In our first installment on this topic we looked at Acts 2 and Peter’s declaration that what was happening was the fulfillment of Joel’s prophesy that sons and daughters would prophesy and he would pour our his Spirit on servants girls as well as men. Today I want to take another step. For all who wish that I would get on to I Corinthians and I Timothy, hang on, I’m on my way. But it seems vital to me that we look first at another statement from the pen of Paul. This one is found in Galatians 3:23-28. Remember that the churches of Galatia were perverting the will of God by trying to go back to bind things on the church that were part of the Old Testament Law. They were turning from the grace of God to law, which led Paul to say, “Though we or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.” After the gospel had been preached in that area and churches established on God’s plan, teachers from Jerusalem who were Jewish in background and wanted to mix the Old Law with the New came telling them that if they really wanted to be right with God they had to become Jews as well, by being circumcised and submitting to the Law.
In chapter three he has powerfully demonstrated that we are no longer under that old law. It was given to guide until the Seed would come which is Christ and after Christ is come we aren’t under that law anymore. Look beginning in verse 23, “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. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 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. 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.” It is worth remembering that Paul took this whole matter of trying to take the Gentiles under the Old Law so seriously that he would say that one who went back under the law was severed from Christ and fallen from Grace (5:2-6).
The New Covenant isn’t based on law and regulations. Does that mean there are no laws in the New Covenant? Certainly not. It is referred to as the Law of Christ in chapter 6:1-2 and as the law of liberty in James 1:25. But law isn’t the foundation of the New Covenant. The New Covenant is about grace, freedom, faith and relationship with Christ and those who belong to Him. Grace made the way for Christ to come into the world as our Savior and Lord. Faith is our response to God’s grace. Such faith is never a dead, inactive faith, but a living, breathing obedient faith that submits to Christ in everything. It should be obvious to anyone who reads the Old Testament or who reads the newspaper or watches TV that law doesn’t change the heart or the behavior of people. Law keeps us from doing things that we fear we will get caught doing. How much has the increase in laws on drug use in this country changed the behavior of those who use drugs? Unless you change a person from the heart you don’t change them at all. When we submit our heart to Christ in making him our Lord we want to please and see God as our Father we want to please, our behavior will change.
So, God sent Jesus into the world to show us the Father. He pointed out that the greatest commandment of God was that we love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and our neighbor as ourselves. He even said that these two laws contained the essence of the whole law.
Love, faith, and grace lead to a heart of obedience so that Paul would said, when we “Obey from the heart that form of teaching delivered to us we are then made free from sin and become servants of righteousness.” Back in our text in Galatians, after pointing to faith as the standard fom today, he said “In Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.” Notice he then points out how our faith puts us into Christ when he said, “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” When we through faith submit to Christ in baptism we put him on like a garment that will never be removed. We are in Him and He is in us to change all aspects of our life from that point on. Then he points out that in Christ, things are very different from what the world says or even what the Law said. In Christ it doesn’t matter what your racial background may be, your family heritage may be, or even whether you were a wealthy land owner or the slave that worked his field. It doesn’t even mater whether you are male or female. In Christ we are all one. As one we are all the children of Abraham and fulfill the promise God made to Abraham back in Genesis 12:1-4.
Now please think about this fact. You can’t go through such a text and say, “Well I agree that family heritage and racial background don’t matter any more. I agree that it doesn’t matter what your work situation may be or how much money you may have. But I don’t buy that thing that it doesn’t matter whether you are a man or woman.” If we submit to Christ we take it all.
Anything Paul may say later on what the woman can and can’t do in the assembly must be weighed against the declaration that we aren’t under law but faith and there isn’t any difference now between male and female. Certainly that doesn’t mean that everyone has the same duties before God. As a man I’m extremely thankful it doesn’t mean men can now have babies right along with the women. It doesn’t mean we are all the same. God gives specific duties to all kinds of people but it doesn’t make them more important in the kingdom of God. We are all priest of God to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to him (I Peter 2:5). Even that is a huge distinction from the Old Law where only the man, who was a descendant of Aaron could be a priest. So let’s walk with care when we start down the road of making distinctions. I don’t believe Paul contradicted himself in any later statements. Here is a fundamental principle of being in Christ. In passages like I Corinthians 11 and 14 or I Timothy 2 he was dealing with specific problems faced in those churches and trying to apply right principles. Never set aside the principle for a specific application.