The Gospel of the Promise (Gal. 3:15-29)

Galatians 3:15-29
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 neither male nor 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.

This month we have been focusing on Galatians 3, in which Paul shows the gospel message can be traced back to the story of Abraham in the Old Testament.

In verses 1-9 Paul said that the gospel was preached to Abraham. God had decided to bless all the nations through him.

In verses 10-14 Paul said that the blessings came to Abraham by faith before the law, so we do not have to follow the Mosaic law to be children of Abraham.

Now, in today’s text we see that it all started when God made a promise. Knowing about that divine promise can help us to understand the gospel and proclaim its good news.

In verse 16 it says that God made some promises to Abraham.

In Gen. 22:17 God says to Abraham that he “will surely bless (him), and … will surely multiply (his) offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore.”

Those are just two of the promises God made to Abraham during his lifetime. He had more in mind than just letting Abraham be the ancestor of Jesus. Because of his faith, Abraham was to be the spiritual father of all believers.

Verse 16 says that God made a special promise concerning one particular descendant of Abraham, Jesus of Nazareth.

In Genesis 22:17-18 God promises Abraham that his offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in his offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.

This is one of those numerous references to a promised Messiah who will restore the earth to what God intended for it.

In other words, God was promising Abraham that he would be the spiritual father of all the inhabitants of God’s eternal kingdom, and the physical ancestor of the Messiah who will reign over it.

But the Galatians were being told that when the Law of Moses came, it changed the way God added people to his kingdom. Instead of believing in the promises, like Abraham did, you had to obey the commandments in order get on God’s good side.

Paul says, no, God has not changed how we get into the kingdom. We still enter by faith.

So, what was the law for? Paul answers that question here. He says 1) it was added because of transgressions (v. 19). In other words, there would be many of the physical descendants of Abraham who would be transgressors. So the law was put into effect to keep unspiritual Israel from completely abandoning their God.

Notice what Moses told Joshua: “Take this Book of the Law and put it by the side of the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, that it may be there for a witness against you. For I know how rebellious and stubborn you are. Behold, even today while I am yet alive with you, you have been rebellious against the LORD. How much more after my death! ” (Deuteronomy 31:26-27).

2) Paul also says that the Law was intended to be in effect only temporarily. He said that the law was added “until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made” (v.19). That offspring is Jesus. The law was our guardian until Christ came. (v. 24).

3) Paul says that now that Christ has come we are no longer under the guardianship of the law (v. 25), but can become sons of God through faith in Christ (v. 26).

Finally, Paul asserts that since every believer is in Christ, then every believer is of the same status. We are all Abraham’s offspring, and we each will inherit God’s coming kingdom because God has promised. So the promise God made to Abraham explains who we are now.

Galatians 3:28 says “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Those distinctions that seem to make so much difference to the world do not matter at all to God.

The prophet Joel predicted that this would be a result of the Holy Spirit coming at Pentecost. Joel 2:28-29 says “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit. “

We believers have yet to fully live up to this reality. We still pay too much attention to externals, like race, age, social status, and gender. Because of that we are guilty of the same kind of duplicity that Paul rebuked Peter for in Galatians 2.

It is sad that the political world which is still under Satan’s control is able to pass and enforce laws against racism, but our churches still remain mostly pockets of segregation.

It is sad when some countries can have female presidents and vice-presidents, but most of our churches still insist on having only male leadership. When we act that way in the church, we are saying that the flesh is more important than the Spirit.

Now let’s go back to the context in which Paul wrote these words. The Galatians were being tempted to turn to the Mosaic Law and the Jewish traditions.

Paul is telling them here that they do not have to do that because God is already their heavenly Father. They are in Christ, so they are already heirs of Christ’s kingdom. They are in Christ so they are already sons of God, and Abraham’s spiritual offspring. Israel is no longer under the guardianship of the Law, because the Messiah has come, and the Holy Spirit has come.

LORD, help us to live like who we are in Christ. May we allow your Holy Spirit to fill us, use us, and transform our community through us. Amen

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