Sermon on Galatians 3:23-29
Text: Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. 24 So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. 25 Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.
26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
What does it mean to be a citizen of the United States? On the one hand, it means that we get to enjoy certain blessings. Last week, we talked about the freedoms that are ours. There is also the ability to say whatever we may want to say. Though we do not always agree with everything that others say, they have the right to say them. We have the right to participate in choosing our leaders. That is not the case around the world. These are certain rights and freedoms that are ours because we are citizens of the United States. Being a citizen also means that we have certain responsibilities placed upon us. We are to obey the laws that are passed. We do so for the general welfare of the people around us. This morning, we are going to talk about being a part of a group. This group is more that just being citizens of a country. This group is the family of God. As we study God’s Word, we are encouraged to LIVE AS CHILDREN OF GOD. First of all, we will look at 1. The Source Of This Relationship and, then, 2. The Blessings Of This Relationship.
We are going to focus our attention on verses 26-29 of our text this morning. Paul begins by telling us, “You are all children of God.” (Verse 26) This is a most comforting statement. Because we are children of God, we will receive certain blessings and benefits because we can call God “Our Father.” Before we look at the blessings that are ours because we are children of God, let us look at how it happened.
First of all, we note that Paul speaks in the present tense, “You are all children of God.” This is a state in which we are right now. There was a time when we did not enjoy that privilege. As a matter of fact, we do not deserve to be called children of God today. We remember the words of the prodigal son when he approached his father. He said, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” (Luke 15:21) As we look at our lives in the light of God’s law, we must make the same confession.
Let me take an example out of our daily lives. God tells us in the Fourth Commandment that we are to honor our fathers and mothers. Ultimately, this means that we are to honor anyone whom God has placed in authority over us. They are his representatives, who watch over our welfare. Among his representatives on the earth are the governing authorities. It is so easy for us to sit and complain about our government, and what they should or shouldn’t be doing. We seem to take great pleasure in criticizing those who are in authority from the president on down to the local level. It may well be that there are things that are wrong, and need to be changed. However, our attitude toward our government must be carefully watched. When we badmouth them, we are badmouthing the one whom they represent, namely, God himself. Whenever we speak badly about the officials, we are breaking the Eighth Commandment, which tells us that we are to “speak well of them and take their words and actions in the kindest possible way.” In the end, we must all plead “Guilty” to breaking this command in one form or another. We, too, must come before God and say, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your (child).”
This is where Paul’s words bring great comfort, for they tell us, “In Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith.” (Verse 26) Notice how we become the children of God. It is “in Christ Jesus . . . through faith.” It is by a firm reliance and trust in Jesus Christ as our Savior from sin. Jesus came into the world to live in our place. He kept God’s laws perfectly, including the proper attitude toward the government. Some Pharisees tried to trick Jesus by asking him, “Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” (Luke 20:22) It would have been popular for Jesus to say “No,” especially if he wanted to gather a following. After all, the Romans were an occupying force in the land at the time. However, Jesus told the people, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” (Luke 20:25) Jesus showed the people that the government was to be obeyed.
Nor did Jesus speak against the government when it unjustly sentenced him to death. He did not speak against the Jewish leaders or the Roman governor. Instead of cursing the soldiers as they nailed him to the cross, he said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34) We praise God for Jesus’ willing obedience. We, also, praise him because he died on that cross. There Jesus paid the debt we owed to God. All of our sins were washed away by the blood of Jesus. We know that the Father accepted his Son’s payment for our sins because Jesus rose from the grave. The gift of the forgiveness of sins becomes ours through faith in Jesus.
goes on to explain why we can be called the children of God. He says in verse 27, “All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” We are directed back to an event that, for most of us, happened very early in our lives, namely, our baptisms. When we were baptized, faith was created in our hearts. At that time, we became a part of Christ’s holy body, the Church. Here we see the importance of baptism, for it creates the faith that makes us the children of God. Just as we were born and became members of a family on earth, so also in baptism, we were re-born and became members of God’s family.
Not only did we become members of God’s family, we also received a new garment, of sorts. Paul tells us that we “have clothed yourselves with Christ.” We were wearing the garment passed on from generation to generation, going all the way back to Adam. It was the natural inclination to sin. However, when we were baptized, we took off that filthy garment and put on the sparkling garment of Christ. We are covered with Christ’s righteousness. Now, when God looks at us, he no longer sees our sinfulness. Instead, he sees us as holy and perfect. We put on Jesus’ holiness. As the hymn writer put it, “Jesus, your blood and righteousness My beauty are, my glorious dress; Mid flaming worlds in these arrayed, With joy shall I lift up my head.” As we have seen, the source of our relationship does not come from us. Rather, it comes from God himself, who sent his Son to die for us and the Holy Spirit to create the faith in us through baptism.
We receive blessings from belonging to the family of God. In our country, we have certain rights. However, they pale in comparison with the blessings that are ours because we are God’s children.
St. Paul says in verse 28, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Christians share a unity that transcends every earthly distinction. In God’s sight your nationality, social position, wealth or gender mean nothing. In God’s sight, we who believe are all the same. We belong to one family. This is a blessing. There may be times when it feels like everyone, including our physical families, have turned their backs on us. However, we are never alone. We belong to a family that stretches over the entire world. We always have a family that cares for us. God looks past the external boundaries that have been set up and sees us all as the same. May God help us to do this, as well.
It would be good for us to note how some try to misuse this passage. Some people who are arguing against the headship of men will point to this passage where it says, “nor is there male and female.” They say that this proves that everyone is equal. In one sense, that is absolutely true. All people, male and female, are guilty of sinning and deserve eternal punishment. All believers, whether they be male or female, are saved because of the sacrifice of Christ. However, God does clearly say that there is an authority that was given to man over woman. For example, in 1 Corinthians 11:3, we read, “I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.” Even though there is a God-given responsibility of headship given to men, this does not mean that one is superior to the other. All Christians, whether male or female, have been saved and they equally belong to God’s family.
Paul speaks of further blessings in verse 29, “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Children, naturally, are heirs. What are we heirs of? What shall we receive? Jesus tells us in Matthew 25:34, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.” The inheritance that awaits every member of God’s family is eternal life in heaven. This is a blessing beyond our imagination. We can get so bound up with day-to-day living, with all of its many problems. It is hard for us to imagine life without them. However, this inheritance waits for all of the members of God’s family.
Sometimes, it gets hard to wait for this blessing. It may seem as though it will never get here. That is one of the reasons that Paul mentions Abraham. God made many promises to Abraham. God promised Abraham that he would be the father of many nations. However, it was not until 25 years later, when Abraham was 100 years old, that he had his son, Isaac. There may have been times when Abraham doubted. Yet, he clung to God’s promises and, finally, saw their fulfillment. So also, my dear friends, let us look to the example of Abraham and his patient waiting for the son God promised. When doubts assail us, let us remember that God is the one who made the promises. This is the same God who promised a Savior and then fulfilled his promise. This confidence is another blessing that we receive because we are part of God’s family.
The story is told of a young man who was about to leave home for the first time to go to college. As the day approached for his departure, he kept waiting for a lecture from his father about what he should do and what he shouldn’t do. Finally, it was the night before the young man was going to leave home. As the family sat together at the supper table, the father spoke to his son. It was only a few words, but they said so much. He said, “Remember whose son you are.” He was reminding his son to conduct himself in such a way that would not bring shame upon the family. May we, also, take heed of that father’s words. Let us remember whose children we are. Let us conduct our lives so as not to bring shame to the name of Christ. Let us live our lives proud of the family to which we belong. We belong to this family by the grace of God. May we truly appreciate the many blessings that are ours. Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, live as children of God. Amen.
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