August 28, 2019

The Law Serves the Gospel

Galatians 3:15-29

15 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. 16 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. 17 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. 18 For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.

19 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. 20 Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one.

21 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.22 But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.

23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 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. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

As we’ve learned in the earlier chapters of Galatians, there were those who believed that faith NEEDED works of the law as a supplement in order to be saved.    Those who believe this are stripping the power and significance of God’s grace from those Jesus came to save.  Faith plus good works returns us to the slavery of the law, because we could never be sure if we’ve been good enough.  As a matter of fact, we’d be pretty certain we’re not.  The law is not a supplement to the gospel.

No, Paul emphatically states that the law’s purpose from its very beginning was to lead us to the cross of Christ.  The blood of all those animal sacrifices were to serve as a reminder to sinful Israel that their lives could never measure up to God’s standard of perfection, and the only payment for sin is in the blood.

The law with all its rituals, festivals and sacrifices, was a temporary measure – a sort of ongoing object lesson for Israel – to help them see their need for a much better, significantly more transcendent sacrifice.  When Jesus came, the law lost its enslaving power over us.

The law could teach the need for righteousness, but it could never provide that righteousness, and there’s the rub.  The Judaizers had it all wrong – and their effect on the Galatian church had eternal implications.  And Paul’s words of instruction to the Galatians are for us as well.

In a way, the law serves the gospel, because it functions in a preparatory way, leading us to recognize our sin, our need to repent, and a need for a Savior.  So the law, in fact, has its purposes for Christians saved by grace alone through faith alone. 

Think back to those lazy hazy crazy days of Confirmation instruction!  Do you remember studying the THREE USES OF THE LAW?  In case you don’t remember, here they are:

The LAW functions as a MIRROR.  

We look into the mirror of the law and we see our sinful reflection back at us.  If you take a serious look at the Ten Commandments and still come away feeling pretty good about yourself, you’re either not looking seriously enough or you’re delusional.  Like Paul says in Romans 7:7, “If it hadn’t been for the law, I wouldn’t know what sin is.”  The law SHOWS US OUR SIN. 

The LAW functions as a CURB.  

Whether a person is a believer in God or not, the law of God, as Paul writes, is written on every human heart.  We instinctively know right from wrong, and we see this played out in every civilized society as it is governed by laws, regulations, and statutes, etc.   This, by the way, is one of the greatest arguments against evolution, which holds that out of chaos comes order.  If this were really true, we wouldn’t need to create laws that restrain us from rebellious conduct.

When the law functions like a curb, it checks the coarse outbursts of sin in our world and in our personal lives.

The LAW functions as a GUIDE.  

In this third use of the Law, we see that it functions as a means to show us what a God-pleasing life looks like.  We use the law to guide our daily living.  As Psalm 119:105 says, “Your Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light for my path.”

This is where I draw strength for my walk with Christ.  I think Paul would have been the ultimate confirmation class instructor, because in Galatians 3:15-25, he continues to remind us that any attempt to gain any standing before God by works of the law is a dead-end street.  My sinful nature is constantly luring me into wondering if faith in Christ really is enough.  Can it really be that simple?  Certainly, there has to be more to it than that!

But Paul continues in v. 26-29 that 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. 

Questions to Ponder:

What role does the law play in your life if it no longer has any dominion over you?

How do you put on Christ each day?

The name Satan means accuser.  And he’s good at it.  He knows us probably better than we know ourselves and he strikes at our weakest spots in our weakest moments.  He can be pretty convincing, too, when he lures us into thinking that we need to supplement the law with our faith.  What’s our recourse?  See Ephesians 6:11-18.

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