READ: Galatians 3:26-29 (Text: v28)
The churches of Galatia were facing a grave danger. Certain legalists had come among them teaching that much of the Old Testament Law was still binding upon Christians. They reasoned that God’s promises extended ONLY to Jews, and that gentiles would have to be circumcised before they could fully experience salvation. These "Judaizers" did not deny that faith in Jesus was necessary, but insisted that it was inadequate one must add to faith observance of the Law.
This teaching was in direct contradiction to Paul’s preaching of "salvation by grace through faith alone", that the Galatian churches had been founded upon. And so Paul wrote to the churches this great letter that we call "Galatians". His theme throughout is "The Finality of the gospel: salvation is by grace, not by Law".
What an amazing change had taken place in this man, Paul! Imagine him of all people being sent as the apostle to the gentiles it’s nothing less than a miracle!
Sometimes God’s choice of man or woman is incredible, is it not? If it had been ME choosing an apostle to go to the gentile world with the gospel, my LAST consideration would have been this man Paul! Now, granted, none of the apostles would have felt "at home" in that foreign gentile culture, but ANY ONE OF THEM would be a more natural choice than Paul.
Listen to the background Paul was saved out of: (Philippians 3:5-6) "... circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the Law, a pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the Law, blameless". This man was a fanatical Jewish activist. He had been trained in the Law in Jerusalem (the Holy City) at the feet of the esteemed Gamaliel, and had become a member of the Sanhedrin. He was a PROUD and nationalistic Jew - he believed that they alone were God’s people and that all the other nations were barbarians and dogs.
No, I’d have chosen someone else. One of the humble fishermen who knew little of international politics, or national borders Peter, James or John. I’d have given one of them a burden to go to the gentiles, but not God NO! His ways are much higher than ours His wisdom is past finding out. He chose this man Paul, and turned his life around, and sent him to the very nations he had once despised and he went, not begrudgingly, but with a consuming love in his heart and a passion to win them for Christ.
We read Galatians 3:26-29 a moment ago; let me read verse 28 to you again: [read]. If ever there was a classic statement in evidence of the turnaround in Paul’s life, it’s this verse! As a pharisee, Paul had prayed by rote every single day (as nationalistic Jews do even today): "I thank you God that I was not born a GENTILE, a SLAVE, or a WOMAN." That was their prayer of "thanksgiving" to start each day!
But now, in a direct refutation of all that he had once believed, he writes: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all ONE in Christ Jesus."
Friends, no prejudices can be allowed to exist in the Church of Jesus Christ. Paul states, ALL DISCRIMINATIONS ARE DESTROYED IN CHRIST! You see, not one of us can claim anything great of ourselves we’ve been saved only by the mercy of God IT’S GRACE THAT LEVELS US ALL OFF!
Would you look briefly with me this evening at these three particular discriminations that Paul addresses. Firstly notice:
1. RACIAL discrimination is destroyed in Christ.
* "There is neither Jew nor Greek"
This is quite a statement for a once nationalistic Jew to make. He’d come a long way from his young student activist days! He had met Jesus on the Damascus Road, and it had changed his whole life and perspective. He’d had a revelation of the God whose love and concern is not exhausted on one nation, but is lavished upon the whole world so immense is His love. Paul met the Christ who had come into the world to save an innumerable multitude out of every tribe and nation under heaven. Hallelujah!
What did the angel say to Joseph in Matthew 1:21? "And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, FOR HE WILL SAVE HIS PEOPLE FROM THEIR SINS." Now that verse in the first instance refers to the Jews it is the heralding of the arrival of the expected Messiah. But this verse also surely has a wider application. Jesus "...came to His own, but His own received Him not"! (John 1:11) When it says "...He will save His people from their sins", who are "HIS PEOPLE"? The answer is in John 17:6, 20 ...
Jesus prayed "I have manifested Your name to the men WHOM YOU HAVE GIVEN ME out of the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word ... I do not pray for these alone, but also FOR ALL THOSE THAT WILL BELIEVE IN ME". Who are "His people"? - them that believe in Him. "... you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins" a people out from every tribe and nation, saved by faith in Christ.
God has intended His gospel to be preached in all the world. There is no favouritism with God; and He detests racial dicrimination. I tell you a lot of terrible things have been done in the name of "Christianity"; the Nazis in Europe, the Ku Klux Klan in America, Apartheid in South Africa, the situation in Northern Ireland, and you could go on and on - RACIAL BIGOTRY ALL DONE IN THE NAME OF RELIGION!
But there is coming a day when it will all be brought to the accounting and God will be the judge. No bribed officials and paid off juries in that courtroom - THE JUDGE OF ALL THE EARTH WILL DO RIGHT.
"Oh", you say, "thank God we don’t have racialism in Australia!" Folks, I may burst your bubble with this, but we have our own fair share of problems with racialism. We live in a great country - and I love it’s people - but there have been times I have heard things that have made me feel ashamed. Things about immigrants of other nationalities. Things about our own indigenous people.
We should expect it though. Jesus prophecied that the last days before His return will be marked by unprecendented racial tensions. In Matthew 24:7 we read His words: "For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom." That word "NATION" is the greek "ethnos" meaning literally "race"; "RACE WILL RISE UP AGAINST RACE". Isn’t that exactly what we are seeing today like never before? It is symptomatic of the rising tide of the spirit of antichrist in the world AND THE CHURCH MUST STAND FAST IN MARKED CONTRADISTINCTION TO THAT SPIRIT. The Church MUST be free from all racial distinctions. I don’t want to be numbered in any way with that spirit that opposes Christ.
Racial Discrimination is Destroyed in Christ!
Then secondly, we see :
2. CLASS discrimination is destroyed in Christ.
* "...there is neither slave nor free"
Turn with me to Luke 18:9-14 [read]. Here, Jesus shows us what God thinks about "social standing". Two men from very different levels of society; the one a highly respected man a pharisee. The other, from what was considered the second lowest order of life in the universe a tax collector (second only to lepers). But Jesus’ parable clearly shows that it is attitude of the heart that God is concerned about not the outward display!
"Only in the Church of Jesus Christ can a pauper stand beside a king, and both be received as of equal worth and necessity." Or so it should be. But still you find in churches that there ARE social "pecking orders"; that cliques form on the basis of rich and poor, high and low, powerful and weak. BUT THESE THINGS OUGHT NOT SO TO BE. We need to guard against all such attitudes reject ANY class distinctions. These things are cancers that destroy the life of a church.
You see, God doesn’t treat you on the basis of what suburb you live in or the size of your pay cheque or what influence you hold in the city. Does He need your money or your influence? NO!
I remember when I was living in England back in about 1982/83. We came in contact with one particular family the Moody’s. They had hardly a thing to their name; three adult children and their parents, all living on welfare, all alcoholics. The parents walked into our Assembly one day, and they found a place where (for the first time) they were considered as important as anyone else. They couldn’t believe it after the service, middle class business men and women were stood talking to them; listening to them. Not out of duty, and not with one eye over their shoulder but with a genuine love and concern for them. They saw in God’s people the love of Christ and it melted their hearts HERE WAS REALITY. It wasn’t long before they’d given their lives to Jesus. And then PAUL, the younger son, came in. And then the daughter all marvellously saved.
But I want to tell you about Brian, the eldest son. Oh, he was a hard nut to crack! A young man so full of anger and bitterness people would see it on him and cross the street to avoid him. He used to run with a street gang, and he’d be out drinking on stolen money until the early hours of the morning then he’d come home and in blind rage HE WOULD BEAT UP HIS PARENTS AND HIS BROTHER they lived in fear of him. But when his family got saved the atmosphere in the home just changed, and they began to witness to him. WELL, THAT MADE HIM ANGRIER; HE GOT WORSE. They went through a terrible time but they just somehow kept loving him.
Then, one day, in a sober moment he came along to church. (I think it might have been his sister who persuaded him to come she had used to run in the same gang as him!) I remember him coming in. The anger and hatred just seemed to ouze out of him it had caused a physical marring of his facial expression. But that night he left the church building A BRAND NEW CREATURE IN CHRIST. He found love in God’s people, and it opened him up to the gospel, and that night he was marvellously saved! You know I’ve read of when Jesus was transfigured on the mount before His disciples. What an incredible sight that must have been. BUT I’VE SEEN A MAN TRANSFIGURED ALSO that once angry young man Brian Moody.
Brian became the most incredible witness for Christ in that city. He led scores of people to the Lord. But the most amazing thing to me always after that was his gentleness and quietness he just left a sweet fragrance everywhere he went. And no-one was afraid of him anymore. Brian eventually became the youth leader of our Assembly, and then he went to Bible College. (THAT was a miracle in itself he’d dropped out of school when he was about thirteen he could hardly read and write!) TODAY, Brian is the Senior Pastor of a church in another part of the country.
Now the point of me telling you all of that story is that I want to ask you a question. "WHAT WOULD HAVE HAPPENED IF WHEN BRIAN’S PARENTS HAD FIRST COME TO THE CHURCH THEY HAD FOUND JUST ANOTHER PLACE WHERE THEY WERE DISCRIMINATED AGAINST BECAUSE OF THEIR SOCIAL STANDING?"
Class Discrimination is destroyed in Christ!
Finally, we see here:
3. SEXUAL discrimination is destroyed in Christ.
* "...there is neither male nor female;"
The New Testament draws a clear differentiation between role and worth; between function and position, and we must NEVER confuse these two.
The Bible unapologetically presents a model for family life where men and women have specific roles or functions to fulfil God has ordained, in His wisdom, that men ought to be the leaders in the home (notice I said "leaders" men, not "dictators"). But note: nowhere in the New Testament is it even implied that this means men have a higher standing or position before God. In simple terms: we just have a different role to perform THAT’S ALL!
Some men, in trying to lord it over their wives, are forever quoting from Ephesians 5 and saying "THE HUSBAND IS THE HEAD OF THE WIFE"! There are 2 problems with that kind of aggressively domineering attitude:
1) In the New Testament culture, whilst the term "head" certainly does speak of authority, it has another meaning that is too often overlooked. When the Greeks thought of the term "head" they didn’t simply think of "this on top of that" - the boss. Rather, they thought of the HEAD AS "THE SOURCE". The human head is the source of life to the body. The head of a river is the source point from which the power flows.
Men, we need to understand that God has called us to be our wives’ source". A source of PROVISION, LIFE, ENCOURAGEMENT, EMPOWERMENT, STRENGTH, EXAMPLE. There is the challenge when God says you are to be the head, it’s not a title, it’s a big job; probably the greatest challenge you’ll ever face!
2) The model we are given is that of Christ and the church. Listen to what Paul directs: 1 Cor 5:25-29 [read].
Actually, you know, I DON’T believe that my wife is equal to me ... ON THE CONTRARY, SHE IS FAR SUPERIOR! And I mean that. When I think of the abilities that women have. God has made them so sensitive, so intuitive! Us men, we’re a bit "dull of hearing" usually. Women are so sensitive to other people; the amount of times my wife has said to me "so and so’s really feeling down I think". And I say "NO! Don’t be silly. They were laughing with me." She says, "Oh, I just feel they’re having a hard time." SURE ENOUGH, it’s not long before you find out they have been going through some difficulty.
Women remember things too; men are often forgetful. You know when I stop to think about it, it’s incredible that God should choose to make men the leaders BUT HE HAS. The only explanation I can give is that "God delights to take the foolish things of this world to confound the wise ... to bring glory to His name."
Church, as men and women we have differing roles but that does not mean that one is of greater importance over another. It’s NOT a case of men on top of the pyramid with women subservient underneath that’s Islam, not Christianity. Christianity, in contrast to all other religions, lifts the woman to her rightful place of honour and gives her dignity and freedom. Hallelujah!
Sexual discrimination is destroyed in Christ.
Paul writes: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus."
Church, God has called us to be a "City of Refuge". If we are going to function as a city of refuge, we cannot entertain ungodly discriminations. I pray that God will help us to rightly discriminate between TRUTH and ERROR, between SIN and RIGHTEOUSNESS but may He save us from ever prejudiciously discriminating between this person or that when He has created us ALL in His image, and saved us all by His grace.
When you read about about the Cities of Refuge in the Bible - in Leviticus - one of the things that they had to be was EASILY ACCESSIBLE. Discriminations, distinctions, prejudices, bigotry; these things will establish barriers around us that will keep people out. They will alienate the hurting and the lost GOD HAS CALLED US TO REACH THEM!