“Until Christ Came”
23Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. 24Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. 25But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, 26for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. 27As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. 29And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise. NRSV
his Sunday’s texts are focused on the whole idea of “faith as the means of receiving Grace,” as a kind of replacement for the Law of the Old Testament. The question is asked, “How was it with the Law until, or before Christ Came?”
The Law of God for His people before Christ came was somewhat oppressive. The long arm of the Law extended into every aspect of the Hebrew peoples’ lives; from day to day including their means of communicating with and worship of God.
A new way of life and worship was ushered in when Christ finally came into the world. As has been our underlying theme for the past two Sundays, the New Testament introduced every person on the earth to a potential experience with God the Father, through God the Son and Holy Spirit. No longer are we bound by attempts to obey the Law, but we each are extended free Grace and forgiveness. Now the main purpose of the Law, the Ten Commandments with codicils added, is to uncover our sin and encourage us to allow God’s forgiveness to wash our sin away; to justify us in God’s sight through Jesus’ Atonement on the Cross.
There is a line in one of Louis L’Amour’s many books where two old cowboys are hopelessly dying in a desert, with no water, no shade and no hope. One cowpoke whispered to the other that they were going to soon die and walk down that lonesome road to meet their maker. The other cowboy must have recalled a Sunday School lesson, and said “I know how I am going to walk that dusty road; I am going to walk down that road Justified!”
And there it is! We are all facing that last road, or flight, or sea voyage: We live and die with an assurance of being Justified before the Judgment Seat of God; not by anything we have done, but with faith that Christ has already justified every believer. Is there anyone among us who feels that they are holy enough, or worthy to go into God’s eternal reward, by any other road but His? As our text says, “...the Law was our disciplinarian until Christ came so that we might be justified by faith. (v24)
God’s plan for a solution to our problem of sin is not the eradication of sin by our being good but through accepting God’s plan. Lamoure did not tell how that dying cowboy was going to get up and walk down that road, but we all know that all salvation is by the Grace that Christ enabled through His death on the Cross. I did not finish reading all 100+ of L’Amour’s cowboy westerns, I quit at 87; but at least he had some understanding of God’s plan for old dying cowboys, and everybody else.
And that is what humanity did not know until the second member of the Godhead came to save all of us.
I heard a fellow at our Annual Conference say that “Being good is no-good because we are trying to get in another way but God’s way of inviting us into heaven. Before Jesus the Law was all folks had, but now we all have Grace, “Justification by Faith Alone,” As Luther coined.
So, if you are ever dying in a desert you might remember that the answer is that you are going to walk down that road, Justified!
You might want to give this concept some thought. Even our Spiritual Father, John Wesley, having been reared by aggressive disciplinarians, found it difficult to believe that it was through God’s grace, and that was enough. Yet, without the struggle there might not been the Methodist Churches, all based upon Justification by Faith alone.
sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor