Liberated From Legalism pt 14 [8-1-21]



Today's passage has no immediate practical application. There's nothing in these four verses that will help you be a better spouse or parent or friend. You won't find your best life ever here. There's nothing here to help you get that raise or promotion. And there's absolutely no formula to a healthier new you in these verses. I can't come up with five steps to a more positive outlook on life, or seven secrets to happiness. There's not anything like any of that in Galatians 3:15-18.


But here's what is there. To the patient student of Scripture, in Galatians 3:15-18, there's a depth to understanding God's ways in the Bible. As we take our time with these verses, we'll gain a depth to understanding its theological foundation for our lives.


Let's start with two promises of Scripture.


The first is from Psalm 1:1-3:

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.

This is such a delightful Psalm. One of my favorites, if one is allowed such a thing.


Second passage is Jeremiah 17:7-8:

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”

Do you hear the consistency in God's Word? When we do quality work in God's Word, we become like sturdy trees planted by streams of water. Our leaves don't wither. We're not blown asunder by false teaching. And we keep bearing fruit when the shallow plants have all but dried up.


It's never a bad thing to dig in to the details of God's Word. And as Paul has already said, in the earlier part of chapter 3, we are empowered by the Spirit through faith, which is a gift of God's grace and mercy. As he said in verse 14, we received the promised Spirit through faith.


Here's how that promise impacts the time we spend understanding the depth of God's Word. As Paul pointed out to the Galatians that many of them had allowed themselves to be bewitched by false teaching, God's gift of the Spirit would guide them back to the one true gospel. The Spirit would act as a sort of booster to get them going back on the right track. Think of it this way. Did you see that space plane break the 50+ mile atmospheric barrier? Watching that video gave me all kinds of heebie-jeebies. Without getting too technical {because I really don't understand the technical details}, based I what I saw, two planes carried the space plane up, up, and away. Then, at some frightening point, they let go as rockets were fired, propelling the space plane beyond the grip of gravity. Boom…boosted…weightlessness. People do amazing things.


What a faith-boost a diligent and deliberate study of God's Word gives us. That's always a good thing.


Galatians has been building toward the beautiful affirmation that we cannot earn our salvation. We cannot work our way to salvation. No matter how hard we try, we cannot force God to love us or forgive us. Heaven is not a prize for the hard working. We can only become complete, sanctified, forgiven and eternally saved Christians through Christ and Christ alone.


And verses 15-18 spell out how that happens.

It starts with a human example. Paul makes the case that we are heirs of the promise to Abraham by way of inheritance analogy. Paul says since we have already inherited the promise of grace given to and through Abraham, we don't have to do and be anything other than we already are right now. That is a direct contradiction to the argument of the false teachers that Gentiles had to become Jews before they could become Christians.


Here's how he spells it out. We have three examples from the legal practices of the three predominant cultures in Paul's day. In verse 15, Paul says, "Even with a manmade covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been ratified." He is referring to what we call a last will and testament. Greek, Jewish, and Roman practices were very similar. So the Galatians would have had a clear understanding of his point.


In a nutshell, here's how those covenants played out.


In Roman law, a covenant - or last will and testament - could be annulled

or added to. It could be torn up at any time, followed by the writing of a

new one. Or additional instructions, in the form of a codicil, could be

attached to the document. But only while the person was still alive. When the person died, nothing could be changed. That is the meaning of "ratified" in verse 15. Just like it is today, in Roman law a last will and testament was permanently settled at death. Once the person has died, and the estate has gone through probate, it cannot be re-divided.


When my dad died back in 1986, I was executor of his will. My older sister wasn't happy with how things were divided. She told me that as executor I could make changes. Now, I was no legal scholar, but I took my responsibility seriously. Even if I could, I would not change anything, as these were my father's decisions, and once he died, they could not be changed or altered. His covenant was set in stone.


Greek law was slightly different from Roman law. The main difference was that once a will was written, it could not be repealed or revoked or modified. Once it had been registered and filed, a process which took place while the person was still alive, a last will and testament could never be changed. This seems to fit Paul's description of an irrevocable covenant.

Finally, so we could be fully versed in estate law, Paul also could have been thinking about Jewish inheritance law. They had a special process for making an irrevocable last will and testament prior to death. This is the law Jesus described in the Parable of the Prodigal Son:

And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them."

- Luke 15:11-12

The younger son asked for his inheritance before his father died. Again, once it was made, that before-death last will and testament could not be changed.


So what human example was Paul using? While he did not specify whether it was Greek, Roman, or Jewish law, the end result was the same. A last will and testament was settled upon death. After death, nothing could be done to change the terms in any way.


Here's Paul's point - and remember, the false teachers were adding

something to JUSTIFICATION BY GRACE ALONE, THROUGH FAITH ALONE,

IN CHRIST ALONE - Paul's point is that what holds true in a human court has even greater force in the courtroom of our One, True, and Holy God. Only a fool would think a last will and testament could be revoked, abridged, or changed once a person has died…how much more foolish to think God's plan for our salvation could be revoked, abridged, or changed.


Next, in verse 16, Paul clarifies what has been given to us and by whom:

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.

Don't misunderstand. Paul well knew that offspring was a collective noun. He knew that when God promised Abraham many offspring, and that they would be as numerous as the sand and stars, the promise was collective. But Paul also knew that the promise of many offspring would come from one - Isaac, Abraham's firstborn. Out of one comes many, but the many have to start with one.


So here's what began with Abraham. This was why Matthew traced Jesus' genealogy back to Abraham. Jesus Christ was the true offspring. Paul was saying that while it was true that Abraham was the father of many nations, and nothing changed that, the truer truth was that the covenant was all about Jesus Christ. Paul held both thoughts together in one sentence. The covenant with Abraham looked forward to the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. In other words, what God promised to Abraham was the good news about Jesus Christ, for it is in him that all nations on earth are blessed. "And to your offspring," who is Christ.


So, let's return to the human example of a last will and testament. By Jesus' death and resurrection, our inheritance has been sealed. Nothing can be added to or subtracted from the priceless gifts of forgiveness and eternal life we have been given.


May we all rest in the blessed assurance that:

NO MATTER OUR FEARS,

NO MATTER OUR FAILURES,

NO MATTER OUR TEMPTATIONS,

NO MATTER OUR TRIALS,

NO MATTER WHAT OUR FLESH SAYS,

NO MATTER WHAT SATAN SAYS,

"There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." {Romans 8:1}

- Samuel Sey


SOLI DEO GLORIA…

To the Glory of God Alone!




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