Grace and peace to you beloved in the name of Christ. Currently our desire is to look away from the world and self and sin and to set our minds on things above where Christ our Lord resides – by faith. (Col.3:1-3)
To do so, please take out your Bible. We are going to hear the very words of God. Hear His holy and perfect word. Read.
Galatians 3:15. Brethren, I speak in terms of human relations: even though it is only a man’s covenant, yet when it has been ratified, no one sets it aside or adds conditions to it. 16 Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as referring to many, but rather to one, “And to your seed,” that is, Christ. 17 What I am saying is this: the Law, which came four hundred and thirty years later, does not invalidate a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise. 18 For if the inheritance is based on law, it is no longer based on a promise; but God has granted it to Abraham by means of a promise. 19 Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator, until the seed would come to whom the promise had been made. 20 Now a mediator is not for one party only; whereas God is only one. 21 Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God? May it never be! For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law. 22 But the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. 23 But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. 24 Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith.
25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. 26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.
Let’s pray and ask God to help us today. Pray.
Just as an aside, I have changed the title of this sermon from what you see in the Sunday bulletin. The new title better captures the essence of this section of Scripture; The Law and The Gospel Contrasted.
Actually, we could title the entire book of Galatians, the defense of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. And so, every new section of this epistle is another argument in favor of Paul’s gospel, as he calls it. (Rom.2:16, 16:25, 2 Tim.2:8)
For Paul, the gospel is summarized in the cross or crucifixion of Jesus for sins. (Gal.3:1, I Cor.2:2, I Cor.1:18-31) Also, he is especially keen to point out that the way we receive Christ or the atoning merits of Christ is by believing in Christ as our Sin-Atoner and Wrath-Bearer and Peace-Bringer. That is positively. (Acts 15:9, Rom.3:28, 5:1-2, 9:30-33, Gal.2:16, Eph.2:1-9)
And negatively, as you know, Paul says, we do not add any of our works of the Law to Christ’s work. No saving or justifying merit on our part. None in any shape or fashion. (Rom.3:20,28, Gal.2:16, Gal.3:2,5,10)
You see the Judaizers were quite content to say, believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior. But they were quite unwilling to say, that we are declared right or just before God only by believing. It was the faith alone in Jesus alone that they rejected. (Acts 15:1-5)
We see that Paul was quite unwilling to consider the faith plus works for justification as an expression of true and saving Christianity. In other words, the Holy Spirit called Paul to divide with “professing Christians” over this because they were wrong on the gospel.
Beloved, that spirit is almost gone in the modern church. The modern church is no longer the church militant. We are the church that has made friends with the world. No truth is worth fighting and dying over. We seek peace at the expense of gospel truth under the guise of love.
Paul had a different Spirit.
Beloved, there are still these two forms of Christianity in the world today.
There is the form that says, Christ alone merits all our salvation. And we receive all of Christ and His merits only by belief. This is the minority view I would say. This is the gracious way of justification by believing. The correct view. But still in the minority. The road is narrow to heaven and few find it. (Mt.7:13-14)
Then perhaps the larger part of professing Christians believe that you are justified in part by your faith in Jesus and then you are also justified in part by your good works or works of the Law. They maintain this is still of grace because God gifts you with the ability to do these meritorious good works. This is the legal way of justification by working. (Gal.3:13, 21) This is the broad road to perdition, many are on it. (Rom.9:30-33, Rom.10:1-13)
In chapter three Paul uses three different but related arguments to prove the same truth. In V.1-5 Paul appeals to the Galatian’s experience. Then in V.6-14 he appealed to Scripture and using the example of Abraham in particular. Abraham was justified by believing the gospel promise and not by his law keeping.
Now in our passage V.15-29 he continues to appeal to Scripture but here he is going to use Abraham receiving the gospel promise and Moses receiving the commands of the law. The essence of his argument is that God gave the gospel to save. And God gave the law to guide and especially to show us our sin and therefore our need of the saving gospel.
Now as we look at this section you see that Paul is making a comparison and a contrast between the gospel and the law.
He calls the gospel of Christ, a promise. The gospel is a divine promise of God made to man. It is a promise of God to seek and to save sinners that cannot save themselves. And God cannot lie. All that God said He will do, He will do. (Num.23:19, Titus 1:2, Heb.6:18)
Galatians 3:16. Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as referring to many, but rather to one, “And to your seed,” that is, Christ.
It is the promise to Abraham to bring in the Savior Christ through Abraham. Christ is the promised Seed of Abraham. (Gen.12:1-3, Rom.9:6-8)
Paul also refers to the gospel of salvation as a covenant. Again, this is a divine covenant. It is not a man to man covenant or contract. It is God divinely instituting His promise to save sinners by His Savior Christ by means of a solemn binding covenant, a bond in blood as it were.
We see this covenant ceremony that God makes with Abraham in Genesis chapter 15. In that covenant ceremony God tells Abraham that He will save His people. Then God puts Abraham to sleep. And then God Himself walks in between the two parts of the sacrificial animals. God makes this covenant to save by His Savior. And God Himself carries it out – alone.
So, the Gospel of salvation is something that God in Christ does. And He does it alone. No help from man. And no so-called graced help from man either. This is the Good News.
Then Paul jumps ahead in redemptive history. He moves from Abraham circa 2,000 BC to Moses circa 1,450 B.C. Actually when Paul refers to the law being given 430 years after God gave the gospel promise to Abraham he is referring to when God gave Moses the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai. (Exod.19:1-25, Exod.20:1-26)
As an aside. The modern Judaizers who lust to add law to gospel they seek to evade the force of Paul’s argument in Romans and Galatians by his refutation of justification by the works of the law and they say, oh Paul is only meaning works of the ceremonial law. You see, they want to leave open works of the moral law for at least some merit by our own doing.
This is the benefit of reading the Bible for yourself. 430 years later God codified the moral law, the ten commandments. In addition, at Sinai God codified actually three types of law to the people. The ceremonial, the moral, and the judicial.
And God the Holy Spirit inspires Paul to say that our obedience to any and all laws given to Moses cannot save or justify us. Cannot.
I want you to see that the language of the law is different that the gospel. The Gospel is God saying, I promise to save you. Only believe and you will be saved. Whereas the law consists in God’s commandments to Man. You must do. Or else. Do or die.
The gospel is something God in Christ does. We receive the gospel by faith.
The law is something we are required to do. The law is not of faith.
The gospel saves. The law condemns. That is what God in His word says.
Listen to how Martin Luther summarizes this.
The law is divine and holy. Let the law have his glory, but yet no law, be it never so divine and holy, ought to teach me that I am justified, and shall live through it. I grant it may teach me that I ought to love God and my neighbor; also to live in chastity, soberness, patience, etc., but it ought not to show me, how I should be delivered from sin, the devil, death, and hell.
Here I must take counsel of the gospel. I must hearken to the gospel, which teaches me, not what I ought to do, (for that is the proper office of the law,) but what Jesus Christ the Son of God hath done for me : to wit, that He suffered and died to deliver me from sin and death. The gospel wills me to receive this, and to believe it. And this is the truth of the gospel. It is also the principal article of all Christian doctrine, wherein the knowledge of all godliness consists.
Most necessary it is, therefore, that we should know this article well, teach it unto others, and beat it into their heads continually. (Martin Luther, St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians)
The law is not the gospel.
Let’s look at some of these distinctions in greater detail.
Galatians 3:16. Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as referring to many, but rather to one, “And to your seed,” that is, Christ.
The nature of this gospel covenant is a divine promise that God made to Abraham. God said to Abraham in your “Seed” all the families of the earth shall be blessed. (Gen.17:7, 22:18)
Paul goes on to point out that the seed is singular and not seeds plural. That is to say, the Savior Messiah is one Man. We are told that the descendant Seed of Abraham is Christ Jesus. (Jn.8:56, Heb.11:13-19)
This is very important for us. Remember Paul is making a distinction between the gospel that saves us from our law-breaking or our sinning and the law which regulates our moral life, inward and outward and then pronounces curses upon the breach of the law.
The law is just that, laws, regulations, strictures, rules, commandments.
But the good news of the gospel is bound up not in rules and regulations and teachings but rather in a Person, the Person of Christ Jesus.
John 14:1. Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. 2 “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. 3 “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. 4 “And you know the way where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.
A few things here. First, we see that the law and the gospel are distinct. There is a modern writer that says, for all unbelievers all of the Bible is law and for all Believers all of the Bible is gospel. Beloved, that is wrong. Wrong according to the Bible. If that were true that would nullify Paul’s comparison and contrast. Paul is true. The modern fellow is false. Let’s be Bereans and stick to the Bible.
Next, I want you to think of something. The Bible speaks of God seeing all of humanity in one of two men, either in Adam or in Christ as the Second Adam. We are “in” Adam by virtue of our physical birth. He failed before God. He sinned against God. Therefore God imputed Adam’s guilty sentence to all those that descended from him via ordinary generation. (Rom.5:12-21, I Cor.15:21-22)
However, the Good News is by our spiritual re-birth God sees us in Christ. (2 Cor.5:17, Jn.3:1-9)
Beloved, we need to take great care what we present to other people as the good news of salvation. We can unwittingly give them law instead of gospel. We can say, oh well, keep the sermon on the mount or keep the Beatitudes and you will be saved. Beloved, that is the law, not the gospel. We can say, wear your hair like this, wear your clothes like this, do this, don’t do that. Beloved that is law not gospel. Gospel is what Christ does. We are saved by His law keeping and not our own.
Also, let us make sure that we are not presenting secondary and tertiary Biblical doctrines in the place of the primary truth of Scripture, which is the gospel of salvation. For example, if you hold to psalmody-only view for worship music don’t make that your “gospel”.
Last, God is teaching us that there is only one gospel and one savior – Savior Christ. He alone is the way, the truth and the life. There are no other Saviors.
The law does not augment the gospel.
Now Paul will go on to say, the gospel promise came long before the law was codified, therefore you cannot add the law to the gospel, which is of course what the Judaizers were guilty of. (Acts 15:1-5)
Galatians 3:15. Brethren, I speak in terms of human relations: even though it is only a man’s covenant, yet when it has been ratified, no one sets it aside or adds conditions to it.
Paul here is showing why you cannot add works of the Law to the gospel of Jesus Christ. You remember that Christ often taught by using parables which are spiritual truths taught by familiar earthly figures. In a similar way, Paul appeals to everyday covenants or compacts or agreements.
Once you have an official covenant or contract you cannot later add and subtract to it at will. Think of your mortgage contract. Once it is in force you cannot alter it. Well, like that Paul says, you cannot just start altering the gospel covenant. God established it and man has not right to tamper with it.
Galatians 3:17. What I am saying is this: the Law, which came four hundred and thirty years later, does not invalidate a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise.
Hebrews 9:13. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? 15 For this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that, since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. 16 For where a covenant is, there must of necessity be the death of the one who made it. 17 For a covenant is valid only when men are dead, for it is never in force while the one who made it lives.
Christian theologians and Christian people used to say that the marriage covenant was inviolable and immutable. Meaning you could not violate it such that it would break, and it was also unchangeable. That was reflected in the for better or for worse and till death do us part.
Whatever the case is now with marriage among Christians is a source of debate, but there is no debate with the gospel covenant. At least not as far as God is concerned.
Once God made the promise to send the Seed of the woman, the Seed of Abraham, the Seed of David, His own beloved Son Christ Jesus to seek and to save sinners that is exactly what is going to happen. The gospel promise is immutable, you cannot add law to It.
This covenant of grace, this gospel covenant assures all who believe in Christ that their salvation is certain. You see, if you say, part of your salvation is based on works, then you can never be certain. Then you must live and die in doubt that you have done enough or well enough. Certainly rests only in God’s covenant promise in Christ.
Now Paul emphasizes that our salvation is by inheriting God’s gracious gift and not by our own doing. Inheriting something is by the gift of another and not by earning. Abraham and all true OT saints were looking to inherit the eternal heavenly Promised Land – by faith in Christ. (Heb.11:1-40) Inheritance teaches us that we have salvation not by our doing, but by Another’s gifting.
Galatians 3:18. For if the inheritance is based on law, it is no longer based on a promise; but God has granted it to Abraham by means of a promise. (Gal.3:29)
Romans 4:14. For if those who are of the Law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise is nullified; 15 for the Law brings about wrath, but where there is no law, there also is no violation. 16 For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all,
The law points us to the gospel.
Now the apostle Paul is going to show us why God codified the moral law on Mount Sinai.
Galatians 3:19. Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator, until the seed would come to whom the promise had been made. 20 Now a mediator is not for one party only; whereas God is only one. 21 Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God? May it never be! For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law.
You see Paul is aware by making this sharp contrast between the law and the gospel on salvation or on justification that people might misunderstand him. Those who truly preach the gospel of pure grace will be open to the charge of being anti-law, or libertines, or antinomians.
This is a common objection to salvation by pure grace by legalists. Oh, if you are justified or saved simply by belief in Christ and not by your own good works, then you are encouraging men to live in their sin.
Acts 21: 27. When the seven days were almost over, the Jews from Asia, upon seeing him in the temple, began to stir up all the crowd and laid hands on him, 28 crying out, “Men of Israel, come to our aid! This is the man who preaches to all men everywhere against our people and the Law and this place; and besides he has even brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place.”
Romans 6:1. What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? 2 May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6 knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; 7 for he who has died is freed from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, 9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him.
See the question he poses. Is the Law contrary to the (gospel) promises of God? No.
The law does not save. The law is not the gospel. But that does not mean that the law is useless. No, on the contrary, the law is necessary and very useful in relationship to the gospel, or our reception of the gospel.
Galatians 3:22. But the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. 23 But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. 24 Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.
The moral law has three uses. Paul mentions just one use (the tutorial use).
The first use of the moral law is that it restrains sin and evil in society as a whole.
It does this by threatening temporal and eternal punishments to those that break the law. For example, the law says that murderers are worthy of death. And the state is to put to death murderers. Do not steal. Or else.
Thus, the threats of the broken moral law constrain fallen man with the fear of death. (Dt.13:6-11, 19:16-21, Rom.13:1-4) The law restrains and punishes. It does not justify.
The second use of the moral law is what Paul has in view. The moral law acts as a tutor to show us our need of Christ in the gospel. (Rom.3:20, 4:15, 5:13-20, 7:7-11, Gal.3:19-24, WLC 95-96)
The law shows us what sin is. (I Jn.3:4, Rom.5:20) God has made the Law for this purpose. God did not give the law to give life. The law cannot save. But that does not mean the law is useless. Spurgeon says, just because gold is not food does not mean either one is useless. They must be seen and used rightly. So, it is with the law and the gospel.
Romans 8:3. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Rom 8:2-4 NAU)
You see Beloved, for Paul the preaching of the law of God is very necessary for the right preaching of the gospel of God. Luther says that the law of God is His hammer, his fire, accusing us for our sin. (Jer.23:29)
Without preaching the law of God people will not know that they are law breakers, they will not know the divine penalty for their sins. Therefore, they will not see their need of Jesus Christ.
This is a major problem with the Christian church today. We are afraid to preach the Law of God. Therefore, we present a gospel of Christ that has no reference to His satisfaction of the Law and thus the wrath of God. (Rom.3:20, 4:15, 7:7) Many people believe in a form of Christ without seeing their need of a Savior Sin-Bearing Christ.
Beloved, Christ has come to seek and to save – sinners. (Mt.20:12-16) Christ has not come for the righteous. He has not come for good people. Good people do not need Jesus. Only sinners do. The Scripture says everyone is a sinner. (Gal.3:22, Rom.3:9-18)
You see Christ did not come to abolish the Law. Christ came to fulfill the law. Christ came to satisfy all the demands of the law – for us. Therefore, as believers in Him, the Law no longer has any legal claim against us. Its claim has been satisfied in Jesus for us. (Rom.7:1-3)
But by simple faith in Christ – we are now sons and daughters of Abraham. In Christ we are the people of God. In Christ we are God’s beloved holy sons and daughters. (Jn.1:10-13)
Galatians 3:25. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. 26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise. (Eph.2:12-22)
The third use of the law is for the converted Christian is that the law now acts as a rule or a guide to show us what pleases and displeases our Lord. (Eph.2:10, Mt.28:20, Jn.14:15, Rom.6:14, 7:4-6, I Cor.9:20-21, Gal.2:15-19, Gal.3:25, Gal.6:2, WLC 97)
Think of the Beatitudes. (Mt.5:1-12) Christ shows us the normative life of those that truly love Christ.
Let me conclude with this quote by Samuel Bolton (The True Bounds of Christian Freedom):
We cry down the law in respect of justification, but we set it up as a rule of sanctification. The law sends us to the Gospel that we may be justified; and the Gospel sends us to the law again to inquire what is our duty as those who are justified.