Neither African, Caucasian, Nor American Indian (Galatians 3:26-29): Tribute Sermon for Pastor D.M.’s Mother, Teressa Richardson

Mom

Sermon Title: Neither African, Caucasian, Nor American Indian (Galatians 3:26-29): A Sermon to Honor the Life of Pastor D.M.’s Mother, Teressa Richardson

Neither African, Caucasian, Nor American Indian, Galatians 3_26-29 (Tribute Sermon to Mom)
26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 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 seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Galatians 3:26-29, NKJV)

Today is yet another hard day for me, as I stand in this place, at this hour, to preach the Word of God. For today marks the tenth anniversary of my mother’s passing. On February 3, 2009, after a three-year battle with breast, lung, and brain cancer, mom passed on to eternal rest in the presence of the Lord and from this life. She left us. And ten years later, though I’m ten years older, have lost some serious weight, and have gained some more of life’s experiences, I haven’t quite gotten over the loss.

But it’s logical to not get over the loss of my mother because, who really gets over the loss of the woman that brought them into this world? When it comes to my mother, it’s hard to escape her in this life because first, I look like her; when I stare into the mirror, she stares right back at me. All week long, my cousins have told me countless times over social media that “you look just like Aunt Teressa, all day every day and twice on Sundays.”

Next, I can’t escape her because she was my mother and my best friend. Growing up, she was disciplinarian, the woman who had to hold down a full-time job, all while raising two kids with the help of her parents — all in the absence of the man that God gave to the three of us (mom, my sister, and me) in the first place. She had to be both mom and dad and coworker and superior, and subordinate to her bosses, daughter, friend, sister, aunt, choir member, church financial secretary, and so on. Mom wore a lot of hats, as they say. She loved the Lord; she loved her family and friends; and she was crazy about her children. Yes, me and my sister Danielle were “the apples of mom’s eye.” She was crazy about us, and we were crazy about her.

But there’s another reason why I can’t escape her memory: there are a lot of things that she told me that have come true in her absence. We always believed mom to be a prophetess, or someone who received revelation from the Lord about things she’d never lived or experienced. She told my sister that she’d have a child that would be a mini-me. That came true; well, she lived it because I am the mini-me of mom…but you get the point.

She grew up in the 1960s, a time when segregation was common and accepted, the societal norm. She attended Duke University at a time when few Black Americans did. She not only attended there, but she pursued a dual degree in Accounting and Economics and graduated four years later. She went on to spend 21 years in the job she loved, working hard to put food on the table, clothes on she and our backs, my sister and me, and keep the bills paid and expenses managed. She married for love but found that love had nothing to do with the Hell her marriage was: her husband cheated on her throughout the marriage, which is why my sister and I just discovered a brother of ours — 33 years later. He’s less than a year younger than us. And if you’ve ever wondered why I don’t talk about my dad, well, there it is. When mom died, dad came to the house and told me “I loved your mother.” You can imagine what I thought about that. “Yeah, right.”

And it is during the time of her life that she experienced racism. She always told me that “No matter how talented or capable you are, the world will judge all that under the umbrella of the color of your skin.” That isn’t how the world should work, she told me, but that is how the world “WILL” work. Why? Because man judges on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart, a truth the Lord God Himself told Samuel when he anointed David king over all his brothers back in 1 Samuel 16:7. The world sees the outward appearance, the externals, and judges based on those. Humanity judges based on the outward appearance, but God is the only one that is truly color-blind: He doesn’t care about your ethnicity or complexion or skin tone. What God cares about most, what I call the divine priority, is the heart of every man, woman, boy, and girl. As the saying goes, “It’s what’s in the heart that counts.”

In today’s text, the apostle Paul writes the end of his letter to the Galatians, a group of believers who were harassed by the Judaizers. The Judaizers taught the laws of Judaism, the Old Testament rules about circumcision. And of course, only the Jews were circumcised. Circumcision became a huge part of how one kept the commandments of God. In the Old Testament, when God entered into His covenant with Abraham, He mandated that all Jews were to be circumcised in Genesis 17:

9 And God said to Abraham: “As for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations. 10 This is My covenant which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: Every male child among you shall be circumcised; 11 and you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you. 12 He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised, every male child in your generations, he who is born in your house or bought with money from any foreigner who is not your descendant. 13 He who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money must be circumcised, and My covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. 14 And the uncircumcised male child, who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant.” (Genesis 17:9-14)

Notice that every male child, whether born in the house or purchased (implying slave males), had to be circumcised. Only males, mind you. And these males were to be circumcised eight days after birth. Moses was nearly killed by the Lord on the way to Egypt in Exodus 4:24-26 because he had failed to circumcise his son; Zipporah, his wife, had to do the job for him. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ fulfills this in the Gospels, as His earthly parents circumcise Him eight days after He is born in a manger in Bethlehem, the City of David. John the Baptist is circumcised, also.

Even in Acts 15, we see an early church debate arise regarding salvation because Judaizers taught that “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” This is the same issue going on in the church at Galatia, to which Paul writes his letter to the Galatians. Paul tells the Galatians that to believe circumcision is necessary for salvation is “another gospel” that they shouldn’t believe. He tells them of his encounter with Peter and how Peter would eat with the Gentiles until the Jews would come — only to sit with the Jews afterward. How could Peter, a Jew, compel Gentiles to live like Jews when he wasn’t living like one? This is the question Paul asks Peter in Galatians 2:14. In chapter 3, Paul asks the Galatians about the gospel; what gospel did they receive? Was it the gospel of hearing by faith or by “the works of the law”? Were they trying to start with the Spirit but end with the flesh? In other words, if they were saved by faith, why turn back to something that couldn’t save them in the first place?

The Galatians were like many believers today: when things get cloudy, we resort to what we know, our comfort zone. The Jews’ comfort zone was circumcision and keeping the law. When everything turned confusing, they returned to what they knew to be true — failing to understand that Christ is the end of the Law for all who believe. So Paul has to remind them that they are saved by the “hearing of faith” — by hearing the Word of Faith and believing it (Jesus is the point of the Word).

In Galatians 5, Paul tells them that circumcision for salvation is futile: “Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law” (Galatians 5:2-3). One who is circumcised and believes he is saved by it must also keep the law. Good luck with that.

Here in Galatians 3:26-29, Paul continues to hammer home points he’s already made within the first two chapters: that is, that all are saved by grace through faith. He says in verse 26, “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” In other words, sonship is conditioned upon faith. Faith is the only way we gain access to the grace of God that believers have. As Paul wrote in Romans 5:2, Christ is the one “through whom we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand.”

In verse 27, Paul says “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” What does it mean to be “baptized into Christ”? We can see what it means by contrasting it with the phrase Paul uses in 1 Corinthians 10:2 of being “baptized into Moses.” This phrase refers to the baptism of Moses, water baptism. In contrast to water baptism, “baptized into Christ” refers to the Holy Spirit baptism of believers: that is, all believers have been baptized in the Holy Spirit because the Spirit dwells within all of us. Paul says that all who have been baptized into Christ, all who have joined with Christ and are disciples of Christ have “put on Christ.” That is, the conditions to be in Christ, to have salvation, are already met by those who have been baptized into Christ. This was a knockout punch to the Judaizer claims that one had to be circumcised in order to be saved.

In verse 28, Paul says what has become his most famous verse written in the New Testament: “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.”
Paul uses some major distinctions in society that were occurring in his day: first, there was Jew versus Greek race issues. The Jews believed salvation was given to them and tried to make the Greeks, Gentiles, bow to their standards. This was the sole problem of the Judaizers in the church at Galatia: they wanted the Gentiles to “become Jews” in order to be saved. The Jews were known by being circumcised in their foreskins (males only), and the Gentiles were called “uncircumcised” because they were not. Remember when King David fights against the 9’9” giant Goliath? He refers to Goliath as “this uncircumcised Philistine” in 1 Samuel 17:26, 36.

And yet, in Christ Jesus, “there is neither Jew nor Greek.” This tells us that in Christ Jesus, these racial distinctions don’t put one above another. Such distinctions favored the Jews since they were circumcised, but because of Jesus, those distinctions didn’t place Jews above Gentiles. “You are all one in Christ Jesus” in verse 28 tells us that all believers are on equal footing. God has prescribed one condition by which He has granted salvation — that is, faith — and that condition alone determines who’s saved and who’s not. Circumcision was no longer the dividing line.

Paul puts Jews and Gentiles on equal footing here, making them the same in the Lord and tearing down the hierarchy that the Jews had over the Gentiles, but he didn’t just write these things in Galatians 3. He also wrote these things in the remainder of his letter to the Galatians. In Galatians 5:6, Paul writes that “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.” In Galatians 6:15, Paul writes that “in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation.” Being circumcised doesn’t make one more saved than anyone else; only being a new creation in Christ Jesus by faith is the dividing line. In Romans 2:28-29, Paul writes that “For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.” In 1 Corinthians 7:19, he says that “Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, but keeping the commandments of God is what matters.”
From these verses, we can understand one thing about the apostle Paul: though he was a Jew, circumcised the eighth day, and from the tribe of Benjamin, as he says in Philippians 3:4-6, he doesn’t count himself to be any more superior or above any Gentile in the Lord.

We’ve seen that Paul understood there was “neither Jew nor Gentile” in the Lord, but how does this pertain to our Educate the Hate Month here at The Essential Church? It shows us that race, one of society’s largest distinctions, doesn’t exist when it comes to faith in Jesus. There is no such thing as a distinction between “Caucasian believers” and “African-American believers,” or between “Latino believers” and “Native American” or “American Indian believers.” There is only a believer is a believer is a believer in Christ. When God looks at believers, He doesn’t see race, but only faith working itself through love, as Paul says. Caucasian believers can’t hate African-American or African believers because the Lord sees Caucasians and Africans as just believers — nothing more, nothing less.

If Paul were to write Galatians 3:28 in more modern-day language, he would’ve said “there is neither African nor Caucasian, Caucasian nor American Indian, American Indian nor other ethnicity or nationality; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Society’s racial distinctions are part of the old order, of the old creation, the one that pits not only the races against each other but also genders (male and female) and socioeconomic classes (slave and free). And yet, Paul says in Galatians 6:15 that what matters is “new creation”: that is, since we’re in Christ, the old distinctions are disregarded in salvation and in the Body of Christ, the Church. Native Americans or American Indians, Caucasians, Africans, Latinos, Japanese, Hispanics, Mexicans, and so on, are all brothers and sisters in Christ. When you hate a fair-skinned man or dark-skinned woman, you’re hating your brother or sister. When you hate a Caucasian man or woman because you think “Black is right,” you’re hating your brother or sister. Think about it.

We can’t forget verse 29. Paul says that “if you are Christ’s, you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs of the promise.” When God goes to Abraham for the first time in Genesis 12, what does He tell Abraham? “In you, all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.” ALL THE NATIONS would be blessed, ethnicities far beyond the Jews would also receive salvation. If the Lord no longer separates Jew and Gentile in His kingdom, how about the Gentile nations? God doesn’t treat them separately, either. Gentiles, like Jews, are Abraham’s seed and heirs of the promise God made to him.

Tribute Songs

I Call You Faithful (Pastor Donnie McClurkin)

You Are God Alone (Marvin Sapp)

Be Thou Exalted (Rance Allen)

I Believe (Marvin Sapp)