To give a human example, brothers: even with a man-made covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been ratified. Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.
Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary. Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one.
Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law.But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.
Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian,
We have been focused on Paul’s radical claims of salvation by grace in the book of Galatians. This should cause us to ask some questions like:
If we are “free from the law”, does that mean we don’t have to obey the law (e.g., Ten Commandments) of God?
If I am always saved by Christ’s performance and not my own, why should I strive to live a holy life?
Do I have any obligation to keep God’s law, and why?
These are very practical questions. Our other questions about how to live in marriage, how to spend and think about money, and what is right and wrong to do at work all stem from the central question: What is my relationship as a Christian to God’s law?
Paul has established in his letter that we are saved only by faith in Christ and not through any righteousness or action of our own. Paul addresses this crucial issue.
The Purpose Of The Law
In verse 15-17 Paul underlines what the law does not do. By giving an example of a man-made will, he emphasizes that it is binding and nothing can be added to it later. His point is that the law given 430 years later does not set aside the covenant promise previously given to Abraham. What Paul is saying is powerful. The law did not come as a way of salvation. If it did, then God would give out His blessing on the basis of performance, not promise.
A gift-promise needs only to be believed to be received, but a law-wage must be obeyed to be received. Paul is adamant: either something comes by grace or works; either it comes because of the givers promise or the receivers performance.
Why the law then?
It restrains evil. The law is like a cage that restrains a lion. It doesn’t change the nature of the lion, it just cages in the lion. When we’re afraid of the repercussions of breaking the law, that doesn’t make us righteous, it makes us fearful of the repercussions of the law. It doesn’t make us holy, it just restrains us - like a speed limit on a road.
The law is a great diagnostic. We all consider ourselves to be good people. This is because we compare our strengths against other people’s weakness and not the holiness of God or the standard God laid out the Ten Commandments. Paul laid this out in Romans 3:20. This is what the law does. The law reads everyone the same: Sinner in need of grace; fallen short of the glory of God. This is what the law does to all of us (verse 19). It exposes our rebellion. No one has a problem with God until He speaks - it is then that the wickedness of our hearts are exposed. The law persistently reveals your failures to live up to God’s standard of holiness. In light of the Ten Commandments, none of us are holy. The law tutors us on our need for Christ.
The gospel rewires our hearts by showing us our need for the promised Savior - Jesus!
Promise Rather Than Law
If the law of Moses was intended to be the means for salvation, then the promise to Abraham would not have been a real promise (verse 18-19). The promise by God to Abraham is a covenantal promise that relied in no way on Abraham, but only on God. Paul’s point here is that God promised to bless His people, but this blessing is not achieved or kept by law obedience.
Paul is saying that an offer which begins by grace, as a free promise, must continue to be made on the same basis - or it is not a promise. As soon as it becomes based on performance, it can no longer be a free gift.
The Galatians were in danger of misunderstanding redemptive history. God’s blessing is not achieved by law-obedience. It is common for believers to begin their Christian lives by seeing “Christ...crucified” (verse 1), relying on God’s promise that Christ has taken our curse and given us His blessing. However, as we move forward it is tempting to look to our own efforts and resting in our our own performance to give us a sense of acceptability before God. This will either cause us to despair or puff up in pride.
God has a purpose in commanding how His people should live. It leads to human flourishing and the character of God. When we grasp salvation by promise, our hearts are filled with gratitude and a desire to please and be like our Savior- and the way to do that is through obeying the law. Grateful joy is a motive that will lead to much more endurance in obedience than fearful compliance.
Once we understand salvation by promise, we do not obey God any longer for our sake, by using the law-salvation system to get things from God. Rather, we now obey God for His sake, using the law’s content to please and delight our Father.
There is a place for the law in our lives, it comes after the promise!
Our Via Communities are our primary discipleship tool. This section is to help you as you discuss the sermon with others in your life. It is designed for communities to utilize but can be used to facilitate a conversation between spouses, good friends, co-workers, etc., as we live to be faithful to God’s mission in his world.
This simple acronym (BLESS, B - Bless, L - Listen, E - Eat, S - Speak, S - Sabbath) should help you to frame your life according to the great commandment “love God” (Matthew 22:37) and the expression of that commandment in loving your neighbor (John 13:34). Each time you meet, start by discussing the rhythms of your life according to B.L.E.S.S.
Intentionally bless: Christ-followers, non-believers and those different than you.
Listen to what God is saying to you, through His Word and others.
Share a meal with a Christ-follower and also a non-believer.
Talk to God through prayer and to others about Jesus through witness.
Be intentional about taking time to both rest and recreate.
The Gospel is powerful. The good news of Jesus changes us. This section is to record the ways you are noticing the good news of Jesus transforming your life. Jot notes to help you remember.
As we examined God’s Word, in what ways was His Word examining you?
Describe how Jesus is becoming more central in your life.
What does trusting in Jesus look like for you this week?