Summary: Jesus draws us together into a family of faith through His perfect sinless life.
Before and After
We’ve all seen the ads. The smiling models, supposedly real people just like you and me, tell their tales of what a louse and loser they were before they enrolled in the program. After just three weeks…“I lost ten pounds, I made a million dollars, I found the woman of my dreams, I…” you know the story. The “before” and “after” stories that we see on television and read about in magazines are impressive, but they can’t even begin to compare to the “before” and “after” story that we’re going to hear about today!
The before and after scenario that Paul paints for us, in such vivid colors, extends across the whole world, holds promise for every living person on the planet, and comes to the lowly and lost…who know that they are lowly and lost. Let’s take a look at our Scripture for today found in Galatians 3:23-29.
23Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. 24So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. 25Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law. 26You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, 27for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Galatians 3:23-29 NIV)
Before the fulfillment of the promise came the whole world was held as prisoners – a whole world sitting in solitary confinement. Before the promise came…
Imagine with me for a moment. If Spielberg, Spike Lee, or M. Night Shyamalan were making an infomercial for the Apostle Paul then the opening scene of “Before and After” would be set in a dank, dark, dungeon lined with rusty prison cells. A single 40 watt bulb hanging in the center of the cracked and uneven ceiling barely breaks the darkness. A symphony of instruments rises from the silence to set the mood for the moment. Deep moans and groans wail like a saxophone at the midnight hour in Deep Ellum, in the heart of Dallas. The brass section comes to life with the sounds of chains rattling on a cold concrete floor and the rhythm of prison doors being slammed behind the guilty. The camera narrows its shot to a single cell where the “three tenors of internment” wail with hopelessness and sorrow deeply carved into every note. The music and movement of the opening scene sets the tone for the director’s portrayal of the abysmal plight of humanity.
Humanities plight. Before you can ever arrive at the “after,” you must take a long, silent look at the plight, predicament, and problems of each prisoner. The plight of each prisoner is the plight of each person who is sitting within the sound of my voice this morning. As a matter of fact, the plight of each prisoner is the plight of each and every person who has ever lived.
You may think that I am exaggerating. You may be convinced that you have never been a prisoner because you’ve never worn government-issue orange or been fingerprinted. You may think that you’ve never been shackled because you’ve never heard the sounds of prison doors close behind you. You may think that I am over-reacting, but I think not. You may have never had your picture snapped in a police station, stood in a line-up, or before a Judge, but the law has already found each and every one of us in violation. The Judge of all judges has announced His sentence and we have been found guilty as charged. The evidence was overwhelming. The charges were brought and corroborated with no dispute. The jury was unanimous. It was an air-tight case. We are guilty. Guilty as charged. There will be no appeal. This is the scene Paul sets for us in the beginning of our Scripture for today. Take a look with me at Galatians 3:23.
23Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. (Galatians 3:23 NIV)
Paul says that before faith came we were prisoners. The key had been thrown away and there was no defense attorney to plead our case. That, my friend, is a hopeless situation. The law found us guilty. We couldn’t keep the law in all of its requirements so we were found guilty. I want us to take a look at a couple of words that Paul uses here so that we can better understand the confinement that is suffered under the law.