Sermon – February 11, 2018
The problems that have surfaced in Galatia are not problems that are limited to first century believers. The Galatians are essentially seeking assurance; they are seeking a way to make sure that they will be a part of God’s people, considered fully justified, and escape the coming wrath. These are assurances that we long for as well. The question that confronts us all is how and where we are to find that assurance. Paul has been pushing us to see the central importance of faith, but here in 3:24-29, we can also helpfully see that there are many ways we are not to be affirmed.
1. Do not seek affirmation in your skill (vv. 24-25)
In vv. 24-25, Paul uses the metaphor of the law as a guardian. In the first century, these guardians performed many roles, including protection, aid, and moral teaching to young men. But these roles were always limited in time; when the child reached manhood, the guardian was left behind. The law speaks to us of what we should do, focusing on acts and performance. The point of this was, however, to deliver us to maturity in Christ. Paul here reinforces the concept of the law not only as an intermediate, but as a good gift from God to point us to Christ. Do not be affirmed as God’s because of what you can do, how well you do it, or how often you do it. The purpose of the law was to show you how helpless your acts are. Trust in Christ.
2. Do not seek affirmation in your-self (v. 27)
Paul moves from the theme of faith to mention, interestingly, baptism. This was not simply to imply another reception of the Spirit, however. Rather, what Paul has in mind is the affirmation placed over a believer when they are baptized by the church. This is affirmed by the passive nature of the statement: “when you were baptized.” Baptism is not just the public assertion of your belief, but the public affirmation of your belief by the church. Far too many people rely upon themselves to determine what is a true faith and what is not. Do not rely upon yourself this way – listen to those God has put around you, and to the voices of history. Many people will assure themselves to heaven, while bound for hell. Find your affirmation in the church.
3. Do not seek affirmation in your status (v. 28-29)
Paul also will not have people affirmed because of their identity outside of Christ. You think that you are blessed because you enjoy material possessions? Because of the gifts that God has given you? Because of your national identity and heritage? None of these things matters to God. That is why they are counted here as nothing. All that matters is being in Jesus Christ. He is the fount from which all blessings flow.
God does not want you to doubt your salvation, but rather to give you peace and comfort in Christ. Find your assurance there: not in your works, but in the faith once and for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3).