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!