Galatians 3:27-29

Playing Dress Up

In Christ we are all part of the Family of God. When we come to faith in Christ, we become “new creations” (2 Corinthians 5:17), we are “born again” (John 3:3), and we have been “adopted” into God’s family. This is what Paul says in Galatians 3:27-29; “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 no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” All the distinctions that separate humanity have been destroyed and we’re all brought together into one new family – The Church of Jesus Christ! Notice that this does not refer to water baptism but to the work of the Holy Spirit. In 1 Corinthians 12:13 we read, “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body.” When a person by faith trusts Christ for salvation, the Holy Spirit puts him into the body, the family of God, so that you become “children of God” (Galatians 3:26).

My sister was the oldest of us three kids. When we were little, she’d make us play dress up with her. This is something that my brother and I haven’t been real proud of. But playing dress up now is something I really enjoy! All of the family members in God’s family play dress up. In this passage he talks about “putting on” Christ as if He was a garment. Isaiah 61:10 speaks about putting on a “robe of righteousness.” But just a few chapters later in Isaiah 64:6 he says “all our righteousness’s are as filthy rags.” We are all wearing dirty clothes. I mean they are really, really dirty! Through our faith in Christ, God removes our dirty, dirty clothes and exchanges them for the perfect robes of righteousness; Christ Jesus Himself.  In Jesus we all play dress up! Jesus took our filthy clothes and wore them to the cross. His blood washed them clean.

In his comments about the dying thief on the cross next to Jesus, Max Lucado writes, “…The purity of Jesus lifts and covers the dying thief. A sheet of radiance is wrapped around his soul. As the father robed the prodigal, so now Christ robes the thief. Not just with a clean coat but with Jesus himself! ‘Baptized into union with him, you have all put on Christ as a garment’ (Gal. 3:27 NEB). The One with no sin becomes sin-filled. The one sin-filled becomes sinless. It is eternity’s most bizarre exchange. Paul explained it like this: ‘Christ took away the curse the law put on us. He changed places with us and put himself under that curse’ (Gal. 3:13). When he sees sin, a just God must either inflict punishment or assume it. God chose the latter. On the cross ‘God was in Christ, making peace between the world and himself’ (2 Cor. 5:19). I know John says that Jesus was carrying his own cross as he walked up the hill, but he wasn’t. He was carrying ours. The only reason he carried the cross was for us thieves and crooks. ‘Christ had no sin, but God made him become sin so that in Christ we could become right with God’ (2 Cor. 5:21). It wasn’t his death he died; it was ours. It wasn’t his sin he became; it was ours.”

Galatians 3:24-26, 2 Corinthians 5:17

The Children of God

The law makes us slaves. It directs our behavior at every turn and provides the consequences when we fail. We all fail! But the law was good for a world of sinners. It still is. Without law there is no peace, security, or property. But the restraining feature of the law is not necessary when we live in a family. We don’t write laws for each other that determine who belongs and who doesn’t belong. We live together on the basis of love. The law simply preserved society until Christ came. It still preserves society in some ways until Christ comes again. But God’s family, the church, is the real restrainer of evil today. This is the way Paul says it in Galatians 3:24-26, “So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.”

I know the world often speaks to us of “the family of man.” It puts all mankind into the same camp. This is true in that we are all children of God by creation. God made us all and He made us all to be equal. I would argue first and foremost that we are all equal sinners. But this family that Paul is talking about is a family formed by redemption. It is the lot of believers in Jesus who have been “born again” into the family of God. John Butler observes, “Many religionists do not want to say the whole sentence here. They want to say, ‘You are all the children of God’ and then stop. But that is grossly misleading. We are children ‘by faith in Christ Jesus.’ Leave out Jesus Christ and you will not become a member of this great family. The requirement to be a member of this family is to be ‘born again’ (John 3:3,5,7). And being born again occurs when Christ is received ‘by faith.’”

Richison adds some strong comments to this passage as well. He writes, “This verse does not put a period after the words ‘sons of God’. The Bible does not say everyone in the world is a son of God. True, we are all creatures of God. That does not mean we are God’s children. No one is a child of God without placing exclusive faith in Christ Jesus. Those who do not exercise faith in Christ are mere creatures of God just like a bird or donkey. They do not have a personal relationship with God.” Although I might not want to compare a non-believer with a bird or a donkey, I get the point. We are all “creatures” of God and therefore His children in one respect. But to be part of the “Family of God” we must become “new creations” as Paul tells the Corinthians in 2 Corinthians  5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

Galatians 3:21-23

The Purpose of the Law

In Galatians 3:21-23, Paul turns from denouncing the law as a means of salvation to talk about what the law actually is. The law is good. God gave us the law as a mentor to lead us to Christ. It does that by pointing out our need for a savior. It convicts us all of sin. Here’s what Paul said, “Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed.” We were all “captives” of the law. That means we were slaves. It is only through Christ that we are set free. The law brings home the reality of our sinfulness and opens the door to our salvation through faith in Christ. It does not save anyone. It just makes it clear we need to be saved!

Evangelist Fred Brown used three images to describe the purpose of the law. First he likened it to a dentist’s little mirror, which he sticks into the patient’s mouth. With the mirror he can detect any cavities. But he does not drill with it or use it to pull teeth. It can show him the decayed area or other abnormality, but it cannot provide the solution. Brown then drew another analogy. He said that the law is also like a flashlight. If suddenly at night the lights go out, you use it to guide you down the darkened basement stairs to the electrical box. When you point it toward the fuses, it helps you see the one that is burned out. But after you have removed the bad fuse, you don’t try to insert the flashlight in its place. You put in a new fuse to restore the electricity. In his third image, Brown likened the law to a plumb line. When a builder wants to check his work, he uses a weighted string to see if it is true to the vertical. But if he finds that he has made a mistake, he does not use the plumb line to correct it. He gets out his hammer and saw. The law points out the problem of sin; it does not provide a solution.

The purpose of the law has always been the same. When we preach salvation by grace through faith alone, we are preaching the gospel message that has come down through history from the time of Christ. John Calvin wrote, “From this we see that the law was not given to the fathers so that they might purchase salvation; nor were the ceremonies added so that, by observing them, men might attain righteousness. The only purpose of the law was to remove all confidence that people might place in works, so that they might rest all their hope in the grace of Christ.”

Galatians 3:18-20, Acts 7:53

Law restrains evil

In Galatians 3:18-20 Paul turns from denouncing the law as a means of salvation to talk about what the law does for mankind. The law is good. God gave us the law to serve all mankind. I live in my house, not because I am stronger than my neighbor, but because law has given it to me. In a world without law we have no peace, no security, no free pursuit of happiness. The law establishes boundaries for all of us. The law served to restrain sin.  Here’s what Paul said, “For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise. Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary. Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one.”

The first function of the law is to help stay, hinder, suppress, and restrain sin. We are all sinners and if left to ourselves we would become like those in the days of Noah. We would be killing and stealing and cheating one another continually. Law brings restraint. Whenever I see a state trooper on the highway, I look at my speed. Don’t you? The law was designed to restrain our fallen human natures. Gromacki writes, “If no restrictions were ever placed on unregenerate wills, then sinners would manifest their position in every conceivable evil practice. The intent of the law, therefore, was to reduce the amount of sin that could be committed.” Paul also tells us in Romans to obey the law because God ordained its representatives. God gave us law so we could live peaceful, godly lives. Law is still good because there are still sinners in the world.

Notice the comment here that it was “ordained through angels.” Acts 7:53 says the same thing. If you remember the mediation of the law to Israel from Sinai, everyone was afraid and ran. It underscores the fearfulness of the law! Hustable says in the Pulpit Commentary, “The whole passage is tinctured with the feeling that the giving of the law, as contrasted with the dispensation of the Messiah, was marked by distance, sternness, and alienation.” The people (Exodus 20:19-21) demanded Moses to serve as their mediator. That shows their great anxiety concerning the law. Obviously, the law does not bring peace and joy but great fear. However the Gospel of Christ, which is received by faith, brings great peace and joy. This restraining power of the law is only needed when the depraved nature of man dominates. When the “seed” shall come, Christ, He will redeem us from slavery to the law and put His law in our hearts. This clearly lets us know that God’s intent from the beginning was that the law be a temporary remedy for the sinfulness of man; it was never intended to be the cure. But when Christ came, He came giving sight to the blind and healing to the sick. In Christ the restraining function of the law is unnecessary! The law is now written on our hearts.

Galatians 3:15-17

Where the law leaves us, Grace picks up!

Paul reminds the Galatians that the law was quite late on the human scene. Abraham lived long before the law even existed. God had made promises to Abraham and to those who through faith, became children of Abraham. The law, the late comer, does not cancel God’s promises at all. He argues that God’s promises to Abraham had been signed, sealed, and delivered. They were “ratified” by God himself in Genesis 15. The promise of the blessings to Abraham was pointing to the Messiah, not the whole nation that had its physical roots in Abraham. This is the way Paul explains it in Galatians 3:15-17, “To give a human example, brothers: even with a man-made covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been ratified. Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, ‘And to off springs,’ referring to many, but referring to one, ‘And to your offspring,’ who is Christ. This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void.”

The blessing promised was specifically for Christ and then all those who are children of Abraham through faith in Christ. The blessings are mediated to mankind through the promised offspring. Those promises that God made to Abraham regarding Christ have come to pass. The promise has been ratified and nothing can change it. It is through Christ that every nation will be blessed just as God promised. The law, the latecomer, did not change that. The blessings are not doled out for obedience of a legal system that was established 430 years after the contract had been signed. The law changes nothing!

It is obvious that the “promise” given to Abraham is far superior to the law that was given to Moses. As the author of the book to the Hebrews points out, the law was mediated through angels. The promises to Abraham came directly from God. Paul is going to spend some time explaining God’s purpose for the law. Far from annulling God’s promises to Abraham, the law serves the promises of God in several specific ways. The primary way, as Paul will explain later, is that the law points us to God’s promise by exposing our sin. By revealing our sinfulness, it leads us to Christ. The law does not save us. It does not bless us in anyway. It merely condemns us. Why would we ever want to return to living under the law when we have God’s grace? In light of the finished work of Jesus, it offends God to go back to the law. Jesus is what we need. Jesus is all we need. Jesus paid it all! We worship Him because of who He is and what He has done. Spurgeon said that God’s grace meets us where the law has left us. “If the sinner is dead, it gives him life; if he be filthy, it gives him washing; if he be naked, it gives him clothing. Is the sinner hungry? It feeds him. Is he thirsty? It gives him drink. Do the sinner’s wants grow even larger after he becomes a saint, or has he a deeper apprehension of them? Then the supplies are just as deep as his necessity.” Where the Law leaves us, God’s grace picks us up!

Galatians 3:12-14

Free at last!

Living under the law is indeed a curse. Paul is adamant on this and points it out frequently in several of his letters. But the curse of living under the law was lifted from us. As Christ was lifted up on the cross, He took the law with Him (so to speak). He did that so we could find the blessings of Abraham overwhelming our lives. This is what he says in Galatians 3:12-14, “But the law is not of faith, rather ‘The one who does them shall live by them.’ Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree’— so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.”

The idea of redemption is a bit too religious for me. All it really means is the payment of a price to secure the release of a prisoner or a slave. It was used also of prisoners of war and even of criminals in jail and especially for criminals that have been placed under a death sentence. Redemption always means the payment of a price to secure a person’s release. As humans living under the curse of sin, we are all slaves to sin. We cannot set ourselves free from that slavery. It is part of who we are. I know it stinks! I do not like it. You do not like it, but liking it has nothing to do with its existence. I do not like limburger cheese! My dad loved it. My not liking it did not affect its existence or my dad eating it! Limburger cheese is still there, and sin is still there. But Christ’s death on the cross was the payment of a ransom price by which sinners are set free. Now that we are redeemed, we are free! Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty, we are free at last!

A.B. Simpson is reported to have said that the gospel “Tells rebellious men that God is reconciled, that justice is satisfied, that sin has been atoned for, that the judgment of the guilty may be revoked, the condemnation of the sinner canceled, the curse of the Law blotted out, the gates of hell closed, the portals of heaven opened wide, the power of sin subdued, the guilty conscience healed, the broken heart comforted, the sorrow and misery of the Fall undone.” I would add and the smell of limburger cheese eradicated! We are now a sweet-smelling savor to God through faith, not through works.

Galatians 3:9-11

Living Under The Law or Living Under Grace

Along the way in life, we can adopt the attitude that we are either blessed or cursed. I know people who say that if anything bad can happen to them, it will. Others say that if anything good can come today, it will come to me! These represent two different attitudes towards life. The pessimistic outlook sees bad even in good things. When something good comes their way, they just wait for the other shoe to drop (so to speak.) The optimist finds the good even in the bad things. Thomas Edison was a well-known optimist.  Thomas Edison’s manufacturing facilities in West Orange, N. J., were heavily damaged by fire one night in December 1914. Edison lost almost $1 million worth of equipment and the records of much of his work. The next morning, walking about the charred embers of his hopes and dreams, the 67-year-old inventor said: “There is value in disaster. All our mistakes are burned up. Now we can start anew.”

Paul argues in Galatians 3:9-11, that people of faith should live their lives expecting great blessings. On the other hand, those who live by the law find nothing but a curse. He writes, “So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law and do them.’ Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’” God loves us! He has our best interest foremost in mind and regardless of our current situation, everything is going to work out for our good. Under the law, we know we have blown it and feel discouraged, dejected, and defeated most of the time.  It is a matter of faith and trust in a good God or a condemning God.

Those who live by faith are much happier and really are more successful in life. Psychologist Martin Segilman of the University of Pennsylvania advised the MetLife insurance company to hire a special group of job applicants who tested high on optimism, although they had failed the normal aptitude test.  Compared with salesmen who passed the aptitude test but scored high in pessimism, this group made 21 percent more sales in their first year and 57 percent more in their second.  A pessimist is likely to interpret rejection as meaning “I’m a failure; I’ll never make a sale.”  Optimists tell themselves, “I’m using the wrong approach,” or “That customer was in a bad mood.”  By blaming failure on the situation, not themselves, optimists are motivated to make that next call. It is that way with people of faith. God is not out to get us (the curse), He’s out to bless us! Now, it is our choice. We can live under the curse of the law, or we can live under the grace of God. He expressed His love and concern for us on the cross. If He loved us that much, is there anything He will not do for us?

Galatians 3:6-8

All Sufficient Grace

Paul uses the example of Abraham’s faith as evidence of his gospel of salvation by grace through faith alone. It was not Abraham’s “works” that made him righteous with God. If you study Abraham’s life, you find many examples of his many failures, yet God continued to bless Abraham because of his faith. In Galatians 3:6-8 Paul writes, “Abraham ‘believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.’ Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham.  And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘In you shall all the nations be blessed.’” Paul’s point is that the blessings promised to Abraham came through faith not works. Those blessings are ours as well and we are sons or heirs of Abraham not by blood lineage but by God’s grace through faith.

In the story of Abraham, we see God’s grace given to a man who had only one thing going for him; he believed God. He came from a pagan religion and even carried the remnants of it everywhere he went. He often took matters into his own hands rather than rest in God’s promises, but God never deserted him. Notice there was nothing about Abraham that commended him to God. There was nothing about Paul that should have commended him to God either. Actually, he was a murderer and didn’t deserve grace at all. It was only God’s grace through faith that obtained God’s blessing on his life.

I like the way Max Lucado explains this in his little devotional, “Grace for the Moment.” He says, “Grace is created by God and given to man.… On the basis of this point alone, Christianity is set apart from any other religion in the world.… Every other approach to God is a bartering system; if I do this, God will do that. I am either saved by works (what I do), emotions (what I experience), or knowledge (what I know). By contrast, Christianity has no whiff of negotiation at all. Man is not the negotiator; indeed, man has no grounds from which to negotiate.” Max is so right! Neither Abraham nor Paul had anything to commend them to God. They had nothing that God wanted or needed to negotiate with. Neither do you or I. But in all our trials, tests, temptations and turmoil, God’s grace is sufficient for us as it was for Paul and Abraham.

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