Today as we look at Exodus, chapter 19, this is such a significant passage of scripture. In fact, I would just go so far as to say this. This chapter leads to so many arguments in the New Testament. I mean, it divides the early church in the New Testament. This is a very significant passage of scripture to understand, and that’s the reason we’re touching on it, is because when we come to the Bible, what we want to do is we’re going to hit the pinnacle points of the scriptures so that when you pick up the Bible and read it in your own study, you understand the big picture of how it all works together. So we’re not lost in reading God’s word, but we understand how God wants to communicate his truth to us. Exodus 19 is a paramount passage of scripture, and if we just highlight it again, our theme in going through this together, we’re talking about God’s kingdom coming.
When we study scripture, the big picture of scripture is God is King. He has created all things for his glory. In creating all things for his glory, he created mankind as the crown of his creation. And then man rebels against God, which births sin. Sin is the opposite of God, and since God is life, sin brings death, and being separated from God because of sin, death is upon us, but God in his grace doesn’t leave us there. He pursues us for redemption by giving his life as sacrifice for our sins, so that we can walk in new life in him. That’s the story of the Bible. That’s the theme of scripture and tying together. It’s an incredible story, because the Bible is 66 books written over 1,500 years with one theme. I can’t even keep a thought for three minutes, but when you think about the Bible tying that together for 1,500 years, that is incredible.
And so God’s declaring this for us, Exodus 19, a paramount passage of scripture. And if I gave it a caveat, a thought to sort of express where we’re going today, Exodus 19, as you follow this theme throughout scripture, what you discover is that people become lost in religion. And what Jesus desires for us is to find freedom in him. And it maybe even adds this further thought that where you put your identity matters. We’ve seen this in the beginning in Genesis, the first opening chapters, and now we’re going to see it again in Exodus, but in a little different way, and let me explain.
When you read the Book of Genesis, remember the first five books of the Bible are written to Hebrew slaves, and God wants them to find their identity, who they are in him, because that dictates how we live our lives. Why are you here? Where did you come from? Where are you going? It defines what we do as people and why we do what we do. And when you get to the Book of Genesis, you see that from the very beginning God explains to mankind the purpose of his creation. He explains to us that we are the crown of creation. He calls us very good, being made in his image, creature being designed to connect to creator. And so Genesis starts on this individual basis of our identity.
But here’s what happens as you get into the Book of Exodus, which is where we are today. You remember the story. Moses, he lives under Pharaoh’s roof, as miraculously as a child, he was supposed to be slaughtered. He’s rescued out of a river, and he’s brought into Pharaoh’s house for 40 years, raised in Pharaoh’s household. And then at 40 years old, he kills someone that is persecuting his people, the Jewish people, and he gets caught. So he runs away, spends 40 years in Midian. And at 80 years old, God calls him back to Egypt to declare to Pharaoh, “Let God’s people go.”
And so he goes back, he declares this, God brings 10 plagues, until finally Pharaoh agrees to let God’s people go. Moses leads them on an exodus, which is why you have the Book of Exodus. And they come to the Red Sea, and God parts the Red Sea and they walk through the Red Sea. Pharaoh chases after them, and Pharaoh’s army’s crushed in the Red Sea, and now Israel has been set free from Egypt. All of that behind them.
And as the adrenaline settles, they’ve got to face this question. On an individual basis, they’ve already defined who are we? But now collectively as a group, they’ve now got to define who are we? Some people estimate that this group of people could have been as large as two million, and you can imagine two million people wandering in the wilderness, how in the world are you even going to begin to operate in this mess? And so God in Exodus 19 starts to give them this identity. Do you ever ask the question, why in the world would God pick the people of Israel? Well, let me give you one verse before I jump into Exodus 19. In Deuteronomy 7, it says this, verse 7, “The Lord did not set his affection on you and chose you because you are more numerous than the other people, for you are the fewest of all people.” God’s taken this ragtag small group of people to reveal his glory. He doesn’t pick them because they are great, he picks them because he is great.
In choosing the weakest people in the world, he can display the goodness of who he is, because that’s the only way that people give credit really to God rather than to man. If you look at this enormous powerhouse of a nation that God works through, well that makes sense, because they’re the enormous powerhouse in the world. But rather than pick the powerhouse, God picks the fewest of all people to reveal his glory. And God brings them in Exodus 19 to this place called Sinai, and they camp at the base of the mountain. God comes before Moses and he says to Moses, “Look, I want to make these people my people, and I want to establish a covenant with you. Do you want that?” And Moses goes and tells the people, and the people say, “Yes, we certainly want that.”
And God says, “Okay, well, in three days I’m going to come down on this mountain. I want you to prepare yourself, sanctify yourself, make yourself holy for me. And so Israel does that. God comes down on this mountain in a glorious, profound way. In fact, verse 17, it says this, “Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Now Mount Sinai, it was all in smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire, and its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace and the whole mountain quaked violently. When the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and God answered him with thunder.” You can imagine how incredible that picture must’ve been, maybe even how humbling.
You see the enormity of God, which is important in our lives. Before you do anything before the Lord in this world, you need to know how great your God is, and I think they’re captivated in this. And not only are they captivated by God’s glory, they’re even recognizing their own weakness. I try to think how in the world could we even compare to this type of idea to where we are today? And the best thing that I could think of is the forest fires that we experience in our own valley. I know those aren’t the great things to glory in. They’re destructive. But when you read Exodus, you get a lot of the same picture, this cloud and this fire and this thunder.
People even say that forest fires when they start raging, that you can actually hear what sounds like a horn coming out of it, and it’s because as the fire burns, the hot air whips out and it sucks in more oxygen to keep the fire burning. And with that becomes this huge vortex of air, and you can hear the wind whipping as you get close to the fire. And you sort of get this idea of of God in his enormity making this appearance in his power before Israel in these moments.
In the highlight to this passage, Exodus 19, verses 5 to 8, this kind of summarizes the significance of this story, and this lays a precedent really through the rest of scripture. But I’ll read this to us. It says in verse 5, “Now then,” talking to Israel, “if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, then you shall be my own possession among all the people.” So what God’s about to do, he’s about to set a covenant with Israel. This is the reason why when we look at our Bible, we really have it divided in two sections of the old covenant, and having an old covenant implies there must be a what? New covenant, right? Yeah. And so when you look at this, this is the reason we talk about the old covenant.
God wants to bring this covenant with Israel that’s founded in law. And so he says, “If you indeed obey my voice and keep my covenants, then you shall be my own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is mine, and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” What God is saying here by calling them a kingdom of priests and a holy nation, the idea of a priest is they represent God before people. And he’s saying to Israel, “Look, you’re going to be my representative to the people groups of this world. I want to establish this covenant with you to make this identity to the rest of the world.”
And so he says, “‘You shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel.’ So Moses came and called the elders of the people and set before them all these words, which the Lord had commanded him. And the people answered together and said, ‘All that the Lord has spoken, we will do.’ And Moses brought back the words of the people to the Lord.” So what you see in this story is as God comes down, he says, “I want to establish this covenant. Do you want this covenant?” And the people say yes. In fact, when you turn to Exodus, chapter 20, what you see right after that then are the terms of the covenant. It’s the Ten Commandments.
What’s interesting, if you ever read the Ten Commandments, is if you study the Ten Commandments as as they’ve been pronounced throughout the world, not every group in the world writes the commandments the same way. You might be used to seeing the Ten Commandments a certain way, but not everywhere in the world do they write the commandments the same way. And you might be wondering why in the world would they do that? It’s the Ten Commandments, right? Well, if you actually read Exodus, chapter 20, you’ll see that some of these commandments are written in paragraphs, and everyone wants to summarize them into sentences. And some groups in trying to summarize these commandments have taken paragraphs and actually made another commandment. So there’s some groups that believe that there’s 11 commandments that God gave.
But nonetheless, when God sets the terms of his commandments, Exodus, chapter 20, is where they’re listed, and we can’t argue with that. So if you want to know what these terms of the covenant is, God brings them in Exodus 20. He in fact goes on to start elaborating on them further, all the way to chapter 24. And when you get to the end of chapter 24, verse 7, it says that Israel again affirms before God that they want to obey this covenant.
So let me ask, what’s the purpose of the law in this covenant? Well, I think for Israel and for God, it’s a demonstration of holiness, and what I mean is this. For Israel, it certainly sets them apart. That’s what holy means, you’re set apart. And how are they set apart? Well, it tells us in verse 6. They’re a priesthood, a holy nation. You’re set apart as a representation of God to this world. So Israel in these moments are set apart, and it gives them identity.
There’s not a verse that communicates what I’m about to tell you, but there is a way in which theologians have categorized this law, and they’ve broken it down into three categories. When God brought this law to Israel, he said, there’s the moral law, there’s the civil law, and there’s the ceremonial law. The moral law is morality. Don’t steal, don’t take the Lord’s name in vain, don’t kill, don’t covet. There’s the idea of moral law.
And then there’s the idea of civil law. This is how they’re to live governmentally as a people group. You can imagine coming out of Egypt being under the thumb of Pharaoh, and now you’ve got all these people and you’re wondering what in the world are we going to follow? What law are we going to uphold? So you find a governmental law given to them, or a civil law.
And then there’s a ceremonial law that God gives to them. The ceremonial law has to do with their customs in worship and what God desires. Some of those are very strange. If you ever read Old Testament laws, you’re like, “This does not compute in my brain as to what should make sense,” and so there’s this cultural understanding, even their ceremonial laws that were so separated from today that oftentimes we might have a hard time when we read these laws, understanding exactly why God said what he said.
But categorically there are these three types of laws given to Israel, and it shows the distinctness. It really separates them from other nations. A lot of their laws are opposed directly to false gods in the land. Sometimes God tells them to do something or not do something simply because other nations with false gods are doing something. And he says, “Look, I want you to be distinct. You’re not going to do that.” And so God distinguishes Israel in their holiness, being set apart from God. God gives them this law, and it helps them find identity. Remember, this is one of the questions of who are we? We’ve seen who we are in an individual basis, but who are we collectively? We’re God’s people.
And not only does it demonstrate the holiness of Israel, the set apart of Israel, but it also demonstrates the holiness of God, because when you read the Book of Exodus and the Book of Leviticus, God’s holiness is certainly demonstrated in this law. Here’s how it happens. God comes down, Exodus 19, and through the rest of the book, what he gives to Israel is law, and he gives to them the idea of temple. So if you read from 19 on, what you’re going to see is God declaring how to build the temple and God declaring what the law is.
But when you get to Exodus, chapter 32, here’s what’s crazy. Israel’s given the law to chapter 24, then in chapter 24 God’s telling Israel how to build the temple. And soon as God’s done, Moses goes up on a mountain, and Israel is like, “Oh, we don’t know where Moses went. Aaron, build us a golden calf.” And Aaron builds a golden calf, and Israel worships the golden calf. The first two commandments, they break within the first few minutes after Moses has gone, “No other gods before me” and “No graven images.” And Israel can’t even keep two commandments, let alone the rest of the first 10 that God gave them.
And so it demonstrates to us God’s holiness. Not only that, when you get to the Book of Leviticus, Leviticus means law. It’s the giving of the law. The very beginning of Leviticus, Leviticus, chapter 1, verse 1, it says Moses hears from God outside of the temple. What it’s demonstrating is God’s holiness. He’s so holy that Moses can’t even get near God. He can’t even go in the temple, that he has to stand outside of the temple to even hear from God. When you get to Leviticus, chapter 10, Aaron’s two sons, Amminadab and Nahum, go into the temple, and they come before God and they don’t even make the right kind of sacrifice that God even requires them, and God consumes them immediately. God is holy.
But here’s where Israel got lost in religion. They found their sole identity in this law. God never intended this law to be an end. God intended this law to be a means to an end. Let me explain. Israel started looking to this law as salvation in itself. Obey these rules and you get to go to heaven. Obey these rules and you will make God happy. God will think you’re so great, he just can’t turn you down. Now, here’s the problem with that. When you read even the Ten Commandments, and you can do this later, you go read the Ten Commandments in Exodus, chapter 20, or any other place in scripture that’s it’s written, the Ten Commandments, never will you find the promise of eternal life after these commandments. In fact, God didn’t give Israel just 10 commandments, though you find 10 commandments in Exodus, chapter 20. What you discover as you read the first five books of the Old Testament, God gave Israel 613 commandments.
It sort of worked like this, that every time Israel would break some sort of moral law, God would come to them and say, “Look, you guys are not being obedient here. Let’s add some more commandments.” And to the point that they get 613 commandments. And nowhere do you find a promise of eternal life by obeying any of them. In fact, during Jesus’s day, there are two prominent religious groups. One’s called the Pharisees, and the other one’s called the Sadducees. If you read the gospels, you’ll see the gospels talking about them.
Here’s what’s interesting about the group called the Sadducees. The Sadducees didn’t even believe in an afterlife. The reason the Sadducees didn’t believe in an afterlife is because the only books of the Bible the Sadducees followed were the first five books of the Bible, and the Sadducees would say, “And we see no communication about any afterlife or promise of an afterlife to us in them; therefore, there is no afterlife.” So to say that obeying the commandments leads to eternity with God doesn’t make any sense.
In fact, even in our world today, if you ask people, where do you think you’re going? Most people generally will tell you heaven, unless they’re trying to be funny, and then sometimes they’ll say hell. But most people will say, “I’m heading to heaven.” And you’ll say, “Okay, how are you getting to heaven?” And then if they have any sort of religious or Judeo-Christian understanding, they’ll say, “Because I obey the commandments.” “Oh, really? Which ones?” “I obey the Ten Commandments.” “Oh, do you really? And what are they?” And then when you try to get them to name them, they’re like, “I don’t know, don’t drink, cuss or chew or run with girls who do. Does that count as the Ten Commandments?” It’s like, “No, but lying is one of them, and you’re lying right now, because you don’t even know what the Ten Commandments are.”
The Ten Commandments will not lead to eternity, and this is where the Israelites get lost in religion. And when you get to heaven, if you even think about it, what is God going to judge you by? You think you’re going to come before God, he’s going to be like, “Hold on a second. Let me bring up my 613 rules for a minute. Sorry, you’re less than 50%, you’re out of here”? Does God grade on a scale? I mean, how does this work? When you get to heaven, is God really going to judge on 613 commandments?
I would even go far as to say this. I really think 613 commandments can’t even begin to list rules of which man’s imagination can go and the possibilities of sin that he can do. These 613 commandments aren’t exhaustive, but the idea of us being able to sin, I think is just endless. So to be able to control that under a list of rules is just, it’s ridiculous. God is not going to pull out 613 commandments and judge you.
You know what he judges you on? Sin. You know what sin is? Contrary to God. Sin is the rebellion against God, it’s choosing anything contrary to his nature. And so these laws aren’t about living them and get life or not live them and get death. These laws point us to the need for God. And three, I would just say this. Even if you obeyed every command, even if that was possible, 613 commands, you were to walk out today and live 613 commands, here’s the tragedy of that. You can do it and not be any closer to God. You can do all of that in your power and never connect to God.
And there are plenty of people today that claim there is no God and do good things, no relationship with God. You can live 613 rules and not be close to God. In fact, guys, I would just say this. God didn’t make you just to make rules. Some people today I think have a hard time with the idea of religion, because that’s how they view it. I’m going to walk into religion, they’re going to tell me my rules, but no thank you. What a killjoy. Who wants to wake up tomorrow and your whole objective of life is not break rules? That’s awful. That is awful. I don’t want to be a part of anything like that at all.
And so when you look at the old covenant, I think it’s important to put and understand exactly what this law is intended to be. Yes, God comes here, and this is a glorious thing. God is revealing himself to people, and God is demonstrating his holiness, and God is separating people to him. But the law isn’t an end in itself, and God has a purpose for that law. In fact, Romans, chapter 3, verse 20, says this, “By the works of the law, no flesh will be made right in God’s sight, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin.”
What’s the purpose of the law? Romans 3:20, “through the law comes the knowledge of sin.” Like anywhere you live in the world, when there is a rule over that or an authority over that or a nation, they establish laws. And what’s laws do? They hold the standard, not to tell you how great you are, but to arrest you if you violate them. The purpose of the law isn’t to free you, it’s to condemn you. It doesn’t tell you how great you are. It tells you how bad you are.
This is why religious people can often be some of the most miserable people on the planet, because they wake up and they think their life is about obeying rules. And when all you hear from religious law is you’re not good enough, it makes you miserable. That doesn’t free you, it binds you, and this is exactly what Jesus tried to, or Jesus did, I should say, help people understand when he came into the New Testament. And this is where the conflict arise. Lost in religion, missing relationship to God. And when Jesus comes in, the very first message he preaches, the very first message, Sermon on the Mount, Matthew, chapter 5, the very first things he starts to say is he elevates those that are oppressed by religion. “Blessed are you. Blessed are you who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Blessed are the poor in spirit.”
And then Jesus says, “You’ve heard it said, you’ve heard it said,” in verse 27, verse 38, verse 43 of Matthew 5 in the Sermon on the Mount, he says, “You’ve heard it said,” and he goes on to quote law. “You’ve heard it said, you shall not commit adultery. You’ve heard it said, you shall not steal.” Then Jesus says, “But I say, he who has lusted in his heart has already done it, and he who has coveted in his heart has already stolen, and he who has been angry in his heart, he’s already murdered.” What’s Jesus saying? Jesus is saying what religion teaches us to do is mask what God really wants, and what God wants is your heart.
I’ll go so far as to say this. Listen, God doesn’t want your behavior. Behavior modification doesn’t necessitate you will be close to the Lord. You can obey 613 commands all day long and be nowhere near God. God doesn’t want your behavior. God wants your heart, because when God gets your heart, he will change your life.
Jesus shows up, and he teaches this, and he wants to eradicate what comes with the old covenant, because what comes in the old covenant you saw in Romans 3:20, it’s judgment. The law reveals our sin, and it reminds us of how much we need the Lord to free us. And so anytime you think in terms of covenant, here’s a question for you. How do you get rid of a covenant? You got the old covenant, now we got the new covenant. Do we have two covenants? What do we do with this? Some people think that we have two covenants. They look at the new covenant and they embrace Jesus and think now let’s go back and live this law.
But Jesus told us this, don’t put new wine in old wineskins. Jesus is saying, “Look, I’m about to do something new. Doing something new means the old is done, so we’re not going back and living 613 rules.” And so how do you get rid of a covenant? Well, there’s two ways to get rid of a covenant. You fulfill it or you die. Guys, Jesus did both.
It tells us in Matthew, chapter 5, Jesus said this, “For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the law until all is accomplished.” What Jesus is saying is, “Look, I’m not undermining the law. It was a godly thing. It was given by God. It’s a beautiful holy thing, and so I’m not just going to do away with it. Rather, here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to fulfill it.” And he goes on in the Book of Colossians and says this, verse 14, “Jesus, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us, and he has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.” So Jesus is saying, “You have the certificate of debt, and where did that debt come from? By breaking God’s law. That’s sin.”
And so what’s Jesus do? He nails it to the cross. Jesus, in fulfilling the law, because he was sinless and in taking it to the cross to pay for your debt, Jesus does away with the old covenant in both forms. In fact, Hebrews 8:13 says this, “When he set a new covenant, he has made the first obsolete.” This word “obsolete” can be translated obliterated. Jesus gets rid of the old covenant. In Romans 10:4, it says this, “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” Now, people look at this and say, “Well, what’s the point of the old covenant? And geez, how do Christians live today?”
And Paul makes both of those arguments, like Romans 3:1, the question that’s posed there is, well, what does that say about the Jews with the old covenant, the Jewish people? Is there any benefit? And he says much, much benefit. Romans 3, that’s his argument. There’s a huge benefit to that, because they’re connected to God, who communicated all of this to them. It’s a beautiful thing. Don’t take away from the sacredness of the Old Testament. It’s a beautiful thing in how God has revealed himself, but it wasn’t an end in itself.
People might ask, “Well, if you don’t obey the old covenant, what do you do as a Christian? You just live like hell, right? Do whatever you want. Jesus fulfilled it all. Who cares?” That’s the argument in Romans 6, where Paul says, “Shall we go on sinning that grace may abound?” Do what you want. Live in the flesh. Live it up, because Jesus paid for it. Isn’t that wonderful? Shall we go on sinning that grace may abound? That’s his argument, Romans 6. And he says, “May it never be.” Why? Because you’ve been bought with the precious blood of the lamb.
That’s incredible. Now, could you imagine how the Jewish community would feel with these kinds of statements? They found their identity in this religious way of thinking. Who is Jesus to come in and teach different? Or even when you get to the New Testament with people like Paul and Peter, and they stand up, and these are devout Jews. And Paul, it tells us in Philippians 3, the Hebrew of Hebrews, of anyone in the Jewish people that obeyed the law, it was Paul, and now Paul in Romans that we just quoted 3:6, and even Peter standing up and saying, “Look, it’s not about the law.” If you read in the Bible in Acts, chapter 15, huge division, and the Jerusalem church comes together to debate, do we have to obey the law? And Peter stands up and says no.
What would have had to have happened for the Jewish people to take that kind of step? Well, the answer is, it’s fulfilled in Jesus. Now, I want you to see this in Romans 3 and Romans 5. I’m going to end with these two sections of scripture, and I’m going to do this really fast, guys. But I want you to see how this lays out in scripture, because here’s what’s important. Most of the world thinks religiously, and religion binds you, because Jesus frees you. And more than anything, what he desires for your soul this morning and you being a light for Jesus, is for people to find that freedom in him.
And when people trust in a religious system that they know doesn’t measure up or they find out it doesn’t measure up, it’s hard to trust anything again. When you’ve been burned, you don’t want to trust anything. You’re skeptical. But we want to encourage people to lean into Jesus, because he’s what sets them free. And this is why Paul wrote Romans. This is why Paul wrote Galatians. And I just want you to see the argument, because this changes everything. This is why you have an old and new covenant. This is the huge debate in scripture. This matters for your spiritual life.
So look at this. “Now, the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, ‘and to seeds’ as referring to many, but rather to one, and to your seed, that is Christ. What I am saying is this, the law which came 430 years later does not invalidate a covenant previously ratified by God so as to nullify the promise, for in the inheritance is based on the law, it is no longer based on a promise, but God has granted it to Abraham by means of a promise.” Now, let me tell you what this is saying. We’ve studied Abraham, we’ve studied Moses. Between these two are over 400 years. You remember in Genesis 12, Genesis 15, Genesis 17, Genesis 22, God comes before Abraham and says, “Through your seed, I’m going to bless all nations.” Through seed singular, I’m going to bless all nations.
Then 400-some years later, he comes to Moses, particularly to the Jewish people, and says, “I’m going to give you law, and it’s going to give you identity, and I want you to live this law as a demonstration of my glory in this world.” And here’s what he’s saying. God gave promise to Abraham, and God didn’t obligate man in this covenant at all. God declared on his grace that he would bless the world through one seed, and he’s saying in this story, that seed is Jesus. Through one would come the blessing, and that promise is not ratified by the covenant. This promise supersedes all of it.
And this promise of law did come later, but it doesn’t negate the promise that was previously given to Abraham. And so the question then is this, why then the law? And so he answers it, “It was added because of transgressions, because having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator until the seed would come to whom the promise had been made.” So it’s saying, “Look, it was given to you because man is sinful and we just see our need for God until the mediator who is Jesus would come.” Verse 20, “Now a mediator is not for one party only, whereas God is only one. Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? May it never be, for if a law had been given, which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on the law. But the scripture has showed everyone understands that the promise by faith in Jesus might be given to those who believe.”
So what he’s saying in the story is, look, the law came by mediator, Moses and angels, but here’s what God wants. He doesn’t want a mediator between you and your relationship with him. If the law could’ve given you a life, then God would have let you rest in the law, but the law can’t give life. That’s why Jesus came. Jesus came to give you that life. And so if there would have been a way to have life apart from Jesus, Jesus would have never died.
And so then he says this, “But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up in faith, which was later to be revealed. Therefore, the law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor, for you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for you will all be baptized in Christ, having clothed yourself in Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, for you are all one in Christ, you are Abraham’s descendants.”
And here’s what he’s saying. So you had the law, it was a tutor, but now Jesus has come, the law has been done away with. It’s all about Christ and what he’s done for you. And there is no favoritism in God. There is no Jews are higher than Gentiles or Gentiles are better than Jews. We’re all one in Jesus. And so then the question becomes, how do we live? However you want? Christians are lawless, a bunch of rebels, right? Lawbreaking, sinful human beings, we are. What do you do?
And Paul in Galatians 5 makes that argument. He says this guys, and this is where our freedom is, and I hope your soul rests here. “But I say walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh, for the flesh sets its desires against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh. For these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such things, there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with his passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.”
The Bible says this, “Walk by the Spirit.” Walk by the Spirit is a way of saying surrender. Take who you are, because God wants your heart, and surrender it wholly to the Lord. And this idea of surrendering isn’t like this voodoo spiritual magic where you just flap your arms and say you’re surrendered. “Ooh,” like that. It’s this completely laying yourself down to God. By the way, if you want to raise your arms and praise the Lord, do that. I don’t have anything against it, but what I’m saying is, it’s not this mystical emptying of yourself. It’s this complete understanding, surrendering yourself to God.
It doesn’t mean you can’t say hard things. Some people think that because it’s Spirit that you can only say nice things. Spirit can say confrontational things. In fact, at the beginning of Galatians, Paul confronts Peter to his face. It tells us, that’s how the book opens. Doesn’t give you permission to go be a jerk, but it does mean that there can be hard things. But the idea is this, that you completely surrender to God.
And here’s what this idea of surrender introduces to us. Look in verse 22, “The fruit of the Spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness. Against such things there is no law.” What it’s getting us to identify is when we walk in the Spirit, these are completely relational words. God didn’t make you for religion, God made you for relationship. Here’s how you know if you’re walking in the Spirit, if you’re living the fruit of the Spirit. If you’re being a jerk, if you’re being selfish, if you’re being angry, if you’re belittling people, if you’re being indifferent and passive, any of those things, that’s not walking in the Spirit. That’s not Jesus.
But he says, “When we walk in the Spirit against such things, there is no law,” and here’s what he’s saying. A Christian doesn’t wake up tomorrow and say, “You know, I’m going to try really hard to obey all these rules. I hope I don’t mess up these rules.” A Christian wakes up tomorrow and says, “I want to be near to God. God, you’ve given me this day in my life, and it’s yours. God, I’m giving myself over to you. Glorify yourself through me.” And what this passage of scripture is saying is when our heart becomes about that, we will naturally not sin, because the reason for it is because our desire is to connect to God, and when you’re connected to God, you’re opposed directly against sin.
Your objective in life isn’t to not sin. That’s awful. That’s religion. Your objective to life is relationship in Christ, and through that life your life flourishes in him, if you would but lay down yourself. And the fruit of that is made known, and Paul gives us a way to examine it. Well, if I say I’m surrendered to God, how will I really know? Well, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness is a mark of your life. So when you look back all the way through this Old Testament and you see these weird, strange laws and you try to make sense of them, what is God communicating through all of it? Our need for him, our need for him. He’s also communicating his desire to connect to us. And through it all, he’s now given us the opportunity to completely experience that in Jesus, so we can lay it on ourselves and not live for rules, but to live for Christ, and against such things there is no law.
Let me say it like this. I think religion, and maybe even you just look at Judaism even, it started with the greatest of intentions, but even things of good intentions can rob you for the greater joy for which Jesus has created you in him. Don’t let good things keep you from God things. The point of all of this is to lean into Jesus. Even in your life, you found yourself burned religiously in the past, lean into Jesus, because that’s where the journey begins.