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BridgeWay Christian Church


Galatians: Legalism vs. Liberty

By Pastor Ronald H. Gann

Sermon Title

Under Law Or In Christ?
Bible Text: Galatians 3:23-29

Date Preached: Sunday, December 18, 2011

Series: Galatians: Legalism vs. Liberty

Message: #11/ MP3: BCC_04_11

Transcription: Rhonda Fowler
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Pastor Ronald H. Gann
BridgeWay Christian Church
182 Rockingham Road

Londonderry, NH 03053

(603) 759-7120

Well good morning. If you have your Bible with you, I want to invite you to turn with me to Galatians 3. We are bringing to a conclusion our study in the Galatians 3. In doing so, we have officially gone over the halfway mark in our series. We are starting our eleventh message out of a scheduled twenty.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8: There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven; a time for war and a time for peace.
In many respects, the Bible is a book of war. Moses, David, Jesus—they are all remembered in their own respective ways for their victories that came at the expense of their enemies. On this side the cross, we recognize waging war with our fellow man is not the preferred ideal. As Christians, our aim for the world is that we replace the hostilities of war with the kindness of brotherly love. We all want world peace. We all want to be spiritually reconciled. All things being equal, we also know that the world in which we live is still in a fallen state. Mankind still has a propensity to sin. For that reason, war will always be with us.

Until the Lord tarries, war is, at times, a necessary evil. Ecclesiastes 3 says as much, “there is a time for war.” God says so. This isn’t new for most of us. We recognize that, in a world where there are clearly evil leaders who commit heinous atrocities against innocent people, war is sometimes our best and only option to stop it. Nobody knew this better than Saint Augustine and Thomas Aquinas. Both of these men crafted from scripture doctrine known as the Just War Theory.

The Just War Doctrine stipulates that there are indeed righteous wars. Dare I even say it—divinely sanctioned wars? Augustine and Aquinas not only won over the Church of their day with their arguments, but Just War continues to be the majority view it the Church today, including with yours truly.

History tells us that the greatest barrier to world peace is the world itself because the world is Godless. It is comprised of, and it is ruled by, spiritually dead, morally reprobate, and totally depraved sinners who are infatuated with their sin, overcome by the evil one, and who love darkness instead of the light. This is why war exists in the first place. Self-serving ambition, lust for power, prejudice, retaliation, retribution, and greed are but a few of humanity’s dark traits that are responsible for fanning the flames of war in this world. The wars of sinful mankind have left their scars on human history.

Indulge me for just a few minutes.

  • In the Congo War, which took place at the turn of the twentieth century, (1900-1908), it is estimated that three millions Congolese died.

  • In the Mexican Revolution that took place just a few years later and lasted until 1920, it has been said one million Mexicans were killed.

  • Those atrocities were followed by the deaths of fifteen million people (1914-1918) in what we famously call World War I.

  • During that same period of time, lasting all the way to 1937, the War Lord and Nationalist Era in communist China were responsible for killing four million Chinese.

  • The Russian Civil War (1918-1921) saw 8.8 million Russians die.

  • That massacre gave rise to the reign of Joseph Stalin (1924-1953), where 23 million Russians would die in combination of famine and World War II. In fact, World War II (1939- 1945), holds the record for the most lives lost to war, ever. Sixty million people were killed in total in World War II. That’s a conservative estimate.

  • The Chinese Civil War (1945-1949) is responsible for the deaths of 4.5 million people.

  • That massacre in China gave rise to the reign of Chairman Mao, along with famine, saw Communist China go on to massacre 40 million people (1949-1976).

  • The Korean War only lasted a few short three years (1950-1953), claiming nearly three million lives, not to mention putting a bullet in my dad’s leg.

  • The Vietnam War claimed the lives of upwards 2.8 million people (1960-1975), including 58,000 Americans. The total number of Americans who died in the Vietnam War could fill Gillette Stadium to capacity on any given Sunday.

  • For thirty years (1962-1992), countless civil wars were waged in and around Ethiopia, resulting in the deaths of 1.4 million Ethiopians.

  • The revolt in Nigeria (1967-1970) claimed a million lives.

  • In Cambodia (1975-1979) 1.6 million Cambodians were killed under the rogue regime.

  • The war between Iran and Iraq lasted for eight years (1980-1988), killing a million Arabs and Persians.

  • The war between Afghanistan and the Soviet Union lasted for nine years (1980-1989), killing 1.5 million Soviets and Arabs combined.

  • And, finally, the second Sudanese Civil War closed out the twentieth century with a bang, claiming the lives of 1.9 million Sudanese over the span of 17 years (1983-1999).

If you were doing the math with me, the fatalities from just those wars alone amount to 163 million people who were killed from war. That’s only including the last 100 years. Not only that, it doesn’t include the countless scrimmages and conflicts we don’t have time to talk about this morning. It has been said the twentieth century, as great as it was in terms of the advancement of civilization, was also our darkest hour. It was the bloodiest century in history.

It’s estimated by the World Atlas, 240-270 million people were killed from warfare. Just a little perspective as to how astronomical that number is—it is equivalent to every single living American in the United States of America today. Is it any wonder that the Civil War General, Major General William Sherman could make famous the saying, “War is hell.” The brutality of war has always been, and it will always be, the number one killer of human beings. No century knew that better than the twentieth century.

It shouldn’t be lost on you that all of this bloodshed from war, 1900-1999, came after the first Christmas morning 2,000 years ago in Bethlehem. Why do I take the time to point out that obvious fact? Because man’s greatest period of bloodshed came after the Christ child was supposedly to bring peace on earth.

What happened? Peace is a trendy term that we like to use at Christmas. Often it remains just that, a cute little catch phrase that we put on our holiday cards—Peace on Earth and Good Will Towards Man. Our Christmas cards speak of it. Our Christmas carols sing of it. Even the angels proclaimed it to the shepherds in Bethlehem—Peace on earth and good will towards man.

The lion will lie down with the lamb says Isaiah 11 speaking of the coming messiah. The messiah’s kingdom would have peace forever says the psalmist in Psalms 72. For unto us a child is born. To us a son is given and His name will be the prince of peace. What peace did Jesus actually bring because I don’t see it anywhere? If the twentieth century is any indication of this peace on earth, then I think it’s fair to say that the psalmist, Isaiah, and the angels somewhere down the line, got their wires crossed. There is no peace on earth.

Did you know that Christ’s failure to usher in world peace is perhaps the most serious objection our Jewish friends raise towards the claims of Christianity? It’s true. Every student to scripture, our Jewish friends will tell us, knows that the mission statement of the messiah was peace. If Jesus came to bring peace on earth, then why was there the holocaust? Why the inquisitions, the crusades, and civil wars? Why was there Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Why has the world only become more skilled at killing? How could the Christ child on Christmas be the messiah? Where is this messianic redemption? If you happen to find who he is, can you let him know he probably owes an apology to the 240-270 million people who, in the twentieth century, were not beneficiaries of this peace he supposedly brought?

What happened? Did Jesus of Nazareth fail as the prince of peace? Or, did He bring peace as the prince of peace, but Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, and Chairman Mao just didn’t get the memo? Is the Bible guilty of embellishment? Is it guilty of misleading its readers?

In a world that is filled with war and violence, it’s difficult to see how Jesus can be the embodiment of peace, but that’s who He is. That’s exactly what He brought. Physical safety, political harmony, and geopolitics were not the type of peace He brought on Christmas morning. It was a much greater peace than you can possibly imagine, much less ever hope for.

The world continues with its wars. There is no sign that is letting up any time soon. Yet the truth is that Jesus Christ brought peace on Christmas morning. We just are not talking about the right war. What is the greatest war that man wages? What war has been going on continuously for 6,000 years? Greater than World War I? Greater still than World War II? It is man’s war against God and God’s war against us.

Romans 5:10: We were God’s enemies. We were reconciled to Him through the death of His son.

Colossians 1:21: You were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior.
Romans 5 and Colossians 1 makes it clear that before we were saved, we were God’s enemies. He was our adversary. Ephesians 2:3 reminds us that we were children of wrath. The greatest war that mankind faces makes all worlds wars combined look like tinker toys.

The war that Jesus Christ brought an end to with his peacemaking on Christmas morning was not Roman occupation or the future threat of al Qaida. It was man’s opposition against God and His judgment against us. Jesus Christ removed His father’s sword from our throats. That’s the type of peace that Jesus came to bring. That’s the war that came to an end.

Jesus came to bring peace between the creator and His creation. Through His death on the cross, that is exactly what He did. You want to know why God did it? You want to know why God sent His son to the cross to make this peace? The Bible tells us that although we were God’s enemies, He loved us; which is why we are commanded to love our enemies.

Romans 5:10 says, but God demonstrates His own love toward us in that while were yet sinners, while we were his enemies, Christ died for us. Because of Christ’s sacrifice which all began on that first Christmas morning in Bethlehem, we have peace with God. This deep abiding love that we have between our hearts and the creator’s heart is what fulfills Christ’s work as the prince of peace. This is what the Bible means by peace on earth.

Romans 5:1: Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Christmas morning didn’t happen 2,000 years ago so that all human wars would cease to be. It happened so that the only war that really mattered came to an end. “Peace on earth” the angel said to the shepherds. That’s God’s peace between Himself and His former enemies—that’s you and me.

This is what we celebrate in the fourth week of advent during the Christmas season. You would do well to notice in Romans 5:1 that this peace that we have attained with God that was ushered in in Bethlehem and consummated on Calvary—this peace is made through faith in Jesus Christ. Having been justified by faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ, God has laid down His arms against us. Instead He has embraced us as his friends.

You can imagine the apostle Paul’s frustration as we transition now to our study in the book of Galatians. You can imagine his frustration with some of the Christians in Galatia. They had received the Holy Spirit and witnessed Him work in and among them. They had celebrated the liberation that came with their conversion. They were one-time enemies of God who had now been made legally right before Him on account of their faith. They had signed a cease fire, if you will. They had signed a peace treaty.

But now, by giving the heretical Judaizers an audience, the Galatians had fallen back, or were in the process of falling back, into hostilities against God again. They were maintaining that peace with God was not attained through faith in Jesus Christ, but through personal merit and Law-keeping, obedience to Moses. This was Paul’s frustration. The Galatians were violating their cease fire, their peace treaty agreement with God, by making war against Him by turning away from Jesus and back to Moses. The Galatians didn’t even know it.

Galatians 3:23-29: Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the Law, locked up until faith should be revealed. So the Law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the Law. You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were 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.
Last week we saw in Galatians 3:15-22 how the apostle Paul recapped 2,000 of Old Testament history with one swipe of the quill—from Abraham through Moses to Jesus Christ. He showed how these three great men, Abraham, Moses and Jesus Christ, are not only related together through the unfolding promises of God, but how they are not related to one another. That is, the promise of Abraham, which all true believers fall under, has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the covenant, or the Law of Moses, which all unbelievers follow under by way of default.

Paul’s point to the Galatians was they had exchanged the inheritance of blessing that was theirs through Abraham by faith in Jesus Christ. They had exchanged that for the curse of the Law that would be theirs through Moses if they tried to impress God through their Law-keeping. The Law of Moses only condemned a sinner, but the promise of Abraham promised justification and eternal life for those who are in Christ. Paul basically says, in effect, to the Galatians, “Do you guys really want to stick with the Judaizers who are telling you that in order to get to God, you have to first go through Moses? Or, do you want to stick with what me and Barnabus taught you—in order to get to God, you have to go through the seed of Abraham, Jesus Christ, the fulfillment of the promise? Take your pick.”

In our text, Paul elaborates on this theme. He shows how the progression from the promise of Abraham through the Law of Moses to its fulfillment in Jesus Christ is far more than just Old Testament history. It’s not just a history class. It’s a biography of every single human being.

What I mean by that is this—before conversion, a sinner is under Law. He suffers the bondage that that relationship brings. After conversion, the sinner is in Christ, and he enjoys the freedom that relationship brings. Another way of saying that is everybody falls into one of two categories: either a person is held captive to the Law, waiting for the fulfillment of the promise of Abraham, or a person is in Christ, having accepted Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of the promise of Abraham. Those are the only options available.

The problem is that the Galatians and the Judaizers had invented a third category. They said, “No, no, no. We are in Christ and we are sons of Abraham and therefore heirs of the promise, but we are still subject to Moses.” Paul said, “No, no, no. No way. No how. That does not wash with scripture at all. Everybody is either under the Old Testament or they are living in the New Testament. Either the religion is derived from Moses or it is derived from Jesus Christ. You cannot have both. One is Law. The other is grace. One is works. The other is faith.” Or to put it in the language of the paragraph we are reading this morning, a person is either under Law or he is in Christ. Those are the only two options available to us.
Galatians 3:23-24: Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. So the Law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.
I’m embarrassed to admit this to you, but believe it or not, I have four fake teeth. One of which fell out at Katie’s birthday party thanks to a stubborn Milk Dud that I was eating. So, now I have three fake teeth and a missing tooth to boot. The reason for my dental problems is, candidly speaking, that I have a fear of dentists. I don’t like going to the dentist at all. My reasons are many, but we don’t have time to get into it right now. Suffice it to say; if and when I ever see a dentist, you can rest assured I cannot make it through the night without severe pain.

Embarrassingly, my fake teeth are due to the fact I ignored the warning signs whenever I could. Whenever a toothache would happen, every five years or so, I covered up my discomfort or pain with large doses of aspirin and ibuprofen. My last bout with a toothache was to such a degree, I woke up in the middle of the night vomiting because I had overdosed on aspirin.

All that aspirin and ibuprofen could do was temporarily relieve the pain. It could never fix the root of the problem that was causing the pain to begin with. As a result, those particular teeth were never tended to the way they should have been when the warning signs came. As a result, I lost them as well as large amounts of money.

The purpose of pain is to warn and protect the body. It’s a signal I better get my ailment checked out by a doctor before it’s irreparable. When it’s ignored or covered up, the results are always bad. Take my word on that.

So it is with human guilt. Our guilt and guilty consciences are the divine warning system that God has given a person that he destroying his soul. If that warning sign is ignored, the results can be eternally bad. Take my word on it.

As we noted last week, too many times to count, that was the whole point of the Mosaic Law. God did not give the Law to the Israelites, by way of Moses, to show them how holy they were, but rather than to condemn them and expose their guilt as Law-breakers and get them to seek His grace and mercy through faith. You know what the Jews did instead? They invented 365 rules and regulations called the Talmud that they threw on top of the Law because they were convinced they could keep those. That way they could boast that they kept the majority of the Law. They had rigged the entire system.

The Law, in and of itself, never had the power to save. It could only show us how we should live or how we should not live, but never did it ever empower us to live that way. Until a sinner is weighed against the Law of God and His perfect standards, of which I’ve said many times, there is not even a sliver of wiggle room of compromise. Until a sinner is weighed against the God’s perfect rules and regulations, that sinner will have no idea what he is truly guilty of. To borrow from my story, until he experiences the pain of a toothache in its rare form, he’ll have no idea he needs to see a dentist.

Forgiveness means nothing to a person who doesn’t know he needs it. Grace means nothing to a sinner who doesn’t recognize that his sinfulness is to such a degree that it separates him from God as His enemy. It eternally condemns him.

The Law, even when kept to the best of a person’s best ability, is nothing but a prison Paul tells us. It is a death cell where one awaits execution. Again, it could never save a man. It could only convict him, imprison him, indict him, and then sentence him to death. That’s all the Law could do. Yet at the same time, Paul tells us it was a tutor, it was to teach us to look to Christ.
Galatians 3:26-27: 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.
The doctrine that is so popular in liberal churches today that teaches God is the universal father of all is anti-biblical. Jesus Christ did not teach that. The apostles did not teach that. Although God is the father of all men creatively, there is no doctrine that is more unscriptural than to suggest that God is the father of all men redemptively. That is not true. God is indeed the universal creator and having brought all things into existence. He is indeed the universal king, having sustained all that He has made. But He is the literal father of only Jesus Christ and those whom He adopts through faith in Jesus Christ.

It is through faith that we are in Jesus Christ. It is because we are in Christ that we are sons and daughters of God. Paul doesn’t stand alone on this point.

John 1:12: But as many received Jesus Christ, to them he gave the power to become the sons of God, even to them that believed on His name.
What I want you to see here is the key to our son-ship is that we must be in Jesus Christ. No doubt many of you are familiar with the movie Lawrence of Arabia, starring Peter O’Toole that won the Academy Award for best picture in 1962. It tells the story of T.E. Lawrence, British officer in the Army, who was stationed in Arabia during World War I, and his involvement with the Arab National Council. That movie also depicts how Lawrence struggled with the violence inherent to war. How he struggled with his divided allegiance between his native Britain, his Army, and his new comrades within the Arabian desert tribes.

Because he had earned the trust of many leaders, Lawrence participated in the Paris Peace conference after World War I. Several Arab leaders came with him to Paris and stayed at the same hotel as him. When they went to their bathrooms, these Arab leaders were astounded to discover running water simply by turning a faucet head. Seemingly endless amounts of water would come out just from the turning.

When the Arab leaders were preparing to leave Paris, they removed the faucets and packed them in their luggage. They were convinced the faucets themselves were responsible for creating magically the vast amounts of water. When they told Lawrence what they had done. He had to explain to them that the faucets were useless unless they were connected to a pipe, which in turn was connected to the source of water.

In the same way, a person who is not connected to the Son is not connected to the Father and he has not source of spiritual life. God has no sons who are not identified by faith in Jesus Christ. No one can come to the father except through the son.

Galatians 3:28-29: 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.
One remarkable truth of this paragraph is the equality of all believers in Jesus Christ. In both the ancient world and in the modern world, it seems there are some people who are considered to be greater or better than others. Jews generally considered themselves to be better than Gentiles on account that they were God’s covenant people. Free people tended to pity or look down on slaves. Men were inclined to disparage women. As fallen human beings, we tend to gravitate towards anything that makes us feel superior to others. We, therefore, have a tendency to appeal to race, class status, or gender.

In the United States, we have a horrible legacy of whites demeaning and enslaving blacks. Also, on one hand, emigrants have been welcomed to our shores. Yet, on the other hand, they have been scorned as unsophisticated and uneducated. One reason the feminist movement caught fire in the 1960’s was due, in large part, because of the misogyny of men who failed to grant women honor, respect, and dignity; much less equal pay as fellow human beings.

It’s no surprise, in one of Paul’s most famous verses in the New Testament; he calls attention to the fundamental unity that exists in the family of Abraham and in the family of God. As coheirs of the promise of Abraham, Jews are not superior to Gentiles. Those who are free are not more important than those who are enslaved. Men are not worth more than women. Those of us who are united to Christ are equal as members of Abraham’s family. God does not have social classes or cliques.

However, let me stress one point. Just because we are all equal in God’s eyes and in God’s family does not mean that God doesn’t have specially appointed roles. While Paul states that women are equal with men and coheirs in the family of Abraham, in matters of rule of the home and in rule of the church, God has established the headship of men.

Likewise, while there’s no distinction of social classes in God’s kingdom, or economic status, Paul tells slaves that they are to submit to their masters. He tells masters, or slave owners, they must treat their slaves with respect, according to Ephesians 6, because with God there is no partiality in Him. Nevertheless, even though men and women have their unique roles, Paul’s point here is not lost. In the dimension of spiritual blessing, promise, privilege, and inheritance, there is absolutely no difference whatsoever between Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female. We are all one in Christ Jesus.

The spiritual promise of eternal salvation in the blessing given to Abraham belongs to all of those who belong to Jesus Christ without discrimination, prejudice, or distinction. We are all heirs according to the promise which is fulfilled in Jesus Christ. This promise of Abraham that we are talking about is not a land Promise or a Promise of countless descendants. It refers to the spiritual blessings that come to all who, being justified by the same faith that Abraham had by believing the same way Abraham believed, will inherit all the spiritual promises given to Abraham.

We conclude from this passage that Paul has painted a very vivid contrast between those who are under the Law and those who are in Christ. Everybody belongs to one camp or the other. If we are under Law, our religion is bondage and we stand cursed by God. Having no forgiveness, we are imprisoned, we are prisoners at worst and we are children under a tutor at best. But if we are in Christ, we have been set free. Our religion is one of promise, not Law.

John Stott put it this way, “We cannot come to Christ to be justified until we have first been to Moses to be condemned. But once we have gone to Moses and acknowledged our sin and guilt and condemnation, we must not stay there. We must let Moses send us to Christ.

Christmas morning didn’t happen 2,000 years ago so that we could be constantly warring against God by trying and failing to meet His holy standards of the Law. It happened so that we could be set free and turn the hostility between us and God into everlasting Peace. Peace on earth, as the angel said to the shepherds, is God’s peace between Himself and His former enemies. That’s you and I. We are no longer under the Deca Law. We are no longer under the Law that condemns. That is what we celebrate on the fourth week of advent. The peace God has made with us on his own behalf by fulfilling the promise of Abraham.

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1).

| Under Law Or In Christ?

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