Galatians 3.7-14

Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.
For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.

–Devotion–

Paul is writing to refute the idea that the old laws of Judaism still needed to be added for Christianity to be sincere and effective. Strangely, even with letters like Galatians existing for millenia in the Church, these ideas of the old laws of Judaism needing to be practiced for faith to be sincere still manifest themselves and other laws (which are not old laws of Judaism but lie in a similar vein) are established. Examples are that of the commandment, “Honor the Sabbath and keep it holy,” which is badly interpreted for Christians when it is made into a civil law or requirement banning work on the first day of the week. This is even worse when these sorts of laws are applied to unbelieving people! In another way, and one that us Lutherans have experience with, law concerning alcohol are made.

I remember growing up in a dry county. I think the initial fear was a moral one. It was a similar fear that inspire the Prohibition laws. A fear that alcohol was a catalyst to public moral corruption. Historically I think there was justification for such thinking. But now that those laws were gone the laws concerning alcohol were more aligned with theological conviction of certain denominational lines than a true fear of public moral corruption (this was clear to me when I realized all the residents of our county who wanted to have a drink drove the ten miles to the county line). Now it is contested by some that Christians who drink alcohol are less Christian than others, or at least weaker, and they need to submit to self-denial for their faith to be more sincere. To them, may I recommend, you take an especially large sip from the Chalice this Sunday! This is to remind yourself of your freedom from such laws in Christ. But, we must also not flaunt our freedom in a way that offends our neighbors–for they are the weak ones. We must not use our freedom as a license for drunkenness, but as a license for rational conversation in the hopes of freeing consciences. So, let St. Paul be our pattern and guide as he tries to direct those enslaved by others into a more brilliant freedom brought about by the Work of our Lord.

Pastor Beltz

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