Terms: Is the gospel what God does for man or what man does for God, or a bit of both?
Central question: What do we believe?
In our last study we considered the terms of God’s salvation as revealed in Galatians 2. 16 to 3. 13. We found the contrast of the terms of law which were: (a) do; (b) all; (c) continue, which promised a cursing, those of the gospel where only promised a blessing – by faith in Jesus Christ alone.
We now continue by finding that chapter 3 verses 14 to 29 brings before us three great figures of God’s salvation plan:
Abraham – the receiver of the promises of blessing in his seed.
Moses – the mediator of the law, which had promised cursing.
Jesus Christ – the promised Seed, who gives the blessings of Abraham.
Each of these persons serves a key role in God’s eternal plan. But there is an order to their contribution that reveals the gospel. It was this order that the Galatians needed to understand.
The chain of blessing through Abraham and Christ to the nations, 3. 4
3. 14. The subject is ‘the blessing of Abraham’. That blessing is stated in chapter 3 verse 8 as ‘justification’ and in verse 14 as ‘receiving the Spirit’. These are spiritual blessings. These blessing come to the Gentiles as well as the Jews even though they had no part in Moses and the law with all its rules, rituals and regulations. Abraham was promised that ‘in thee shall all nations be blessed’. So one must be connected to Abraham to receive the blessed promises and this is so when one demonstrates the kind of faith Abraham had. This faith needs to be in Abraham’s Seed, Jesus Christ. Immediately the believer receives ‘the promise of the Spirit’ and becomes linked to Abraham and thus inherits the blessing of righteousness just as he did.
Notice, Moses is outside of this chain of blessing for to Moses promises of cursing were added, Deut. 27, 28. To Abraham no promise of cursing was made for God said, ‘I will bless thee’ and ‘thou shalt be a blessing’, Gen. 12. 2.
The analogy of the finality of a will, 3. 15-18
3. 15. Paul uses a common analogy for that day. When a covenant, like a will, is confirmed it becomes unbreakable and unchangeable. Today, a death finalizes a will and once it is finalized one cannot add to it. For example, a rich person dies and has willed his estate to all his offspring. Though you are not the offspring of that person you may go into the lawyer’s office and rehearse all the good works you did for the deceased and ask the lawyer to add your name to the inheritance. He will refuse stating he cannot add to the terms of the will since it is finalized and you are not legal offspring. What comes after cannot change it.
3. 16. God made and confirmed the promise to Abraham and to his ‘seed’, Gen. chapters 15, 17, and 22. Since seed is not in the plural (a seed is a single unit that has the potential of a plurality within it) but singular, it cannot be several individuals who can give the promised blessing but only one. Christ is that seed and Moses therefore cannot be included.
3. 17-18. Since the law came through Moses 430 years after the confirmation of God’s covenant with Abraham in the Messiah, it is legally powerless to add terms to it or cancel it. Abraham received the promises of inheritance, an eternal city and heir of the world by God’s grace, not his observance of the law which of course had not been given. Thus the promises via Abraham and his seed, Christ, stand untouched by the introduction of the law through Moses.
Then why did God give the law through Moses? 3. 19-25
Now the question must be asked, ‘wherefore then serveth the law'?
If the law was not in the chain of blessing why would God bring it into Israel’s history after Abraham? Was the law an afterthought or a mistake or even worse – an evil? God forbid! Clearly the law does serve a function but not as a link in the chain of blessing. It was rather an instructor, for the law teaches us why we need God’s unconditioned promise of blessing and justification, (righteousness). Paul then continues to argue that if one doesn’t need something why seek it?
In the following verses Paul reveals that there are at least four truths concerning the function of the law of which we must take account:
3. 19–20. The law exposes sin as transgression. Sin is coming short of the mark. Transgression is an intentional crossing over the line. The lines of right and wrong declared by the law now expose mankind not as those who make mistakes but as legal offenders in rebellion against God, see also Rom. 3. 20; 5. 20; 1 John 3. 4. The law takes the lid off our respectability and shows us for what we are.
3. 21. The law is not an enemy it’s just powerless to give life. Law exposes sin and this is good, but has no ability to change a guilty verdict. A police officer is good but has no authority to remove the charges against an offender.
3. 22. The law makes all equal. The written code, i.e., scripture, proves Jews (religion with the law) are equally under sin as the Gentiles, (nations without the formal law). It therefore shows all are legitimate candidates for God’s condemnation as also for the promise of blessing from the Saviour, Jesus Christ. Our failure as sinners to keep the law makes the promise more needful and desirable.
3. 23-25. The law is a tutor or instructor that brings one to graduation. Once the law convinces us that we are sinners in need of bestowed righteousness, i.e., salvation, it has completed its role to the sinner. Just as when once one graduates from school the teacher has done his job and the student is no longer under his authority so believers move from law to faith, from Moses to Christ, from condemnation to justification, from the cursing to the blessing.
And so Moses, while not in the chain of blessing, is indispensable in the plan. We must get worse in our esteem of ourselves before we get ‘better’. We cannot come to Christ to be justified until we have come to Moses to be condemned.
The Galatians were being shown the gospel chain as Abraham + Christ + Moses (the law) = salvation. This was false and was not the gospel at all. The true gospel chain is:
Abraham: received the promise that in His seed the blessing is available to all.
To Moseswhose law, far from annulling this promise, shows that man needs the promise.
To Christwho is Abraham’s Seed in whom the promises are given and fulfilled.
The blessing that only comes by being linked to Christ, 3. 26-29
It is the closing verses of Galatians chapter 3 that amplify the dynamic of this multidimensional union with Christ – not Moses. The blessings of God are only to be found in a union with the Lord Jesus Christ. There are many in this world who long for identity and meaning, looking for the reason and purpose in life. The big questions of every generation are, ‘Why are we here?’ ‘Where did we come from?’ and, ‘Where are we going?’ It is only the gospel of God and the blessings it brings in Christ to all who receive Him that provide a satisfying answer.
These are revealed in our four-dimensional relationship with Christ: height, depth, breadth and length.
3. 26. Height: We are sons of God simply by faith in Christ Jesus, linked by relationship to ‘the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity’, Isa. 57. 15.
3. 27. Depth: We are clothed with Christ. This is illustrated by our identification with Him in baptism. Christ is now our identity, our forgiveness and acceptance with the Father. On what basis is this? It is on account of our oneness with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection of which our baptism is the demonstration. In Him we are redeemed from the curse of the law, 3. 13.
3. 28. Breadth: We lose one identity only to obtain a bigger one. In Christ we are equally accepted and where our national identity does not influence God; ‘neither Jew nor Greek’. Neither does social class; ‘neither bond nor free’. Neither does sexual gender; ‘neither male nor female’. In our identity with Christ as sons we are ‘all one in Christ Jesus’. Thus, we are equally connected in the same family – worldwide – with every believer from the four corners of the earth.
3. 29. Length: Since we belong to Christ we ‘are Abraham’s seed’ – because Christ is. And since we are Abraham’s seed we are legal ‘heirs according to the promise’. Outside the national and religious identity of Moses, we who possess Christ’s Spirit are truly linked to the promises of grace given to Abraham. By inheritance we can claim them as ours. We have a length of past down to Abraham and his seed. We have an infinite length of future, heirs according to the promise truly ‘a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God’, Heb. 11. 10.
Glory unto God alone!
To be continued.