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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Saturday, June 22, 2019              

Today’s Scripture Reading | Galatians 3:23–29         
                         
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. (NRSV)

Reflection
This is one of the best-known passages of the New Testament. In particular, the three negated pairs of verse 28—no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female—are central to Christians’ understanding of ourselves as “one in Christ Jesus,” fellow children of God with all the baptized.

It is easy for us to miss what’s really at stake in this claim. The letter to the Galatians addresses one of the nastiest disputes young Christian congregations faced, as proponents of rigorous religious legal observance and preachers of grace squared off against one another in the pews, and Paul (representing the grace side) pulls no punches; he argues vehemently that if we tie justification to religious performance in any way and not exclusively to faith we’re lost. That’s not what Jesus died for.

The other side doesn’t get a voice here, of course, except as Paul quotes them. Still, it’s not hard to imagine them objecting to his characterization of the law as a prison. The law is a gift from the loving God, not a prison. Amen to that.

Maybe it’s a question of the right tool for the right job. The law shapes the life of a particular people to care for one another, for strangers, and for creation. Who can doubt the importance of that? Yet the grace of God in Jesus (symbolized by baptism) makes us all part of that people and frees us to order our common life around a common invitation and promise instead of—as some people in Galatia had made the law—a prison.

Thanks be to God for the gift of the law and the gift of grace.

Prayer
God of the law, of faith, and of grace, you make all your children one according to your promise. Help us to live as one in all we do, by the grace of our Lord Jesus. Amen.

Written by Rocky Supinger, Associate Pastor for Youth Ministry

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