Exposing Our Needs
- Saturday, March 01, 2003
Paul argues that you can't change a covenant. A third party can't come along later and declare something agreed upon before to be null and void. God made the covenant with Abraham. The will cannot be broken. The inheritance stands as God intended it to. It was a covenant of grace, based on God's promises to Abraham which Abraham received in faith. Abraham did not initiate the covenant, buying from God His favor on the basis of all the good he would do. Paul writes:
The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not say "and to seeds," meaning many people, but "and to your seed," meaning one person, who is Christ. (Galatians 3:16)
The fact that Moses came along some 400-plus years later, receiving the Law at Sinai, does not abolish the prior covenant between God and Abraham.
Second, in Galatians 3:19-20, Paul declares that the law is not greater than the Promise.
He's not saying that there is no purpose for the law. What he is saying is that although there is a purpose for the law, the law still must be seen as subservient to grace. It comes under the Promise. It does not replace or become superior to the Promise. He writes:
What, then, was the purpose of the law? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was put into effect through angels by a mediator. A mediator, however, does not represent just one party; but God is one. (Galatians 3:19-20)
As impressive as is the giving of the law as we see it in Exodus 19, and as important as Moses is to the history of the people of Israel, the Law was temporary. Nowhere does God say to Abraham, "I make this promise to you, and if you keep the conditions of this you will be blessed." This was a promise based on grace, not on works. The Law was temporary. It depended on the parties meeting certain conditions. And it was the function up to the end-point, " . . . until the Seed (Jesus Christ) to whom the promise referred had come." The Law required a mediator. It was received third-hand. It came from God to the angels to Moses and on to the people. When God made His covenant of promise with Abraham, He did it personally without a mediator. "God is one" who initiates the covenant with Abraham--the ultimate covenant, and there is no need for a go-between.
The Judaizers were caught up in the incidentals of the Law. Paul looked beyond those incidentals to the essentials. The covenant of grace, the promise of God, was greater than the law.
Third, in Galatians 3:21-26, Paul declares that the Law is not contrary to the Promise.
It is at this point the Apostle Paul injects a whole new dimension to his argument.
By this time, after all these weeks of preaching, you're probably beginning to wonder why in the world was there such a thing as the Law? After all, part of the rich heritage which we have in biblical revelation is God's revelation of His will to the Jewish people through His great lawgiver Moses. Was God just wasting His energy? Not for a moment.
It is now that we begin to get some understanding as to why God gave the Law. God is not contradicting himself.
What Paul is saying is that the law does not contradict the promise. Rather, the law cooperates with the promise in fulfilling God's purposes.
Or another way of stating it is that the law and grace, instead of being contrary to one another, actually are complementary to each other.
Dr. Warren Wiersbe, to whom I am somewhat indebted for this basic outline, makes three emphatic statements that emerge from this text.
Statement one: The Law was not given to provide life.
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