in Christ, then it is sinful and purely worldly, and it doesn’t let us be totally attached to Christ alone. This kind of affections will prove to be fatal for our relationship with Christ. If a person that we cherish a lot is against Christ and faith in Him, he will have much influence on us, and we will deny Christ for him. And this is a strong hindrance to discipleship. That’s why a person cannot be a disciple of Christ if he affectionately loves and doesn’t hate all those worldly relationships. If a person is attached to his life, then he will deny Christ when his life is threatened. And we all know what the Lord says about those who deny Him and are ashamed of Him and of His words before the world (cf. Mark 8:38). And the Lord Himself would not compromise in the work for which His Father sent Him, in order to satisfy His mother in flesh. He was not hindered by the natural ties, just as we should not be hindered by such ties. That’s what happened in Matthew 12:47-50. That’s also what happened in the following passage:
“And it came to pass as he spake these things, a certain woman, lifting up her voice out of the crowd, said to him, Blessed is the womb that has borne thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked. But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they who hear the word of God and keep [it].” (Luke 11:27-28)
Jesus didn’t want the Roman Catholic way of honoring His mother in flesh! He didn’t want to compromise the truth, so He declared it in the same occasion that a Roman Catholic or another heretic would use to glorify the virgin Mary as a mother goddess instead of giving the whole glory to God as Jesus did!!
A similar thing happened in Cana:
“And wine being deficient, the mother of Jesus says to him, They have no wine. Jesus says to her, What have I to do with thee, woman? mine hour has not yet come. His mother says to the servants, Whatever he may say to you, do.” (John 2:3-5)
Jesus told His mother not to intervene in His work for which He was sent. Jesus would not obey a fallible human like Mary while the whole of His purpose was to do God’s Will. One of the most beautiful points in the character of Mary that Roman Catholics fail to catch is described in this text: she immediately obeyed the wish of Jesus, stopped interfering, and asked the servants to do whatever JESUS wants them to do, and not what they or she wants!
Roman Catholicism and other similar heresies have totally changed the beautiful picture of the biblical Mary to a picture of a mother goddess whom they worship as an idol! They want to strengthen the hindrance of the natural ties that Jesus put aside for the Glory of God. Thus, those heretics dishonor God by making a creature (Mary) a goddess…
So our mother is the Jerusalem above, according to the New Covenant made with the Church of Christ. This New Covenant is the Covenant of Grace and of the promise that was originally given to Abraham in a covenant. Thus Abraham and Sarah are the father and mother of believers in this allegorical sense (“the original receivers of this promise of faith”). The virgin Mary is blessed among women, but she’s not the original receiver of the promise like Sarah. We respect the blessed virgin as the mother of our Lord, but she’s not the mother of believers in the same way that the Jerusalem above is, and in the same way that Sarah is as an example of the essence that came in the New Covenant.
Grace be with you!
Disciple of Jesus Christ