Only One Gospel Part 7

by Mike Ratliff

13 For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith. 14 For if those who are of the Law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise is nullified; 15 for the Law brings about wrath, but where there is no law, there also is no violation. 16 For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, 17 (as it is written, “A FATHER OF MANY NATIONS HAVE I MADE YOU”) in the presence of Him whom he believed, even God, who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist. (Romans 4:13-17 NASB)

One of the comments from yesterday’s post, Only One Gospel Part 6, stated succinctly that as I presented the message of this series, “Mike – you are swimming up stream in the self-centered culture.” My friend who stated that is right. However, isn’t that what Jesus told us would be the case? If we are his disciples and prove it by following him, obeying him, living by faith, not conforming to this world, et cetera then this world would hate us just as it hated him. However, it wasn’t until I got quite deep into this teaching and discernment ministry that I discovered the shocking truth that most of the push-back to the truth from God’s Word, getting Doctrine right, not compromising for the sake of unity, et cetera was coming from professing Christians. Some of those professing Christians had quite well known ministries and their apologists were quite brutal, underhanded, and played dirty. What am I saying? The self-centered culture that is in darkness that these truths expose is actually most of the visible church.

In this post we will look at Galatians 3:15-29. Back when I was a fairly new Christian being trained in Evangelism Explosion, I remember memorizing several of these verses. As I look at them in context here though, I wonder at how we could have possibly been using them in that context…

15 Brothers, I speak according to men: even having been confirmed, no one sets aside or adds to a covenant.  16 Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as concerning many, but as concerning one, and to your seed who is Christ.  17 And I say this: the Law, having come into being four hundred and thirty years after, does not annul a covenant having been previously confirmed by God so as to abolish the promise.  18 For if the inheritance is by the Law, it is no longer by promise, but God has given it to Abraham by promise.  19 Why then the Law? It was added for the sake of the transgressors, having been ordained through angels by the hand of a mediator until the seed should come to whom it has been promised.  20 Now the mediator is not of one, but God is one.  21 Is the Law, therefore, against the promises of God? May it never be! For if a law was given being able to give life, righteousness would have been indeed by law.  22 But the Scripture consigned all things under sin that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to the ones believing.  23 But before the faith came, we were being kept under the law, being confined as to the faith being about to be revealed. 24 Therefore, the Law has been our guardian to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.  25 But we are no longer under a guardian, faith having come.  26 For all of you are sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.  27 For as many as were baptized into Christ, put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for all are one in Christ Jesus.  29 And if you are Christ’s then you are of Abraham’s seed and according to promise, heirs.  (Galatians 3:15-29 Possessing the Treasure New Testament v1)

Paul demonstrates that the Mosaic covenant given at Sinai 430 years after the Abrahamic covenant did not in any way change the promises made to Abraham. He shows the superiority of the Abrahamic Covenant in vv15-18 and the inferiority of the Law in vv19-22.

The seed referred to by Paul is from Genesis 12:7. The singular form the Hebrew can be use in a collective sense. Paul’s point is that in some Old Testament passages “seed” refers to the greatest of Abraham’s descendants, Jesus Christ.  The 430 years spoken of by Paul refers to God reaffirmation of the Abrahamic Covenant to Jacob in Genesis 46:2-4 just before he went to Egypt 430 years before the Mosaic law was given. The Abrahamic Covenant was unilateral, eternal, irrevocable, and unconditional because all depends upon God, not man.

Notice the role of the law as our Guardian or Tutor to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. How does that work? The Law cannot save anyone. It has no power to justify anyone. However, it does contain God’s standards for righteousness. It exposes our guilt and inability to keep it. When faith did come what role does the Law play? It’s role is the same. It revels our dire need of a Saviour and the Holy Spirit uses this to draw us to Christ as we hear the Good News.

In v27 the baptism spoken of there is not water baptism, which cannot save, but is a metaphorical use of the word by Paul to speak of being “immersed” or “placed into” Christ by the spiritual miracle of union with him in his death and resurrection. What does it mean that those who have been immersed into Christ have also “put on Christ?” Paul was speaking of the believer’s spiritual union with Christ in their uniting with him through Salvation. Positionally before God, all believers have put on Christ, that is, his death, resurrection, and righteousness. In our sanctification, through the work of the Holy Spirit, we need to clothe ourselves with Christ before men in our conduct (Romans 13:14).

In v29 we are told that all who are in Christ are Abraham’s spiritual children. They follow the pattern of his faith. All believers are heirs of the spiritual blessing that accompanied the Abrahamic Covenant, which is Justification by Faith (Genesis 15”6; Romans 4:3-11).

Now my brethren, as far as this swimming up stream against the flow of this culture…yes, that is true. This gospel message, this message of justification by grace alone through faith alone by God’s gift alone (Ephesians 2:8,9) is not what the self-centered, man-focused, person who claims to be Christian, but may in fact only be very religious and all about worshiping self—wants to hear. No, they would probably gravitate more towards a works-righteousness theology. However, that is not biblical and as we dig into God’s Word and do what we are supposed to do, which is teach it as the Holy Spirit uses that process to expose the truth to hearts, opening some, calling some, teaching some, convicting some, and sadly giving some over to self. This is what we are called to do and we must continue to do it until either we are called home or our Lord returns. His will be done.

Soli Deo Gloria!





13 thoughts on “Only One Gospel Part 7

  1. Thanks again Mike for your faithfulness. Swimming up stream was a good analogy…75 years ago. Today our work is more like fighting a fire with gasoline. It is truly visious the response of cultural christianity to biblical christianity, and the picture comes more into focus daily of those who will kill and think they are doing God a favor. For now the best they can do is seek to have us declared insane, but as the rule of law deteriorates their anger will burn hotter. Just look at the venom spewed by certain special interest groups who have curried special privileges as victims toward any truth that dares to question their wickedness. Once the restraints are broken down Nazi Germany will have nothing over this dawning dark new age.


  2. I agree Mickey…so many of those same people with whom I have had the displeasure of “encountering” over these things are also caving into those “special interests” such as homosexuals demanding to be treated as Christians in the church, etc. These same people are ignoring the Bible and are redefining marriage according to cultural mores and in doing so reveal that they really aren’t part of Kingdom of God at all. Didn’t Jesus say we would know them by their fruit. We proclaim the truth, but we don’t have to jump down into the mud pit with them, operating in the flesh as they do, et cetera. No, as our Lord said, leave them alone…they are blind guides leading the blind… However, there are plenty of lost people out there who need the gospel so we must continue to preach it.


  3. As for swimming up stream, allow me a small digression 🙂 When I studied geology in college, a professor explained the meanders in rivers and how they developed as the water sought the lowest point and pushed around bends in the bank. Years later, I heard a preacher, exhorting Christians to press on toward Christ, warn us thusly: “The path of least resistance makes both man and river crooked.” King James Bible talks about the Lord making our path “straight”. Nice contrast.

    Verse 19 jumped out at me this morning: “Why then the Law? It was added for the sake of the transgressors, having been ordained through angels by the hand of a mediator until the seed should come to whom it has been promised.” I am studying and pondering the reformed teaching about the Lord’s Day and wondering why Westminster Catechism teaching on the 4th commandment weighs on me like a Jewish Sabbath regulation.


  4. Manfred, thanks for letting me use your analogy. 🙂 as far as this legalistic/antinomian debate… I like to think of Job. Was he right before God because of all those sacrifices and all those prayers etc. Well, he wasn’t even Jewish and he was prior to the Law. He didn’t keep the Sabbath because the Law didn’t even exist at least as being ordained in the Law. However, his heart was fixed to obey God in all things. What did he do? He did those things out of his devotion to God. That is being a DOER of the Law but not in a legalistic way or works righteousness way, but as the Holy Spirit working in us in our sanctification and walking in repentance. That is the direction we need to go.


  5. Yes, Mike – I agree with your example of Job. Yet even this puts me at odds with those who claim the Decalogue was written on heart of man since Adam. I know the Lord desires obedience above sacrifice. The difficulty now – as it has been for many years – is to discern what is honorable and commanded by God and what is pressed on us by men. There were those who thought the Scribes and Pharisees were very righteous. Paul’s letter to the Galatians is most helpful in delineating between legalism and true submission to the Lord.


  6. I agree totally Manfred. Paul was a former Pharisee so he understood that the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees was “self-righteousness.” Just as slowly going through the Sermon on the Mount was extremely humbling for me, going through Galatians like this is extremely educational. The Holy Spirit surely working in our hearts as we slow down and work our way through the Word this way.


  7. Dear Mike,

    Grace and peace in Christ Jesus!

    Just got back from more traveling and made sure I had my Bible this time and a copy of “The Mortificatioin of Sin” by John Owen:)

    “This is the general mistake of men, ignorant of the gospel, about this thing: [referring to “spiritual disciplines” ie: fasting,praying meditation]; and it lies at the bottom of very much of that superstition and will-worship that hath been brought into the world. What horrible self-macerations were practised by some of the ancient authors of monastical devotion! What violence did they offer to nature! What extremity of sufferings did they put themselves upon! Search their ways and principles to the bottom, and you will find that they had no other root but this mistake; namely, that attempting rigid mortification, they fell upon the natural man instead of the corrupt old man; upon the body wherein we live, instead of the body of death.” pg.42

    And to concur with the point that you are so succinctly conveying in your post Mike; “Let their souls be first thoroughly converted, and then, looking on Him whom they have pierced, humiliation and mortification will ensue.”pg.78

    Kept only by His amazing grace, charisse


  8. Thanks for that Charisse. What a great little book is the The Mortification of Sin and what a wonderful and humble teacher of the Word is John Owen. If the Gospel is not always at the fore then we are doing what those who are only mortifying their flesh were doing. On the other hand, as we are transformed after looking upon the one whom we have pierced, are humbled, then true mortification of our sinfulness will begin. Yes, amen.


  9. Manfred, I understand that weight of the sabbath day you reference. For us, as you know He is our Sabbath Rest. We who are in Him and He in us, creates for us a perpetual Sabbath rest which we abide in, no longer entering and leaving. It is no longer an observation but our lives. This of course is Christ in me the hope of glory. We just aren’t done with flesh yet, both ours and that of this wicked world. Once we apprehend this every day becomes precious as we wait for His return to free us from the presence of sin. I have so much more peace now, and no weight felt any longer. I’m guessing that weight you have felt is much lighter now that you fellowship in a congregation of called out saints having Voddie as undershepherd.
    Once we redeem the word “church” from where we go and what we do to the original meaning of a living stones building not made by men, many of the unnecessary weights will be removed and believers will be able to fellowship whenever and wherever 2 or 3 are gathered in His Name. So many are weighed down by the ritual that today most believe their duty is to invite folks to “church” rather then their call to preach the gospel to the lost and dying, freeing the elders to disciple the saints to accurately go out and share the good news. Those, like Voddie who both accuratly discipe and also goes out and preaches to the lost are those due double honor. Can we see how this modern machenation of men has flipped the method such that in most churches the tares are encouraged to mix with the wheat such that most churches have little to no fruit at all. That brother is a heavy burden.


  10. When I read this I was thinking of the story of the prodigal son.. I thought of the Son who did everything right and stayed at home, worked hard etc.. He was a picture of the Pharisees and so when the prodigal Son came to his senses and went back home and was welcomed by his Father, he put the finest robe on him and said lets celebrate. What did the oldest son do,, he was angry and did not want to celebrate.. It all was unfair to him because he had “worked” to please his dad.. Actually it was all self-righteousness on his part..

    To me that describes the exact same attitude people have who are “self-righteous” and not truly born again. they are hateful and cynical people. They think they are earning God’s favor and so when we present what God’s word actually says about the Gospel that it’s all God’s grace alone through faith alone,, they can’t accept it because they’ve worked so hard and it seems so unfair to them…

    I agree that people who compromise and become inclusive and ecumenical I really don’t think are saved. How can anyone who has truly received the most subliminal GIFT of God ever want to even consider that their dirt and filth is worthy to stand alongside Jesus Christ. No one can compare to His matchless beauty. He is beyond comparison. Jesus is UNIQUE and ONE OF A KIND…

    I hope you’re doing well today Mike.. I was just thinking a short time back when you said you had some tests and I can’t help but to hope that all is well and you are healthy~

    May the Lord richly bless you and your ministry


  11. That’s a good analysis Linda. I am doing fine. All of the tests came back negative, which means that the biopsies showed that I do not have cancer. I’m just aging. 🙂


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