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Aug 02, 2015

Pauper Princes

Pauper Princes

Passage: Galatians 3:27-4:7

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: Freedom

Keywords: abba father, oneness, spiritual intimacy, unity, spiritual clothing


This passage deals with the amazing privileges that come to pauper sinners who, by faith in Jesus Christ, come to be princes. It looks at a few of the things that should change among the people of God because we are one in Christ.


Pauper Princes

Galatians 4:1-7

August 2, 2015

INTRO:  I was only familiar with the title of Mark Twain’s 1881 historical fiction The Prince & The Pauper until Eric encouraged me to get more familiar with the actual story. 

Set in 1547, this is the story of two young boys who are virtually identical in appearance.  One is Tom Canty, a pauper who lives with his abusive father in a terrible part of London, and the other Prince Edward, son of King Henry VIII. 

Tom Canty, comes from a poor family and lives with the dregs of society.  He’s always aspired to a better life and was encouraged to pursue it by the local priest who has taught him to read and write.

Loitering around the palace gates one day, he sees a prince (the Prince of Wales--Edward VI). Edward invites Tom into his palace chamber. There the two boys get to know one another, fascinated by each other's life and their uncanny resemblance; they were born on the same day.

The boys decide to switch clothes "temporarily." The Prince momentarily goes outside, but dressed as he is in Tom's rags, he is not recognized by the guards, who drive him from the palace. He eventually finds his way through the streets to the home of the Canty's. There he is subjected to the brutality of Tom's abusive father.

Meanwhile, King Henry VIII dies and Edward is now next in line to the throne.  Tom, posing as the prince, tries to learn the court customs and manners. Because Tom has no memories of life as the prince, his fellow nobles and palace staff think "the prince" has an illness and fear he is going mad. But when Tom is asked to sit in on judgments, his common-sense observations reassure them his mind is sound.

As Edward, the real prince, experiences the brutish life of a pauper firsthand, he becomes aware of the stark class inequality in England. In particular, he sees the harsh, punitive nature of the English judicial system where people are burned at the stake, locked in stocks, and flogged. He realizes that the accused are convicted on flimsy evidence (and branded – or hanged– for petty offenses), and vows to reign with mercy when he regains his rightful place.

After a series of adventures (including a stint in prison), Edward gets back into the castle and interrupts the coronation as Tom is about to be crowned as King Edward VI. The two boys gladly exchange rightful places and Tom is elevated to a position as “king’s ward” in the court.  Happy ending!

Would that changing your class were as simple as changing your clothes! 

But it is that very terminology that Paul uses to speak about the change that happens to every human being who trusts in the position, person and work of Christ for them.  It’s like taking off pauper’s clothes and putting on coronation robes. 

But it’s actually better than that because the transformation isn’t simply on the outside.  The “new clothes” of the life of Christ changes us from the inside.  Like Tom Canty, we may not have the knowledge needed to live comfortably in the court of heaven.  We may be spiritually unrefined and untaught. 

But unlike Tom, we DO have the right family tree.  We ARE part of eternity’s royal family.  We have been adopted into the family, sealed with the royal seal of the Holy Spirit and given ALL the privileges of the Divine Court. 

Here’s how Paul puts it at the end of Galatians, chapter 3:

Galatians 3:27-29

 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 no male and 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.

Let’s unpack this a bit.

Vs. 27 makes it clear that the Gospel of Jesus Christ isn’t some “Western, white man’s religion.”  “As many of you as were baptized into Christ….”  It’s open to as many of you as want it!  He’s writing to non-Jews for the most part.  Our Good News of Jesus Christ is all-inclusive.  You don’t have to deny your race, your culture, your personality, your gender

The only thing Jesus asks us to leave behind is our sin.  Wherever our culture is walking in sin, Jesus tells us we must walk in His righteousness now.  Wherever our flesh prefers selfish sinfulness, His Spirit calls out to us for sanctified holiness. 

But notice the importance Paul places on baptism here. But what kind of baptism? 

“For as many of you as were baptized into Christ…” 

I don’t think he’s talking about the physical act of water baptism for those who have believed.  If that were the case then everyone who got wet in baptism in Jesus would have Christ. And everyone who, for whatever reason, didn’t get baptized would not have Christ.  So I think it is best to see this as baptism into Christ that happens when we are born again and receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit by simple faith in Jesus.

That term “baptize” simply means “to immerse completely” in something.  It was used in that day of cloth that was immersed in vats of dye so that the cloth would take on the same color as the water. 

What beautiful imagery of what happens to anyone who comes to Jesus seeking to be reconciled to God.  We’re immersed in the very life of Jesus Christ.  It’s not just a change of clothes; it’s a change of spiritual “color.”  That’s the symbolism of baptism:  the dark stains of sin and junk of the old life without God washed away and replaced by the unmistakable “dye” of the glorious life of Jesus Christ. 

There are some other important truths in this text that, in my humble opinion, are often misinterpreted.  Look at vs. 28--28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 

            First, can we agree that “being one” is not the same as “being identical”?  When someone says that they come from a very close, connected family that has a deep sense of oneness, they are not saying that everyone looks, acts, feels, or dresses the same.  They are not saying that their whole family is made up of all males or all females.  “Oneness” is not uniformity.  Not even identical twins are “one” by virtue of their genetic similarities. 

Oneness has to do more with relational unity and bonding.  When Jesus prayed in John 17:21-23, he asked the Father, that they [us who now believe] may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”

To maintain that ALL natural, intellectual, social, ethnic, and sexual distinctions are erased and totally indistinguishable in Christ is to maintain that we must view every person identical or we are not living out the Gospel as Jesus intended it.  It is to confuse oneness with sameness.  It is to make this text say far more than the Spirit through Paul is saying.  And, in the process, it is to diminish the beauty of the Body of Christ that can only be experienced IF there are actually recognizable differences. 

Let’s look at the three couplets Paul singles out for special attention when it comes to “oneness in Christ.”  By the way, some think this is the undoing, the reversing, of a common Jewish prayer uttered by some Jewish men;

”Blessed be God that he did not make me a Gentile; blessed by God that he did not make me ignorant [or a slave], blessed be God that he did not make me a woman(Tosefta Berakoth 7:18). 

Here’s the first “undoing” couplet:

  • There is neither Jew nor Greek/Gentile”

This is what we could call the cultural mandate for unity.  In the world and mindset of a Jew of the first century, there were two ethnic groups of people:  Jews and non-Jews.  In today’s shrinking world, there might be hundreds of cultures represented in a single city. 

            Depending upon what measuring stick you use, there are anywhere from a minimum of 9,800 different ethnic groups in the world to as many as 27,000 if you count the same ethnic group as different in different countries.  For example, if you are from the Gypsy race but live in Romania, you are counted as a different ethnic group of Gypsies from, say, Russia. 

            The point is, race, ethnicity and cultural uniquenesses can be powerful dividers among the people of God.  That is no less evident than in the divide the still exists between major ethnic blocks of churches in America.  We still talk about “African-American” churches…and “Hispanic” churches…and “Korean-American” churches.  If you attended such churches today, you wouldn’t be here!  Is that wrong?  In some ways, I think yesBut not in every way.

            There are some cultural elements of Hispanics or African-Americans or Koreans or Bhutanese that make the whole church of Jesus Christ in Spokane much richer. I don’t want the Hispanics to look more like us here today.  God gave them a certain flavor of music, a certain cultural strength of family, a certain warmth of relationship that makes us Anglo-Saxon or German-American types jealous…in a good way. J  We look like frozen telephone poles next to these brothers and sisters!  I don’t want them to look or act or relate like me.  The church of Jesus is richer for the difference. 

            BUT, when those cultural or racial differences keep us separate to the degree that we virtually never experience those differences and never appreciate those differences, then something of the “oneness” that Paul is talking about here isn’t taking root.  Why is it that you might go to work and find yourself working under an African-American boss…but you rarely go to church and find yourself worshiping under an African-American pastor or elder?  And why is that more pronounced in the South where racial prejudices have been active for centuries?

Now, while much of that probably has to do with ungodly and unbiblical divisions in the body of Christ, some of it may actually exist to retain and protect the God-given beauty and blessings of cultural differences. 

ILL:  Conversation one day with one of the African-American pastors in Spokane who told me, “Sunday is the only day of the week where we get to experience our black culture being the dominant cultural experience.”  What he meant was that living in a white-dominant culture (particularly like Spokane), doing church in an African-American dominant church and way was one of the few ways they could retain and preserve their black culture in this city. 

One of the problems with this kind of division is that it reinforces the ungodly cultural divisions that should never be part of the people of God.  But oneness culturally/racially that destroys the beautiful differences that more fully express the beauty of God’s nature is something I think we are going to be enjoying through all eternity.  Revelation 7:9-10 tells us, After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 

            If we’re going to be worshiping together in heaven, why do we rob ourselves of this joy on earth?  It’s one thing to live in a country that is 98% one ethnic group.  But when you live in a nation like ours…or in an international metropolis, why do we allow these difference to separate us?


  • What would it say to our culture if we really worshiped together across cultural boundaries, at least from time to time?
  • What blessings might we experience if we learned to work together, minister together, solve problems together and really fellowship together as different-race Christians?
  • What effort are we making to experience emotional and relational bonding with brothers and sisters of other cultures here in Spokane?
  • The second couplet Paul mentions is, there is neither slave nor free….”  This one we could call the SOCIAL MANDATE

Slavery was very wide-spread in Paul’s day.  Some estimates put the percentage of slaves at around one-third of the entire population. 

While no slavery is preferable to most any kind of slavery, don’t confuse American slavery with slavery in the Roman world.  While slaves certainly could have been and probably were abused by some masters, they could not be harmed or killed without penalty to the owner.  Slaves could own property, had familial rights and would sometimes willingly choose to remain under their master’s employment and protection.

But as the book of Philemon makes abundantly clear, when it came to life in the church, social class distinctions were to have NO power.  But to say that social or economic class issues were irrelevant would be to erase the good things that can happen when rich and poor, educated and uneducated, powerful and powerless come together and bless each other with their different experiences, their different perspectives and their different gifts.  If there were no need or no abundance in the Body of Christ, how would we learn to both give to others and receive from others?  If “oneness” socially meant that we all had to have the same level of education or standard of living, how much would be lost?

But we must ask the same probing and troubling questions of the SOCIAL distinctions and divisions that exist in the church that are ungodly.  What are some of YOUR questions that could be troubling to the church as it exists when it comes to ungodly, divisive social distinctions we make between God’s people…ALL bought by the blood of Jesus? 

  • Why are churches often so economically homogeneous?
  • Why do we have the City Gates and West Central churches made up of one class of people while the suburban and even urban big churches have mostly professional people?
  • How can we overcome this massive social divide that seems almost more entrenched than the racial/ethnic/cultural divide among the people of God?
  • ???


  • This is what is SO refreshing about Mosaic.
  • This is why we ALL need to mix it up Sunday after Sunday in our fellowship here and really get to know people from different walks of life, socio-economic classes and educational levels.
  • Do we harbor prejudices and ungodly mindsets about people either in higher or lower social stations than us?
  • What have we come to appreciate about being around this diversity rather than in a church that has pretty much the same class of people.

The 3rd couplet: “there is no male and female….”  This I’ll call the GENDER MANDATE.

There exists world-wide a gender gap of imposed or perceived superiority and inferiority between men and women.  Far more damage is done by men who are machismo or misogynist than women who radical feminist man-haters or misandry.  Far more women are abused by men than men by women.  Far more discrimination takes place based on sex against women than men.  I think it is safe to say that, in general, the gender gap has been one of the most divisive and destructive gaps when it comes to emotional and relational oneness in the world.  

On the other hand, the true Christ-following people of God have made some of history’s best advances and most profound elevations of the status of women around the world because of the Gospel. Of all religions of the world, Christianity calls for far higher respect, better treatment and deeper love towards women by men than any other religious system. 

To ignore that there still exists problems in the church regarding gender divisions is to ignore reality.  But to ignore that God has clearly made people male and female and called us based upon those differences to different roles when it comes to church and the home is to rob the two most important institutions in the world (church & family) of differences that are meant to bless and enrich. 

Christian feminists, for lack of a better term, like to say that this verse erases all ROLE distinctions between men and women.  Therefore, according to this view, women can and should become anything in the church or in the home that a man can become—pastor, elder, bishop, marriage leader, head of the household, etc.  Christian feminists claim that all distinctions of gender are erased. 

            But that interpretation has a number of serious problems.  First of all, CONTEXT.  Remember the phrase, “Context is king!”?  Never forget that MOST fundamental rule of interpreting anything, especially the any literature. 

Has Paul been talking about marriage here?  No.

About church government?  No.

What has he been talking about for 3 chapters?

That nothing but faith in Jesus Christ brings you into reconciliation and relationship with God.  It’s all about salvation in Christ.  It’s not about your gender or racial background or social status. 

You can’t be intellectually honest or spiritually accurate if you rip a statement like this out of its context and make it apply to anything you like.  The point Paul consistently makes in his epistles is that when it comes to standing before God, we’re ALL on equal footing in Christ. 

  • Being a pastor doesn’t put me in a preferred class spiritually.
  • Being a wealthy businesswoman doesn’t put you in a preferred spiritual class.
  • Being a completed Jew in Jesus… or a Russian believer …or an African-American doesn’t give you a leg up on anyone in God’s kingdom.

The oneness we all have in the family of God does not erase the ROLES of being husbands and wives… or employers and employees… or elders and evangelists.  Oneness has to do with our standing in Jesus Christ.  And it has to do with relational bonding and unity. 


  • Is there some group or type or class of people that you have trouble bonding with in the Body of Christ, difficulty loving and embracing? What would the Spirit of God have you do?
  • Is there some action, some behavior, some change you or I need to make or engage in so that we really experience “oneness” in Christ with others in this grand family of God? What will it be?  What is God asking you to change?

Paul continues to beat the drum of reconciliation with God through faith, not the Law, when he pens these words in chapter 4: 

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

            Paul now chooses sonship as one more illustration that God’s blessings come to us by faith, not by the Law.  By the term “son”, he is not using it in the gendered sense but in the gender-neutral sense

The Bible (and God) are not using “chauvinistic language” here.  It is using precise, meaningful and insightful language.  This is one place where going to a gender-neutral language that avoids any distinction between sons and daughter or fathers and mothers actually does damage to the Scriptures and what God wants to say to us. 

There is something in the term “son” used here that could not be conveyed if we substituted the term “child” or “daughter.”   What is lost is the notion of privileges inherent to becoming a man and inheriting a father’s estate that existed only for men in a patriarchal world of that day.  God isn’t advocating for a patriarchal culture by this text.  But He is clearly using the patriarchal culture of the day to illustrate what the life and work of Christ has done for us in the spiritual realm.  Sonship and inheritance meant particular things in the Jewish world of Paul’s day.  If we throw that out by changing terms here, we will also lose the very truths with which God wants to enrich our experience.

There are at least three spiritual truths that God wants us to enjoy through the imagery of sonship.

  • Sonship in the culture of the first century denoted special commitment and intimacy between father and son. At least that is what Paul wants us to focus on in the “sonship” we all enjoy with our Heavenly Father by being “in Christ.”  When Paul employs the Aramaic term Abba, he’s using a word of child-like love for a father.  It’s literally like calling God “Daddy.”  (Imma was the “mommy” term.)

It’s only used 2 other times in the N.T.—Mk. 14:36 when Jesus is crying out for God the Father to take the cup of the suffering of the cross from him (and He didn’t) and Romans 8:15 when he is again talking about how we have received the Spirit of adoption by which we cry out ‘Abba Father.’ 

ILL:  One of our dear pastors in Spokane is Kevin C’hen. He currently pastors Mending Fences Fellowship. He’s a biker, not in the white-guy, mid-life crisis sort of sense most of my other pastor friends are. J  He’s more your black leather-&-chains, long hair-&-bandanna type biker.  He ministers on East Sprague and was critical in the launching of the City Gate ministry downtown years ago.

      I got to know Kevin best at one of the Pastor’s Prayer Summits years ago.  The thing that struck me about him was how he prayed.  He always started talking to God with “Hello, Daddy.”  Here’s this big, tough-looking, biker guy talking to God like a little boy.  It really changed my prayers and my view of being God’s child. 

      This is the difference between being a slave and being a son.  Slaves never use personal, close terms in talking with their masters.  The term “sir” or “master” are meant to remind slaves of the distance between them and their masters.

      Not so the term “Daddy.”  My daughter, Joanna, is the only one of my children who calls me by that term.  She’ll be 30 this month…and I still love to hear her call me by that name…even though she’s a mother herself now. 

      Paul tells us that the Spirit of God is at work in our hearts because of Christ’s work for us.  He’s stirring us to communicate with our God as a child to a daddy.  He’s inviting us daily to change our formal tone to a familiar talk.  He’s wanting us to know that the relationship under Christ is a very personal, very intimate, very familial one. 


  • How about changing the way we address God verbally for a while? It might really change our connectedness and intimacy with God.
  • How about trying to listen to the Spirit more when He’s moving our hearts to cry out to God? What can you do to turn frustration into prayer?  Need into intimacy with God?  Crises into chats with the Father? 

2.) Sonship also involves growth that moves one from childhood to full adulthood with all its privileges and rights.

When you were in grade school, how many of you could hardly wait to go to junior high.  (After you got there, how many wanted to go back to grade school? J)  When you were in high school, how many of you wanted to turn 18 and leave home?  When you were a young adult, how many of you wanted to fall in love, get married and have a family? 

God has built into us a yearning for personal freedom and the blessings that come with growing up and learning how to handle life.  In America, parents spend from 16-18 years of their lives disciplining, mentoring, coaching, teaching and parenting so that when their kids head out of the home, they are ready to handle life wisely and enjoy it fully. 

      I think it’s safe to say that children get tired of being looked after by their parents.  They like the freedom they have when they are at school…or go to summer camp…or move to college or out on their own.  That feeling of relief from being looked after and constantly corrected is similar to what Paul meant by the feeling of moving from the old Law to the New Covenant that made us “sons of God”.  Sons of God have been set free from law-tutelage and turned loose to live life under the Holy Spirit’s leading in whatever decisions they have to make. 

APP:  What’s keeping you from moving from law-keeping to Spirit-enjoying in your relationship with the Father?  What’s holding you back from moving from a rule-based relationship with God to a Spirit-sensitive walk on a moment-by-moment basis? 

      And what could you and I do this week to enjoy more of life in the Spirit and less of life by the Law?  God has given US…Christ-followers…SO much freedom!  How can we take this new freedom and intimacy to increase our heart connection with the Father? 

      Paul uses “adoption” language in this passage.  Adoption is an amazing and wonderful legal construct.  I say that first hand having had the privilege of becoming an adoptive dad. 

      One of the challenges of adoption, particularly the older the child is or the more trauma they experienced before coming into a safe, adoptive home is what we call R.A.D.—Reactive Attachment Disorder.  In essence it is the challenge between child and parent to bond emotionally.  Having learned through the very early years of life that they can’t depend on adults to be there to help them or protect them, developing those normal emotional bonds and connectedness can be a real challenge. 

      That’s the difference between the Law (that really can’t bring a heart-connectedness) and ‘adoption as sons’ (that can).  Only repeated proof that the adoptive parent is differentpresentlovingsacrificing for the child rather than the child having to sacrifice because the parent is absent…this and dozens of other “proofs of parenting” is what God wants us to experience under his loving fathering.