The Rev. Herbert G. Hand

Faith Anglican Church

Cordova, Tennessee

June 24, 2007

 

 

Series: Serving One Another

Title: God’s Law is Designed to Lead us to Christ

Text: Galatians 3:23-39

 

I. Adam And Eve

At some point after God created the heavens and the earth, God created Adam and Eve.

They lived without sin or shame in the Garden of Eden.

"In the cool of the day" God would walk and talk with them face to face (Genesis 3:8). They had a very personal relationship with the Lord God Almighty.

God only gave them one law. He said,

16..."You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die."

Genesis 2:16-17 (NIV)

No other laws were needed. They had no desire to sin. They were made perfectly in God’s image. No corruption was in them.

At some point, Adam deliberately broke God’s one commandment. He ate "from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil."

God said, "...when you eat of it you will surely die." That’s exactly what happened. Immediately, Adam and Eve died. Their bodies were still alive, but they died spiritually. That’s why we must be born again.

God expelled them from the Garden of Eden and from his presence.

No longer could they walk with God face to face.

Sin had systemically corrupted them.

 

II. God’s Covenant Relationship with Abraham

Hundreds of years later, God made a covenant with Abraham. He did not give him a list of laws to follow.

Abraham was not justified by the Law (Romans 4:2).

Abraham was justified by faith, by trusting in God (Romans 4:2).

When God spoke Abraham obeyed.

When God promised, Abraham believed.

More than anything else, God wants to be in relationship with his people.

So, what is the purpose of God’s Law?

 

III. God Gives the Law Through Moses to Show us How to Love

In the Book of Exodus, God called Moses to the top of Mt. Sinai to receive the Law for God’s people.

After forty days of prayer and fasting, forty days in the presence of the Lord God, Moses came down off the mountain with the Ten Commandments.

1. 3"You shall have no other gods before me.

2. 4"You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below....

3. 7"You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

4. 8"Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God....

5. 12"Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.

6. 13"You shall not murder.

7. 14"You shall not commit adultery.

8. 15"You shall not steal.

9. 16"You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

10. 17"You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor."

Exodus 20:3-17 (NIV)

So, what is the purpose of God’s Law?

Fifteen-hundred years later both Jesus and the Jewish teachers of the Law correctly defined the summary of the Law as loving God and loving your neighbor (Matthew 22:37 & Luke 10:27).

The Law was never meant to be a means of salvation.

The purpose of the Law was to show God’s people how to express love towards God and how to express love towards others.

IV. The Danger of Legalism: Relgion without God

The problem is, many of us forget the purpose of God’s Law and try to achieve salvation and sanctification solely through obedience to God’s Law:

This is religion without a relationship with God.

This is legalism.

 

Herb’s Experience Of The Scriptures With And Without Jesus

As a teenager, my best friend Rusty Copeland invited me to attend Sunday school.

I was not a Christian, but I was curious about the Bible and Christianity.

I started attending Sunday school each week.

I bought a Living Bible, and I started reading a chapter a day. Eventually I had read the entire Bible.

I attended church.

I attended Youth Group.

On an intellectual level, I was become very familiar with the Scriptures.

But one day when I was in 11th grade, God showed me that even though I knew the Scriptures, I didn’t really know Jesus.

So I asked Jesus to be my Savior – I asked him to cleanse me of my sins.

As I drew close to Jesus and allowed Him to draw close to me, he opened my mind to the Scriptures:

The Scriptures took on a whole new meaning.

It was like the difference between reading a story and being in the story.

 

Lost in Legalism

About a year and a half later, I continuing to read the Bible; I was even reading devotional books and theology books.

Yet, slowly – almost imperceptibly – my relationship with Jesus began to suffer.

Intellectually, I knew more and more and more about God.

But I wasn’t spending time with God.

I became bound up in legalism.

I was became so stressed – trying to live the perfect biblical life (without God or his help) – that for the first time in my life I began to have migraines.

I had lost the joy and freedom found in a living relationship with Jesus Christ.

I was like the Church of Laodicea, found in Revelation chapter three.

They were religious.

They studied their Bibles.

They had worship services each Sunday.

I imagine they even helped the poor.

Yet, these people had somehow excluded Jesus from their church. Jesus was outside trying to get in.

In Revelation 3:20, Jesus said,

"Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me."

Revelation 3:20 (NIV)


Legalistic Strait Jacket

I was like the man who bought a suit from Hans the tailor.

Hans the tailor had an excellent reputation for his tailor-made suits.

An influential businessman went to Hans for him to make him the best suit money could buy.

But when he put on the suit, he found that one sleeve twisted that way and the other this way; one shoulder bulged out and the other caved in.

But because of Hans’ sterling reputation, he refused to complain.

He pulled and struggled and finally, wrenched and contorted, he managed to make his body fit.

As he returned home..., [someone] noticed his odd appearance and asked if Hans the tailor had made the suit.

He said, "Yes."

The other man said,

"Amazing! I knew that Hans was a good tailor, but I had no idea he could make a suit fit so perfectly someone as deformed as you."

Richard J. Foster in "TSF Bulletin," Nov.-Dec. 1982. Leadership, Vol. 4, no. 2.

 

That’s exactly what legalism does. It takes God’s wonderful life-giving Law and distorts its purpose into something painful and destructive.

V. The Law Leads us to Christ

The primary purpose of God’s Law is to show us how to love God and love others.

But what happens when you break God’s Law?

1. You can wallow in guilt and shame.... or

2. Like in last week’s reading from 2 Samuel, you can sear your conscience and deny you have broken God’s Law... or

3. You can allow God’s Law and the good guilt it produces, to lead you Christ, who alone can forgive and cleanse you.

 

From our Epistle reading, Galatians 3:24 tells us,

24So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.
Galatians 3:24 (NIV)

When Paul wrote Galatians chapter three, he would have had in mind the role of the most trusted household servant.

The most trusted household servant walked with the Master’s children to school:

He guided them and protected them.

He made sure they arrived at their teachers each day.

He was not the destination, the teacher was.

The same is true with God Law:

God’s Law is not our destination.

God’s Law is God’s trusted servant, who leads us to Jesus.

 

Restaurant Confession

Several years ago, I was at a local restaurant having a lunch meeting.

After the waiter took our order and checked on us several times, he finally said,

"I saw you praying. Are you all Christians?"

We all said, "Yes."

I assumed he wanted to know something about our church, so I told him I was the pastor and started telling him about our church, but before I could continue, he took us in an entirely different direction.

 

He started confessing all sorts of graphic details of his sexual relationship with his girlfriend.

Then he told us how every time he sinned he felt an intense need to turn to God.

 

I told him,

"That= s because God’s Law is doing it= s work in you. Every time you break God= s Law, you realize that your need Him...

The purpose of God= s Law is to lead you "to Christ," to receive His forgiveness and strength to leave your life of sin.

 

Galatians 3:24:

24So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.
Galatians 3:24 (NIV)

 

The Law points out my imperfections.

 

Over and over again the Law proves to me:

That I really do need God= s grace and mercy.

That I can= t do it on my own.

That I really do need God= s help.

 

VI. Conclusion

When God gave the Ten Commandments, he intentionally gave us an impossible task.

It is possible C though not very likely C to keep the first nine commandments.

But the 10th Commandment has been broken repeatedly by everyone here today.

"You shall not covet."

The first nine commandments define actions toward God and others.

The 10th Commandment defines the attitude of our hearts.

Maybe you haven= t committed adultery, but if you’ve had a lustful thought, you’ve broken the 10th Commandment (Matthew 5:27-28).

Maybe you haven= t committed murder, but if you’ve had an angry thought, you’ve broken the 10th Commandment (Matthew 5:21-22).

Maybe you haven= t stolen anything, but if you’ve been envious of someone’s home or car or clothes, you’ve broken the 10th Commandment.

 

Why did God give a commandment that you and I could not keep?

To show us our need for his grace and mercy.

To show us our need for Jesus.

The next time you feel a pang of guilt, God’s Law is doing its work in you:

Don’t wallow in it.

Don’t deny it.

Allow it to lead you to Christ Jesus, so you can be cleansed from sin and strengthened to live for him.