A couple of weeks ago, when Barack Obama came to visit the UK, he was photographed meeting many different people. But I think there was one person Obama met that most stood out. He met Prince George. After this meeting the newspapers were awash with the story of the most powerful leader in the world stooping down to meet a 2 year old in his dressing gown!
Now Prince George was able to enjoy that privilege not because of anything he had done. He was able to meet Obama because of the family he belonged to. Specifically, he was the first-born son of Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, and therefore he was an heir to the throne. One day he would inherit the throne of the United Kingdom.
Well, I want to suggest in a similar way to Prince George, Christians are bearers of great privilege and a great inheritance. Thanks to Christ’s work for us on the cross we are adopted into his family and we are all heirs to God’s Kingdom. Once we grasp this, then we will look at what effect this astounding news might have on us.
1. Christians are children of God by faith in Christ
Firstly, we are children of God by faith in the Gospel. In other words, we are adopted into God’s family when we believe the good things Jesus has done for us. If we cast our minds back to the beginning of this series we heard Mike talk about the centrality of the gospel in Paul’s letter. In chapter 1, verse 4 we are told about “The Lord Jesus Christ who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father.”
Therefore, we have nothing to add. We are unable to rescue ourselves. God, in his mercy gave us his Son to rescue us from the present evil age. Paul repeats this good news again just before our reading in Galatians Chapter 3 verse 13, he says: Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us. And in John’s gospel, Jesus says on the cross “it is finished.” We are rescued from sin by what Jesus did on the cross. It is done, completed, accomplished, concluded.
We have been rescued and we no longer have to worry about the wrath of God’s just judgement. We are now sons of God. Christ has secured peace with the father - we are forgiven - there is nothing more for us to add. This has been at the centre of what Paul has been arguing in his letter to the Galatians. But now Paul moves on from this basic truth. He moves on to the question of how we should live now that we have been rescued.
2. Christians are clothed with Christ
In verses 26 and 27 today Paul tells us we are all children of God and that we have been clothed with Christ. This clothing metaphor is one of Paul’s favourites and it appears quite a bit in his other letters. Clearly its a very important idea Paul wants to communicate to us. So let’s take some time to dwell on what it means to be clothed with Christ. To put on Christ as we put on our clothes.
Firstly, our clothes say something about our identity. We express ourselves through what we wear and we communicate something of ourselves when we put on some clothes instead of others. Our clothes may say something of our gender, our class, our culture, or our sub-culture. But also I think what we wear affects how we act. We may feel different and act differently in our best suits or dresses compared to how we feel and act in our dressing gowns or pjamas. So to be clothed in Christ is an illustration of our identity. How do you think you would regard yourself if you knew you were clothed in Christ. What difference to our actions do you think it would make if we knew we were wearing Christ?
Secondly, and much more simply, our clothes are the possessions which are physically closest to us. We rely on them in every moment and they go everywhere with us. The same is true with our relationship to Christ. We rely on him, and he goes everywhere with us. To be clothed in Christ is an illustration of his closeness to us. What difference would it make to how we see ourselves and act if we knew that Christ was so close to us so often?
Thirdly, to be clothed in Christ is to look like Christ. This means we become like him. We are his imitators. This is a promise that God makes to us. That he will transform us to become more and more like Christ. To love more like him. To worship God more like him. To be led by the Spirit more like him. And, most wonderfully, when God looks at us, he sees His beloved Son. Specifically, the righteousness of His Son.
Fourthly, to be clothed with Christ is to be accepted by God. In the same way that clothing covers our literal nakedness, so the clothing of Christ covers our sinfulness before the sight of the Lord. We have broken his holy laws, as we said earlier we have not loved God and one another as we ought. All the ugly things we have thought, said and done to ourselves, God, and one another are hidden from God’s sight. In their place is the perfect righteousness of Christ, who fulfilled the law and sacrificed himself for us. Because of this we are able to step into Christ’s work for us and enjoy peace with the Father. We are totally justified in the sight of God and we are loved as unconditionally as a father loves a Son.
So we all wear the clothes of Christ that provide us with identity, represent our closeness with Christ, make us look like Christ and enable us to be accepted by God by covering our sinfulness.
3. Christians are one family with a great inheritance
Paul then draws all the threads together by saying we are all sons of God. We are all sons of God before we are rich or poor, black or white, middle class or working class, British or foreign. We are all one in Christ. Paul continues: “if we belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (v.29) In other words, if we are all sons, then we are all inheritors of all God promised to Abraham.
Now some of you may be wondering why I am sticking to the gender-specific word “Son” instead of “child” or “Sons and daughters,” This is quite deliberate because in the context Paul was writing in, the eldest son had a specific legal implication: he would inherit all of his father’s possessions, and his status (both legal status and social status) – even if there were other siblings. Everything went to the son. Nothing was divided. With this in mind we can see what a privilege it is to gain this status of son and heir. All of us, male and female are promised an inheritance from God. So by faith we are clothed with Christ we are sons of God; inheritors of God’s promise.
But what is this promise that we inherit? In verse 29 Paul refers to the promise given to Abraham’s seed. Now, all the way near the beginning of the Bible in Genesis chapter 12 God promises to Abraham that he will make him into a great nation, that he will bless Abraham, that he will make Abraham’s name great and that he will be the means through which all the families of the earth shall be blessed. We are adopted into Abraham’s family. We are Abraham’s seed. And so, as his offspring, we inherit this promise of greatness and blessing.
But that’s not all, Christ fulfils this promise and reveals more of what it means to us. Most noticeably in our passage today we see in verse 6 that we receive the spirit of his Son into our heart. The Spirit who calls out “Abba, Father.” It is this Spirit which enables the truth to settle within us. It enables us to feel the reality of this truth. The truth that we are rescued by the sacrifice Christ made on the cross. That we are inheritors of God’s promises to Abraham. And once this truth settles in our hearts, the same Spirit motivates us to act in a different way. A way that bears fruit. And this is what we will look at next week when we will learn about the fruit of the Spirit.