Thank you for listening to the Foundations Daily Podcast. Our journey through Galatians continues, moving onto Chapter 3 vs 15-22, and it is day two of the courtroom drama that we started yesterday. You can listen to the whole Bible passage at the end of the podcast.
At the start I’m just going to read verses 17-19, from the Good News translation:
“What I mean is that God made a covenant with Abraham and promised to keep it. The Law, which was given four hundred and thirty years later, cannot break that covenant and cancel God’s promise. For if God’s gift depends on the Law, then it no longer depends on his promise. However, it was because of his promise that God gave that gift to Abraham. What, then, was the purpose of the Law? It was added in order to show what wrongdoing is, and it was meant to last until the coming of Abraham’s descendant, to whom the promise was made.”
Sociologists say that the thoughts and ideas people have about the law or rules, depends on what age demographic they fall into. If you’re a baby boomer you probably follow the laws of society, but are not afraid to question authority and challenge the rules. If you’re a millennial, you enjoy creating new laws that make the world a better place for everyone; because that’s your social responsibility. And if you are Gen X, then you want to change rules, to learn from the mistakes of the past; but not make any laws that impact your own freedoms or work/life balance.
All of us ask questions about rules and laws, and the Galatian Christians were no different. We can see from verse 19, in response to Paul saying that obeying the law has nothing to do with faith or salvation, that some people began to ask the next, fairly logical, question……’well then, what’s the point of the law in the first place?’
To answer this, Paul calls upon Abraham again, using his story to help us understand another important truth: The law is limited, but covenant is constant.
Yesterday we looked at the promise that God made to Abraham. Abraham’s children and descendants would be God’s people, his family. This promise, or covenant, would be constant; unchanging from generation to generation. We know this because 4 times in Genesis Chapter 17, God describes the covenant as “everlasting.” It isn’t ever going to stop or change.
God’s covenant to Abraham was this:
- I promise that I will always be your God.
- I promise that I always want to be in a relationship with you.
- I promise that I will always bless your family, and that through them all the nations on earth will be blessed.
And what did Abraham have to do in return? Genesis 17 vs9 says, “Then God said to Abraham, ‘As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come.”
All that Abraham, and those who came after him, had to do was:
- Believe that God was who he said he was
- Pursue a relationship with God
- Teach their children and family about this constant covenant
- And have faith that God would fulfil his promise.
And God did keep his promise. But the problem was that mankind did not keep their part of this covenant.
They put other things before God, and removed Him from his position as Lord of all. They turned their backs on a relationship with God. God’s family became divided amongst itself; bitterness, anger, jealousy and resentment took root. They no longer had faith in the promise.
And so God introduced the law.
It didn’t change anything about the constant covenant. Keeping the law couldn’t lead to a relationship with God. If people obeyed the law really well it didn’t mean they could earn themselves a place in God’s family. God had not suddenly decided that he would operate a system of performance related blessing.
No, the purpose of the law was limited. Verse 19 says, “it was added in order to show what wrong doing is.” The point of the law was to show us our own limitations, and to remind us that we are not able to meet God’s standard by ourselves. We will always fall short. The law will never bring us life (v21). The limit of the law is to show us that we are, in fact, locked up in sin (v22) and under its control. The law is limited because it cannot bring us freedom. For that we need a rescuer. Faith in Jesus is what redeems us, and brings the freedom that God has always promised.
When we know and understand this truth, we view the law differently. Whether we are someone who likes to challenge, change or create the rules, our desire should actually be to keep the rules, or to put it more simply: to live in the way that Jesus would want us to. We choose to keep the rules, not out of obligation or duty, but as an expression of our love and gratitude that salvation was God’s free gift of grace to us, even while we were still ‘under the control of sin.’ Listen again to Tom Finnemore’s podcast from last Friday, to reflect more on these free gifts of freedom and grace. Finally, we view the law differently because of the Holy Spirit. As Paul wrote in verse 3, the journey from rule breaker to rule keeper begins with the Holy Spirit working in our lives. The Holy Spirit was a promised gift, sent to help us become more like Jesus. Trying to finish the journey without the Spirit is foolish.
So, as the jury retires at the end of the second day in court, what might they reflect on?
Perhaps you realise that there are areas of your life that remain locked up. Ask Jesus to rescue you from these today.
Maybe you always seek to argue, debate or dismiss the rules to live by that we read in the Bible? Ask the Holy Spirit to change your heart and help you become a rule-keeper.
Or if today you feel unworthy – a real law breaker – then be reminded of God’s constant covenant promise: I promise that I always want to be in a relationship with you. Know that this promise is true, it is for you, and that it will never, ever change.
Heavenly Father, thank you for sending Jesus to rescue us and bring us freedom. Fill us today with your Holy Spirit, so that our heart’s desire is to be a rule keeper, as an expression of our love and gratitude to you. Amen.
READING: Galatians 3:15-22
Brothers and sisters, 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. The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. Scripture does not say ‘and to seeds’, meaning many people, but ‘and to your seed’, meaning one person, who is Christ. 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. For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on the promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise.
Why, then, was the law given at all? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was given through angels and entrusted to a mediator. A mediator, however, implies more than one party; but God is one.
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. But Scripture has locked up everything under the control of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.