Galatians [3:15-18]

 Galatians 3:15-18

Dear brothers and sisters, here’s an example from everyday life. Just as no one can set aside or amend an irrevocable agreement, so it is in this case. God gave the promise to Abraham and his child. And notice that it doesn’t say the promise was to his children, as if it meant many descendants. But the promise was to his child–and that, of course, means Christ.

I love the first line Paul uses. It is how I try to live my life everyday; understanding God and living “everyday life” with him. Not doing spiritual things at spiritual times and then considering the remaining time and activities as somehow my “real” or “everyday” life. But seeing God in the mundane, in the ordinary. I believe he is there, perhaps even more than in what we consider sacred?

Paul’s “everyday” example was that of an irrevocable agreement. Irrevocable is a strong word. It seems to me that today we are far less inclined to see an agreement as irrevocable. I do not know the statistics for sure, but the numbers I have heard regarding divorce rates lately are staggering. It’s almost more certain now that you will get a divorce than the possibility that you will remain married. But the Jewish culture, an irrevocable agreement was exactly that: Irrevocable.

This section of Galatians is fine-tuning Paul’s argument that life in God can not be earned. He mentioned a bit earlier in this chapter that God had promised to bless all nations through Abraham. Specifically through his child. There was a whole story of the struggle to take God at his word there, with Abraham and Sarah being without child and about 9000 years old. They even came up with a clever scheme to “make” a baby on their own, so God could keep his promise. But in his timing, God provided a child for Abraham. When he did, they could not take any credit for it. It was impossible for them to have a child, but with God, Jesus said, “Nothing is impossible.”

It was true in their case for a literal child from God, and it is true in our case as Abraham’s descendant, his “child”, has made it possible for us to break free from sin, death and even the law and be restored to complete friendship and intimacy with God. That is what Jesus was referring to when he said those words above. He was asked how can anyone “enter the Kingdom of heaven?” His reply focused as Paul does on God’s work and not ours. We get so good at pretending to be righteous that we even begin to believe it ourselves. We think maybe we can succeed at keeping the law. Maybe we can actually be righteous on our own. Maybe we can have a child, thought Sarah & Abraham. But it was never possible to be righteous by keeping the law. The child, and His righteousness come straight from, and only from, God.

“For no one can ever be made right in God’s sight by doing what his law commands. For the more we know God’s law, the clearer it becomes that we aren’t obeying it.”Rom 3:20

This is what I am trying to say: The agreement God made with Abraham could not be canceled 430 years later when God gave the law to Moses.

Notice the historical footnote? I thought that was cool to remind us that all of these events are historical and even marked off by years. Paul mentions that Moses received the law 430 years after Abraham received the promise. Thought that was a neat side bar. 🙂

God would be breaking his promise. For if the inheritance could be received only by keeping the law, then it would not be the result of accepting God’s promise. But God gave it to Abraham as a promise.

The Jews loved Abraham. He was the “Father” of their nation. He was greatly revered. But perhaps even greater was their adoration for Moses. He had spoken face to face with God, he was a great leader, and he was the one who received and passed on the Law to them. (You wouldn’t think that would be a good thing at first glance, would you?) And that might be what was so well received. Abraham received a promise from God. It was nebulous, undefined and with no specific time of implementation. Moses was told “Do this,” and “Don’t do that.” Now that’s what we like to hear! Something clear and defined and doable! Give me some laws! I can keep ’em!

But that was never the intent of the law. Consider what Paul said in his letter to the Romans quoted above. “The more we know God’s law, the clearer it becomes that we aren’t obeying it.” Ha! Exactly! In Hebrews it mentions that sacrifices could never save us and Paul mentions elsewhere that the law was never intended to save us, only to point out that we can’t do it on our own.

If there is one common theme throughout history it’s this. God wants us to know that we need him. And he does not leave it there, like some oppressive captor who holds your very life in his hands. No, he is not waiting for us to come to our senses and come groveling to him on hands and knees begging for a crumb or a drop of water. He loves us… completely. As ugly as we can get, he still loves us. Gave up his own life to prove it. He knows that we can not survive on our own. We will never repair our relationship with him on our own. We can not. It is impossible. But just like with Abraham & Sarah, and just like countless other stories in scripture, God has shown that with him, nothing is impossible. Nothing.

God promised the bless all nations through Abraham’s child. You have access today to that promise. A full, uninhibited, completely restored relationship with the Maker of the Universe. He is King of kings, and he laid down his kingship to get dirty and experience life as a commoner, and ultimately even die as a criminal for you. And me.

We can’t do it on our own. We can’t be good enough, or smart enough, or clever enough. But he has offered us wholeness, completeness, life as it was meant to be for us. If we just accept his offer, and trust his work in us, we can experience freedom and joy and life to its fullest potential.

I promise.

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Galatians [3:19-23]

 Galatians 3:19-23

Well then, why was the law given? It was given to show people how guilty they are. But this system of law was to last only until the coming of the child to whom God’s promise was made.

WHOA! What did he just say? I forgot it was so plainly spelled out. There can be no mistake here. Read those lines once more, then come back to my next sentence. Go ahead, I’ll wait. OK. Did you catch that?! The purpose of the law was not that we might have some standard to align ourselves with, or to help us gain favor with God (after grace initially establishes our relationship with him, of course…) and it was certainly not the distinguishing mark of a God-lover to adhere to its tenets. It was given to show people how guilty they are. That’s it. Paul does not say, “One of the things the law was for…” or, “Part of what God intended through the law…” He only says one thing, and leaves it at that.

But even more astounding to me than that very plain, unmistakable truth about the purpose of the law is the duration of the “system of the law”. This is the part that many Christians really don’t understand. Paul says, right there, again in plain English (well, the translation is, anyway…) that the “system of the law was to last only until the coming of the child to whom God’s promise was made.” That’s just incredible. I know that. I have understood that from the whole of Scripture, that Jesus changed everything. Paul has been revealing that all through this first half of his letter to the believers in Galatia. But, it is said so plainly here in Galatians chapter three… how can people still cling to the old system for their righteousness that was never intended to provide that in the first place? Why must people insist on living a life of fear-based performance before a terrifying deity?

Paul is telling us quite plainly that the law served (past tense) a purpose, and now the promise has been given. God has blessed all nations through Abraham’s child. Through Jesus, we have full and direct access to our Father. Unfettered. Unwavering. We are accepted, and loved and it does not depend on how closely we follow some code of law. …the law was to last only until the coming of the child. Let it go.

And there is this further difference. God gave his laws to angels to give to Moses, who was the mediator between God and the people. Now a mediator is needed if two people enter into an agreement, but God acted on his own when he made his promise to Abraham.

Well then, is there a conflict between God’s law and God’s promises? Absolutely not! If the law could have given us new life, we could have been made right with God by obeying it. But the Scriptures have declared that we are all prisoners of sin, so the only way to receive God’s promise is to believe in Jesus Christ.

Until faith in Christ was shown to us as the way of becoming right with God, we were guarded by the law. We were kept in protective custody, so to speak, until we could put our faith in the coming Savior.

Yes! That is such a cool picture of the purpose of the law. It was never intended to save, to make righteous, or to last. It was to keep us in “protective custody” until we could put our faith in Jesus. Until the plan was finished on the cross. God was looking ahead to that moment in our history when it would be finished, and he declared Abraham and others righteous (even before the existence of The Law of Moses) because of the truth of that event, even before it had happened. (This is sounding like a Star Trek episode…) We can only have access to Father through Jesus’ death on the cross. That’s it. So, righteousness is given by God, when we trust in Him, apart from the law, or anything we might accomplish.

Now, I don’t completely follow Paul on the first part of this section. He seems to be pointing out the difference between the Law given to Moses and the promise made to Abraham in the way it was presented. The Law was given to angels to give to Moses, so, there was a go-between. But God handled it himself with Abraham. To me, this is very much like our connection with him through Jesus. After Jesus had died on the cross, we had full access to God, as God himself had bridged the gap between us. But before that, he had a system of priests and such in place. A mediator. That is what the law was all about. A separation between God and Man. But the “promise”, made before the law was given, was directly from God himself to a man, no mediator. Which is exactly what we have today with God through Jesus. HE is our mediator.

Again, the clear truth presented here, and indeed through the whole letter up to now is: the Law was never intended to save us. Never. It wasn’t even given, dare I say, to be obeyed. God wanted us to see we can not be righteous on our own. “It was given to show people how guilty they are.” God intended for us to fail. He knew we would. That’s why the Lamb was slain before the foundation of the world. The promise to give us life (not a chance to earn it) was given, and then the code of law. The law was given to prove that our own efforts are worthless, meaningless.

God wants us to know we can’t do it without him. And we don’t even need to try.

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Galatians [3:24-29]

Remember we were studying through Galatians? 🙂

 Galatians 3:24-29

Let me put it another way. The law was our guardian and teacher to lead us until Christ came. So now, through faith in Christ, we are made right with God. But now that faith in Christ has come, we no longer need the law as our guardian. So you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have been made like him. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female. For you are all Christians–you are one in Christ Jesus. And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and now all the promises God gave to him belong to you.

I really wanted to break that whole paragraph up, but I needed to not do that. There is a well-used verse in there, and so I wanted to leave some context. Sometimes when we read the familiar we miss what it’s actually saying. I hope to not miss it again today. Now that we have read it all together, let’s try it one line at a time.

The law was our guardian and teacher to lead us until Christ came.

We have been seeing how Paul considers the law only a tool to reveal to us the need we have for God. Not only a need for him to save us, which is obviously true, but even a need for relationship with him. Keeping rules and obeying laws and striving for moral code righteousness is not what we were created for. We were made for relationship, with the primary one being our relationship with the Creator. God made a promise first to Abraham (a relational, presence sort of promise) and THEN he gave the law through an intermediary to Moses. We have seen in every way how the law is inferior to the promise, and to relationship.

And now Paul is calling the law our guardian. I love that image, that the law was guarding us from things that would harm us. It was a fence keeping us from the dangers outside, and a barrier to dangers that would presume to enter in. It is a good image of what purpose the law serves. But more fascinating that that word is the fact that he follows it with the word “until”.

Until means there was an end. That it is currently over. That it lasted until Christ came means that it is no longer needed and no longer in effect… doesn’t it?!? It is so fascinating that God could use something over generations to show us something of himself. This is not a lesson he taught in a day. This was hundreds of years of waiting, of daily and annual sacrifices (which we see in the book of Hebrews never really meant anything, at least had no power to affect any sort of change) and hundreds of years of fences, keeping us from the dangers outside of the law.

And then, at just the right time, Jesus was born to Mary. And the world was forever changed.

So now, through faith in Christ, we are made right with God. But now that faith in Christ has come, we no longer need the law as our guardian.

He really said it. He said what we all know, that we are made right with God through faith. But the words that amaze me in this section are those that carry the finality. “We no longer need the law.” We don’t? But it’s on all our buildings and in all our Sunday schools, and preached by every good preacher and sunday school teacher and parent and anyone who really believes that God means what he says. I mean, he did keep the old testament in the Bible, right? What’s Paul saying, “we don’t need the law anymore?!??!”

Well, obviously, it is still a good idea not to kill people, or to lie or steal or cheat people in any way. It’s still a good idea to respect parents and God, and to be grateful for what he has given us. Those are just truths that will live forever. Jesus said the entire universe will pass away before (the truth) of any bit of God’s law does. Truth is truth, and it always will be.

What Paul is talking about is in direct connection to our relationship with God. We used to go through a bunch of hoops to have any sort of access to God, and even then it was limited. But when Jesus came, and especially when he died that day on the cross… everything changed. It never was true that righteousness came by sacrifices or saying enough prayers or studying enough of God’s word, but something definitely changed. What was hoped for became reality. What was only a distant possibility that was believed but not perceived became a past tense piece of history. “We are made right with God (through faith in Christ).” It is finished… just like Jesus said.

And so, because of this entirely new way of thinking, we don’t need a guardian anymore, or, an intermediary between us and God.

Just wait… it gets better…

So you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have been made like him. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female. For you are all Christians–you are one in Christ Jesus.

This is a well known passage that sometimes is used to prove a legalistic idea. Some folks use this verse as another proof text for baptism, just to show again that it’s what God needs us to do. I think in the context of our entire study of Galatians, we can see that Paul never intended that – nor I think did God. Yes, baptism is God’s design and a beautiful picture of how he buries our old life and raises us to a new one in him. Yes, it’s something every person who comes to understand Father’s love for us should do. But, if we read Galatians, and even the last sentence, it’s pretty hard to stick to a strict, legalistic, “you have to” interpretation of any part of scripture. But, that is certainly understandable as throughout the history of the church, people have swung back and forth on the doctrinal pendulum and eventually balance out in the middle again, understanding the simple truth of God so loving the world that he gave his only son that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his son into the world to condemn it, but so that the world could be saved through him. (John 3:16-17)

“So you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” It is important to note that the main thing we have been talking about for the whole third chapter of Galatians is that God made a promise to Abraham, to bless all nations through his heir – that being Jesus. And this is a further embodiment of that. We who are so far inferior to God – though made in his image, we are certainly not like him – have been called by him “Children of God.” The thought of it is just insane. That we could bear some title of deity. Royalty. But we do. And not because we carefully followed some code of ethics, or did enough good to cover over the bad. No, only because we trust in the goodness of our God, do we get to call him Father.

Paul also adds the culturally important levelers of no Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female. We are all equal before God. He does not show favorites. We are all his favorite child! Ha! That’s incredible!

It should also be pointed out here, for those who are opposed to baptism being any part of our direct relationship with God, that he does mention that it is a picture our our uniting with him. Immediately after saying that we are God’s children through faith, he expands on that and says we are like him because we are united with him, which is what we see happening when we are baptized. But I still strongly caution the proponents of “you have to be baptized to be saved” to understand what Paul is saying in the greater context of the whole chapter and even the whole letter to the Galatians.

God does not want us to have these silly arguments. He does not want us to follow the letter of the law. He does not need our performance. He knows we can’t do it. He did not put any barriers in the way to our becoming his children. We only need to trust him enough to get to know him. And as we know him, we will know eternal life. (John 17:3) It is so much about relationship, and the more we relate with him, the more we will know him, the more we will trust him, the more our lives will be transformed by him, the more we will be “made like him” as he continues to reveal his love for us that would drive him to his own death instead of ours.


For you are all Christians–you are one in Christ Jesus. And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and now all the promises God gave to him belong to you.

Well! I could probably comment on this one for quite a while, but I think I will skip it. We all know how fractured and fragmented the visible body of Christ has become. There are so many “denominations” of Christians all supposing to have the fullest version of the truth. They wouldn’t really say that, but then, why do they exist? (Well, not being naive, I of course understand the human desire for power and position as well. Of course, that is a factor.) Jesus prayed we would have it, Paul says we are, no matter how we might act… we just are ONE. We can’t help it. If we are in relationship with the Father, we are all one in Christ Jesus. All of us who were baptized into him are part of one group – his body – the church.

And Paul wraps up what we call chapter three with the theme that has run throughout. A long time ago, God told a man he named Abraham that He would bless all the nations through his heir, and now Paul is saying WE are his heirs. All the promises given to Abraham – of a close, personal relationship with the Creator – are ours. Not will be if we stay clean. Not if we meet some standard. They are ours through the generous and astounding offer of the only one who can give them. They are ours.

We can have a relationship with God that is unhindered and far greater even than the one he had/has with Abraham. We have the presence of his Holy Spirit living in us! Jesus tore the curtain, the veil, the barrier that was between God and us for so long. Now there’s nothing but an open relationship between an infinitely loving Father and those whom he has called his children.

Live today knowing that through faith you are a “child of God.”

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