Summary: We are justified by putting our faith in Christ alone.
Title: The Spiritually Advantaged and the Not-So-Much (So Much for a Spiritual Edge)
Text: Galatians 2:15-21
Thesis: We are justified by putting our faith in Christ alone.
What does it mean to have an edge?
Generally, when we say someone has an edge we mean there is something special about that person. When we say someone has an edge we are saying that there is something different about that person that makes them special. When we say someone has an edge we are saying that that person has an advantage over the person who does not have that edge.
The tall, dark and handsome man has an edge over the portly little man with a big nose and flappity ears when it comes to romance. A 315 pound recruit from a major university football program has a better chance of making the defensive line of the Broncos than a 315 pound couch potato, walk-on. On my first foray into denominational politics I found myself running against the pastor of one of the largest churches in the conference who just happened to be well known and deeply respected in the denomination, having an earned PHD and having taught at our denominational seminary. And to make matters even worse, he looked a lot like Clark Kent. He had a distinct edge.
You would think that when it comes to religion, the more religious person would have an edge or advantage over the non-religious person.
I. Every person’s dilemma… will we attempt to be justified before God by our human efforts or by faith in Christ?
We who are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners know a person is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. We have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because in observing the law no one will be justified. Galatians 2:15-16
There are two kinds of people in our text today. The first kind of person is the spiritually advantaged person. The second kind of person is the spiritually disadvantaged person.
The dilemma is in determining which kind of person we want to be: Is it better to be spiritually advantaged or is it better to be a spiritually disadvantaged person? It would seem that having a spiritual edge would be a good thing but maybe not…
In our text, being Jewish by birth was considered having a spiritual edge.
A. Jews by birth, i.e., the Jewish good-person is the spiritually advantaged person.
Bonnie loves to plant our large patio pots every spring. She even does the pot planting classes down at Echter’s. So it is fun to do runs to Echter’s or O’Tooles to pick out bedding plants, potting soil, fertilizers and whatever catches our eyes.
Greenhouses or Garden Nurseries are great places for picking up well established plants for flower beds or gardening. The hot house plant was planted early in ideal soil. It was protected from heat and cold. It was protected from wind- blown dust, late spring snows, and early spring hail. It was properly nourished with plant food and received the perfect amount of water. It was protected from pests. So it is a hearty and healthy plant when you repot or replant it in your garden. The plant was raised under ideal conditions… unlike the seed sown in some good ole Colorado backyard bentonite. The hot house plant has a distinct edge in the gardening world.
A Jew by birth had a distinct edge in the spiritual world. The Jew by birth was spiritually advantaged. The Jewish person was raised in a Jewish home that observed Jewish culture. The Jewish person attended Temple for worship and synagogue for instruction. The Jewish person observed all of the laws of the faith from day one.
We could draw the same parallel between the hothouse “Jew by birth” and hot house “Christian by birth.” The hot-house Christian is raised in a Christian home, is baptized or dedicated Christian, attends Sunday School and Church, attends a Christian day care or pre-school, receives an education in a Christian setting, is Confirmed, attends a Christian college, marries a Christian spouse, may work for a Christian non-profit, raises a Christian family, works hard, saves money, pays the bills and keeps a tidy home… did I mention pays his or her tithe?
The perils of the spiritually advantaged person are two-fold:
1. He or she is tempted to rely on their goodness to win God’s favor.
2. He or she is tempted to compare themselves favorably with others, i.e., tempted to feel spiritually superior to others.
On the other hand, there is the Gentile sinner:
B. Gentile sinners, i.e., the non-religious person is the spiritually disadvantaged person.
I have not always been the sophisticated man of the world that I am today. I did not always know that you are supposed to unfold your napkin and place it in your lap rather than tuck it into the neck of your shirt as if it were a bib. I did not always know that dining utensils are placed at a table setting so you work your way in as each course of the meal is placed before you. I did not always know that you don’t chase peas around your plate and onto your fork with a knife rather than your thumb.