Summary: Membership in God’s family is a matter of grace through faith in Christ
Sermon Text: Galatians 3:23-29
July 8, 2001
WE ARE THE FAMILY OF GOD
Families have a definite purpose. Among those, I would consider the family to be a sort of test-lab for the real world. The family is the place where people learn to cooperate and communicate. The family is the place where people learn right from wrong. The family is the place where people see love, honesty, and forgiveness practiced.
Now, the family structure we see in the world is an ideal extension of the very family God has established himself. For God not only provides families for this life, but also for the life to come. And today the Holy Spirit leads us to see the truth that WE ARE THE FAMILY OF GOD. 1) We’re Well Provided, and 2) We belong.
1) We’re Well Provided
In our Scripture text for today, we hear about a family of sorts; the family God had gathered together in the province of Galatia. This was also one of the apostle Paul’s families, so to speak. God had sent Paul out as the apostle to the gentiles. And so, Paul was responsible for teaching God’s Word to these people. He did so with the Galatians. They had been brought to faith by the Word of God, and formed a small congregation there – part of Paul’s “family.”
Now, the Galatians weren’t exclusively Gentiles, or non-Jews. There were a number of Jewish Christians living in the area as well. They were also part of this little church. The problem was that some of these Jewish Christians were still hanging on to the Old Testament ceremonies and regulations. In essence, they were saying that in order to be a Christian one needed to believe in Jesus Christ as Savior, but that wasn’t enough; to be a real Christian a person had to also keep the ceremonial laws as well. This confused the Gentiles. On the one hand, they had Paul and the other apostles saying that Jesus Christ fulfilled all of the law perfectly. And on the other hand, there others saying that Jesus really didn’t do it all and that people still need to follow certain laws and traditions to please God.
The family of God in Galatia was divided. The apostle’s response was that those Old Testament regulations and traditions no longer mattered. Christ did, indeed, fulfill the Law and its regulations – every last bit of it. What matters most is faith in Christ. In fact, the apostle Paul tells us that the purpose of the law, with all of its regulations, was to lead people to Christ. He says: “so the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” The whole point of the Old Testament ceremonial laws and its sacrificial code was to lead people to realize they could not save themselves. Only the One whom God would send could save the world from sin. It’s a matter of faith not works. Simply believing in Jesus Christ as Savior makes a person justified – declared “Not guilty!” – in God’s eyes. No amount of good works or effort on our part can do it.
God alone provides for his family. We’re given a beautiful picture of God’s providence. It’s a picture of baptism. Paul says: “for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” Baptism is one of the ways God connects with his people. When a person is baptized in the name of the Triune God, he/she is baptized into Christ. He/she is connected to Christ. That means everything that belongs to Jesus becomes ours. Baptism connects us to Jesus’ suffering – it becomes ours. Baptism connects us to Jesus’ death – it becomes ours. Baptism connects us to Jesus’ resurrection – it becomes ours.
I recently got a cell phone. It’s a great piece of technology. And like most tech stuff, once you get it you don’t understand how you ever lived without it. As nice as my phone is, it was useless when I first got it. When my phone was delivered, I couldn’t just pick it up and use it. It needed to be activated. Think about the Means of Grace – the Word and Sacraments – in that way. Those are the tools the Holy Spirit uses to activate us. And Paul says that Baptism is one of those blessed tools the Holy Spirit uses to activate us, to connect us to Christ. In Baptism, God provides for his family. He leads us to see that we are clean in God’s eyes and that we now have faith to believe that Jesus has paid the eternal consequences the law demands for sin.
There’s another beautiful picture of baptism given here: “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” Did you catch it? Baptism clothes us with Christ. We’re wrapped up in Jesus and all of his goodness in baptism. We’re clothed with his work and his righteousness. Armani, Gucci, Abercrombie and Fitch – none of those designer labels can compare with the garments we have in Jesus’ name. God “clothes” us with forgiveness and salvation. In other words, he says that these things are ours. They’re real, just like a change of clothes. All who believe that these garments are theirs have what’s needed to be part of God’s family.