Galatians 3-4, Sunday 30th October 2022

Galatians 3-4, Sunday 30th October 2022

Gal 3:26-4:7 Sermon on 30th October, 2022

Also Luke 18:9-14

It’s always great to have a ready comeback.

A story is told that one evening Winston Churchill was staggering from the House of Commons with a fellow member of parliament.

“Winston, you are drunk!” The friend said to him

WSC: “Bessie, my dear, you are ugly. But tomorrow

I shall be sober and you will still be ugly.”

I know it’s arrogant, but’s a good comeback. You almost wonder, “how did he think of that when he was drunk?”

Apparently, he wasn’t really drunk, just tired and unsteady.

Or the Christian equivalent comes from Charles Spurgeon, sometimes called the Prince of preachers.

Smoking his pipe one afternoon after church

Mr. Spurgeon, don’t you know that tobacco is of the devil?

Certainly madam. That is why I am burning it.

But comebacks can also be very powerful in sending a message.

So in the fourth century under a terrible persecution under Emperor Julian, a philosopher seeking to taunt a Christian said to him: Where is your carpenter now?

And in the flash of a second, the Christian responded: Building a coffin for your emperor.

Or this one that I’m more interested in this morning:

A woman comes up to the vicar after the church service and says, “Your sermon on sin today does not apply to me.”

“Why?” asks the minister:

I have not sinned for a whole month!

And in a flash of a second the minister says, You must be very proud about that, aren’t you?

And of course, the penny dropped.

Now the letter of Galatians is a comeback, and Paul is not pulling any punches.

The passage we read is really a summary of a section that begins in 3:1 and ends in 4:11

So this is how the section begins:

3:1 You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?

v.3 Are you so foolish?

And then at the end of the section:

4:9 how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable forces?

v.11 I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you.

Imagine your manager, or teacher or parent saying that to you?

This is worse than even Dutch directness. It is the sort of language you can only use when someone is in serious danger and you are desperately trying to warn them.


There are people preaching to these non Jewish Christians, and telling them: Well done for trusting in Jesus. Indeed you can only be saved through faith in Jesus. Well done for trusting in Jesus and his blood.

However, that is not enough. To be fully children of God, to completely benefit from the promises God made to Abraham, you need to follow the Jewish law-The Torah.

You have to be circumcised, you must keep the Torah, lead the Jewish lifestyle: no bacon, keep the sabbath and other feasts and holidays etc.

Trusting in Jesus is a good place to start, but it’s not enough!

So the question here is not, how do we become Christians. The question is, how do we continue being Christians. Where is our security along the Christian journey?

And these preachers would have told the Galatians: You become Christians by trusting in Jesus and trusting in the cross for the forgiveness of your sin. But after that, it all depends on how well you keep the law.

It is the picture we saw in our gospel reading: In Jesus company are those who are confident of their own righteousness, and consequently look down on others. So Jesus gives the parable of two men going to pray: a Pharisee and a tax collector.

The Pharisee was the equivalent of the clergy of the day. The bishops and archbishops. The tax collector was a civil servant. Sometimes we have the impression that tax collectors were extraordinarily sinful people. But that’s not true. They are the equivalent of your local MP. Of course, dodgy, as all politicians are- but not necessarily a Putin.

So the bishop prays, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

His confidence as a believer is purely on what he does. And then as most of us are constantly tempted to do: he pushes himself up his imagined moral pecking order and looks down on everyone else: I am not like other people…

Just enough religion to be able to look down on others.

And the Galatians are just starting to get influenced by these guys. Maybe they are right. We are missing out on something. We need to keep the law, to be able to be mature Christians.

And Paul writes to them and presents a series of arguments against this teaching. The law had a purpose, which has now been fulfilled.

24 So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. 25 Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.

The law was like scaffolding; you don’t need it after the building is finished.

Or pampers. Great if you are a child. But not for adults

And so if not the law, how are Christians to continue? How ae they to mature?

He says it in Ch.3:26-29, and then restates it, saying it differently in 4:1-7.

  1. Remember you are in Christ 3:26-29

And it’s not difficult to see that in this section:

v. 26 So in Christ you are all

v.27 all of you who were baptized into Christ,

have clothed yourselves with Christ

v.28 you are all one in Christ Jesus

v.29 If you belong to Christ

Indeed scholars point out that the grammar of these verses suggest that these are not Paul’s original words. He has simply taken confessions that Christians used to recite, probably at baptism, and made a point using them.

Remember the fact that you are in Christ.

Here in the West, Christians just call themselves Christians, or religious or believers. Where I grew up, the word was born again. I am born again. I am saved. A few times on twitter, I have seen people says they are followers of Christ or disciple.

All those are great. But if you read the New Testament, the most favorite description of Christians is that they are “in Christ” or with Christ.

And that is a very powerful way of thinking about it. In Christ, with Christ, united to Christ.

Imagine you are at the airport, about to board a plane to say Johannesburg. There’s you. There’s the plane. The question is, “what relationship do you need to have with plane to get to Johannesburg?

Would it help, for example, to be under the plane- to submit yourself to the plane’s eminent authority?

Or would it help to be inspired by the plane? Look at the plane in wonder, watch it take off and whisper to yourself, “one day I have to fly like that plane?

What about following the plane. Run behind the plane as fast as your little legs can carry you.

You see, the relationship you need to have with the plane is to be in it.

When you are in the plane, whatever happens to the plane happens to you. The question, Did you get to Johannesburg, becomes only a small part, indeed subject to a larger question: did the plane get to Johannesburg?

Now that’s the sought of thing the NT means when it says we are in Christ.

So v.26 In Christ, you are children of God through faith. How’s that? Because Christ is a child of God, in Christ we are children of God through faith.

Or v.29 if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. How’s that? Because Christ is Abraham’s seed and heir of the promise.

That’s what Paul has argued just a few verses earlier

3:16 The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,” meaning one person, who is Christ.

Do you see why Paul is very strong in his language. To suggest that they will miss out on the promises, is to suggest that Christ will miss out. Because they are in Christ. Whatever happens to Christ, happens to them.

If you are trusting in Jesus, is that how you think of yourself. In Christ. United with Christ.

But I wonder if you noticed another emphasis he makes.

You are ALL children of God

ALL of you

You are ALL one in Christ Jesus

I read somewhere, that 50yrs ago, there were more people who went to church than believed in Jesus. People just went even non-Christians. Today, it seems there are more people who believe in Jesus than go to church.

What do you think, does that matter? I am a Christian, but church is not for me—people say.

And the answer must be, of course it matters. Our union with Christ is always a corporate idea.

United with one another as we are united to Christ.

And it is a very non-hierarchical community:

v.28 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

And the point can’t be that there are no differences. Jews and gentiles continue to be jews and gentiles. Slaves and free continue to be slaves and free, and men and women continue to be men and women.

But it is difference without superiority. No one is more in Christ than the other person. All of us, irrespective of background, age, net worth, education, are all equal.

And that’s important because there’s always the temptation to begin to see ourselves as better than others.

We start having a VIP and VVIP in church. NO, Paul says.

Remember you are in Christ.

And then quickly, which is simply a restatement of this point

  • Remember you are a redeemed spirit-led son

And here he provides an illustration: a very easy one. Though a son is entitled to inherit all the property of his father, there is an age when there is no difference between him and the house help/the slave.

There are not many residential house helps in this country I don’t think. But you get the point. An underage son has nothing to his name yet, because he is immature. He does what he is told

And Paul says, there is a time the Jews were immature too- when they only had the law-and so were under the slavery of the elemental spiritual forces of the world. Aka sin.

The law was not meant to deal with sin.

And so despite having the law, they were just enslaved by sin just like the gentiles were. No difference between an underage son and a slave.

v. 4 But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.

So remember you were redeemed. From sin! Not by the law, But by God’s son.

But it is not just the son that God sent. He sent somebody else:

v.6 Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.”

Remember that you are a redeemed, Spirit filled son of God. You lack nothing

v.7 So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.

Let’s go back to the airport:

Imagine it’s not just you, one person; but two people.

The first is a businesswoman. She’s flown a million times, and so she enters the plane and sleeps immediately.

But there is another man whose family has been saving for years to give him at least a flight experience before he dies. He’s completely terrified. He not only listens to the safety instructions but takes notes, hanging onto every word.

As the plane takes off, he actually pees on himself. He is sick.  Etc of course as the businesswoman comfortably sleeps and enjoys her ride.

Two questions:

1st: who had more faith. Answer, the woman. She is the model of trust in the plane. We all want to be like her

2nd question: who makes it to Johannesberg? Answer: both. The faith of the woman or the doubts of the old man has nothing to do with it.

It has everything to do with the fact that the plane made it to Johannesburg.

You see, if the old man reached the airport and decided to take a taxi back home, that’d be another story. But he is in the plane, and if he’s in the plane; it no longer depends on him but on the plane.

Biblical Christianity is not to be confused with a bit of ritual and a lot of rules, rather it is associated with the relationship to the living God.

Remember you are in Christ.

 You are a son of God.

Shall we pray.