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"Adopted, Belonging, Clothed, Directed"

Jan.31, 2016 Annual Meeting - Galatians 3:22-29;4:3-7


In our study of Galatians, we've seen how Paul has contrasted a life based on legalism, such as the circumcision party or "Judaizers" tried to get the churches trapped in, with a life lived rooted in the grace of Christ. The former ever seeks a perfect status it can't deliver, while the latter comes through simply trusting Christ, receiving what He's purchased for us at the cross, a righteousness we could never merit through our own actions.

The law does have a purpose: it identifies what sin is, shows us our sin, maybe even helps us know what we shouldn't do if we want to please God - but it offers no real help to resist temptation. Dietary and ritual laws could not save. Galatians 3:21f "...if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law.But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin..." The Greek for the word "prisoner" means "to enclose on all sides" like a school of fish caught in a net.

Paul offers several analogies for what the law is like. He uses the example of a last will or testament; a nanny; and a legal guardian. We find the illustration of a last will or testament in 3:15: "Brothers, let me take an example from everyday life. Just as no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case." Once a person's will is officially signed and registered and the person dies, there's no changing it: it's fixed. You're stuck.

The nanny is in 3:24: "So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith." The word here is "pedagogue" or babysitter, actually part body-guard back in the day. (NIV Study Bible) "It refers to the personal slave-attendant who accompanied a freeborn boy wherever he went and exercised a certain amount of discipline over him." Perhaps kind of a "minder" who made sure you didn't fall in the river or get beat up by the neighbourhood bullies.

Another illustration Paul uses is that of legal or financial guardians. 4:1-3 "What I am saying is that as long as the heir is a child, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate.He is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father.So also, when we were children, we were in slavery under the basic principles of the world." The trustee or "steward" would manage the heir's finances until he came of legal age and could then own then actively for himself. Until then, he might ask for an allowance that could be doled out at the trustee's discretion, but he didn't have any real control even though technically the estate belonged to him as heir.

The law tracks our sin, but can't help us avoid temptation. We may find ourselves prisoners accordingly.

A year ago, a church member in a former congregation I served decades ago had police enter his home one day and seize his computer. He knew he'd watched some erotic movies (which he shouldn't have) but didn't realize they contained some underage females. Because he'd used a torrent, he was charged in March with both possession of and making available child pornography. Consequently this man, in his 60s, could not be alone with his grandchildren, or attend their school concerts. About a week ago he was tried in court and found guilty. The judge had some nice things to say about him, but explained because there is a mandatory minimum sentence for such offences, the judge's hands were tied. So the fellow is now spending 80 days incarcerated for his crime.

Consider the power of the law to make us a prisoner for our errors! Even the judge was powerless to help.

Pornography is something that's become increasingly problematic with the rise of the internet. Barna Group did a study of nearly 3,000 adults and teenagers, including 432 pastors and 338 youth pastors. Some findings...

About 27% of Christian men actively seek out porn at least once or twice a month, compared to 47% (basically half) of men in the general population. For women, that's 6% of Christian women, 12% of women in general. 18% of married Christian men actively search for porn more than once or twice a month, compared to 21% of single men and 30% of teenage boys. Half of teens, and 70% of young adults, come across porn at least once a month, regardless of whether they seek it out. 26% of teen age 13-17 view porn at least once a week (that's about a quarter). That jumps to 38% of adults ages 18-24. One-third of teenage girls and young women said they searched for porn at least once a month. Two-thirds of those under 24 reported receiving a sexually explicit image from someone they knew, while 44% (almost half) said they had SENT one.

Church leaders are not immune, the survey found. 14% of pastors and 21% of youth pastors admit they currently struggle with using porn. 5% of pastors (1 in 20) said they're "addicted"; that more than doubles to 12% for youth pastors, over 1 in 10.

Would you say we have a problem here? Are we able to talk about it in church, to ask your elder or pastor if you need help? Do we even value purity any more? In the survey when ranking a list of morally unobjectionable items, teens and young adults said NOT RECYCLING was more unacceptable than viewing pornographic images!

Try telling that to the court judge - let alone the Eternal Judge. Try telling that to the countless victims of porn and child porn caught in the sex trade, who are violated anew every time an image is viewed.

V22 "The Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin..." What can help us break free?


God has not left us in this wretched, pathetic condition. He has provided a way out in the person of Jesus Christ! Gal 4:3-5 "So also, when we were children, we were in slavery under the basic principles of the world.But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law..." We were in slavery to the world's rudimentary principles, whether man-made religion that tries to work its way to heaven but is never good enough, or our basic fleshly impulses that trap us in fallen desires that breed sin and death. But God intervened, sending Jesus our Saviour, born as a Jew to completely fulfill the Jewish law. Born of a woman: this emphasizes Jesus was fully human as well as fully divine. He's "one of us", He gets it, He understands our human struggles. Heb 2:14 "Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death-- that is, the devil..." He shared our humanity, our red-bloodedness. Heb 4:15 "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are-- yet was without sin."

The fact that Jesus was "born of woman" incidentally also dignifies a woman's procreative ability: God used your unique mechanism and physical design to incarnate Himself, to produce the God-man! What a marvel! He through whom the universe was made deigned to inhabit an ordinary womb.

God sent His Son to REDEEM those under law - to "buy us back" (we talked about this last week); NLT "God sent Him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law..." Jesus ransomed us from slavery, paid the price so we could be free when we trust in Him. This involves at least 5 benefits for us: Possibility; Parent; Position; Presence; and POSSESSION.


Gal 3:23 "Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed." Sort of a "protective custody" to minimize or at least keep track of our misdemeanours. 3:25 "Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law." Faith in Christ FREES us, makes for new POSSIBILITIES. 3:22 NLT "But the Scriptures declare that we are all prisoners of sin, so we receive GOD'S PROMISE OF FREEDOM only by believing in Jesus Christ." 5:1 puts it, "It is for FREEDOM that Christ has set us FREE."

What's the essence of this magnificent new possibility? It has to do with becoming a new person in Christ, a change of character, becoming like Him in His supreme beauty and goodness. 3:27 "for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ." NLT says we "have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes." In Roman culture, there was a coming-of-age event in which the young male took off the raiment of youth and put on for the first time an adult's toga.

Today's Annual Meeting will hear an update from our Future Accommodation Committee. Whatever our congregation decides, the ministry or focus of a healthy congregation is never primarily a new building. Buildings are merely tools by which ministry can get done. It all depends what ministry you're feeling God calling you to do: the tool you need varies accordingly. A church's ministry is always fundamentally about PEOPLE not buildings. Sometimes buildings can get in the way of serving people, or detract funds that could be otherwise used to help people; but sometimes different configurations of buildings can help incarnate the gospel in a given community. Never forget - PEOPLE ARE GOD'S PRIMARY BUILDING PROJECT!

We see this at the heartbeat of Paul's sense of mission in Gal 4:19, "My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you..." He wants Christ to be built-into the Galatians' lives. Or as he put it in Ephesians 4:12f, the work of ministry is "so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ." The "building up" is of "the body of Christ", not bricks-and-mortar. The early church survived and thrived for centuries without designated buildings. What matters is our becoming mature in Christlike character.

Don't get me wrong - I would love a brand-spanking-new building as much as the next parson! But not if it drags us into unmanageable debt. And certainly not if it fractures our fellowship. This past week a parishioner told me of a family that left a nearby church that's started an ambitious expansion partly because of the way they're proceeding.

Can we agree that fellowship is more important than furniture? That we will keep on loving and respecting each other even if we have differences of opinion about practical matters? Can our corporate church body be "built up", edifying each other, rather than tumbling into some pitfalls Paul identifies in chapter 5? (Yes, I'm reading you the 'riot act', nicely!) 5:13-15 "You, my brothers, were called to be free.But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.The entire law is summed up in a single command: "Love your neighbor as yourself." If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other." Then in the famous "deeds of the flesh" in vv19-21 he mentions: "hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions..." A healthy church discussion should NOT be characterized by those!

Let's grow up as a Body and as individuals in Christ - whether we ever put up a physical structure or not. What's more important?


Believing in Jesus, we get a new Parent! We're adopted and belong in a new faith-family. Gal 3:26 (let's read it together) "You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus..." Sons of God - daughters of God, as the case may be; in the culture of the time, males dealt with inheritances and property, so Paul's emphasizing sons as "heirs" rather than "children" which would be more ambiguous in that culture.

God created humankind and is the origin of all people, but, contrary to popular parlance, NOT all people are "God's children". According to the Bible, only those who believe in Jesus have that privilege. In fact, Jesus told the unbelievers who opposed him that THEIR father was actually the devil! (John 8:44; cf Mt 13:38; 1Jn 3:8)

Gal 4:6-7a "Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father." So you are no longer a slave, but a son..." When we believe in Jesus, we get this sense that God is no longer our enemy and hostile judge, but a dear Father, like the Aramaic word "Abba" for Papa or Daddy. In the language of John 1(12f), to those who believed in His name, Jesus gave the right to become children of God - children 'born of God', supernaturally rather than naturally.


Through the mystery of the process of trusting in Christ, the apostle sees us as "sunk into" Christ, 3:27 "baptized into Christ" - not talking about water baptism here, but a mystic personal union, becoming identified with Jesus. Our former identity in the categories of this world is changed, radically. 3:28 (One of the most breathtaking verses in the whole Bible!) "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." All those categories are stripped away, catapulted across. You can't claim privilege in the church, or need feel any shame, due to which side of the classification you're on. The slave and master get to share the same pew: a revolutionary concept that took centuries to work itself out culturally. Jews and Gentiles were equally acceptable to God, regardless of their dietary customs. Women and men were on the very same level with regard to equality before God, worth to God, value to the Almighty. One is NOT better than the other! This is not talking about roles and headship or submission - there are still distinctions Paul sets forth in other passages - but none of that has to do with a difference in inherent worth in God's eyes.

Let's note in passing, this week saw the 100th anniversary of women being able to vote in Canada! Hurray, and long overdue! Hats off to Nellie McClung and others who patiently campaigned for that victory.

The Life Application Bible notes: "Some Jewish males greeted each new day by praying, 'Lord, I thank you that I am not a Gentile, a slave, or a woman.'" UHH! Was Paul indirectly responding to that perverse way of thinking? LAB continues: "The role of women was enhanced by Christianity."


In previous weeks we noted God's purpose all along was to bless all nations on earth through Abraham's offspring; and the particular form that blessing was to take would be the Holy Spirit. Gal 3:14 (from last week) "He redeemed us in order that [purpose statement following!] the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit." Gal 4:6 spells it out: "Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father.""

Do you GET this - that God's Spirit actually lives INSIDE you when you receive Jesus? It's a package deal! The divine Counselor / Helper / Paraclete comes to dwell within you, as Jesus predicted (John 14-16). Paul writes a parallel passage in Romans 8:14-16, "those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship.And by him we cry, 'Abba, Father.' The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children."

Experiencing the Holy Spirit is not necessarily an emotional thing (though it can be, for some people). Don't be worried if you don't "feel" the Spirit. You can be assured He's there if you're honouring and revering Jesus. 1Cor 12:3 "No one can say, 'Jesus is Lord,' except by the Holy Spirit." The Spirit echoes our deep-down directedness to God, calling out "Abba, Father" - the word "calling" is rooted in "to croak as a raven". Doesn't have to be eloquent! The Spirit "groans" inside us (Rom 8:23).


POSSIBILITY - PARENT - POSITION - PRESENCE - the fifth and final aspect we're looking at today is POSSESSION. (At first I was going to call this "posterity" - not in the sense of descendants, but future fame or recognition; but probably "possession" is a better term.) We have an INHERITANCE. Repeatedly Paul emphasizes believers are not just "sons" of God but also "heirs". Gal 3:29 "If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." What promise? Genesis 12:3 where God promised all nations on earth would be blessed through Abraham. The particular blessing of "justification by faith" - Gen 15:6 "Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness." What a blessing to be 'put right' with God, no more an enemy or 'at odds', viewed by Him as righteous and acceptable - clothed in the righteousness of His dear Son!

Gal 4:5 by faith we "receive the full rights of sons." 4:7 "So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir." Heir of what? Broadly speaking, the Kingdom of God! Jas 2:5 "Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?" There's a lot included in that, as Paul writes in 1Cor 3:21-23, "All things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future-- all are yours, and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God." All that belongs to you - but you belong to Christ. It's ultimately all for His glory, under His control. "Faith always implies submission." (Dr Schaff)

Possessing the promises, the Holy Spirit, the Kingdom - so much better than a prison! Jesus pulled off a jailbreak just for you. Let's pray.