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. Gal. 3:26-29
As the good news of Jesus initially spread out it was largely Jewish people who were becoming followers of Christ.
By AD 50, 15 years or so after Christ’s resurrection…large numbers of Gentiles (non-Jews) were becoming Christians
Paul’s primary calling from God was to form churches among these Gentile believers.
In one area of what is now Turkey (Galatia) some teachers had come into the churches and were saying that in order to be a Christ-follower you had to become circumsized first…so obedience to the law of Moses was a requirement for salvation.
You needed both Moses (representing the law) and Christ (representing grace) to be a true Christian.
Paul understood that if this teaching system was widely adopted it would destroy the movement as it would undermined the basis and power of the Gospel…Grace alone, Faith alone, Christ alone.
Much of the story of the OT is the powerlessness of the law by itself to change human hearts and lives and relationships…the gospel alone can do that.
So these teachers (Called Judaizers) leveled three charges against Paul.
- He was not a true representative of God…he was a false teacher…so he couldn’t be trusted but they could.
-In response he tells his story…you can read it in the first couple of chapters of Galatians…it is quite amazing…clearly he is called by God and he is an ambassador of the truth.
- The next charge follows the first and it was that Paul’s message was untrue. So the first attack was on Paul, the next, logically, on his message.
-They thought that Paul was teaching that the Law of God was now set aside and no longer had value or merit.
-In their minds…Jesus kept the law perfectly, so his followers surely must do the same.
*He is more role model to them…than Savior.
-Paul responded by showing that the issue is not who or who doesn’t keep the law…but what is the basis by which God calls men and women righteous?
Is salvation based on a scorecard…or is it on the merits of what Christ has done?
- The final charge follows the second one.
-They believed that Paul’s message (faith without law) would lead to loose, immoral living.
-Paul responds by saying that faith is not the absence of something (no law) it is the presence of Christ…transformation.
-The change is internal (inside out) not outside in.
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” Gal. 2:20
Real change does not come about by shear will power or straining to keep a set of rules…but by the power of God operational in our lives.
This transformation Paul talks so much about is a “change of being.”
What one author called “unselfing”…through the power of gospel we are able to become people who more and more pay attention to God and to other people…not mostly or merely to ourselves.
We begin to see God, ourselves, and others without the distortation of “self”…this is part of the freedom and clarity the gospel brings into our lives.
It is why the gospel leads to increasing love for God and others...Love for God on the inside shows up in love for others on the outside.
So a “selfie life” is forever inserting “self” into every picture…”unselfing” is more and more about moving “me” out of the picture.
Ironically…the more self is moved from the picture the more fully and joyfully “ourselves” we become.
Now back to our passage:
You are all sons (children) 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. Gal. 3:26-29
In these four verses Paul shows the actual results of experiencing the grace of God through faith in Christ….he gives three here.
- Through faith in Christ we have become children of God
Before Christ we were under the law (and perpetually failed to keep it) and therefore we were under the curse.
Consider the child who lives perpetually trying to earn her father’s favor and always failing to do so.
I’ve spoken with adults who still suffer from the childhood wounds of trying to feel and be accepted by their parents.
Imagine the freedom of being “accepted fully and freely and permanently”
-How might experiencing and understanding and living out this full acceptance by God change how a person sees and moves through the world?
-How might it change how we relate to others?
-How might it change how we are able to deal with rejection from others?
- 27 says that all who were baptized in Christ have clothed themselves with Christ.
Paul is not suggesting that baptism now replaces circumcision as a saving sacrament
Not one is saved by baptism…he mentions baptism once in this paragraph but faith five times.
Baptism is the outward sign of the union that already exists through faith.
To be clothed with Christ simply means to become like Christ…it is a poetic description of “putting on” his actions and attitudes.
My grandchildren cloth themselves with all kinds of costumes…the 7 year old Twin girls recently had a birthday party that was built around certain Disney characters…they dressed up like their favorites…they clothed themselves in those characters.
There is, fortunately, no power to transform them into those characters actual being in the wearing of costumes.
There is, however, power to actually become like Christ in his character as we choose to assume his attitudes and actions towards others…this starts inside and moves outside.
Paul talks about this several times in his letters when he says “Put on Christ”…then gives specific examples of what this means.
This is a collaborative effort of the Holy Spirit empowering ongoing, decisive acts of the human will.
The transformation that Christ is doing on the inside is showing up on the outside…we live more and more like him in our actual relationships with people.
The Second result of faith in Christ:
- All who believe become one with each other…now in a real sense there is “neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female” but all are one in Christ.
Trace spoke on Nations two weeks ago…he did a great job of explaining how the gospel doesn’t erase nationalities.
So clearly this doesn’t mean that differences of race, status in society and sex cease to exist.
We do not lose our identities by becoming a Christian.
This simply means that because God is our father…believers now belong to each other in a way that the distinctions that formerly divided us have lost their significance.
He gives three examples: Race, social status and sex.
Racial tensions were every bit as high then as they are now…they always have been high.
Paul wrote in another place (Eph. 2) that the barrier wall that used to divide races has been broken down.
Tuesday night Robert Garner and I were having dinner and we were discussing this topic….we marveled at the fact that if Christ had not died and rose from the dead…we would not have become friends over 30 years ago…or have remained friends for so long.
The gospel has torn down the racial and other barrier walls between us.
I will let him speak for himself shortly but Robert told me that he is always aware when he comes to worship that there are not many people in this congregation who share his skin color…but he doesn’t focus on that…but rather on the fact that God has made us one in Christ.
But race is not the only dividing factor that Christ has torn down…social status is another.
I told Robert of the many conversations I have had over the years…sitting in this sanctuary…with people who have told me things like…
-“I feel like I am the only one in this place who struggles with addiction, or who is poor, or a felon, or doesn’t have an education, or a divorce, or wayward children, or isn’t who close to God.”
We all tend to see the world through our “self-lens”…that is why the “unselfing” power of the Gospel is so very important…we can see others through the gospel lens.
Paul addresses the reality of social status as a former barrier…he uses the example of slaves and free people.
Most slaves in his part of the world would have been “bond servants”…people who were paying off debts.
But this is illustratative of the different barriers that exist…rich/poor, educated/uneducated, privileged and protected…not privileged and not protected.
Robert and I talked about how if you took, say 10 defining traits and compared different people in the congregation…skin color, education, friends, finances, etc.
Robert may have 9 in common with one person…the only 1 difference being skin color.
While another person may have 1 in common with another…that being skin color…the other 9 not being the same.
So skin color is an obvious potential point of division…but there are many, many more.
The grace of God…when released in us…inside out…will “unself” us…and we will learn to see others differently.
When Christy and I were moving to FW for a year in 1989.
-Our daughter, Crystal was not quite 5.
-Some friends were helping us pack, including Robert Garner.
My dad was there and he was asking Crystal the names of the various people helping…he pointed to Robert and asked her what his name was.
She couldn’t tell who he was pointing to…so he said…”Him the black man.”
Still confused she pointed to a man next to Robert and said “You mean the man with the black shirt.”
My dad smiled and said “never mind.”
I know she was just a little girl…and the goal is not to actually “fail to see” distinctions at all…but she had been around Robert a lot by that time, he had been in our home many times…and skin color was not how she “saw” him.
By the way Crystal would grow up and babysit Robert’s kids…and eventually she would become his son, Michah’s, first grade teacher.
Sex: Next Paul says there is neither “male nor female”
-Again not that that the distinctions don’t exist but rather they don’t divide and they don’t set our value.
It is hard to express how poorly women were treated at this time in history…they were property…even among the Jews.
You will be hard pressed to find many ancient texts apart from those of Christianity that have anything at all regarding equality of the sexes.
The gospel and the Scriptures were revolutionary.
The geneology of Jesus listed 5 women…women of different races and social standing…this was unheard of.
The last to stand by Jesus at his death and the first to witness to his resurrection…were women.
- Third result of faith in Christ…we have become one with all those who have been saved by faith through the long history of salvation.
- 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
Believers who put their faith in Christ are a part of the generational family of God…Abraham’s seed.
The first three months of this year we looked at how the Bible is a single storyline…and it explains what we see in the world outside us and the world inside us.
We are part of God’s story through relationship with Christ.
Through Christ we have relationship up…with God
We have relationship around…with others
We have relationship back…solidarity and continuity with those who have gone before.
The gospel “unselfs” us so that we are no longer trapped seeing life through a self-distorting lens.
The gospel transforms us…so that we more and more we understand who we are…and therefore we are more and more free to love God and others.
Clearly the current national conversation is loud and persistent in regards to the things that divide us.
As I have watched some PBS specials this summer on our American history…and read some books on our history…it has reminded me that these times of tension are not unusual.
In fact when I was in middle and high school in the early and mid-seventies…racial tension was very high here in Wichita.
In the 8th grade some kids with a different color skin than me jumped me outside our middle school and beat me with bicycle chains…ironically one of them was a friend…he just fell in with the others around him…we remained friends…though I told on him and he was expelled…I guess we were even.
In High School…I found that there was an identity that transcended race or color.
At West there were these large windows in the main hall…Soph, Jr, Sr….and then African American
At certain times if you went past that window instead of around it…you might get punched or worse (a friend was stabbed once).
I walked past it one day and a student came towards me in a threatening manner…I looked over at a football teammate…who was African American and also the strongest kid in the school and we exchanged greetings.
He then told the student threatening me…to be quite and back off.
When me and this student of a different color put on the West High uniform…we had clothed ourselves in Maroon and Gold…it superseeded the color of our skins.
We worked together, sweated in two a days together, endured the coaches abuse together, and played together for the same goals.
If sports can do this…how much more the gospel…How much more clothing ourselves in Christ?
Robert…come on up and let’s chat.
- Robert…tell us briefly about your background: family, education, work
- You are the new head of YH…a position you took over from your mentor/surrogate father…how did that come about?
-more about your vision in a moment.
- You have and had had friends of many colors…you have worked with a wide variety of people as well…what are a couple of ways you have benefited personally from your diverse experiences with people? What have been some challenges?
- You told your story here a couple of years ago…the gospel saved your life Spiritually but also in many ways physically and relationally.
-Though it is hard to know how do you think your life might have turned out differently if Christ had not saved you?
- We talked about how people say “blood is thicker than water” but you told me that is not always true…or perhaps it is but not how people think it is…talk about that. (blood of Jesus is thicker than blood and water)
-How your church stood by you during tough times (try to talk about church at large rather than individuals)
- You are aware when you worship that you are a minority here at River…but you are likewise a minority everywhere in America (14% of Americans are African American) (Wichita around 12%)…how has the gospel defined you in your relationships here at church and in your life at large verses your ethnicity?
- What is the purpose of YH?
- What your vision for the organization?
- How can River continue to be a strong partner with you?