Galatians 3.15-25

January 14, 2007 Series: Galatians

Topic: Gospel Passage: Galatians 3:15–3:25

Galatians 3.15-25

Every morning in high school, I make a bitter chart.  A bitter chart includes the various things that happen, or that I read or hear about, during the day that I could be bitter about but I choose not to.  I could soap box for hours about particular things but I do little more than announce to my class that there are some things that are bothering me. 

  1. Celebrity political experts
  2. Bad Drivers from Canada
  3. Proliferation of Girl Coffee
  4. Cell Phones, text messaging, and MySpace

If I was going to make a "CHRISTIAN" bitter chart today, I would put things on there that God intended for good and men screwed up and ruined.

  1. Food
  2. Art
  3. Alcohol
  4. Internet
  5. Sex

Then there are little things like the symbols of Christianity that get hijacked by so many people.  Now, I am not a man of icons, and I have resigned myself to the fact that images like the Jesus himself have been completely hijacked by the white European hair stylists and painters of light.  But sometimes, I get even more bothered by the small symbols that have been hijacked.  Sometimes the symbols people use for their organizations really bother me.  Take the Rainbow. The Rainbow has been hijacked...I start to hate the rainbow. (Explain)

In a weird way, this is related to our study of Galatians.  You see, Legalism is so easy to hate and Pharisees so easy to make fun of. But if you take a moment to pause, put it up on the bitter chart and let it stew, you'll begin to understand exactly what is going on here.  Paul has been somewhat negative about the law up to this point.  Now, Paul will take a moment to explain what role the LAW plays in the plan of God. It is not that the LAW is a bad thing, it is that it is a good thing being used in a bad or wrong way.  Judaizers make use of something for a purpose is was not originally intended for.  

Law is not bad, in fact, Law is VERY GOOD.  Imagining a world without laws is the easiest way to convince yourself of that truth.  But a legalist is someone who has simply perverted that which is good, in this case, the law.  Let us not look down on anyone "enslaved" to law, as they are just as depraved and broke as you and I.

In this section of Scripture, Paul is going to explain what the purpose of the LAW WAS and IS and try to correct the perversion that has occurred.   He will argue that the Law is good when you use it for what it was intended for. 


15 yTo give a human example, brothers:3 zeven with a man-made covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been ratified. 16 Now athe promises were made bto Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, "And to offsprings," referring to many, but referring to one, c "And to your offspring," who is Christ. 17 This is what I mean: the law, which came d430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as eto make the promise void. 18 For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but fGod gave it to Abraham by a promise.


In defending the fact that God made covenant with Abraham, Paul begins his argument by appealing to the promises, covenants, and contracts of men.  The term covenant and contract are in some ways synonymous. 

A covenant is a formal, solemn, and binding agreement; written contractMen make these types of promises, whether political or civil in nature, often.  How often do you hear about someone being sued because they didn't live up to their contract; or read about an athlete that wants to redo their contract so that they can make more money.  Contracts, or covenants, are agreements between two people that are usually written down and signed as a symbol of that covenant.  Your signature, autograph, or mark is your word, your bond, your guarantee that you will live up to your end of the deal.  Legally, you can be held accountable for your signature on a contract, check (another form of a contract) or any other type of covenant you might have made. 


I'm forever grateful that we do not serve a God that is as fickle as we are with regard to covenants.  We do not serve a God that is like a man who might want to renegotiate things mid-season. 

Even when we are faithless, he remains faithful.  Even when we do not live up to our end of the contract, he does,  Perhaps that is why all of the covenants God makes speak to what He is going to do-because we know what we're going to do.  He makes promises that He keeps...even when circumstances don't immediately make it evident that He is.   Our God interacts with us by way of covenant promise.  In fact, the historical narrative of the Bible is in many ways guided by these covenants or promises that God makes with man.  The promise always includes three things:

  1. Two parties
  2. A promise
  3. Sign of the promise

Some Biblical covenants include:

  1. Adamic:  Do not eat the fruit and you shall live, thrive, etc. (Gen. 2:16, 17;)- Garden/Death
  2. Noahic:  I will not flood the earth (Gen. 8:16; 9:8-17)- Rainbow
  3. Abramic:  You will have a son, world will be blessed (Gen. 12:1-3; 15; 17:1-22)
  4. Mosaic:  The Law (Ex. 34:28) - Tablets
  5. Davidic:  Coming King (2 Sam. 7:12-16) - Crown
  6. New Covenant/Covenant of Grace:  Jesus Blood (Jer. 31:31-34; Heb. 8:4-13; Heb. 12:18-24; Heb. 13:20)- Cross/Body and Bread


Each new covenant does not replace the previous covenant, but in fact, builds on the next.  The New Covenant is in fact a fulfillment of the old covenant that was promises to Abraham.  Jesus is meets the requirements to Moses, and is the promised heir to David. 


Matthew 5.17

17 p "Do not think that I have come to abolish qthe Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but rto fulfill them.[i]  


Then, at his death, Jesus ushers in the new covenant of grace.  Jesus, when on the night before he was betrayed said,

Luke 22.19-20

 jAnd he took bread, and hwhen he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, k "This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me." 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, k "This cup that is poured out for you is lthe new mcovenant in my blood.[ii]

The covenant promises to Abraham were not fulfilled in Issac directly; Paul writes that they were not completely fulfilled until Jesus Christ-THE TRUE OFFSPRING or SEED of Abraham.

The coming of the Mosaic contract or covenant (almost a half century afterward) did not change a covenant already "ratified" or AGREED to by God with Abraham.  In fact, the covenant promises found fulfillment in Christ and are in effect forever. The blessing of justification by faith is therefore permanent and could not be changed by the Law (Gen. 12:7; 13:15; 24:7


The Judaizers are trying to argue that THINGS HAVE CHANGED and a new covenant put in place with Moses.  Paul here makes an argument that God did not and would not change the original contract made with Abraham. 

Paul reminds them that they have always expected the blessings to Israel to come through a single Messiah, a SEED, not a LAW.   God never promised that a LAW would come and save them, he promised a SEED would come...clear back in Genesis 3 actually and again to Abraham in Genesis 15.  The entire book of Matthew is written to Jews to prove that he was that promised seed, the Messiah.  That is why the book begins with a discussion of the genealogy traced back to Abraham.  During the half a century after the promises to Abraham before the law given to Moses, God blessed the patriarchs on the basis of faith alone, and the coming of the Law did not change this in any way.

Obedience to the Law was not necessary to gain the inheritanceGod is keeping his side of the promise.  The Jews are changing itThey want to "renegotiate the contract" for a better deal which in fact, is not a better deal at all.  I keep asking myself, why someone would want to do this and I keep going back to the same passage in Luke 10

0 "Two men fwent up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, gstanding by himself, prayed1 hthus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 iI fast twice a week; jI give tithes of all that I get.' 13 But the tax collector, standing far off, kwould not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but lbeat his breast, saying, ‘God, mbe merciful to me, a sinner!' 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For neveryone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted." [iii]


This isn't much different than us.  The thing about man is that we don't seem to do well with covenants, at least not in recent history.  We make promises, but we don't keep them.  We give our word, but it is somewhat meaningless.  Any contract today is renegotiable, nothing is permanent, and commitments can be flexed if not broken completely.   

We try to change our promises to men when our expectations are not met. This goes with many things.  Outside of Christ, the biggest "covenant" we make is marriage.  That doesn't seem to "take" very well these days.  We "sign up" for something that doesn't at some point meet our idealistic or romantic view of how things were supposed to be-we become somewhat disillusioned.  Of course, then we have a choice.  Because we no longer respect the concept of covenant and promise, we make excuses and find ways to get out of what we have promised. 

This is one contract we cannot change.  As much as we would like the conditions of the contract to be different, we must live by the covenant God made with us and not try and come to him on our terms. We are not in control here.   



19 Why then the law? gIt was added because of transgressions, huntil the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was iput in place through angels jby an intermediary. 20 Now kan intermediary implies more than one, but lGod is one.

The question is then begged, if the coming of the Mosaic law was not to add, replace, or otherwise alter the means of salvation, then why did it come?  WHY DID THE LAW COME?


RESTRAIN WICKEDNESS:  All laws at in some way help or aid in restraining sin.  They may not stop it completely and legislation will never be solely responsible for heart change-but a protective fence can often stop people from falling into danger.  It served to restrain sin a bit by showing what in fact transgressed God's law and what would incur God's wrath.

1 Timothy 1.8-11 8 Now we know that rthe law is good, if one uses it lawfully, 9 understanding this, that the slaw is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, 10 the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers,2 liars


REVEAL SIN TO MAN:   Have we ever defined what sin is?   

Sin is a transgression of or disobedience to the law of God. The law shows us what God considers sin.  Without God's law, we are left to define righteousness according to what we think it is.  Consider how we would define it, in extremes.  Well, as long as I am not a rapist or a murderer, then I must be righteous.  In Matthew 5, Jesus explains that a proper understanding of God's laws condemn everyone.  Adultery = Lust.  Hate = Murder, etc.  


Paul teaches us, though, that the Law was never intended to save but was given for the purpose of sin.  It was not permanent and it was not the great hero.


According to Paul, the promises were not made to all men but the Abraham and his SEED (singular). This means, that only in Jesus do we receive the blessings.  Following the law will not result in the blessings of Abraham-only trust in Jesus


If you ever read the giving the law in Exodus 19 (Hebrews 12.18-21) it is quite dramatic.  Dramatic things impress us as it did the Jews.  The Judaizers were impressed by the incidentals of the Law-glory, thunder, lightning, angels, and other externals. But Paul looked beyond incidentals to the essentials. The Law was temporary, and required a mediator-Moses.  In the covenant of Abram AND the covenant of Grace,  God made the promises directly. There were in fact two mediators, the angels representing God, and Moses representing the people. 

The only conclusion is that the covenant of Law is in someway, all ways, inferior. This of course, makes sense in that the law cannot bring the Holy Spirit, cannot initiate justification, cannot continue in sanctification, cannot guarantee permanence of salvation, but does bring a curse.   

BUT WHY DO WE NEED THE LAW TODAY?  I have always found it interesting how upset people, especially believers, get upset when the government (usually by the request of some agnostic) removes the 10 commandments out of parks, schools, or courthouses.  These guys put an inordinate amount of energy into making sure they are posted. Now I know the negative effects of posting pornography on public walls, but I'm not sure I'm convinced of the positive impact of posting the 10 commandments on the wall.  I have always wanted to ask those guys how many of them have the 10 commandments posted in their homes.  How many of them can even recite them?

We've come a long way from the days when proving you weren't a witch in Salem meant being able to recite the 10 commandments.  The purpose of the law hasn't really changed for us.  The one thing we must accept is that the LAW is not to be thrown away.  It is a good thing when it is used for what it is intended.  When it is perverted...that leads to legalism in two ways: 

1. Using the Law as the minimum requirement: In once sense, you can be legalistic to the point of building UP FENCES around the law that you don't come close to disobeying God. This is where people begin to add to the gospel by putting up new traditions, rules, or rituals that are necessary for salvation or godliness.

Galatians 2.16

yet we know that na person is not justified1 by works of the law obut through faith in Jesus Christ,2 so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, pbecause by works of the law no one will be justified[iv]

2. Using the Law, or Bible, as the maximum requirement: Basically we say that we'll do anything that is not clearly condemned in the Bible. We accept strictly the letter of the law then run into issues when we try to make cultural decisions that are not explicitly forbidden by the Scriptures.



 sBut this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it ton their hearts. uAnd I will be their God, and they shall be my people.[v]



21 Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For mif a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. 22 But the Scripture nimprisoned everything under sin, so that othe promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given pto those who believe.


The law was not intended to give life but to imprison us.  Theoretically salvation could have come by the Law if people had been capable of keeping it perfectly, but they, we could and cannot.   The law, in fact, ensures that the promise comes because it is our last and only hope for salvation.  The law provides no hope, only a sobering look at who we are.  So that...people would recognize WHAT was WRONG, WHAT was required, and HOW incapable they were of achieving it. 


Romans 3.9,23

9 What then? Are we Jews1 any better off?2 No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both kJews and lGreeks, are munder sin,

We must stop playing the compare game with other people and measure our true nature according to God's law.  Measuring ourselves against other people can lead to only two things, pride or despair.  You take whatever spiritual law you have created and say, WOW, that person is really godly-I suck.  OR you say, WOW, that person is really a sinner-I ROCK. Both are wrong because both have failed to recognize the commonality between all three...that we are all depraved, all sinful, all worth of death, all pathetic if left to our own and only able to be "better" people by the power of Christ.  IF you want to compare yourself with someone, compare yourself with Jesus.  Then, when you don't match up, remember, that YOU have been crucified with CHRIST and God now sees Jesus in you.

The purpose of the THE LAW was to prepare the way to Christ, not just point to him. And it still does!  The LAW KILLS US that that Jesus might make us alive by fulfilling God's requirement of death.  It proves we are more sinful than we could ever imagine that God might love us more than we could ever dream!   

Rom. 8:3-4

For jGod has done what the law, kweakened by the flesh, lcould not do. mBy sending his own Son nin the likeness of sinful flesh and ofor sin,3 he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that pthe righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, qwho walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.[vi]  

23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, qimprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, rthe law was our sguardian until Christ came, tin order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.

Before faith came, before a way was created through believing in Jesus, we were imprisoned.  The word "guardian" describes a slave to whom a son was committed from age six or seven to puberty. These slaves were severe disciplinarians and were charged with guarding the children from the evils of society and giving them moral training. It is better then to understand that the Law did not lead us to Christ but that it was the disciplinarian until Christ came.

The demands of the Law reminded the people that they needed a Saviour. 


Romans 7.7-21 

7 What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, oI would not have known sin. I would not have known what it is to covet if pthe law had not said, "You shall not covet." 8 But sin, qseizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. rApart from the law, sin lies dead. 9 I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. 10 The very commandment sthat promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, tseizing an opportunity through the commandment, udeceived me and through it killed me. 12 So vthe law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.

13 Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. 14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, wsold under sin. 15 I do not understand my own actions. For xI do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with ythe law, that it is good. 17 So now zit is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells ain me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 bFor I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, cit is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For dI delight in the law of God, ein my inner being, 23 but I see in my members fanother law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from gthis body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.




More in Galatians

December 17, 2007

Galatians 2.15-21

March 18, 2007

Galatians 6.11-18

March 11, 2007

Galatians 6.1-10