The new sermon series BRAND:new at Northpoint Online with Andy Stanley has me revisiting the book of Galatians. As I read and reread the third chapter, I was once again blown away by how much covenantal insight Paul provides … that is so often ignored in the church today.
Most believers know and are taught very little about the covenants in the Bible (Thanks Corban for helping me overcome that omission). Most believers probably don’t even realize that covenant and testament are synonyms. Those believers that do dabble a bit in covenants may only see two of significance … the covenant between God and Moses and then the new covenant with Jesus.
And while there are a number of covenants throughout Scripture, in the letter to the Galatians, Paul focuses on three … and what he reveals may surprise some. His first point … let’s understand that the works of the law are by the flesh while the work of faith is by the Holy Spirit …
O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? (v 1-4)
Then he brings in Abraham as the father of faith … something he will delve into more deeply momentarily … faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness …
Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith—just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”? Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. (v 5-7)
Now here is something I have failed to notice in prior readings … THE GOSPEL WAS PREACHED TO ABRAHAM. Why? Because the Gentiles, who did not have the law (as did Israel), would be justified by faith.
And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. (v 8-9)
You may say I don’t really see the gospel in there Bernie … here’s what I see. In you … through your offspring … IN Christ Jesus … shall all the nations be blessed. Also, while not the gospel, also through your offspring … your grandson Jacob … the nation of Israel shall arise. God was definitely faithful in keeping His promise to Abraham.
Then Paul makes the first of many points that should make us all question the wisdom in attempting to keep the law … For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse.
For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” (v 10-12)
By becoming a curse for you and me, Jesus made the only way for us to both receive the blessing of Abraham and the promised Holy Spirit … through faith.
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”–so that IN Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith. (v 13-14)
Read this next passage carefully … recap afterwards …
To give a human example, brothers: even with a man-made covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been ratified. Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise. (v15-18)
God made a covenantal promise to Abraham and his offspring … Christ … 430 years before a covenant was made with Moses and the people of Israel containing the law.
The Mosaic law did not annul the covenantal promise God had made earlier to Abraham.
And that covenantal promise is fulfilled IN Christ Jesus and the new covenant of His body and blood.
Once again, read the next passage carefully … some very enlightening truths within …
Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary. Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one. Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. (v 19-23)
The law was added to help keep the transgressions in check until Christ Jesus.
The law cannot give life.
The law IMPRISONED everything and everyone under sin.
Before faith IN Christ Jesus, we were held CAPTIVE under the law.
The law was our guardian until Christ came.
Christ came that we might be justified by faith … becoming Abraham’s offspring and heirs according to the promise made by God to Abraham.
So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for IN Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized INto Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one IN Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. (v 24-29)
If you would like to study the covenant God made with Abraham, I would recommend reading Genesis 12:1-9, 15:1-21, 17:1-14 and 22:1-18.
Thank you Lord for the fulfillment of the covenantal promise you made to Abraham … so thankful to be among the multiplied and numbered as one of the stars of heaven and the sands of the seashore (Gen 22:17)!