Thursday, June 27, 2013

Galatians 3:15-29 - Hope for the Hopeless

LINK: Galatians 3


BACKGROUND


"The [role] of the law is to show us the disease 
in such a way that it shows us no hope of cure; 
whereas the [role] of the gospel is to bring a remedy
 to those who are past hope." 
John Calvin

I split this chapter into two days because the principles in it are so phenomenally important!



Paul gives six arguments to prove his case that justification by grace is superior to the law. Yesterday, we learned about the first three:
1) The Galatians were saved by faith, not the Law (3:1-5) 
2) Abraham, who lived long before the Law, was saved by faith (3:6-9) 
3) The Law could never justify but only brings judgment (3:10-14)
Today, we will learn about the last three!


4) Abraham entered into a binding contract with God 430 year before the Law was given to Moses. The Law was temporary, but faith is permanent. (3:15-18)


A Roman covenant was a permanent binding contract or will. It cannot be set aside or changed. God's promise of salvation to Abraham was permanent and could not be changed by a Law that came 430 years later. The promise was made to Abraham and his seed, Christ (Genesis 12:7; 13:15; 24:7, it is a singular noun). This meant that Christ would be the conveyor of the blessing. Faith has always been the permanent path to salvation. It is given as an unconditional gift to those who believe.  Even with the Law, in the interval between Abraham and Jesus, God's blessing has always been on the basis of faith alone. The Judaizers were teaching that the Law was the vehicle for salvation. 

5) The purpose of the Law was to set a standard that would show us our sin and our need for the unmerited love of God through the gift of Christ. (3:19-25 and see quote above)

The Law was added because of "transgressions" (3:19). This word means "'a stepping aside from the right track.' The law laid down a right track (perfect standard) and made people aware when they were deviating from that perfect path" (Holman New Testament Commentary - Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians (Reference Books, p. 38).  The Law was not meant to be permanent, and it ended when Christ came to fulfill the Law. It was also inferior because it needed a mediator (Moses and the angels) whereas the covenant with Abraham was directly from God to man and was dependent upon God to fulfill the contract because it was a promise. The Law depended on each party living up to the contract. 



While the Law did not give life, it did reveal to man that he was a prisoner to sin and condemned to judgment (Deuteronomy 27:26; Romans 3:9, 23). Before Christ, the Law was a "tutor."  This is explained in Holman New Testament Commentary - Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians (Reference Books), p.39):
A better translation is "custodian" or "strict nanny." In the Jewish culture a slave was assigned to each child to escort them to school and to assist in their supervision . . . This nanny was more like a stern sergeant who had the bark of a German shepherd and the bite of a Doberman pincher. Every time the child took liberties without permission on the path to school . . . or did something wrong, this authoritarian nanny pointed her fingers at the child and in no uncertain terms told the child what it had done wrong and delivered the punishment. By correlating the law with this nanny image, we learn that the law was given to point out sin and to threaten a great punishment if God's people didn't straighten up. Man's very inability  to obey this law perfectly, and thus earn God's approval, caused men and women to long for a better way to salvation and a relationship with God -- by grace. God brought hope to mankind's hopelessness [emphasis mine] in the most amazing way by sending Jesus Christ into the world. The law led us to Christ for forgiveness and righteousness.
6) Grace by faith in Christ transforms us from children to adopted adult sons in living union with Christ, and we are all united as brothers and sisters. (3:26-29)

We are no longer under a Jewish slave-guardian but united with Christ through baptism in the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:3). We are clothed with Christ. In Roman culture, the transition from youth to adult was symbolized by putting aside children's clothes and putting on an adult's toga (2 Corinthians 5:21; Ephesians 4:23-24). This adopted adult son status made all who believe united in Christ and equal in God's eyes. We are all heirs to the promise as Abraham's seed!



REFLECTION


"OK, I still have this question. I know that Jesus died for my sins. 
That He rose again, but why would He want to do that? I don't get it."


These were honest questions last night from a sincere seeker of God who has been studying the message of The Scarlet Thread of Redemption since November, starting with the life of Adam and proceeding on to Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Jonah, John the Baptist, and ending at the feet of Jesus. She is in the process of understanding grace (coming from a works-oriented faith tradition) and wouldn't you know that our discussion last night would land us in this chapter that I had been soaking in all day in preparation for this post today?  God has a way of doing that sort of thing. :)


We saw lights starting to flicker in her eyes as we pored over this chapter. She is still a seeker in process, and I love watching that transition from darkness to light. 


My coworkers and I were giddy with excitement after our study (one of them was so excited that I got to talk about the blood of Christ because she knows I love to talk about His blood). So, we went to Yogurt Extreme to discuss and pray until husbands called wondering why we had not yet come home. (All except mine who knows that I have a habit of doing this. So, he doesn't call the police until after midnight.) 


It doesn't get any better than this. God's grace is an exhilarating topic, and I am convinced that having discussions with sincere seekers of truth is way better than chocolate. 

APPLICATION


Rejoice in God's marvelous grace today and tell someone about it!


PRAYER


Lord, thank You for the saving grace of Jesus Christ.  Thank You for Your forgiveness and giving me righteousness because of the righteousness of Jesus. Draw my friend to You by Your Holy Spirit. Amen. 
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