Trinity 13 2019
September 15, 2019
Zion Lutheran Church + Nampa, ID
Every family has its own set of rules: Rules that dictate proper behavior. Rules that govern the use of electronics. Rules that establish a general daily schedule. Each family is a little bit different, but every family has rules.
Here’s a question: How long did you have to keep the rules before you were brought into your family? You know that the role of rules is not to bring people into a family. Rules indicate you are already in the family, and they provide a baseline for showing respect to everyone in the house.
Here is the same question but on a spiritual level: How long did you have to keep God’s rules before you were brought into his family? Well, that’s not what God rules are for either. His rules were not designed to bring people in. Before God gave a single commandment to the Israelites, He established the basis for His relationship with them. St. Paul hits upon this point in Galatians 3, “Now the promises were made to Abraham and to His offspring. It does not say, “and to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.”
No one is righteous in the sight of God according to the rules, the Law, or by works. St. Paul highlights that the Law was given 430 years after the promise of Christ to Abraham and after God said that Abraham was righteous through faith. Just as it was for Abraham, so it is for everyone. God has never made a promise of salvation based on good works or doing the Law.
God puts His act of redemption before mentioning a single rule because rules don’t bring you into God’s family. You are not a child of God because you were good, or because you deserve it, or by changing your life around, or by making some sort of decision for Jesus. Your inheritance, your position as a child of God rests upon God’s promise to you, a promise made and a promise kept by the promised One. The Son’s obedience and the Spirit’s adoption sealed your place with God.
So what’s the point of the rules? The rules remind you that you are there by grace, and they provide guidance for showing love to everyone in the house. God conferred upon Abraham and his children a special relationship to Himself. He was their God. And they were His people, His children as the children of the faithful Abraham. God gave it to Abraham. If it is given as a gift, it is not earned. What is earned is given out of duty or obligation. God gave it to Abraham by a promise, the promise of Christ.
And this promise is given to you. God’s baptismal covenant makes each Christian an Isaac, a child of Abraham, a child of promise, the possessor of heavenly riches and inheritance. All united to Christ by baptism become heirs of the promise and therefore are righteous before God. We literally saw this happen today. The parents of Matthew, still a baby, bring him to Jesus. They bring their son to the Promised One who makes the promise and delivers what it promised.
Earlier in Galatians 3, St. Paul explains how we can know this, how we can trust in this, how we can believe that God keeps His promise. It is confirmed through the death of the promised offspring, God’s only Son. Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us… so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.”
This relationship of love is the motivation for true service to God and to our neighbor. Remember, this too is a purpose of the law. It provides guidance for showing love to God and to everyone in the household. To teach us how to fear, love, and trust in God above all things; to expect all good and to take refuge in our distress; and to love our neighbors. Because you are a child of God, the Father gives you the rules in how to live in His household. To give you boundaries, because like children, you are prone to wander off, to try to do it all by yourself. When you break them, well, sometimes you’re disciplined and sometimes you suffer because of the consequences of your actions or the actions of others. When you fail to live up to who you are in Christ, when you fail to keep the rules, it doesn’t annul the promise of your position in the family.
Christ does what the Law cannot. As a Christian united to Jesus, your place is secure because of His faithfulness, His obedience, His life, His death, His forgiveness of your sins. By faith, you have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer you who live, but Christ who lives in you. For as with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, with the all the saints in heavenly glory, who lived with this promise and died trusting in it, by the grace of God, through faith in the promise of Christ, so shall you.
 The beginning of the sermon is modified from “The role of rules” by Pastor Matt Ewart