Jesus Christ is the creator of all things, and by Him, all things consist and are held together. He is the perfect fulfillment of the law of God, and He actually does have the power to do anything he desires. Yet, He fulfilled the God-given law through His obedience on the cross and forever changed our understanding of what it means to be righteous. He didn‘t change God’s word, He is God’s Word.
7 “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.
8 The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.
9 The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.
11 Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.
The law is good, it reflects the perfection of God, but it could never save any human being. It reveals our great deficiency. Christ submitted himself to the law, His perfect life, perfect obedience, and perfect love offer salvation to every man. The law didn’t change because of the cross, God is still perfect, but our relationship to God has forever changed because we can come to him through Christ, whose completion of the law opens the door.
Our lesson takes place in the region of Galatia, a part of modern-day Turkey. The good news of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection had started in Jerusalem but was spreading rapidly into Gentile (non-Jewish) areas. The letter to Galatians is addressed to the Gentile churches established under Paul’s guidance and teaching.
The new Jewish believers were having trouble with the reality that Gentile believers were being saved, baptized, and were receiving the Holy Spirit, without converting to Judaism. These Jews could not come to terms with the fact that a human being could be accepted into the family of God without following the law of God given in the Old Testament. They entered churches, after Paul had brought the gospel, and attempted to add to the message extra steps to achieve salvation. Grace, in their opinion, was not quite enough. They insisted the Gentile believers must keep the law and agree to circumcision to be fully accepted by God. The entire book of Galatians is Paul’s righteous angry response to those who weren’t satisfied with the payment Jesus paid to redeem us all. For after all, if we are still required to keep the law, why did Christ die, we could all save ourselves by our obedience to the word of God? Legalism isn’t just an error, it’s antichrist and an attack on the Son of God.
18 For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise.
As Paul is known to do, he lines up his arguments to prove and defend his point. He starts with father Abraham and God’s promises to him, 400 years BEFORE the law was given. After these things the word of the Lord came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward. And Abram said, Lord God, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus? And Abram said, Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir. And, behold, the word of the Lord came unto him, saying, This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir. And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be. And he believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness. (Genesis 15:1-6). In the book of Romans chapter 4 the faith of Abraham is cited multiple times by Paul to illustrate that even Abraham was accepted by God and promised an heritance through his faith alone, without the law or without circumcision. Abraham’s circumcision did not happen until Genesis Chapter 17. Therefore the argument being made that Gentile believers must obey the law and become circumcised, did not make scriptural sense. Paul points out that God had dealt with and blessed Abraham for simply having Faith and trusting God at his word.
19 Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.
So, why did God give the law? The law, given to Moses, forced the descendants of Abraham to have a code of rules to follow, separating them from other people groups as they grew into a nation. It preserved the nation until the Messiah (the seed) should come. The law gives a pattern and a description of the Messiah and makes clear the fact that no human being could ever fit that pattern, no matter how righteously he lived. The law showed mankind how sinful humans are, why there must be a universal sacrifice for sin, and was a tutor to make us thirsty for the water of life that only Jesus could give. Jesus raised himself against the nails and splinters on that rugged wooden cross to say “It is finished!” and he was speaking of all the charges laid on us who have been lawbreakers from birth. He satisfied the demands of Heaven for justice. We do not have the ability to live sinlessly and that is the testimony of the law. The angel said to name him Jesus, because, “He will save his people from their sins.”
20 Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one.21 Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law.
It would seem that the promises of God to Abraham by faith are in conflict with the law of God which requires righteousness. Paul says God is one, and he needs no mediator to resolve the two ideas. If we could have received the promises of God by keeping the law, then Christ would not have needed to come. If we could understand the mission of Christ without the righteous perfection of the law, then we would not have needed the Bible or the Holy Spirit to be our teacher. God is just. God is merciful. You can’t logically make both statements without the cross.
22 But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.23 But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.
We are all in the same boat, if righteousness is the way to Heaven, then no man is going. God from the beginning of time could be trusted with the redemption of the world. This is almost impossible for us to grasp. Before you existed, you were kept, God gave His word that he could be trusted if we put our faith in Him. We are restricted by a timeline that moves steadily in one direction. We are terminal, we have a beginning and we move forward. God stands outside of time, He has no beginning and no end, He is the same yesterday, today, and forevermore. He is the Alpha and the Omega. Romans 4:17 says, “(As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were. Faith.” Believers saved under the time of the law were never saved by the law, but by its answer- namely Jesus Christ the Righteous.
24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.25 But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.26 For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.27 For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.29 And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.
In the Old Testament, the outward sign of inward belief under the law was circumcision. The outward sign of inward belief under grace is baptism. Baptism is our symbolic identification with the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. It is no longer our flesh cut away but our new birth into the family of God that demonstrates the work of God in us. As believers, we become part of the seed of Abraham and heirs with Jesus to inherit the promises of God.
Paul's argument is all about not adding to or taking away from the simplicity of the plan of salvation. We do not need to frustrate the cause of Christ by adding burdens that are hard to bear and unnecessary. The gospel is not so hard that we cannot understand it. Christ lived, Christ died, and Christ arose. He fulfilled the law and set in motion the church age. He paid the price of our sins and opened the door for us to enter into heaven. He gives us the Holy Spirit to comfort and guide. He provides everything we need. Our task is to surrender to His will and accept His plan of salvation.
Well, you say, I’m definitely not trying to tell people that they have to convert to Judaism to make it to Heaven, so this lesson doesn’t apply to me. Hold on a minute, have you been guilty of adding to the price of salvation? Have you disqualified someone from hearing the gospel because of the way they dress, their manner of living, or their pattern of speech? Maybe you’ve said in your heart, “they wouldn’t be interested.” Have you judged the salvation of another believer because they are still struggling with sin? We are made for good works “in Christ Jesus” we are not required to do good works to receive Jesus. The most wretched person you meet today has been extended mercy and has access to Heaven if they’ll come to God by faith in His Son, that includes that guy staring back at you in the mirror.
Slightly Older Christian
Thank you for studying with us! God bless!