Galatians 3:23–29 (NIV)
23 Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. 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.
26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 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. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
Our society is divided on many things which often set one person against another – whether it’s ethnic and/or cultural diversity, the “have” and the “have nots”, – employer and employee, city verses country, employed and unemployed.
Then there is the sexual divide – highlighted for example in recent years with discussion on equal pay for equal work, gender discussions with binary verses multi-gender. There seems to be more division now than ever before.
The things which divide humanity are numerous. But let’s think of it another way.
If I take some of those things we might find in most Kiwi kitchens – milk, flour, sugar, salt, butter and dried yeast. Although some have similar colours, they have different textures and flavours.
You can distinguish each from the other by one or more of their qualities of colour, texture and flavour.
Combine and bake these ingredients: milk, flour, sugar, salt, butter and dried yeast and there is no difference between them as they become a new thing. All present but all the same.
As the bread rises it is impossible to tell the combined ingredients apart. They become indistinguishable in colour, texture and taste.
As the bread contains the different ingredients so too the world has different people - distinguishable by colour, shape and language. So, too, does God’s Kingdom contain different people with different backgrounds, personalities and vocations.
Now listen again to the text from verse 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.
Even today we may say that all people are equal – but we are realists. We know that we have different ethnic backgrounds.
We all have different financial status – paying different amounts of tax – employed, unemployed, self-employed, retired.
God has made us human - male and female. Some of us are male with ‘x’ and ‘y’ chromosomes and others female with two ‘x’ chromosomes. We don’t say that we’re not different. But we are all human despite our differences in chromosomal and DNA makeup, financial matters, employment status, ethnic and cultural backgrounds.
Where it really matters, that is in our relationship with Christ and His Church, St Paul said there was no difference between us. Let’s look at why he said we are all the same. 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
Sure, there are differences amongst us, but when we were baptised something happened to us – to each of us. Christ became part of our lives – part of us – each of us! So we are all alike as baptised children of God.
Think about the ingredients of the bread I mentioned earlier – when mixed together and baked they became bread - milk, flour, sugar, salt, butter and dried yeast – are now bread. On forensic examination a chemist could tell you what went into the bread to make it so.
Individually, you can distinguish between each ingredient – but after mixing and baking they are all one thing. Something happened to each ingredient.
Something happens to us too when Christ comes into our lives and calls us together. We’re changed! Our sins are forgiven and we share in a new life. We’re connected to Christ and therefore connected to God and therefore connected to each other.
As individuals we’re still all different and identifiable. Each of us is unique and special, but as Christians we’re all united as one as St Paul rightly says.
We’re Abraham’s offspring – that is heirs of the promise given to Abraham even if we were not genetically connected to Abraham – because in Christ we share the promise given by God to Abraham – we’re part of the blessing to the nations – God’s family the Church!
When we see other people, we can remember that Christ loves them too! Perhaps He has already changed their lives as He has yours through your baptism.
Or perhaps their lives have not yet been changed and Jesus is giving you an opportunity to help bring them into the mixture of the church to become one with Him and all of us.
As one in Christ Jesus we don’t have any need for racist, sexist or socio-economic distinctions in our status as baptised children of God. In today’s text St Paul addresses our relationship with the Law of God which demanded perfection – which apart from Christ we don’t have.
Now we are baptised children of God, immersed in the Word of God which covers us with Christ. In regard to the Law we are no longer divided. The Law had divided or separated us from God whereas Christ united us with Him.
What the Law required of us Christ provided for us with His death on the cross and so we are renewed – “holy and innocent before God.”
St Paul is not saying that our human relationships are changed according to our human nature. Our ethnicity remains but does not influence our status as saved sinners before God. Our sexuality remains but does not change our status as saved sinners before God. Our employment status still remains but does not change our status as saved sinners before God.
Although one in Christ we still struggle with our human condition influenced by sin and at times we struggle to get along.
Our old selfish nature want us to be master of our lives and the lives of others. Instead now as saved children of God we are all to be humble servants of God and each other. Thus we focus on what builds up and:
· encourages people to be faithful and loyal
· helps people to keep what belongs to them
· explains people’s actions in the kindest way
· helps people to keep and improve what they have
· loves and respects the marriage partner
· gives people help when they need it
· loves, respects, helps and obeys parents
· is glad to hear and learn God’s holy Word
· calls on God to help in any kind of trouble, praises and thanks Him too
· In these things together we honour, love and trust God above anything else.
As children of God we are to seek to learn and follow God’s design for us and not to compromise with the attitudes and values of the world.
As people immersed in the Word of God we seek to understand what it means to be male and female in God’s economy of nature – that is to be the people He created us to be in His order of creation.
Jesus Himself demonstrated what it is to bear responsibility and what it is to submit. Jesus bore the responsibility of redeeming the whole world – and He did so. Jesus also submitted perfectly to the will of His Father – God.
As the Rev Dr Michael Eschelbach writes, “As Christ is in relation to His Father and to His creation, so are men and women.”
In our union with each other and with God, who has the highest and incomparable place, God, who in Christ is the head whose sole focus is the will of God the Father - so should our focus be as children of God.
“Christ,” as Eschelbach says, “determines the composition of the rest of the body and who will serve which purpose.” St Pauls sums this up in Ephesians 4:16 (NIV) 16 From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
Are you doing the work Christ has called you to do in His Kingdom? If not, have you sought and tested what Jesus desires that you do in His Kingdom while you are here on earth?