What God is after today is not a vast number of believers who have been regenerated yet have not grown in the divine life. Rather, to fulfill God’s purpose we must grow in life and progress from our initial experience of Christ being born in us until we arrive at the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (1 Cor. 3:2; Heb. 5:12; 1 Pet. 2:2; Eph. 4:13). This growth in the divine life, which is also the growth of Christ as life within us, is typified by the growth of Isaac.
After passing through many stations, Abraham finally experiences the fulfillment of God’s promise concerning his seed through the birth of Isaac in Genesis 21. In Galatians, Paul makes it clear that Isaac signifies Christ (Gal. 3:16), and Sarah signifies grace (Gal. 4:21-31). The fact that Isaac was born of Sarah shows us that Christ is brought forth in us by God’s grace. The birth of Isaac did not cause difficulty; it was his growth that began to stir up trouble. According to Genesis 21:9, the maidservant Hagar’s son, Ishmael, began to mock Isaac after he grew and was weaned. Paul describes this in Galatians 4:29, which says, “But just as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now.”
Our experience today matches the situation with Isaac’s birth and growth. Whereas it is not so difficult for Christ to be born in us, the growth of Christ in us really stirs up “trouble.” Not only do the things in our environment oppose Christ growing in us, but also things that are much closer, like our self and flesh, oppose the growth of Christ. The flesh, the result of the effort of the flesh (signified by Ishmael), our self, and many other things from within will rise up to persecute, “mock,” and oppose Christ from being formed in us (Gal. 4:19). However, just as Sarah charged Abraham to cast out the maidservant and her son, so also we, according to God’s grace, should fully abandon the law (Hagar) and the result of the effort of the flesh (Ishmael) (Gen. 21:10; Gal. 4:30).
Despite the inward and outward persecution that may arise to hinder our going on, we must endeavor to allow Christ the ground in us so we may be brought onto maturity to satisfy God’s heart’s desire (Eph. 3:17; Phil. 3:12-14; Heb. 12:1-2).
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