Galatians 3.26-4.7

January 21, 2007 Series: Galatians

Topic: Gospel Passage: Galatians 3:26–4:7

 

Galatians 3.26-4.7 - Who are we...Who are they
January 21, 2007
Sam Ford

This week has been especially stressful.  We received several emails, a few phone calls, about one of our ads we recently put in the newspaper.  All of them said different things and all of them expressed the fact that they could not understand how such an ad would in fact do anything for bring shame upon Jesus' name.  I emailed responses, had phone calls with 80 year-old grandmas, and other concerned ‘Christians' about how we should feel about ourselves.  Some say I should feel ashamed because that is not how churches should advertise.  They claim that is not how the people are going to be reached.  I guess they mean that if our ads were a bit more innocuous and less-shocking, that less people would be offended and more people would hear the gospel.  OR, is it that less Christians would be offended and more Christians might transfer in here.  I have thanked the few "church" people who have contacted us for taking the time to share their thoughts. 

I don't remember the last time I took the time to contact a church about their ad.  Why is that?  The ironic thing about this entire experience is that anyone not familiar with church, even those a bit apathetic or hostile from their church/Christian experience...appreciate them.  The responses from those who would complete ignore some church ad actually stop, laugh, and think.  And if, in that moment of reflection, if because of a simple ad, they want to check out our church, our website, or talk with our people, they'll find we're about the gospel, about Jesus, about seeing Jesus transform individuals, and families, and communities. 

According to the Bible, there are to two ways to live in this world, as a believer in Jesus or as a non-believer.  Whether your atheist, agnostic, or simply ascribe to another religion, you either believe Jesus is the savior or not.  For those who question the truth of Christianity (not the authenticity of Christians), then I challenge you to answer the question, what are you going to do with Jesus?  But among the believers, there appear to be two different ways to live out your faith. 

  • You believe that God pursues you.  That He sent His son for you and saved you by grace.  You believe that nothing in you is worth anything, that your salvation is dependent upon the grace that God extends to us through the sacrifice of Jesus alone-completely undeserved, unmerited, and all-transforming. 
  • You believe that you are pursuing God.  Although Jesus came to us, you believe you must work your way to him.  And you expect the same things from those around you.  You follow a law that you've set up that, if you're honest, even if you could satisfy could not give you anything.

The second set of people are the ones that Paul are trying to correct and the truth Paul is trying to get across to his beloved converts in Galatia. The Judaizers had bewitched them into thinking that the Law would make them better Christians. Their old nature felt an attraction for the Law because the Law enabled them to do things and measure external results. As they measured themselves and their achievements, they felt a sense of accomplishment, and, no doubt, a little bit of pride. They thought they were going forward when actually they were regressing.

It made me a bit sad to talk with some of the people who responded to our ads.  It is not that I want to condemn as Judaizers or legalists-I don't know them.  What made me sad is that it felt like they were living in bondage.  Now, I am sure they don't feel like they are in bondage.  I am certain wouldn't identify themselves as salves, but I wonder if they would identify themselves as free.  Ultimately, I believe that our understanding of the grace of Jesus Christ is sourced in our understanding of identification-WHO ARE WE IN JESUS?  I have said it before, show me your Jesus and I'll show you who you are.  Describe for me who you're God is and I will tell you who you are.  Explain to me what Jesus really did on that cross and I will tell you how you will probably behave.

Once we answer WHO ARE WE...then we will begin to see our true answer to the question of WHO ARE THEY?  And once you understand who THEY are, then we will know how to connect THEM with Jesus.  Not everyone will be reached the same way...but we are called to reach everyone. 

In the last part of this letter, Paul is going to explain to us how our identity has changed.  As 2Cor5.17 says, 17 Therefore, if anyone is iin Christ, he is ja new creation.1 kThe old has passed away; behold, the new has come.[i]   

26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

In these first few verses, Paul declares what our NEW identity as opposed to our old.  The Bible uses several things to describe us as non-believers...none of them too friendly.  Paul uses several descriptions for us...

Ephesisans 2.1-3

And you were kdead in the trespasses and sins 2 lin which you once walked, following the course of this world, following mthe prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in nthe sons of disobedience- 3 among whom we all once lived in othe passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body1 and the mind, and pwere by nature qchildren of wrath, like the rest of mankind.[ii]

Colossians 1.21

21 zAnd you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, adoing evil deeds, [iii]

John 8.44

You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

 

Romans 5.10

10 For if pwhile we were enemies qwe were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by rhis life.[iv]

Even in Galatians, Paul uses some very descriptive language, specifically, to describe who we were under the law outside of the grace of Jesus.  He calls us SLAVES, LAWBREAKERS, CURSED PEOPLE.  Outside of Jesus, we are anything but sons of God.  The term SON is used to imbue an individual with the characteristics of that which HE/SHE is a SON OF.  It has been used many times in the Scriptures outside the actual SON OF JOE.    

 

  • SONS of DISOBEDIENCE Eph 2.1-3 
  • SON OF THE DEVIL Acts 13:10 
  • SONS OF LIGHT John 12:36 
  • SONS OF THIS AGE Luke 20:34 
  • SONS OF THUNDER Mark 3:17 
  • SONS OF ABRAHAM Galatians 

 

Matthew 16.16

16 Simon Peter replied, a "You are bthe Christ, cthe Son of dthe living God." 17 And Jesus answered him, [v]

 

Now, Paul calls us Sons of God. It is important that we view ourselves in the way that God views us.  For those who have accepted Jesus, you are in the family.  Before Christ, we were not sons.  We are not part of God's family by nature and by choice.  Our first parents gave up their "birthright" in a sense by rebelling-and now we too do the same.  We are, in the truest sense of the words, SONS OF ADAM AND EVE.  We attempt to do what they did, which was find a way apart from God.  They were told not to eat of the tree.  They chose to find their truth apart from God's word.  They chose to imagine that there was more meaning apart from the meaning that God had given them. 

In the next chapter, verse 6, Paul says we are adopted.  The word translated "full rights as sons" is huiosthesia, "adoption." This significant legal act in Roman law severed an individual's old relationships and canceled all his old debts and obligations. The father became owner of the adoptee's possessions, and the new son became his new father's heir. The father had the right to discipline the son and became liable for the new son or daughter's actions. In adoption each party became committed to support and care for the other. What a change this means in our position! We owe all now to God. And for His part, God commits Himself fully to guide us and discipline us, that we might bring credit to Him as members of His household.[vi]

As an act of becoming part of the family we have PUT ON CHRIST.  It can also be translated "clothed with Christ"...no other religions make this claim.  This is probably why Paul can claim in Galatians 2.20...it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.  Or, again in Colossians when he says, Christ who is your life.  In God's eyes, we become like Jesus.  When God sees us, we see Jesus, which should impact how we see ourselves.  We no longer take our identity from what we or others think of us but from what God thinks of us in Christ (I Cor. 4:3-4). The gospel produces neither an inferiority complex (since we are a treasure in Christ), nor a superiority complex (since we are sinners standing only by grace).  This unique boldness and humility at once is a sign of the transforming power of the Gospel.

But the most amazing part of all of this is that we have absolutely nothing to do with beginning of finishing this process.  God chooses to adopt us.  God chooses to welcome us into his family.  God transforms our identity and God works to make sure we look more like a member of his family.

 

28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

The 2nd part of our identity is that we are all one.  As we begin to understand WHO WE ARE, SONS OF GOD, we begin to look at people differently.  As our identity changes, so do our perceptions of others-we no longer stop on the surface, but look beyond to see and ultimately call out the IMAGE OF GOD in all of us.  If we're honest, this view probably condemns most of us here in the room.

 

Today, our world is all about differences.  We have a world full of people taking pride in the cultural distinctions-even Christians.  They attack others, swell up in themselves, and miss the entire point of the gospel that makes those differences within our humanity insignificant considering the unity we have in Jesus.  This even happens among churches with different theology, people groups, or even ad campaigns.  What becomes of most importance is not what your unique qualities are but the fact that you are on the team with us.  This is hard though...we all want to feel special which often translates to wanting to feel better, more important, better looking, smarter, than someone else.

 

This verse would have sincere significance for the Jews at the time.  Basically it says that none is spiritually superior over another, that is, a believing Jew is not more privileged before God than a believing Gentile (Greek, in contrast to Jew, suggests all Gentiles; cf. Col. 3:11); a believing slave does not rank higher than a believing free person; a believing man is not superior to a believing woman.  You may remember the passage that reflected the attitude of Pharisees last week.  Some Jewish men prayed, "I thank God that Thou hast not made me a Gentile, a slave, or a woman." Paul cut across these distinctions and stated that they do not exist in the body of Christ so far as spiritual privilege and position are concerned.

  • It does mean that the Gospel reconciles individuals In the gospel, Christians become a new people of God, united to Christ and to each other. As the gospel humbles us and assures us of God's love, we are freed from either envy or pride, either inferiority or superiority. We no longer receive our sense of worth through the approval or power of men.  Our relationships become things of beauty, driven by love (Gal. 5:6) in which we are neither using people nor overly "needy" of them. Instead we are freed to serve, affirm, or confront - whatever is best for the moment.

 

  • It does mean that the Gospel reconciles people The gospel calls us to repent of ALL of our prejudices big and small.  It removes cultural pride and brings down racial identity as a component of identity, making it possible to avoid idolizing one's cultural strengths and appreciating those of others. Essentially, the gospel makes us humble - which heals the racial/nationality brokenness (Gal. 2:14; Acts 2:1-12).  We no longer use our culture's strengths for self-justification (racism).  We now can look at others who are not like us and who are not even Christians and know that we can learn from them (since we are not saved because of our wisdom or performance, but because of Christ).  Christianity becomes the greatest basis for civil relationships in a pluralistic society.

James 2.1-4, 9  My brothers,1 wshow no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, xthe Lord of glory. 2 For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, 3 and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, "You sit here in a good place," ywhile you say to the poor man, "You stand over there," or, "Sit down at my feet," 4 have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become zjudges with evil thoughts?[vii]... 9 But if you jshow partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors[viii]

EQUALITY does not mean SAMENESS and that in Christ we suddenly change our race, status, sex, or something else at conversion.  It simply means that these things do not hinder our acceptance in Jesus nor should they hinder our approach to the world.  It puts the MOST IMPORTANT THINGS as MOST IMPORTANT.  Any type of spiritual legalism, like the Law perpetuates distinctions, but God in His grace has declared all men to be on the same level that He might have mercy on all men.

29 And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise.

The LAW had a purpose, to prepare us to receive the promises to Abraham through Jesus. 

John Stott wrote, "We cannot come to Christ to be justified until we have first been to Moses to be condemned.  Once we have gone to Moses, and acknowledged our sin, guilt and condemnation, we must not stay there.  We must let Moses send us to Christ." Messge of Galatiaians, 1968

4 I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, 2 but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. 3 In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world.

 

In these final seven verses, Paul contrasts the believer's former position UNDER THE LAW and the position they now enjoy.  This is key to understanding our identity in Jesus because I am convinced that there are people inside the church who haven't a clue about this.  They remain as children, slaves to that which they have been freed from.  When people hear that, they often think that I mean they are freed to live recklessly and embrace everything once considered taboo.  Nothing could be further from the truth. 

The truth is that one of the greatest tragedies of legalism is that it gives the appearance of spiritual maturity when in fact they are no more spiritual than when they were children.  The truth of the matter is that legalism (large and small) leads the believer back into a "second childhood" where life is slavery.  Remember what we learned about the LAW.  The law regulated life for the JEWS, but it was not intended to save them.  Paul describes it as a tutor, a slave-teacher.  Historically, the slave was the master of the child, even though the child was the heir.  He was told what to do and when to do it, and he could do nothing without permission. 

But at the DATE SET BY THE FATHER, the identity of the slave changed dramatically.  He became a responsible ADULT or citizen.  The elementary principles refer to human religion-centered on efforts to work your way back to God.

Colossians 2.8

 See to it that no one takes you captive by nphilosophy and oempty deceit, according to phuman tradition, according to the qelemental spirits2 of the world, and not according to Christ.[ix]

Colossians 2.20

20 If with Christ tyou died to the uelemental spirits of the world, vwhy, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations- 21 w "Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch" 22 (xreferring to things that all perish as they are used)-according to yhuman precepts and teachings? 23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in zpromoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are aof no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.

 

Ultimately, the question is, are you still a child or have you grown up?  Are you spending your energies in creating an identity that can be measured or have you accepted who you are and who others are in Christ? I am convinced, that there are an inordinate number of people who are in churches but not in Christ.  They have the appearance of piety, even a heart dedicated to serving, but they have not experienced a radical shift in identity that only Jesus brings.  They live their lives like children, like slaves.  It is sad.

 

4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!"7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

 

Paul explains again that SOMETHING HAPPENED-in the moment he ordained, GOD ACTED.  God did something and it meant something.  HE PURSUED US.  He came to this broken down orphanage we call earth and he bought us and adopted us.  There is a lot of laws with regard to adoption these days.  The immutable laws of God would not allow him to simply take all the kids home...without paying a particular price-a seemingly impossible price, that only ONE person could pay.   

"Jesus was fully God otherwise he could not have been savior of the world.  He had to be fully God in order for His sacrifice to have the infinite worth necessary to redeem his people atone for the sin of mankind.  He also had to be fully man in order to represent mankind and take the penalty of sin upon Himself on man's behalf.  He had to be God to have the power of Savior, and He had to be man to have the position of substitute (McArthur)."

He came and he changed our relationship, we have a new way with God.  We move from an impersonal "boss-employee" relationship to a personal "Father-child" relationship; from a fear-based self-interested way to be moral to a love-based desire to delight in our God.

The seal of our relationship, our adoption papers if you will, come in the form of the Holy Spirit.  He is the guarantee that we have been BORN AGAIN, that we might see the kingdom of God.  Notice, is the Spirit of God WITHIN US, not our own desires, not our own efforts, but God within us cries out to God in a beautiful way.  He is present within each believer's heart to give evidence of that one's position in God's family. The Spirit moves the believer to pray to God, addressing Him as Abba, Father

It is the diminutive form used by small children in addressing their fathers. It is appropriate to see its similarity to the English word "Daddy." Used by Christ (cf. Mark 14:36), this familiar form indicates intimacy and trust as opposed to the formalism of legalism[x] He applies to God a term which must have sounded familiar and disrespectful to His contemporaries because used in the everyday life of the family. In other words, He uses the simple "speech of the child to its father".1[xi]   Jesus uses the same term on the night he was arrested...

Mark 14.36

35 And going a little farther, he fell on the ground xand prayed that, if it were possible, ythe hour might pass from him. 36 And he said, z "Abba, Father, aall things are possible for you. Remove bthis cup from me. cYet not what I will, but what you will." [xii]

Romans 8.15-16

5 For gyou did not receive hthe spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of iadoption as sons, by whom we cry, j "Abba! Father!" 16 kThe Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,[xiii]

The difficult thing about accepted this level of intimacy with OUR HEAVENLY father is that our earthly fathers have let us down. Our fathers have misrepresented God to us.  Our fathers have ignored us.  Our fathers have not loved us enough.  Our fathers have left us.  Our fathers have abused us.  Our fathers have failed us.

There is not enough words in the world for me to persuade you to feel differently.  Seeing God as your true Father, seeing him in such a way that you can cry out to him when your hurt, hear him when you feel scared, feel him when you're alone.   Perhaps we think God hasn't loved us like a father.  I didn't see God protect me when I was hurt.  I don't have the answers as to why you got screwed out of a great Father in this life.  All I know is that in God there is no UNCHRISTNESS.  And, I have to believe that God's plan is the best plan that could happen for this world because having my son die on a cross seems pretty damn meaningless.  Regardless of what you feel, I'm here to tell you that you have a Father who wants you to come home.  He loves you.  He didn't leave you.  He didn't abuse you, in fact, but he suffered to be with you.

My kids teach me a ton about God.  Knowing how impatient I am with my boys, I am grateful that God is patient with me.  Knowing how many times they say "your mean Daddy", or "NO", when I want them to do something, or walk LEFT when I say walk RIGHT...or any number of things that I don't want you to know where they disobey.  I have to believe that my relationship with my kids is a lot like God's with me.  And sometimes, maybe all the time, it is the hand of God that helps Fischer, or Landen, or Emersyn say I love you Daddy...I need you Daddy...walk with me Daddy...protect me Daddy. 

 

More in Galatians

December 17, 2007

Galatians 2.15-21

March 18, 2007

Galatians 6.11-18

March 11, 2007

Galatians 6.1-10