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.
To be captive is not something that anyone desires. With that being said, you and I are captive to the Law. The Law that Paul speaks of is the Law of God. Jesus, when preaching one of His sermons says, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” God’s Law is one of complete obedience to His Word and man proved at the outset that we were unable to keep His Law. However, the Law did serve its intended function.
The special instructions given to the Israelites in order to control their worship life and the laws regarding clean and unclean food that controlled their eating patterns served to separate them from the pagan world. These regulations served as a hedge and protected them as God’s special people. But more importantly, these regulations were a constant reminder of how things stood between the Israelites and their God. Every breaking of the Law, every neglect of the many individual precepts was a testimony to the thoroughgoing sinfulness that marred their relationship to a just and holy God. God’s Law showed Israel its sin and it shows us our sin as well. The Law could teach the need for righteousness, but it could not give the required righteousness. There was the problem: the Law could not provide salvation as the Judaizers and the Pharisees claimed. It could only point to and prepare for the salvation that needed to come from another source, namely, the promised Savior.
We can’t understand what freedom is unless we know what living is like without freedom. St. Paul is writing to the Galatians warning them not to come under the power of legalism. He reminds them that before they learned of the grace of God in Jesus Christ life with God was full of demands they were obligated to fulfill. The law of God was their guide. They had to eat the right foods, marry the right person, offer the right sacrifices, and fulfill thousands of requirements which were their religious code of conduct. God gave these laws so His people would know they were different. They were set apart to worship Him with their whole lives and He would be the God taking care of them. When they were unable to obey all the requirements, they were to ask for God’s forgiveness and look forward to the time He would send a Savior to forgive them.
The Judaizers of Paul’s day, of which he was one in his previous life, gave strict rules for salvation. You had to keep the Law perfectly and you had to be a Jew. But now Paul comes and he brings with him a new message contrary to that of the Judaizers. He says, “For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 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.” Paul’s message was definitely not expected. These aren’t words that he would have uttered as Saul. These are words that speak 100% contradictory to what he and the other Judaizers taught regarding salvation. Salvation was not for the heathen Gentiles, meant to be only for the Jew, but that is exactly who Paul says that salvation is for. Salvation is meant for all people. Unfortunately, that was a point that was missed on the Judaizers.
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.
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.
By faith, we are made sons of God, clothing ourselves with Christ in our Baptism. Because we are baptized into Christ’s name, we have all that is His: His holiness, His righteousness, His perfection. That is how God our heavenly Father sees us. He doesn’t see the depravity of our sin, but rather the fullness of Christ’s righteousness. This applies to all who are baptized in Christ.
St. Paul gives to us a blessed assurance that because of Jesus Christ, we have been adopted as sons of God and not by the works of the Law. The Law did its work in preparation for the promise of God to be fulfilled. Now that the promise has been fulfilled, we are no longer a slave and captive, but set free by the salvation that has been won for us by Jesus Christ. We are saved by faith, not works. The reason for our salvation will never change.
Rejoice in this Good News! The Law has brought us to Christ, and Christ has saved us from our sin! He gives us faith: Faith to believe that He has died to redeem us, and faith to believe that we are now His children. We are no longer slaves under the Law – through Baptism, Christ has clothed us with His holiness and made us His holy people. And if we are His holy people, we are heirs of the Kingdom of God. In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.