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June 13, 2022
“. . . the region of the Gerasenes, which is across the lake from Galilee” (Luke 8: 26) where Jesus sent the demons from a man into “a large herd of pigs feeding on the hillside. . . and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.”) (Excerpts Luke 8: 32,33). This is also the site of the Nukeib Lookout memorial remembering the Israeli soldiers who fell on March 16, 1962 during a battle with the Syrian Army who were shooting Israeli fishermen and other civilians on the lake. (DCR, March 11, 2022).

But before the time for faith came, the Law kept us all locked up as prisoners until this coming faith could be revealed. And so the Law was in charge of us until Christ came, in order that we might then be put right with God through faith. Now that the time for faith is here, the Law is no longer in charge of us.” (Galatians 3:23-25, Good News Translation) 

The law can be a confusing subject.  When I started law school we were required to take a course called Legal Process.  The course gave us an overview of various laws found in statutes and in case law, how they applied to different issues in our society, and how they were implemented.  That introductory course put the law into context for us.  The references to the law in the Bible are also a bit confusing.  What is the law according to the Bible?  Didn’t Paul tell the church in Rome that the law still applies to us? (Romans 7:7).   Then why did he tell the Galatians that the law “is no longer in charge of us?” We need to put the Biblical references to the law into context.

The “law” as the word is used in the Bible is an umbrella term that covers three kinds of laws: ceremonial law, civil law, and moral law.

The ceremonial law refers to various worship practices, such as animal sacrifice. 

The civil laws in the Old Testament were rules that governed daily life—many of which are not applicable to modern society. For example, Moses stated that when a person makes a loan to another, he is not to go inside the person’s home to get the man’s pledge, but instead, should wait outside (Deut. 24: 10-11). This was a rule established by customs that do not apply to us today.  

However, the moral law, the direct commands of God, such as those included in the Ten Commandments still apply to us today because they reveal God’s will for us.  It is important that we obey and follow the will of God as revealed in the Bible. 

In next Sunday’s epistle lesson, Paul explains that before Jesus was resurrected, we were prisoners of ceremonial law regarding worship; those laws pointed the way to Christ.  But since Christ died for our sins, we are no longer subject to those ceremonial laws. We have been pardoned: “But before the time for faith came, the Law kept us all locked up as prisoners until this coming faith could be revealed. And so the Law was in charge of us until Christ came, in order that we might then be put right with God through faith. Now that the time for faith is here, the Law is no longer in charge of us” (Galatians 3:23-25).[1]  Christ set us free from those laws!

The moral law shows us our need for salvation.  It is a mirror of our true selves.  It shows us our sin.  Paul says that without the law he would not know how sinful he is: “What shall we say then?  Is the law sin?  Certainly not! Indeed, I would not have known what sin was except through the law” (Romans 7: 7).  The moral law shows us that because of our sin, we need the grace that God extends to us by forgiving our sins and promising that we will be with him forever.  We do not obey the law to obtain salvation, but instead, to live in a way that is pleasing to God.  If I love God, I will want to obey and please him.  

If we do not receive salvation by obeying God, by following the law, then how do we earn salvation?  We don’t.  There is nothing that you or I can do to secure our salvation.  Jesus did that for us when he died on the cross for our sins. Our salvation was secured by God’s grace in sending his Son to die for us.  God’s grace secured our salvation. 

We have been released from the ceremonial law, and our sins have been pardoned by the blood of Christ.  God’s blessing of salvation is available to everyone in all nations who believe that Christ died for his or her sins: “I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me; I was found by those who did not seek me. To a nation that did not call on my name, I said, ‘Here am I, here am I’” (Isaiah 65: 1).  

God sent his Spirit to help us through this life, and to keep us on the road that will lead us to our forever home when we step out into eternity.  When we put our trust in God, he will protect and deliver us to himself: “But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high.  I call out to the Lord, and he answers me from his holy mountain . . . From the Lord comes deliverance” (Psalm 3:3-4, 8). But being delivered to God does not mean that we will escape all pain and suffering.  We still live in a fallen world.

Christ’s death and resurrection did not erase sin from the world.  And why not? Because God did not create us to be cookie-cutter automatons.  We are all unique individuals stamped in the image of God.  We are each given a free will.  Sin still has a hold on us.  The good news is that when we join the family of God, and deepen our relationship with him, we move closer to God during our faith journey, and he continually forgives our mess-ups when we ask for forgiveness.  Jesus releases us from our sin as he released the demons from the man on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. “The demons [who possessed the man] begged Jesus to let them go into the pigs, and he gave them permission. When the demons came out of the man, they went into the pigs . . .” (Luke 8: 32-33)  

We are his children whom he has redeemed: God sent his Son “to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.  Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts” (Galatians 4: 5-6).  God has done everything in his vast powers to bring us to him—short of removing our free will.  God will not force his love on us. Jesus didn’t force himself on anyone: “Then all the people . . . asked Jesus to leave them, because they were overcome with fear. So he got into the boat and left” (Luke 8: 37).

 Forced love is an oxymoron.  Forced love is not love; it is subjugation.  We are not God’s subjects.  We are his precious children whom he dearly loves and for whom he sent his Son to die for our sins.  He knew that we would sin, but he sacrificed his Son to pay for our sins. He pardoned us! 

We are free from the tyranny of sin. We have been set free, like the demon-possessed man.  The chains have been loosed, the bonds cut—we are free. 

What does a pardoned person do? She delights in her newfound freedom.  And she shares the good news of her pardon with others! Go and do likewise.

Prayer:   Father, we thank you for adopting us into your family—for making us your sons and daughters.  Thank you for giving us the moral law, and for setting us free from the ceremonial law.  We are grateful for the free will you have blessed us with, but it gets us into trouble daily.  Thank you for pardoning us, and for the promise of spending eternity with you. Amen

Diane Cieslikowski Reagan

[1] The Scripture text for next Sunday are Isaiah 65: 1-9; Psalm 3; Galatians 3: 23-4: 7; Luke 8: 26-39.

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