|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
4:21-27 The difference between believers who rested in Christ only, and those who trusted in the law, is explained by the histories of Isaac and Ishmael. These things are an allegory, wherein, beside the literal and historical sense of the words, the Spirit of God points out something further. Hagar and Sarah were apt emblems of the two different dispensations of the covenant. The heavenly Jerusalem, the true church from above, represented by Sarah, is in a state of freedom, and is the mother of all believers, who are born of the Holy Spirit. They were by regeneration and true faith, made a part of the true seed of Abraham, according to the promise made to him.
Verse 26. - But Jerusalem which is above is free (ἡ δὲ ἄνω Ἱερουσαλήμ ἐλευθέρα ἐστίν); but the Jerusalem that is above is free. The mystic Jerusalem in which Christ reigns, the Son of David, who is at the right hand of God. For the word "above," ἄνω, comp. Colossians 3:1, 2, "Seek the things that are above (τὰ ἄνω) where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God: set your mind on the things that are above; your life is hid with Christ in God;" and Philippians 3:20, "Our citizenship (πολίτευμα) is in heaven." This is identical with the "heavenly Jerusalem" of Hebrews 12:22, which, standing in contrast with the "mount that might be touched and that burned with fire," Sinai with its soul-crushing terrors, appears associated with the pacifying blood of Jesus, and with communion with all that is holiest and most glorious. The essential identity of the contrast in the two passages, which are mutually illustrative, bespeaks a common origin in one and the same mind. The supernal Jerusalem is not chiefly contrasted with the Jerusalem "that now is," in point of time: she is not the future only, though in the future to be manifested - the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down (as St. John writes) from God out of heaven (Revelation 21:2); but she is there now, with God. It would be in harmony with St. Paul's representation to suppose that he conceives of her having been there with God in heaven of old, her citizens upon earth being the true servants of God in all ages. In former ages, however, she was comparatively barren; it needed that the enthronization of the God-Man, "the Mediator of the new covenant" (Hebrews 12:24), on "God's holy hill of Zion," should take place before she could become the prolific mother here shown to us. Commentators refer to rabbinical speculations relative to a Jerusalem which was conceived of as existing in heaven, as illustrated by Schottgen's 'Dissertatio de Hierosol. Caelesti' ('Hor. Hebr.,' vol. 1. diss. 5.), and also by Wetstein both here and on Revelation 21. It would be interesting if we could determine when those rabbinical speculations first arose, and how far it may be judged probable that they or some earlier form of them out of which these sprang suggested anything to St. Paul for the form in which he clothed his own conception of this idea; there may have been such. Meanwhile, we cannot but be struck by the purely ideal and spiritual character in which the apostle here exhibits his conception of it; though something like a terrene manifestation in the future seems indicated in Romans 8:21. "Is free;" the counterpart of Sarah, as mentioned in vers. 22, 23. That this Jerusalem is free, the apostle feels it needless to state; she to his very consciousness is the very home and bosom of God's love, having her very existence, as well as her outward-acting power, in his pervading, actuating Spirit. Bondage, constraint, there cannot be; for all volitions are there harmonized, absorbed, by the Spirit of love uniting her component elements both with each other and with God. Which is the mother of us all (ἥτις ἐστὶ μήτηρ ἡμῶν [Receptus, πάντων ἡμῶν]) which is our mother. Here again, as in ver. 24, ἥτις means "which, being such as she is, is our mother." We look at the Jerusalem that is above, and in her princely freedom we recognize what we her children are. The πάντων, which the Textus Receptus has before ἡμῶν, and which is by the general consent of critics rejected, is with much probability supposed to have come into the text by the copyist's recollection of the similar sentence in Romans 4:16, 17, Ἀβραάμ, ὅς ἐστι πατὴρ πάντων ἡμῶν. But πάντων, which there belongs to the essential thought of the context that God had made Abraham "the father of many nations," is unnecessary here, where the apostle is chiefly concerned with the freedom which characterizes the family of promise. If documentary evidence proved it to be genuine, it would find its justification in the notion of the fruitfulness which now at length, as the apostle presently shows, is given to the supernal Jerusalem.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
But Jerusalem which is above,.... This Sarah was a type and figure of; she answered to, and agreed with this; which is to be understood, not of the church triumphant in heaven, but of the Gospel church state under the administration of the new covenant; and that, not as in the latter day glory, when the new Jerusalem shall descend from God out of heaven, but as it then was in the apostle's time, and has been since. Particular respect may be had to the first Gospel church at Jerusalem, which consisted of persons born from above, was blessed with a Gospel spirit, which is a spirit of liberty, out of which the Gospel went into all the world, and from among whom the apostles and first preachers of the word went forth everywhere, and were the means of the conversion of multitudes, both among Jews and Gentiles, and so might be truly said to be the mother of us all. The church in general, under the Gospel, may be, as it often is, called Jerusalem, because of its name, the vision of peace; being under the government of the Prince of peace; the members of it are sons of peace, who are called to peace, and enjoy it; the Gospel is the Gospel of peace, and the ordinances of it are paths of peace; and the new covenant, under the administration of which the saints are, is a covenant of peace. Jerusalem was the object of God's choice, the palace of the great King, the place of divine worship, was compact together, and well fortified: the Gospel church state consists of persons, who, in general, are the elect of God, among whom the Lord dwells, as in his temple. Here his worship is observed, his word is preached, and his ordinances administered; saints laid on the foundation, Christ, and being fitly framed together, grow up unto an holy temple in him, and are surrounded by him, as Jerusalem was with mountains, and are kept by his power unto salvation. This is said to be above, to distinguish it from the earthly Jerusalem, the inhabitants of which were chiefly men of the world, carnal men; but this heavenly Jerusalem, or Gospel church state, chiefly consists of persons born from above, called with an heavenly calling, and who bear the image of the heavenly one, whose conversation is in heaven, who are seeking things above, and in a little time will be there themselves; its constitution and form of government are from above, and so are its doctrines, and its ordinances. The Jews often Speak of
, or or , "Jerusalem above" (x), as distinguished from Jerusalem below: and to this distinction the apostle seems to have respect here, who further says concerning this Jerusalem, that she
is free; from the servitude of sin, Satan, and the world, from the yoke of the law, and from a spirit of bondage; having the Spirit of God, the spirit of adoption, who is a free spirit, and makes such free that enjoy him; and where he is, there is true liberty. He adds,
which is the mother of us all; that are born again, whether Jews or Gentiles, as particularly the church at Jerusalem was, and the Gospel church state in general may be said to be; since here souls are born and brought forth to Christ, are nursed up at her side, and nourished with her breasts of consolation, the word and ordinances. This form of speech is also Jewish: thus it is said (y) that
"Zion, , "the mother of Israel", shall bring forth her sons, and Jerusalem shall receive the children of the captivity.''
Again, explaining Proverbs 28:24 it is observed (z), that there is no father but the ever blessed God, , "and no mother" but the congregation of Israel. Some copies leave out the word "all"; and so do the Vulgate Latin, Syriac, and Ethiopic versions, and only read, "the mother of us", or "our mother".
(x) Zohar in Gen. fol. 13. 2. & 16. 2. & 75. 4. & 77. 1. & 78. 2. & 114. 3. & 121. 1. & in Exod. fol. 6. 1. & 92. 2. T. Bab. Taanith, fol. 5. 1. Gloss. in T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 97. 2. Caphtor, fol. 14. 2. & 25. 2. & 65. 1. & 68. 2. & 71. 2. & 118. 2. Raziel, fol. 13. 1. & 27. 1. Tzeror Hammor, fol. 61. 3. & 150. 3. Nishmat Chayim, fol. 26. 2. Kimchi in Hos. xi. 19. (y) Targum in Cant. 8. 5. (z) Sithre Tora in Zohar in Gen. fol. 55. 2. & Raya Mehimna in Zohar in Lev. fol. 34. 1.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
26. This verse stands instead of the sentence which we should expect, to correspond to Ga 4:24, "One from Mount Sinai," namely, the other covenant from the heavenly mount above, which is (answers in the allegory to) Sarah.
Jerusalem … above—(Heb 12:22), "the heavenly Jerusalem." "New Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God" (Re 3:12; 21:2). Here "the Messianic theocracy, which before Christ's second appearing is the Church, and after it, Christ's kingdom of glory" [Meyer].
free—as Sarah was; opposed to "she is in bondage" (Ga 4:25).
all—omitted in many of the oldest manuscripts, though supported by some. "Mother of us," namely, believers who are already members of the invisible Church, the heavenly Jerusalem, hereafter to be manifested (Heb 12:22).
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