No Longer Imprisoned by Law, Now Heirs According to Promise (Galatians Sermon 10 of 26)
January 26, 2014 | Andy Davis
The Law of God
Pastor Andy Davis preaches an expository sermon on Galatians 3:22-29, and the point of how God frees sinners through Christ's redemptive work.
- SERMON TRANSCRIPT -
In John Bunyan's classic allegory of the Christian Life, Pilgrim's Progress, a book that Charles Spurgeon, the great Baptist preacher read at least once a year for 50 years. And you think, how could you read the same book over and over? But it's such a powerful, scripturally saturated allegory of the Christian life. It begins with a man named Christian, who is desperately under conviction that he lives in the City of Destruction, and he's got a terrible burden on his back, and he's reading this book open in his hand, and the more he reads, the heavier his lamentations and sighs and weariness grows, and he's worried and concerned that he's going to come under the wrath of God, he's going to come under the judgment of God. And he can't find any rest, even sleep doesn't ease his heart. His wife doesn't... Actually, she makes it worse and it just gets terrible, and finally, he meets a man named Evangelist. And Evangelist points to a way to begin running to find the answers, a light in a wicket gate and he goes running, and he's got this terrible burden on his back, and he's yearning for deliverance from this.
And as he's going along on the road that Evangelist told him to go on, he meets a man named Mr. Worldly Wiseman. Mr. Worldly Wiseman counsels him that he needs to go to the Town of Morality, where he can get some help with that burden on his back. He will meet a man there, named Legality, who is an expert at helping people get those kinds of burdens off their backs. But in order to get to the Village of Morality, Christian has to leave the path that he's on and start traveling a different way. By the way, in Pilgrim's Progress, never leave the path, always big trouble when you leave the path. And so, he leaves the path and he's going after the Town of Morality and he's trying to climb up this hill. And the hill becomes a mountain, it becomes a towering mountain, it starts to loom over him, even kind of folding back over him, and he's looking up with terror, and he's distressed, and in anguish and there's... He doesn't know where to go, he's paralyzed. Can't go forward another step, as though the mountain is there to fall on him and crush him. And moreover, from the top of the mountain, there are these terrible flashes of lightning and peals of thunder, and just the terrors coming on him. He's just standing there, he doesn't know what to do.
And then comes Evangelist, again, a second time, praise the Lord. But he's not looking too happy with Christian at that moment. And he fixes a severe look on his face and he scolds him for leaving the true path. And he said, "No one ever got their burden off by going to the Town of Morality. And Legality cannot help you, all he can do is increase your burden."
Well, this has been a common journey for many that are struggling with the terror of Judgment Day. The terrors of the wrath of God, the terrors of facing a holy God covered with sin. And they try through morality, through legal observances to try to ease their conscience, but it only gets worse. In 1732, there was a man, a young student, named George Whitefield. He was the son of a tavern owner and he enrolled in Pembroke College in Oxford, England. Only 17 years old, he soon joined a club, a group of other Christians, who were very serious about their Christianity, very serious. They were so meticulous and their pursuits of the moral precepts of Christianity, that they were called the nickname, The Methodists, was meant to be an insult at that point.
George Whitefield became more and more concerned about his soul, and he started fasting, depriving himself of sleep, depriving himself of warm clothing in the winter. Laying out in the snow through the night, depriving himself of healthy foods. It got so bad that his hands actually started turning black. He couldn't get up the stairs into his dorm room, he was crawling up the stairs. People were afraid that he would soon die, which he probably would have, except that someone gave him a book, written by Henry Scougal, called 'The Life of God in the Soul of Man.' It saved not only his life, but it saved his soul. And in that booklet, it taught him the basic truths of Christianity, the basic gospel of Christ, the doctrine of the New Birth, through faith in Jesus Christ, through trusting in the finished work of Christ on the cross and his resurrection, we can have eternal life, we can be born again, and we can live an entirely new kind of life. And he was born again, and he spent the rest of his life preaching, preaching the New Birth and the freedom that Christ alone can give.
Now Tim Keller, in his comments on the book of Galatians and specifically, the section we're looking at today, said this, "Many Christians, though not all, testify that when they first became aware of their need for God, they went through a time of immaturity, in which they became extremely religious. They diligently sought to mend their ways and to do religious duties, to clean up their lives. They made tearful surrenders to God at church services. They gave their lives to Jesus, they asked him to come into their hearts. But so often, they were really only resolving to be very good and religious, hoping this would procure the favor and blessing of God. At this stage, they tended to have lots of emotional ups and downs, like children, feeling good when they made spiritual commitment and then feeling despondent when they failed to keep a promise to God, they felt a great deal of anxiety."
Now, as we come to Galatians 3:23-29, we come to the culmination of this phase of Paul's argument. On the true gospel versus the legalistic gospel of what we've been calling the 'Judaizers.' Some false teachers, who came to Galatia after Paul preached the gospel and planted those churches there, he left and then they came afterwards. They claimed to believe in Jesus and in the gospel of Jesus, but they said, "You have to be circumcised, you have to keep the law of Moses in order to be saved." And so, they're trying to mix Jesus and Moses together in an unholy recipe for salvation.
In this chapter, we've seen in Galatians 3:1-5, Paul begins with the Galatians' own experience when Paul came to their towns and preached the gospel, and how they had heard with faith the gospel. Simply hearing by faith, they believed and the Holy Spirit was poured out on them and they received the gift of the Holy Spirit. "You remember how it was," he said, "having begun by the Spirit, are you now perfected by the flesh?" "By human efforts at keeping the laws, is this how you're going to make it the rest of the way?"
And then he turns from their experience to the Scriptures. He proves how Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation, was justified by faith in the promise, not by the law. He believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness. On the contrary, those who try to keep the law and be justified by the law, be forgiven of their sins by the law, are under a curse. For it is written, "Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the law." All the law, all the time, or you're cursed.
But thanks be to God for Jesus, Amen? He became a curse for us, so that he might redeem us from the curse of the law and give us the gift of the Holy Spirit, and adoption, and the inheritance through Abraham. We have seen all of that. So now the question in front of Paul, and he's been answering it and now he continues to answer it, is what then is the purpose of the law? Why did God, centuries after Abraham, give the law of Moses? What was he trying to do?
I. The Law Was Our Jailer and Guardian, to Bring Us to Christ
And so, we're going to see now, in this text, the purpose of the law, and we're going to focus, first and foremost, on how the law was a jailer and a guardian to bring us to Christ. So if the law couldn't save our souls, why was it given? Now, there are many answers to this question. I'm not saying that the answer we're giving now is the only reason for the law. There are multiple reasons why God gave the law to the human race, to the Jews and to the human race. But here we're going to focus on the issue of salvation. And he's going to bring up these themes... The law as a jailer, and the law as a custodian or guardian.
Now, according to Paul's argument here, the law had a temporary role to play, both in an individual's life, I think, and also in redemptive history. The law is here for just a while until something happens, and then, in that role, you don't need it anymore. There is that time aspect that he has here. Now, God was very wise in giving us the law. There's nothing wrong with the law, the law had a very good purpose. But the direct salvation of sinners was not one of the purposes of the law. That's not why God gave it, else God has failed, else Christ died needlessly, as we've already seen. So he's answering the question of the role of the law here.
In Romans, he defends the law a little more clearly and directly. In Romans 7:7, he says, "What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Absolutely not." So the law is not sin. Actually, five verses later, in Romans 7:12, he says, "So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good." There's nothing wrong with the law. But here, in Galatians 3, Paul is revealing some of God's purpose in giving the law. And he's emphasizing that once faith in Christ comes, the law doesn't play that role anymore. That time is over, it's done.
Now, we have to step back for a moment, and I've already hinted at it, but we have to ask a question. Is Paul speaking personally about individuals or is he speaking nationally about the Jews? It's a very important question. We have to try to understand that. In Romans 7, very plainly, Paul is speaking personally. He's talking about his own experience with the law. "Once I was alive, apart from the law. But when the commandment came," he says, "sin sprang to life and I died." He's speaking very autobiographically, very personally.
But here, in Galatians 3, it's not so clear. It seems at least possible that he's speaking more in terms of redemptive history, big picture, about the function of the law in the history of the Jewish nation. Or he may be speaking, as in Romans, about the law, in terms of individual salvation. Both of those are valid answers, both of them are valid themes. And we can see the importance of understanding each. The law had a role to play in the lives of individual sinners, Jews or Gentiles, and the law also had a role to play in the history of the world, through the history of the Jewish nation. In both cases though, once the era of faith in Christ comes, the law no longer plays those roles, either for the individual or for the nation as a whole. For the individual sinner, Jew or Gentile, the law plays a role in making the sinner despair of personal righteousness. And then, bringing the sinner, despairing in personal righteousness, bringing the sinner to faith in Christ. The law has that role. For the Jewish nation, the law played a role in preparing a setting for the Jewish Messiah to come, to set the Jews apart as a special nation with walls or barriers around them. Circumcision, dietary regulations, all of the ceremonial law, the special days and seasons and years, all of those things identified the Jews as what we would call a peculiar people, and gave a Jewish context for the Messiah to be born into.
"Once the era of faith in Christ comes, the law no longer plays those roles , either for the individual [despairing the sinner of personal righteousness] or for the nation as a whole [preparing a setting for the Jewish Messiah to come]."
We have to understand both of those things. Either way, once Christ comes, that time is over. That time is over. So let's first look at this issue of the law as jailer. And by the way, on the nation, we also know that even the national history of the Jews ends up being a laboratory for individual salvation. That we Gentiles can watch what happened to the Jewish nation, how they behaved under the law, how they could not keep it, how they constantly were violating it, how the Lord was continually sending prophets to warn them and bringing judgements and they still didn't keep the law. So we can step aside, just as individuals, and say, "We're the same." What person has ever read the Book of Judges and not found your own struggle with sin in that book? You're not allegorizing, you're just saying, "I have the same kind of cycles going on in my own life." And we can see that connection with the whole Jewish nation. So, they actually are somewhat intertwined. The Jews as a nation and then, individual salvation.
But let's zero in on this issue of the law as a jailer, and that's very much on the personal side here. Verse 23. Before this faith came, we were confined under the law, or locked up, some would say. Imprisoned, until the coming faith was revealed. This is a time orientation, before this faith came. So we're following the flow of the argument of Galatians. Paul is speaking of individual experience of law and salvation. Look back at verses 21 and 22. Try to get the flow here. You always want to get these things in context. “Is the law, [verse 21,] is the law therefore contrary to the promises of God? Absolutely not. For if a law had been given that was able to give life, then righteousness would certainly come by the law. But the scripture has imprisoned everything under sin's power, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.” You see, it's very individual there. It's got to do with individual salvation. As individuals believe, then the promise comes to those individuals. So, the law is not the enemy of God's promise. Not at all. Actually, both law and promise work together in the providence of God and in the saving power of God to bring individual sinners to faith in Christ. They both have a role to play.
Now, the law has no power to bring about the ultimate end of salvation, has no power at all to bring about the purpose of eternal life and a blessed, reconciled relationship with almighty God. It has no power to do that. Has no power to make a single person on earth righteous. Rather, God intended in some amazing way to imprison everyone on earth, not just the Jews, under sin's power, that we would realize that we are powerless to save ourselves. This imprisonment under sin and the law would continue until Christ came and set us free. So we're locked up by the law, powerless to escape, until at last, Christ comes to set the sinner free. So verse 22 makes it plain that once faith in the promise of life in Jesus Christ comes, the imprisonment ends for those who believe. Verse 23 just picks up the flow. Verse 23, "Before this faith came, we were confined under the law, imprisoned, until the coming faith was revealed." This is the law as a prison warden or a jailer. So the law functions very negatively here. It instructs us what sin is. It actually provokes and draws out sin from us and then, it condemns us for the sin that it has drawn out. That's what the law does. It defines sin. It provokes or draws out sin and then it condemns sin. That's it.
Notice that not listed in there is saves from sin, or transforms the heart. It does not have power to do those things. The law teaches us God's righteous standards. Once we have violated them, it locks us up and we are as though we are on death row, waiting for the condemnation to come. And the law cannot speak a word of mercy to us. It's not in its power to do so. It has no power to speak mercy to us. And so, the law teaches us God's morality, its righteous standards. Look at the 10 commandments. "I am the Lord, your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make any idol, neither shall you worship any idols. You shall not take the name of the Lord, your God, in vain. Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Do all your work in six days and rest on the seventh, for God made heaven and earth in six days and rested on the seventh. Honor your father and mother. You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not bare false witness against your neighbor. You shall not covet anything that belongs to your neighbor." Ten commandments.
They're essentially negative, for the most part. You shall not, you shall not. For the most part, they're negative. Jesus, when asked about the law, summarized all of the law, not just the 10 commandments, but 600 commandments and more, summarized under two positive headings... Two positive headings. The first and greatest commandment of the law is this, "You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength." The second commandment, he said, is like it, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." So that's the law. The 10 and two. Now, these commandments describe God's righteous heart, his righteous expectations. Those commandments and hundreds of others are pure and altogether righteous, it says in Psalm 19. But we find that we cannot obey them. We cannot keep these commandments, we find we cannot obey them because the law actually draws sin out from us. It gives our wicked, rebellious hearts a chance to rebel and be wicked. If there were no law, there could, by definition, be no transgression. We'd be permitted to do anything we wanted. If we were permitted to do anything we wanted, then there would be no violations, there would be no Judgment Day, no commandments. The law comes and shows us God's righteous standards and our inner sin nature rises up to challenge his right to give us those commands. Challenges it.
In Romans 7, Paul especially speaks of the 10th commandment. I think the 10th commandment's very powerful, "You shall not covet." You shall not covet, there should be inside of you no motions of jealousy toward another human being for any advantage or benefit they have in life. You shall not set your desire on anything else, anything that belongs to your neighbor. Their spouse, their possessions, their house, their car, their... Doesn't mention cars, but you know by extension. I don't know, chariots, donkeys. I mean, anything that they own, anything at all, you shall not have motions of your heart to go out, shall not fantasize toward what it'd be like if you could live in that house or if you could have that promotion that you deserved and they got it. Never any motions of coveting.
Paul talks about what the law did to him in Romans 7:7-11, he said, "What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? Absolutely not. Indeed, I would not have known what sin was, except through the law, for I would not have known what coveting really was, if the law had not said, 'Do not covet.' But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me and through the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire. For apart from the law, sin is dead. Once I was alive, apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life, actually brought death. For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment deceived me, and through the commandment, put me to death." That's how it works. Paul was free in the manner of coveting until the law came into his mind, he learned what coveting was and then, now he's coveting left and right. "Filled with all kinds of covetous desires," he said.
How does this work? Well, imagine a father brings home a big cardboard box, okay? Puts it in the corner with a bunch of other boring papers and his coat and it just sits there. Kids walk by, don't give it a second look. But say instead, he brings that box, puts it in the center of the table and puts a big sign on it, saying, "Absolutely do not look in this box." What happens then? Temptation happens next, is what happens. If it goes on long enough, someone, looking left and looking right, is going to open that box. So the commandment brings out the desire, it brings out the sin, that's what the law was meant to do. In Romans 5, "The law was added, so that the trespass might increase." It's very counter-intuitive there. We would think that the law was given so there'd be less sin, that's not what's going on. He wants you to see it. And then, the law condemns you, because all sin deserves the death penalty and you're put on death row 'cause you're not killed instantly. God and his mercy gives you time to repent, but you're on death row now and the law is your jailer. Verse 23, "Before this faith came, we were confined under the law, we were imprisoned until the coming faith was revealed."
"So the commandment brings out the desire, it brings out the sin, that's what the law was meant to do.... It's very counter-intuitive there. We would think that the law was given so there'd be less sin, that's not what's going on. He wants you to see it."
John Stott, commenting on this, said this, "After God gave the promise to Abraham, he gave the law to Moses. Why? Well, he had to make things worse before he could make them better. The law exposed sin, it provoked sin, it condemned sin. The purpose of the law was to lift the lid off of man's respectability and disclose what he really is underneath, sinful, rebellious, guilty, under the judgment of God and helpless to save himself. And the law must still be allowed to do this God-given duty today. One of the great faults of the contemporary Church," says Stott, "is the tendency to soft-pedal sin and judgment. We must never bypass the law and come straight to the gospel. To do so is to contradict the plan of God in biblical history. No man has every appreciated the gospel until the law has first revealed him to himself. It is only against the inky blackness of the night sky that the stars begin to appear, and it's only against the dark background of sin and judgment that the gospel shines forth."
Our age, here in America, our culture, our age has very little sense of the law as jailer. And I fear it's because the Church is not preaching the fullness of the counsel of God here. Very few evangelists and pastors are preaching clearly the terrors of the law. The terrors of eternal condemnation for all who are judged, condemned on Judgment Day. People think of themselves as basically a good person or basically good people, but the law, if they understand it properly, exposes them as deeply, truly rebellious to the core of their being. I think we don't do it, as we're sharing our faith, because it's uncomfortable to do. It's painful to do, to show someone their sin. Now, we ought to do it as those who are under the same terrors, if it weren't for Christ. But we need to do the law work in people's hearts. So how do you do it? I would suggest, if you want to evangelize, memorize what I just gave you a few minutes ago, a simplified outline of the 10 commandments, memorize it. Secondly, memorize the two great commandments, you could do it in an afternoon, memorize the 10 and two. For extra credit, memorize the legal commentary on two of the 10 commandments by Jesus. Now, Jesus is a legal expert and his comments on the 10 commandments will be important for us. When? On Judgment Day. Why? 'Cause he's the judge that's going to be sitting on your case. Is that of interest to you? The fact that the judge who will be sitting on your case had some comments to make on the 10 commandments. Where did he make those comments? In the Sermon on the Mount.
So I would suggest that you memorize this, as well. "You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'You shall not murder,' and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment, but I tell you that anyone who says to his brother, 'Raca', is in danger of the fire of hell. Anyone who says 'you fool' is in danger of the fire of hell." Now you're like, "Who is he to make that comment? If you just say some insult, 'you fool', you're in danger of the fire of hell? Who is Jesus to make a comment like that?" John 5 says that the Father has entrusted all judgment to him. He will be sitting on your case. And he says he's not just looking for, "Did you consummate the act?" But were there motions toward murder in your heart? Have there ever been unholy motions of anger in your heart toward another human being? Have you acted on it by saying something harsh? By a hard action toward them? God, the Father, Christ, the judge, puts that all under one file, calls it murder. And says you are in danger of the fire of hell. He then goes on to talk about the commandment on adultery. "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery in his heart." ,"If your right eye cause you to sin, then gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell." Again, the same thing, he's intensifying the law. Now, you may say, "This doesn't seem right." But think about it. The 10th commandment, what part of you is the judge looking at, to decide whether you broke the 10th commandment? What part of your body do you use to covet? Is it not the heart? Is it not the internal part of you? Jesus is just saying the same goes for all of them. God's looking at the heart, he's looking at, "Do you have other gods?" He's looking at, "Do you take the name of the Lord in vain?" He's looking at what you're doing with the law at the heart.
Later, in that same chapter, Matthew 5:48, he sums it all up with this sweeping statement. "You must be perfect therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." Moral perfection is required for heaven. Now listen, friends, future evangelists, present evangelists, if you're doing the work of the law here, you're going 10 plus two, the two commandments, who can say they've loved God with every fiber of their being, every moment of their lives? Who can say that? Who can say they've sacrificed everything they had for their neighbors and others? Who can ever say that? No one can make it through that net. By the time you get done, I've seen it happen time and time again, the person you're witnessing to says, "No one can keep that, no one's perfect." It's like, "Yes, you got it." But you have to be perfect. Now, they may disagree with that, doesn't matter. It will matter for them, but the truth is you must be as perfect morally as God to go to heaven, and the law tells you, you're not. Jesus goes beyond that in Matthew 12:36, he says, "I tell you that men will have to give an account on the Day of Judgment for every careless word they have spoken." Full record of all of your words are conveniently kept for you, you'll meet it on Judgment Day. I remember witnessing to someone, he said, "I don't remember everything I said yesterday." It's like, "It's all right, God does. He's got it all down." And you get seeing people's eyes, they start getting bigger and bigger. It means you're actually doing some evangelism now.
I saw once a bumper sticker, "Christ is the answer," and then you see this sarcastic question "What's the question?" I'll tell you what the question is, "How can a sinner like me stand before a Holy God like him and survive?" Christ is the answer to that question, he's the only way we can. And so, we have to make this clear, we have to make the Great White Throne Judgement clear. Revelation 20, "Then I saw a Great White Throne and him who's seated on it, and earth and sky fled from his presence and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the Throne and the books were opened and another book was open, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to what they had done, as recorded in the books. And the sea gave up the dead that were in it and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death and if anyone's name was not found written in the Book of Life, he was thrown in the lake of fire."
It's our job, dear friends, as evangelists, to make these things vividly clear to unbelievers. And if you are an unbeliever, you're invited here today. It is presently my privilege to make these things vividly clear to you. The law is a jailer because it does not speak a single word of comfort to you in all of this. Not a single word, can only condemn, condemn by justice. We need to tell people the truth. This is the truth. But once someone receives the truth of the law and Judgement Day and eternity in hell, but hasn't yet understood the gospel of grace through faith in Christ, they may immediately try to earn salvation by resolutions and extreme efforts and asceticism. Church history is full of those stories. I don't think we see much of it in our culture around because the law isn't being preached like it should be. But some people not quite coming to Christ yet, they try to earn their own salvation. Thus, the law brings someone to Christ because before the law came, the sinner didn't know he or she needed a savior. So the law tells the bad news, so that Christ can tell the good news.
Verse 23, "Before this faith came, we were confined under the law, imprisoned, until the coming faith was..." What? "Revealed, revealed." Faith in Christ has to be revealed, like it was to Simon Peter at Caesarea Philippi. In Matthew 16, "What about you?" he said, "Who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ. You are the son of the living God." And Jesus said, "Blessed are you, Simon, son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven." So the Father in heaven has to reveal Christ. Faith is a synonym for Christ here, in this verse. Until Christ is revealed. He uses faith because that's the principle by which we receive the gift of salvation through Christ, but it's really Christ that's being revealed. And it's revealed in the gospel that Christ has all the righteousness you need to survive Judgment Day and he's willing to give it to you as a gift. He uses the verb later in our text, 'clothed with Christ'. He is willing to put a robe, a beautiful robe of righteousness on you, as a gift.
2 Corinthians 5:21, "God made him who had no sin, [Christ] to be sin for us." He was clothed with our defiling wickedness on the cross, so that in him, we might become the righteousness of God. Or as Galatians 3 put it, "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us. As it is written, 'Cursed it is everyone who's hung on a tree.' He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith, we might receive the promise of the Spirit." Before this faith is revealed, though, the sinner's dead in transgressions and sins, the law makes that plain. The law is also a guardian. It's a separate word used here, interesting word. Verse 24, "So then, the law was our guardian until Christ, so that we could be justified by faith."
Now the metaphor shifts a bit. He uses a second word, a different image, 'paidagogos' is the word here. From the Greek word for child and lead. One who leads a child. So like a nanny or something like that, but it's not an exact parallel in our culture. Back then, a wealthy, estate-owning individual would hire a highly-trained, maybe Greek slave, a philosopher, Greek slave, who would be the paidagogos, the guardian, the tutor, school master, etcetera, for the children who were underage. And so, he would have the responsibility to take care of these sons on a daily basis, train them, instruct them, discipline them, protect them from harm. His discipline could be quite harsh as needed. He was training them. They were children. Now, one day, they would come into their inheritance. They were sons of noblemen and they would come into their inheritance, but when they were children, they needed the guardian, they needed the school master. The idea is wanting a protective oversight given to boys, who are minors and needed protection and training. The law then kept the Jewish nation identifiable and protected and safe and not pagan, not melting away into pagan...
Remember all those things in Ezra and Nehemiah about intermarriage and the children don't even speak the language of Zion. They're not even speaking Hebrew. What's going on? The desire is to keep the Jewish nation identifiably Jewish and protected until the Messiah was born, next chapter, of a woman, born under the law and fullness of time, Jewish, okay? But once Jesus comes, you don't need circumcision or dietary regulations or any of those ceremonial laws anymore. That's done. You don't need to identify the Jews as a nation anymore, now that Christ has come. So that's what he's talking about here. So individually, then, the law serves as a tutor and a guardian, bringing immature individuals to Christ, so they can be justified. Bringing an immature nation in redemptive history to the time in redemptive history when Christ will be born as a Jew. So the law trains, it instructs, it protects, but it doesn't justify. Faith alone in Christ justifies.
"The law trains, it instructs, it protects, but it doesn't justify. Faith alone in Christ justifies."
II. The Age of Faith in Christ Has Come, the Jailer/Guardian Has Gone
So now, good news, the age of faith in Christ has come and the jailer and guardian has gone. Look at verses 25 through 27. "But since that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus." Verse 27, "For as many of you has been baptized, have been baptized in the Christ, have put on Christ." So nationally, once the Jewish nation and redemptive history at the right time, Christ born, once that came, the nation has grown to maturity, they don't need the guardian of the law anymore. Child becomes a man. And so, when Jesus was born and grew, presented to the Jewish nation, time for the law as a shaper of Jewish national identity had ended.
The law brought the Jewish nation to Christ. Christ brought salvation, then, to the Jewish nation, but only to those who would believe in him, those were the true sons of Abraham, as he said very plainly in his ministry. So the era of the guardian is over, no more ceremonial laws. Later, Paul's going to say to the Galatians, "I'm distressed to your observing special days and months and seasons and years." "Don't you realize the time for that's done? We're not under that calendar anymore, we're not under that system anymore. It's done."
And so, circumcision is done, the time for animal sacrifice and the priestly class, all that's done. And the dividing wall of hostility between Jew and Gentile is gone forever. Isn't that awesome? There was that barrier, that dividing wall that separated Jew and Gentile. Circumcision, a very clear example of that. You had the uncircumcised Gentiles and then, you had the circumcised Jews. But now that Christ has come, that's been removed now, it's been removed. Ephesians 2:14 and 15, speaking of Christ, "He, himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself, [listen to this] one new man out of the two, thus making peace." That is absolutely fits like a lock and a key in the text I'm preaching on right now. There's no longer Jew or Gentile, there's now just Christian, they say. That's the one new man, believer in Jesus, doesn't matter whether you're a Jew or a Gentile, that's what he's saying. That barrier, the dividing wall, is gone and so once faith individually comes into the heart, the time of being under the jailer is done. The sinner comes into full, the full freedom of forgiveness. The law doesn't have power over you to condemn you anymore, you're free from all of that. You're free men and women in Christ.
The scripture testifies to our perfect righteousness in Christ and the silence of the law as accuser. Praise God for these verses. Listen to Colossians 2:13-14, "When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ." Speaking of Gentiles there, in Colossae. "He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the written code with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us. He took it away, nailing it to the cross." So God took all of the law. Like, see the commandments and then how you broke them. Commandment, how you broke it, commandment... It's all written out, written in indelible ink. God took that and nailed it to the cross and said, "Forgiven" to all of it. It's been forgiven, you're forgiven, it's been nailed to the cross.
So it says in Romans 8:1-3, "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." No condemnation because through Christ Jesus, "the law of the spirit of life, [we're getting to that in Galatians 5] has set me free from the law of sin and death, for what the law was powerless to do and that it was weakened by the flesh, God did, by sending his son in the likeness of the flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh. And then later, in that same chapter, Romans 8:33 and 34, while you're doing all that memorizing, go ahead and memorize Romans 8. Amen? What a great chapter. Romans 8:33 and 34, "Who will bring any charge against those whom God has justified?" Who's going to do that, who's going to stand up and charge you on Judgment Day? The implication is no, because it says, "It is God who justifies. Who dares condemn? God has justified you. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus who died, more than that was raised to life, is at the right hand of God and is interceding for you." So what that means is 'baptized into Christ' means freedom from the jailer and the guardian. We are free forever from the jailer and the accuser. And that's true of all believers, all believers are equally free from this.
III. All Believers Are Equally Heirs by Faith in the Promise
Look at verses 26 to 29, "You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who are baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed and heirs, according to the promise." This is the full glory of the gospel of grace, adoption into God's family. "You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus." What a wonderful message to these Gentile Christians from Galatia. You're already fully adopted into God's family. You're already sons of Abraham.
Judaizers' doctrine made them feel like second-class citizens, right? You're not really in until you get circumcised. Start obeying that Jewish law. Gotta become Jews. We're already Jews, we're already in, we're Jewish believers in Christ. We're at the highest level. You're second class citizens. Paul says, "No, you're not. You're already fully heirs with Abraham." Praise God. You're already sons of God through faith, not by law. And he speaks there about being baptized into Christ. If you've been baptized into Christ, you've clothed yourself with Christ, a powerful image here. I don't believe he's directly talking about water baptism. Indirectly, yes.
But 'baptizo', the Greek word, means to immerse, to plunge. Not trying to be offensive to any of our paedobaptist friends, but that's what the word means. It means to plunge, not to sprinkle, to plunge. Okay? That's what the word means, plunge. We are immersed, by the Spirit immersed into Christ, immersed into him. Now, water baptism is merely an outward visible symbol. John the Baptist was clear on this. John the Baptist said, "I baptize, [I immerse] in water for repentance, but after me will come one more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. [He will immerse you] He will baptize you in the Holy Spirit and fire." Because he was speaking to a mixed group, I think you can read or there. You're either going to be immersed in the Holy Spirit by Jesus or he will immerse you in the lake of fire. And if you don't think that's the right interpretation, keep reading in Matthew 3 because that fire, John the Baptist describes very plainly in a few verses. So Jesus will rescue you from the lake of fire, by immersing you in the Holy Spirit. Jesus baptized you in the Holy Spirit. Then, along comes some Baptist and will immerse you in water to show it. It’s an outward and visible sign of an immersion you've already had through the Holy Spirit by Jesus. And if you've done that, it says, "You have clothed yourself in Christ." You're clothed. You're just immersed in the righteousness of Christ. You're immersed in Jesus.
And there, in front of the cross, the ground is perfectly level, absolutely level. Look at verse 28 and 29, "There is no Jew or Greek. There's no slave or free. There's no male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." The Judaizers were filled with nationalistic pride, weren't they, of being Jewish. Gentiles were often called 'dogs', very disparaging and negative, but that is over now. That's over. In Christ, the foot of the cross, the ground is perfectly level. The cross of Jesus Christ is the great equalizer. Jewish Christians aren't any more sons of Abraham than Gentile Christians. They're not second-class citizens at all, but fully adopted sons and daughters of Abraham and heirs with him of the promises.
Notice that Paul extends this to three key forms of distinction in society: Racial distinctions. In Christ, there's neither Jew nor Greek, so race doesn't matter at the foot of the cross. Social status. In Christ, there's neither slave nor free. And then, gender. In Christ, there's neither male nor female. In other words, your real identity at the foot of the cross has nothing to do with those things, nothing to do with them at all. The only thing that's going to matter on that day is sheep or goat, frankly, believer or unbeliever. So therefore, in the Christian church, there are no second-class citizens. Jews are no better than Gentiles in the Christian church. White people, no better than black people. Black people, no better than white people. Americans, no better than Orientals. Orientals, no better than Americans. Rich people are no better than poor people. Poor people, no better than rich people. Men are no better than women. Women, no better than men. All of these things are based on pride and arrogance and they foster disunity. But, in verse 28, we are all one in Christ Jesus. And that oneness is a deep mystery. It's patterned after the mystery of the Trinity, "Hear, O Israel, the Lord, our God, the Lord is one."
And Jesus prayed in John 17 that we would be as one as the Father and the Son are one. So we are all one. It's speaking about unity in Christ. Now, this does not mean that these distinctions are meaningless, it doesn't. Let's talk about racial distinctions. There are such. There will be people from every tribe and language and people and nation as such around the throne of God in heaven. And they're going to look like it. I think they're even going to be dressed like it, but I don't know for sure. And that's cool because God is an incredibly diverse creator, isn't he? He doesn't want us all 5 foot 10 inches, 170 lbs. He doesn't want us all looking the same. He has made a beautiful, diverse world. In Revelation 21, it talks about the gates of the new Jerusalem standing open, so that the kings of the earth may bring diverse glory into it all the time. So God wants that diversity. This isn't talking about that, though. And the same thing was social. God created some people in society to be leaders, owners, bosses, authority figures and he upholds those distinctions. We're to submit to them in society, show them honor and respect. Parents, for example, we submit to them. Okay? But we're still one in Christ. We're equally redeemed by the blood of Jesus.
And then gender, this has to be said most clearly because there is a demonic assault on gender in our society today. Do you see it? Started with feminism, but it's gone much bigger than that. That gender doesn't matter and this is the favorite verse in the Bible for people who want to push that agenda. So here I am, right on “their turf” speaking about these things. But it isn't their turf because it's not what the verse is even talking about it. I've given a very small slice of this sermon pie to this topic because it's not what Paul is even talking about. Okay? It's not true that gender means nothing in the home or in the church. That is not true. There are differences between husbands and wives and there are difference between men and women, in terms of who can be an elder and who can't. It's very clearly taught in 1 Timothy 2. So we would not say that gender means nothing when it comes to marriage. We would not look at this verse as supporting same-sex marriages. Most evangelical feminists, who cling to this verse would reject that, but they still want to say, "In Christ there's neither male nor female." They're going too far. It's not what Paul's talking about.
He's talking about intrinsic redemption through faith in Christ. We're all equally redeemed by the blood of Christ, that's all. And then, we get the glory of being an heir with Abraham. Verse 29, "If you are Christ’s, then you're Abraham's seed and heirs according to the promise." We get God as our inheritance. We get a resurrection body as our inheritance, we get the new heaven and the new earth as an inheritance, we get Jerusalem, the new Jerusalem as an inheritance, we get the Kingdom. "Come, you who are blessed by my Father, take the Kingdom, the inheritance, prepared for you."
So what applications can we take from this? I just want you to picture right now, picture that time that Jesus was talking about in Matthew 25, when the Son of Man comes in his Father's glory, and all the angels with him. He will gather all the nations together, all of them gathered together. I don't know how to picture 10 billion people or more in one place, I don't know how to picture that. But then, he's going to separate the people one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he's going to put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. The sheep are believers in Christ, the goats are not. That's the only distinction that will matter at that time. The only one that matters. Your resume will not matter, your achievements will not matter, your racial status will not matter, your socio-economic status will not matter, your gender will not matter. The only thing that will matter is this, did Christ know you? Did you know him by faith? Did you come into a covenant of salvation by simple faith in Jesus? That's the only thing that's going to matter at that point.
If you repent and believe in Christ, you can know the freedom that only Christ can give. As Charles Wesley put it, "Long my imprisoned spirit lay, fast bound in sin and nature's night. Thine eye diffused, Christ's eye diffused a quickening ray. I woke, the dungeon flamed with light. My chains fell off, my heart was free, I rose, went forth and followed thee." Do you want that to happen to you? Then repent and trust in Jesus. Do you want to see that happen in someone else's life? Then preach the law, then the gospel to somebody this week. Tell them the truth. Tell them what's really coming. Know that you are set free, if you're a Christian, you are set free from the law. Find your self-esteem, if I can speak, finally, on self-esteem. In last week's theme and this week's theme, find your self-esteem in the fact that we are all equally created in the image of God, last week's sermon, and we are all, who are Christians, equally redeemed by the blood of Jesus. That's where your self-esteem comes from. And once you give yourself that self-esteem, please give it to others, too. Those distinctions don't matter at all.
And finally, let's strive for unity, all of us, one from another. We have different roles to play, but we're one body. We have different roles to play in the body of Christ, some ahead, some a foot, some an eye, etcetera, but we're all one in Christ. Let's be one. Let's love one another. Let's be brought to increasing unity. Let's have a surprising, amazing unity in this church, racial unity, gender unity, socio-economic unity, let's put that on display for the world. Close with me in prayer.
Father, thank you for the truth of the gospel. Thank you that we are free from condemnation. Thank you that we're not under the jailer or the guardian anymore. Thank you that faith has come. Father, I pray that if faith hasn't come for specific individuals, listen to me right now, O God, speak to them now, open the eyes of their heart, that they might see Christ and in him, salvation. In Jesus' name, Amen.