19th November 2023

Before Faith Came

Passage: Galatians 3:23-29
Service Type:

Automatically Generated Transcript

We've been talking in the morning services about the two covenants, that's to say the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. We don't mean to imply that there's two ways to God. There used to be some people who thought that salvation was by one of two covenants and the Jewish people came in by one covenant and the other people are us coming in by another, the New Covenant. And the idea of the Old Covenant moving to the New is not that there's two ways to get to God and the Jewish people have one and we have another, but it's because of the progress that the one God making one covenant at a time was bringing people to himself. And the progress between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant is a part of what we've been learning. Knowing that we're talking on this topic, I've had some people ask me to comment on certain Bible verses so that this could be made clear, particularly about how do Jewish people get right with God and how do non-Jewish people. Now, I had a little bit of experience in the misunderstandings that some people have about how important it is to be a Jew or not a Jew and what can you do if you're one and not the other. When I first went to Wheaton grad school and they had this afternoon of going on boats in the lakes up there and all the new students were getting to know each other. And because I'd arrived from Dallas Seminary where I was... anyway, news had come to Wheaton as to who I was and my involvement in evangelism. And there amongst the other new students, some who were particularly loving of me and I was there. And I said to them, I was going to be a Jew, but I'm not a Jew. And I said, I'm not a Jew, but I'm not a Jew, but I'm a Jew. And they said, I'm not a Jew. And they said, I'm not a Jew, but I'm not a Jew. And I said, of evangelism and some of them were for evangelism amongst the Jews and there was a Jewish girl who was single and she realised I was an evangelist and was in her opinion an opportunity and she was whereas I was the quiet type who didn't say much she was a very very forward person and she quickly let me know that we could get together and and I didn't say anything I didn't make any response I was just trying to get to know everybody and on one of the buses going back to the college she was telling me all her understandings about such things and she said when I have a son I will circumcise him and he and I will be be Jewish people. And I must tell you, that frightened me, that very idea of someone even contemplating, not that I was, this was just an idea coming from that direction, of being in a family where I was the outsider, or at least not the furthest on the inside. And so that gave me the information just not to say too much or do too much and to sort of steer in another direction. And it raised the whole issue is, are people who are Christians, and there's no doubt this girl really was a Christian on fire, and I admired all of her evangelism, but what is the truth about, you know, are there levels? Of being Christians, and being both a Christian and a Jew is the top, and being just a Christian but not a Jew is not quite as amongst the true people of God. And there's a lot of misunderstanding as to what the New Testament teaches about the fact that how she was thinking of it, it might be true as far as your background, racial background, or whether you'd be called a Jew or not. I think it is the case that if the mother is a Jew, then you are a Jew, even if it's a father who's Greek or something else. But that's not what the Bible's teaching when it talks about the fact that all are one in Christ Jesus. And in Christ there's neither Jew nor Greek. Let's put up on the screen our passage from Galatians. So in order to begin to answer some of the questions I've been asked. Just in recent times. And to refer to Bible verses that are relevant. This is probably a major one. And let's read it through. Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming of coming faith would be revealed. So then the law was our guardian until Christ came in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian. For in Christ Jesus, you are all sons of God through faith. For as many of you as were baptised into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek. There is neither slave nor free. There is no male and female. For you're all one in Christ Jesus. And if you're Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring. Let's look and see that final heirs according to promise. I thought for a message title this morning I could call it heirs according to promise. Because that's the truth I think that is right there in this whole issue of Jews and non-Jews. That we are indeed spiritual speaking heirs according to promise. So I'm not a Jew in terms of race, but I am an heir of Abraham because of the promises that were given to him that in his seed all the nations of the earth will be blessed. That in his seed people would have something that would be amazing, the salvation of God. And that is what the new covenant does. If you check up verses that talk about the new covenant, the first thing you notice is it's a new covenant promise for Israel. It is Israel's covenant arrangement with God that is being updated. It's not a second option. It's just that those who were God's people via the old covenant are now offered to be God's people by the new covenant, but they have to come into it. That is why the very first thing I want to do is to talk about the new covenant. The very first Christians that were on our planet were all Jews. They were those who listened to the Apostle Peter on the day of Pentecost as he preached that those who are close and those who are far off can be drawn into as many as the Lord our God shall call. I'm summarising. Peter's sermon called for repentance and for faith. And this was the era where people came to be God's people by repenting of being sinners and by accepting Jesus Christ by faith. And the first 3,000 converts were all Jews. As far as we know, there were 3,000 souls at that day. The audience were pretty well all Jews. There might have been an extra one or two others. But anybody who came by faith in response to the gospel became an heir of Abraham's office. You know, blessing coming down through the promise. Now the mention of the word promise is because it's in contrast to the other way people back then had understood that you got to be a part of God's blessing. It was through the law. And it wasn't a wrong idea they had for the Bible. John's Gospel chapter 1 contrasts the fact that the law came by Moses, but grace and truth come by Jesus. And what the folk had in those days before Jesus came and ministry was finished in his death and resurrection and the offer of forgiveness of sins was made before the opening of the new covenant for people to get in. Jesus was working it in his ministry, but the opening of it was that first moment when Peter preached and 3,000 people got in the door. All Jews. It's a matter of fact. In the first so many decades, all the people coming to Christ were largely Jews. But it's not because, well, what was going on was that the way that you found God's blessing previously was that you observed the law of Moses. Now, if you want to know that my interpretation I'm giving here is correct, let's look at the beginning of this passage that we read. We've just been looking at the end, verse 29, which mentions about the, according to the promise, but when we look at the beginning, and as you've got it there, now, before faith came. This brings a misunderstanding by some people because they say in the old era, or in the Jewish time, what counted was your obedience. Sure, your obedience was important, but that was not meant to imply that faith did not exist. But what does it mean to say now before faith came? It's actually referred to as before faith came. It's referring to the offer of God for forgiveness, which we receive in Christ when we come to Jesus by faith. But it's not the fact that there was no faith. In fact, you'll discover that faith is the theme all the way through the great faith, chapter 11, in the book of Hebrews, of different people. If we put up Hebrews, please, and chapter 11, the verses I had. And right back to the beginning of the first family, Abel. By faith, Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain. So right at the beginning of things, the fall has just happened. And the first family, Abel, is someone who examples the necessity of faith. Cain, the opposite. And it says, through which he was commended as righteous. So the righteousness by faith has always been in the Bible all the way through. God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. By faith, the next one, Enoch, was taken up so that he should not see death. And he was not found. He disappeared from the human scene because God had taken him. He was translated into heaven. Now, before he was taken, he was commended as having pleased God. And then this very following. And without faith, it is impossible to please him. For whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who diligently seek him, is the old version. By faith, Noah. Boy, the list is getting bigger. Abel and Enoch. Now Noah, being warned by God concerning events yet unseen, in reverent fear, constructed an ark for the saving of his household. In his case, the salvation was from the water, literally. But as the Bible would teach us, that he came right with God. He was considered by God to be saved because of that mixture of fear of God and faith in him. And he built the ark. He spent his whole lifetime on a career that had a very watery end. I was trying to make a pun because he actually did survive the water, but then he had a grapevine and he got drunk afterwards. Anyway, the point was that Noah is listed amongst those who had faith. And if you follow on through, it comes down eventually to Abraham, who obeyed when he was called to go out from where he was living, to receive an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith, he went to live in the land of promise. Now, the land of promise. There are people these days who are asking, whose land it is? I listen in on the radio as I drive, and there are people who are talking about whose land it is. And one point, one fellow made, which I believe he was right. We often misunderstand that the promises of God to Abraham included, that his descendants, and the descendants is defined later by those who obey the law, will own the land. And so a big issue that's involved with what is going on with Hamas and with Israel at the moment is the whole question of whose land it is. I think there wouldn't be the opposition to Israel if they just wanted to be another group of people who live there, but it's the fact that they claim they've been given the land. It's the issue. It's the issue of the ownership of the land that is the real generation of all the anger. Well, anyway, so here we have God speaking, and he's speaking about the fact of this. Now, my eye hasn't caught. I'm trying to see. Oh, yeah. He was looking, verse 10, forward to the city whose foundations, whose designer and builder is God. And so there was a part of the faith to be a place to live and a city. Now, the book of Hebrews goes on to comment about this idea of the city. And the city of Jerusalem was understood by the Jewish people previously as being where in the land, and so they're also interested in the city Jerusalem. And that's a part of what it is to be Jewish, to venerate the city Jerusalem. But the book of Hebrews, which is a very important book, speaks about the fact of this looking for a place to live. And certainly amongst the Jewish race, the Jewish people in their psychology, in what they demonstrate in going back to the land of Israel and what's happened in history with the Balfour Declaration. There was a couple of things the League of Nations did back in the 1940s. The World War II establishment was a government's goal to open the Mat Ramcast, to create a place for Jews to live, and a city that would offer the Jewish people, its main source of inheritance, to it's persons. The European League, that's a national institution, but they also said that their and the European leaders were engaged with a close in terms of education, or academic studies. It has super User overseas right now, and have happened that you can do courses in Hebrew, I know, because I was stupid enough to join one when I failed my first year of Hebrew at college. So I put myself in a course to learn Hebrew without knowing it was a modern Hebrew. Ah, I did discover in the end that it was for modern Hebrew, but it was so much the same as what I was learning in the class at the college, only very minor differences, because there was some individual person who purposed to help their people, the Jewish people, put back into action the original Hebrew as best as could happen. And it is a miracle of languages that they have a Hebrew tongue. Maybe not everybody speaks it. Maybe it is going to go through the normal changes all languages do, gradually modifying and different nuances come in. But that's a miracle of languages. There have been miracles in the land of Israel of agriculture, where promises of the scriptures of how God will bless them has suddenly come true, where valleys of sowing of vegetables or not vegetables, flowers and fruit has all come to pass. And my parents had some good friends who were missionaries amongst the Jews, and they used to tell us all the details and photograph them, photographs of all that was happening in Israel and it was fulfilling Old Testament prophecies, which I think was meant back then to be happening back then, probably both, but it's happening now. I had a lecturer, I've told some of you this before, who was a psychology lecturer at the University of Queensland, and he and I did not get on, and because he told me, you just seem so certain of everything, and he believed I should be more mindful, and he believed I should be more mindful, and he believed I should be more mindful, and I was modest, and, well anyway, I had an assignment that was late, I took it to his office, and he wasn't there, but his wife was. And she was far more honest... And she said, I'm a Jewess, And once more, we're going back to Israel. We don't know why, Don't know why, They just feel they should go back to Israel. Ringing in my ears is the Ezekial prophecy of all the bones rattling together, as Ezekiel says, Ezekiel prophesied over this, can these bones live was the question asked and the answer was yes and he prayed for that to happen and all these bones came together. It was meant to represent how the people would come back to their land and she and her husband were going to be one of them and she said, I don't know why. And I said, I know. I was being cheeky because she'd go home and tell her husband, Jim thinks he knows everything but it's because it's in the scriptures and I think you'd have to be blind to read the Bible carefully and not recognize there are prophecies which the general population of churches didn't find it easy to believe because they thought that Israel was done and that the new era, which is the new covenant, meant that being Jewish was out and just believing in Jesus. So there's something in this passage that does need to explain how there is still something for the Jews and even in their land and even in Jerusalem there's going to be things happen and yet Hebrews talks about the fact of the city being promised is something that is a heavenly city. I don't know if my eye can catch it in the passage. And so nonetheless, I think you can, if you, I was thinking of a time, I was thinking of a title for this and I was going to call it as a title from that last verse about being heirs according to the promise. How is that promise to us? Which is the issue really we want to need to know to understand how we're blessed with Abraham's blessing through the promise, heirs because of promise. How does that fit into this whole question of the Lord's blessing? The law given by Moses and the era when they were the ones who were expecting to get blessed by those promises. We'll go back to the beginning to Galatians. Let's go back to Galatians and look at the start, verse 23. Now before faith came and where people get a bit all mixed up is because they think that's talking about the Old Testament religion was you've got to be obedient, you do what you're told, and that makes you acceptable by God. Actually, it was how the law was put as a guardian for us to teach us things that would set the scene for us to then respond to the gospel when the era of faith came. The era of faith was not denying the standards of God that the law represented. It wasn't denying the Ten Commandments we've been rehearsed, children have been teaching us this morning. The era of faith is not that Ten Commandments, the Ten Commandments are out and faith is in. It's talking about the content of the faith. And one of the things that often happens in the Bible where it talks about faith is you've got to watch and see whether it says the faith, which actually means the content of what is to be believed. And faith, often without the the part, can mean the act of trust. We're saved by faith, but our being saved by faith is by what Jesus did on the cross and Jesus did in the rising from the dead and what the gospel offers for us to come, but we respond by faith. And so a distinction in our minds about what is meant before faith came is not talking about the fact that suddenly in the Old Testament you've got to have obedience and the New Testament, just believe and forget the rules. That's a false dichotomy. Before faith came is talking about the gospel and what it is that you have faith in. And Jesus, the Messiah, the promise of the Old Testament, the person because of whom all the nations of the earth will be blessed, they're blessed if they come to Jesus and the gospel always is that Jesus is the Saviour, he's the Messiah. We often take the word Messiah not in a Jewish way of understanding of someone who will triumph their warfare and triumph the kingdom of God on earth, but we take the idea of Messiah to be the one who is the Christ who died for our sins. The truth is there's elements, the truth in both understandings. But before faith came is talking about the call to become Christians by a step of trust and faith. And before that came and the first opportunity of that publicly being given was the day of Pentecost. Lots of illustrations in Jesus' ministry. In home group we've been through about the woman at the well and she was a Samaritan and she was told when she thought their worship on their mountain was just as good as going to Jerusalem and Jesus said, no, salvation is from the Jews. He owned up the Jewish belief that Jerusalem was important. But in the overall talking to him, talking to her, Jesus explained that she had to believe in him. He explained that he was offering the rivers of living water if she had known who he was and asked him, he would have given her living water. That living water in the ultimate would become hers after the day of Pentecost, but certainly being right with God through Jesus and trusting him was hers instantly that she believed. So before faith came is talking about the offer through Jesus the Messiah being the Christ who would die on the cross and rise again and Jesus introduced lots of people to believe in him while he was in his ministry even though he was yet to do the dying. And where you see that our home group went through this in John 7, 37 where Jesus at one of the feasts where all the Jewish people were celebrating as they ought to do what the meaning of the feast was and they would have all the priests come up a big separate steps with big jars of water and tip them over the altar all out there on the place where they are and that pouring out of the water symbolised that when faith came and the chance to trust in Jesus was here part of what you get by believing in Jesus is as the woman at the well was told the living water. And what Jesus said in John 7, 37-39 He who believes in me out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water. And then John the evangelist commentating on it afterward John 7, look it up later on 37-39 the evangelist says This spake he of the spirit which they who believed in him were to receive were yet to receive because as yet the spirit was not yet given because Jesus was not yet glorified. He was yet to go through the cross to go through going down to Hades the place of the dead the better part of Hades he was yet to come out from amongst the dead in his resurrection he was yet to speak to the disciples across 40 days then finally to ascend to heaven where the father made him king of kings and lord of lords the one to be lord of the church which is for every person Jew or Gentile slave or free male or female and what those words mean is not that there's no more genders anymore some people take it that way or some people narrow a little bit no more genders in the church but yes you have of course different genders outside the church and then some of the people outside the church there's no more toilets which have marked differently such a stupid thing in my opinion that people think that way at all or like weddings where although they do mention bride and groom on the forms but they have person one and person two over the top so they're trying to cater for every sort of person in our community who can get married and it doesn't matter if you're a man and man or a woman and a woman or one day maybe you'll be a man and an animal who knows where this is going to go but the bible tells us Jesus' words when God made us in the beginning he made them male and female from the beginning and genders have not been stopped because we come to Christ and the bible has much to say about the difference of genders and what they do in the church for example there's something I'm not doing here because I am a man someone want to tell me what it is don't say being gracious what am I not doing now which is fulfilment of what the bible says yeah I haven't got a thing on my head and what's more I'm not doing that I'm not doing that I'm not doing that I'm not doing that the women are told that if they pray publicly or if they prophesy and prophecy I don't know whether you know this but prophecy is an element of what happens in preaching doesn't always seem to happen the same way but sometimes in a sermon God steps in and the preacher finds he's taken over and he says things he never intended to say I want to tell you often I have people who say to me oh you said this and this and I have no memory of having said it and I don't know whether I did and I didn't notice or whether it was their ears heard it it's actually the same on the day of Pentecost where the people are all speaking in their own in other languages I think in their case it was that they did speak in other languages and people realised it was going on but sometimes it is where the miracle happens is in your ears and there's other times when people come to church and while the worship is on and while there is a sense of the presence of God the people become aware God is speaking to them and they sometimes do dramatic things run out crying or know in their heart I've got to fix that up because they can't escape the fact that there's been the voice of God and that's what God does but in the scriptures if a woman is in that ministry she's to have her head covered why so? so that she doesn't allow the fact that she's being charismatic to mean that she can throw overboard other things scriptures have taught such as in the relationships the hierarchies of leadership those things are set in the scriptures and just because you become a Christian doesn't mean when faith comes doesn't mean when faith comes doesn't mean when faith comes doesn't mean when faith comes doesn't mean when faith comes throughout the whole law we don't the law has much to teach us and that's why I thank God for this church for something I want to tell you is that one of our departed members now John Beasley often would say to me to the effect don't forget the Old Testament I mean I have an extra master's degree in New Testament so that's why it's the New Testament largely I preach from but but , it's true the Old Testament still speaks the Old Testament is powerful but it's also a part of the travel from the Old Testament to the New that there is a shift in the covenant from that which Moses gave to that which Jesus gave and we're in the New Covenant and in the New Covenant there's neither Jew nor Greek nor is there Mary nor male nor female nor is there slave or free and what that means is not that our society may or may not have slaves back then just because the Bible said it the New Testament said it didn't mean that someone who was a slave could just completely thumbs up to the master and race off it didn't mean that marriages weren't to be had between male and female those things exist but it means that in terms of coming to God by faith all are on an equal platform and there is no distinction it doesn't mean that in terms of God's blessing the church that he was going to pick six men and six women go back and read the names of the apostles they were the if you like the key they were like the leaders of the first church the first apostles and all the doctrine would be set by them as they remembered what Jesus had taught and they're all men and although some people find a verse about one woman who was of note amongst the apostles they take it to mean that she was an apostle but it can simply mean she was well known amongst the apostles that's actually what it says we're in a generation where there are people who want us right at this moment to be a part of the church to be a part of the church to be a part of the church to ordain women and they haven't been able to get past there's too many old fuddy-duddy I'm one of them people and I was a lecturer in theology so that was very difficult for them and they appointed people to go and sit in my classes to find out whether I was saying stupid things and the woman they chose to do it went back and said no he's not saying anything wrong at all and so they dropped the cause against me but there were people who didn't want there to be someone teaching them teaching theology that would block the women's movement to have them ordained and now the union have got a way to get around it and they're having meetings with regard to that but I'm telling you that the bible tells us that of the apostle, the prophet, the evangelist the pastors, the teachers they're all men there's mention of women doing charismatic things such as the daughters of Philip is it or Stephen Philip who it says they prophesied but it doesn't say they were prophets like Agabus who had a role of leadership and there is a role of being a prophet that is how we got an apostle and a prophet the scriptures in Ephesians 2.20 and it says about the apostles and the prophets are the foundation ones and then they can so you don't repeat the apostles and the prophets they've been baptist pastors who think that they're apostles and there's one up in another city who sent out to all of us an email please wait for it I'm about to teach you some new light and he wanted us to believe he was an apostle and therefore equivalent to the original apostles and I guess we'd have to add it to the back of our bible whatever he said well I ignored him there are no modern day apostles if you take the word apostle just simply to mean it means to be a sent out one the bible does use that word for people sent out from the churches and some of our translations say that they were missionaries or it says that they were messengers of the churches but there are no modern day apostles how do I know? because the test is given in the book of Acts in the first chapter they had to have been witnesses of Jesus in his ministry and witnesses of him after he'd risen from the dead there's only one exception of someone that was able to fit in with the definition by Jesus appearing to him and it's the apostle Paul who was called an apostle to the Gentiles so you've got the original twelve minus one Judas who hung himself and you've got Paul added so they end up twelve anyway and there are no more apostles so if someone comes along and says they're an apostle you should listen to me don't because that's the group of people that Jesus used as the hinge between him on earth and after he went to heaven that they should know the doctrine and give us what we have as our Bible and so you don't change from the New Testament and the Old Testament as the word of God it's set and that is how it is so the fact that before faith came we were held captive under the law imprisoned until the coming of God when faith would be revealed that's about the arrival of the gospel on that day of Pentecost after Jesus has finished his ministry been exalted on high the Father handed to him the Holy Spirit and the Father and the Son sent the Holy Spirit on the believing disciples and the church was formed so we the church are a part of the holy everywhere present the word is Catholic means everywhere present church because we've responded to the gospel that's the one and only way to get in every one of you here this morning is either someone who has understood the gospel of how Jesus died for your sins and rose again that there's nothing you can do about your sinnerhood aside from come to God and ask for forgiveness you've either done that and you've come to Christ and you've become a Christian and you are a person who has received the benefit of the promise given to Abraham and it's the promise that comes from God it comes by faith and so not just have a title before faith came I said to myself maybe I better make this message about the facts that not before faith came is the law and all but it's also about the facts that there's only one way to get in the door and there's neither Jew nor Greek or male or female we're all on the same level as either having come to Christ or haven't come to Christ and you won't see that you won't stop being a man by doing it or stop being a woman by doing it it is a question of your salvation happening because it won't be changed there's no male and female for you're all one in Christ Jesus and if you are Christ's then you are Abraham's offsprings heirs according to the promise that was going to be my other heading before faith came was one heading and heirs according to promise is the other and the two in front of me might to form each other and each she's I challenge you to look at that for yourself holds you still lations 23 to 29 put them together which Hebrews 11 and you'll see what I'm saying we've already raised the voice of the scripture Heavenly Father I thank you for truth of the Bible I turned to them primo God I thank you for the revelation of the truth first time I want to thank you for the Republic I want you to make a bet on family for you spouse and I pray that people who are here who have never actually gotten in the door might today believe the promise he who believes in me as Jesus said out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water that's about the Holy Spirit and the blessing of the Spirit may they know the joy of putting their finger on the word believe and believing Jesus and have that happen in their lives even in these days we ask in his name Amen.

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