Ishmael in the New Testament

     The New Testament begins by listing the genealogy of Jesus Christ through Abraham’s son Isaac.
     “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham: Abraham begot Isaac…”  Matthew 1:1-2a
     All mankind is divided into two basic categories: those accepting God’s gift of salvation by faith vs. those who attempt to attain salvation by personal effort, i.e. by attempting to obey ‘the law.’
     Paul succinctly addressed the issue to the church in Galatia.
     “Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law?  For it is written that Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman, the other by a freewoman.  But he who was of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and he of the freewoman through promise…”  Galatians 4:21-23
     The son born of the bondwoman was Ishmael who was the result of personal efforts by Sarah and Abraham to fulfill God’s plan; thus Ishmael was the son born according to the flesh.
     The son born of the freewoman was Isaac.  Isaac was the exclusive result of God alone fulfilling His promise to Abraham that he and Sarah, who were both far beyond childbearing age, would have a son together.  Therefore, Isaac is called the son of promise.
     “Now we brethren (church), as Isaac was, are children of promise.  But, as he who was born according to the flesh then persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, even so it is now.”  Galatians 4:28-29
     Just as Ishmael scoffed at Isaac, when Isaac was just a small child, Paul explains that the offspring of Ishmael, i.e. those born according to the flesh were, 2000 years later, persecuting the children of promise, i.e. those born according to the Spirit.
     In other words, all who attempt to attain salvation by personal effort are persecuting the church which believes, according to the Bible, that salvation is exclusively a gracious gift of God promised to the believer and accepted by faith.
     Paul then instructs the church on how to handle the doctrine of salvation by personal effort.
     “…what does the Scripture say?  ‘Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.’”  Galatians 4:30
     The above verse includes the same words spoken by Sarah to Abraham when Ishmael scoffed at Isaac at Isaac’s weaning celebration.
     Paul concludes the argument:
     “So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free.  Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.”  Galatians 4:31-5:1
     The truth that salvation is a promise to those who believe in the vicarious death of Christ is so significant that it is taught and preached throughout the New Testament.
     All who take God at His word, as did Abraham, can claim him as their father.
     “…but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all (as it is written, ‘I have made you a father of many nations)’…and not being weak in faith he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb…was strengthened in faith…fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform.”  Romans 4:16b-17, 19-21
     Abraham brushed all earthly limitations aside and simply took God at His word.  Sons of promise, i.e. Christians, share Abraham’s faith and trust.
     And while God’s promises to Abraham originally focused on the future nation of Israel, all those with the faith of Abraham would benefit.
     “Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham.  And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, ‘In you all the nations shall be blessed.’  So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham.”  Galatians 3:7-9
     Christians are Abraham’s spiritual seed through Isaac while those who depend on obedience to the law are identified with Ishmael who was born according to the flesh.
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