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Sermon for Wednesday in Pentecost 8

Flying ButterflySermon on Galatians 5:1-26

Click here for mp3 audio 43 Sermon for Weds in Pent 8.mp3

Let’s look tonight at the freedom that Christ has given us and the freedom which has been bestowed onto little Hannah tonight in Holy Baptism.  I think this remains quite misunderstood among Christians, even among Lutherans.  On the one side, there are the folks who are still bound by the Law of God.  You can drive around and see yard signs with the Ten Commandments on them and even billboards put up by the groups like the Seventh Day Adventists who insist on keeping the OT Law as it was given, especially observing Sabbath on the seventh day, Saturday.  These folks are similar to the kind of teachers that were causing havoc among the Christians in Galatia to whom Paul was writing.  They argued that if you want to be a son of the covenant of the Lord, circumcision was still necessary.  After all, Jesus was a good son of the covenant.  He was circumcised.  Go and do likewise.  They insisted on being bound to the Law of God.

So there is a misunderstanding of the Law of God and which commandments, if any remain in effect for Christians today.  In his letter to the Galatians, Paul is writing specifically against this kind of misunderstanding of the Law, an insistence that the Laws of the OT are still in effect.  Earlier in the letter, in chapter 3, Paul writes, “15 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.”  (Ga 2:15–16)  Circumcision does not justify.  Worshipping on Saturday does not justify a sinner before God.  Keeping the Ten Commandments does not justify.  Christ justifies; not works of the Law.  So, a Christian is no longer a slave to the Law, the whole law, not just the ceremonial Law or the dietary Law, all of it no longer applies.  But we need to make sure we know what this means.

Christ has set us free for freedom.  Only Christ justifies.  This is Good News for Hannah.  This is Good News for you all because Christ not only paid the penalty for all your sin by His death on the cross, literally taking the punishment you deserve for your sins into His own flesh unto death but that in everything He did, He actively fulfilled the entire Law of God, standing in for us where were unable and unwilling to submit even to then least strenuous of God’s Laws.  Jesus was circumcised; He never ate a ham sandwich; He went to synagogue on Sabbath.  His entire life actively satisfied the whole Law of God.  He is completely and perfectly righteous according to the Law of God and Jesus’ righteousness, His perfect obedience and His perfect satisfaction for sin is bestowed on Hannah tonight and on you in your Baptisms as pure gift.  Only Christ justifies.  “For freedom Christ has set us free!”  This is Good News.  This is the pure sweetness of the Gospel.

It is such Good News people often assume that there just has to be some part of this deal that I have to do, that I have to act on.  For the Judaizers in Galatia, circumcision might have fallen into this category, something a man does to show he is saying “Yes,” to what God has done for him in Christ, but that still makes submitting to circumcision necessary for salvation and, in the end, something we must do.  The same things happen today in a number of churches.  Now when I mention another church, I’m not trying to demonize people in it, or even doubt their sincerity, but rather to point out the error of doctrine that, in this case, ultimately takes away from what Christ has done for us.

As I said when I started, there are churches that teach that Christians today need to keep the OT Laws.  There are some that don’t go as far still requiring circumcision but have turned something else into a substitute for it.  Just look at what other churches make of Baptism.  They teach that there is no grace being poured out here but that it is an act of obedience to God, “An outward showing of an inward faith.”  Baptism becomes something of a spiritual circumcision, a work a believer performs in order to fulfill the Law.  Usually forgotten is the fact that circumcision was most usually an act visited on infants, eight days old.  It was meant to be thing done unto, an external mark of the sheer grace of God of being a part of His covenant people; not an act of obedience by the individual.  My point here is that those who insist on circumcision have even got circumcision wrong, spiritual or otherwise, and so they misunderstand what happened here tonight for little Hannah.  The Gospel is that Christ is our circumcision.  The Gospel is the Christ was baptized in order to fulfill all righteousness.  The Gospel is that in Baptism God ours over little Hannah all that Christ did for her, in her place, as He did for you in your Baptism.  It is pure gift, freely given and given to set us free from sin and its power and its curse.  Freedom in Christ is truly Good News.  Paul has argued this point through his letter to the Galatians and up to this summarizing statement of it.  “For freedom Christ has set us free.”

And yet, we can still get it wrong.  Some say we are free in Christ and so we can do whatever we want.  They say even the moral or natural Law is no longer in effect.  Hence, they cannot speak of God’s loving order for His creation and His desire that we live according to that good order an order He Himself declared to be “Very good.”  They are so free they can find no criticism for even the worst sins against God’s good order.  They argue for freedom but really they are arguing for license, the freedom to declare what is and what is not good.

Dr. Luther helps us understand the Freedom we have in Christ rather quickly.  He writes that the freedom that Christ gives is a spiritual freedom and one to be preserved by the spirit.  It is not a heathen kind of freedom.  We’re in a college town so it seems safe to use this as an example.  We all know that some new students find their new freedom from the rule of mom and dad to be so liberating they don’t go to class or carry on in a morally respectable way.  This kind of freedom is simply the result of the rules being changed not any change effected in the student.   Christian freedom is when people are changed without the changing of the Law.  In giving us His righteousness and power to walk in the spirit, Christ has changed us so that the Law, which was formerly hateful to us, now becomes a delight.  We stand steadfastly in this freedom because Christ has sent the spirit of love into the hearts of those who believe in Him.  This makes righteous lovers of the God’s good order again, not because of their own works (may it never be!) but freely because it is freely bestowed by Christ Himself.

The natural outgrowth of this is to walk in this same spirit of love and truth and not gratify the desires of the flesh.  Hannah will grow up into this.  That is part of the role of parents for children that they be brought up and taught to walk in the spirit that they have been given.  Paul is not being merely moralistic here but saying that in Christ the Law has not disappeared rather it was fulfilled in Him.  In Him we are changed so that we no longer full the Law because we must but rather because we have been given a spirit of obedience which results in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control.  For freedom to walk in the Spirit, Christ has set little Hannah and you free.  Amen.

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