2nd Sunday after Pentecost (June 19, 2022)
Happy Father’s Day
Whether we like it or not, status, position and wealth do, in fact, afford certain privileges. For one thing, if you are a king or a President you do not have to wash your own clothes, vacuum floors, cook your own food or do any one of those manifold other domestic chores that the rest of us always get stuck doing. You will have servants to do such things for you. Likewise, if you are blessed with the position of being the President of the United States or, say, the king of England, it’s a safe bet you will never lack for daily bread or wander the streets without a home. Lofty positions afford great privileges.
Speaking of privileges, there is a member of most families today who will be enjoying special privilege. That person, of course, is dear ol’ Dad. As a way to honor fathers on this Father’s Day, it has become customary, if never on any other day, to treat our Dads like royalty; give them gifts, do all their chores for them, fix them their favorite meal, or if they are truly privileged, allow them to watch the TV programs they want to watch for a change. With position comes privilege!
Believe it or not, today, in our Epistle Reading from Galatians we actually hear about the special privileges of being children. Not just any children, mind you. But we hear about the special privileges afforded the sons of God; that is, Christians, children of the Heavenly Father!
So, what’s so privileged about being a Christian? Our society seems hell bent on belittling anyone who confesses and follows Jesus. Many of those who adhere to Islam consider us, along with the Jews, to be, not merely unsaved, but “devils,” deserving of death. Even some misguided Christians are trying to remove what special privilege God has given us in Christ by trying to remove all distinctions between those who confess Jesus Christ as God and those who insist that Allah or Buddha is the only true God.
At the same time, when you and I are made to suffer persecutions or afflictions simply because we bear the name of Jesus when others of this world are spared of such sufferings, it is extremely hard to consider ourselves privileged!
But, today, via our Epistle text, the Apostle Paul comes to our rhetorical rescue. He boldly sets before us the wonderful privileges that are ours in Jesus Christ. He says we are privileged, first, to be sons of God; second, to be one with each other in Christ; third, to be heirs of God; and fourth, we alone of all people on this earth are privileged to have an intimate relationship with God.
Before we examine each of these privileges, perhaps a little background on our text would be in order. Paul’s original audience was comprised of Christians living in the province of Galatia. Galatia was a region of Asia Minor which today is located in the country of Turkey. Galatia was quite cosmopolitan, being home to various Gentile groups, as well as Jews. It was a principal Roman province through which we know Paul himself made at least one missionary trip.
The Lord blessed Paul’s preaching in Galatia to be especially fruitful among both Jews and Gentiles. Many people were converted to Christ. Many congregations of racial and social diversity were brought forth. However, after Paul had left the area to evangelize elsewhere, false teachers, primarily of Jewish descent, infiltrated the congregations. Later they would be referred to as Judahizers because they preached that Gentiles first needed to be circumcised and become Jews, giving allegiance to the Old Covenant ceremonies and laws, before they could rightly become Christians.
This, of course, directly contradicted the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul, in his typical unabashed and bold way, strenuously opposed these destroyers of the true faith. In no uncertain terms he pointed out the central doctrine of the true Gospel that one is saved solely by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Already at the beginning of his epistle Paul says rather bluntly, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed” (Gal. 1:6-8).
In the midst of trying to re-establish the true theological foundation once again, Paul writes to both the Jewish and Gentile Christians not to look at the completely diverse heritages from which they had come, but rather to look to that which binds them together as one. Paul says you are both, equally, sons of God in Jesus Christ.
To be sure, the Jewish Christians did have some advantage over the Gentile Christians in this world. After all, it was to the Jews that God alone gave His written Law with its accompanying promises and peculiar requirements that certainly made them His peculiar people in this world. No other nation or people group were afforded that privilege. That meant, that no other people or nation had been blessed to know God’s doting love all those years like the Jews.
However, by choosing Israel to be His people, God was not writing off the rest of humanity. In fact, already in His calling of Israel’s beloved ancestor, Abraham, The LORD God promised that in the singular “seed” of Abraham all the nations would be blessed.
Accordingly, Paul tells the Galatians and us that the Written Code, the Law, was graciously given by God, not to create a privileged class of people, but to serve Abraham’s offspring as a temporary guardian until the coming of Abraham’s Seed, the Son of Mary, Jesus Christ. His work of the redemption of all people might then be fulfilled.
The Greek word, translated guardian, literally means a boy’s leader. It was used to refer to a slave who had the charge to take care of his master’s son, seeing that he received the education he needed and tended to his lessons. The Law was, then, Israel’s guardian, keeping them set apart for God and leading them to see their need for God’s Savior whom He was sending to them.
That is still the simple, yet, necessary function the Law of God serves in our lives. The Law, the moral code we call the Ten Commandments, not only shows us what is right and wrong in God’s eyes, it shows up our sinfulness and our rightful judgment under God’s wrath for our sin, leading us to know that we need a Savior. Without the Law you and I would see no need for Jesus!
And that is where many in our world are right now. They don’t see a need for the Son of God to be sacrificed for them because they do not see themselves condemned under the wrath of God for their sin. They have been conditioned by this world to look at their sins and their breaking of the commandments as merely mistakes that everyone else also makes. They do not believe themselves to be accountable to any transcendent being. The only authority they acknowledge is their own. They might even call their immoral thoughts and actions as inappropriate behavior, but they certainly would never consider them as damnable or even evil. And if this is the case, then as far as they are concerned Jesus’ sacrifice was in vain.
But for those of us who feel the divine condemnation of the Law in our hearts and lives, Paul reminds us that in in the fullness of time God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, Himself, to redeem the rest of us from the curse of the Law that we might receive adoption as sons of God!
Talk about privilege! No longer in Jesus Christ are we under the constraints and fear of the Law with its penalty of eternal death and everlasting punishment. No longer are we that child under the authority of the guardian.
Jesus Christ has set us all, Jew and Gentile alike, totally free. We have been purchased with the precious blood of God’s only begotten Son, to be God’s sons…God’s daughters. WE who have been baptized into Christ and believe in Him as our Savior are privileged to be adopted into God’s family! That’s status no one in the world can take away from us!
And with the status of being sons of God comes another important privilege. Paul further writes: “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is (then) neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
One of the things that contributes to many of our hassles, challenges, and heartaches in this life is that there are clear distinctions between people. Some of those distinctions like our gender are the direct result of our creation. Our male and femaleness are a biological necessity for the continuance of life in this world. Other distinctions have to do with social orders; slaves and masters, employees and employers, citizens and leaders. Each has its own set of burdens. All such distinctions, however, are necessary to maintain a well-ordered, healthy, and productive society. Without such social distinctions it would be chaos and we would all experience more evil than we can ever imagine.
Our world today, however, seems desperate to remove all these distinctions in the name of “equity”. But it can only do so by fiat; that is, by making more laws. Such laws, however, can not change God’s law of nature, nor change the nature of fallen man which will always seek to rebel against any and all laws, divine or human made.
The only thing that all worldly attempts to eliminate the distinctions between the sexes, social order, pigmentation of our skin, national pride, and even religions has accomplished is to cause more strife and animosity between people.
But you, who are true sons of God through faith in Jesus Christ, have the privilege of experiencing the great equalizer. In Christ there are no distinctions when it comes to God’s kingdom. No, Jesus has not removed your sexual identity. He has not eliminated your ethnicity. He has not done away with social orders. But what He has done, through His atoning death and victorious resurrection, is made all such distinctions irrelevant as far as it concerns your status and life with Him. Through baptism you have all put on Christ. When God looks at each one of you who are baptized into Christ, He does not see male or female, employee or employer, president or taxpayer, or even white or black. He sees a precious soul redeemed in the blood of His only-begotten Son. In fact, when He sees you He sees His Son. Talk about a son of privilege! You definitely are one in Christ!
Even the great spiritual distinction between Jew and Gentile has been removed in Christ. Under the Old Covenant with all of its restrictions and ceremonial laws, God separated Israel from all other nations. That was necessary to keep His promise of bringing the world a Savior in the Seed of Abraham. But at the fullness of time, as Paul calls it, the Son of God was born of Mary, a daughter of Abraham, in the line of David. In the flesh of all humanity, not just the flesh of the Jews, The Son of God fulfilled the laws demands for Jew and Gentile alike. As Paul wrote also to the Ephesians, by His cross Jesus put an end to the enmity between Jews and Gentiles. He reconciled both into one. There is now for those is Christ, one privileged flock with one Shepherd.
All who believe in Christ, therefore, no matter whether they are born Jew or Gentile, are now sons of Abraham. This was not something new with the coming of Jesus. Circumcision made no one an heir. It only became a sign of that promise and faith. Both those believers, who lived before Jesus’ day, as well as those of us believers, who live after, are all saved by grace through faith. Together we are one in Christ. No more distinction.
Now in Christ even you Gentiles are privileged to be heirs of God’s promised inheritance. You are all co-heirs with Christ (Ro. 8:17). How about that for privilege! All that is His in yours!
All this privilege in Christ has been clearly and abundantly witnessed clearly in the inscripturated Word of God; that is, in the Holy Bible. But God has gone one step further to give you the assurance of your special privilege in Christ. Paul concludes by saying: “God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ so you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir with God.”
Do you want personal assurance that you are a privileged son of God? God does not send that assurance by giving you some miraculous ability to speak in tongues, see visions, or heal the sick. God does not audibly speak to you or visibly show Himself to you. God does not expect you to trust your feelings.
No, your assurance that you are a son of God is the fact that you believe and confess Jesus as Your Savior and Lord… that you want to worship Him… that you desire to do His will. For you see, none of this would be possible in you if not for the fact that the Holy Spirit has been given to dwell in you. He is the One who has through His Word and Sacrament called you to faith in Jesus Christ and created a new heart within you that wants to follow Jesus in all things.
This faith in Christ and love for Him is the Spirit’s pledge that you are one of God’s privileged ones… His son or daughter… His heir.
A true intimacy with God the Father goes hand in hand with this assurance of privilege. It is an intimacy totally unknown to anyone outside of Christ. The Holy Spirit given to dwell in you moves you to pray to God, as Martin Luther so eloquently taught us, as dear children speak to their dear father.
Accordingly, you are privileged to address Holy God, Creator of Heaven and Earth, Judge of all things, as “Abba,” a name of true endearment, like we might address our earthly father as “Daddy.” This means that in Christ you are privileged to pray with confidence, knowing that your Father in Heaven, is your eternal Daddy, who loves you, who is predisposed to you, who can not possibly shut His ears to your needs, your sorrows, your pains or your prayers.
Dear friends in Christ, who are the sons of privilege now? No one is more privileged that you. You are the very essence of privilege. Nothing can change or destroy your privileged status before God. Paul writes elsewhere, as sons of God neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate (you) from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!”(Ro. 8) Take comfort and rejoice in your privilege as Sons of the Heavenly Father!