Devotional # 90. 6/9/14. Galatians 3:15-29.
Introduction: Galatians has kept the theme of not adding anything to faith in Jesus. Paul has focused on the law: making sure that as Christians we don’t go back to it or if we never knew the law in the way that Hebrews did that we don’t allow ourselves to start clinging to it as more important or equal to Jesus. We’ll see an incredible transition from men needing law to show them sin and point towards Jesus to inheriting everything Jesus has!
vv. 15-18. Here Paul is talking about the importance of covenants. Notice that he says Abraham’s promise was not to “seeds“, plural, but to One “seed” which is Jesus. The promise wasn’t the law, the law showed the need of the promise to be fulfilled. God added the law 430 years after the promise to Abraham because of man’s transgressions (sins). But we must always come back to the promise. When we view the law in this way we understand that it was merely a tool pointing to Jesus and that should make us agree with Paul that God’s promise was never the law plus Jesus, always just Jesus.
vv. 19-20. Just as Paul did above he again asks us what was the purpose of the law? Again it was a “tutor” (as we’ll see in v. 24) pointing towards the promised “Seed” – Jesus! We need to know that the mediator here is Moses not Jesus. So we understand that the law came from God through angels to Moses, but he was just a man. MacDonald makes a great point, “if there were only one contracting party, and he made an unconditional promise, requiring nothing from the other party, there would be no need of a mediator. The fact that the law required a mediator implied that man must keep his part of the agreement. This was the weakness of the law: it called for obedience from those who do not have the power to give it. When God made his promise to Abraham, he was the sole contracting Party. This was the strength of the promise; everything depended on God and nothing on man. No mediator was involved, because none was needed” (Source 1, p. 30). This may sound doctrinally unsound to the seasoned Christian because MacDonald is saying that we don’t need a mediator and then later Jesus is called a mediator. Is this a contradiction? No, he explains that mediator here versus when it is applied to Christ has two different meanings. “Moses served as a mediator simply by receiving law from God and delivering it to the people of Israel. He was the go-between, or the people’s representative” (Source 1, p. 30).
vv. 21-25. Paul realizes that this begs the question: was the law in opposition to “the promises of God“? Paul uses the strongest word in Greek to say “No!” Absolutely not! Paul says that the Bible confirms that if the law could be kept then the law would be perfect. But all humans sin (Romans 3:23) so the law was merely a “tutor” guiding people towards faith in Christ. As we see in Hebrews 11 this was a forward-looking faith towards the Messiah. But once Jesus came, the law was no longer over men. Notice it doesn’t say that the law is stupid, or should be thrown away, instead it is no longer holding us down. No part of the law is ridiculous, if we follow Christ then we will keep the law. But that’s not what guides us, our allegiance is faith based on what Christ did for us on the cross.
vv. 26-29. Paul’s point in these verses is that we are “heirs“. So to understand this we must understand what an “heir” is. In the Greek “heirs” is kleronomos (G2818) meaning “one who receives his allotted possession by right of sonship” (Source 2). Read Romans 8:17. MacArthur says that, unlike Hebrews where the firstborn received the inheritance, under Roman law all children received their portion equally. He also notes the law “more carefully protected possessions that had been inherited” (Source 3). Read Romans 4 (if you don’t have much time just read verse 14). John R.W. Stott talks about the language used: “Law-language (‘you shall’) demands our obedience, but promise-language (‘I will’) demands our faith.” He goes on to explain God didn’t tell Abraham that if he did something then he would be blessed but “’I will bless you; believe my promise’” (Source 4).
Conclusion: Paul has brought us from hearing that we shouldn’t add anything to our faith in Jesus, to actually understanding why adding the law would be a bad thing. Beyond that we see we’re sinful, then redeemed and finally to be the kids who inherit the kingdom! What a great transition this is for the Christian.
Source 1: William MacDonald, The Letter to the Galatians, 2007.
Source 3: John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, p. 1708.
Source 4: John R.W. Stott, The Message of Romans, p. 131.