Sunday, October 29, 2017

Sermon: Galatians 3:15 - 4:7 Freedom in Christ

A couple of weeks ago, an Australian court decided that an unsent draft text message was indeed a valid will. A man had died, and his widow had expected to keep everything, but this unsent text message was found on the man’s phone, leaving everything to his brother and nephew. After a long court case, the judge declared the will to be valid, because the man’s intentions were clear. This human covenant had been duly established, so it couldn’t be set aside or added to.

I’m not sure that the law is the same here in Northern Ireland, so don’t be depending on a text message to serve as your last will and testament. So why am I talking about wills and such like? Isn’t it a bit morbid to talk about? Well, no, it’s better to have such things in place. But the reason I’m talking about wills is because that’s what Paul turns to in this part of Galatians.

Last week we saw that Christians receive the Holy Spirit - not by obeying the law (because we can’t do that), but by faith in Jesus. Jesus obeyed the law for us, and redeemed us on the cross, so that we receive the promise given to Abraham, the promise of the Holy Spirit. And now Paul is continuing with his line of reasoning. And, as Jimmy Cricket would say, come here, there’s more... We’ll see that we’re not just justified and left like that - there is even more for us than that.

So Paul introduces the idea of a will in verse 15. He does that to help explain the relationship between the promise given to Abraham and the law given to Moses. Just as a will isn’t set aside or added to once it comes into effect on the person’s death, so in the same way, God’s promise to Abraham isn’t changed or added to. The promise stands throughout the Old Testament period, and isn’t changed even though the law was given 430 years later.

As we saw last week - verse 18 - the inheritance doesn’t depend on the law; it depends on the promise given to Abraham - by God’s grace. But straight away, Paul knows there’ll be some objections. He voices it in verse 19. ‘What, then, was the purpose of the law?’ Why did God bother to give the Old Testament law? What’s the point of it?

He goes on to answer it in verse 19: ‘It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come.’ The law was given because of sin - to highlight and flag up our sin. We can’t be saved by the law, but the law shows that we need a Saviour.

We see that in verses 21-22. ‘Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law. But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.’

The law shows us that we’re prisoners of sin. The law declares what sin is, and so when we do those very things, then it declares that we are sinners. The law only condemns - but it shows us that we need the Saviour, the Saviour we put our faith in.

In verses 23-25, Paul gives us two pictures of what the law is. In verse 23, the law is a jailer, a prison guard. Perhaps you’ve been on a tour of a prison - Crumlin Road or at the Down County Museum in Downpatrick. You’re put in the cell, and the door is locked. That’s what the law did - it kept us as prisoners, ‘locked up until faith should be revealed.’ There was no other way out; only by believing in Jesus, trusting that his death has paid the sentence, and so we can go free.

In verse 24, Paul says, ‘So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.’ That phrase ‘put in charge’ is the idea of a tutor, nanny or governess, who is in charge of the children to make sure they go to school and do their lessons. Harsh, perhaps, but only has power until the child grows up. Now, paul says, ‘Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law.’ We’ve been freed from prison; we’ve been freed from the schoolmaster!

That freedom comes in Christ, and in him, we have a new status and a new relationship. The new status is the one we’ve already seen - justified, declared innocent. But there’s more than that - we also have a new relationship, verse 26: ‘You are all sons of God through faith in Jesus Christ.’ We’re not just forgiven, we’re also family. We’re not just saved, we’re also sons.

Now, that might sound a bit strange, that we’re all sons. Why not sons and daughters? Well, it’s because in the culture of the time, sorry ladies, only sons inherited. So for the Bible to say that we are all sons means that we all share in the family inheritance, we all receive the blessings that God gives us. We see that radical inclusion in verse 28: ‘There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.’ It doesn’t matter who you are, where you’re from, what your standing is, there is a welcome in Christ Jesus. Jesus, the Son of God, makes us sons of God in him.

As verse 29 says, ‘If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.’ In Christ, we are the seed of Abraham, and our name is in the will, we are heirs according to the promise. So when a will is read, what do you need to do to inherit? Just receive. It has been promised to you. And we receive the blessings God gives to and through Abraham by believing in Jesus.

Now that is an amazing thought - that we are heirs in Christ. But even more amazing, is this - your name was always written in the will from the very beginning. Back in verse 15 we saw that wills aren’t set aside or added to when they’re established. So your name was in the will, included in the promise, when it was to Abraham (and in fact, from before the foundation of the world). It’s not that God is sitting in heaven, pen poised, waiting to add someone’s name in when they believe. No, God has already named his heirs from long ago, your names are already written in heaven, and the promise is yours already.

In 4:1, the heirs were children, back in the prisoner / schoolmaster period of the law. They own the whole estate, they’re going to receive everything, but they’re still subject to guardians and trustees - they’re just like a slave.

Or, to give an up to date example. Now, perish the thought this would happen, but if the Queen, and Prince Charles and Prince William were all to perish, then who would be king? Prince George. But he’s just 4. How could he be king? There would be a Regent appointed, someone to rule on his behalf, until he came of age.

And Paul says it’s the same with us. Until we come to faith, we’re slaves (even though we’re going to be heirs). That’s what used to be the case. ‘But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.’

Now, hopefully you remembered to change your clocks last night, or managed to work out if your phone would automatically change to the right time. Hopefully no one turned up just before 10am thinking it was 11am. It’s the spring time change that’s more dangerous - I’ve had people arriving as the service is ending thinking they’re just on time... But Paul says that at just the right time, when the time had fully come, God sent Jesus - born of a woman (fulfilling the promise to Eve that her seed would come), born under law (fulfilling the law and perfectly obeying it), to redeem those under law.

When we come to faith, it’s as if we are coming of age, entering into our inheritance, receiving the full blessing of heirs and sons. And what is the blessing? It’s the one we saw last week - ‘Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’

We’re not just forgiven, we’re also family. We’re not just saved, we’re also sons. We have the Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus the Son, the Spirit who confirms that we are God’s sons by calling out ‘Abba, Father.’ We have freedom in Christ - no longer slaves, but sons; and because we’re sons, we’re also heirs.

We’ve covered a lot of ground this morning. At times I wondered if I’d bitten off more than I could chew. But God is telling us today that we are named in his will; his blessings are ours, because we’re not just forgiven, we’re his family. We’re not slaves, we’re saved. We’re not just saved, we’re his sons.

This is who you are. So live out of this identity - I am a child of the heavenly Father, redeemed by his Son, and filled with his Spirit, receiving all his blessings, and it can’t be amended or taken away from me.

This sermon was preached in St Matthew's Church, Richhill on Sunday morning 29th October 2017.

No comments:

Post a Comment