Grace

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.

~ Galatians 5:13-15

In yesterday’s post, Paul was describing how important it is that we not intermingle works with grace. Why is that important? We were not called to be under the yoke of the law, but we were called to freedom in Christ. This freedom scares many Christians because we are born with an innate desire for legalism. We like to know rules and we feel comfortable when we know how far we can go before we are in danger of trouble. The free grace of Christ and God’s commitment to holding us tightly to Himself allows us to live free from even the laws we place on ourselves. The ESV Study Bible puts it this way – “Far from the Christian life being enslaving, it is the only way to resist the various slaveries offered by the world.” In Christ we find our everything – our peace, our satisfaction, our joy, our love – so that we don’t have to settle for the cheap knock-offs that the world provides.

What does that look like? If it’s not sin for me, I am free to drink in moderation to the glory of God. By a sin I mean it is your idol – your god that controls you and you are unable to stop drinking. Then it becomes a sin. In the same way, we are free to partake in worldly exercises like watching TV as long as we do it to the glory of God and watch to keep ourselves free from sin. We must not flaunt this freedom, however, before those who, for the sake of their conscience, do not partake in these things. For instance, if you have a friend who was an alcoholic, don’t offer him a beer, and don’t drink one in front of him. He may see this and believe that if it’s alright for you then it’s alright for him and he would fall back into sin. This principle can also be applied to anything where you are likely to sin or to find yourself unable to keep from sinning. Strip clubs? Yeah, we have freedom but not THAT much freedom.

We cannot allow ourselves to break God’s eternal moral laws while exercising our freedom in Christ. As Paul states, our goal is love and not division, and we do not want to lead our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ into sin. We, as Christians, live in service to one another and if we are not being good servants of one another then we are mocking the God who died in our place to save us from our sins. Division feeds on pride and once it starts growing it’s hard to put a stop to it. Seek, therefore, to live peaceably with one another, promoting love first and devoting yourself to seeking Christ. What does THAT look like? We’ll read more on that tomorrow.

You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view than mine, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is. But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!

~ Galatians 5:7-12

The Christians in the region of Galatia were living obedient and fruitful lives when Paul last left them. Just like in the lives of every Christian, there were stumbles and mistakes, but all in all they were doing well. Paul recognizes this and asks them who it was who stopped them in their path. This is, of course, rhetorical, but he is making an important point here – anyone who dissuades you from following Christ or who offers a different path outside of what the Bible teaches, is of the devil.

Paul now uses Jesus’ example (Mark 16:6, 11-12; Mark 8:15; Luke 12:1) with “leaven” (yeast) and bread. In this day and age, everyone made their own food. While there were some shops around, it wasn’t like today where you could head down to the Claudius-Mart and pick up a loaf of bread. Most people used a local oven that everyone shared and made their bread daily. This description was not lost on them – when you add yeast to dough, you only need to add a little bit and it will expand and permeate the whole loaf, changing its shape, elasticity, smell, everything. In the same way, a little sin or a little compromise will slowly work their way in and drastically transform your theology.

Is there cause to be worried? Paul doesn’t think so – he states that he is confident that God will only allow this distraction to stick around for a little time, but that the one who caused them to go astray will not go unpunished. He then reveals to them the problem with that “little compromise” of combining the free grace of God through Christ with the works of the Mosaic law in that he is willing to suffer, even to death to defend their separation. The gospel swings on Christ’s sacrifice for our sake being the only thing necessary for our salvation because if we were able to redeem ourselves, then there is no reason that Jesus should have to die in our place. Paul feels so strongly that he pushes it even more by stating that he wished that those who sought to have the Gentile Christians would do the same to themselves, but go all the way. He clearly has strong feelings about this subject.

Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.

~ Galatians 5:2-6

Finally content with his explanation, Paul makes it very plain to the Galatian believers – if you accept circumcision, and as a result, place yourself under the yoke of the law, you are “falling away” from your initial conviction to Christ and are instead abandoning your trust in Jesus to save you and are placing the responsibility for your salvation on your own shoulders. This is the most terrifying piece of scripture that I have read in some time. On the surface, it states that people who are soundly saved can fall away from grace, and choose to leave the God who saved them so that they may pursue their own path of salvation. But, is that possible?

As we’ve read before, no. Paul, in his letter to the churches in Ephesus, states that, “God chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will” (Ephesians 1:4-5) and in his second letter to Timothy he proclaims, “God saved us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of His own purpose and grace, which He gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began” (2 Timothy 1:9). God, when He starts a good work in us (our conversion) is intent to see it through to its completion. We cannot simply walk away from our faith, not if we were truly set apart from before He spoke and the universe leapt into existence. We are chosen by God, set apart for salvation, and God will never abandon us, nor will He allow us to shipwreck our faith.

So, since it’s not the real Christians who are in danger here, who is it that Paul is talking to? Those who put on the veneer of Christian orthodoxy, but who, in heart, are merely pretenders. They are false converts who hold to the good news of God’s salvation for us so long as it appeals to their conscience and once a “better deal” comes along they jump ship and run to the next flashy thing. You know these people as pew warmers. Many become involved in their churches and some even attain the role of pastor or elder, yet they’ve never truly repented of their sins and trusted in Jesus alone for their salvation. Getting circumcised is, for them, just another religious duty for them and they’ll happily take on the legalism of the Mosaic law to appease their desire for religion. It’s for this reason that we are told to examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5). The apostle John, who knew and lived with Jesus, has provided an a great resource for us in 1 John 3:1-10. If this is a concern for you, I suggest reading that passage and seeing how you do. If you are truly saved God will not allow you to wander far, but it’s wise to investigate this as much as you can.

Paul then finishes this section by reminding us that it’s through the Holy Spirit, who lives in the hearts of those who are truly saved, by faith that we are pursuing righteousness, but apart from the law, because it is impossible this side of the veil of death. Our righteousness is in Christ, not in our own works, and anyone who abandons Christ to pursue it on their own is a fool. For those who are in Christ, nothing matters but our faith in Christ to bring salvation upon us and that, when it is within you, it produces love.

Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise. Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. For it is written,

“Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear;
break forth and cry aloud, you who are not in labor!
For the children of the desolate one will be more
than those of the one who has a husband.”

Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. But just as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now. But what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.” So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman.

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

~ Galatians 4:21-31; 5:1

Welcome to the Gospel as described in the Old Testament! Paul, still revealing to them the folly of placing themselves under the law again when they have finally been set from it, now explains to them the doctrine of election and what it means to be free from the law. In describing the two children of Abraham, he is able to reveal to them the impossibility of works to fulfill the promise of God and show how God’s plan of redemption brings complete freedom from the law.

Briefly, Abraham was promised that he would father a great nation. This promise was fulfilled both in physical children (the nation of Israel) and in spiritual children (obedient Jews and later Christians). The problem was that Abraham was impatient and, when his wife determined that she was now no longer able to bear children she asked that her husband (who was 86) would, uh, procreate with her young handmaiden. He reluctantly obliged and his wife’s handmaiden, named Hagar, bore him a son named Ishmael. See what happened here? They quit waiting on the Lord and instead acted on their own. So, Abraham finally created a child! This should be the child of promise, right? Nope! God tells him that Ishmael is not the child of promise, and that he will not take over the blessing (and carry the covenant) of Abraham. God does, however, bless Ishmael and he becomes the father of the Arab people who are still a mighty nation to this day.

About 13 years later, God visited with Abraham and reminded him of his promise to make him the father of a nation. His wife, now much older than before, laughed at the notion. God, on hearing he laugh, says that they must name their son “Isaac” which means “laughter”. 1 year later, God fulfills that promise and Sarah bears him a son.

See the difference here? Isaac is the child of PROMISE whereas Ishmael is the child of WORKS. Abraham’s wife believed that God would not make good on His promise to Abraham and therefore, by her own effort, sought to do the work that God had said that He would do. He does not, therefore, honor that act, but acts on His own at a time of His choosing to show that He is the one with the power over that situation. Carrying this further, Ishmael is the son of a slave and as a result is under slavery himself, whereas Isaac was born free as a child of the father. We, as Christians, are dead to the law and buried at our conversion (symbolized in the act of baptism) and we are born again as a child of the Spirit, free from our previous obligation to the law.

Given that information, Paul proclaims that, Jesus has set us free fro the yoke of slavery to the old ceremonial laws. We, as a new creation in Christ, are no longer bound to the law like Ishmael was, but we are free in Christ, like Isaac.

Brothers, I entreat you, become as I am, for I also have become as you are. You did me no wrong. You know it was because of a bodily ailment that I preached the gospel to you at first, and though my condition was a trial to you, you did not scorn or despise me, but received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus. What then has become of the blessing you felt? For I testify to you that, if possible, you would have gouged out your eyes and given them to me. Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth? They make much of you, but for no good purpose. They want to shut you out, that you may make much of them. It is always good to be made much of for a good purpose, and not only when I am present with you, my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you! I wish I could be present with you now and change my tone, for I am perplexed about you.

~ Galatians 4:12-20

Pastor Paul now reaches out the to Galatian believers based on their knowledge of him. He lived with them for quite some time and they all got to know him personally. As a result, they know from personal hands-on experience in living and working with him, the kind of man that he is. Paul speaks simply and clearly, “become as I am.” They know that he, though born and raised as a Jew, and as someone who lived under the strictest of the Jewish sects, now lives a life free from the boundaries present in the Mosaic law. Paul also makes an interesting claim here – that it was “because of a bodily ailment” that he had preached the gospel to them. There is much speculation as to what this entails, but it is fair to say that he had some sort of impairment that kept him from continuing on and, as a result, he took that opportunity to preach the gospel to them. It also seems as though they had to endure with him in this ailment but at the time none of them took that as a reason to mock him or belittle him and instead they received him as a man who loved them and wanted to preach the good news of Jesus Christ with them.

So, Paul asks, what happened since then? The people in the churches he planted there loved him very much, why do they suddenly turn against him? The Jewish officials who came through after Paul left told them that he had been lying to them or not telling them the whole truth, insisting that they had to follow the Mosaic laws and follow a modified form of Judaism. Paul, however, firmly defends his position and asks them if, by telling them the truth about God and the good news of Jesus Christ that he has become their enemy. These Jews, seeking their own glory in their pride, desire to create for themselves a group of people to follow their sect, to the exclusion of everyone else. Paul then explains to them that, while it’s good to be solely focused on a specific task or thing, that’s a good thing to seek but only when it’s done for a good purpose. In this case, he argues, they are not doing so and are instead sinning.

Paul finishes this section by asking them to consider their position. He loves them very much and is obviously in anguish over his tone with them. He’d like to break past this and to see them grow in the Lord but, as a result of the confusion that was brought in by these intruders, they are unable to get past this and he fears that he may need to come back and start his work all over again. This is the heart of a pastor who loves his church – Paul wants nothing more than to see Christ glorified through these people who he has labored over in love.

Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? You observe days and months and seasons and years! I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain.

~ Galatians 4:8-11

Paul is pleading with the Galatians here to seriously consider what they are considering. If they abandon the grace of God and adhere to the law again, they are not only abandoning their “sonship” with Jesus – and their adoption into the family of God, but are seeking after nothing shy of demonic practices. Put simply, any religious system that does not seek the God of the Bible is worshipping demons and false gods. God has made His stance very clear on this in the ten commandments, dedicating His first three commandments (the eternal moral laws) to protecting His name (how we refer to Him), His image (as in, don’t make anything to worship since God the Father is spirit, and not corporeal) and His preeminence in our lives:

“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

“You shall have no other gods before me.

“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

“You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.”

~ Exodus 20:2-7

How do we worship false gods? Simple! In fact, I’m pretty sure that most of you have done the same. Have you ever, before God saved you, read something in the Bible or heard something about God that you didn’t agree with and said to yourself, “nooo… that can’t be right! My god would never believe that!”. You, my friend, have just created a god in your own image. You rejected the God of the Bible and created one that met your personal needs. The problem here is that God will not be mocked and He has no tolerance for those who reject Him. That’s one of the things you can do when you’re God. See, He’s given us a book where He tells us about Himself and, because we’re prideful and prone to ignoring outside influence, we listen to what He says and reject it, substituting our own plan, or ideas, or theology. But God is who He claims to be.

Let’s say that you and I was in another country and you, because you were a close friend of mine, wrote me a letter every week detailing your life for me. You pour it all out and describe who you are and what your life is like and how you respond to things that happen to you. When I finally meet you, I call you by another name, tell all my friends lies about you that, if I read the letters you sent me I’d know to be untrue, but still said that I knew you personally because you had written to me about your life – what would you think about me? In the same way, when we reject the God of the Bible and insert our own theology, and then tell people that we are followers of that God we are lying about Him and deceiving many who listen to us.

So, how does that tie back into the text we have before us today? The Galatians were dangerously close to abandoning the gospel of Jesus Christ and laying themselves beneath the law, but still were calling themselves followers of Christ. Paul sees their dilemma and lays it out for them – they’re in danger of falling back into their own false religion and false system of legalism. He even openly states that he fears that he may have wasted his effort in trying to convert them to begin with.

Now, for those who are in Christ Jesus, truly saved and transformed, God will allow you to wander off the reservation a bit before bringing you back to Himself but once you are truly in Christ you are a new creation and God will not allow you to leave. That would insinuate that He was incapable of finishing a work that He started in you. But for those who are false converts – people who put on a front of Christian behavior yet who are not actually saved, they will eventually fall away. Therefore test yourself to be sure you are in the faith.

I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

~ Galatians 4:1-7

Seeking to expand the idea of Christians being free from the law, Paul now goes into detail about what he meant in that a slave who is adopted by his owner no longer is under the same obligation as he was before. As a slave, you are bound to do what you’re told, but as an adopted child, you have the freedom to do as you please. Practically, it works like this – Jews who are under the bounds of legalism inside of the law cannot eat pork or shellfish and are bound to do no work on the Sabbath. Those who are freed in Christ, however, are free from those limitations and can eat pork and shellfish, and since we find our rest in Christ (the Lord of the Sabbath), we are not under the same legal restrictions that they were. Granted, some laws remain, the moral laws, for instance, as well as those proclaimed to us in the New Testament (abstain from meat sacrificed to idols and sexual immorality) but that’s a far cry from the legalism that Jews experienced under the old covenant.

Paul explains that God chose to send His Son at a time of His choosing to live according to the law of God, in a manner that no one could do on their own, and as a result we are freed from the curse of that law. We are no longer bound to it, but freed from it by our rebirth in Christ who, through His adherence to it, and our relationship to Him, has fulfilled the law for us in our place. His fulfillment of the law, now that we are in Him and He in us, carries over to us and it no longer has any control over us.

I know this explanation is a little tired, but I think it may help here. Let’s say that you’re speeding along the road and, in your ignorance, you blow through an area that was set aside for a blind children’s convention. You’re pulled over and the officer says that he clocked you going 125 mph in a 25mph area and that you had endangered the lives of many special needs children. He takes you to jail and the next day you learn that the fine for doing so is $145,000 and if you can’t pay it then you’re looking at 30 years in prison. The only problem is that you don’t have any money at all. You’re busted, dead to rights, and there is no hope for you. The judge is about to drop his gavel and sentence you to prison when a man walks into the courtroom. You’ve never met him and you have no idea who he is but he runs up to the judge and whispers something into his ear. A moment later the gavel drops and the judge orders, “Release the man and take my son into custody!”. You’re shocked to hear that the man says that he knows who you are, despite the fact that you have no idea who he is, and he loves you so much that he’s offered to take your place. Justice is fulfilled and the law no longer has any hold over you.

This, while a weak example, describes why the law no longer has any hold over us as Christians. The difference is that the penalty for our sin is death and Jesus, as our substitute, took our place on the cross of suffering, was tortured, mocked, beaten, and eventually killed while taking our sin on Himself. When He died, He redeemed us and set us free from the bondage to the law – it no longer has any claim over us. More than that, as a result of His death in our place, and us trusting in Him alone for our salvation, we have His righteousness deposited into our account and we are adopted into the family of God. We, with the Holy Spirit living inside us, are able to call out to the Father and call the great, I AM, “Father”, and He will listen to us just as if we were His own Son.

Thus we are no longer a slave through the law, but a child of God, adopted through the blood of Jesus.

Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

~ Galatians 3:23-29

Saving faith is a gift of God through the work of the Holy Spirit. We know that God does not hear the prayer of the unrighteous (Proverbs 15:29; 28:9; John 9:31) which kind of refutes the idea of a “sinner’s prayer” providing salvation to someone, and we also know that the heart of man is deceitfully wicked (Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 3:23). We also know that no one seeks after God on their own (Romans 3:10-13), and that the an unrepentant sinner can’t even understand the things of God without His direct intervention (1 Corinthians 2:14), and that it’s God who has to call sinners to repentance, not men or by our own works (John 6:44). The biggest point here is that it’s impossible to please God without faith (Hebrews 11:6) as we must first believe that God exists and then have such a strong faith that we reject control of our lives and trust in Him alone for our salvation, as well as every other aspect of our lives.

All of that stated, if we have no faith in God to save us, we are damned under the curse of the law. Before Jesus came, the repentant Jew would trust in the promises of God and keep the civil and ceremonial laws. They had faith in God and not the law to save them. The law was merely a guardian, keeping us under control and acting as a watchful instructor who reminded us when we strayed that God’s standard was very high and that we should trust that God would provide a Savior for us.

Now that God’s chosen Savior has arrived, however, we are free from the curse of the law – we need that old guardian no more. In Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.” This statement defines the separation from believers under the old covenant and those under the new – we are no longer slaves to the old system of sacrifices, special offerings, etc but are adopted by God as sons and daughters through faith. How do you know this? It’s not necessarily your baptism that does this, but the baptism is a symbol of what you’ve already experienced in your life when you rejected the control of your former life (baptism symbolism: going under the water) and you are now reborn anew to live in Christ and He to live through you (baptism symbolism: rising from the water).

Now that we are a new creation, new people under a new covenant, serving an eternal King, what does that mean for us? We are all equals. How can we, who have been plucked from death and restored to new life, hold our own experience over anyone else’s? We can’t! Am I “more saved” than the person next to me? No! That’s absurd! Was I more deserving of salvation? The point of the gospel is that no one is deserving of salvation. Paul openly sought to see those who follow Christ murdered for the sake of religion, and now He is a shining example of God’s grace and mercy as he is used by God mightily to bring salvation to the Gentiles. Are you better than he? God doesn’t choose us based on our own merits, but by His own will and at His own time. There is no one who does good, no one who is righteous, and no one who pleases God. It is therefore God’s right to choose His own people from those who hate Him, to transform their lives, and to set them in a place of honor, along with everyone else who trusts in God alone for their salvation. That’s why he makes the claim here that there is no longer any distinction between anyone who is in Christ Jesus – all are equal before the throne of God.

Then he finishes with a startling claim (one that my dispensational brothers may have trouble with) – if we are in Christ, we are then the recipients of the covenant that God made with Abraham – and we are heirs along with Abraham’s *spiritual* descendants – and part of the true Israel. See the line here? Are you a genetic Jew? I know I’m not, but I am part of the true Israel, redeemed by God and set apart by faith in Christ Jesus. Is this replacement theology? I’d say not. Instead I see it as a continuation of God’s chosen people through the ages, consisting of everyone who, like Abraham, trusted in the living God alone for their salvation.

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. But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.

~ Galatians 3:21-22

Given that the law, which God has provided as a guide and cosmic measuring stick revealing our failures and proclaiming God’s standard of excellence, only can bring death since there is no salvation provided through it, is it then against the nature of God who has promised to provide salvation for those who trust in Him? Paul clearly answers – “Certainly not!

Let’s explore why we’re here for a minute. See, God, in the trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) all share with one another a sense of community. Each one loves and cares for one another in separate roles, yet all are God and all share the spirit of God. Now, before the creation of the universe, was God the Father ever able to share His attribute of long-suffering with the Son? Of course not, because Jesus, who IS God, is incapable of sinning, therefore God the Father could never share that with Him. Could the Holy Spirit share His attribute of knowledge or mercy on the Father? No! Because God the Father does not need these things in the pure community of the godhead. Lastly, could the Son impart on either the Father or the Holy Spirit mercy or grace? Why would He? Those are given to those who need it, not on those who are without need.

Therefore, we have a perfect Godhead, the Trinity, existing in eternity with no one to share these communicable attributes. What’s that? A communicable attribute is something that you can communicate with someone else – and God is chock-full of them: Knowledge, wisdom, goodness, general benevolence, love, grace, mercy, long-suffering, holiness, justice, righteousness, sovereign will and sovereign power. Most of these cannot be appropriately displayed on someone who has no need of them. In the same way that the gift of generosity is lost when someone who has very little gives to a king who has very much. If he has no need of it, it’s a wasted effort. God created us, therefore, to display these communicable attributes. We glorify God (not that we impart glory to Him, but rather reflect His own glory back to Him since we, in our selves, have no glory) by acknowledging Him and everything He has done. God imparts to us, love, knowledge, wisdom, general benevolence. When we sin, which God knew we would do, He enables us to receive His attributes of grace, love, and mercy when we recognize our own separation from Him in comparison to His righteousness. In all things, whether we comply or not, we are under the attributes of His sovereignty and our lives, this planet, and the whole universe are at the whim of His sovereign power and will.

See how this works? Now, in God’s mercy He has provided a path to salvation through His Son who was promised to our mother Eve. The path? Trust in God for your salvation. He provided for us a sacrificial system that pointed to the coming sacrifice of the Son. This was meant to remind us of our sin and to point us back to God. God provided His law for us, not as a method of salvation, but as I mentioned before, as a guide and cosmic measuring stick that revealed our own inadequacies before the perfect moral standard of God. This too was meant as a gracious gift as it keeps us focused on Him alone for our salvation. See, if it were merely by maintaining a set of rules that we could attain salvation from God, He would have provided that for us, but the often forgotten attribute of God’s justice and perfect holiness demands that all who break the moral laws of God must be punished. Jesus, became man in the flesh, so that He could live a perfect life that we could never live due to the Adamic curse, and died in our place, literally embodying the sin of those who would believe in Jesus and trust in Him alone for their salvation.

Therefore, there is none who can be saved by their own works, nor by following the commands of the law, but we are all saved by rejecting control of our lives, placing the reigns firmly in the hands of our Creator (thus rejecting the original Adamic sin) and trusting in Jesus work on our behalf for our salvation. This is most certainly not an act of obedience to a law, but an act of submission to our Creator in light of the law.

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. 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. 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. For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.
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. Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one.

~ Galatians 3:15-20

Pastor Paul, now brings it down a little and describes this exchange in a way they can better understand. With a contract that you or I would make, say for a mortgage or even a marriage, once it has been signed by all parties, it cannot be changed. This is the same with the covenant that God made with Abraham.

Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the LORD, who had appeared to him.

~ Genesis 12:7

See that? No plural, only singular – “Offspring“. Through the line of Abraham, through Isaac (Abraham’s second son, the child of promise) and through Isaac’s second born son, Jacob (by God’s sovereign choice), then a long line of individuals we have Mary who became the mother of Jesus Matthew 1:1-17. What Paul is describing here is the true recipient of the covenant that Abraham ratified with God and that recipient is Jesus, not his genetic descendants. Now, the law, which came through Moses on Sinai, was delivered to the people 430 years later and it cannot change the already standing covenant of grace.

A covenant of grace? What’s this? While this subject really deserves its own blog post (or series of posts) I will briefly (seriously) cover the separate covenants that that God has cut with man since the dawn of time. Covenants of grace are acts of God upon us whereas covenants of works are acts that we must adhere to or maintain for God to do something for us.

The first covenant is called the Adamic covenant and it is broken into two parts – the Edenic covenant (Genesis 1:26-30; 2:16-17) and the full Adamic Covenant (Genesis 3:16-19). The first explains our relationship with God in the garden of Eden: Man is created in God’s image, we have dominion over the earth and the animal kingdom, we are to reproduce and inhabit the whole earth, mankind is vegetarian, eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is bad. Next was the Adamic covenant which basically lays out our punishment that comes from Adam and Eve breaking the Edenic covenant. First we learn that Satan will constantly struggle with us, and that that we will have marital strife, the soil will be cursed so that it won’t automatically bring forth plants necessary to life and that there will be hard work necessary to live off of it. Thorns and thistles will cut our hands and ruin our clothes, we will struggle to survive, there will be pain in childbirth, and, most sucky of all, death will come for every living thing. Sounds fun, huh? This, however, is not a covenant of works, but is instead a covenant of grace because God promises in Genesis 3:15 to send a messiah who will free us from this life of toil and destruction. The implication is that our faith in God will deliver us from the consequence and guilt of our sins. See that? Sounds like the gospel, huh? That section of scripture is referred to as the “proto-gospel” or the “first gospel”.

Next we have the Noahic Covenant (Genesis 9:1-17) which is a covenant of grace as God promises not to flood the world again and he allows us to eat meat. Then we have the Abrahamic covenant (Genesis 12:1-9; 15) which is another covenant of grace. God promised to give him a land for his “offspring” which he will maintain forever, and that his “descendants” (spiritual descendants) would be innumerable. The next covenant is the Mosaic covenant (Exodus 19-24 where God codifies the 10 commandments and the sacrificial system. As a neat aside, as you read through the Pentateuch (1st 5 books in the Old Testament), you read that the sacrificial system was already in place as far back as Cain and Abel as a “covering” of their sins and not for forgiveness. Why? Because they were to trust in the promised Messiah to bring reconciliation between man and God. Next was the Davidic covenant (2 Samuel 7:5-16) where God enacts a covenant of grace whereby He promises to create for David a “house” and “kingdom” that will never end – that is fulfilled in David’s descendant – Jesus. Finally, the New covenant comes in (Jeremiah 31:31-34 as a covenant of grace where God promises to put His moral law (the 10 commandments) in our hearts (ingrained into our subconscious) and provide for the first time forgiveness from the guilt and consequence of our sins. God also promises to come and live with us, just as He lives in our lives now, but in the future we will live with Him bodily where we can worship Him forever. Who fulfills this one? Jesus!

Well, that was fun. See? Didn’t even use a whole post on it. Alright – back to the text! Our inheritance, not an inheritance of land, but one of salvation and a heavenly reward, does not come to us by the law. It comes through God promise through His covenant with Abraham – a covenant which cannot be annulled or changed. So, why do we have the law? Because we, like sheep, are stupid. We need laws, that is, until the New covenant was put into place. Jesus fulfilled the old Mosaic covenant and it is therefore dead and gone. No more temple sacrifices, no more priests, heck – no more temple. Jesus is our high priest, king, and savior. He fulfills all of the roles that the Mosaic law emulated through the civil, ceremonial, and moral law. The only things that carry forward are those that are restated in the New Testament. Jesus fulfilled the whole of the law so that we don’t have to, and by His life, death, and resurrection, we are freed from the curse that the law placed upon us.

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(e.g., John 1 or God's love)

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