Summary: Let’s avoid the mistakes the Judaizers made and focus our thoughts on Paul’s history lesson in Galatians 3:15-22. We will observe the solid, historical fact of justification by faith alone in contrast to the perilous fiction of justification by works.
Allen Dale Golding tells the story about when he and his wife were missionaries in the Philippines. They vacationed in Baguio City in the mountains of Northern Luzon. While there, they visited the St. Louis Silver School, where silversmiths are trained. They admired exquisite workmanship in the workshop and gift shop, and took home a souvenir—a pure silver money clip embellished with a distinctive design. Allen carried that clip for the next 24 years. One day it finally broke as he slipped a few bills into it. He then took the two pieces of the money clip back to the silver school in Baguio City. One workman, about Allen’s age, asked if he could help him. Allen explained his predicament and laid the pieces in the workman’s outstretched hand.
After examining the pieces for a minute or so, he looked up at him and said, “I designed this clip. I was the only one to make this design. I made all of these that were ever made.”
Allen asked, “Can you fix it?”
He said, “I designed it. I made it. Of course I can fix it!”
You and I are spiritually broken. But thankfully, there is a solution. God designed us. He made us. And he is the only one who knows how to “fix us.”
Let us learn how God provided a solution for our brokenness. Let us learn how God fixes us. Let us read Galatians 3:15-22:
"15 Brothers, 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. The Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,” 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 a promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise.
"19 What, then, was the purpose of the law? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was put into effect through angels by a mediator. 20 A mediator, however, does not represent just 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 the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe." (Galatians 3:15-22)
If history proves anything, it is that we seldom learn what it teaches. For example, the history of the Roman Empire shows us that sexual promiscuity and other forms of self-indulgence lead to the internal decay and eventual downfall of nations. Yet we continue to allow immorality to spread like a cancerous growth, hoping against hope that it will simply go away on its own.
History also points out that political power never operates in a religious vacuum. If Christianity doesn’t fill the void, lawmakers and policy setters will find, or even create, another religion to take its place. This fact, however doesn’t seem to motivate many Christians to enter the political arena or base their civil decisions on their faith.
Similarly, the ruins of past civilizations stand as stark reminders that human beings are unable to perfect themselves regardless of their economic, political, educational, or religious achievements. And yet many people insist that their utopian dreams rest in their own hands.
During the first century, the Judaizers failed to consider accurately the historical record concerning the way man can become righteous before God. They looked at the Mosaic Law, misunderstood its function, and declared that obedience to its commands would bring salvation. They ignored the fact that everyone stood condemned, not justified, under the law’s perfect standard. They also disregarded the fact that prior to the law, God had made a promise to Abraham that was not dependent on his keeping a set of rules. Abraham was saved by believing in this promise, and we are saved by believing in God’s fulfillment of this promise.
Let’s avoid the mistakes the Judaizers made and focus our thoughts on Paul’s history lesson in Galatians 3:15-22. We will observe the solid, historical fact of justification by faith alone in contrast to the perilous fiction of justification by works.
I. The Historical Background
Before turning our attention to Galatians, we need to dig into the pages of history, beginning with the days of Abraham.