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Galatians - Freedom!  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Seeing God's Promises in the Law

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Please open your Bibles to .

Read Galatians 3:15-22.

Some things are too good to be true.

You ever go on the internet and see one of those bright flashing ads on the corner of the screen.
You ever go on the internet and see one of those bright flashing ads on the corner of the screen.
It’s colorful.
It has a moving picture on it.
It catches your attention.
Then you see the offer.
It’s offering something for free, a free iPad.
I’ll be honest, I’ve clicked on those ads.
I’ve thought, “I’ll take a free iPad.”
So I bite, I take the bait.
The first page says that before you get your free iPad, they need some information.
Just basic info.
Email address.
All of this before you even create an account.
Then you create the account.
They send you an email to verify that you gave them a real email address.
This takes all of about 5 minutes.
It’s starting to take longer than you wanted to spend.
But you want that free iPad.
Now it asks for 10 friends that you would like to share this special deal with.
This sounds like more typing.
I just want the iPad.
But, whatever.
I think, “I’ve got 10 friends.”
So I start typing in the LaPortes personal information, the Taylor’s personal information, the Bogers personal information.
And I give them all of it.
If I had your social security numbers they’d get that too, because this is for a free iPad.
The site is constantly reminding you that you’ve got a free iPad coming.
Now they have some special deals to offer you.
And all of them require you setting an account up with these separate websites.
There are magazine offers.
Credit card offers.
Time share offers.
And subscription offers.
You don’t want to do this, you just want the free iPad.
Then you see at the bottom of the page.
Before you can proceed, you need to accept 10 of their free offers, none of which are really free.
And now, it seems more like a bait and switch plan.
You’ve spent 15 minutes of your life chasing a free iPad, and now you feel more like a donkey chasing a carrot on a stick.
The deal changed.
It’s not what I was originally told.
Paul is writing to the Galatians.
The theme of this book is freedom.
The Galatians had fallen victim to a group called the Judiazers.
And they are being sold a bait and switch theology.
They saw a free gift.
The free gift is we are saved by grace.
Then the Judiazers gave them the old switch-er-roo.
They were told that it’s not really a free gift.
It’s the result of works.
And they took the bait hard.
Paul has said, “O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?”
He’s astounded that they have been so foolish.
Paul is writing to clarify and to correct what God has really given and what God has really promised, and that this is not a bait and switch offer.

First, this promise is an Eternal Promise.

And that’s our first point, an eternal promise.
God’s plan began in eternity past.
We react.
I have a plan, something goes wrong, I make a change.
God doesn’t react.
Sin did not surprise God.
He has a plan, and He will achieve that plan.
says, “even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.”
2 things to note in that passage.
This plan began before the foundation of the world.
God didn’t decide to have Jesus die after sin entered the world.
The plan has always been that God would have a people.
A very specific people.
People He chose.
And it would always be to the praise of His glorious grace.
God is gracious.
And as we unfold the story of the Bible, it must always be seasoned with grace.
Let’s walk through God’s actions in history, and what I want you to see is how He never treats us how we deserve.
Instead, He always gives grace.
That’s the theme.
Adam and Eve are in the Garden.
God had told them that they could eat whatever they wanted, just not from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
You know the story, they ate from it.
Here is where we begin to see God’s surprising grace, right from the beginning.
They were naked and covered in shame.
And what did God do?
God withheld what they deserved.
God clothed them in animal skins.
They were supposed to die that day.
But they didn’t die.
But instead an animal died in their place.
They were covered in the life of another.
Boy that sounds an awful like what we receive in Christ doesn’t it?
We deserved death.
But instead, we are covered in the life of Christ.
Then God went on to say that one day the seed of the woman would crush the head of the serpent.
That is a promise of Christ’s victory.
This is God’s surprising grace.
Right at the beginning.
He doesn’t tell them:
“Ok, you’ve messed up, now you need to pay penance. You need to do good to counter your sin, to even the scales.”
Without them even asking, He covers them, and gives them hope.
says, “We love because he first loved us.”
We fast forward to .
Man is no longer in the Garden.
People have multiplied.
And their sin has multiplied as well.
says, “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”
Then we see God’s surprising Grace.
In verse 8 it says, “But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.”
The entire family of mankind was living in sin.
And yet, God spared Noah.
God gave Noah grace.
God withheld punishment to Noah and his family, and started over with them.
And even in sparing Noah, the problem of sin still remained.
Even after the flood, in God says, “for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth ...”
With Noah what we should see is that all of mankind should have died when the waters were unleashed on the earth.
But it was God’s grace that spared him.
Grace has always been a part of God’s plan.
Then we go to .
Look at .
Read Genesis 12:1-3.
This is called the Abrahamic Covenant.
Abraham came from a land of idolatry.
He came from a family of idolatry.
And out of God’s own kindness and mercy He made gave grace to Abraham.
This was not something that Abraham deserved.
Here God promises to make a nation out of Abraham’s descendants.
He will bless Abraham.
David is king, and God makes a promise to David.
Abraham will become a blessing.
And Abraham will even become a global blessing.
God says that He will raise up an offspring of his who will build a kingdom and rule over it.
Over and over again in that passage, you see God saying, “I will do this, and I will do that.”
Then a few chapters later, David does something really bad, he has an affair with his best friends wife, and then conspires to have his friend killed.
God isn’t making a deal.
But God’s promise was never a promise based on David’s obedience.
This isn’t two parties saying, “I will do this.”
This is one party saying, “This is what I will do.”
It was a promise from God.
He’s making a promise.
He’s making a one-sided promise, “This is what I will do, not because of anything you have done.”
So you see that the promise was always by grace.
It was not conditional on David’s obedience, it was a promise.
Abraham wants to know how he can be sure that God will be true to His Word.
That’s so important to those of us who fail.
It was always God saying, “Look what I am going to do.”
“But he said, “O Lord God, how am I to know that I shall possess it?” He said to him, “Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” And he brought him all these, cut them in half, and laid each half over against the other. But he did not cut the birds in half.”
But he said, “O Lord God, how am I to know that I shall possess it?” He said to him, “Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” And he brought him all these, cut them in half, and laid each half over against the other. But he did not cut the birds in half.
God’s actions through history tell us of Him intervening in the lives of those who couldn’t do it on their own.
He intervened in the lives of those who didn’t deserve it.
It was never, you do this, and I’ll do this.”
Typically, in that culture when two parties made an agreement or a covenant, they’d do this.
They’d cut the animals in half.
And walk through the halves of animals.
Back to it says, “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.”
By walking through them, they are making an oath.
They are saying, “If I don’t do what I’ve promised to do … then cut me in half. Kill me.”
Look down at verse 17 and look what happens.
Throughout God’s dealings with Abraham, He often told Abraham that his offspring would be elevated.
“When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces.”
God went between the pieces of meat.
His offspring would rule over land.
Notice that Abraham isn’t walking between the animal halves.
His offspring would rule over a people as numberless as the sands on the seashore.
His offspring would bless the nations.
And now Paul clarifies something for us.
That offspring is not plural.
So if walking through the halves of animals is an oath, only God made the oath.
It’s one person.
This is a reminder that every jot and tittle, every detail in Scripture is important.
All of Scripture is God breathed.
Even a little “s” at the end of a word.
What’s important is that when God made a promise to Abraham that his offspring would receive something, God meant a singular offspring.
And now we are reading in Galatians that the offspring was Christ, it was Jesus.
God swore by Himself.
The promise was that Jesus was supposed to be the one who would rule and possess the nations.
He sealed the deal.
But there’s something truly spectacular here.
Remember the whole story of the Bible is God showing grace to those who don’t deserve it, and who could not earn it on their own.
It’s because we are swearing
And it can never be changed.
In we learn that Christ is the recipient of these promises.
These promises were intended to go to Christ.
Remember that the Galatians have been sold a bait and switch lie.
They want the free iPad, but now they are told they have to work for it.
They see these promises and they now think that in order for them to receive them, they must do something.
Paul is correcting that bait and switch lie.
There are promises for us, but we don’t earn those promises.
The promises are given to Christ, and then Christ gives them to us.
Look down at , "And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.”
If you are an heir it is not something you earn.
An inheritance is not something you earn.
An inheritance is something someone else earned and it is freely passed down onto you.
Maybe you’ve had that long lost rich uncle who died, and you received this awesome inheritance.
He’s the one who earned the money for that inheritance.
You receive it as his heir.
Now do you see this amazing promise.
Those promises that were given to Christ … we become heirs of.
He earned them.
We receive them.
It’s one thing to look back in the Bible and see how God intervened in the lives of Adam, Noah and Abraham.
But do you see if you are in Christ, then you participate in this same story.
Adam received surprising grace.
Noah received surprising grace.
Abraham received surprising grace.
But they are not the exceptions.
If you are in Christ you too have received surprising grace.
God has promised an inheritance for you.
And yet, God has promised an inheritance for you.
The day is coming when Christ will return.
He will physically be here.
He will physically rule.
Those blessings that are promised to Jesus … we will receive as well.
… And we will rule with Him.
says, “Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.”
Those blessings that were promised to Abraham’s offspring, we become heirs of through Christ.
This is something to look forward to.
This is God’s eternal promise to us.
Why do I look forward to Christ’s return?
Because I will be blessed by God.

You’ve seen the promise, now we move on to learn that it is an Unchanging Promise.

And this is our second point, an unchanging promise.
Look at , “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.”
And then look at verse 17, “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.”
Paul is taking us back to the original promise to Abraham.
Once the promise is made, it can’t be unmade.
Let’s go at the original promise in .
Abraham wanted to know how he could be sure that God would be true to His Word.
That he’s not suddenly having to work for a free iPad.
I don’t recommend ever saying words like that to God.
Abraham said it so you don’t have to.
Look at what happened.
“But he said, “O Lord God, how am I to know that I shall possess it?” He said to him, “Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” And he brought him all these, cut them in half, and laid each half over against the other. But he did not cut the birds in half.”
Typically, in that culture when two parties made an agreement or a covenant, they’d do this.
They’d cut the animals in half.
And walk through the halves of animals.
By walking through them, they are making an oath.
They are saying, “If I don’t do what I’ve promised to do … then cut me in half. Kill me.”
They are saying, “I swear by my life.”
Look down at verse 17 and look what happens.
“When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces.”
God went between the pieces of meat.
Notice that Abraham doesn’t walk between the animal halves.
Only God does.
So if walking through the halves of animals is an oath, only God made the oath.
God swore by Himself.
He sealed the deal.
And it would never be changed.
Even time cannot change this promise.
This is hard for us to understand.
We live relatively short lives.
And let’s be honest, when things don’t happen within our own lifetime … it’s easy to think that they will never happen.
In fact, think of Abraham.
God swore that He would bless all the families of the earth through him and his offspring.
Yet, Abraham never got to experience that.
He was promised to have descendants as many as the stars in the sky, and yet, when he died there was only Isaac.
Did God fail?
Did God change His mind?
Did God change the terms?
explains that Abraham never received the actual promise in his life.
He died and it was still a promise to come.
“These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.”
Paul is explaining to us that God’s promises don’t fade over time, and they certainly don’t change.
Time doesn’t lessen God’s promises to us.
Think of it this way, it was 2166 years from God’s promise to Abraham to the coming of Christ.
It took over 2,000 years for that promised Offspring to come.
And God’s word came true.
Jesus came.
And through Him God is saving people from all over the world.
We are watching God’s promises coming true … during our generation.
2000 years didn’t lessen God’s promise to Abraham.
And just to encourage those of you who perhaps are losing heart, God’s promises remain true today.
Christ is going to return.
Christ is going to rule.
And we will rule with Him.
Think of it, it was 2,000 years from Abraham to Jesus.
How far are we from Jesus?
Today, we are about 2,000 from Jesus, and that promise remains active today.
His promise doesn’t lessen over time.
It didn’t lessen from Abraham to Jesus.
And it doesn’t lessen from Jesus to us.
addresses those who think that God’s promises lessen over time.
He says in , “knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.”
There are people who say, it’s been too long, Jesus must not be returning.
For those that that think that time lessens God’s promises is more serious problem than we give credit to.
If you are beginning to think that it’s been 2,000 years since Jesus came, so maybe Jesus isn’t really going to come back.
Peter says that these thoughts are the results of sinful desires.
They are actually faithlessness.
Faithlessness is disobeying by not trusting in what God has promised.
Peter continues by saying, “But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”
That gives us an understanding of how God views time.
His concept of time is different from ours.
We live 70-80 years, some of you are breaking those norms.
And if something doesn’t happen within that period of time we think it’s taking forever, and maybe it won’t happen at all.
God is eternal and unchanging.
That means a 1,000 years can pass by as only a day to Him.
Maybe you think I’m taking this verse too literal, “Jesus said he’d return soon, and it’s been 2,000 years.”
Haven’t we seen it already proven true once though?
It was 2,000 years from Abraham to Jesus.
And it’s been 2,000 years since Jesus was resurrected, and now we wait Him returning.
Jesus told us to be ready.
And every generation should think His return is in their lifetime, it seems even closer to us when we think of things this way.
It’s right around the corner.
Time doesn’t change God’s promises.
And the other thing that Paul addresses is the law.
Look at verse 17, Paul says, “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.”
So now think through the history of the Bible.
We had Abraham.
Then there was Isaac.
Then there was Jacob.
And 430 years after Jacob, God gave the law to Moses on Sinai.
But the law was not an addition to God’s promises.
God wasn’t changing the terms.
He wasn’t saying, “If you want something for free do this.”
He wasn’t saying it was grace for a long time, but now we are operating by works.
Remember the story of the Bible.
God does all the work.
God saves Adam.
God saves Noah.
God saves Abraham.
The law doesn’t change this pattern.
If the fulfillment of the God’s promises came by you obeying God’s law … then it would not be a gift, it would not be a promise.
And this concept is huge.
It’s lie of Satan that he has placed upon every generation.
The lie is that you make yourself worthy of Christ.
That you make yourself worthy of salvation.
That you make yourself worthy of the promises.
So many people buy into this lie and think that they are unsaveable because of their sin.
Or even worse, they think that they make themselves good enough.
We use words like, “I want to make myself a better person.”
Paul fought this lie against the Judiazers in Galatia.
The Reformers fought this lie in Europe as they contended for the true Gospel against the powers in Rome.
And today, we continue to fight this lie as more and more people embrace the innate goodness of man and a nameless and powerless deity.
The true Gospel has always said that God has made His promises and we do nothing to secure those promises.
It was God who passed through the animal halves before Abraham, and it was Christ who purchased us on the cross.
This is where our hope lies.
It is an unchanging promise.

The third element of the promise that we see in this text is that it is a Freeing Promise.

So if the Law wasn’t an amendment to the promise what was it?
Imagine you woke up in a concrete room.
It’s cold, and slightly damp.
There’s a single toilet, and a sink in the room.
You are sleeping on the bottom of a bunk bed.
There are 3 walls in your room.
Where there should be a fourth wall, there are iron bars and a lock, keeping you from leaving.
You glance down and you are wearing an orange jumpsuit, and you look on the back and in black block letters it says “Riverside County”
Where are you?
Obviously you are in prison.
The thought of waking up in prison and not knowing why you are there is a silly thought.
It only makes sense in a dream.
And a bad one at that.
But in reality that’s how most people are.
Most people are in prison and they don’t even know it.
That’s why the law was given.
Verse 22 says, “But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin ...”
People are walking around clueless to their condition.
They live their lives imprisoned, enslaved to sin and they have no idea.
Perhaps you’ve heard someone say that we have a free will.
Free will is such a loaded term, especially for the unsaved.
They think that they have a free will, but in reality the unregenerate person isn’t as free as he thinks he is.
says that people are by nature children of wrath.
This is the natural self.
In our unsaved condition, our actions are the actions of people who are opposed to God.
says that prior to our conversion we were slaves to sin.
People think they have a free will … but in reality they are slaves.
They are like the person who wakes up in a prison, but he doesn’t even know he’s in a prison.
He has a closet only of orange jumpsuits, and he puts on the orange jumpsuit thinking he chose that in his free will, not realizing it was the only choice before him.
So why was the law given?
Paul says, “Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions ...”
The law was given to reveal our condition.
It doesn’t fix the condition.
It doesn’t remove sin.
But like a mirror, you look into the law of God and see what is going on.
You use the law to see that you are actually in a prison.
You’re wearing prison clothes.
You look like a criminal.
The law shows us what God’s standards are, and they show us how we fail to meet those standards.
Do not lie.
If you lie you are a what?
A liar.
How many people are slaves to lying?
They think they don’t have to lie.
But when you argue against it in a black and white term people say, “Well there are times you have to lie.”
They are slaves to sin.
Do not look with lust.
If you look with lust you are a what?
An adulterer.
How many people say you can’t help it.
It’s natural.
They are slaves to sin.
The law doesn’t fix us.
The law shows us how we are broken.
The law is one of those things that people get wrong.
Too often people look to the law as a “how to guide”.
How to make yourself good.
How to make yourself good enough for heaven.
How to make yourself liked by God.
But that’s not what it’s for.
You must use the law rightly.
Charles Spurgeon once said:
“A handsaw is a good thing, but not to shave with.” A handsaw’s good for cutting wood, but not facial hair. And if you put your handsaw to that sort of use, you’ll wind up losing more than hair! “There’s sense in choosing your tools,”
Spurgeon says, “for a pig’s tail will never make a good arrow, nor will his ear make a silk purse. A good thing is not good out of its place.” And if that’s true with a handsaw or a pig’s tail, how much more God’s Law! The purpose of the Law is to restrain sin; yet in so doing it reveals sin’s subtlety and power.”
What does the law do? It shows us our sin.
It doesn’t create good behavior.
It shows us our bad behavior.
It shows our bondage to sin.
Are you bound to sin?
Are you a slave to sin?
Look through the commandments of God and see if they describe you.
For a long time I thought I was a Christian.
My basis for thinking I was a Christian was:
I went to church.
I tried to be nice.
I occasionally read my Bible.
If you had asked me if I was a good person I would have given a firm yes.
Then there was the night that the law of God was applied to my life.
I went through God’s law for the first time.
I never knew it, but I was living in a prison.
I was a slave to sin and I didn’t know it.
I was chained to sin.
I was wearing an orange jumpsuit.
The law showed me:
The lust in my eyes.
The lies in my mouth.
The idols of my heart.
And the blasphemy of my religion.
I never knew it until God’s law was rightly used and showed me my condition.
And in that moment of looking into the mirror of God’s law, I finally understood the promise of Christ.
He died to die the death I deserved.
He was condemned in my place.
He freed me of those sins.
He gave me a new heart.
His Spirit was put within me.
I no longer had to sin.
The door to my prison cell was opened.
He removed the orange jumpsuit and gave me clean white clothing.
And He welcomed me as His own.
What is my freeing hope?
It’s not in obedience to the law.
The law now serves as something that shows me what God loves.
My hope is the work of Christ, and the inheritance that I receive through Him.

This isn’t a bait and switch, the plan has always been the same.

It’s an Eternal Promise founded on grace alone.
This promise is an Unchanging Promise.
The terms are the same.
God gives us what we don’t deserve, and He withholds what we do deserve.
The promise is a Freeing Promise.
Removing the judgment you deserve, and freeing you from what you deserve.
This promise is for those who are in Jesus Christ.
Our anxiety and problems develop when we forget this promise.
We ignore the sovereignty of God and His will.
We think that God changes.
Or we still held captive of sin.
I want to ask each person here to think through the promise you believe and trust in.
Are you in Christ?
If not trust in Him alone.
Let Him be your promise.
Don’t let today go without being confident of that.
If you are, then continue in this.
And may Jesus be your joy, anchor and shield.
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