Galatians Sermon Series # 4

by   |  03.11.19  |  Sermons

Living Out Your Baptism

Galatians (3:1-25) 3:26-4:7

Year C, Proper 7

Focus: God, in Jesus, reconciles all people.

Function: To inspire us to welcome others as Jesus welcomes us.

Plotline: All people seem to have an inherent desire to differentiate themselves from others. Our tendency to divide and distinguish ourselves has deep roots. So God intervenes with a strong hand of guidance. Finally, in Jesus, God reconciles us all. Therefore, we are now free to embrace our oneness by embracing one another.

25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. 27 As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise. 4 My point is this: heirs, as long as they are minors, are no better than slaves, though they are the owners of all the property; but they remain under guardians and trustees until the date set by the father. So with us; while we were minors, we were enslaved to the elemental spirits of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.

She came to me after the sermon a few weeks back saying, “You don’t always know what the little ones hear. They are listening. After your comment about white church buildings, my grandson said, ‘Grandma, your house is white.’ They are listening. And it reminds me that one of the criticisms you can level in the real estate market is, “All these houses are cookie cutter.” We do not want something that looks just like what everyone else owns. We want something with “character”.

  1. All people seem to have an inherent desire to differentiate themselves from others. We enjoy our independence and exert our autonomy at every turn. We resist efforts that try to treat us as if we are all the same. Our two-year-old grandsons are already differentiating themselves from their parents. Racial, Economic, Gender, Education, Religious, Political, etc.… We separate ourselves. Often, our separations end in prejudice, suspicion, hate, envy, and rivalry. It even happens at church—People want to separate themselves from others.
  2. Our tendency to divide and distinguish ourselves has deep roots. Did it first begin in the Garden? One of the primary consequences of the events in the Garden is that sin broke relationship between men and women. No longer is there a notion that we are both created in God’s image–male and female. The realities of a patriarchal system where men have rule over women emerged from the story of fallen humanity. Furthermore, the Table of Nations in Genesis 5 and 10 notes specifically how this group differs from that group, one nation lives here; another there. And today we still separate ourselves into enclaves, pockets, and ghettos. While our God of heaven and earth is a God of diversity, our God is not a God of division. Christians celebrate diversity. Christians fall prey to division.
  3. So God intervenes with a strong hand of guidance. God called Abraham out from the nations in order to call a people who would be wholly devoted to being “Holy as I am Holy.” And through Moses, God liberates the people from Egyptian bondage so that they can be free to serve with their whole hearts. And the Law was given to provide the structures and boundaries for life and community. Paul speaks about the Law. It served as a disciplinarian, schoolmaster, or custodian to protect and guide God’s people into their promised future.
    1. The very Torah intended to free so that God’s people would be a light to the Gentiles, often functioned just the opposite. So God intervenes again. It was never meant to hinder us but was a promise of God’s grace. Those of us who are in Christ have graduated from the law’s training. We now live as children of promise.
  4. Finally, in Jesus, God reconciles us all. [Read Text].
    1. Our union comes from our identity in Christ in baptism. We put on Christ in baptism. Our life before has now ended and a new life has begun. When we present our passports at the door, there are no additional membership requirements, no forms to fill out, none of the other societal requirements of standing or identity. It is not the gospel bundled together with something else. Our union comes from our identity with Christ in baptism.
    2. The “not yet”/“already” tension of our reconciliation is apparent. We are already reconciled together as one people, the church. Yet, the evidence against that reconciliation is all around us. We are “not yet” a united people.
    3. I use to think this was a good text to talk about how we are all one in the future, in terms of salvation. I kept the theoretical and the practice separate. I kept the theological and the ethical separate.
    4. I now think my former way of thinking was just mental gymnastics to avoid making hard decisions. Galatians is about the ethical (foods, circumcision, and holidays); about the separation of Jewish and Gentile Christians. Paul roots our identity in Christ and therefore rejects all kinds of ethnic and religious identity politics.
    5. Throughout history to this very day there are movements within churches that seek to define our identity based on race, on national origin, on class, on gender, and on many other social practices. But Paul says, we are all one in Christ through baptism. As God intended in creation, being created in the image of God; so now we are recreated in Christ. Differences and hierarchies and discriminations all resulted after creation because of sin. Differences and hierarchies and differentiations are washed away because we all are now clothed in the righteousness of Christ. In Jesus, God reconciles us all.
  5. We are therefore now free to embrace our oneness by embracing one another.
    1. Identifiers: Marines; Alumnus of a school. Examples of folk who know their identities. We are Christians.
    2. What does it mean to live out our baptisms? We live into God’s new creation.
    3. Images:
    4. If we find a wild lion in our midst, suddenly we find a common ally. We become united.
    5. Photo on the Internet of the handicap child who is separated from the class in the school picture. The backlash has caused the school to retake the photo. But somewhere the teacher failed to fulfill his duties of treating all people fairly. He failed to fashion and protect the community of the classroom.
    6. The purpose of school uniforms …
    7. Richard Hays notes (NIB, pg. 348), “Therefore, as we reflect on Galatians as Scripture, we must ask ourselves at what points we are in danger of superimposing our religious culture—even the cultures of particular church traditions—on communities that are responding to the gospel in fresh, indigenous ways under the guidance of the Spirit. This can happen not only when Christian missionaries encounter non-Western cultures, … It can happen when other Christians object to musical and artistic forms of worship among younger Christians. It is most certainly happens in every case where ethnic pride or nationalism co-opts the gospel. After reading Galatians carefully we will find ourselves prompted to scrutinize our churches to see where we may be unintentionally nullifying the grace of God through explicit or implicit membership requirements unrelated to the heart of the gospel.”

Paul holds forth the vision of a community of faith in which all are one in Christ. Those who are justified are incorporated into Christ who, like a garment, envelops us. Given the promised Spirit, we receive the life that only God can give. And this is more than the justification of us as individuals; righteousness leads to the creation of us as a people of God. All are children of God.

What a radical statement! This is not merely a matter of an isolated slogan; it is the central theme of the letter as a whole. Jews and Gentiles are no longer divided, because Christ’s death has brought us together. All are children of God.

We are therefore now free to embrace our oneness by embracing one another. Read 3:25-29. – We are now all children of God, co-heirs with Christ