Sunday Evening Bible Study
February 11, 1996
Paul is writing to a group of churches which he had helped to establish.
After having established these churches, there were a group of teachers called "Judaizers" who came in and began spreading their own doctrines.
The Judaizers felt that a Gentile couldn't really be saved apart from first becoming a Jew, and that started by being circumcised.
What is at issue is whether or not a Christian is supposed to strive to keep the law to be saved, or to "stay saved".
We've seen that Abraham himself received God's righteousness by believing, not through works.
And last week we saw how easily it is to fall under the curse of the law, that all you have to do is blow it once, and you are guilty of breaking the whole law.
And Jesus died to free us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, dying on the cross.
Jesus did this so that we Gentiles might receive the kind of blessings promised to Abraham in God's covenant with him.
Verse 14 -
14 That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
We're getting kind of a taste of how righteousness came to Abraham simply by believing.
But how does all this work together?
How am I to approach the Old Testament and the law?
:15-18 The covenant of promise
NIV - 15 Brothers, let me take an example from everyday life. Just as no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case.
Paul is saying that even with a human contract, you don't go adding or subtracting from it any time you want.
Only the concerned parties can change the contract.
Let's say that you and I make an agreement for me to wash your windows every week for a year.
We write up a formal contract, and then sign it.
If Dave then comes up and makes a contract with you, does that cancel my contract?
Only you and I together can change our contract.
Or I'll take you to court and sue the pants off you.
God made lots of promises to Abraham. Some of them are ...
Genesis 12:7 And the LORD appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the LORD, who appeared unto him.
Genesis 17:7 And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.
Genesis 22:16-18 And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: 17 That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; 18 And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.
Did you notice how many of the promises mentioned Abraham's "seed"?
The word "seed" is an unusual word.
"Seed" can refer to one kernel.
"Seed" can refer to a whole basket of seed.
"Seeds" can also refer to more than one seed.
When we see the promises to Abraham in Genesis, we typically understand the term "seed" to be "collective", meaning a group of people, as in the Jews.
But here Paul brings out a subtle thing from the text, noting that Moses didn't use "seeds", but the singular form "seed".
Ultimately, God's promises to Abraham and his "seed" were promises fulfilled in one person, in Jesus.
The Judaizer who is listening to Paul's arguments about Abraham might eventually cave in to Paul's argument that Abraham was made righteous simply because of his faith in God.
"But", the person might reply, "Everything changed when God made a new agreement with Moses!"
Paul now brings back this idea of human agreements (from verse 15), and says that just because there was a new agreement with Moses, doesn't mean that God's original contract with Abraham was null and void.
The original contract with Abraham was yet to be fulfilled!
It would be fulfilled in Jesus.
There's a difference between righteousness that is given by a promise, and righteousness that is earned by the law.
Abraham's promise is like me promising to give you $30 just because I like you.
Righteousness through the law is like me saying I'll give you $30 if you come and clean my house.
Paul is saying that if the rules changed with Moses, then we would all be having to earn our righteousness through the law.
But the truth is that the promise still stands, because God's contract with Abraham has not changed.
:19-22 The purpose of the law
What is the reason for even having the law then, if righteousness comes through the promise?
The Law's purpose has to do with people's sin.
The Law's purpose is basically to show man how sinful he is.
It gives us a glimpse of God's standards of righteousness, and shows us how impossible it is for us to achieve them on our own.
The law was to be around until Abraham's ultimate seed arrived, until Jesus came.
Talking about the law, it was set up with Moses as God's go-between to set up a temporary system between man and God.
It was ordained by angels in that angels were involved in getting the covenant set up with Moses.
It was the angel of the Lord in the burning bush.
It was an angel that was in the pillar of cloud and pillar of fire.
The Scriptures also speak of God appearing with ten thousands of angels at the giving of the Law (De 33:2; Ps.68:17)
A mediator is a go-between when two people make an agreement together, and both have responsibilities.
With Moses' covenant with God, both man and God had responsibilities.
Man had to obey.
God would bless.
With Abraham's promise, things were different.
The only person with a responsibility was God.
All Abraham did was sit there and get blessed.
Is Paul trying to say that the law contradicted the promises of God?
Did the law do away with the promises of God?
Did the law make the promises no longer effective?
If God could have given a person righteousness through obedience to the law, He would have done it.
But the fact is that it is impossible for a person to achieve righteousness by obeying the law.
The best a person can do is to avoid sin, but even then only a little at a time.
You can't avoid sinning completely. Eventually you'll break the law.
The Scripture declares that everybody is a sinner, and thus cannot achieve God's righteousness on their own.
The Scripture includes the Law.
Note Paul's contrast with law and promise.
We're going back to Abraham's covenant, being one of promise, not by achievement through obedience.
The Law's purpose is to show us our sin, and to show us our need for righteousness.
But the only way to achieve righteousness is simply by believing in God.
:23-25 The Schoolmaster
Before we came to the place where we learned to believe in Jesus.
NIV - 23 Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed.
paidagogos - a tutor i.e. a guardian and guide of boys. Among the Greeks and the Romans the name was applied to trustworthy slaves who were charged with the duty of supervising the life and morals of boys belonging to the better class. The boys were not allowed so much as to step out of the house without them before arriving at the age of manhood.
Before we came to the point where we trusted in Jesus for our righteousness, the law served a purpose for us, being our constant companion, reminding us of our sin, and urging us step by step towards Jesus.
There's value in the Old Testament!
Paul is not saying to toss out your Old Testaments.
Instead, there is great value, the main value being that of showing us our need for Jesus, and pointing the way to Him.
That doesn't mean that once we know Jesus we stop reading the Old Testament.
The New Testament is built on the Old Testament.
I don't think you can clearly understand the New Testament without a good understanding of the Old.
The Law is only a transitionary device, intended to bring us to Jesus, to trust Him for our righteousness.
Does this sound like we shouldn't be trusting in the keeping of the Law for our righteousness?
It does to me.
:26-29 Applying the promise to us
Or, lit., "sons" of God.
When we trust in God, having been a child of the devil (John 8), we now become adopted into God's family, and become His sons.
He's not talking about water baptism here.
To be "baptized" means to be immersed completely.
Scripture speaks of a sense in which mystically, when we received Jesus, God completely immersed us into Jesus.
1Corinthians 12:13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.
Romans 6:3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?
In the Roman soiety when a youth came of age he was given a special toag which admitted him to the full rights of the amily and state and indicated he was a grown-up son.
Now that we have finished our course in the Law, and we graduated to adult sonship by believing in Jesus, we are given our toga of adulthood, being clothed in Jesus Himself.
There are no more differences between people based on the Law
There are no more differences between people based on slavery.
It doesn't make any difference to God whether you're a guy or a gal.
All that matters is that a person is in Jesus.
From there we're all the same.
If you belong to Jesus.
Because having been immersed in Jesus, being clothed in Jesus, you are now in the seed, which was Christ.
Does this mean that the Jews are no longer Abraham's seed, and that there shouldn't be a nation of Israel in the land, but instead the believers should be living in Israel????
I think there's a difference between the physical descendants and the physical promises of Abraham, in contrast with the spiritual descendants and the spiritual promises to Abraham.
Now as the seed of Abraham, we receive an inheritance, the inheritance of righteousness by faith (see 3:6,7)
That's the legacy of Abraham.
God made a promise of righteousness to Abraham and his Seed, and the promise still holds.
The Seed was Christ.
The entrance of the law did not change God's original promise to Abraham.
The very purpose of the law was to show us how sinful we are, and how much we need a Savior.
The law only pointed to the very need for God's promise.
Since we have believed in Jesus, we have been immersed in Him, and now we Gentiles are allowed to share in the promises to Abraham.