LAW VERSUS PROMISE
Lord, thank You for including me in Your covenant.
Read GALATIANS 3:15–22
The Law and the Promise
15 Brothers and sisters, let me take an example from everyday life. Just as no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case. 16 The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,”[a] meaning one person, who is Christ. 17 What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise. 18 For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on the promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise.
19 Why, then, was the law given at all? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was given through angels and entrusted to a mediator. 20 A mediator, however, implies more than one party; but God is one.
21 Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law. 22 But Scripture has locked up everything under the control of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.
a Galatians 3:16 Gen. 12:7; 13:15; 24:7
New International Version (NIV)
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“For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ” (2 Cor. 1:20). Thank you, Father, that You are faithful.
Having shown that Law-keeping and faith represent opposite modes of serving God, Paul now reveals that Law and promise are opposite principles at the heart of two distinct covenants. In verses 15–18, he explains that the Mosaic covenant does not annul God’s earlier covenant with Abraham. God’s promise was to be fulfilled through Abraham’s offspring (singular: referring to Christ) and not through the Law. God is consistent and keeps his promises, so we may trust him. When the Bible speaks of God changing his mind, it is normally because God has cancelled earlier pronouncements of judgment in response to someone’s repentance or intercession (Jer. 26:13; Jon. 3:10; Exod. 32:14).
If the Law does not fulfill God’s promise, what then is its purpose (19)? Paul’s answer, “It was added because of transgressions,” is unclear. It can mean that the Law was given to heighten our awareness of sin (Ben Witherington III, The Acts of the Apostles: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, 255–256) or, as an interim device, to deal with sin (James D. G. Dunn, The Epistle to the Galatians, 190–192). Either way, the Law has only a temporary function—until Christ, as Abraham’s offspring, arrives. Moreover, Israel received the Law via Moses as a mediator, whereas Abraham received the promise directly from God (19,20) (Dunn, 191).
The Law itself is not opposed to God’s promises; it is simply not the means by which his promises get fulfilled (21). The Law cannot give life, decisively deal with sin, or make people right with God. By definition, legislation regulates what one may or may not do, but it cannot empower a person to follow its rules or bring about reconciliation. People can escape their captivity in sin exclusively through faith in Christ (22). Praise be to Jesus who sets people free.
Reflect on 2 Corinthians 1:18–22. All God’s promises are realized in Christ. His gift of the Spirit is the first installment, a guarantee of all God’s promises.
Lord, thank You for not requiring adherence to the Law as a condition for receiving the promises made to Abraham and by extension, to me.
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