Lesson 60: "Before Faith Came, We Were. . .Under the Law" (Galatians 3:23)
Galatians 3:6-29 continued
Paul's Missionary Journey Epistles. This is lesson # 60. Welcome again! Did you do your homework? Paul here (3:6-29) takes a barehanded swing at the Judiazing theology that had captivated, mesmerized and bewitched so many of the Galatian brethren. If you can get a good handle on this; it translates into the explanation for identifying a lot of theological error in our religious world today. To get a firm grip on it; think back through Paul's first two chapters just a moment. First he defended his apostleship. Second, there is only one gospel, one true gospel (1:6). Some are perverting the gospel (1:7). Third, Paul's gospel did not come from man (1:11). In the fourth place, Paul and the other apostles of Jesus were in perfect agreement on doctrine; it all came through the same Spirit (2:8). Then (# 5) Paul stated categorically (2:16) "that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ..." That statement was the exact converse, or counterpoint of Judiazing doctrine. Then finally, (#6), Paul fired off just bang, bang, bang about 4 or 5 questions in the first five verses of chapter three. That must have set those Galatian brethren recently infected by the Judiazing doctrine into a tailspin-of-a-tizzy trying to mentally answer Paul's questions. Then in v.6, the apostle began an easy, historical and logical discussion of Abraham, the Mosaic law that followed Abraham by about four centuries and the purpose and connection between the law and that promise. In v. 6-18, Paul's discourse centered on God's promise to Abraham. Notice at the end of that section, in v.l 8, Paul concluded; God gave the inheritance to Abraham and his seed by promise, NOT by the law.
Now, before we get down to the verse by verse details; try to take a wide sweeping perspective of the Old Testament for a moment using Paul's broad approach here in the Galatian letter. Cain and Abel worshiped God, Noah worshiped God, and other patriarchs worshiped God for centuries before Abraham. It was something like 2,000 years after Adam and Eve that Abraham came on the scene and Abraham lived about 2,000 years before the time of Jesus or about as far on the other side of the cross as we live on this side of the cross; speaking in round numbers. Yet we know very, very little about what God required of those people before Abraham so far as worship and service is concerned. What we know is all covered in the first 12 chapters of Genesis or what we might call the preface to the Bible. Beginning with Abraham (Genesis ch. 12), there is much, much more detail. What God said to Abraham and Abraham's obedience to what God said, forms the basis for our understanding God's plan. Then we have in much more detail how God dealt with those after the time of Abraham. In Gen. 15:18, God told Abraham that his decedents would be given the land Canaan or what we call the fertile crescent; i.e. from the Nile river in Egypt to the Euphrates river in present day Iraq. In that same scripture, God went ahead to explain to Abraham that it would still be about 400 years, or more than four of their generations, before God would give that land to Abraham's descendants. The reason for this delay God stated in v.l 6 (Con. 15); "for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full." Now, that takes a whole chapter in history, so-to-speak, to understand and explain that statement. The Amorites were descendants of Noah's son Ham, or part of the Canaanitish people if you want to get into that genealogy, back in Genesis ch. 10. The Amorites were the Canaanites that inhabited the northern part of the fertile crescent; i.e. Mesopotamia and Syria. The Canaanitish religions were very corrupt. The Canaanites had many pagan gods (with a little "g") and their religion centered around sex orgies and in offering human sacrifices in the form of human babies that came from those sex orgies, burned sacrifices is my understanding. But, don't forget! Our God is long suffering: "the iniquity of the Amorites (was] not yet full." This is speculation; but, I am inclined to think that God would have relented toward the Amorites as he did Ninevah at the time of Jonah; if the Amorites had repented and returned to Jehovah God. Genesis 15:16 seems to be clearly saying that God was allowing them more time before he had them destroyed. Coded into all of this is the concept that God made man a free moral agent. Man is on his own. God created mankind and then freed him, turned him loose like turning a bird out of a cage. Our Lord, the God of creation, set up some rules for mankind and made man aware of those rules. Man can obey God or he can disobey God. It is just as clear that God has a plan or a pattern of development as well as limitations for his creation. For example, when the children of Israel refused to obey God back there in the desert (Numbers chapter 14); God simply put things on hold for a generation. He said: "Your carcases shall fall in this wilderness; and all that were numbered of you, according to your whole number, from twenty years old and upward, which have murmured against me...ye shall not come into the land..." Now, that's the land that God promised to Abraham four hundred years before. As I said, God simply put things on hold. That generation just wasted away in the desert. Finally in the fortieth year and the eleventh month, according to Deut. 1:3, God told the new generation: "Ye have dwelt long enough in this mount: turn you, and take your journey..." But, they never did do totally what God said. Paul said (here in Galatians 3:19), the law, i.e. the law of Moses, the 10 commandment law, was added because of transgressions. Verse 19 says, "It [i.e. the law] was added...till the seed should come to whom the promise was made..." The seed to whom the promise was made refers to Jesus Christ. Paul used verse 16 here in Galatians chapter 3 to define that term "seed". And, that rather implies that the Christ might have come sooner if the world had been conducive to his reception and his arrival. But, "because of transgressions" (verse 19) the law was added for a time; nearly 1500 years as a matter of fact. Then, that seed finally came to whom the promise was made. Don't miss the point now: that the law was given as a temporary measure, "til the seed should come to whom the promise was made", i.e. Jesus or the messiah. Now in verse 20 and the rest of this chapter; the apostle discussed further the giving of the law and how long they were under that law.
But, before we get into that, let's back up a minute and concentrate on the promise, i.e. verse 6-18. There are two or three significant points here that you don't want to miss. So, get your eyes on the text. First, right up front, v. 16 says: "to Abraham and his seed were the promises made." You might notice that "promises" here are plural. If you want to review those promises, read the first eight verses in Genesis ch. 12, Gen. 17:18-22, Gen. 22:15-18. Then finally this covenantor promise was reaffirmed to Isaac in Gen. 26:3, 4, 5. Then it was reaffirmed to Jacob, Isaac's son in Gen. 28:13-15. Later, Jacob's name was changed to Israel in Gen. 32:28 and it was through the descendants of Israel (or Jacob) that these promises were ultimately fulfilled. Now, it's quite clear that Abraham did not understand the significance of all these promises. Nevertheless, Abraham obeyed God in spite of his level of understanding; realizing that the God of heaven could make good on his promises regardless of all the ramifications. In v.8 here in Galatians; Paul points out that one of those promises Cod made to Abraham was: "In thee shall all nations be blessed." Now, at the time God made this promise, the land promises and a promise of Abraham's great posterity probably overshadowed this. But the inspired apostle, Paul, saw in that statement, i.e. "In thee shall all nations be blessed"; Paul understood that God spake to Abraham of Jesus Christ), the messiah of God. It is through Jesus Christ, God's son, that we all can have the hope of heaven, an eternal abode with God. Not only is that true for you and me and those of us in the Christian age, who have lived since the time of the cross that is just a true for Abraham, Moses, David and every other person that lived before the tine of the cross of Jesus. God's son died on that cross for the whole world; NOT just the Christian age. That was/is great news for mankind. Thus, Paul phrases that thought like this (in v.8): "God., .preached before the gospel (i.e. good news] unto Abraham, saying, "In thee shall all nations be blessed." And, what a great blessing that is! In other words, in a very vague way, God explained this to Abraham and made the promise of a redeemer not only to Abraham; but, to Abraham's decedents as well. Now, here's where the rub comes. The Judiazing teachers were teaching that one must be a literal fleshly descendent of Abraham to receive this blessing; i.e. to be saved, as that term is used in Acts 15:1. Or, as an alternatives if one was not a flesh and blood descendant of Abraham; they could be circumcised and become an adopted Jew, so-to-speak, and thus become a legal heir of Abraham, entitling them to the promise. Thus, the Judiazers emphasized circumcision and keeping the law. Paul said, that is not so! Get your eyes on v.7. Paul said: "they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham." Thus in a spiritual or symbolic way; one becomes a child of Abraham by faith or by believing in God and NOT in some fleshly or legalistic way. Notice, that for emphasis, Paul repeated that thought again in v.9, here's the conclusion: "So then they which be of faith are blessed of faithful Abraham." Thus, the argument boils down to faith-vs-legalism. Now, on down the page here, where Paul makes reference to law (or the law, etc.); the point you want to keep in mind is that Paul is referring to what we have here called legalism. Thus, very simply, the basic difference in Paul's teaching and the Judiazers was that Paul taught the promise of Abraham is bestowed individually through faith, i.e. faith in God and His Son, Jesus Christ; whereas, the Judiazers taught one must be biologically connected to Abraham (or a lawful, legally adopted Jew at the very least) and this had to be affirmed in both (i.e. Jew and Gentile alike) by circumcision. It's just that simple, really. Now, this is said (I think) a hundred different ways in the New Testament. In the book of Galatians and in the book of Romans; Paul says it over and over. Once you grasp the idea it becomes somewhat repetitious. Until you get it sorted out; it can be very confusing too.
Now, hang into v.l 1; Paul repeated: "no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith." The last part of that is a quote from the O.T. (Hab. 2:4); Paul was appealing to those who knew the O.T.; but, it's saying the same thing, isn't it? The promise of God to Abraham is bestowed on individuals through faith and not through any legal channels. Read it again! "Then lest someone should argue that faith in God and keeping the law is one and the same thing Paul anticipates that in v.l2, he says: "the law is not of faith." The word "doeth" in v.12 has reference to obedience. Obeying God comes through faith in-God, "Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him as righteousness." (v.6)
Now, let me interrupt your chain of thought here just a moment and say this: to get the idea here that no rules apply to Christianity is an incorrect view. That is simply not true, there are many, many rules and guidelines given for us to obey in the New Testament. I must make sure that my actions and my conduct and my obedience is based upon what God wants and not upon what I may reason or conclude from experience or something else. It's alright to speak of these rules as a law. It is a law, Christ's law. James calls it "the perfect law of liberty" in Jas. 1:25. But, don't confuse that with Galatians chapter 3 where Paul is speaking of the 10 commandment law, i.e. the law of Moses, that the Judiazers were insisting upon the Galatians keeping. Simply believe God and obey God and you do as Abraham did, you see. Paul speaks of such a system as being under faith. Without faith it is iuflssibleto please God (Heb. 11:6). To have faith means to have confidence in something, in this case: God. The bible use of that word "faith" implies more than a mere mental consent to something. Bible faith implies eat will take any necessary action consistent with his faith. In Rom. 2:13, Paul said: "not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law." Faith directs our actions, faith directs our conduct. We serve and obey because we understand and because we want to; NOT so much because we are required to obey. This concept requires a sort of spiritual domestication if you will, i.e. a meek person was Jesus' word in the sermon on the mount (Matt. 5:5). Thus the emphasis is upon the inner man concept as foretold in Jer 31:3Iff and as Jesus gave in the beatitudes. Don't do it because it's a law; do it because that's what King Jesus wants. Paul said here in v.l 2, "the law is not of faith." Its two different concepts, you see; so, separate them in your mind. Faith is not a legalistic concept. J.B.Phillips translates v.12, "The law is not a matter of faith at all but of doing."
As I pointed out before, Paul sometimes uses the word faith to mean a system of faith; e.g. in v.23, Paul said: "before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed." In v.24, Paul compared the law (now this is that law "ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator" back in v.l9), the Mosaic law; Paul likens it to a schoolmaster or tutor that prepares one for some future use. Paul said: "the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ [what for Paul?] that we might [then you see] be justified by faith." Yes, but Paul, what about after faith came? What about after Jesus came and purchased us, Paul? V.25 is your answer! Paul said: "But after that faith is come, we are no longer under the schoolmaster", i.e. after faith is come, we are no longer under the Mosaic law. It couldn't be said plainer. Yes, but Paul what about being a child of God; don't I have to keep Moses law to be a child of God? What did Paul say? Verse 26 is the answer: "For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ." Baptism is a matter of faith, submitting to Christ's rules; it is not a work. John Stacy says in his book: that repentance is being: faith willing; confession is faith telling; baptism is faith acting; prayer is faith communicating; eating the Lord's Supper is faith remembering; giving is faith proving; singing is faith praising; hearing and studying is faith building; good clean Christian living is faith letting it's light shine. Tune in v.29: "if ye be Christ's, THEN are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." And according to v.28, there is just one kind of a Christian; NO Catholic Christians or Baptist Christians or Methodist Christians or Presbyterian Christians. There are NO Jew Christians, NO Greek Christians, NO slave Christians, NO freed-men Christians; just plain Christians, that's all. Are you a Christian? What kind of a Christian do you want to be? Have a good day!