JERUSALEM: THE MOTHER OF US ALL
By Wayne Camp
A CONTRAST OF LAW AND GRACE
Galatians 4:26 But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.
The verse that I have used as a text for this short message is sometimes used to support the doctrine of a "mother church." With no desire to be offensive to any who have used it in that manner, I must say emphatically that this is not the idea which Paul and the Holy Spirit had in mind when this verse was penned. One must totally remove the verse from its context to use it to teach that it means that the church at Jerusalem was the "mother church" of all other true churches.
Paul tells us that he is using a figure of speech that is called an allegory. An allegory is a story that may use real or imagined things to represent something else for the purpose of illustrating and teaching a lesson.
To use the expression "mother of us all" to teach the "mother church" as some do, one must totally ignore the allegorical use of this by Paul. Moreover, in this allegory, Paul contrasts the Jerusalem on earth which, at the time of this writing, was in bondage to the Roman Empire in contrast with the Jewish idea of the heavenly Jerusalem, "Jerusalem which is above," the city for which Abraham and other people of faith were looking. Hebrews 11:10 For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
THE COVENANT OF LAW AND THE COVENANT OF GRACE
The church is not under consideration in this passage and especially in this allegory. Paul makes it very plain that this is the case. Galatians 4:24 Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar. One does not have to wonder what the people and places used in this allegory represent. They represent the two covenants, the covenant of law and the covenant of grace. The covenant of law was given at Mt. Sinai; the covenant of grace came from heaven.
Paul first uses Ishmael and Isaac to represent the two covenants. Galatians 4:22-23 For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman. 23 But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise. Ishmael was born to a bondwoman and, in Pauls allegory, he represents the covenant of law, the ministration of death written in stones, the covenant of bondage. Isaac was born to Sarah, a free woman; he represents the new covenant, the covenant of grace that has made us free from the law of sin and death.
Sarah and Hagar further represent these two covenants in the allegory. Hagar, the bondwoman symbolizes the covenant of law and works and the bondage associated therewith. Sarah, the freewoman, stands for the covenant of grace and the liberty of the sons of God under the covenant of grace.
Mt. Sinai, also represented by Hagar is representative of Jerusalem as it was at the time of the writing. It was in bondage, as I pointed out earlier. Not only was the Jerusalem in Judea at the time of Pauls writing under the bondage of the Roman Empire, it was the center of Judaism and still under the bondage of the law. It was from Jerusalem that certain men had come to Antioch and sought to bring the Christians in Antioch back under the bondage of the law. Acts 15:1 And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved. Such men had also come to Galatia and were teaching the Christians in Galatia that they must get under the law to be saved; they must be circumcised after the manner of Moses. Many of the Christians in Galatia had been bewitched into believing these Judaizers. In this book Paul is calling on them to stand fast in the liberty which was theirs under the covenant of Grace. Galatians 5:1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.
The "Jerusalem which is above," in Pauls allegory, stands for the covenant of grace. It stands in contrast to the Jerusalem that then was and which was represented by Mt. Sinai, Ishmael, and Hagar. In the covenant of grace we were, in eternity, made to be seated in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. In the covenant of grace, represented by the "Jerusalem which is above" in the allegory, we were blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places. Ephesians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ. It was in heaven, before the foundation of the world, that we were chosen in Christ (Eph. 1:4). It was in heaven, before the foundation of the world, that we were predestinated to the adoption of sons (Eph. 1:5). It was in heaven before the foundation of the world that we were chosen to salvation (II Thes. 2:13). It was in heaven that the three Persons of the Divine trinity entered into the covenant of grace and made us its objects. Therefore, it is fitting and understandable that Paul would use the "Jerusalem which is above," the heavenly Jerusalem which is free, to represent the covenant of grace in which we have been made free and in which both Jew and Gentile are given liberty from the ministration of death which was written in stone.
Now, note verse 26 in association with verse 28. Galatians 4:26 But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all. Galatians 4:28 Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise.
THE JERUSALEM WHICH IS ABOVE WHICH IS THE MOTHER OF US ALL
It should be apparent to all that the Jerusalem which is above and which is the mother of us all does not represent the church at Jerusalem. This heavenly Jerusalem is not the church but stands in the allegory for the blessings that are ours as the children of the covenant of grace. Galatians 4:31 So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.
Paul makes a similar statement in another place. Hebrews 12:18-22 For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest, 19 And the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that heard intreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more: 20 (For they could not endure that which was commanded, And if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a dart: 21 And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake:) 22 But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels.
I should point out also that this allusion to Jerusalem as mother is not a New Testament representation. It is borrowed from the Old Testament. Consider the mother figure of Jerusalem found in this passage. Isaiah 66:10-11 Rejoice ye with Jerusalem, and be glad with her, all ye that love her: rejoice for joy with her, all ye that mourn for her: 11 That ye may suck, and be satisfied with the breasts of her consolations; that ye may milk out, and be delighted with the abundance of her glory.
Since we are the children of the covenant of grace, and since the Jerusalem above is the mother of all the elect, be we Jew or Gentile, in this allegory, what should we do? Galatians 5:1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.
This superiority of the new covenant over the old that is illustrated in this allegory has been Pauls theme throughout the book of Galatians. Galatians 4:7 Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ. Again, Galatians 4:9 But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage? And, again, Galatians 3:29 And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise. Once more, Galatians 2:21 I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.
In the light of the theme of this book and the lesson of the allegory in which our text is found, it is difficult for me to comprehend how anyone could mistake the lesson of the allegory and call the Jerusalem which is above and is the mother of us all, the church at Jerusalem. In Galatians 4:26 one cannot find the "mother church" idea. The Jerusalem which is above and is the mother of us all is allegorical language used by Paul in teaching the blessings of the everlasting covenant of grace when contrasted with the covenant of law and bondage. In its immediate context (the allegory) and in its broader context (the book of Galatians) it is obvious that it represents the covenant of grace, not the church of Jerusalem.
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Last Updated Friday, March 04, 2011