INTRO: We have seen the interrogation of faith and the illustration of faith and today we’ll see the importance of faith. Next week is the identity of faith.
What Paul has been hammering home in Galatians is that we are saved by faith and not by works. This is the distinguishing hallmark of Christianity. Religion is man doing something to earn the favor of God. Christianity is God doing something for man that man can’t do for himself. Religion says do, but Christianity says done.
Paul anticipates the Judaizers next objection since they were huge fans of the law of Moses. In general, they recognized the importance of the Abrahamic covenant, but they gave priority to the Mosaic covenant. This led them to emphasize law over faith. The next question is: “Why did God give Moses the law if the law doesn’t do anything for our salvation?
I. The Promise of God (15-18)
– We are always looking for a better deal. We have all driven all over town looking for the best price and the best deal on an item we wanted or needed only to go back home and order it on Amazon. We wanted the best deal.
– We have looked extensively at Abraham and the covenant or deal that God made with him. He didn’t have to work for it, he only had to believe God by faith and it was counted to him for righteousness. It was a good deal! But then, 430 years pass and along comes another deal. This time it comes to another Jewish man named Moses and it is called the Mosaic Law. Abraham and all his descendants were saved by faith, but then God gave Moses the law on Mount Sinai. It’s now a question of which one? Do we follow the plan of Genesis 15 and Abraham’s faith or do we follow the rules of Exodus 20 and the law of Moses? Which one is more important? Does the law given later nullify the promise made earlier to Abraham?
– To answer this, Paul highlights the Person who is making the promise. He wants to emphasize the reliability of the covenant God made with Abraham. The illustration given is that when a contract or agreement is made by people involving obligations and promises, no one can add to it of take from it. It will remain as it was originally made.
– Illus: Let’s say that Aunt Wilma dies and has put in her will that she wants to leave all her money to Uncle Fred. No one can go back and argue, “I wonder what Aunt Wilma really wanted.” She has given her word because that is what her last will and testament said. No one can come along later and change it.
– The idea is that if we expect this to be true in man-made contracts, how much more reliable and unchangeable is a God-made contact! If man honors his word, then we can certainly count on God to honor His word.
– In fact, verses 17-18 make the point clearly. Just because the Law was given 430 years after the promise to Abraham that he was justified by faith does not nullify the contract or the promise. God is a God who cannot lie. God made a promise that He would enter into a relationship with sinners through faith alone. Just because some religious organization comes along several hundred years later with their laws, it does not nullify God’s promise.
– I want to make sure we all understand. The Judaizers implied that the giving of the Law changed that original promise. Paul argues that it did not. But then he takes it one step further...
– This promise was not just made to Abraham, but also to Abraham’s seed. (16) Notice it is singular; not “seeds.” It was not found in a bunch of Jewish “seeds,” laws or attempts to keep the Law. The promise was made to one seed or one descendant in particular – Jesus Christ.
– In the final analysis, God made this promise with Abraham through Christ, so that the only two parties who can make any changes are God the Father and God the Son. Moses cannot alter this covenant! He can add nothing to it, he can take nothing from it. The Judaizers wanted to add to God's grace (as though anything could be added to grace!) and take from God's promises. They had no right to do this since they were not parties in the original covenant.
– This is not a biological promise to all Jewish people; this is a Christological promise made to all who put faith in Jesus. You can be biologically related to whatever religious founding father you want to and still end up in hell, but if you are spiritually related to Christ by faith, that is how you go to heaven.
– As simple as I can put it, God made a promise that people are justified by faith and He doesn’t come along 430 years later and say, “Oh yeah, I forgot about the Ten Commandments and around 600 other laws. I’m going to throw those in as conditions to the promise.” No, God doesn’t work that way. Which brings us to the next obvious question.
II. The Purpose of the Law (19-21, 24)
– Notice the opening question of verse 19. What purpose does the law serve?
A. The Law was for transgressions. The law was added because of sin.
– Illus: The law is like a CT scanner. A “computed tomography” scanner takes pictures of your brain, organs, fat and muscles. For some people, they use a wide-angle lens! It is 3-dimensional and it shows much more than an x-ray can show. It takes a picture of what is going on inside your body. It can show tumors, infections, internal bleeding, bone fractures, kidney stones, blocked arteries, and even heart disease. But the one thing a CT scanner can’t do is heal or fix your problem. It can show you what the problem is, but it cannot treat it.
– That is exactly the way the Law of God works. The purpose of the Law is to reveal sin, not remove sin. The purpose of the Law is to show sin, not save from sin. But there is a fountain filled with blood that can remove that sin!
– The law is a mirror of reality. It shows us that we can never be good enough or perfect enough to stand on our own before a holy God. The law doesn’t make us sinners; it simply reveals the fact that we are already sinners.
– Illus: A parent giving commands to their children is a good example. My children have sinful hearts, but it isn’t obvious until I give them a command. “Bring your dirty laundry downstairs.” “Take the trash out.” “Son, do this.” “Daughter, do that.” Now their sinful nature is put on display. The command brings the disobedient heart to the surface.
– I’m glad we have laws because they keep us from drifting completely into a moral fog. There is a sense in which laws prevent sin, but they also provoke sin. When you see a sign that says you can’t drive faster than 70 mph, something inside you says, “Who do they think they are? I’ll drive 72 mph if I want to! They can’t tell me what to do!” Laws legally prevent sin, but they spiritually provoke sin because of our sinful nature.
– Now, if you understand what was just explained, then buckle up, because Romans 5:20 is now going to become one of the most precious verses in the Bible. “Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” Whatever you think the grace of God is, I assure you, it is infinitely better!
– The law doesn’t make us better, it makes us worse. It magnifies and multiplies our sin. Which means the grace of God gets magnified and multiplied even more. The law makes sin expand in our hearts, and this compels us to run in total despair to the grace of God and be driven to faith in Jesus Christ. The law makes me aware I have a sin problem and therefore need help.
– By the way, this is why it is important that we call sin what it is. Society wants to redefine sin as a disease or excuse sin by victimization. People want to blame the environment or the government or how they were raised. If people don’t see themselves as sinners, they will never understand their need for a Savior.
B. The Law was temporary. “It was added....till the seed should come." Now it is obvious that a temporary law cannot be greater than a permanent promise. When you read God's covenant with Abraham, you find no "ifs" in His words. Nothing was conditional; all was of grace. But the blessings of the Law were dependent on the meeting of certain conditions. Furthermore, the Law had a terminating point "until the Seed [Christ] should come." With the death and resurrection of Christ, the Law was done away and now its righteous demands are fulfilled in us through the Spirit.
– John 1:17 says “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” Add that to the list of verses that are enhanced by what we are studying in Galatians!
– The law reigned from Mount Sinai to Mount Calvary where it was done away with by Jesus dying on the cross!
– Just to touch on some interesting facts here about the giving of the law. The account of the giving of the Law is impressive (Ex. 19). There was thunder and lightning, and the people were trembling with fear. Even Moses was shaking in his sandals. Galatians reminds us that angels were involved because Deut. 33:2 says when God gave the law to Moses, He was surrounded by 10,000 angels. It was a dramatic event in comparison with the giving of the covenant to Abraham (Gen 15), and of course, the Judaizers were impressed with these emotional externals.
C. The Law was our tutor. The Law shows us where we fall short and points us to the answer. The Law was given by God to bring us to the point where we cast all of our faith on Jesus Christ, because we realize we cannot keep the Law. The Law cannot give you the Holy Spirit. The Law cannot give you perfect righteousness. The Law cannot give you justification. The Law cannot wash away your sins.
– Illus: A good example of this purpose of the Law is in the account of the rich young ruler (Matt 19:16 ff). This young man had everything anybody could desire, but he was not satisfied. He had tried to keep the commandments all his life, but still something was missing. But these commandments brought him to Christ! This is one of the purposes of the Law, to create in lost sinners a sense of guilt and need. The sad thing is that the young man was not honest as he looked into the mirror of the Law, for the last commandment ("Thou shalt not covet") escaped him; and he went away without eternal life.
III. The Permanence of Faith (22-25)
– One theologian said, “You cannot come to Christ to be justified until you have first been to Moses to be condemned. But once you have gone to Moses and acknowledged your sin, guilt and condemnation you must not stay there, but must let Moses send you to Christ.”
– Because the law is temporary, we need a permanent solution to our sin problem. The law of Moses does not hinder or nullify the promise of God that is only available by faith to those who believe.
– The Law cannot change the promise, and the Law is not greater than the promise, the Law is not contrary to the promise: they work together to bring sinners to faith in the Savior.
– Illus: From 1939 to 1945, Adolph Hitler went on a brutal rampage to kill innocent Jews. In six years, he killed six million Jews. Finally in 1945, Hitler and his regime were destroyed and the Jews were finally free. Now can you imagine some Jew who had been set free saying he would rather go back under the tyranny of Hitler? Can you imagine some Jew saying he wanted to go back under the death sentence instead of being free? You would respond and say you are out of your mind.
– That is precisely the issue that is at stake with people who want to go back under the law. They are out of their minds. To go back under the Law is to go back under a death sentence. The Law is a death sentence and only Jesus Christ by His death can set you free from it.
– Jesus fulfills it all! The laws of Moses with all the ceremonies, and rituals, and priesthood, and sacrifices were never intended to be permanent. It was all a shadow pointing to a substance. All of us are caught in the prison cell of sin and the only way out is to place faith in Jesus Christ.
– Faith is important because only faith brings you joy, and vitality, and life, and peace, and rest – not in your works, but in the finished work of Jesus.