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Golden Nursing Center in Mannington, NJ –Evening Service on 3/21/2013
(edited January 2020)
All of us are part of God’s Creation which includes the earth, plants, animals, air, outer space, the stars, etc. We are, because of this, related to God and potentially His heirs. But unless we look into His Word, that relationship will be plagued by immaturity and ignorance.
Verse 1: “Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all;”
To understand and embrace our relationship to Him, we must grow spiritually, not just physically and emotionally. But the odds seem to be against spiritual growth. At least, that has been true in my life. You have to fight for it sometimes. Paul is addressing this issue with the church at Galatia:
Verses 2-3: “But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father. Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world:”
The first century Church came out of Judaism and, even among the Gentile believers, showed a tendency to revert back to following religious laws and establishing a daily “works” for rewards relationship to God. A throw back to the Old Covenant.
But Christ came to deliver them and us all from that kind of bondage:
Verses 4-5: “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.”
This is freedom for those who will take it. This is the establishment of a right relationship between any of us and our Creator, that of a Parent and His child:
Verses 6-8: “And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ. Howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods.”
But EVEN AFTER adoption into the Family of God through faith in Jesus Christ, a New Covenant believer can be tempted into false or incomplete worship of the Lord. That was happening in Galatia. They were being duped:
Verses 9-11: “But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage? Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain.”
They weren’t out getting drunk or breaking the laws of man. But sometimes the worst sins we commit are religious sins and Paul knew that, oh, so well. He loved the Galatians. He cared enough to admonish them in all these things, though it wasn’t easy or popular, I am sure:
Verses 12-16: “ Brethren, I beseech you, be as I am; for I am as ye are: ye have not injured me at all. Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first. And my temptation which was in my flesh ye despised not, nor rejected; but received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus. Where is then the blessedness ye spake of? for I bear you record, that, if it had been possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me. Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?”
These false religious practices (verses 9-10) were ruining their relationship with God and, now, stood to ruin their relationship with Paul also.
And where false practices have crept into the Church, sure enough, so must have false teachers:
Verse 17: “ They zealously affect you, but not well; yea, they would exclude you, that ye might affect them.”
These teachers were in it for gain. They could never help the Galatians achieve a proper relationship to the Creator. That requires actual spiritual maturity. And that becomes an individual’s responsibility, anyway, regardless of the support or lack of it from religious leaders.
Verses 18-19: “ But it is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing, and not only when I am present with you. My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you,”
Paul is crying out to them. And not for their salvation, but for their maturity. The Gospel, “the sinner’s prayer,” these get us adopted into God’s family (verses 5-6). But obedience and maturity in Christ is different. You see, the Devil and the world will question the legitimacy of any Christian’s relationship to God. If you claim to be born again and it hasn’t happened to you yet, just stick around a while. But there is a wonderful answer: a real spiritual paternity test. A way to put to rest all the evil, ugly rumors. And that Spiritual DNA test is OBEDIENCE. The Apostle John takes up this theme in his letter to the Church at large and spells it all out for us in I John 3:1-11:
Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure. Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin. Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him. Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother. For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.”
In the modern church we tend to like to count heads. So, we eagerly report that 30 people came to a physical alter to receive Christ this week. But have you ever wondered how many are serving Him next week, or 30 days from now, or 20 years from now? Lack of obedience to God brings shame on individuals, families, and the Church and it feeds skepticism about our Faith and Our Savior.
I don’t, personally, think the Lord gets too excited about public professions of faith in Christ. But when it proves to be genuine in a person’s daily living, well, that’s different. If you will allow me to, I can’t help but seeing God somehow acknowledging that faithful believer before the Holy Angels. I am speculating, of course, but I think He says something like, “Hey, look there. That’s MY boy, that’s MY girl!” Yes, we will fail at times, as all children do, but when we obey His will and follow His commands or return to doing so, we remove all doubt about our lineage. Then no one need check our adoption papers for they can SEE the resemblance we have to our Heavenly Father. As John puts it: His seed remains in you. Isn’t that His DNA, in modern terms? And if you are truly born again, John tells us, one day you will stand before Christ in Heaven and that resemblance will be complete and celebrated!
Is this theme exciting you at all? It gets to me sometimes, and it was getting to the Apostle Paul. Let’s get back to him now and his letter to the Galatian church:
Verses 20-31: “ I desire to be present with you now, and to change my voice; for I stand in doubt of you. Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise. Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar. For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all. For it is written, Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not; break forth and cry, thou that travailest not: for the desolate hath many more children than she which hath an husband. Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise. But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now. Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman. So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.”
As I’ve already said, the Galatians weren’t disobeying God out in some alleyway. No, it was in worship that they had gone astray. Returning to the Laws of Moses, to following rituals and intricate rules, hoping for daily rewards from Heaven.
Since false teachers were leading them back into the Old Testament, Paul uses the Old Testament to admonish them. He reminds them that Abraham had fathered two sons, but only one was legitimate. Isaac’s mother loved Abraham and chose to be his wife, but Ishmael’s mom was a slave with no choice or rights.
So, Paul says, the concubine, Haggar, she represents slavery and oppression and, also, the Old Covenant. The law first received on Mt. Sinai by Moses and later amplified in Canaan at the Temple in Jerusalem never did actually save anyone! Rather it condemns and defeats us all in that we all fall short of it.
But let’s look at Sarah for a moment. She insisted Abraham ultimately choose her over the slave, the concubine. Sarah bore Isaac, according to God’s promise and God’s Word. And Isaac was a direct ancestor of Jesus Christ through the Virgin Mary. Sarah represents the New Covenant. Freedom to obey. Not the forced compliance of a slave, but the loving response of a bride or a child, a Child of God. Lord, let the whole creation see all of us who believe in Christ as your children because we obey you out of love and freedom and not as those who are slaves to the law.