What A Freedom!
Pentecost 5 (Proper 7) Trinity Lutheran Church
26 June 2016 Murdock, NE
+Jesu Juva +
Paul speaks of freedom! The freedom of a Christian. Your freedom as a Christian is based in Jesus Christ alone. His Holy Week Suffering. His Good Friday Death. His Easter Sunday Resurrection. FOR YOU! Paul had to battle those in the church that said: “Jesus is nice and all but when it comes to salvation there’s more than Him. To be a ‘real Christian’ you have to get circumcised, eat only vegetables, tithe a minimum amount, etc.” Paul says a categorical “NO! It’s either Christ alone by faith alone or He died for nothing!” That’s the foundation of your freedom as a Christian.
Then come these words of the text. “Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith.”
In other words, before you were a believer, you were prisoners of the law, kept under lock and key, held captive by God’s commandments. The law surrounds you with bricks and barbed wire. It hems you in on every side. It restricts you with rules and regulations. Do this. Don’t do that.
God places you in protective custody under the law. The law was given for your own good. To keep you from hurting yourself and others. If you are tempted to kill someone the law holds you back. If you are tempted to sexual immorality, stealing, lying, gossiping, the law clamps down on you and reigns in you. Hopefully before you do something really destructive. Like an electric fence charged with a high voltage – cross the line – and you’ll get a jolt! “The sting of death is sin and the power of sin is the law.” (1 Cor 15) Be careful around that fence. It’s high voltage. It kills. The law always kills. It does other things – instructs, rebukes, corrects – but it always kills.
Protective custody is still protective custody – a form of imprisonment or incarceration. And the thing about custody is that you never love the custodian. Have you ever met a teenager who is happy about being grounded and having all the screens taken away? There are not too many prisoners who love the prison and the prison guards, are there? Similarly, you will love God under the law. You will fear Him. You will dread His punishments. You will fret over His judgments. But you will not love Him! Because under the law, God is your prison guard and your prison warden, restricting your freedom. Keeping you from doing what you want to do. FOR YOU OWN GOOD!
St. Paul says that the law is also our guardian or schoolmaster. Before faith in Jesus, God puts you under strict teacher or guardian that drives you to Jesus. You remember the good teachers you had, don’t you? They weren’t your friends. They were not the nicest or sweetest of people.
When you think of the law, don’t think of your sweet kindergarten teacher. Instead, think of a marine drill sergeant in boot camp. Never nice! Never sweet! But you respected him. And you respected and perhaps even feared those teachers that weren’t pushovers. Who instead pushed you. Who raised the bar to make you go higher. Who stretched your skills beyond what you thought you could do – bringing you to tears sometimes. Those were the good teachers. They didn’t care if you didn’t like them. They never let you rest on your past glory. Always another challenge, another hurdle, another lesson!
That is precisely how it is under the tutelage of God’s law. Do you think you are a good and faithful spouse? The law says: “Not good enough to please God!” Do you think you are a good worker, an excellent parent, a wonderfully obedient child, a fine and upstanding member of your community, a pillar of your congregation? The law says: “You’re not even close to what demands of you!” Do you image that you fear, love and trust in God above all things? The law says: “You haven’t even scratched the surface!” Do you think that you are righteous, holy, pleasing to God that you could stand before God on the Last Day and hold out your resume of religious works and say, “See all the good things I’ve done”? The law says: “You and your good works can go to …. hell!”
I told you the law is a stern and strict schoolmaster. And the lesson the law teaches is this: YOU CANNOT PLEASE GOD WITH YOUR WORKS. Learn this well. St. Paul put it this way: “If you could gain God’s favor and eternal life by living a good and decent life, then Christ died for nothing!”
The law kills you and every pretention of good in you! If you think you’re holy, you’re not holy enough. If you think you’re pure, you’re not pure enough. The law shows you your sin (Rom 3)! It strips you of your fig leaves and reflects your sin back on you. It’s not a pretty reflection. It causes you to look away in shame. To turn away in disgust. So that you say with St. Paul, “I know that in me, that is in my flesh, dwells no good thing.” (Rom 7:18) The law turns you away from yourself and it DRIVES YOU TO CHRIST!
And that’s the purpose of the law: to drive you to Jesus, to His death and resurrection, to His baptism, absolution and Supper.
Then come these words in the text: “But now that faith as come we are no longer under a guardian / custodian.” In other words, where there is faith in Jesus, the law has nothing more to say. “Christ is the end of the law for all who believe,” (Rom 10:4). Where Jesus is FOR YOU as Savior the law is silent! Jesus is the end or the fulfillment of the law for all who trust in Him. For the believer.
Now, that doesn’t mean that the church stops teaching the Ten Commandments to you. Why not? Well, it’s simple. We are at one and the same time believers and sinners, believers and unbelievers. And the law continues to speak to the unbeliever in all of us.
But where there is faith in Jesus, there is no condemnation under the law. This is the freedom that Jesus has won for you by His Good Friday dying and His rising on the Third Day. It is the freedom of condemnation under the law. The law cannot harm the believer. It cannot negatively accuse the believer before God. It cannot condemn the believer to hell. The worst it can do is drive you to the grave but no more than that. And from the grave Jesus will raise you. Jesus gets the last word. He is the last Word for all who trust in Him!
In order for the law to condemn the believer, it would have to condemn Jesus. Well, here’s the good news! Jesus has already been condemned – becoming a curse for you on the tree (Gal 3:13). Jesus not only died your death. He was damned with your hell! There is nothing the law can do to those who are hidden with Christ by faith. Do you remember Moses, hidden in the cave as God passed by? That’s a picture of the believer, hidden in the wounds of Christ, the Rock split for your salvation. Hide there and the law can’t touch you. Hide in Christ by faith in Him and you are truly free.
Proof of this freedom is your baptism. “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.” Jesus is now your clothing. When God looks at you, the baptized, He doesn’t see your sin anymore. He doesn’t see what you have done in the past. Instead, He sees His Son. He sees Jesus covering you. Jesus is your coat! His righteousness is your dress. God doesn’t see your disobedience because He sees Christ’s perfect obedience. He doesn’t see your sin because He sees Jesus’ holiness. How wonderful! You get to walk around in the robes of the King of kings and Lord of lords!
So, it doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve done in your past. Your ethnic background, your social standing, your gender – none of that are of eternal significance. God treats all of us the same in Baptism. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Everyone is baptized the same. Everyone is absolved the same way. All commune from the same bread that is Christ’s body, the same cup that is His blood. Baptism doesn’t wipe out our ethnic, identity or genetics. It doesn’t change your place in society. And it doesn’t alter you being made male or female. But it makes you something new and different – SONS OF GOD!
THIS IS HUGE! In the ancient world, only the first-born son inherited the land of his father. Not the daughters. Not the second or third sons. Not the slaves. That’s what St. Paul means when he says that we are all one in Christ Jesus. You are all first-born sons because you have been baptized in the death and life of the only-begotten Son! You are joined to Jesus by baptism through faith. You belong to Jesus “and if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.”
The forgiveness of sins is yours. Eternal life is yours. This is your inheritance as the free children of God. This is what crucified Jesus won for you! This is why he baptized you. This is why He gives you His body and blood in the Sacrament of the Altar. The inheritance is yours through faith alone. Faith only in Jesus! He is the foundation of your freedom.
In the Name of Jesus.