July 7, 2013

First Things First: I Am a Child of God, Through Faith in Christ Jesus - July 7, 2013

Apparently our server is down again this seek, so all I have is the printed version of this sermon. Sorry for the inconvenience. Email calebjohn.schaller@gmail.com if you really want the mp3 and I'll send it to you. -Pastor Caleb Schaller


About 2,600 years ago the king of Judah was assassinated. Upon his death, his eight year old son, Josiah, became king. Now I’m sure that Josiah had caretakers. People tasked with the job of training this child to become a just leader. Josiah had help.

But I wonder how much just being a prince changed this child. Imagine his inner thoughts. I am a prince. I have been born of a king. I will be king one day. No man will question me. I must protect and guide this people. They will look to me as to a father.

Imagine that was you. Wouldn’t your royal status change the way you looked at the world? The way you responded to people? The way you carried yourself? The way you thought about everything?
Today we continue our study of Paul’s letter to the Galatian Christians. In chapter three Paul lays out the proper mindset   for a Christian to have. The right way for us to view the world. When followers of Christ wake up every morning we ought first to think: “I am a child of God, the Greatest King, by faith in Christ Jesus”.

Galatians 3:23-29 (ESV)

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. 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. 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.
The false teachers that had infiltrated the congregations at Galatia were teaching the people that they need ed to earn forgiveness from God by observing religious rules and ceremonies. In our reading for today Paul lays out a defense against this gospel corrupting idea. Paul clusters together a group of pictures which illustrate the truth of the gospel.

The truth of the gospel is this. Through faith in Christ Jesus, sinners are reborn into the royal family of God. There is no need for us to atone for our sins. Jesus has already erased the record of our sins by his death on the cross. By faith in HIM we are the forgiven children of God—NOW.

The first of the pictures that Paul uses to illustrate our status before God is the image of a “pie-dah-go-gos”. In Paul’s day, a “pie-dah-go-gos” was a guardian, or supervising babysitter. This guardian “was a man, usually a slave, whose task it was to conduct a boy to and from school and to supervise and direct his general conduct” (Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic domains).

One Greek dictionary says the following about these “pie-dah-go-gos”:

“Among the Greeks and the Romans [this] name was applied to trustworthy slaves who were charged with the duty of supervising the life and morals of boys belonging to the better class. The boys were not allowed so much as to step out of the house without them before arriving at the age of manhood” (Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon).

The congregations at Galatia were mixed. They all trusted in Christ as their Savior, but some were ethnically Jewish, others were ethnically non-Jewish (or “Gentile). It seems that Paul is talking more directly toward the Jewish Christians here. He talks about law of God as the heritage that Jews had for years. But Paul wants them to have the proper view of God’s laws.

Paul says that the proper way to view the body of laws that God had given to the nation of Israel is to see them like a “pie-dah-go-gos”. Like a guardian that should be obeyed, but that was primarily there to get you where you need to go. This guardian had limited authority and ability, and before long his authority would end. The authority of the law comes to an end when it brings people to Christ and the forgiveness that is found in his cross.
The false teachers were saying that you could actually keep the law. And by keeping the law you could be declared righteous before God. Paul says, “No way!” The purpose of the law is to lead people to Christ, but only Christ can justify a sinner. Only Christ can say “This one is innocent, for I have suffered for his sins”.

How silly it would be for one of those old Greek slaves to assert authority over a child who had grown into manhood. How silly it would be for a “pie-dah-go-gos” to claim, “I used to have authority over you, so I still do. Go get me my slippers”. The master would merely laugh.

This is how Paul teaches us to respond to the law when it tries to condemn us for our sins. We should laugh and say, “Law, you used to rule over me, but by faith in Christ I am now a Son of God.”

The law does indeed lead people to see their sins, and the need for a Savior. But in the presence of Christ that supervising babysitter is dismissed.
Paul then moves on to give another illustration of what the gospel of Christ does. Verse 27 say…

“For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:27 ESV).

I recently read about some studies that were done in connection with clothing and how it can significantly alter a person’s behavior.

“In the first experiment, 58 participants were randomly assigned to wear either a white lab coat or street clothes. They were then subject to an incongruity task in which they had to spot items that didn't belong to a set (for instance, the word "red" written in green ink). Those in white coats made half as many errors as those in street clothes” (Clothes Make the Man—Literally by Jordan Gaines).

Maybe you’ve experienced the confidence boosting power of a new dress, or a new suit, or some other fresh threads. Maybe for you it’s new shoes, or make-up, or having your hair cut. Our perceived appearance alters our mindset and confidence.

Paul says, this is how you aught to see yourself—covered over with Christ Jesus. When God sees you, he sees the perfect, sinless, Son of God. “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”

We probably don’t think back to our baptism enough. But what power and assurance are there! In our baptism we find God’s love and mercy. We find God reaching out and taking us to be his own. In baptism God reaches out and gathers sinners to himself and makes them part of HIS family.

The Bible says that baptism creates and seals faith in Christ. And with faith in Christ, we are covered in Christ. And if we’re covered in perfection and goodness, then the law doesn’t have anything to accuse us of. We’re holy before God, because Christ covers us.
This whole Christ-covering-us thing has huge implications for our daily life. But it also impacts the way we view the Christians beside us. In verse 28 Paul writes…

“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” (Galatians 3:28 ESV).

The false teachers in Galatia were encouraging an attitude of division in the congregations. An attitude that ranks people according to “good”, “better”, “best”. But Paul says that we should see our fellow Christians as they truly are—one in Christ Jesus.

Through faith we are covered with Christ’s righteousness, and so are our fellow Christians. We should see them like God sees them—as holy in Christ.

All the distinctions and labels that we puts on one another fade away before the throne of God. As far as forgiveness, and salvation, and value is concerned, in Christ we hold the same high status.

We all have different strengths, abilities, and talents, and that’s fine. God is the one who distributes those talents and gifts as HE sees fit. But in the realm of salvation—we stand shoulder to should with our brothers and sisters in Christ. There is no room for racism, sexism, or any other kind of caste system.
It appears that the false teachers in Galatia were advocating a caste system of sorts. One that put Jewish Christians above Gentile Christians. Their claim to superiority was most likely founded in the fact that they were Abraham’s descendants.

God had promised Abraham that all the nations of the earth would be blessed through one of his descendants. This of course, was Jesus, the Savior.

This was a great honor that God had given to Abraham and his descendants. And yet as they clung to this prestige, their hearts changed. After centuries the Jews began to consider themselves God’s chosen people—not because of God’s grace, but because of their worthiness.

The Bible teaches that it was a great blessing to be the physical descendants of Abraham. They were the caretakers of the Old Testament scriptures. They were the nation from which the Savior would come. But the Bible also says…

“…not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children…” (Romans 9:6-7 NIV).

Just before our sermon reading, Paul wrote…

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.” So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith” (Galatians 3:7-9 ESV).

And the final verse of our reading for today echoes this, saying…

“And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise” (Galatians 3:29 ESV).

All that these passages do is point out that while it was an honor to be a physical descendant of Abraham, it was vastly more important to be a spiritual descendant of Abraham. That is, someone who had the same FAITH as Abraham. One who trusted in the Messiah that had been fortold.

Think about what this revelation did for the Gentile Christians in Galatia. It had been suggested that they were less than the Jewish Christians. That they needed to earn their way up the ranks somehow by their deeds. But Paul says, NO. To be a physical descendant of Abraham is an honor, but to be a faith-descendant, THAT is what makes you an heir to the promise.
When I was a kid, I remember my father telling me, “Remember who you are” one night before I went to hang out with friends. Maybe your parents told you the same thing, “Remember who you are”. That little phrase means a lot. It means, don’t shame your family. It means, speak and act honorably. Be the person that God wants you to be.

But I want to turn that phrase around for you today. “Remember who you are” is a law statement. It’s appeals to our desire to not mess things up. But I would tell you to “remember who you are”, dear Christians, as a way of encouraging you.

Remember who you are. You are a grown Christian. The law has lead you to Christ, and Christ has declared you free from sin and guilt. Live in peace, not fear.

Remember who you are. You are baptized. You have been clothed with Christ’s righteousness. None of your sins are visible to God anymore. Live in joy, not fear.

Remember who you are. You are one of the redeemed. They stand beside you with their own strengths and weaknesses, with their own gifts and faults. Love them as Christ loves you, and forgive them always. Live in forgiveness, not judgment.

Remember who you are. You are a spiritual child of Abraham. Were he to meet you today on the streets of heaven, he would recognize you as one of his people. People who trust in the Messiah to wash their sins away.
At the end of little Josiah’s reign, the Temple of God had been restored. The idols had been thrown out of it. The altars around Jerusalem that had served to honored false gods had been torn down. The people had been led back to the word of God, and to the precious promises that had been almost forgotten.

I’m not sure how much of Josiah’s reign sprang from him simply seeing himself as royalty. But I know that God had Paul emphasize the pictures of our text for a reason. God wants us to see ourselves as HIS royal family. For when we do, it changes the way we see the world.

Remember who you are. By faith in Christ, you are a child of God. Let this thought be your first thought. By faith in Christ, you are a child of God, and one day you will live with him in his kingdom, forever.


The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

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