Monday, November 4, 2013

The Centerpiece of Our Faith - Free the Children!

Have you ever wondered why God gave us parents? I mean, why didn't we just enter the world as independent adults, no one to answer to and no one to worry about us? If you think about it, children have a lot of people that worry about them, parents, teachers, older siblings, grandparents. A child is usually a few years old before they ever make a single decision for themselves. Maybe, for the first time, a little girl decides what she will wear that day. Maybe a little boy will decide on his own whether he will play with his train set or go outside and play with the neighborhood boys. Before they reach this stage the girl’s mother says, “wear this” or the little boy’s parents say, “you can't go outside this afternoon.” The more I think about it, the more I realize, children have always been discriminated against! I am appealing to persons everywhere to liberate children. Give them their independence! It’s a travesty the way everyone bosses them around. Free the children!

As I began to think about this crusade, I looked far back into history to see when this horrible injustice began. I had to go back a long way. Before the American Revolution, before Columbus, all the way back to the days when the Roman centurions walked on this earth. Did you know that in the 1st century Greco-Roman world, children were already being discriminated against? In fact, parents of children hired someone to do their dirty work for them. They thought, “I can’t be there every second of the day. I'll just hire someone to make sure my boy or girl doesn’t get any ideas. I need to make sure they don't try to escape or anything.” So, 1st century parents hired thousands of pedagogs. A fitting name for such a profession! These pedagogs were the strong arms of the parents when they couldn’t be around. They carried the child’s books to school, they sat in the corner of the classroom, they escorted the child home in the afternoon, and they gave him instruction when the parents were away. This pedagog even disciplined the child when no one was around. A child would have a single pedagog until he or she was old enough to make independent decisions. The very idea that children are born without brains is just horrible. I’m sure you’re just as incensed as I am over this issue. It’s been a long time since the days of pedagogs. Luckily we don’t have pedagogs today…Or do we?

Law: The Great Παιδαγωγος

In Galatians 3, Paul is really giving it to the Galatians, telling them they were no longer under law, but under grace. They didn’t get the Spirit by observing the law. They couldn’t share in Abraham’s covenant by observing the law. Belief in Jesus granted the Spirit and tied them to Abraham. It was the faith of Jesus that saved them…not the law! If you didn’t know any better, you would think Paul really hated the law! I mean, could he say anything good about it? Did it even have a function? If Christians are saved by grace, what purpose is there for the law? And why did God send law anyway if it is such a stumbling block to His children? What’s really important is faith, belief and grace! What is the law for anyway? Wouldn’t you know it…Paul knew we were going to ask that question, so, he answered it for us.

Brothers and sisters, I give an example from daily life: once a person’s will has been ratified, no one adds to it or annuls it. Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring; it does not say, “And to offspring’s,” as of many; but it says, “And to your offspring,” that is, to one person, who is Christ. My point is this: the law, which came four hundred thirty years later, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise. For if the inheritance comes from the law, it no longer comes from the promise; but God granted it to Abraham through the promise. Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring would come to whom the promise had been made; and it was ordained through angels by a mediator.  Now a mediator involves more than one party; but God is one. (Galatians 3:15-20)

Now, let’s put that into English. Paul once again harkens back to Abraham and he says since the days of Abraham, the people of God have been guided by one of two things, the Law or the Promise. God made a promise to Abraham 430 years before Moses brought the Law to Israel. You remember that promise, don’t you?

The Lord said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, “Lift up your eyes from where you are and look north and south, east and west.  All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever.  I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted.  Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you.” (Genesis 13:14-16)

Paul’s argument is this: This promise given to Abraham was like a will. And once a will is ratified, you can’t add to it or take away from it. Nevertheless, the law came 430 years later. So, we still have this pressing issue, why the Law? The Law was added because of our sin. If not for the law, humans would have gotten too far from God. God knew it would be some time until His Son was ready to come into the world. He needed a plan to “hold” things in place until He arrived. If humans were given free reign, God could have nothing to do with them. Remember, God cannot be near sin. God can have nothing to do with anyone plagued by sin. Even under the Law, He could only have limited contact with Israel. They had to go through cleansing rituals. Only one person, one time a year could actually be near God’s presence. But without the law, not even this contact would have been possible. Paul explains law in an interesting way…

Is the law then opposed to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could make alive, then righteousness would indeed come through the law. But the scripture has imprisoned all things under the power of sin, so that what was promised through faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There 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. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise. Galatians 3:21-29

We miss something in this text that the first readers saw right away. Look there in verse 24 and 25. The law was our custodian. Some versions say the law was “put in charge of us…” Guess what that word really is,

“So, that the law was our pedagog until Christ came, that we might be justified by faith.  But now that faith has come we are no longer under a pedagog; for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.”

Why the law? The law was our pedagog, a custodian hired by our father to watch over us, until we were able to watch over ourselves. But when Christ ratified the promise, the pedagog had to look for a new job, because the heirs of the king don’t need him anymore. The heirs of the promise have been given their freedom. Finally…at last…the children are free!

 Let me show you the implications of this. As long as the heir is a minor, he has no advantage over the slave. Though legally he owns the entire inheritance, he is subject to tutors and administrators until whatever date the father has set for emancipation. That is the way it is with us: When we were minors, we were just like slaves ordered around by simple instructions (the tutors and administrators of this world), with no say in the conduct of our own lives.
But when the time arrived that was set by God the Father, God sent his Son, born among us of a woman, born under the conditions of the law so that he might redeem those of us who have been kidnapped by the law. Thus we have been set free to experience our rightful heritage. You can tell for sure that you are now fully adopted as his own children because God sent the Spirit of his Son into our lives crying out, “Papa! Father!” Doesn’t that privilege of intimate conversation with God make it plain that you are not a slave, but a child? And if you are a child, you’re also an heir, with complete access to the inheritance. Galatians 4:1-7

The law came to serve a noble purpose, but those days are over. Because a long time ago, someone came into this world crying…

“Liberate the Children!”

And the children were given their freedom. And in that freedom, they found their loving Father.

Edson Rogers was the son of a wealthy farmer in Virginia. He died of wounds in the tragic war between the states. He was a fine specimen of young manhood, and during those hard days of fighting he had met Robert Sawyer. They became bosom buddies enduring much together. Robert was a poor orphan, but Edson came from a well-respected family. Near the end of the war Edson was mortally wounded. Realizing his life was fast ebbing away he asked Robert to promise he would go to his parents' plantation. He wanted his parents to know of their wonderful friendship. But Robert said "I am only a poor boy, they will not believe me, they will think I am an impostor." But Edson had thought it all through. He had written a letter in a very shaky hand and gave it to Robert to deliver.

Their farewell was sad and sudden. A few months later the war was over and Robert timidly made his way to the Rogers mansion. His clothes were shabby, which made things worse. But when he explained his visit and delivered the letter…all was changed. Later, when he started to leave, the father said "Robert, you must not go. We want you here. Edson was our dearest treasure; he was everything to us. Won't you come to our home and be a son in his place?" What an invitation! A poor orphan boy suddenly becoming a son and heir, to be loved and honored in a home of luxury! How did it happen? It was Edson's name that made the difference.

I’m not the first one to cry, “Freedom for the children.” God did it first. He freed us. We are no longer slaves. Instead, we are children…God’s children! Thanks be to God…you and I are children of the Promise!

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