s a child my mom told me my heritage from her family was English, Irish, Scotch, Danish and possibly Jewish. My heritage on my mom’s family turns out to be Danish and British. Not only do I enjoy doing genealogy, but I’m a fan of “Finding Your Roots” on OPB hosted by Henry Louis Gates Jr. and “Who Do You Think You Are” on TLC. I know they’re edited for newsworthy and cool discoveries but it’s hard to get excited when you see Angie Harmon meeting her 5th cousin, once removed, on the family farm, dating from the 1700’s.
When it comes to our spiritual lives the question of whether our identity is linked to the Law or Grace is of eternal importance.
23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith.
Paul tells us that the law was our jailer and taskmaster. The word translated guardian, teacher, tutor, or schoolmaster doesn’t quite capture the person or his role in Roman life. This was a slave who was in charge of a young man to keep him safe and teach him how to be a Roman. They were was not the boy’s teacher so much as his disciplinarian. “He was often harsh to the point of cruelty, and is usually depicted in ancient drawings with a rod or cane in his hand” (Stott). One ancient Christian writer observed “students are scared of their pedagogues” (George). The law imprisons us and beats us for our failures.
25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
Grace comes about by faith. It takes us from under the thumb of a taskmaster and makes us an adult, or in this case a child of God’s and heir of the kingdom. Charles Wesley, English pastor, evangelist and Oxford scholar was born into and raised into the ministry, it seemed. He’d come to Georgia and preached to American Indians, he read the bible, tried to live a holy life, gave money to the poor, and preached in British prisons. Yet he had no peace about his own destiny.
He was at Aldersgate Street where as they read in Romans how God works in the heart through faith, Wesley’s said, “I felt my heart strangely warmed.” He continued,
“I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death”(Wesley).
So what happened to Wesley? He became immersed in Christ, baptized. With grace our identity is not sealed with circumcision but with baptism. The act does not save us but it signifies our faith, reliance and trust in Jesus in an outward manner. My best friend throughout high school was baptized as a believer, professed faith in Christ and has set is aside. Effective baptism is not a human decision, but flows from God who moves a person to respond to and accept the faith to which they feel called.
When we “put on Christ” we are clothed with Christ’s character. We become imitators of Jesus and this takes practice and time. “The patience, gentleness, humility and love of Christ; His wide-openness and sensitivity to people and willingness to risk… are to be cultivated in our lives” (Dunnam and Ogilvie) p 74.
As people of faith, our new identity causes us to fulfill Jesus’ commands in Matthew 16:24 “If anyone will come after me, let them deny them self, and take up their cross, and follow me.” Who are the people you have met who have carried their cross? Such people are not always notable, in fact, they are often time quiet and you never know what is going on.
28 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. 29 And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise.
Here’s a verse we have heard but need to learn. The New English Bible says, “You are all one person in Christ Jesus” (v. 28). We need to be absolutely clear that Christ does no wipe away or abolish such distinctions as these. We should also understand that this is a list not the list of the differences that are touched by faith in Jesus. In Christ these differences just don’t matter. They don’t get in the way of being together in worship or on the mission field.
“We recognize each other as equals, brothers and sisters in Christ. By the grace of God we would resist the temptation to despise one another or patronize one another, for we know ourselves to be ‘all one person in Christ Jesus’” (Stott).
We also have a home, a family, a tribe, a place where we belong, for we are Abraham’s offspring and therefore heirs with Christ.
Who are we? We are either people under the harshness of the law or we are heirs of God’s kingdom by his grace. In chapter 4, we discover that being under the Law is like being a slave, even though you have a right to something more. Consider Israel who, although had the promise of the land given to Abraham, didn’t see that promise fulfilled for centuries.
What’s more there is a sudden linking of the Law with the demonic.
1I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, 2 but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. 3 In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world.
Last September Prince Harry turned 30-years-old and inherited some 10 million pounds (Charleton). It was right there in his mother’s will, but he could not realize it till he turned 30. Those called in faith have an inheritance, but it cannot be realized apart from trusting Jesus with one’s life and future.
They are described as the weak and beggarly (v.9) and the reason for bringing them up again is because the Galatians are at risk of or may have already started down the road back into slavery to these spirits. Set against these elements in Jesus who was born at the right time, was human, not some spirit, was subject to the law as a Jew and came with a purpose—to bring salvation and adoption.
6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.
In the place of a harsh tutor or pedagogue we have a loving and caring Father in God. There is no harshness in Him for any punishment we deserve was placed on Jesus, who became cursed in our place.
The law isn’t evil nor has it become ‘bad’ because Jesus has come. The enslavement to it was and is the work of Satan. John Stott writes,
“God intended the law to reveal sin and to drive men to Christ; Satan uses it to reveal sin and to drive men to despair. God meant the law as an interim step to man’s Justification; Satan uses it as the final step to his condemnation” (Stott).
This is part of Satan’s work from the beginning, to take what God has set forth and ‘bend’ it to evil.
So, who do you think you are? Do we belong to the people of faith or to the law? Do we belong to God’s family, sons and daughters—heirs of the Kingdom or are we minors, unable to rightly judge and needing a guardian to handle our affairs?
I believe the answer lies in whether or not we’ve heard and answered Jesus’ call to come, take up our cross and follow Him. Let us pray
Charleton, Corey. 'Prince Harry to Inherit £10Million Share Of Diana's Fortune'. Mail Online. N. p., 2014. Web. 14 Aug. 2015.
Dunnam, Maxie D, and Lloyd John Ogilvie. Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982. Print.
George, Timothy. Galatians. Nashville, Tenn.: B & H, 1994. Print.
Stott, John R. W. The Message of Galatians. 5th ed. London: Inter-Varsity P., 1968. Print.
Wesley, John. 'Journal of John Wesley - Christian Classics Ethereal Library'. Ccel.org. N. p., 2015. Web. 13 Aug. 2015.
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