Saturday, November 24, 2018

The Apostle Paul's Letter To The Galatians. Day 9, The Law Led Us To Christ

Lest anyone think Paul has anything against the Mosaic law, we must keep in mind that he is a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin, brought up in the faith, a former Pharisee, and apparently a former member of the Sanhedrin, for he states in Acts 26:10 that he cast his vote against the Christians. Paul respects the law, but he will explain that the purpose of the law was not to save souls but to show men and women they could never keep the law to perfection. This realization was meant to cause them to turn to the Lord for mercy.

"Why, then, was the law given at all? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come." (Galatians 3:19a) You will recall from yesterday's passage that God made a promise to Abraham that salvation would come to all nations through his Seed (not Isaac, but the Messiah). The law was given not to Abraham but to the twelve tribes of Israel after the Lord brought the twelve tribes of Israel out of Egypt. Israel was about to become a great nation, and every society needs law and order. In addition, Israel was going to be a chosen people in the sight of God, and they needed to know the standards of a holy God. This choosing happened long before the twelve tribes even existed; this choosing happened when God made His covenant promise to Abraham. Would God have made such a promise to a man who did not have faith in Him? Of course not, and this is Paul's point. God made a covenant with Abraham and justified Abraham in His sight because of Abraham's faith. Abraham didn't have the law. What Abraham had was faith. Everyone who lived before the law found justification in the eyes of God only by faith. Everyone who has lived since the giving of the law has found justification in the eyes of God only by faith.

"The law was given through angels and entrusted to a mediator. A mediator, however, implies more than one party; but God is one." (Galatians 3:19b-20) This is one of the statements of Paul's that I feel Peter must have been referring to when he said, "His letters contain some things that are hard to understand." (2 Peter 3:16) One commentary I consulted reveals that there are over four hundred interpretations of Paul's statement. Scholars obviously do not agree with each other about what Paul is saying. They do, however, agree that Paul is showing us the difference between the making of a promise and the giving of the law. The promise God made to Abraham, as we learned yesterday, did not depend on anything Abraham or his descendants would do or fail to do. The Seed (the Messiah and Redeemer) was coming just as the Lord told Abraham He would. This promise was given 430 years before the law was given and it supersedes the law. The keeping of the law or the failure to keep the law has no effect on the promise. The Lord gave the law---a legal contract---to the nation through angels to Moses, who acted as a mediator between the people and the Lord. But in the giving of a promise the Lord needed no mediator. Abraham and his descendants did not have to agree to anything in order to receive the promise, and therefore no mediator like Moses and no angelic witnesses were needed in order to make the promise valid. The law was a contract and that means man and God had to agree to the terms of the contract. But the promise was simply a gift of grace, not dependent on anything but God's intention to keep it.

"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." (Galatians 3:21-22) The law revealed to us that we are held captive by sin. No matter how much we might want to keep every one of God's laws and commandments, we are incapable of doing so. We make mistakes every day of our lives. So the giving of the law, and our inability to keep it, does not nullify God's promise. What the law ought to do is cause us to honor and glorify a merciful God who is willing to accept us even though we fail daily. He is willing to accept us because of our faith, just as He accepted Abraham because of his faith.

"Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian." (Galatians 3:23-25) The Apostle Paul's parents provided him with an exceptional education, which means they must have been well off enough to afford a guardian to oversee his studies. Guardians escorted their young students to and from classes. They were responsible for picking the student up in the morning, taking them to the various teachers and philosophers throughout the day, and seeing them safely home in the evening. Paul says the law performed the duties of a guardian. It escorted the students (those living under the law) to class, teaching them about a holy God and His standards for living. At school the students realized that God's standards were unattainable by human effort. What were they to do? The more they learned about holiness the more they realized how far they were from it. But the law, like any good guardian, didn't abandon the students at school. The law didn't leave them there, weeping over their lessons and despairing over their mistakes. The law took them by the hand and led them safely home to Christ. This was its entire purpose! God gave the law to reveal to the heart of man his sinfulness and to lead man to the only means of redemption. So Paul says, "The promise God made to Abraham has been fulfilled in Christ. We are adults now. We have graduated from the law and are no longer under it. We are under grace, the grace that God promised long ago to Abraham, the grace Abraham believed in. And just as Abraham was considered righteous by God for his faith in the Redeemer who was coming, so are we also considered righteous by God for our faith in the Redeemer who has come."

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