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Liberated From Legalism pt 19 [9-5-21]

Last week, we ended with a focus on verses four and five. These two short verses contain six central teachings about the coming of Christ. We touched on two of them last week. Before we move on to the next four, we're going to take a quantum leap into verse nine. It should all make sense by the time we're done today.

Here's verse nine again:

But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?

Some want to interpret the phrase "elementary principles" to mean something like evil spirits or forces of evil or evil influences. It's really not as sinister as that.

Essentially, this passage warns against the dangers of ritualism. Anytime

something is used as a primary focus of the Christian life, it becomes one of those elementary principles Paul warned against. Those of us with OCD, whether slight or extreme, know the downside of ritualism. Paul said the Galatians were on the verge of trading an abiding personal relationship with Jesus Christ in for the repetitious rites and practices of the past.

Now, don't misunderstand. Rituals are commendable. Chapters 7-10 of Hebrews touches on rituals and ritualism. Singing particular songs in worship during seasonal times of the church year is a good thing. Think about singing Silent Night by candlelight on Christmas Eve. That's a legitimate ritual. Saying the Lord's Prayer together on Sunday morning is a good thing. Rituals are good as long as they don't take the place of a personal relationship with God. Or overshadow a personal relationship with God. {We're going to look at what a personal relationship with God looks like when we move into Chapter 5 and the Fruit of the Spirit.} The temptation for the Galatians, as well as for us, is to replace a dynamic relationship with God for ritualistic, going-through-the-motions activities that were never meant to receive such focus.

Here's an example. For many churches, teaching on the tithe has become a

once-a-year ritual. It happens during the stewardship campaign when

people are asked to pledge financial support for the upcoming year. It's a hard habit for some churches to break. They talk about the tithe as if it's solid Biblical theology, whereas, in reality, the tithe is not taught in the New Testament. But like clockwork, preaching on the tithe is marched out like it is essential to our walk with Jesus Christ.

Now, don't misunderstand. I'm not saying financial support for the mission and ministry of the church is unbiblical. It's simply that the tithe… not a thing. The New Testament encourages us to be generous with what we have. So, if you are tithing to the church, God bless you, keep it up. I don't want you to go thinking that because of what Pastor Richard says you should reduce your giving. For some people, the tithe is a floor, not a ceiling. For them, beyond 10% is more reflective of Biblical generosity. The point is to be generous in how we support the gospel work of the church.

Here's something to remember. Rituals play a relatively minor role in the

lives of believers. Being under the law, through ritualism, is an act of

spiritual immaturity. A close relationship with Christ is what matters most.

So, now back to the six central teachings about the coming of Christ.

Here are the first two essential teachings about the coming of Christ:

1. The Timing of His Coming.

"But when the fullness of time had come," verse 4 begins. Time and time

again in Galatians we hear such expressions of God's sovereign will. This is

all about God's planning and God's timing. God is in charge of the time,

place, and process for our salvation.

Here's what we know about ancient law and inheritances. The father had the right to set the time when his son would receive his estate. In the same way, God the Father determined when God the Son would come to give all God's children their inheritance. In other words, God's timing is perfect and precise. Jesus affirmed this in Mark 1:14-15:

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

Jesus came at exactly the point in human history when God had determined it to happen. Here's how John Calvin described it:

Jesus came when the time which had been ordained by the providence of God was seasonable and fit.

2. The Origins of Christ's Coming.

This is about the eternal deity of Jesus Christ. As Paul said, "God sent forth

his Son." The words were chosen to clearly state the divine nature of the

Son of God. "Sent forth" means to dispatch on a service or agency. What

that means is that the Son was sent before he was born in Bethlehem. He existed…was there with God when the decision was made…before he was born. Here's something you might want to write down:


When the determined time had come, the eternally divine Son of God came down from heaven into the world to save us.

The third teaching from verses four and five concerns:

3. The Manner of Christ's coming.

Paul says Jesus was "born of woman." Contrast that with "God sent forth his Son." Sending forth suggests Jesus' eternal preexistence. Something that already is goes from point A to point B. Jesus already was. But now, born of woman points to his true humanity.

These two sections put together - God sent forth…born of woman - these two sections spell out the doctrine of the incarnation. God became man and dwelt among us.

The fourth key teaching from verses four and five addresses:

4. The Condition of Christ's Coming.

The last thread in verse four says Jesus was "born under the law." In other

words, Jesus was committed to obey God's law during his earthly life. Jesus kept the entirety of what was required by the Torah. He did this for his people. All of it. He never broke the 10 Commandments. He worshiped in the ways described by God's Word. He observed feast days. He celebrated Passover. Jesus did everything the law required. And here's the beautiful expression of God's amazing grace and mercy:


A great way to sum it up is Jesus obeyed the law because we couldn't.

The fifth key teaching is:

5. Jesus was Born to Redeem Those Who were Under the Law.

In other words, Jesus was born to die. His death was essential to our salvation. There was no other way to save us from God's wrath over our sin. What happens when people commit cosmic treason against their Creator? A price has to be paid. Slaves to sin need to be ransomed. And so it cost God the life of His Son to remove His wrath for our sin from us. When God sent His Son…for God so loved the world, that He gave His only

Son…God sent Jesus to die.

While some pastors are reluctant to preach on sin and its consequence, others are also hesitant to clearly proclaim the cross. Years ago, one wildly successful preacher kept the cross out of their worship space, because it was too negative. True story. And in Germany, 20 years ago, a Lutheran pastor argued that the manger, not the cross, should be the symbol of Christianity. The cross isn't as inviting as baby Jesus asleep on the hay, she said.

And here's why her point makes sense, from a practical point of view rather than a theologically correct one. That's the way you think if you want to draw a crowd. It's a sad statement on the condition of our market-driven church world that we preach and plan and program to draw a crowd. It may not always be as blatant as doing away with the cross, but the subtleties are there. While ours is a faith of thorns and nails and wood and blood, many look for other ways to market their churches. But we will stand on the message that Christ redeemed us, and he did it by dying on the cross.

Finally, verse five ends with this affirmation:

6. Jesus Came So That We Might Receive Adoption as Sons and Daughters.

Once Jesus saved us, he made sure we knew we were now part of his family. That's why Matthew 28:20 emphasized that after his resurrection, Jesus referred to the disciples as his brothers. Once Jesus gained victory for us over sin and death, he brought us into his family as sons and daughters. That's why we say one of the beautiful things about worship is God is building us together as family, and in worship we get a glimpse of what we will do as God's family in heaven.

So, can you work your way into God's family? Can you repeat the right words in the right way to earn His grace? Can you go through enough motions in the right order to receive His mercy? Can you repeat the same

things, day in and day out, in order to secure your reservation in heaven?

Here's the resounding way Paul answers "No" to those questions. And because you are sons {and daughters}, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!"

"Abba" is a term of deepest respect. It is a title of deep affection. And when we embrace our relationship with God in this way…Abba! Father!...{through a relationship, not a ritual}, it is the presence of the

Risen Christ placing the words on our lips and the love in our hearts.

Far better are the central teachings of God's Word than the empty promises of rituals and practices that carry no meaning.


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