The Gospel of the Adopted (Gal. 4:1-7).

Galatians 4:1-7 ESV

I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, 2 but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. 3 In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. 4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

We have been studying the book of Galatians for the past several months. The churches in the Galatian region consisted mostly of new Gentile believers. The churches traced their origin to Paul’s evangelistic ministry, but they had been under their own control for some years. Some “troublers” had come to the region, preaching that Gentile Christians need to follow the Mosaic law and Jewish traditions. Paul’s letter to the Galatians is his attempt to undo the damage that those troublers had done.

Last month we looked at chapter 3, in which Paul explained that Gentiles who put their faith in Christ receive the same promise that Abraham did, are redeemed by the same blood of Christ, and have responded correctly to the same Gospel message.

Paul continues in chapter 4 to show the Galatians that they do not need to turn to the law to be recipients of Abraham’s blessing. In today’s text, he uses the metaphor of adoption to get that point across.

Verse 6 begins with the words “And because you are sons.” By that Paul is saying that the Gentile believers who have put their faith in Christ are already sons of God. Being a son of God means that you have been forgiven, and that you now represent God as a member of his family, and that you will inherit the blessing he has promised.

Paul had told the Galatians “for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.” He had told the Romans something similar:
Romans 8:19, 23 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

So one of the outcomes of our being adopted now is that when Jesus comes we will be a part of his restored creation. We will be immortal and glorious.

But the important message for the Galatians was that the adoption has already taken place. It is not something that we have to wait for, and it is certainly not something that we have to work for. The only work that needed to be done to make us sons of God was the work of Christ on the cross. And that is a finished work. Jesus said on the cross “it is finished.” Because of what he did then, we are sons of God now.

Note that Christ was sent, and redeemed us “so that we might receive adoption as sons ” (vs. 5).

But this is the point that Paul is making relating to the problem the troublers have caused: Believing Jews were also adopted into the family of God on the same basis: faith in Christ.

In verse 3, look at the words “we also.” Who are the “we” that Paul is talking about? The answer is in verse 5: “those who were under the law.” In verse 4 he said that Christ was “born under the law.” We have already seen in Gal. 3 that the law became a curse for all those who tried to keep it in their own strength, but couldn’t.

So Gal. 4:1-5 is autobiographical. In it, Paul is saying that he (along with a whole bunch of other Jews) had been enslaved by the law. He was trying to use the law to become righteous like God, and it wasn’t working. The “elementary principles of the world” (I believe these are demons) used the law to keep him in bondage.
Then Paul met Christ. Paul realized that Christ fulfilled the law, and believing in Christ is what would make him righteous. Finally he was free!

Here was the problem for the Galatians. They started out in bondage. They were under the power of demons who pretended to be gods. When they responded to the Gospel that Paul preached, they were freed from that bondage, and adopted as sons of God. But the troublers came, introducing another type of bondage. Because they wanted to please God, they were being tempted to exchange their freedom for that bondage. But Paul told them that the good news stays good news. God did not trick them into a new kind of slavery.

Instead, being adopted into the family of God takes away your burdens, and substitutes benefits.

The first benefit is redemption. Paul says “you are no longer a slave (7).” Gentiles are redeemed by the same blood of Christ that redeemed believing Jews (5).

The second benefit is relationship. The Holy Spirit within us enables us to cry out to God (6), and the blood of Christ, having cleansed us, enables God to hear us, because it has reestablished redeemed humanity to the status of sons of God.

The third benefit is reward. We are now heirs. We will inherit the kingdom of God, immortality and will keep our status as sons throughout eternity.

The questions that Galatians asks of us are the same ones that Paul asked of the Galatians. Since you responded to the Gospel and received his salvation by faith, have you changed your mind. Since you surrendered the reins of your life to God’s grace, have you taken them back again? At some point have you decided “I can obey the ten commandments,” “I can read my bible,” “I can pray,” “I can give my offerings.”

Whenever we are tempted to think that we can handle the Christian life in our own strength, we are being demonically tempted the way the Galatians were. The Christian life is not just introduced by faith it is by faith from first to last.

So Paul told the Galatians that Christ did not set us free for us to fall back into bondage, even the bondage that the troublers were offering. When we do the right things in order to be saved, we are turning against the Gospel of grace. We are putting our trust in our own works, rather than the finished work of Christ. So Paul encouraged the Galatians to stand firm, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. The same is true of us. Our actions should result from our relationship with God, empowered by his Holy Spirit.

HEAVENLY FATHER, help us to stand firm in our faith in Christ alone.
Help us to walk in freedom as the adopted sons that we are.
May our lives give you glory because they manifest love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control that comes from freedom.

ACST 15. The Immortal One (first revision)

Clearly, some of God’s attributes are exclusive to him alone. No one can fathom a universe containing more than one immeasurable and immutable being. Advent Christians would argue that the attribute of immortality is also exclusive to God alone – at least this side of the resurrection. We agree with the apostle Paul when he says that God “alone has immortality” (1 Timothy 6:16), and take that statement at face value.

While many of our arguments tend to address the issue of the nature of man, it is actually this fact about God which we are most anxious to defend. We feel that to claim that anyone else has this attribute is to rob God of something that the Bible claims is exclusively his. One might argue that anyone’s concept of the nature of man, while important, is hardly important enough to make a distinctive doctrine. But the nature of God was one of the first theological issues ever to be deemed important enough to create controversy in the early church. Surely the modern church cannot afford to be indifferent on this issue.


The Greek word for immortality that is used in 1 Tim. 6:16 is a good starting point. In the Bible, this word is never used as an attribute of anyone else but God this side of the resurrection at Christ’s second coming. The verse itself lists a number of exclusive attributes of God, namely, 1) his immortality; 2) his existence in inapproachable light; 3) his invisibility due to that exclusive existence; 4) his deserving everlasting honor and eternal dominion. Paul made concessions on neither of these points. The reader has every right to assume that Paul was referring to a God who met all of these qualifications, and that no one else did.

Yet as it pertains to that first attribute, it has come to be popular and “orthodox” to make all kinds of concessions. Matthew Henry, for example, says that God “only is immortal in himself, and has immortality as he is the fountain of it, for the immortality of angels and spirits derived from him.”1 So the hypothetical “box” in which we might put all immortal beings is actually not exclusive at all. It contains not only God, but all of those sentient creatures created by him, both human and angelic. Perhaps we should be grateful that cats and dogs did not make the grade.

Lately evangelical scholars see the dilemma in accepting what Paul said about God in 1 Tim. 6:16. Their conclusions, however, are ultimately the same as Matthew Henry’s. Peterson, for example, states the “orthodox” position quite well in his recent debate with Fudge. He said that “Plato held to the soul’s natural or inherent immortality. By contrast, evangelical Christians hold that God alone is inherently immortal (1 Tim. 6:16) and that he confers immortality to all human beings.”2 But once the “and that he confers” is added to the equation, the dilemma begins. 1 Tim. 6:16 says nothing about God conferring his exclusive attribute to all human beings. Either that attribute is exclusive or it is not. Advent Christians see no clear contrast between the view of Plato and that of our brother evangelicals who hold Peterson’s view.

The onus is ours, however, as Advent Christians, to back up this bold claim that God’s immortality is exclusive. Ours is the minority position. That is why a study of the terms used in the Bible to imply immortality is helpful. The study shows that the concept of immortality does not apply to angels and human beings by default. This adds justification for our being obstinate enough to hold to the exclusive immortality of God in spite of its being an unpopular doctrine.

The noun Athanasia only appears three times in the canonical Bible. It makes no appearance in the entire Old Testament. Besides 1 Tim. 6:16, it only appears in 1 Corinthians 15:53-54.

For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”

The ESV translators, normally sticklers to word-for-word accuracy, betray their theological bias here by supplying the word body twice in verse 53, even though there is no Greek equivalent in the original. Paul actually agrees with what he stated in 1 Tim. 6:16. Since God alone is immortal, something will have to change in order for human beings, who are perishable and mortal, to become immortal. That change will take place at the resurrection.

There is no indication in the text itself that human mortality pertains only to our bodies. That is a concept that is assumed by the proponents of natural or inherent immortality, and denied by Advent Christians, who propose that immortality is only potential. 1 Cor. 15 and 1 Tim. 6:16 both serve as evidence for the potential immortality position. While 1 Cor. 15 shows that immortality (athanasia) is not currently a present possession (even for the saved), 1 Tim. 6:16 identifies the one being who is the exception to that rule, and presently has athanasia.

The Apocrypha provides seven more instances of the term. While we cannot rely on the Apocrypha as a standard for proof of a doctrine, we can consult it in order to establish how certain terms were used, which is a reflection of their understood meaning. Were we, for example, to find numerous references to athansia as a natural human attribute it might show that intertestamental Jews viewed humans as naturally immortal beings.

4 Maccabees 8-18 contains an account describing the torture of seven young men and their mother by the Tyrant (Antiochus IV). Instances of the term athanasia occur in two places. In 4 Maccabees 14:4-5 the writer says that “none of the seven youths proved coward or shrank from death, but all of them, as though running the course toward immortality, hastened to death by torture” (RSV). From this we can infer that intertestamental Jews did have the concept of immortality, but saw it as something to be earned through diligent faithfulness to God. It was certainly not an attribute taken for granted as the natural possession of all human beings.

The second occurance of athanasia refers to the mother, who, “as though having a mind like adamant and giving rebirth for immortality to the whole number of her sons, she implored them and urged them on to death for the sake of religion” (4 Maccabees 16:13). The mother is pictured as encouraging her sons to stay true to their faith in God with such zeal that it is like she was giving birth to them all over again, this time for immortality instead of mortality (as it was in the first instance of her giving birth to them). Again, there is no innate, inherent immortality described here. Immortality is something to be gained by a martyr’s death for the seven sons. Their mother, who gave them natural birth, did not in so doing impart to them immortality.

All the other instances of the term athanasia occur in The Wisdom of Solomon.
Notice this revealing statement about the destiny of the righteous:

Wisdom 3:1-4 RSV

But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and no
torment will ever touch them. In the eyes of the foolish they
seemed to have died, and their departure was thought to be an
affliction, and their going from us to be their destruction;
but they are at peace. For though in the sight of men they
were punished, their hope is full of immortality.

As in 4 Maccabees, athanasia is seen as potential for humans, because the righteous will be resurrected, but athanasia is not an inherent attribute.

Wisdom 4:1-7 RSV

… in the memory of virtue is immortality, because it is known
both by God and by men. When it is present, men imitate it, and
they long for it when it has gone; and throughout all time it marches
crowned in triumph, victor in the contest for prizes that are undefiled.
But the prolific brood of the ungodly will be of no use, and none of their illegitimate seedlings will strike a deep root or take a firm hold. For
even if they put forth boughs for a while, standing insecurely they will
be shaken by the wind, and by the violence of the winds they will be
uprooted. The branches will be broken off before they come to maturity,
and their fruit will be useless, not ripe enough to eat, and good for
nothing. For children born of unlawful unions are witnesses of evil
against their parents when God examines them. But the righteous man,
though he die early, will be at rest.

Here is no denial of the reality of death, but a glimpse beyond it, to a resurrected virtuous person, known both by God and by men. The ungodly, though they might produce a prolific brood, will be uprooted. Notice, again, that there is no mention of athanasia as a common trait held by all humans. A resurrection unto immortality is only the hope of the righteous.

Wisdom 8:13-17 RSV
Because of {wisdom} I shall have immortality, and leave an everlasting remembrance to those who come after me. I shall govern peoples, and
nations will be subject to me; dread monarchs will be afraid of me when
they hear of me; among the people I shall show myself capable, and courageous in war. When I enter my house, I shall find rest with her, for companionship with her has no bitterness, and life with her has no pain,
but gladness and joy. When I considered these things inwardly, and
thought upon them in my mind, that in kinship with wisdom there is immortality…

Wisdom, as defined by the wisdom literature of the Bible and related works like The Wisdom of Solomon is the ability to make correct moral choices which lead to God’s favor. In the Bible, those correct moral choices usually led to a long healthy life, but by the time The Wisdom of Solomon was written, one’s eternal destiny was also seen as a consequence of living wisely. It is the route to eventual athanasia. It is a narrow path that does not include everyone on the planet. It is not innate, nor is the immortality it produces.

Wisdom 15:1-3 RSV
But thou, our God, art kind and true, patient, and ruling all things
in mercy. For even if we sin we are thine, knowing thy power; but
we will not sin, because we know that we are accounted thine. For
to know thee is complete righteousness, and to know thy power is
the root of immortality.

In the New Testament we found that athanasia was an exclusive attribute of God, but a hope for humanity. In this final reference to athanasia in the Apocrypha, we see a relationship with God as the only means of obtaining to that hope.


In the Apocrypha, there are a few instances of the corresponding adjective that we would translate immortal as well. Although this word does not appear in the New Testament, it is helpful to see how it was used.

It is said of Eleazar that “in no way did he turn the rudder of religion until he sailed into the haven of immortal victory” (4 Maccabees 7:3). The most that can be inferred from this metaphorical statement is that Eleazar is counted among those who finished the course of faith, and awaits a resurrection unto immortality. It does not imply that Eleazar was already immortal by nature.

It is said of the aforementioned seven young men that “just as the hands and feet are moved in harmony with the guidance of the mind, so those holy youths, as though moved by an immortal spirit of devotion, agreed to go to death for its sake” (4 Maccabees 14:6). All this implies about these youths is that although their devotion was undying, they were not. You cannot prove that people are immortal from a passage that records their deaths.

Later, the author of 4 Maccabees does state that these “sons of Abraham with their victorious mother are gathered together into the chorus of the fathers, and have received pure and immortal souls from God” (4 Maccabees 18:23). There is a hint of some kind of rewarded state here, but perhaps the reward is merely the certainty of a resurrection unto immortality. At any rate, 1 Corinthians 15 states that the resurrection is when the reward will be realized. If some intertestamental Jews imagined a conscious intermediate state, they were mistaken.

One use of athanatos is found which draws a distinction between God’s righteousness (which is said to be immortal) and secular man’s covenant with death.

Wisdom 1:12-16 (RSV)
Do not invite death by the error of your life, nor bring on destruction
by the works of your hands; because God did not make death, and he
does not delight in the death of the living. For he created all things
that they might exist, and the generative forces of the world are
wholesome, and there is no destructive poison in them; and the
dominion of Hades is not on earth. For righteousness is immortal.
But ungodly men by their words and deeds summoned death;
considering him a friend, they pined away, and they made a covenant
with him, because they are fit to belong to his party.

Here again, there is no mention of a man, or even a part of man, which is immortal by nature. In fact, immortality belongs to the righteous One. Human beings are mortal.
Athanatos is also found in The Wisdom of Sirach:
For we cannot have everything, human beings are not immortal. What is brighter than the sun? And yet it fades. Flesh and blood think of nothing but evil. He surveys the armies of the lofty sky, and all of us are only dust and ashes (Sirach 17:30-32 New Jerusalem Bible).

Here is perhaps the clearest expression of human mortality in the Apocrypha. It says that men do not have the attribute that Paul said only God has. He will always last, but we are “dust and ashes.” The statement is in perfect agreement with the New Testament.


Another adjective – sometimes translated “immortal” in versions of the New Testament – emphasizes the unfailing, imperishable, or incorruptible nature of the noun it modifies. If this adjective were found applied to beings other than God, it would serve as evidence that the NT authors assumed that these beings possessed immortality.
In Romans 1:23 Paul explained that idolatrous humanity “exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.” Notice that only God is placed in the “beings having immortality” box. Man and animals are comfortably placed in the “all others” box.

In 1 Tim. 1:17 Paul ascribes “honor and glory for ever and ever” “unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God.” If the term immortal applies to all other created beings (or at least the higher ones: angels and humans) one wonders why Paul would bother mentioning the attribute. But if the attribute is exclusive to God alone (as Paul later states in chapter 6), his mentioning it here makes perfect sense.

Some might argue that the term “immortal” is appropriate to describe men’s spirits or souls, but not their bodies. As such it might be appropriate to speak of God being immortal in an absolute sense. He has no body to corrupt or perish. This logic only applies if the principles of Platonic anthropology are true. Plato argued that the soul of man is immortal because it is simple, and cannot be divided into composite parts. The notion of human immortality is the result of combining this principle from pagan philosophy with biblical theology. One question Advent Christians ask is “can the Bible be left alone to answer the question of human mortality, or must we borrow from pagan theology to do it?”

All other references to afthartos3 in the New Testament use the term to describe the hope of believers after the resurrection, or some kind of character trait that is imperishable in the sense that it does not fade away with time. There is not one single use of the term applied to human nature itself, body or soul. If this attribute is such an essential part of human identity, one would expect this adjective to be used repeatedly throughout the New Testament in reference to human nature itself.

God’s Identity

Often when God is identified in the Bible, this exclusive attribute is part of his title, identifying him as different from all other beings. He is the Living God.4 He is the eternal God.5 He is the immortal God.6 He is the everlasting God.7 His name and attributes endure forever.8

By contrast, humans are God’s creatures. As such they are dying.9 They are mortal.10 They are perishable.11 They fade away like the color on a leaf.12 They return to the dust from which they were made.13

The Spirit World

Just as the Bible is silent as to the supposed immortality of humanity, it also fails to express what many take for granted as regards the nature of angelic beings in the spirit world. There is no biblical record of the death of any angelic being in the Bible. That fact, however, merely proves that none of these beings have died. It does not prove that none of these beings can die. Those who assume that angels and demons are immortal are not taking careful consideration of two facts: 1) only God is immortal (as is shown by the texts above), 2) longevity is not the same thing as immortality.

A being can live for a billion years and not be immortal. God sets the time-table for the longevity of all his creatures. Some angels created thousands of years ago will apparently never die. They are the “elect angels” who will accompany redeemed humanity into the next age. Although they will never die, they are not – by virtue of this fact – immortal. Their lives are in God’s hands.

Some angels – created at the same time as those “elect angels” – fell from their state of protection by following Satan when he rebelled against God. From that moment when they rebelled their fate was settled. They would join the devil in the lake of fire, where they would face eternal death. Although God had placed them on the divine council, they will die like men (Psalm 82:1,6-7). They have a date with destiny. Their lives will end. From the standpoint of eternity, it makes absolutely no difference that that date has not come yet. They are mortal and they know it. They dread that time of torment and death that awaits them (Mat. 8:29).

Some Fortunate Humans Who Will Not Die

There are some human beings who will also live what seems an inordinate amount of time. Most believe that Enoch and Elijah did not die, yet there is some biblical evidence to suggest that they did.14 But even if they did somehow avoid the event of death, that does make them immortal. Each of them is still entirely dependent upon God for their next breath.

Regardless, there will be a multitude of believers who are alive at Christ’s second coming who will be immediately translated, transformed and glorified without ever going through death. Oh, that you and I would be among them! But even that great event does not overrule the principle that God’s immortality is exclusive. These believers will receive their immortality from the only one who is qualified to give it.

We Cannot Recant

The texts which our brothers use to claim immortality for humans and angelic beings can be dealt with without destroying God’s exclusive immortality.
These texts will be treated later in this book. However, the issue of God’s exclusive immortality is one on which Advent Christians are simply not prepared to concede. We feel that to do so would be to rob God of one of his exclusive attributes.

1 Matthew Henry – The Matthew Henry Commentary on the Bible (1 Tim. 6:16).

2 Robert A Peterson, in Two Views of Hell: A Biblical and Theological Dialogue. (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 88.

3 1 Cor. 9:25; 15:52; 1 Pet. 1:4, 23; 3:4

4 Deut. 5:26; Josh. 3:10; 1 Sam. 17:26, 36; 2 Kgs 19:4, 16; Psa. 42:2; 84:2; Isa. 37:4, 17; Jer. 10:10; 23:36; Dan. 6:20, 26; Hos. 1:10; Matt. 16:16; 26:63; Acts 14:15; Rom. 9:26; 2 Cor. 3:3; 6:16; 1 Tim. 3:15; 4:10; Heb. 3:12; 9:14; 10:31; 12:22; Rev. 7:2

5 Deut. 33:27; Rom. 16:26

6 Rom. 1:23

7 Gen. 21:33; Isa. 40:28

8 1 Chr. 16:34, 41; 2 Chr. 5:13; 7:3, 6; 20:21; Ezra 3:11; Psa. 100:5; 106:1; 107:1; 111:3, 10; 112:3, 9; 117:2; 118:1ff, 29; 119:160; 135:13; 136:1ff; 138:8; Eccl. 3:14; Jer. 33:11; 2 Cor. 9:9

9 Gen. 35:18; 2 Chr. 16:13; 24:22; Job 24:12; Luke 8:42; John 11:37; Heb. 11:21

10 Job 4:17; Rom. 1:23; 6:12; 8:11; 1 Cor. 15:53f; 2 Cor. 4:11; 5:4; Heb. 7:8

11 1 Cor. 15:42, 50, 53f; 1 Pet. 1:23

12 Psa. 37:2; Isa. 64:6; Jam. 1:11

13 Gen. 3:19; Job 10:9; 34:15; Psa. 90:3; Eccl. 3:20

14 Dr. John Roller, in a recent email post, stated “I believe that they are both dead. It’s easy (in my opinion) to prove that Enoch is dead, since Genesis 5:23 clearly states, “and all the days of Enoch were 365 years.”” If Enoch were still alive, he’d be 5,500 years old by now. If Genesis 5:23 is true, then he died before his 366th birthday. It’s a little harder to prove that Elijah is dead, since the Bible nowhere clearly states his age (at death, or at any other time in his life). He was seen going up into heaven [the sky]by a whirlwind [a tornado] (there was a chariot of fire there, but the Bible DOESN’T say that Elijah rode in it) in 852 BC (2 Kings 2:11); but, 9 years later, in 843 BC, according to 2 Chronicles 21:12, King Jehoram received a writing [a letter] from him, discussing all the things that he had been doing since Elijah’s tornado-trip (Jehoram wasn’t even the king yet, when the tornado-trip happened). How did that happen, if Elijah wasn’t still alive, somewhere on Earth? After that, we hear no more about him. My guess is that he was living in a cave on a mountain somewhere in the desert, and that he died there, sometime before 800 BC. If that’s not what you believe, I’d love to hear a better explanation. Be sure to include the part about the letter he wrote to King Jehoram! And, yes, I know all about the theory that both Enoch and Elijah went to Heaven and are up there to this day; but, according to John 3:13, “no man has ascended up to Heaven, but He that came down from Heaven, even the Son of Man who is in Heaven.” In my opinion, that’s as clear a statement as any that you can find in the Bible, and it totally rules out the idea that Enoch and Elijah (or any other human beings, except Jesus) are in Heaven today, or ever have been.”

The Gospel of the Promise (Gal. 3:15-29)

Galatians 3:15-29
To give a human example, brothers: even with a man-made covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been ratified. 16 Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. 17 This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. 18 For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise. 19 Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary. 20 Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one. 21 Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. 22 But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. 23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

This month we have been focusing on Galatians 3, in which Paul shows the gospel message can be traced back to the story of Abraham in the Old Testament.

In verses 1-9 Paul said that the gospel was preached to Abraham. God had decided to bless all the nations through him.

In verses 10-14 Paul said that the blessings came to Abraham by faith before the law, so we do not have to follow the Mosaic law to be children of Abraham.

Now, in today’s text we see that it all started when God made a promise. Knowing about that divine promise can help us to understand the gospel and proclaim its good news.

In verse 16 it says that God made some promises to Abraham.

In Gen. 22:17 God says to Abraham that he “will surely bless (him), and … will surely multiply (his) offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore.”

Those are just two of the promises God made to Abraham during his lifetime. He had more in mind than just letting Abraham be the ancestor of Jesus. Because of his faith, Abraham was to be the spiritual father of all believers.

Verse 16 says that God made a special promise concerning one particular descendant of Abraham, Jesus of Nazareth.

In Genesis 22:17-18 God promises Abraham that his offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in his offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.

This is one of those numerous references to a promised Messiah who will restore the earth to what God intended for it.

In other words, God was promising Abraham that he would be the spiritual father of all the inhabitants of God’s eternal kingdom, and the physical ancestor of the Messiah who will reign over it.

But the Galatians were being told that when the Law of Moses came, it changed the way God added people to his kingdom. Instead of believing in the promises, like Abraham did, you had to obey the commandments in order get on God’s good side.

Paul says, no, God has not changed how we get into the kingdom. We still enter by faith.

So, what was the law for? Paul answers that question here. He says 1) it was added because of transgressions (v. 19). In other words, there would be many of the physical descendants of Abraham who would be transgressors. So the law was put into effect to keep unspiritual Israel from completely abandoning their God.

Notice what Moses told Joshua: “Take this Book of the Law and put it by the side of the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, that it may be there for a witness against you. For I know how rebellious and stubborn you are. Behold, even today while I am yet alive with you, you have been rebellious against the LORD. How much more after my death! ” (Deuteronomy 31:26-27).

2) Paul also says that the Law was intended to be in effect only temporarily. He said that the law was added “until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made” (v.19). That offspring is Jesus. The law was our guardian until Christ came. (v. 24).

3) Paul says that now that Christ has come we are no longer under the guardianship of the law (v. 25), but can become sons of God through faith in Christ (v. 26).

Finally, Paul asserts that since every believer is in Christ, then every believer is of the same status. We are all Abraham’s offspring, and we each will inherit God’s coming kingdom because God has promised. So the promise God made to Abraham explains who we are now.

Galatians 3:28 says “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Those distinctions that seem to make so much difference to the world do not matter at all to God.

The prophet Joel predicted that this would be a result of the Holy Spirit coming at Pentecost. Joel 2:28-29 says “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit. “

We believers have yet to fully live up to this reality. We still pay too much attention to externals, like race, age, social status, and gender. Because of that we are guilty of the same kind of duplicity that Paul rebuked Peter for in Galatians 2.

It is sad that the political world which is still under Satan’s control is able to pass and enforce laws against racism, but our churches still remain mostly pockets of segregation.

It is sad when some countries can have female presidents and vice-presidents, but most of our churches still insist on having only male leadership. When we act that way in the church, we are saying that the flesh is more important than the Spirit.

Now let’s go back to the context in which Paul wrote these words. The Galatians were being tempted to turn to the Mosaic Law and the Jewish traditions.

Paul is telling them here that they do not have to do that because God is already their heavenly Father. They are in Christ, so they are already heirs of Christ’s kingdom. They are in Christ so they are already sons of God, and Abraham’s spiritual offspring. Israel is no longer under the guardianship of the Law, because the Messiah has come, and the Holy Spirit has come.

LORD, help us to live like who we are in Christ. May we allow your Holy Spirit to fill us, use us, and transform our community through us. Amen

The Gospel of Redemption (Gal. 3:10-14).

Galatians 3:10-14 (ESV)
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.” 11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” 12 But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” 13 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”- 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.

One of the reasons I chose to study the Epistle to the Galatians is that the book clarifies what the gospel message is. It helps believers stay on target, because it explains how our faith in Christ should affect our daily lives.

Galatians introduces us to some theological terms which are very important because they help us to understand what God has done for us, and the difference it makes.

One of those terms is redemption

To live by law is to accept some human standard for your way of life, and then just keep plugging at it, and hope that God might accept your best effort.

There are three major flaws in this approach to life:
1) it is self-reliant, and therefore cursed according to Gal. 3:10;
2) it is ignorant of what God requires (the “all things” of vs. 10);
3) it is presumptuous. It presumes that God “grades on a curve.” when in fact God’s standard is his own holiness.

Paul quotes two scriptures in today’s text which lay out the two options everyone has. If we choose option A, we are saying “I can handle this.” It is the law option.

But if we choose option B, we are saying “there is no way I can do this.” We therefore are forced to trust in God’s mercy and put our faith in his works, not ours. That is what it means to live by faith.

What Paul is saying is that everyone – Jew and Gentile, actually choose option A at first. We all like sheep have gone astray. We all wander away from the fold and try to do things our way. even when we realize we are lost we just try harder and keep getting more and more lost.

The end result of our choice is the second death: destruction in Gehenna Hell.

Here again, Paul quotes two Old Testament scriptures to show that redemption frees us from the consequence of making the wrong choice.

Our self-reliance has put us under a curse. But God chose to offer us all a second chance. If we choose to put our faith in Christ’s sacrificial death we can be redeemed from the curse put on us as lawbreakers.

God made Jesus to be the sin offering, so that by putting our faith in Jesus we might be redeemed and become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21).

Now we come to the last verse of today’s text, verse 14.

Remember that Paul is dealing with the challenge of a false teaching in Galatians. The “troublers” from Jerusalem have convinced the Gentile Galatians that they need to add obedience to the Mosaic law (as defined by Jewish tradition) to their faith in Christ in order to have the blessing of Abraham.

But Paul’s point is that the blessing of Abraham comes by faith in Christ’s atonement on the cross of Calvary. So one of the consequences of the cross is that the Gentiles are now included in God’s promises to Abraham when they put their faith in Christ.

That blessing includes forgiveness of sins and adoption as sons of God.

Another consequence of the cross is that the Holy Spirit is now available to everyone (Jew and Gentile). Fellowship with the Holy spirit brings power into our lives (Spiritual Gifts) and transforms us so that we manifest the Fruit of the Spirit (sanctified lives).

The Galatians were being tricked into rejecting Christ and going back to the old choice (self reliance) which only leads to sin and destruction.

What about you? Are you trusting in the blood of Christ for your salvation, or are you trying to be good enough for God to save you?

LORD, we hereby renounce the old way of self-reliance, and cling to the cross of Christ. We accept the redemption bought by his blood. We accept your forgiveness and adoption into your family. We accept transformation by your Holy Spirit. Amen


Communion Meditation: “Redeemed”

Fanny Crosby wrote:
“Redeemed How I Love to proclaim it,
Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb
Redeemed through his infinite mercy
His Child and forever I am.”

I grew up singing that hymn in church, so it has a special place in my heart. Wherever I am, it brings me back to my home church – the church where I came to Christ, and learned to preach.

But we have to be careful with these old songs. They are packed with meaning. This one makes me stop and think: Do I really love to proclaim that I am redeemed?

It means that I have been set free. All around me are folks that are living in bondage: this one to alcohol, that one to hate, this one lust, that one to greed, this one to false gods, that one to legalism.

But I have been set free. I know this because my Saviour, who was never in bondage to anything – paid the price for my freedom by dying on the cross of Calvary.

Back in those days if a person committed a crime he would be sent to prison. Outside his cell they would post a document called a certificate of debt. The certificate of debt had his name on it, the crime he committed, and the number of years, months and days of his sentence. Once he had finished his sentence, they would take that document to a judge. The judge would write on that document “TETELESTHAI” which meant that his sentence was paid in full. Then the inmate could be set free. If anybody questioned him, he could present the certificate of debt as proof that the debt was now paid.

I’m telling you this because Jesus Christ came to the cross in order to cancel our certificates of debt. We owed God far more than we could ever repay with our own works, even if we had a thousand lifetimes.

There he was on the cross, and the onlookers, the soldiers and the Father himself looking down from heaven as he draws his final breaths. He said something. Did you hear it? He said “It is finished.” In Greek: TETELESTHAI. “Paid in Full.”

“Redeemed How I Love to proclaim it,
Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb
Redeemed through his infinite mercy
His Child and forever I am.”

In Honour of David Burge 1968-2010

Funeral Service, Saturday, July 10, 2010


Welcome everyone to this special service this morning. At the conclusion of this service you are warmly invited to join the Burge family for a cup of tea and something to eat in the church hall.


We have come here today to thank the LORD for the life of David Burge. His was a remarkable life, and even in our grief, we don’t want to forget that he was a wonderful gift from God. We want to thank God for that gift.
We also want to show our support to Dave’s immediate family. We want to stand beside you and share this time with you. We who are here today are but a small percentage of those all around the world who are praying for you. We want you to know that we cared about him, and we care about you.

With any death there can be a sense of unfinished business, things we wish we had said – or hadn’t said. This is a special time and place to say some of the things which we might not want to leave unsaid. This morning is an opportunity for any who want to say some of those things to say them out loud. Some will feel more comfortable saying them before God in their hearts – and that’s OK too.
This is also a time and place for many of us to reaffirm our faith and trust in God. We have to admit that with David’s death that faith has been shaken. But God is our refuge, and by his strength our faith will outlast our grief. We believe in the one who said that he is the resurrection and the life. He proved what he said by being raised from the dead himself. We grieve today because the hurt is real, but we do not sorrow like those who have no hope. Our hope is in someone stronger than our hurt.

Opening Prayer

Heavenly Father, we want to thank you for the 42 years of life that you gave your servant, David Burge. At some point in our lives, we came to know this remarkable servant of yours, and our lives have been blessed forever because we did. He was one of those people that you could always count on for a word of encouragement. He had a down to earth wisdom about him, which was actually a great gift from heaven. He salted everything he said with a most delightful sense of humour. We are going to miss him terribly.

Father, forgive us if there have been times when we have failed David. Enable us by your grace to forgive anything that was hurtful to us. Set us free from our sins, grant us healing and wholeness. Speak to us now through the words we share with one another, and through the words of scripture, the source of David’s faith, that our own faith may be strengthened and renewed. We pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Scripture Reading

1 Corinthians 15:50-58 (NIV).
I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed– in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.


Some time ago David and Tarnya asked me to share this message. They wanted us to not only celebrate David’s life, but to rejoice in David’s hope – a literal resurrection when Christ returns to this earth.
1 Corinthians 15 was written by the apostle Paul to explain this hope of resurrection to the believers in first century Corinth, but it has a message for believers today as well. It reveals that the present you is only temporary. The real, permanent You is not the present you, but the next You. In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul invites you to look ahead into your future as a glorified saint. He encourages some imaginative personal eschatological thinking. His argument can be summarized as follows:

The evidence for the next you includes these verifiable facts:
1) Christ was raised from the dead, and when Paul wrote these words there were still many witness to that fact (3-8); The new Him is proof that there will be a new you.
2) Many have spent their lives preaching the gospel, and if there is no next you, all that preaching is useless (12-15);
3) Millions of Christians have believed in the next you throughout the ages and that faith has changed their lives (17-19);
4) Everyone who is baptised in the name of Christ has demonstrated faith in the next you (29);
5) Everyone who has suffered in ministry has demonstrated faith in the next you (30-32).
Paul’s argument is that every aspect of the Christian faith and life points toward the next you. Every breath you take in this life, every word you say, everything you do, is a precursor to that permanent expression of you-ness in the next life. Rather than implying that this life is meaningless compared to the next, Paul implies the opposite. This life is important because it sets the stage for the main event throughout eternity. The next you will validate the significance of the present you. The present you is an investment in the future you.


Paul uses the analogy of a harvest to explain the chronological order of the resurrection. The sequence of God’s resurrection/harvest is:
1) Christ, the firstfruits of the harvest (20);
2) Those who belong to Christ (the dead in Christ are resurrected, then the living in Christ are transformed and raptured);
1 Corinthians 15:51-52 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed– in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.
3) The millennial reign (25-26) during which all of Christ’s enemies will be destroyed;

1 Corinthians 15:25-26 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

4) The end (of the harvest) which is the final resurrection of all the remaining dead (24) (see Rev. 20).

1 Corinthians 15:24 Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power.
The resurrection, then, should not be just a minor blip on our theological radar screens. It belongs to those events by which God is shaping the destiny of his universe. In his providence, the next you is just as important as creation, the exodus, the incarnation, the cross, or Christ’s resurrection. Seen in that light, your existence today takes on new significance. You may think of yourself as caterpillar-like, but God has planned your butterfly-hood!


Paul’s argument is that the next you will be the same you – only different. The seed and plant analogy assures that you will be the same person.
1 Corinthians 15:37 When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else.

The resurrection is not a re-creation, starting over with all-new materials (and hopefully getting it right this time). No, the seed and plant analogy speaks of a continuation of a life with which God originally intended to bless his universe forever. Sin entered your life and corrupted it, making it necessary for you to die. But God loves you too much to let that be the last note of your song.
The resurrected you will be the same you, purged of all those things that cannot abide eternal existence, and transformed into something extraordinary. The different flesh/ splendour analogies assure that your nature will be different (39-41). The next you will be as different from the present you as humans are different from animals. The difference will be as pronounced as the difference between celestial and terrestrial bodies.

The Adam/Christ analogy explains the essence of that transformation.
1 Corinthians 15:49-50 And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven. I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.

Your new nature will “bear the likeness” of Jesus Christ! (49). All those inherited predispositions and character flaws and physical defects which identified you with your ancestors Adam and Eve will have been replaced. The stuff that the next you will be made of is described as “from heaven” (49) and “imperishable” (50).

Paul describes your present state: “of the dust of the earth” (46), perishable (50), mortal (53). That is not what God wanted. Satan has intervened and tricked humanity into the rebellion that has resulted in the present mortal state. God cannot endure that forever. He plans to purge his universe of the disease that humanity has become, so that it can once again be pronounced “very good.”

Your future state is imperishable and immortal. The next you is more than just a revived you. The next you will be you as God intended you to be. By his death on Calvary’s cross, Christ won the battle which has made the next you possible, but you have not yet received all the spoils of the victory personally.
Paul described his resurrection chapter as essentially the gospel message that he preached (1-2). It is right for believers to emphasise the benefits we already have because of the death of Christ: forgiveness of sins, permission to approach God in prayer, guidance from the indwelling Holy Spirit, etc. But let us never forget that the gospel is not complete if it stops there. You have not heard the whole gospel if the message you have heard fails to include the next you.

The message is an encouragement for all of us, especially at a time like this, because it says that death is real, but it is not permanent. God’s answer to the tragedy that brought us together today is a glorious resurrection. We celebrate that truth today as we say goodbye to our friend David. But let us also remember that “goodbye” is shorthand for “God be with you until we meet again.”
Closing Prayer

Heavenly Father, we thank you for the privilege of having known your servant, David. We thank you for life’s lessons you have taught us through him. We thank you for the example he set for us as a son and grandson, as a husband, as a father, as a friend, and as a pastor. We thank you for the joy he brought us. We thank you for the wisdom he demonstrated.

We thank you most of all for his faith in Jesus Christ, and for the hope that he had that we will see him again one day because of the power and love of Jesus Christ.
We pray once again for all who mourn today. May they sense your arms around them. May they know your support and your healing. Give them assurance that you care for them all the time, and faith and courage for the days ahead. We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Committal and Benediction

We all know that David had a disease that he knew was likely to take him in the prime of his life. Before the leukaemia started taking up his time, he had the chance to step back from the busyness of life and concentrate on the things that were important to him. Obviously he spent much of that time with Tarnya and the kids. He also spent a good deal of time putting together some of his thoughts into writing. He has finished some books which will soon be all of ours to enjoy.
But even those months are not enough. It is unfair that we have to say goodbye to David at all. Our only consolation is that we are not saying goodbye for good. We are only saying goodbye for now.

Believing that Jesus is coming back to claim his own, we entrust David to the care of our ever loving God, in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life. Our hope is in the Lord, who died, was buried, and who rose again for the forgiveness of the sins of all who believe. To God be the glory forever. Amen.

Responding To A Tragedy (Sunday Message, July 11th, 2010)

Matthew 14:12-14 ESV

And his disciples came and took the body and buried it, and they went and told Jesus. Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.

A brother, a son, a grandson, a pastor, a fellow believer has fallen. David Burge, pastor of this church, has died. He is a victim of a disease, and a victim of the mortality which effects us all. His life in this age, which held such promise for the kingdom of God – is now cut short. How do we as believers respond to such a tragedy?

The enemy rejoices every time a godly man dies. Satan uses tragedies like this to convince people that there is no God – or that he, too is helpless to prevent evil.

Surely there is a better response… a truly Christian response. We cannot allow our shock at this event to blind us to our call. Jesus called us to be perfect just as our heavenly father is perfect. That means responding with faith.

That is what Jesus would do. In fact, that is what he did.

First he withdrew. The maker of all things needed to get away from it all. The Lord of all time needed some time to himself.

Surely we can understand that. John the Baptist was his friend. They shared a love for God and a call to the ministry. They were even related. And John died a death which served no purpose – except to accentuate the absolute futility that death represents. He was a great man – a true believer – a prophet of God. Yet he died because of jealousy and pride. He died because of the lust and foolishness of an irresponsible king.

Jesus knew all things. In his mind he did not have to ask “why?” But in his heart he did. Our Lord needed time to deal emotionally with this senseless tragedy in his life. We are here today because we also need to withdraw. Like the disciples, we need to withdraw with Jesus, not from him. We need to process this terrible event. It didn’t just happen to David, or to his wonderful family. It happened to all of us here. We are still in shock. It’s hard for us to even think about ordinary things. We can only think of the pain, the fear, the distress, the confusion. In a way, we are all still fighting for our lives.

Withdraw with me today. We will go privately to the solitude of our own hearts. And when we get there – we’ll have a little talk with God. Of course, we will not know what to say. Our hurt is too deep for words. But the precious Holy Spirit will be there – to communicate the sorrow we feel. And God will answer. He is there waiting in the church. He may not give an answer for the questions on our minds. But he does have answers for the questions on our hearts.

In his deep sorrow, our Lord looked around him. And what he saw was the crowds that had followed him. He couldn’t get away from it all – because people needed him. When he needed time for emotional healing – the crowds kept seeking him for physical healing. But he didn’t send them away. He had every right to. He was not obligated by any law of man or God to continue working that day.

But he chose to continue. He put others’ needs above his own sorrow. He allowed compassion to change his course. That is our Savior. He came to serve, not to be served. Matthew tells us that two great miracles happened that day. Jesus fed the 5000, and he walked on water. But perhaps the greatest miracle of all was our Lord’s decision to do ministry even in his own grief.

David is a servant of Jesus Christ. He died while still working on ministry assignments. He cannot speak to us today. But if he could, he would probably tell us to live as he died. He would want us to never miss an opportunity to serve the Lord by serving others. Perhaps that is the best way for us to deal with our own sorrows.

Our Lord is going to return to this earth one day – probably very soon. When he does return, he wants to find us busy loving and serving and giving. That’s what he is all about. That’s what we are all about. There is a world right here on the shores of our Galilee that needs the compassionate ministry of Christ. When he returns, may he find us sacrificially serving, just as David did… just as Jesus did.