Estimated reading time: 8 minute(s)
Remember we were studying through Galatians? 🙂
Let me put it another way. The law was our guardian and teacher to lead us until Christ came. So now, through faith in Christ, we are made right with God. But now that faith in Christ has come, we no longer need the law as our guardian. So you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have been made like him. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female. For you are all Christians–you are one in Christ Jesus. And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and now all the promises God gave to him belong to you.
I really wanted to break that whole paragraph up, but I needed to not do that. There is a well-used verse in there, and so I wanted to leave some context. Sometimes when we read the familiar we miss what it’s actually saying. I hope to not miss it again today. Now that we have read it all together, let’s try it one line at a time.
The law was our guardian and teacher to lead us until Christ came.
We have been seeing how Paul considers the law only a tool to reveal to us the need we have for God. Not only a need for him to save us, which is obviously true, but even a need for relationship with him. Keeping rules and obeying laws and striving for moral code righteousness is not what we were created for. We were made for relationship, with the primary one being our relationship with the Creator. God made a promise first to Abraham (a relational, presence sort of promise) and THEN he gave the law through an intermediary to Moses. We have seen in every way how the law is inferior to the promise, and to relationship.
And now Paul is calling the law our guardian. I love that image, that the law was guarding us from things that would harm us. It was a fence keeping us from the dangers outside, and a barrier to dangers that would presume to enter in. It is a good image of what purpose the law serves. But more fascinating that that word is the fact that he follows it with the word “until”.
Until means there was an end. That it is currently over. That it lasted until Christ came means that it is no longer needed and no longer in effect… doesn’t it?!? It is so fascinating that God could use something over generations to show us something of himself. This is not a lesson he taught in a day. This was hundreds of years of waiting, of daily and annual sacrifices (which we see in the book of Hebrews never really meant anything, at least had no power to affect any sort of change) and hundreds of years of fences, keeping us from the dangers outside of the law.
And then, at just the right time, Jesus was born to Mary. And the world was forever changed.
So now, through faith in Christ, we are made right with God. But now that faith in Christ has come, we no longer need the law as our guardian.
He really said it. He said what we all know, that we are made right with God through faith. But the words that amaze me in this section are those that carry the finality. “We no longer need the law.” We don’t? But it’s on all our buildings and in all our Sunday schools, and preached by every good preacher and sunday school teacher and parent and anyone who really believes that God means what he says. I mean, he did keep the old testament in the Bible, right? What’s Paul saying, “we don’t need the law anymore?!??!”
Well, obviously, it is still a good idea not to kill people, or to lie or steal or cheat people in any way. It’s still a good idea to respect parents and God, and to be grateful for what he has given us. Those are just truths that will live forever. Jesus said the entire universe will pass away before (the truth) of any bit of God’s law does. Truth is truth, and it always will be.
What Paul is talking about is in direct connection to our relationship with God. We used to go through a bunch of hoops to have any sort of access to God, and even then it was limited. But when Jesus came, and especially when he died that day on the cross… everything changed. It never was true that righteousness came by sacrifices or saying enough prayers or studying enough of God’s word, but something definitely changed. What was hoped for became reality. What was only a distant possibility that was believed but not perceived became a past tense piece of history. “We are made right with God (through faith in Christ).” It is finished… just like Jesus said.
And so, because of this entirely new way of thinking, we don’t need a guardian anymore, or, an intermediary between us and God.
Just wait… it gets better…
So you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have been made like him. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female. For you are all Christians–you are one in Christ Jesus.
This is a well known passage that sometimes is used to prove a legalistic idea. Some folks use this verse as another proof text for baptism, just to show again that it’s what God needs us to do. I think in the context of our entire study of Galatians, we can see that Paul never intended that – nor I think did God. Yes, baptism is God’s design and a beautiful picture of how he buries our old life and raises us to a new one in him. Yes, it’s something every person who comes to understand Father’s love for us should do. But, if we read Galatians, and even the last sentence, it’s pretty hard to stick to a strict, legalistic, “you have to” interpretation of any part of scripture. But, that is certainly understandable as throughout the history of the church, people have swung back and forth on the doctrinal pendulum and eventually balance out in the middle again, understanding the simple truth of God so loving the world that he gave his only son that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his son into the world to condemn it, but so that the world could be saved through him. (John 3:16-17)
“So you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” It is important to note that the main thing we have been talking about for the whole third chapter of Galatians is that God made a promise to Abraham, to bless all nations through his heir – that being Jesus. And this is a further embodiment of that. We who are so far inferior to God – though made in his image, we are certainly not like him – have been called by him “Children of God.” The thought of it is just insane. That we could bear some title of deity. Royalty. But we do. And not because we carefully followed some code of ethics, or did enough good to cover over the bad. No, only because we trust in the goodness of our God, do we get to call him Father.
Paul also adds the culturally important levelers of no Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female. We are all equal before God. He does not show favorites. We are all his favorite child! Ha! That’s incredible!
It should also be pointed out here, for those who are opposed to baptism being any part of our direct relationship with God, that he does mention that it is a picture our our uniting with him. Immediately after saying that we are God’s children through faith, he expands on that and says we are like him because we are united with him, which is what we see happening when we are baptized. But I still strongly caution the proponents of “you have to be baptized to be saved” to understand what Paul is saying in the greater context of the whole chapter and even the whole letter to the Galatians.
God does not want us to have these silly arguments. He does not want us to follow the letter of the law. He does not need our performance. He knows we can’t do it. He did not put any barriers in the way to our becoming his children. We only need to trust him enough to get to know him. And as we know him, we will know eternal life. (John 17:3) It is so much about relationship, and the more we relate with him, the more we will know him, the more we will trust him, the more our lives will be transformed by him, the more we will be “made like him” as he continues to reveal his love for us that would drive him to his own death instead of ours.
For you are all Christians–you are one in Christ Jesus. And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and now all the promises God gave to him belong to you.
Well! I could probably comment on this one for quite a while, but I think I will skip it. We all know how fractured and fragmented the visible body of Christ has become. There are so many “denominations” of Christians all supposing to have the fullest version of the truth. They wouldn’t really say that, but then, why do they exist? (Well, not being naive, I of course understand the human desire for power and position as well. Of course, that is a factor.) Jesus prayed we would have it, Paul says we are, no matter how we might act… we just are ONE. We can’t help it. If we are in relationship with the Father, we are all one in Christ Jesus. All of us who were baptized into him are part of one group – his body – the church.
And Paul wraps up what we call chapter three with the theme that has run throughout. A long time ago, God told a man he named Abraham that He would bless all the nations through his heir, and now Paul is saying WE are his heirs. All the promises given to Abraham – of a close, personal relationship with the Creator – are ours. Not will be if we stay clean. Not if we meet some standard. They are ours through the generous and astounding offer of the only one who can give them. They are ours.
We can have a relationship with God that is unhindered and far greater even than the one he had/has with Abraham. We have the presence of his Holy Spirit living in us! Jesus tore the curtain, the veil, the barrier that was between God and us for so long. Now there’s nothing but an open relationship between an infinitely loving Father and those whom he has called his children.
Live today knowing that through faith you are a “child of God.”
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