Galatians 3:15-24 (ESV)
"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."
Apologetics is an essential discipline of the Christian faith. It does not mean to give an apology for our faith, in the sense to ask forgiveness for what we believe. It actually means to give a defense. Apologetics is essential in two areas. First, to the people that are skeptics we must give a defense against their objections. This is important. Second, to professing believers who are easily led astray. Honestly this bears more fruit as the Holy Spirit works inside of these people confirming the truth. Paul is giving a defense to those inside of the church who have been led astray by falsehood.
Paul is defending the faith against a false gospel that the Judaizers have embraced. These people were teaching that the ground of justification, right standing with God, is submission to the ceremonial law, in particular circumcision. This meant that Paul had to address objections the people in the church had. Two of these objections were:
The other thing is that we live in the postmodern era of story driven teaching. We say things like we must teach only through narrative and not through didactic method. The only problem with that view is that the Bible is a book of a variety of different genres. Some narrative, some theological letters, some prophetic, etc… When we preach through the different books of the Bible we will preach the different genres. Some here, depending on your background, will love this style of message. Others will have a hard time following. My encouragement is to make the effort to grow and follow along. This is the Bible and the Bible calls us to think in this logical linear fashion as well through stories. Both are needed for us to mature in Christ. Let’s dive in.
Objection #1: Does the Mosaic Covenant Annul the Abrahamic Covenant?
Two different covenants that God has established in history with two different men in two different times. A covenant is a binding agreement simply put. God established a covenant with Abraham promising him the land and a son. Four hundred and thirty years later God established a covenant with Moses revealing God’s character and standards in the law as well as practices to seek atonement for those violations of those standards. The Judaizers were placing the Mosaic Covenant as more important than the Abrahamic while at the same time claiming to be in continuity with Abraham. In essence they taught that the Mosaic Covenant annulled the Abrahamic Covenant. Paul deals with this in verses 15-18.
"The God who cannot lie will not go back on a promise what he made."
"To be a son of Abraham is not to submit to the Mosaic law, but to believe in the same promise Abraham believed in."
Objection #2: Why Did God Ratify the Mosaic Covenant?
After Abraham was dead and gone the Israelites found themselves enslaved to Egypt. God sent a leader named Moses. God used Moses to lead the Israelites from bondage to freedom. They were being led out to form a new nation. As a new nation God gave them a new law. Foundational to that was to not have another God before Him. What He means is to not have a God like Egypt over them. Then God spelled out in detail the roles the individual, family, church, and state had in God’s government. This spells out for us how a just society would live with decentralized power under His Law. Paul then answers why was the Law given.
"The law itself does not give life, but it takes the student to the one that can."
The Covenant of Redemption
This points to the greater covenant that was made. It was the covenant of redemption that the Father had made with the Son before the foundation of the world. The beneficiaries of this covenant were those that God elected before the foundation of the world. God chose to love His elect which necessitated Him to establish this covenant. God established that the only way that his elect could be redeemed was by a redemption price to be paid. That redemption price was the blood of an innocent man. He told Abraham that this innocent man would be one of his offspring. He told Moses that he would fulfill the requirements of the law as well as the primary offices of prophet, priest, and King. Justification is then not based on a works righteousness, but it is based upon God keeping His word. If you have been redeemed by the blood of Christ that revealed the reality that God has kept His word. He will not go back on it.
"Justification is not based on works of righteousness, but upon God keeping his word."
Do you understand what that means? That should be the most liberating news that you have ever received in your life. You salvation is not based on you and you keeping promises. It is based on God and His keeping of them.
Contributor / Eric Stewart
Eric Stewart is the Lead Pastor of ONElife Church in Flint, MI.