The Narrative Lectionary text for this weekend’s sermon is Galatians 3:1-9, 23-29. This is the middle sermon in a three-part series on Galatians. Paul is making his argument why the Gentiles are as much children of Abraham and the Gospel as the Jews. Below is my visualization of the text. Enjoy.
This is a similar argument to the story of Peter and Cornelius in Acts 10. The Gentiles in Galatia heard about Jesus, believed, and the Holy Spirit showed up in signs and wonders. No law required.
Paul goes back to Genesis 12. God promised, Abraham believed, that’s it. No Circumcision required. No Law required. Anyone with the same faith is a child of Abraham.
I think it is important to note that Paul says that the Gospel was declared in this story.
The Narrative Lectionary skips vv. 10-22. It is a long passage, so it makes sense. However, this section deals with the purpose of the Law. This is a good and necessary piece of the story, especially for those of us for whom the Law and Gospel is important.
Paul poses the rhetorical question, “Is the law then opposed to the promises of God? Certainly not!” The Law is a good and necessary gift from God for society to function. However, Law is contextual and changing. The Law of Moses was given to the Israelites who had been recently freed from slavery and were about to occupy Canaan. These laws protected them and promoted safety and life.
Those Laws were no longer necessary or relevant to the Gentiles in Galatia and they are no longer necessary or relevant to us in our context. However, Law itself is necessary. We need laws to organize our society and protect us against our own bent toward evil. Law is Good.
Ultimately, however, Law creates harsh boundaries, either/or dichotomies and penal systems that lead to violence and death. And, we are all guilty of breaking the Law at one point or another, thus condemned by the very thing that was designed to protect and serve us. This is the very nature of Law, and it doesn’t save us, it condemns us.
Praise be to God that we are not saved by Law–whether it is the Law of Moses, or the Law of our own land. “In Christ Jesus we are ALL children of God through faith.”
The harsh social barriers between Jew and Greek, Slave and Free, Male and Female (insert our own social strata/barriers here) are broken down by the Gospel. We are ONE IN CHRIST.
This is GOOD NEWS!
Now, we, the church, who have been made one in Christ, are like Abraham. We have been blessed SO THAT we can be a blessing to all nations. The last thing Jesus wants us to do is draw harsh boundaries around ourselves and make being a Christian about following an oppressive legal system. The only law Jesus gave us to obey was to love God and love our neighbor. People need to receive God’s blessing through us and see God’s Grace through how we treat our neighbor.