Studies in Galatians – Wayne Barber/Part 14
By: Dr. Wayne Barber
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©2004|
|You see, most people even today, would agree that, yes, faith alone in Christ alone is the means of salvation, but that’s where they run into a brick wall. Now what? How do we live now? And that’s Paul’s argument as he begins the third chapter of Galatians.|
Free to Be What God Wants Me to Be
Turn in your Bibles if you will to Galatians 3. We’re going to be looking at verses 12 and following today. Now, let me go back and catch you up as to where we are. Paul’s argument in the third chapter of Galatians has been awesome. He has been combating the false teachers. The false teachers have come in and deceived the Galatian people and gotten them back up under law, and Paul is trying to combat that error and trying to come against that heresy.
He begins by asking several very pointed questions to which the answer is as clear as a bell, and that’s in verses 1-5. I mean, he said, “did you get saved by your works,” etc. I mean, we’ve been through that. And then in verse 6 he does something that’s incredible. He brings up an unquestionable example that nobody can come against. He brings up the man by the name of Abraham. Everything he says from this point forward hinges on who Abraham is, who Abraham was, and what happened in his life.
First of all, Abraham was saved by faith. Now, he wants to make sure they understand this. Abraham came a long time ago, back in the book of Genesis. Technically he was saved by faith alone in Christ alone. He says in verse 6, “Even so Abraham believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” Now, the word “reckoned” again, and we have been over it and over it, it simply means written to his account. There’s no way you and I can earn salvation. And even back to Abraham he couldn’t either. It was reckoned to him. He didn’t earn it. He didn’t deserve it. But because he believed, it was written, or reckoned, to his account. That’s the first thing Paul wants to make sure they understand.
Secondly, since Abraham was saved by faith that leads us to an unchangeable truth. It has never changed. He set the pattern for salvation. He set the pattern for sanctification way back in the book of Genesis. Verse 7 says, “Therefore be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham.” Now, that term “of faith” is really “out of faith”. It’s the word ek. Ek means out of; it gives origin to something. Those who are products of faith are those who are sons of Abraham. We saw how Jesus and Paul use that very phrase, “sons of Abraham” to describe those who put their faith and their trust into God and to His Word. Abraham was saved by faith. Everybody then who is also saved by faith are sons of Abraham. We can all stand up today and say we are sons of Abraham, figuratively and spiritually. Why? Because we are saved the same way he was saved.
Thirdly, Paul brings out the fact that the gospel of Jesus Christ was preached to Abraham. I don’t know if that has grabbed you yet. Has that grabbed you yet? The gospel, the same gospel we believe, was preached to Abraham. This is before the law ever came into existence. You will see today, 430 years before there ever was any such thing as the law, and many, many years before Israel ever became a nation, Abraham was not a Jew. Abraham was a Chaldean and God brought him forth and said it’s going to be from you I’m going to create a nation. The gospel of Jesus Christ. He understood that one day, through the nation that God planned to give to him, would come the seed. And that seed would be the Lord Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of the world. What a powerful point Paul brings up. How are you going to argue with that? Why would you go 430 years later and try to put people up under a temporary covenant when all the way back here God has already given you the pattern in how Abraham was saved?
And then the fourth thing Paul brings up is, this gospel which was preached to Abraham included the Gentiles and the Jews. Galatians 3:8, “The Scripture foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham saying, ‘All the nations.’” Now, make sure you’re hearing what I’m saying. Israel was not a nation when this was given. Israel was one of those nations. “All of the nations will be blessed in you.” Now think about what Abraham has brought up on the table. Think about why Paul is using Abraham as such an example. Before Israel ever existed, before there ever was a law, it was revealed to Abraham that there was going to be a Redeemer that was going to come one day. For the Redeemer to get His humanity He would be born of a virgin. He would come through one of the tribes of Israel. Abraham had a son, Isaac. Isaac had two sons, one was Jacob. Jacob was the one that the covenant was passed to. Jacob became Israel. Israel had 12 sons, and one of those sons was named Judah. And it was through the tribe of Judah and the line of David that that seed would come. This was preached to Abraham before Israel ever existed. Faith alone in Christ alone was the means of salvation from the get go. And what Paul is trying to say is, what in the world are you people doing?
And then finally the fifth thing Paul shows is that the law doesn’t save us and it doesn’t sanctify us. Faith is not only how Abraham was saved, it’s how he lived after he was saved. It framed his lifestyle. And he says in verse 9, “So then those who are of faith [out of faith, products of faith] are blessed with Abraham the believer.” The words “Abraham the believer,” the word “believer” there in verse 9 means the faithful one, the faithful Abraham, Abraham the faithful. The word pistos describes a lifestyle. And we saw the last time we were here, to prove that he lived by faith once he was saved, it was accounted to him as righteousness. Genesis 22 was put into Scripture, and that’s when he was told to take Isaac up on the mountain. That’s documented in Hebrews 11; that’s documented in James 2. And it was proof of the fact that he had truly been justified by faith.
You see, most people even today, would agree that, yes, faith alone in Christ alone is the means of salvation, but that’s where they run into a brick wall. Now what? How do we live now? And that’s Paul’s argument as he begins the third chapter of Galatians. And really he has already settled it. He said, “If you started that way, why are you trying to be perfected by the works of the flesh?” And then he quotes out of Habakkuk 2:4 just to remind them that faith is the only way a person lives. He says, “Now that no one is justified by the law before God is evident. For the righteous man [that’s the Christian, that’s the believer] shall live by faith.” That’s how you live after you get saved. That’s how you get saved.
And so this is his whole argument. Abraham, oh, how much hinges on how Abraham was saved and how he lived. So Abraham was saved by faith. All those Jew and Gentiles who are saved by faith are sons of Abraham. The gospel was preached to Abraham before the law and the nation of Israel ever existed. The gospel, in the gospel, the Gentiles and the Jew were included.
And fifthly, the law does not save, nor does it sanctify. Then to strengthen his argument he says in verse 10, “For as many as are of the works of the law are under a curse: for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law to perform them.’” Now again, he uses that little term “of,” which is really “out of”. Those who are products of the law are under a curse. What Paul is trying to say is if the law produced what you are now then you had better hope it can produce what you should continue to be. But it can’t and that’s his whole point.
Many people think that by Paul saying these things about the law that he is anti-Semitic. And I want to make sure we nail this down. No, sir! Paul was in no way anti-Semitic; he was anti-law. Do you see the difference? Now, as a matter of fact, Paul was a Jew and he was converted. His Jewish brethren, he loved them more than anybody I know of in the whole New Testament. He says in Romans 9:3, “For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ, for the sake of my brethren.” It breaks his heart. He says, “My kinsmen according to the flesh.” They are putting all their stock into a temporary covenant and they are not looking beyond it to the everlasting covenant that was given to Abraham. Well, Paul himself—a former Pharisee; talking about a Jewish man, I mean, that was the most religious sect that you could have—was a man who said “I had to be set free from the curse of the law, my brethren need to be set free, and the only way is through Jesus Christ.”
In verse 12 he says, “However, the law is not of faith.” That’s very important. “On the contrary, he who practices them shall live by them.” There’s no faith existent with the law mentality; all it is is a “do” mentality—you do it and you live; you don’t you die. And that’s the law mentality. And he says there’s no faith built into it.
This brings us up to where we are today. You say, “Why do you do so much review?” Well, it’s important and it’s very helpful. You’ve got to stay in the flow because he is not finished yet. I told you to strap your seatbelts on. This stuff is getting deeper and deeper, but I will tell you, if God will just open our eyes it’s the simplest truth in the world and it will just absolutely, you will wake up in the middle of the night shouting when you begin to see it, the covenant of grace that we are under.
He turns our focus now from Abraham and he shifts it over to Christ and what Christ has done in fulfillment of the promise that was given to Abraham. Three things I want you to see. First of all is the freedom that we have in Christ. Verse 13: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us: for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.’” Now, folks, listen. No man can obey the moral law of God, no human being of flesh and blood, born of man and woman, no man can do it. Jesus was the only one that can do that. And for the sake of you that have not been with us, or perhaps you have been and you are still confused, let me try to go back over this one more time.
When I say the moral law of God, I refer to the Ten Commandments. The law was divided into two parts basically. The first part was the ceremonial law. Now, this was the part that contained all the rituals, the feasts, the sabbath days. It was basically their religious order. It was what they were required to do in order to worship God. The ceremonial law was just a shadow of Christ in the Old Testament. That’s all it was. I don’t know about you, but when you walk around the corner and your shadow precedes you, that’s not real. That’s just pointing to something. The form is coming after the shadow. It’s the fulfillment of what has already been previewed.
Well, Hebrews beautifully brings this out. All that they did in their ritualistic ceremonial laws were pointing to the Lord Jesus Christ. In Hebrews 10:1 it says, “For the law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year make perfect those who draw near.” You see, this ceremonial law, this religious instruction of what one was supposed to do, including circumcision, was attainable. Anybody could do it. In no way would the ceremonial law ever condemn anybody. In fact, Paul himself boasted of having attained the ceremonial law. Philippians 3:5, “Circumcised the eighth day of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews, as to the law, a Pharisee, as to zeal, a persecutor of the church, as to the righteousness which is in the law, found blameless.” That couldn’t condemn anybody. There were many that lived up to the ceremonial law.
However, the moral law, the Ten Commandments, no one could attain. Therefore all men are under its curse. Do we understand that this morning? It’s the Ten Commandments that condemn all men, Jew and Gentile. It’s the standard of conduct that God requires from all of us. It has never been erased, it has been fulfilled. The Lord Jesus, who gave that law, is the One who came as a man to fulfill it. He said, “I did not come to destroy the law; I came to fulfill it.”
Now, because of this law which condemns us all, we are all on spiritual death row. If you are here this morning and you have never bowed before the Lord Jesus Christ, you are sitting on spiritual death row. You have no hope. There’s not one way in the world you can save yourself from the penalty of hell, being separated from God forever, unless somebody comes to redeem us. And I will tell you what, I want to sober us a little bit to think about those people that we go to work with, that we live with, that are in our neighborhood, that don’t know Christ, are sitting on spiritual death row. I don’t know if you ever read the book The Chamber, by I think his name is Grisham. He came out of Mississippi. I love that particular statement he made. He said, “I don’t write bad books because my mother reads them.” And The Chamber was talking about a man who was on death row in Mississippi, at Parchment State Penitentiary. I’ve been there.
No, not what you think. I was in the principal’s office all my life, but I haven’t been to prison. No, I had some kids in my youth group when I was in Youth group. I had a bunch of kids that were just this close to being put in jail. I mean, they were criminals waiting to happen. And I called up to Parchment Penitentiary and I said, “Let me ask you a question, could I bring these boys up there and sober them a little bit as to what might be in store for them if they do not shape up?” And the guy said, “Man, that would be awesome.” The chaplain did. He said, “You know, I have a couple guys on death row that have been saved and they would love to share their testimony. They are waiting to be executed by the gas chamber here.” So I went up to Parchment State Penitentiary there in Drew, Mississippi, took those boys with me. We went out to death row. That’s a sobering trip.
We get out and they take us inside. And the first thing I saw was a guy’s arm on one side tattoos all over it and the guy’s arm on the other side and they are playing cards on the floor, cells down the side, you know. And he took us up to each cell and some of those guys, man, these guys thought they were mean. They understood a new meaning to the word. But some of them had been saved, and they shared their testimony. While we were there they took us over to the gas chamber. Never seen it before; I had never cared to. And they showed these guys what happens when people do bad things.
And so he said, “One of you needs to get inside this gas chamber. I want you to experience it.” So all of them grabbed my arm and shouted up. And I think, “I don’t want to go in there.” Sure enough, I got inside that gas chamber, sat down in a chair. They strapped me down, and, of course, back then it was not by injection. It was by you put the cyanide, or whatever it is into a gaseous thing and it comes in through these vents and obviously it doesn’t take long before a person dies. It’s a very difficult death.
So I am sitting there, strapped into this chair. They have windows where you can see the witnesses that come to see this. He’s talking to me through a microphone that’s built in there. And as I was sitting there— he’s a clown, much to my chagrin—and while he was talking, he says, “Oh no, Oh no, Oh no! I hit the button. I hit the button. Get the door open!” Oh, man, my heart jumped out of my right ear. I mean, it scared me half to death. See, they had already shut the door and bolted it shut, just like you would if you were fixing to die in that chair. And, man, I sat there and I got to thinking. He said, “I want you to think, Wayne, about all the people that have been here and sat in that very same place and the fact that they had no hope whatsoever.”
And that’s the only thing I could think about when I thought about today. People that are born into this world are born on spiritual death row. And evangelism starts when we begin to realize what it cost God to save us and we begin to see our friends and our neighbors and the people around us not hearing this message. This is the message; the message is of good news because “Jesus redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us, for it is written cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.” You know what that word “redeemed” is? That word “redeemed” is the word referring to buying back a person’s freedom. It means to purchase with a great price, to buy back, to pay a ransom. A ransom had to be paid for you and I to come into this place today and even admit that we are believers. Jesus paid a price for us on the cross. Christ justified those who believe in Him by buying them back.
How did He purchase us back? Well, having become a curse for us. This truly reminds us of what it cost God for you and I to be justified or saved. He quotes Deuteronomy 21:22-23. He says “For it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.’” Now, none of us will understand the shame that Jesus went through on our behalf. We will never fully grasp that. But he is trying to get it across. He says in Deuteronomy 21:22, “And if a man has committed a sin worthy of death and he is put to death and you hang him on a tree his corpse shall not hang all night on the tree, but you shall surely bury him on the same day; for he who is hanged is accursed of God so that you do not defile your land which the Lord your God gives you as an inheritance.” In ancient Jewish time, when a criminal committed a crime of some kind that was worthy of death, when he was executed, probably by stoning, he was then taken and tied to a post, a type of tree and there his body would hang until sunset and it was to be a visible representation of the rejection of God.
It was not that a person became cursed because he was hung on a tree. Oh, no, he was hanged on a tree because he had already become accursed. Jesus didn’t become accursed because He was hung on the cross, He was crucified because He was already cursed. You say, “What do you mean?” He took the full sin of this world, of Jew and of Gentile, upon Himself. He was the Redeemer and that was the price that it took to set us free from the curse of the law. That’s what Paul is trying to get across. In 1 Peter 2:24 so beautifully Peter says, “And He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. For by His wounds you were healed.”
And what Paul is saying is do you understand the freedom you have in Christ? He gave the law. He fulfilled the law and then He died for those who could never come close to it. He paid a debt He didn’t owe when we owed a debt we couldn’t pay. Christ became a curse for us. The Jewish prophet Isaiah had foretold that this was going to happen. This is what Jesus tried to tell those two disciples in Luke on the day of resurrection. “You’re not paying attention to everything your prophets have spoken.”
Listen to the words of Isaiah 53: “Who has believed our message? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For He grew up before him like a tender shoot and like a root out of parched ground. He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him. He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, and like one from whom men hide their face, He was despised and we did not esteem Him. Surely our grief’s He Himself bore and our sorrows He carried. Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities. The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him and by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way. But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall upon Him. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth. Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, like a sheep that is silent before it’s shearers so He did not open His mouth. By oppression and judgment He was taken away and as for His generation who considered, who considered that He was cut off out of the land of the living [In other words, anybody paying attention] for the transgression of the people to whom the stroke was due [They paid no attention to Him whatsoever]. His grave was assigned with wicked men, yet He was with the rich man in His death. Because He had done no violence, nor was there any deceit in His mouth. But the Lord was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief if He would render Himself as a guilt offering. He will see His offspring. He will prolong His days and the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand.”
The shameful death of Jesus Christ on the cross is the only hope a person has who is on spiritual death row. In order to be justified before God He became a curse for us. This is the only hope Abraham had, even though He would not be born for centuries later. See, salvation was they looked forward to the Redeemer who would one day come. We look back to the Redeemer who has already been here. A sinner, whether Jew or Gentile, must recognize the futility: he is not able to save himself. The freedom we have from the curse of the law was given to us in Jesus Christ. And as we receive Him then we are set free forever to live in the relationship through Him.
Verse 13 says “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law having become a curse for us: for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.’” Why would He do that? Verse 14: “In order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham [that which happened to him in Genesis 15:6] might come to the Gentiles so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” His death on the cross sealed that promise that was made to Abraham. It was the price of our being set free, both Jew and Gentile. Christ set us free!
And you say “Why is he bringing all this up?” Don’t you understand the context? Here are people who have been set free from the curse of the law and now have chosen to go right back up under it. Even though they can’t lose their salvation they lose all of the joy of their salvation. There’s the blessing that should be theirs in Christ they forfeit by putting themselves up under a religious mindset.
So, the freedom we have in Christ: Christ set us all free before there was ever a Jew, before there was ever Israel, before there was ever a law, which was temporary to begin with. Christ promised Abraham something and was the fulfillment of that promise, the freedom we have in Christ. But then secondly, the foundation we have in Christ. I want you to know, our freedom that we have in Christ can’t be revoked. Paul is going to approach this in a very unique way. Again, the genius of the Holy Spirit. It’s based upon the solid foundation of the Abrahamic Covenant. And, you see, that covenant is an everlasting covenant. The covenant of law is temporary at best, but the covenant to Abraham is everlasting, can never be broken.
He says in verse 15—and he brings it down to a human level so everybody can understand, “Brethren, I speak in terms of human relations; even though it is only a man’s covenant, yet when it was, has been ratified no one sets it aside or adds conditions to it.” Literally, when it says “I speak in terms of human relations,” Paul is saying, “I speak as a man,” or better still, “I speak in the manner of men.” In other words, let me take this very complex subject and let me bring it down to where we all live so that you can understand. Paul has been alluding to the covenant that God made with Abraham. In covenants that man makes with man, once it has been made valid, once it has been made legal, then nothing can set it aside, nothing can change the terms of that covenant.
To understand this even better, there are two kinds of covenants. One kind is syntheke. It’s between two people and can be broken. It’s like a marriage. Obviously I wish it was different, but that’s the way it is. If somebody fails in that covenant then that marriage ends and there are consequences to pay, but that annuls the covenant. But the word for covenant that’s used here is not that word. It’s the word diatheke. It’s much stronger a word. It’s the word used in Hebrews 8:6 when he talks about “we are of a better covenant.” It can be translated “will or testament.” A will, we all understand wills; there are legal terms to a will. In the Greek culture of their day wills and legal documents were sealed so that they couldn’t be altered in any way.
In Greek law wills were irrevocable. No one could impose new conditions or no one could remove an heir to a will. If someone tried to replace an existing will with a new one, then the new one was rejected. So Paul says, “Yet when it has been ratified,” and he is taking them down to where they live every day, “when a covenant has been ratified, no one sets it aside or adds conditions to it.” Now the word “ratified” there is the word kuroo. It means to make valid. It means to confirm. When it has been made valid, in other words, when it has been ratified, when it has been made valid, when it has been made legal, no one can add terms to it or conditions to it. “Once a covenant is made valid,” Paul says, “no one sets it aside.” The term “set aside” is atheteo. Here it means no one can alter or change what has been made valid. It’s a binding legal document.
Now, what is Paul doing here? What’s he doing? The covenant made with Abraham, now listen to me, was 430 years before the law ever came into existence. That’s another covenant. But that other covenant can in no way replace or add to what was given to Abraham. And it cannot in any way reject the heirs. Those who have received Christ by faith cannot be rejected by somebody bringing up another covenant trying to change it and to annul it in any way. The covenant of grace given to Abraham, like a legal document of their day, is indestructible. It’s the everlasting covenant of grace. It was ratified to Isaac; it was ratified again to Jacob. It was made valid to both of them. Who became Israel? Jacob became Israel. It can never ever be changed again. “Brethren, I speak in terms of human relations: even though it is only a man’s covenant, yet when it has been ratified no one sets it aside or adds conditions to it.”
So what Paul is saying here, do you understand the freedom we have in Christ? He has set us free from the curse of the law. He took us off of spiritual death row. Do you understand the foundation we have in Christ? He’s the promise to Abraham. He’s the seed, as we will see in a minute. And because of that then nothing, nothing can—it was fulfilled after the law went out of existence; He fulfilled that covenant—it can never be changed. The foundation is solid.
But then finally, the fulfillment we have in Jesus Christ. Why do we meet today? Why is this resurrection Sunday? Why are we called “Christians”? Because we have Christ, who is God, who set us free, who founded us and made us secure. And now the fulfillment we have in Christ. Christ is the fulfillment of the seed promised in the Abrahamic Covenant. You say, “That’s a great thought, but show me in Scripture.” I am so glad you said that. Have you ever looked at the genealogies? Have you ever looked at those? Some of you say we skip those. Don’t skip them. Matthew 1:1, notice how it records Jesus and His genealogy: “The record of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah.” Then he says, “The son of David” and that was through Mary who was in direct line to Nathan, not of Joseph who was in direct line of Solomon whose line was cursed. No, sir. It’s through Mary. You track it through the mother, not through the father.
He says, “The record of the genealogy of Jesus, the Messiah, the son of David, the son of,” and you know what it says, “Abraham.” Well, are you telling me He is connected right there in Matthew 1:1? Absolutely. And Paul does even more than that. He shows in Galatians 3:16 that that seed, Abraham was promised a land; he was promised a nation that would live in that land; who would give birth one day by the virgin Mary—not by father, but by the virgin Mary—to the Lord Jesus; but it was to be the seed, and he shows you that seed is Christ. Verse 16: “Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed.” Then he says, “He does not say and to seeds [plural], as referring to many, but rather to one.” And then he clarifies it, “and to your seed.”
Don’t you understand it? He says, “that is” who? “Christ.” There He is right there. These promises were made to Abraham and to his seed, the Lord Jesus Christ who was yet unborn of the virgin Mary when this promise was given. Now, the Jewish mindset, I can understand that. This isn’t in any way a slam to anybody. I can understand why they would think this. They would think that the seed would be them, their nation would be the seed. No, a nation is made up of many people. This is masculine singular. After all, they have physical blood kin to Abraham, yes, but this is not what Paul is talking about. Paul says “He,” meaning God, “does not say and to seeds” plural. He is not speaking of a nation, seeds, plural. He doesn’t say that. “As referring to many, but,” the word is singular. He says, “but rather to one.” Then he explains who the seed is, “and to your seed,” he says “that is Christ.”
I tell you what, when you study it out of the old and you see that it has been the plan from the beginning of the Bible, from cover to cover, from before the foundations of the world, how could anybody miss that Jesus Christ is the Redeemer who has come? It was through the nation of Israel, yes, that the seed would be born. He would get His humanity through His mother and the nation of Israel. But He was always God. He became the God-man. Physical Israel was to come from Abraham, yes, but the spiritual seed was to come from Christ. He was going to be that spiritual seed. Spiritual Israel is those who by faith receive Christ. Physical Israel gave the land, that is the nation. But spiritual Israel comes from the seed who is the Lord Jesus Christ.
And you can’t go back and invalidate that covenant. Law, the covenant of law, does in no way change the terms that were validated and made legal in that covenant. Israel as a nation has no meaning if Christ is not the promised seed to Abraham. It’s just an ongoing same old, same old, year by year. Even the rabbinic Jewish writers agree that Christ is the seed promised to Abraham. They just don’t believe He has come yet. I don’t see how they missed that, but that’s their choice. Only in Christ could all the nations be blessed, Jew and Gentile.
And look over in Galatians 3:28. I want to show you something here. When a Jew comes to know Christ and a Gentile comes to know Christ, they both lose their identity, and they become one new person in Christ. They become one in Christ. Galatians 3:28: “There is neither Jew nor Greek.” Isn’t it amazing how we still try to distinguish the two. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Back to 1 Corinthians 10, I believe it is verse 32, he says there are three groups of people, the Jews, and the Gentiles, and the church of God. And Ephesians says the two have become one. And then he adds in Galatians 3:29, “And if you belong to Christ and you are Abraham’s offspring,” it does not matter if you are Jew or Gentile, “you are heirs according to the promise.”
Christ is the seed! He is the seed promised to Abraham, and in him all the spiritual blessings are included. As a matter of fact, Corinthians says “in Him all the blessings of God are given and they are ‘yes’ and ‘amen’ to those of us that are believers.” Paul knows how the Judaizers will refute these. He knows that. And so he adds in verse 17 something that is so profound. “What I am saying is this,” Paul says, “the law which came” now look at this, “430 years later does not invalidate a covenant previously ratified by God.” God made it legal; God made it valid, “so as to nullify the promise.” The law didn’t even show up as we said earlier twice, until 430 years later after God made His covenant with Abraham. In fact, Moses was not even alive when the covenant was made with Abraham. Paul wants them to think, “Think; use your head. Why are you jumping into this covenant of law when you have been set free from it by a covenant that precedes it by 430 years that God Himself validated?”
Then he explained that Christ was the promised seed in the covenant to Abraham that was long before the law or Israel. Verse 17 again, “What I am saying is this, the law which came 430 years later does not invalidate a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise.” The covenant of grace given to Abraham was based on a promise, not on his works. It was ratified, made legal, validated, to Isaac. It was then ratified to Jacob, made legal, validated to Jacob who became Israel, and then Israel finally became a nation. But that promise of the seed was not fulfilled until, as we see in the gospels, in the fullness of time. It cannot be altered. So religion cannot in any way unearth the covenant of grace that was given to Abraham.
Now, you know, the more we are going to stay in this, people are going to say, “Man, it is silly to go back under religion. It doesn’t make any sense.” That’s exactly what Paul is doing. Hopefully, when we finish the book of Galatians, the next time you try to go out and do something for God, God will so stare you in the face and say, “What in the world are you doing? Don’t you understand you’re not of this covenant? This covenant was given for a purpose.” I can hear somebody right now, “Well, why did He give the law to begin with?” I am so glad you said that, because that’s our next message.
You see the logic that Paul is using? That’s the first question that’s going to pop up. Well, if the law cannot change it and the law really isn’t effective anymore, then why in the world did God give it to start with? And so Paul takes that very anticipated question, very proactively answers it, and that’s our next message. Is the law bad? Absolutely not. I wouldn’t know I was speeding if there wasn’t a speed limit sign. You’re going to see why God gave the law and how ingenious and loving He was to give the law.
Verse 18: “For if the inheritance is based on law,” instead of a promise, “it is no longer based on a promise; but God has granted it to Abraham by means of a promise.” How do I become an heir to the promise? You receive it the same way Abraham did, by faith alone, in Christ alone. And when you receive Jesus, the promise was given to Abraham and to his seed, then all the promises are in Him; and when you receive Him you have received it all right there, and He comes to live in you.
What has Christ done for us? The freedom from the curse of the law. He set us free. Paid a gruesome death on the cross for you and I. The innocent perfect lamb of God became sin for you and I so that we could be set free from the curse of the law which put us on spiritual death row. But also the foundation we have in Christ, that covenant that He fulfills was given 430 years before the law was ever thought about. It’s temporary at best. This is the everlasting covenant. This is before the Jews were even thought in most men’s minds. It was in God’s mind. It was in Abraham’s mind, but Abraham was not a Jew. He was a Chaldean. And then the fulfillment that we have in Christ.
You say, “This Scripture is getting awfully heavy.” But, oh, listen to me, isn’t it getting awfully awesome too? I tell you what, next time somebody tries to put their law or the law on you, just smile and turn away and walk in the joy of the Lord because we are not under law. We are not under law. One of the great joys I have as pastoring a church is to let people be free to be who God wants them to be. And you know what I believe that will turn out to be? People serving in the church, people actively involved in the church. I’m not going to beat you up on that. No sir. God will take care of that. He’s a lot better than I am. But you know what I ask of you this morning? I’m going to give you the freedom to be what God wants you to be. I just want to see God make this church, its music, and everything else, I want God to make it what He wants it, not what my opinion makes it. But let me tell you something, I want to ask you to do me a favor. Will you give me the freedom to be who God wants me to be? Because we are free to be what God wants us to be. That’s grace, folks. That’s grace. Oh, what a message that God gives us in Galatians 3.
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Dr. Wayne Barber
Wayne has taught the message of “Living Grace” around the world. He is president, founder, and principal speaker of Living Grace Ministries and Senior Pastor of Woodland Park Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He learned to exegete Scripture by studying for 10 years with Spiros Zodhiates, one of the leading Greek scholars.