Text: Galatians 3:23-4:7
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon is the Epistle, which was read earlier.
Being a slave is not a choice that we would make if we had the option. You have no rights, no freedom, you belong to someone or something else. Your life is not your own. You wouldn’t make that choice, would you? If we had the choice to be free or to be a slave, we would naturally choose freedom, or would we?
The Church at the time of Jesus was suffering from poor teaching. Despite what Jesus taught, there were those who taught contrary to Jesus. The Pharisees taught salvation by the law. The only problem was this salvation by the law wasn’t according to the Law of God, but the law of man. The result was being captive to the Law rather than being set free by the Gospel.
Fast forward about twenty years after Jesus’ death, another congregation suffered from this false teaching. Paul had started a congregation in the region of Galatia. This appeared to be a congregation that was off to a good start, faithful to the teachings of Jesus. Sometime after Paul left that region, there was a void in the pastoral leadership. Unfortunately for the Galatians, there were those who stepped up to fill that void. In doing so, the tone of the preaching and teaching had changed from salvation on account of Jesus to a salvation that was achieved by works of the law, again, not the Law of God but of man.
In writing to the Galatians, Paul doesn’t hold back anything. In fact, he can’t hold anything back because you cannot let false doctrine continue unchecked. Paul is forceful when he says, “Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed.” At one time, the Galatians were held captive to the Law, God’s Law, as was everyone. They were slaves to the Law. It was their unruly taskmaster, unyielding in all aspects. They were doomed. They were slaves with no hope of escape.
The fate of the Galatians is the same for the rest of us. We were held captive under the Law. We are slaves. We can do nothing but try to keep God’s Law and keep it perfectly. The problem with that is the Galatians couldn’t keep it perfectly. We can’t keep it perfectly. Even Adam and Eve couldn’t keep it perfectly, and they were created without sin and yet succumbed to the outside influence of sin and it killed them.
One could easily say shame on the Galatians for letting these false preachers into the pulpit. They should know better, and you, you’re right, they should have known better. But sin has a way of scratching our itching ears in just the right place, to where we make excuses or justify our sin. Paul wasn’t there and they needed someone to fill the pulpit and the Judaizers stepped up to the task. The only problem, they preached false doctrine and led the Galatians away.
Paul doesn’t just condemn the Galatians because of the Judaizers. He also tells them what they had, what they gave up, what they lost: “So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith.” Did you catch what they gave up? They gave up Jesus! That’s right, they gave up Jesus to follow the laws of sinful men.
What does it mean to give up Jesus as the Galatians did? It means that you no longer rely upon Jesus to save you. Jesus is no longer in the salvation picture because you and your works take front and center. Jesus is pushed so far back, He isn’t even in the picture.
There is a reason why Paul writes to the Galatians in the way that he does. He loves these people. He loves them so much that he brought the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ to them so that they would hear and believe and be saved. And after they’ve left the Gospel for the Judaizers watered-down, Jesus-free preaching, he doesn’t leave them to their own disastrous ways. No, he writes to them, reminding them of the saving Gospel they once enjoyed and how they can enjoy it once again because the Gospel is still there; Jesus is still there to save them by His precious blood.
For those who have been set free from bondage to sin by the Gospel, it truly is a head-shaker why anyone would want to revert back to said slavery. Things changed when Jesus came. He did not come to abolish the Law of God, but to fulfill it. Jesus lived a life different from all other people. He was without sin. He obeyed the requirements in every aspect as they were originally given. We believe that when He offered up His life on the cross, it was a sacrifice to substitute for us. He kept the Law for us. Every detail was perfect. Salvation was now achieved for all peoples because of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus, not because of our keeping of the Law. And the Judaizers taught contrary to that, and unfortunately, the Galatians bought into that same teaching.
Because of Jesus Christ, you are made an heir. You are adopted by God the Father. You have full rights of inheritance. This is exactly what Paul talks about when he speaks about your adoption. When he speaks about being in Christ, he is pointing to what happens in Holy Baptism, for it is in Baptism that we are clothed with Christ’s righteousness. It is in Holy Baptism that the “fullness of time” that was brought by Jesus comes to you. Your adoption happens when water is poured on your head along with God’s name. And all that Jesus did in the “fullness of time” is yours.
We are justified by faith, not by the Law. If we are justified by the Law, then we are doomed from the start because we cannot keep the Law in its smallest bit. So, what is our faith in? Is it faith in our works? Is it faith in our sincerity? Is it faith in myself? The faith that we have is in the promise of God. It is faith in Jesus Christ. It is faith in that His life, death, and resurrection are all that is necessary for us to be saved. If we have faith in anything else other than that, then we are doomed in our trespasses and sins.
It is unfortunate that we don’t see the response of the Galatians to Paul’s letter. Did they repent of their error and oust the Judaizers for their false teaching and salvation-stealing preaching or did they continue in their false teaching? Unfortunately, we don’t have the answer to that question. But as far as you are concerned, what will be at the heart of your salvation? Is your salvation based upon your own works and what you do or don’t do? Is it all about making sure you have all the boxes checked? Or is the heart of your salvation based upon something, someone else? Is it based upon Jesus? Is it based upon what He has done for you; beaten and bloodied, dead and resurrected, with His blood covering you and Him doing all the work for your salvation? If it is the former, then there is no salvation for you, for works do not earn you salvation. But if it is the latter, and I pray that it is, then know for certain that Christ has indeed done all things necessary for your salvation. He has made you His own. And because you are His own, you are an heir, an heir of all that He is, and so that makes you the forgiven child of God. Rejoice, for “you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” In the name of Jesus, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.