Standing on the Promises!
Intro. (From Guy Calley – sermon central)
In the early 1930’s the US had a problem. Crime had run amok. The prohibition of alcohol in the 1920’s had given rise to pervasive organized crime. A frightened public demanded a response, and the government wanted to send a message to criminals. Their message was named Alcatraz. A tiny island in San Francisco which had previously been used as a military prison. From 1934 to 1962 Alcatraz housed some of our nation’s most notorious outlaws including Al Capone.
Thirty-six prisoners were involved in escape attempts: 7 shot and killed, 2 drowned, 5 unaccounted for, the rest recaptured. 2 prisoners made it off the island but were returned, As for the June 1962 escape, Morris and the Anglin brothers were successful in escaping both the institution and the island, but survival is very questionable.
The rock was one of the most successful examples ever of an escape-proof prison. But there is one prison even more inescapable and it is the one referred to in the Scripture we just read in Galatians: The bondage of sin.
Some teachers said that the way to escape sin’s shackles was through obedience to a strict set of rules known as the law of Moses. We call these teachers the Judaizers, because basically they were teaching that to become truly Christian one must conform outwardly to the Jewish law.
Paul’s response to these teachers is that the law is not a way to escape the bondage of sin, rather faith in Christ, trusting in His sacrifice on the cross as a payment for sin is the only way to be set free from sin’s bondage and consequences. In today’s text he furthers that argument by pointing out that his teaching isn’t a new concept, but the same thing God has always asked for.
I. The giving of the law could not change the promise v. 15-18
A. Proof from civil transactions v. 15
* Paul picks an illustration from life after the custom and practice of men.
* He uses an example taken from civil transactions.
* If an agreement or bond be signed, sealed, and witnessed, and, in this country, duly stamped; No man disannulleth
-- It stands under the protection of the civil law, and nothing can be legally erased or added.
* No one can "make it void"(athetei
* Both parties can by agreement cancel a contract, but not otherwise.
* No one can change it. No new conditions can be added; nor can there be any drawing back from its terms.
* It is/was unlawful to add (epi) fresh clauses or specifications (diataxeis).
Barnes –" … the promise made to Abraham was by no means made void by the giving of the Law. The Law had another purpose, which did not interfere with the promise made to Abraham. That promise stood on its own merits, irrespective of the demands and the design of the Law. It is possible that Paul may have had his eye on an objection to his view. The objection may have been that there were important acts of legislation which succeeded the promise made to Abraham, and that that promise must have been superseded by the giving of the Law. To this he replies that the Mosaic law given at a later period could not take away or nullify a solemn promise made to Abraham..."
Barnes – "Though it be but a man’s covenant" -
* An agreement between man and man.
* Even in such a case no one can add to it or take from it.
* The argument here is, that such an agreement must be much less important than a promise made by God. But even that could not be annulled. How much less, therefore, could a covenant made by God be treated as if it were vain.
* JFB - it could not add as a new condition the observance of the law, in which case the fulfillment of the promise would be attached to a condition impossible for man to perform.
* It is not lawful to break covenants and contracts which are justly made, and are according to law among men, neither may anything be added to them.
M. Henry -
* The covenant which God made with Abraham was not vacated nor disannulled by the giving of the law to Moses
W. Wiersbe -
* Once two parties conclude an agreement, a third party cannot come along years later and change that agreement. The only persons who can change an original agreement are the persons who made it. To add anything to it or take anything from it would be illegal.
B. Proof from the life of Abraham v. 16-18
Wiersbe - The word promise is used eight times in these verses, referring to God’s promise to Abraham that in him all the nations of the earth would be blessed (Gen_12:1-3). This promise involved being justified by faith and having all the blessings of salvation (Gal_3:6-9).
Note that Abraham did not make a covenant with God; God made a covenant with Abraham! God did not lay down any conditions for Abraham to meet. In fact, when the covenant was ratified Abraham was asleep! (see Gen. 15) It was a covenant of grace: God made promises to Abraham; Abraham did not make promises to God.
BKC - The stress on seed (cf. Gen. 12:7; 13:15; 24:7), not seeds, was made simply to remind the readers that the faithful in Israel had always recognized that blessing would ultimately come through a single individual, the Messiah
1) Abraham saved 430 years before law given v. 17
* God did so make a covenant with Abraham, that he would gather together his children who consist both of Jews and Gentiles into one body
* a law given centuries later cannot change a covenant made by other parties.
* If the law was a requirement for salvation, then Abraham could have never been saved
2) Abraham saved by faith apart from the law v. 18
* The promise and the law can’t be mixed together
* The two are fundamentally different in nature.
* They do not co-mingle
* They cannot be combined.
* Instead, the inheritance (i.e., justification by faith) was given by God as an unconditional gift to those who believe.
Who (What) saved Abraham? Law or faith in the promise?
II. The purpose of the law and it’s limitations explained v. 19-24
A. The law was added v. 19
* The law came AFTER the promise was given to Abraham.
* God added the law years after he gave the promise of justification by faith to Abraham.
* Paul is reminding his readers that faith came first, then later on the law was added but it still did not change or alter the promise that was given to Abraham.
* The law wasn’t given first, and then faith was added; it was the other way around
* We may argue over which came first – the chicken or the egg in the world of nature, BUT the argument here is not difficult….everyone knows that the law was added 430 years after Abraham believed God.
* God did not even replace faith with the law; he added the law for a purpose.
* Law didn’t succeed the promise, nor take the place of it, nor make it null and void
* Not added to establish a different way of justification from that which was settled by the promise
* God didn’t save some people one way (by faith), and then save others another way (by works of law)
* The promise preceded the law by hundreds of years… it was later added.
B. The law was temporary v. 19
* "till the seed should come to whom promise was made"
* till Jesus came… Things changed when Jesus came on the scene
-- We now have a new covenant since the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus
* The dispensation of the law has been replaced with a new dispensation
* v. 25 …after faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster
-- it was only intended to have a temporary rule in our lives.
C. The law was inferior by mediation v. 19-20
* The Law was inferior because of the manner of its delivery.
* Contrast - while God made promises to Abraham directly, the Law was established by a mediator.
* There were in fact 2 mediators, the angels representing God, and Moses representing the people.
* There was no go-between with Abraham and God.
* God gave the promise to Abraham personally in a vision.
D. The law is not in conflict with faith v. 21
* God gave both the Law and promises, but for different purposes.
* The law and the gospel are both a part of God’s plan.
-- But it was not the purpose of the Law to give life.
-- the law shows us our sin, the gospel shows us the way of escape – Jesus!
* Theoretically salvation could have come by the Law if people had been capable of keeping it perfectly, but they could not (Rom. 8:3-4).
* The law is not opposed to faith, it helps us on our way to faith in Jesus.
* The law is just, righteous and good, but it was never intended to give life.
* The law works to bring the sinner to the end of themselves and to the Saviour
E. The law declares all people guilty v. 22
* the whole world is trapped and under the dominion of sin
* It was given to point out our sin
* It was given to reveal, or expose our sin for what it really is
Henry - The Israelites, though they were chosen to be God’s peculiar people, were sinners like everyone else, and therefore the law was given to convince them of their sin, and of their obnoxiousness to the divine displeasure because of it; for by the law is the knowledge of sin (Rom_3:20), and the law entered that sin might abound, Rom_5:20.
* Law was given that sin might be made manifest as a transgression
* God gave his written law to clearly define all of us as sinners.
* Paul said he would not have known what lust was except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet"
Rom 7:7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.
F. The law imprisoned us v. 23
* "kept" - prison term = "to mount guard as a sentinel" , "to be on guard", …figuratively to "hem in"
* illustration – "shut up" … the law imprisoned us… locked us up as condemned criminals
* The law as a jailer was designed to be only temporary, until the time when faith should come.
* It was to hold in custody those who were subjected to sin, so that they should not escape the consciousness of their sins and of their liability to punishment.
G. The law disciplined us v. 24
* The schoolmaster illustration
* Don’t confuse a Greek schoolmaster with an American school teacher!
* It’s not the same idea or thought. There really is no exact parallel in our society.
* NASB – "tutor"
* Phillips paraphrase suggests “a strict governess.”
BKC – "The pedagogue here was not a “schoolmaster” (KJV) but a slave to whom a son was committed from age six or seven to puberty. These slaves were severe disciplinarians and were charged with guarding the children from the evils of society and giving them moral training.
The transliteration of the Greek would give us our word pedagogue, which literally means “a child conductor.”
* The law was to the Jews what the pedagogue was in a Greek household, a ruler of children in their minority, and it had this character "unto" that is, until Christ.
Wiersbe - By using this illustration, Paul is saying several things about the Jews and their Law. First, he is saying that the Jews were not born through the Law, but rather were brought up by the Law. The slave (schoolmaster) was not the child’s father; he was the child’s guardian and disciplinarian. So, the Law did not give life to Israel; it regulated life. The Judaizers taught that the Law was necessary for life and righteousness, and Paul’s argument shows their error.
But the second thing Paul says is even more important: the work of the guardian was preparation for the child’s maturity. Once the child came of age, he no longer needed the guardian. So the Law was a preparation for the nation of Israel until the coming of the promised Seed, Jesus Christ. The ultimate goal in God’s program was His coming (Gal_3:22), but “before this faith [Christ] came” (Gal_3:23 3, niv), the nation was “imprisoned by the Law” (literal translation).
The Law separated Israel from the Gentile nations (Eph_2:12-18); it governed every aspect of their lives. During the centuries of Jewish history, the Law was preparing for the coming of Christ. The demands of the Law reminded the people that they needed a Saviour. The types and symbols in the Law were pictures of the coming Messiah (see Luk_24:27).
III. The promise accomplished what the law could not do v. 25-29
A. The promise made us sons v. 25-27
* The law could never make anyone a child of God.
* You can only become a part of God’s family by faith, not by the law.
* We are children of God "by faith in Christ Jesus" …not by the law …v. 26
B. The promise made us one in Christ v. 28
* No distinctions in the family of God.
* Human distinctions lose their significance.
* Jew has no superiority over the Gentile in the family of God.
* A believing free man is not superior to a believing slave.
* A believing man is not superior to a believing woman.
We are all on equal standing… we are all children of God.
* Paul is making it clear that even if one has been through some of the Jewish religious rituals, even that of circumcision, he is not superior to anyone else in the family of God.
* God doesn’t love the Jew more than the Gentile…. The free man more than the slave… the male more than the female
C. The promise made us heirs v. 29
* We are the spiritual seed of Abraham and as such inherit the promise of justification by faith
* As children of God, we are heirs of God.
* It is not by the obedience of the Law; it is by faith
John Gill - the children of the promise, which are counted for the seed, they are, according to the promise made to Abraham and his spiritual seed, heirs of the blessings of the grace of life, and of the eternal inheritance; of the blessing of justification of life, and of everlasting salvation; of this world and of the world to come; of all the spiritual blessings of the covenant of grace, and of the incorruptible and undefiled inheritance of the saints in light; to which they are begotten through the abundant mercy of God, for which they are made meet by the grace of Christ; and to which they have a right by his justifying righteousness.