Galatians – A Call to Freedom 8
Law or Promise?
Galatians 3:15-25New International Version (NIV)
The Law and the Promise
15 Brothers and sisters, let me take an example from everyday life. Just as no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case. 16 The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,”[a]meaning one person, who is Christ. 17 What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise. 18 For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on the promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise.
19 Why, then, was the law given at all? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was given through angels and entrusted to a mediator. 20 A mediator, however, implies more than one party; but God is one.
21 Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law. 22 But Scripture has locked up everything under the control of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.
Children of God
23 Before the coming of this faith,[b] we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. 24 So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. 25 Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.
We are in week 8 of our study through Galatians. Now, the clear reality of what Paul is saying here, can be lost in the thick language that he uses.
One of the great dangers is that because of the difficult language we miss the deeply profound realization that Paul is bringing here. This passage brings one of the most profound and powerful realities of the gospel to us. And in fact displays to us the unique reality of the Christian faith.
So let’s dive strait in:
1.Law or Promise?
The essential reality and challenge of this passage is what is more important; law or Promise? If everything is by faith; and God promised to Abraham without Law do we actually even need the Law?
And I must admit I have had many conversation with new Christians and older Christians who really struggle with this reality; if I am forgiven by faith alone then must I still do good? Must I follow God; what do I do if I carry on sinning?
Essentially what matters more God’s love (his promises) or His Law (obedience)?
Well, Paul starts with the promise. He says effectively, that God gave the promise to Abraham first. And then goes to explain how the Law only came 430 years later, and says that the Law does not set aside the promises.
Therefore, it must be the promises that matter. Right? Well no; from verse 19 19 Why, then, was the law given at all?
Essentially; if God is a god of love, why can’t we just make it all about love? Cant we just be NT believers?
Well that never works. All relationships are formed within the context of covenant. Essentially that is why Marriage frees you to love not the opposite; which the comedy media always states.
I’ll illustrate; If you are about to marry someone; and in the conversations said; okay I like you but let’s discuss the issue of kids; I really want two to three kids, and I want them to grow up knowing their grandparents; your partner says nah, I don’t like kids and if we get married I really don’t want to see any of our parents again… what would you answer: okay love let’s get married tomorrow!
No, it would a deal breaker; that which is fundamental to who you are, that which is important to you is not agreed upon.
Now how can we say we love God and all that matters to God but we don’t align ourselves with who He is.
God isn’t simply a God of love; He is a God of justice and goodness and of love.
What he demands is absolute purity; absolute holiness, absolute righteousness.
In fact, throughout Scripture we see these characters ascribed to Him not as things He does but who He is in His person.
But now we have a problem; it has to be love or justice. They are contradictory demands by nature.
You can either be loving and graceful, or you can be just and right.
If a judge has his own son in the docks who is guilty for a crime; he has a choice; he can have mercy on his son and he will be an unjust judge, or he can uphold the law and be an unloving father.
And so we get to the apparent contradiction of the Christian faith; Paul calls us to understand him as loving and just!
So how do we do this?
Well we don’t undervalue either, but we don’t just hold them in tension. We hold them together in Christ.
2. Law and Promise
So how do we do this?
Well essentially without of the person of Christ they cannot; and it is one of the great failing of the philosophy of many of the other world religions. They cannot understand how God can be both just and merciful. As stated these are contradicting realities.
And the secularist or atheist has a similar problem. If we are a mistake (chance chemicals) and life is all about passing on your genetics; then why do we fight for human rights and morals? We should fight for the rights of our clan and immediate patronage. We also know that just doesn’t work.
So how do we align these two realties?
Well it is only on the cross, it is only in the person of Jesus Christ that these two contradicting realities come together and are held together.
Why? Because it is only on the cross, that God’s righteous demands are met so that his loving grace can be given.
You see Jesus lived the righteous life that we could not live and died the death that we deserved. God’s justice was poured out upon Him. In fact, in the passage we read last time Paul says Galatians 3:13
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.
There is an interesting use of words here; Paul says that Jesus became a curse for us. Not that he took the curse of our sins, He became our curse.
This is the unique doctrine of substitution: Jesus didn’t take our sins, God treated Him as if our sins were His. So that now we could be treated as if His righteousness is ours.
That means that our sins were not just waved away: God doesn’t just forgive you because he chose to. He forgives us because our sins have been paid for; Jesus paid it all.
That means; church, justice matters, truth matters, morality matters, doing what is right matters. It matters so much to God His own son had to die; to make us right.
But love also matters church, because we could not fulfil the perfect demands of God. And we still can’t! The Law exposes our shortcoming! And always will.
I still clearly remember reading through the Law especially Deuteronomy and Leviticus as a young Christian and feeling like the worst human being ever! I remember reading If you by mistake do this sin or another. And I was thinking I don’t sin by mistake; what does God think of me!!!
Do yourself a favour and read those laws, it will make you feel like the worst human being ever!
So this is where the power of the gospel becomes a reality to us!
You see church; the law exposes your need; it exposes your desperate state. But it also shows that you are helpless to change that. Through all your trying you cannot stand; as Paul says in vs 12
“The person who does these things will live by them.”
This is where the love of God becomes so tangible! God’s love is not empty it is not just blanketed love it is just love, He dealt with the demand of justice; your sins were paid for! So that now you stand completely forgiven by faith, by trust, in His salvation!
It is only in the gospel that we have perfect justice and perfect love perfectly balanced. God’s righteous demand of Law is fulfilled God’s perfect love is administered and in Christ alone are those two realities perfectly kept!
So how does this look when we actually live this out?
a)I assume the worst in myself
If we understand grace, we don’t see ourselves as particular moral, particularly good. In fact, if we understand grace, we understand that we are not.
So in the conversation with (say) an atheist, a Hindu or a Muslim or any other faith, I don’t assume I have the moral authority; in fact, due to grace I assume they might be more moral. But, I know where freedom from my moral deficiencies is truly found! Jesus is my righteousness; Jesus is my morality.
In assuming I don’t have the moral high ground I can see the person as a person and not an enemy. The world today is obsessed with us and them mentalities; the gospel breaks that down; because it comes down to us together and God. We are all sinners, God is only holy!
And because Jesus died for sin I take sin seriously!
b)The cross defines me
What do I mean by this; well because we are defined by justice and love; we are therefore defined by that in our lives.
There is a sweetness to someone who is balanced by the gospel. Because their personality is identified in love or justice; so they have a peacefulness to truly fight for justice without forsaking grace in the process and they can call for forgiveness without abandoning the justice of the matter.
It creates moral conviction with sweetness, you fight for truth without thinking that you have gotten it all right. And you fight for forgiveness without pushing away the hurt of the injustice.
And I need to say church, the world needs people like this! Your world needs people like this! This country needs people like this!
Because truth without grace isn’t really truth and grace without truth isn’t really grace.
I would encourage us as a people in this land in the time that we find ourselves in now, we need to be a people defined by truth and grace, grace and truth.
Where we call all to love, but also all to justice and law. Where through the cross we bring hope in the massive hope of the cross of Christ!
I noticed this on Friday; everyone sees their own point of view as inherently more moral and right that everyone else’s. so rather than listening to each other we seek to destroy each other.
Church we need to hear the gospel and let it truly sink into our heart and this land needs to hear the gospel and let truth and love; grace and justice heal it! There is no other way!
So I want to call you to be representatives of this wonderful message. Go out as gospel people; defined by the cross!