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Friday, September 1, 2017

Galatians (3:15-20) (Lesson 10)

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Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)

Established November 2008                                                       Published Weekly on Friday

This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men (and women) to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.  (1Timothy 2:3-4)

Galatians (3:15-20)                                                         (Lesson 10)

Thank you for choosing HBS as your Bible study partner.

In Galatians 3:1-5 Paul stated his case for a true Believer receiving the Holy Spirit, through faith in Christ Jesus, at the very beginning, and not through the works of the Law.  Then the Spirit empowered the Believer by faith unto personal sanctification, and not the works of the Law.  The Judaizers had beguiled the Galatians into believing that one starts the Christian life by faith, but completes it themselves by works.  Paul said, “You’re idiots if you believe that!  That nullifies God’s Grace and the gospel and dishonors Christ.”  Not only is our justification by faith (alone) in Christ, but our sanctification is by faith also; not by works, lest anyone should boast.

In Galatians 3:6-9, Paul supported this viewpoint by offering Abraham, the patriarch of the Jewish race, as an example of salvation by faith (alone) because he was reckoned as righteous 430 years before the Law was given to Israel at Mt Sinai.  Therefore, the only way to be a child of Abraham is through faith in what God had said, following Abraham’s example.  The blessing of Abraham comes not to those who show they can work hard at trying to keep the Law, but to those who trust in the promises of God.

Then in Galatians 3:10-14, our Apostle Paul put it another way.  He wisely uses the Old Testament, teaching those who idolized it, “If you do decide to go the way of the Law, you willingly place yourself under a curse.”  We were all under this curse at one time, both the Jew and the Gentile; because we were born into sin; we were all unrighteous, or not in right-standing with God.  The Lord Jesus Christ came to redeem all people from the curse of death and sin (3:13):

Christ redeemed us (true Believers) from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us – for it is written, “CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE” the result, in verse 14, is instead of a curse we now inherit the blessing of Abraham; i.e. we have received eternal life because we placed our trust in the work of Christ – in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that they would (what) receive the promise of the (Holy) Spirit through faith.

The blessing of Abraham is justification by faith (alone).  Abraham received this blessing before he was circumcised; i.e. a human effort or work (Romans 4:11), and this same blessing might be given to others who were not circumcised of the flesh, but of the heart, through faith, unto righteousness (Romans 2:29, 4:10-12).

Please open your Bible at Galatians 3:15.

Down through the centuries man has had many gods (idols) and they devised many ways to please them, sacrificially, in order to gain something in return such as:  a healthy child, fair weather for their crops, a bountiful harvest, success in warfare, a safe journey, salvation, you name it...  Man has always felt they needed to do something to appease or satisfy their god(s) in order to earn their favor (See Baal and Molech for example).  This wasn’t a new problem in Galatia; it was an old problem re-visited.   

The idea that one’s salvation can be “bought” or “earned” is as old as the hills and isn’t going away any time soon.  Too many Christians today live life as though there is “something else;” something “more” than Jesus.  However, God will not accept the notion that there is any other way to the Father except through Jesus Christ or your self-effort or human works are a substitute for faith (alone) in the divine blood of His Son which was shed for all on Calvary and Paul’s letter to the Galatians makes this so very clear (John 14:6; Romans 2:16; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4; Galatians 4:4-6). 

Anyone who rejected the Law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witness.  How much more severely do you think one deserves to be punished who has trampled on (trod under foot) the Son of God, profaned the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and insulted the Spirit of grace?  (Hebrews 10:28-29; Berean Study Bible)

Galatians 3

15: Brethren, I speak in terms of human relations:  even though it is only a man’s covenant, yet when it has been ratified, no one sets it aside or adds conditions to it.

Paul began chapter 3 by calling the Galatians foolish.  In the English language this word means idiot, remember?  He calls them, “Brethren” here, which definitely softens the tone of his letter, making it friendlier, more personal.  Using a human analogy, he compares God’s promises to Abraham to the last will and testament people make (or should make).  The word “testament” is actually taken from the Greek word that is translated covenant in this verse.

From the book of Genesis on scripture teaches us God’s relationship to man is based upon covenantal relationships.  A study of the 8 covenants is a very important aspect of correctly understanding scripture.  The most common way to divide the Bible is by Dispensations.  These dispensations, however, are based upon specific covenants, introduced by the LORD God, and knowledge of these covenants will help the Bible student, “rightly divide the word the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15).  You see, even though a dispensation may come to an end, the covenants themselves often continue. 

There are two types of covenants in the Bible:  conditional and unconditional. 

Conditional Covenants: 
A conditional covenant is a bilateral covenant in which a proposal of God to man is characterized by the formula:  if you will, then I will, whereby God promises to grant special blessings to man providing man fulfills certain conditions contained in the covenant.  Man's failure to do so often results in punishment. Thus one's response to the covenant agreement brings either blessings or cursings.  The blessings are secured by obedience and man must meet his conditions before God will meet His.

Two of the eight covenants of the Bible are conditional: the Edenic Covenant and the Mosaic Covenant. 

Unconditional Covenants:
An unconditional covenant is a unilateral covenant and is a sovereign act of God whereby He unconditionally obligates Himself to bring to pass definite blessings and conditions for the covenanted people.  This covenant is characterized by the formula:  I will, which declares God's determination to do as He promises. Blessings are secured by the grace of God.  There may be conditions in the covenant by which God requests the covenanted one to fulfill out of gratitude, but they are not themselves the basis of God's fulfilling His promises.

Six of the eight covenants are unconditional:  the Adamic Covenant, the Noahic Covenant, the Abrahamic Covenant, the Palestinian or Land Covenant, the Davidic Covenant, and the New Covenant.

In the Old Testament, a contract between the LORD God and an individual or humanity was called a covenant.  Paul is using this legal metaphor as an example for God’s covenant with Abraham (Genesis 12:1-2, 15) and his descendants.  We find the same concept of a last will and testament found in Hebrews 9:15-20.  Paul’s point is this legal contract cannot be changed.  It’s akin to someone’s last will and testament.  The thoughts and conditions within the covenant must be carried out as they were written.  No one has the legal authority to change the testator’s specified wishes.

Verse 16:

Galatians 3

16: Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed.  He does not say, “And to seeds,” as referring to many, but rather to one, “And to your seed,” that is, Christ.

On occasion I remind the group reading Paul’s letters is akin to listening to a one-sided telephone conversation.  I do this because we have new people visiting HBS frequently and as a reminder to the group.  Now I’d like to point out Paul has faced opposition to his apostleship and to his gospel on many occasions.   Therefore it’s not like he hasn’t fielded questions from a mixed audience before, so questions, both for and against his teachings, are anticipated.  The Judaizers would argue steadfastly that the promises given to Abraham belonged only to the nation of Israel since they were the seed or descendants of Abraham (John 8:39). 

The basis of their argument originates from the LORD commanding Abraham to be circumcised, along with his family.  The Judaizers reasoned to be a believing Christian, one who has accepted the Messiah who was sent to the Jews (John 1:11), everyone must be circumcised, obey the dietary laws, and the Sabbath laws to be truly saved.

In response Paul said, “the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed (Genesis 12:7).  As always, I’m mindful of what this book says and what it does not say.  Here scripture does not say, ‘and to seeds,’ meaning many people.  Paul’s saying the primary recipients of the Abrahamic Covenant were Abraham and Christ. 

Just to show you we’re not out in left field on this particular subject but actually on the right track let’s look at the KJV translation of this verse:  Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made.  He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. 

The promises were made to Abraham and to his seed which is Christ.  It doesn’t get any clearer than that.  The seed is Christ, but the promises made to Abraham extend to every true Believer in Christ Jesus! 

What are the promises?  Summing up, contained within the Abrahamic Covenant were the following promises:  through Abraham would come a great nation, God would give them a specific geographical area of land, and a government, and all the families of the earth will be blessed by him, and one day future his seed (the Messiah) would rule and reign as their King (Genesis 12:1-3, 15; Isaiah 9:6, 24:23; Matthew 1:1; Luke 1:33). 

Verse 17:

Galatians 3

17: What I am saying is this:  the Law, which came four hundred and thirty years later, does not invalidate a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise.

Here Paul points out the difference between the Law, which came four hundred and thirty years after the Abrahamic Covenant (an unconditional covenant).  One is an agreement the other is a promise.  The Law or the agreement demanded certain conditions be met by both parties, i.e. the LORD God and the Israelites.  There were consequences involved and each side had to uphold their part of the pact.  Now since this agreement came 430 years after the LORD’s promises were given to Abraham, it had no effect on that covenant.  The promises to Abraham and the Law or the agreement were two separate things.  They could not be mixed together, because God meant for them to accomplish different results.  This is what Paul is saying:  the Law does not invalidate a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise.  God’s promises in the Abrahamic Covenant are still in effect today! 

Verse 18:

Galatians 3

18: For if the inheritance is based on law, it is no longer based on a promise; but God has granted it to Abraham by means of a promise.

For if the inheritance – Paul’s referring to the inheritance promised to Abraham.  According to this book, the sum of this promise was “he should be the heir of the world.For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world… (Romans 4:13a).  Paul’s referring to that heirship or inheritance here and it’s linked to the promises of God, fulfilling the Law has nothing to do with it.    

The law is a reference to the Mosaic Covenant, which was not a promise; it was an agreement between the LORD God and His chosen people.  Note the conditional  “if – then” statement given in this Bible verse:  ‘Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; (Exodus 19:5).  The Judaizers claimed the blessing of justification and sanctification came by observing the Law of Moses.  But if so, Paul pointed out it could not be by the promises made to Abraham, since there could not be two ways of obtaining the same blessing from God. 

However, the promises given to Abraham by the LORD God in the Abrahamic Covenant were not based on law; this should be obvious not only because 430 years separated the two events but because there is also a big difference between a promise from the LORD and the Law in scripture, as Paul has already shown.  The LORD granted the eternal inheritance to Abraham by means of a promise, meaning they were unconditional. 

Verse 19:

Why the Law Then?

Galatians 3

19: Why the Law then?  It was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator, until the seed would come to whom the promise had been made.

When I read this verse, I see a group of Judaizers looking a little less superior.  They’ve read all of Paul’s comments and his wise usage of the Old Testament passages which lend support to his case that salvation is a free gift of God, by faith, for all who believe and never by works!  I imagine he has their full attention at this point in time.  This is why our Apostle Paul anticipates the question, “Why the Law, then,” from these false teachers.  The Judaizers’ claimed the inheritance of the promised blessing depended on obeying the Law.  If that’s not true, then why did the LORD God give the Law to the nation of Israel? 

According to the verse above, Paul said the Law has a negative purpose:  It was added because of transgressions.  This brings a familiar Bible verse to mind, one we’ve seen many times before, but we need to see it again because it’s relevant to our discussion:  And the Law came in that the transgression might increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, (Romans 5:20).  Paul is merely saying the Law (once we became aware of it) made the transgression increase.  Why – because “old Adam” is alive and well within each one of us and isn’t going away this side of glory, and God’s aware of this.  I’m referring to our sinful nature.   The Law arouses the desire to sin within each one of us.  It’s like a kid shaking a stick at a sleeping lion in a cage…

Permit me to illustrate; it may help.  Let’s say I baked a batch of cookies and put them in a cookie jar up on the kitchen counter.  My son walks into the kitchen and asks for a cookie.   I tell them not before they eat lunch.  After lunch they can have a cookie.  An imaginary line (boundary) has been drawn between me and the cookies.  I leave the kitchen for a few minutes and when I return I find him standing on a chair, with a cookie in his mouth, and one hand in the cookie jar!  What just happened?  I made a regulation controlling the cookies.  Because of my son’s sinful nature, this aroused his desire to break it.  It’s not about the cookies; this is all about my cookie-rule!  My word, “No,” fueled his desire to break my regulation or to transgress.  It aroused “old Adam” within him who lives to defy authority. 

A lot of people misunderstand this principle.  We aren’t sinners because we break God’s laws; we break God’s laws because we’re sinners!  We see a line drawn in the sand, and we immediately want to cross it, in this sense, the Law makes sin abound, because it draws many clear lines between what is right and what is wrong.  Therefore, the Law makes us want to sin all the more.  Why do you think people add 5, 10, 15 mph or even more to the posted speed limit on the roadway?  There all not rushing to a bathroom…  The city government drew a line and that aroused the desire in the majority of people to cross it.  They will reduce their speed if they see a patrol car, but once that has passed, the speeding continues; that’s human nature or old Adam at work within them.  They are openly defying authority.    

The Koine Greek word transgressions is Parabasis (par-ab’-as-is), Noun Feminine, Strong’s Greek #3847, meaning:  of the Mosaic Law; the breach of a definite, promulgated, ratified law; to create transgressions, i.e. that sins might take on the character of transgressions, and thereby the consciousness of sin be intensified and the desire for redemption be aroused. 

If there is no law, there can be no transgression.  So, before the Mosaic Law, did people transgress (sin)?  Definitely yes!  But here’s the thing.  One cannot transgress what does not exist.  Without a clearly defined boundary there can be sin but not transgression as the Bible defines it.   

Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned (Romans 5:12).

No new born child ever committed a sin; they never told a lie, or stole a pack of gum, or coveted the child’s blanket next to them, however every child is born spiritually “DOA” because “all sinned” in Adam.  Although no written law was in existence before the Law was given at Mt Sinai, it existed in man’s heart right from the start.  This book shows us both Cain and Abel knew right from wrong, for the LORD had told them they needed to offer sacrifices (Genesis 4:1-7).  After Cain killed his brother, the LORD judged him because he crossed a boundary; he took his brother’s life and this was a transgression. 

In v19b, Paul gives us this information:  until the seed would come to whom the promise had been made.  The word until is a time related word meant to draw our attention to a future event in this verse, which is the coming of the seed to whom the promise had been made.  Paul has already declared who the seed is in verse 16; it’s Christ.  The promise of an eternal inheritance was not made to Jews alone (Acts 11:19), as the Judaizers’ claimed.  Paul said, and rightly so, it was made to Abraham and Christ.  The true meaning of the Abrahamic Covenant was not to the nation of Israel, but to Christ and to all those who choose, by faith, to trust in Him.  The Law, a temporary agreement, was added until Christ came ushering in the New Covenant. 

Verse 20:

Galatians 3

20: Now a mediator is not for one party only; whereas God is only one.

To understand what Paul means to say you have to refer back to his statements in 3:17-18.  He declared the Abrahamic Covenant was the covenant of promise by which the eternal inheritance would become the true Believer’s possession, by faith, and that covenant was “ratified by God.”  Paul’s saying that covenant is “of God and all about God. He made the covenant with Abram and he confirmed the covenant of promise.  The only part man had to play in it was to put their trust in what God had said (See Genesis 15:12-21). 

The covenant of the Law was both different and inferior in respect to the covenant of promise.  It was different because it was not confirmed by one party; it was confirmed when two parties agreed to its conditions (the LORD God who gave the conditions and the nation of Israel who agreed to His terms).  It was inferior in that it was confirmed through the use of a mediator.  A mediator is someone who works with two opposing parties to reconcile disagreements. 

But here’s the thing; the covenant of promise had been confirmed directly by the LORD and that’s what Paul’s saying in v20.  He’s making a contrast between many people participating in the mediation of the Law, a temporary agreement, and the oneness of God in the promises given to Abram in the Abrahamic Covenant, a lasting covenant (3:19-20), which were fulfilled in Christ, the seed of Abraham.  Christ is the mediator of the New Covenant:   For this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that, since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance (Hebrews 9:15, 12:24).

(To be continued)

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