Vol. 10 — No. 37 September 14, 1969
Brethren, I speak after the manner of men; Though it be but a man’s covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disannulleth, or addeth thereto. Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect. For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise. Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator. Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one. Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.
In Christ Jesus, who saves not by man’s doing but by His doing, not by man’s suffering but by His suffering, Fellow Redeemed:
Of all the questions that a person asks in the course of his lifetime the most important remains: “What must I do to be saved?” There are innumerable questions to be answered during one’s lifetime, but this is the question that determines our weal or woe, eternal blessedness or eternal suffering.
When we emphasize the importance of this question, we do so knowing that Satan, the prince of this world, has succeeded in convincing many, many people that this question is entirely irrelevant for modern man. How so? Satan, by his propaganda program, has convinced many that there is no life after death. If this were true, then the question of one’s eternal salvation would surely be irrelevant. What would be the sense of asking or worrying about heaven or hell if all ends the moment life here comes to an end in death?
Satan gains the mastery over others by convincing them that since God is love, no one needs to concern himself about the question of salvation because the God of love can surely damn no one. So everyone can live this 1ife to the full, responding to every whim and desire of his flesh without fear of any consequences in the world to come. This bitter-sweet delusion closes the eyes of countless thousands to the importance of the question of eternal salvation.
All of us, without exception, are exposed to the sometimes coarse and sometimes subtle currents of Satan’s propaganda, which is always directed toward making the question of “What comes after death?” seem unimportant. But we have no excuse for being deceived. We know that “it is appointed unto man once to die, but after this the judgment.” (Heb. 9:27) We know that the question of eternal salvation has always been the chief question in the lives of children of God.
Satan also knows this. Whenever and wherever Satan fails in making the question of eternal salvation unimportant, there he devotes his guile add his energy to making people accept a wrong answer to the question of being saved. It was against this tactic of Satan’s that St. Paul was contending when he wrote the letter to the Galatians. He had proclaimed the one and only correct answer—salvation by grace through faith in Christ Jesus. But there had followed in his footsteps false teachers who preached a variation, a formula of faith in Christ plus keeping certain works of the law as the way to life. This error Paul exposed and combated in this letter. It is an error that Christians of every and any age are exposed to. Always and again it asks the question and suggests an alternative answer to that question? namely—
As we break into Paul’s letter in the midst of the third chapter we find first—
In a spirit of warmth and love Paul addressed the Galatian Christians: “Brethren, I speak after the manner of man; Though it be but a man’s covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disannulleth, or addeth thereto.” As long as a man is living he is free to and has the perfect right to alter his last will and testament. He can add codicils or cancel one or the other sections of his testament. He can tear it up and write an entirely new testament. This is a common custom among all civilized nations on earth. But once the testator has died and the will is established in court or is probated, then the same custom and law prevails that no further codicils can be added and no sections removed. The testament stands and the terms of the testator must be honored. This common custom in all civilized societies Paul applied to the question of how a man is saved eternally. And so he proceeded next to—
Paul wrote: “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. And this I say, that the covenant—or testament—that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect. For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise.”
Now let us retrace our steps and be sure that we grasp the argument of Paul. Remember that he began with the commonly accepted truth that a testament made, established, and probated stands. If this is true of man’s dealing with his fellowman, then it is also true of God’s dealing with man. What had God done? He had given a promise to father Abraham. That was God’s covenant or testament made with Abraham and with his seed, which is a collective noun for Abraham’s descendants. But now notice how Paul stresses the singular form of the word “seed.” “To Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.” In Abraham and in his seed all the nations should be blessed. The land of Canaan, which was symbolic of the heavenly Canaan, was given to Abraham and his seed. Abraham’s seed should be as the stars of the heaven. Always “seed”—-never “seeds.” Paul explains why this singular form of “seed” is always used, for that seed is Christ. Abraham would be a blessing for all nations on earth not because many Jews would be born upon this earth, but because one of them would be Christ the Savior. The land of Canaan and especially and chiefly what that land symbolized—heaven—would be the inheritance of Abraham’s “seed,” which is Christ and then those trusting that Christ for salvation—namely, all believers, the spiritual children of Abraham.
This is the covenant or testament that God made with Abraham and repeated and confirmed to Isaac and Jacob. Of this covenant Paul wrote: “And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect.” Four hundred and thirty years was the time spent in Egypt after Abraham and Isaac and Jacob had died. For four and more centuries God’s testament of the promise in Christ had been in effect. Then came the giving of the law on Mt. Sinai. Certainly the law could not make the promise invalid. This is just what the false teachers were contending—that the law altered and so destroyed the testament that God had made with Abraham. Paul wrote: “If the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise.” The correlate of a promise is faith. Promises are either believed or rejected in unbelief. The correlate of law is works—doing what the law prescribes. Promise and law cancel each other out, just as do faith and works. The false teachers were proclaiming just this—that the law cancelled out the promise. But Paul reminded his readers of the historic record: “God gave it (salvation, the heavenly Canaan, life) by promise.” This is a fact of history which is decisive in answering the question: “How saved?” Not by the law through works and merit, but by the promise through grace and faith!
After applying this common custom and understanding among men, that a probated testament stands, to the historic situation and showing that God gave the answer to the question of salvation in the form of a promise to Abraham centuries before the law was given through Moses, Paul continued by writing of—
Paul had discounted the law in relation to the promise as far as the question of salvation is concerned. But the law was still God’s law. There must have been a reason why God gave it. Paul asked the question: “Wherefore then serveth the law?” What’s the function and purpose of the law? Why did God give it? “It was added because of transgressions.” It wasn’t added to provide an answer to the question of salvation, for the answer to that question had already been given in the promise of the Savior. The law was added because of transgressions—to expose sin as just that: transgression or steppings over of the boundary lines that God had set for man’s behavior and conduct on earth. The inferiority of the law to the promise is now stressed: It was temporary—“till the seed should come to whom the promise was made.” Think, for example, of the Old Testament Sabbath, established by the third commandment of the law. It was a temporary measure, and meant as such from the beginning. The day of rest pointed to the Restbringer. It served as a shadow of that perfect rest which Christ brought with Him and achieved through His holy life and innocent suffering and death. With the completion of Christ’s work the Sabbath fell, as did all the law. The law can no longer demand, accuse, condemn, for all its demands have been satisfied by Christ and all its penalties suffered.
The law, furthermore, “was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.” Paul is referring to the scene on Mt. Sinai. Angels accompanied the Lord of Hosts on Mt. Sinai. The people were terrified. They asked Moses to represent them with God. He served as the mediator between God and the people. The promise didn’t come through a mediator. God’s Son brought it personally to fulfillment by His coming in the flesh.
The question now arises as to whether God’s law conflicts with His promise: “Is the law then against the promises of God?” “Is one word of God in conflict with another word of God?” Paul answered emphatically: “God forbid!” Why not? “For if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law.” Paul is here proclaiming—
The law cannot give life because the law can only demand and keep on demanding and then follow up those demands by condemning those who do not fulfill its demands. Here is the impotency of the law: It demands but cannot supply the spiritual power necessary to fulfill its demands. So it can only condemn. So it is that “the letter killeth,” as Paul wrote elsewhere. Here Paul wrote, “But the scripture hath concluded all under sin.” The law exposes and condemns the entire human race as sinners—lost, condemned, doomed to eternal damnation.
Oh that Christian preachers and teachers and lay people would only see this clearly and believe it! Think of the church and people in our area who teach and believe that if you live according to a New Testament version of the Old Testament Sabbath, you will be a little closer to eternal life. Think of the churches and preachers and teachers who preach Christ and then undermine that preaching by adding rules and regulations regarding smoking, drinking, wearing make-up, dressing, courting, forms of entertainment, and so on and on. All these modern little law-makers—with the best of intentions—direct people away from Christ and always back to their own works, merits, efforts. Eternity will only reveal how many souls will be lost through this return to the law—which can only demand, accuse, condemn, damn, but which has never been able to produce life.
The law makes sinners of all men—“that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.” The way of one’s own doing is the way to hell. That is why God gave the promise, which was fulfilled in and by Jesus Christ. He is our Righteousness, our Sanctification, our Life. He can be embraced and His blessings received only by faith. “Nothing in my hand I bring, Simply to Thy cross I cling.” This is the way, and the only way to life. How saved? There is only one way—the way of the promise which is ours by grace through faith in Christ Jesus. Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the King James Version.