Summary: So which is greater, the Law or the Promise? How are we saved by one and not the other?
A. There is a story about a student at Cambridge University who entered the classroom on exam day and asked the proctor to bring him cakes and ale.
1. The proctor refused, expressing astonishment at the young student’s audacity.
2. At this point the student read from the 400-year-old Laws of Cambridge, which were written in Latin and still nominally in effect.
3. The passage read by the student said, “Gentlemen sitting for examinations may request and require Cakes and Ale.”
4. The proctor was forced to comply. It was decided that Pepsi and hamburgers were the modern equivalent, so the necessary accommodations were made for the student - after all, the law was on his side.
5. Three weeks later the same student was summoned to the office of Academic Affairs to face disciplinary action and was assessed a fine of five pounds.
6. He was not fined for demanding cakes and ale, but for blatantly disregarding another obscure Cambridge law: he had failed to wear a sword to the examination.
B. Trying to manipulate the law for our own purposes can be very tricky and costly.
1. That is true in the earthly realm, but it is even more the case in the spiritual realm.
2. I’m sure that the Judaizers, whom Paul was battling in the letter to the Galatians, thought they had Paul in a corner.
a. Paul had just finished proving from the Old Testament that God’s plan of salvation left no room for the works of the Law.
b. But the fact that Paul quoted six times from the Old Testament to prove his point raised a serious question: If salvation does not involve the Law, then why was the Law given in the first place?
3. So, can you sense the tension?
a. The Judaizers might have argued: If Paul quoted from the Law to prove the insignificance of the Law, and if the Law is now set aside, then his very arguments are worthless, because they were taken from the Law.
4. Paul was trained as a Jewish rabbi, and he was fully equipped to argue his case.
5. In today’s section of Galatians (3:15-29), Paul made four points that help us understand the relationship between the Promise and the Law.
6. And all of this is so important because it gets back to the question of our salvation.
a. How are we made right with God?
b. Is it about believing or achieving?
c. Is it by works of the Law or by grace through faith?
Paul’s first point about the Law and the Promise is…
I. The Law Cannot Change the Promise (3:15-18)
A. The Bible says in Galatians 3:15-18: 15 To give a human example, brothers: even with a man-made covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been ratified. 16 Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. 17 This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. 18 For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.
B. The word promise is used 8 times in today’s section of verses, and these uses of promise refer to God’s promise to Abraham that in him all the nations of the earth would be blessed (Gen. 12:1-3).
1. This promise involved being justified by faith and having all the blessings of salvation.
2. The promise to Abraham came hundreds of years before the Law was given.
3. The Judaizers were teaching that the giving of the Law changed that original covenant of promise, but Paul argues that it did not.
C. Paul used the illustration of human covenants or agreements that we make in every day life.
1. We all understand that once two parties make an agreement, a third party cannot come along years later and change that agreement.
2. The only persons who can change an original agreement are the persons who made it.
3. For anyone else to add anything or take anything away from the original agreement would be illegal.
4. So if this is true for sinful humans, how much more does it apply to our Holy God?
D. But Paul reveals another wonderful truth: God made this promise, not only to Abraham, but also to Christ – “And to your seed (or offspring) who is Christ.” (3:16)
1. The Bible concept of “the seed” goes back to Genesis 3:15 – God states that there will be a conflict in the world between Satan’s seed (children of the devil) and the woman’s seed (God’s children, God’s Son).