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Galatians #09 A Promise with no legal limits

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Freed to be Free #9

Galatians 3:15-26

A Promise Without Legal Limits

Sometimes, when you are preaching through books, there are passages where you, as the preacher, and you the listener, might wonder at 1st glance, “what is the point?”

Well, remember that when we started this letter, Paul is miffed.  He is also perplexed.  He is miffed at the Jewish group in the church that is trying to impose observance of the law as a prerequisite for salvation.  Paul calls them “false brothers” that is saying that they are not true believers.  Why?  It is because their salvation is based on what they do and not on faith in what Jesus did at the cross. 

And Paul is perplexed that the true believers in the church would, as Gentiles, submit themselves to new requirements for salvation, when they had previously received God’s Grace and the Gift of the Holy Spirit, that is, Salvation through Faith alone.

He speaks straightforwardly.  He speaks with authority and he speaks the Word of God.  His tone has been sharp.  Even toward the True Believers. 

In 3:1 he calls them “You Foolish Galatians …” But NOW in verse 15, where we begin today, Paul seems to shift his method and change his tone.  He seems to have established his authority and now he speaks like a spiritual father and begins … “BROTHERS …” You can almost hear the more gentle tone.  That is important to distinguish them from the “false brothers” … who had infiltrated their ranks

They are “brothers” foolish perhaps, but “brothers” nonetheless.

Paul shifts his argument now to a logical and legal approach.  He explains not only what happened between Abraham and God and how that relates to the law but also what this means for us.  So, let’s read this section from vv 15-26

READ 3:15-26

Now, the Judaizers here would say that “YES, God made a promise to Abraham, but that it was added to with the Promise he made to Moses in the Law and so you START with faith, like Abraham, but you finish with Conformity to the law if you want full Salvation.”

But Paul is showing us something different.  Paul is a SMART Guy, well educated and Inspired by the Holy Spirit.  So, he knows how to break this down in a way they could all understand

The Jews and the Greeks were both very legal minded people.  And just like today, if they had television, there would be plenty of Legal Dramas. 

So, using 3 P’s let’s work through our outline


1. The Pre-emergence of the Promise

The Word “pre-emergence” literally means “occurring before emergence of seedlings above the ground”

The TIME FRAME of the Promise precedes the Law

The Promise to Abraham came before any of his offspring appeared.  Before his son Isaac was born.  Before Isaac gave birth to Jacob who became Israel.  Before he gave birth to 12 sons who would birth a nation.  Before Moses received the law and before the coming of the Seed of Promise, Jesus Christ.

The Time Frame of the Promise, 430 years before the Law, gives a higher place to the Promise as it was preemergent. 

The Covenant that God made to Abraham came before the Covenant of the law that God made to Israel through the mediation of Moses. 

Sometimes our English words or our common usage miss some of the meaning in the words. 

Two different words were used here in English, covenant and promise.  They were more commonly translated and understood as the words Testament and Covenant.

Think of the “Old Testament” and the “New Testament”.  But what is the difference between Testament and Covenant?  Both are binding promises between two parties

The word Covenant, as applied to Moses’ Law, was very common.  Two people would make promises to each other and they would ratify it with a witness.  In this type of covenant, both parties carried equal responsibility.  In the law, God promises blessing, protection, a land, etc.  In response, Moses and the people of Israel promised to follow the requirements of the law and sacrifices.  Both Parties had a part in the covenant. 

But Moses’ law was preceded by Abraham’s Testament from God.  In covenantal law, once a Testament or Covenant was given, there could be no change in the covenant unless the parties involved in the Promise made the change.  The parties named were Abraham, God, and the Seed, so they were the only ones named.  They were the only ones who could make changes to that

The Covenant between Israel and God came later and couldn’t altar the preemergent Testament between God and Abraham and his Seed. 

But our second word about the Promise is

2. Preeminence of the Promise.

Preeminence means the quality or state of being superior.

What are the

  A. Legal Components

    1. the Promise / Testament to Abraham came 1st in Priority.  I told you that there was a difference in these two covenants

    2. Think of a “last will and testament” A testament is a covenant on Steroids.  It is a covenant PLUS … “But wait … there’s more”

    3. A simple covenant involves a two-sided promise and cannot be set aside by later action unless those who ratified make the change.  But the Testament is deeper. 

      a. The “Testator” assigns his Heir and commits himself to Give at the Determined Time, the Promised Favor, Benefit, or Inheritance. 

      b. All that remains on the part of the Receiver of the Testament is to accept it, to receive it. 

“Abraham believed and it was credited to him as righteousness”

    4. the Testament / Covenant had priority because it came first, but also because it was a stronger commitment

    5. In Gen. 22:16-18 the Lord said “I swear by myself … 17 I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars … and as the sand … 18 and through your offspring all the nations on earth will be blessed …”

    6. God was repeating his covenant from Chapters 12 and 15.  In chapter 5, God stated his promise his Testament.  Abraham believed and the transaction was complete.

    7. the law was not superior to the Promise it was a servant to the Promise

  B. the Law was Transitory

    1. the law was for the intermediate time between promise and fulfillment.  Between Abraham and his Seed of Blessing. 

    2. the Law of Moses had rights, for sure, but it could not cancel, restrict, or change The Promise to Abraham.  The later law must give way to the precedence of the former.  Law must then surrender to Faith.

   3. The law of Moses was to a specific people group, Israel.  But the Testament of Faith was for the Entire Human Race. 

    4. God began with Abraham, with a Testament of Grace, freely given asking nothing more than faith. 

    5. The law was not permanent.  The Promise to Abraham, that is the promise of Grace through faith, was and IS permanent.

    6. The verb “established” in the NIV and in other translations “ratified” is the Greek word Kyroo /koo-ro-o/ to make valid, to confirm publically or solemnly”

It is also, importantly, in the present perfect tense … meaning that it is a constant, always in that same state.  It is a tense used of actions that are facts or events of finality.  Perhaps we should use both English Words and say “The Testament of Grace through faith has been Ratified and firmly Established by God and is an inheritance available for all who will receive it.”

    7. Not so of the Law, it was Transitory medium given to hold a place for Israel between the Promise and the Fulfillment.  V19 says it was added UNTIL the Seed

So we see the Promise was Preemergent to the Law … occurring before the seedlings and the Promise was Preeminent to the Law.

So what is the Point?  What is the Purpose then of the Law?

Was the Promise given just to prepare for and point to the Law?  No

The Object of the Promise was Jesus Christ.

And the ultimate objective of the Law was Christ as Well

So what was the connection of the Law to the Promise?  The Law was …

3. Partner to the Promise

In verse 17 it says the Law was “introduced”  and that word also has a perfect tense as a participle. 

So, the law while transitory had some permanence as well as an Enduring Teacher

  A. It was Not Intended to Make us Righteous

    1. being good doesn’t make us JUST

    2. We get confused.  We think that being good and being righteous are the same thing.  Even theologians will confuse these points.  The Scripture says “there is no one righteous not even one …”  So some say “there is no goodness in man” … but goodness and righteousness are NOT the same thing. 

      a. “Good” means a “favorable character or tendency; virtuous, right, commendable, kind, benevolent” 

      b. the law might make us good, but not righteous. 

I know a lot of “good” people.  People who follow the law are “good” people.  Religious people are “good” people.  Spiritual people can be “good” people. 

      c. But God doesn’t demand goodness, but righteousness.  He calls for godliness. 

      d. Righteousness means “acting in accord with divine or moral law: free from guilt of sin …”   To be in accord with means to reconcile or bring into agreement with

      e. there are “good” people … but apart from Christ there are NONE Righteous not even ONE …

    3. The law made good AND bad people alike acceptable to the condition of God.  But the law was never able nor intended to make us righteous, to declare us Just. 

    4. But the law was not in conflict or contradiction to the Promise.  But instead was a partner to the Promise.  The Law was an Associate in the culmination of the Promise.  It was added for a time until the Seed came.

And we find then that

  B. The Law Chained us to Itself

    1. the more Israel had the law, the more they needed the law.

    2. it was because of sin that the law came.  The law became a temporary way for Israel to be blameless before God.  It is like one attached to an addiction.  The more you stay, the more you need it.  Because we were bound to sin, then we were bound to the Law. If we could somehow shake the power of sin, we could shake the power of the law.  SOMEHOW  The Law revealed sin and provided a way to forgiveness though not to righteousness.  So the more aware we were of sin the more we were in needed of the provisions of the Law. 

    3. The Crime carries with it consequences, but what gives power to the consequences?  It is the Law that demands it.  1 Cor. 15:56 “the sting of sin is death and the power of sin in the Law.”

    4. Yes, the law did have the effect of perhaps curtailing our actions, but it doesn’t abound to eternal life just because we observe it.  The law didn’t bring life … v21 says if it could have it surely would have.  But it did not.  After 1500 years of law, unrighteousness still remained.  But instead verse 23 says we were “locked up, held prisoners by the law” … until FAITH came …

Because verse 24 says that Law …

  C. The Law Used its Chain to Lead Us to Christ

    1. Romans 2:4 says “… His kindness leads us to repentance”   The futility of the Law and Sin should naturally lead the observer to the reality that our only hope is in Jesus Christ.  The True Follower of the Spirit of the Law would embrace Christ.  Simeon and Anna, true followers of the Law … when they saw the newborn Jesus, embraced him.  Why?  Because the Law led them to Christ

    2. we must realize that there must be a better way than mere religion or even mere Christianity.  It is the same for all.  Paul says “God is One”  … the way of Justification is the same for all … Faith in the Promised Seed, Jesus Christ, is the only Way, Truth, and Life. 

    3. in the “well to do” Greek house.  There was often a slave called a “Pedagogue” … he was a servant that served like a nanny or butler assigned to the children.  He was given complete rule of the child from infancy.  He chose the food, clothes, lessons, his games.  The Pedagogue served and controlled the child and ensured that the child grew up as expected and finally delivered them to a Master Professor in young adulthood.  So, the law has the purpose of training, maturing, and presenting ready for the reality of a life of faith. 

To the unaware, the immature, and the childish, the Law is a Pedagogue teaching our children to Obey the Scriptures, teaching and the reality of sin, and preparing them for a Life of Faith. 

    4. Do not assume that you should not teach the reality of sin and instill a passion for Holiness, to our children, to the lost.  We should, because when that passion is instilled but unfulfilled it will gently lead us to the only source of holiness and righteousness, that is Jesus Christ and His righteousness that comes by Grace through faith, not of works.  Our Tutor has taught us that we cannot achieve it though we try. 

The Law would chain us and would Fence us … but in Grace through Faith.

The Law is fulfilled And …

  D. The Law Fulfilled is an Open Meadow 

We don’t need a Pedagogue, we don’t need a Leash any longer

    1. What is the purpose of a leash, a monitor?  Is it not to lead an immature or unwilling animal in the way they should go? 

I have not had too many well trained pets.  That is, pets who will do exactly what you say.  However, I love seeing a dog that will walk right in step with their master, stoop when he stops, go when he goes.  I especially like seeing that dog enter an open field with his Master.  The master releases him and the dog runs, plays, investigates, maybe chases a rabbit.  Often the dog will have a sense of how far to go.  But, if he went too far or it was time to go, a simple word from the Master and the well trained dog comes happily to his side.  Why?  Because of his deep love for the Master and overwhelming desire to please the Master.  So the Leash is not needed because his love and desire is greater and it affects his behavior. 

    2. The closer we are to Christ the deeper our understanding of the promise and provision we have in him, the more we will align ourselves with him.

    3. Abraham heard God’s Promise and he believed it.  And it was credited to him as righteousness.  He didn’t know the fulfillment of the promise was 2000 years away.  But he continued to align his life expecting the fulfillment any day.  Abraham believed the promise as if it would happen any minute, so he was not easily distracted.  He responded to the understood boundaries and the voice of his Master.  He was willing to Sacrifice his Son because his Hope was in the giver of the promise not his understanding of it.  He lived in Tents instead of building his own house and city because he was Looking FORWARD (Hebrews 11:10) to a city whose architect and builder is the Lord.  He was living in expectation, living in an Open Meadow. 

When we live in expectation of the promise fulfilled and won’t need a leash. 

    4. Living in expectation … Remember the story I told you last week about Pastor Bisagno’s 5 year old daughter who piled up her dolls, toys, and accessories as soon as Daddy said he would build her a Doll House?  Se aligned her life in expectation of the fulfillment of the promise. 

    5. In John 16, Jesus said “in a little while, you won’t see me … then after a little while you WILL see me.”   Jesus explained that that meant that they would have to live with a time of grief and anguish but a greater joy was coming when he returned.  And you look at the lives of the disciples … they lived every day as if Jesus were coming.  You can’t read the epistles or Paul, Peter, John, and not believe that they expected the immediate, the imminent return of Jesus Christ. 

    6. It is interesting that through all of this legal stuff, this is where we finish … LIFE CHANGE … FREELY … this is NOT where I expected to finish when I started.  But Read Hebrews 11 the Bible’s Hall of Faith.  Study the lives of the Disciples, the Prophets, the Kings who followed Christ.  Study the Lives of the heroes and heroines of the faith over the last Two Millennia and this they all have in common, they were no longer bound to religion’s rule.  They were bound by their passion for Christ and expectation of his imminent presence. 

Folks it doesn’t matter whether he delays his coming another day or another 2000 years.  We ARE going to see him in just a little while.  The Bible reminds us that life is like a withering grass or fading flowers.  It is ours for just a short time.  So, in the Eternal Scheme of things, whether we have 20 years, 50 years, 100 years or whether today is our last, it IS just a little while. 

In the meantime, I have to live with Heaven on My Mind. 

That is the great secret of the great follower of Jesus.  It is Living by faith and not by sight.  V25 says “we are no longer under the supervision of the law”.  We live in an open meadow ruled by the Son, so we Live in the Light. 

1 John 1:7 says if we live in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son purifies us from all sin.

Walking by faith not by sight is being bound by love and faith that brings about life change.  It is living with full expectation of seeing our Faith become sight. 

The words of Hebrews 11 describe the reality of the life of faith … the long list of the faithful from the Bible until now … Men and Women, Boys and Girls …

Hebrews 11:33-12:2 (NIV)
who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. 35 Women received back their dead, raised to life again. Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. 37 They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. 39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. 40 God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect. Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

What about you? 

Wanna take a walk with Christ in the Open Meadow of Promise and Grace?

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