Summary: Message from an expository series on the book of Galatians
Our culture is captivated by the before and after stories. Television networks such as DIY and TLC feed this frenzy. These networks feed our culture with a steady diet of extreme makeovers. Everything from people to houses is fair game to experience one of these extreme makeovers. At the end of the show when the before and after photos are displayed we are amazed by the transformation that has taken place. However all of these transformations pale in comparison to the transformation in the life of the believer as a result of faith in Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul never grew tired of rejoicing over the revolutionary change brought into the life of a believer by faith in Jesus Christ. In this passage Paul presents the ultimate before and after story. The transformation presented by Paul in our text is nothing short of unbelievable. Today I would like us to examine the contrasts that Paul presents between the pre-faith and post-faith existence.
I. The situation before faith came.
A. Law ruled before faith came.
1. The Law of Moses with its hundreds of commandments regulated every aspect of life: morality, society and religion.
2. God never intended the law to impart life or produce adequate righteousness. The job of the law is to reveal that mankind is dying from a lack of righteousness.
3. Before Christ all men were helpless prisoners. We were prisoners “of sin” and prisoners held “by the law”. In this sense, “sin” and “law” are practically synonymous, because the strength of sin is law.
4. Hopefully, men driven to the despair of ultimate doom and damnation will eventually realize their bankrupt spiritual state. Those who do recognize their own spiritual poverty are indeed “blessed” (Matthew 5:3), because they are the ones who will then turn to Christ.
5. When their legal plight drives them to seek refuge in Christ, putting all their hopes in him, the law will have performed its God-given task.
B. Guardians ruled before faith came.
1. Paul compares the role of the Law to that of the paidagōgos, a slave charged with the rearing and discipline of children.
2. In the world of the first century the paidagōgos was a cultured slave who was put in charge of the moral training of the sons of a free man as soon as they were old enough to leave their wet-nurse. (When the son reached the age of sixteen he was usually free from his paidagōgos).
3. The duties of this paidagōgos included four basic areas:
a. Protect the sons from harm, whether physical or moral.
b. To administer discipline when necessary.
c. To instill the virtues of manhood such us fearlessness and uprightness.
d. The escort the child to their instructor.
4. The law was set in place by God as a “custodian” or “child-leader” to lead us to Christ.
5. The law was never intended to be more than a temporary aid. From the very beginning the law was destined to be removed from having any authority, just as soon as the real Authority came.
C. Division ruled before faith came.
1. Paul writes a powerful statement: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female in Christ.”
2. There is a good possibility that here Paul is consciously using the threefold division of an ancient Jewish prayer: Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who hast not made me a gentile. Blessed art Thou … who hast not made me a slave. Blessed art Thou … who hast not made me a woman.”
3. This prayer, repeated each morning by the pious Jewish male, can be traced back at least as far as Rabbi Judah ben Elai around A.D. 150. At the time it was intended as a statement of reverence for the Torah, for those three classes of people were prevented by status or circumstance from studying it.
4. Paul does an excellent job here showing the divisions among people caused by legalism.
5. Legalism divides people into arbitrary segments; it deals with them according to what category they fall into and fails to respect them as individual persons.
6. For the Jew whose view was that there were Jews and everybody else this was a major barrier.
7. If this type of divisiveness exists unity is impossible.
D. Alienation ruled before faith came.
1. Wherever division reigns, alienation results. Those who are viewed as outsiders will inevitably be treated as strangers and aliens.
2. Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (that done in the body by the hands of men)—remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. (Ephesians 2:11-13—NIV)