O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
Slave and Heir
Slave and Heir
Based on Gal. 3:23- 4:7
Preached on June 23, 2013
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Fellow baptized saints, do you ever cheer for the underdog? There is this television show I've been watching recently in which the king of the land has died. His death has put the whole kingdom at war with one another, because everyone wants to sit on his throne. And amidst all of the armies and noblemen and political powerplaying, the rightful heir to the throne is a slave who doesn't even know he is the heir. How'd he end up in slavery? What is going to happen to him? Nobody knows, but you can't help hoping that this poor slave boy will sit on the throne in the end.
We're back with our Galatians sermon series where St. Paul continues to defend the righteousness of faith from those who would publicly teach against it. We have heard that false apostles snuck into the churches of Galatia after Paul left and subverted the true Gospel, teaching people they are not justified by faith in Christ alone, but also by doing the works of the law. Paul's entire letter to the Galatians is an attack on this righteousness of the Law, and this morning he gets to talking about slaves and heirs.
He's out to explain the true purpose of the Law, because his opponents have distorted the Law by connecting it to people's salvation, by insisting the works people do count towards their salvation. So in order to expose this false teaching, Paul shares a picture of how the Law really works. He says, "Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. The law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith."
Paul calls the Law our Guardian, sort of like a schoolmaster. He says we are held captive under it, like slaves, until faith comes. This is one of the most helpful illustrations in all the Scriptures, for when a child is extremely young, it does matter if they are the son of a slave, or the rightful heir to the throne, for both are held equally under the authority of their schoolmaster. When the schoolmaster says sit, the son of the slave sits. When the schoolmaster says sit, the heir to the throne sits. The father of the slave wants his son to learn from the schoolmaster, and the king, the father of the heir, wants his son to learn from the schoolmaster. It is understood that the schoolmaster is in charge until the day of graduation comes when the boys are finally free from him. This, Paul says, is the Law - a schoolmaster meant to keep us from getting into too much trouble until the coming faith would be revealed. It was never supposed to become our path of salvation as these false apostles boast. No matter how well the son of the slave listens to the schoolmaster, he can never become the heir to the throne because of it. His obedience to the schoolmaster will never make him king.
And here is the reason why. How can you ever love your captor? What does every slave want to be? Free! You don't really want to be under the authority of the schoolmaster. Sure you might play along with his commands, you know, make sure he always sees you doing the right thing (in the flesh), but only in order to stay in his good books, or earn yourself freedom - you don't actually love him - you don't actually want to stay under the schoolmaster forever, for your conscience is not free. This, Paul says, is the Law. It was never supposed to last forever. Let's face it, the schoolmaster doesn't want to have to discipline you any more than you want to live under his authority. He wants you to behave on your own, because the Law wants to stop being the Law. The Law wants you to carry out the Law without the Law.
It makes me think of my son. You place his dinner down in front of him, and you have to ask "What do you say?" "Thank you." But I don't want to have to ask him that everytime. I want him to say thank you without me having to ask him. The Law wants you to carry out the Law without the Law. But it can never make this happen. The schoolmaster cannot turn a slave into an heir. He is only a temporary guardian. That is not what the Law is for Paul says. That is what Christ is for. That is why faith comes.
He writes, "Now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ." You wear Him around by the faith of your baptism. You were robed in Him in those waters, covered by Him, shielded from the Law and its wrath by Him. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, has made you a son of God by clothing you in His Sonness.
This is why Christ came. He was the rightful heir - but He came as a slave. At just the right time in history He was born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. Christ entered our slavery in order to make us part of His heavenly family, even heirs to the throne. Christ made Himself the end of the law that we might be justified by faith in Him alone. Christ is not another lawgiver! He is our Savior! He is graduation day from the schoolmaster. He is freedom for your enslaved conscience. In baptism, He sends His Spirit into your heart crying, "Abba! Father!" So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.
Oh, what a mess we Christians are, aren't we? Slaves according to the Law, yet free heirs according to the promise. This is why your life is such a struggle. Because your flesh still needs a schoolmaster. Your flesh needs to kept out of trouble, it needs a guardian, for it is sinful and enslaved. But your conscience is free. It is clear, for you know God has declared you to be His son in baptism, and His promise cannot be broken. And so these two war against each other - your flesh and your conscience - your flesh keeps pulling you into temptation while your conscience wants to walk in purity. As Paul bemoans, "Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!" This is the Christian life this side of the grave. It is constant dying. We are like little christs, carrying our crosses in this life, waiting for the resurrection of our flesh, so that this body of death, this enslaved flesh would finally die and be raised new in Christ. Christ makes us sons of God through faith, and what do sons of God do here on earth - they humbly die, trusting their Father to raise them up, trusting that when He says, "You are my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased" that nothing can change that. And so by the Spirit of His Son our hearts cry, "Abba! Father!"
Well, it appears you ought to be cheering for that underdog, that slave, after all. For amidst all of the armies and noblemen and political powerplaying, the rightful heir to the throne became a slave so that all the slaves might become heirs with Him, even you. Christ is your Savior. He is graduation day from the schoolmaster and freedom for your enslaved conscience. Yes, you are that poor slave boy, but because of Christ you will end up on the throne in the end. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr