First Sunday after Christmas
Grace and mercy to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
It is written in Galatians chapter 4: I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, 2 but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. 3 In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. 4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. Thus far the text.
Let us Pray: Abba Father, who respects people who are justified by faith before You are pleased with their actions, keep us steadfast in believing in Jesus that we may always be Your sons and heirs forever more; in the name of Jesus. Amen.
Galatians is a letter Paul wrote quickly in his own hand, crushing the outbreak of false doctrine in that congregation. Lutherans have always treasured the epistle as a powerful declaration of justification by faith, "the Chief Article of the Christian Religion, the master and prince" of all other doctrinal matters, as Luther wrote.
Moreover, Luther wrote two commentaries on Galatians, the second one as his final say on justification by faith. This commentary was so important to the Book of Concord editors that they commended Luther's commentary twice - for readers wanting to know more about the topic.
In case anyone wonders about the Book of Concord's attitude, the section on justification is called "The Righteousness of Faith" in the Formula of Concord.
Going back 50 years earlier, the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, written by Melanchthon, has a long section on justification by faith, which reflects upon the Augsburg Confession, #4 and #5.
This lesson is extremely important because the Antinomians (Anti-Law, literally) have misused it to promote their cause. That is not a side issue, because Universal Objective Justification (justification without faith) is another version of the Antinomian argument. The Antinomians say that "now we have Christ and the Gospel, so the Law is obsolete."
So their favorite passage needs to be restored to its clarity, to defeat their false claims. This chapter builds upon the classic one used for the Antinomian cause -
Galatians 3:23 But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.
24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25 But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. 26 For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.
Paul is countering the false claims that Christians must be observant of Jewish law to be real Christians. After all, Jesus and the disciples were all Jews, and the Gospel is based on Old Testament Promises being fulfilled.
Against that, Paul preached that the Gospel alone converts and does not require someone to come from a background of Jewish observances.
KJV Galatians 4:1 Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all; 2 But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father.
This is a parable, offering a little story about the difference between being under the Law and under the Gospel, and it reflects the earlier passage about the schoolmaster. A child of wealth or influence is no better than a servant of his father when he is still in school, still being tutored. All of them are subordinate to the system and have to follow the rules. Some think they are above the rules because of their importance.
24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.
This is Paul's argument to keep the Galatians from returning to salvation based on obedience to the Law. The Antinomians have turned this into making the Law obsolete. In the modern version, everyone is born forgiven and will be forgiven all future sins. This eliminates repentance and the Means of Grace. One illustration is from WELS Meditations -
"WELS Meditations, March-May 2014, for Monday, 17 March 2014. "No matter what you did yesterday -- or failed to do -- and no matter what you will do tomorrow, God has forgiven you."
The Eduard Preuss quotation, states that everyone in the world is born forgiven. Everyone.
But Galatians does not say this - nor does any passage in the Bible. Why would we baptize infants if they were born forgiven and already saved? Why confess sins that are already forgiven?
The modern version of Antinomianism (anti-law) proves that no one escapes the Law of the Antinomians. They condemn and excommunicate those who deny and reject their modern nonsense. During Luther's lifetime, Agricola the Antinomian, constantly agitated against Luther.
The Law Shows us Our need for the Savior, so the Law is spiritual (from the Holy Spirit), useful, and good. The Law is a brief way of saying the entire universe was created by God, so those principles are part of everything we do. People have shown that they bring themselves to grief by saying they are above or beyond the Law. They damage many others, too, who suffer from the Antinomian illusion of being too mature, wise, or noble for the Law.
3 Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world:
Paul means to say that the Law is something material, mundane, earthly. It may restrain evil, but it does not deliver from sin. The Law does not justify; it does not bring a person to heaven. I do not obtain eternal life because I do not kill, commit adultery, steal, etc. Such mere outward decency does not constitute Christianity. The heathen observe the same restraints to avoid punishment or to secure the advantages of a good reputation.
On a lower level, the Law restrains our behavior, and we can see that in effect across all cultures. But the higher level of the Law accuses our conscience, so we feel guilt and seek the comfort of forgiveness and salvation.
But the Law does not bring comfort and forgiveness, as Luther wrote so eloquently-
...the Law has nothing to do with justification. If it thrusts its nose into the business of justification we must talk harshly to the Law to keep it in its place. The conscience ought not to be on speaking terms with the Law. The conscience ought to know only Christ. To say this is easy, but in times of trial, when the conscience writhes in the presence of God, it is not so easy to do. As such times we are to believe in Christ as if there were no Law or sin anywhere, but only Christ. We ought to say to the Law: "Mister Law, I do not get you. You stutter so much. I don't think that you have anything to say to me."
When it is not a question of salvation or justification with us, we are to think highly of the Law and call it "holy, just, and good." (Romans 7: 12) The Law is of no comfort to a stricken conscience. Therefore it should not be allowed to rule in our conscience, particularly in view of the fact that Christ paid so great a price to deliver the conscience from the tyranny of the Law. Let us understand that the Law and Christ are impossible bedfellows. The Law must leave the bed of the conscience, which is so narrow that it cannot hold two, as Isaiah says, chapter 28, verse 20.
4 But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, 5 To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.
This verse is clearly a Virgin Birth passage, because the point is assumed rather than argued. That was already known in Paul's circles, so there was no need to repeat the obvious. But it is restated in another form - God sent forth His Son - divine nature, born of a woman, born under the Law - human nature. This God-Man redeemed those born under the Law, paying the price for their sins.
This is the great message of the Gospel, that the power of the Law was overcome by the Savior born under the Law. This came about in the fullness of time. God prepared His people for centuries and provided a Savior for them who would convert many of His own people (though He was rejected by the great and wise) and send forth the Gospel across the Roman Empire.
Through the Means of Grace, Jesus transcended all governments to establish His Kingdom, which continues to grow as new souls are added and new lands conquered for the Gospel.
6 And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. 7 Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.
This is the Holy Communion passage, in a sense, because Paul refers to the Lord's Prayer, which was traditionally reserved for closed communion, when all others were ushered out of church. (Traditions vary, of course) The importance is shown by the Lord's Prayer in Matthew, Luke, and Romans 8:15 as well. This shows the pure grace of God, since this forgiveness comes to us through faith in Jesus, not through works of the Law; in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The peace of God (which…) guard and protect you through Jesus, Our Savior.