The law fulfilled! – Galatians 3:13-22
By Pastor Lee Hemen
July 24, 2016
There are those in our day and age who would have you do a lot of things in order to please God. Eat certain foods, read certain books, do an undetermined amount of penance or rituals in order to gain God’s grace. I have often stated that I believe it is often used to cement their own power or control over folks who allow their guilty conscious to dictate their faith instead of the facts of the gospel narrative. When we do this we begin to wonder if we have done enough in order for God to like us let alone love us.
Paul wanted his fellow Galatians to fully understand that their holding onto an old way of life simply because it assuaged their guilt was foolish. In fact they were placing themselves back under a curse instead of being free in their faith in Jesus alone! The no longer meant anything for those who had placed their faith and trust in the one who meant all the requirements of the contract of God. Let’s discover for ourselves this morning how the law was fulfilled.
I remember when I was younger there was an old grouchy man, who was probably the same age I am now, who used to come out of his house and yell at us for walking across his yard. He lived on the corner and I used to think he laid in wait to jump out and curse us for doing so. However, the curse Paul related to was the curse of the Law of Moses and he tells the Galatians that…
I. We are redeemed from the Law’s curse! (Vv. 13-14)
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.
1. Here we discover that Paul uses legal terms in talking about the Law of Moses. The reason was obvious for Paul and any of his fellow Hebrews; the Law of Moses was a contract between God and his people! And we discover Paul reminds us that “Christ redeemed us from the law by becoming a curse for us”! We are redeemed from the Law’s curse because of Jesus! The curse was the fact that no one could keep the law and would therefore be guilty all the time in breaking it! James, Jesus’ half brother would write, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.”(James 2:10 NIV) Yet Jesus took the curse (guilt) upon himself “for it is written” Paul related that “cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree”; the “tree” here refers to the cross Jesus was nailed to. The Jews considered anyone who was crucified as “cursed” or guilty because of this and deserved what they got. Why then would God decide to come as Jesus and take this curse? Paul reasoned that Jesus did this “in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles (all of us) through Christ (Messiah) Jesus”! “The positive side of Paul’s argument emphasized that there is hope for all who have broken the Law and are therefore under its curse. That hope is not in man but in Christ who redeemed us from the curse of the Law.” (Bible Knowledge Commentary) What the Hebrews could only hope for and what David had longed for now came by faith “so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.” The contract of God was paid for and the guilt taken away by the promise of Jesus. The Holy Spirit in the lives of those who believe proves we are sealed in Jesus our Redeemer! We are redeemed from the Law’s curse!
EXAMPLE: Money is a necessary part of life. Without it, we couldn’t secure the necessities or luxuries of life. But there are things money can never buy. Money can buy things but it cannot buy the presence of God. Money can be used to bribe one’s way into political and preferential treatment but it will not buy the respect of God. Money can buy phony accolades and grease the palms of the corruptible but not one’s way into heaven. Money is used to redeem its worth for goods and services and is a promise of payment. The Law of Moses could make one feel better for a period of time but it could never redeem one from their sins. It could never make one holy before the Lord, but Jesus could and did pay the debt we could never pay through his redeeming death on the cross! We are redeemed from the Law’s curse!
My father hated it when one of us kids lied. For him lying was one of the worst things a person could do. In fact, when he said he would do something, he would try his hardest to get it done. That is what a promise is all about and when it comes to the promise of God, it truly means something. The law was simply a shadow of things to come and God had promised something far greater. Paul relates…
II. Jesus is the Promise we need! (Vv. 15-18)
Brothers, let me take an example from everyday life. Just as no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case. The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,” meaning one person, who is Christ. What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise. For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on a promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise.
1. Paul’s opponents might argue that Abraham was indeed justified by faith, however, the Judaizers would then argue that the Mosaic Law which was later entirely changed the basis for achieving salvation. So Paul related, “Brothers, let me take an example from everyday life: Just as no one can set aside or add to a human covenant (contract) that has been duly established, so it is in this case.” Just as a properly executed contract was legal and binding, so are the promises of God! God made a contract with Abraham and these “promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed”, Paul patently wrote them. He then explains what he means by using the term “seed”. “The Scripture does not say ‘and to seeds,’ meaning many people, but ‘and to your seed,’ meaning one person, who is Christ”, meaning the Messiah. Was Paul using semantics in his argument? Yes he was because what he meant was that “The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant (contract) previously established by God and thus do away with the promise.” The Law of Moses was a contract which promised the Messiah would come through him; he would be Abraham’s “seed”, his inheritance, his future promise fulfilled! And like any seed that is planted (promised) it bears fruit. In this case, Jesus Christ! So Paul rightly argues that “if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on a promise; but in his grace (God) gave it to Abraham through a promise”! And God’s promise is as good as and therefore even more binding than any legal contract because it was done by God’s grace! Jesus is the Promise we need!
EXAMPLE: It is that time of the year when politicians promise the moon and forget them as soon as the ballots are cast. I find it truly depressing that we hear the same tired promises and things never change. This is why so many have supported candidates who are outside of the mainstream. They are tired of hearing the same tired promises without seeing anything getting done. Instead of one proclaiming “I’m with her!” perhaps it would be better to hear, “I’m for you!” I do know one thing for certain; nothing will change until people change. Like Paul I believe Jesus is the Promise we need!
Some concepts are tough for people to understand and they just do not seem to get them. What happens if you break the law? You will be punished for it, unless you’re like some modern politicians, then you can run for President! Paul gives his readers a lesson in exactly why the law of God was given to Moses in the first place and he should know, he was a legal scholar! He relates that…
III. Our faith is the promise of the law fulfilled! (Vv. 19-22)
What, then, was the purpose of the law? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was put into effect through angels by a mediator. A mediator, however, does not represent just one party; but God is one. Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law. But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.
1. Like a good school teacher Paul then asks his readers a question they would have to try and find the answer for, “What, then, was the purpose of the law?” For those who continually skirt the law or break the law they would tell you it was there to make their lives miserable. But Paul is speaking about the Law of Moses handed to him by God himself. He answers that “It was added because of transgressions (our sins) until the Seed (Jesus) to whom the promise referred had come.” We needed the law to show us just how horrible sin was and to show us how impossible it was for us to live holy lives! Add to his that the law was inferior because of the way it was given! “The law was put into effect through angels by a mediator.” Angel here does not mean heavenly beings but rather God himself and the earthly messenger Moses! In continuing his legal lesson Paul reminds us that “the mediator (the contract), however, does not represent just one party; but God is one.” Contracts or covenants always represent several parties and here it was God and mankind! The Judaizers would argue that God gave Moses the law and that was all there was to it, but Paul knew what they knew. Namely no one could keep the entire law and that in fact God did not give it to us to save us! So Paul asks, “Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law.” And the final answer for Paul was that “the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.” Paul knew that “Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.” Our faith is the promise of the law fulfilled!
EXAMPLE: Recently we panted vegetables in our garden. Every day we go out to see if the seeds we planted are growing and producing a crop. The beans we planted were supposed to be bush beans but came up pole beans instead. So you cannot even trust the packets the seeds came in! The Law of Moses was merely a seed of what would come to fruition in Jesus. God’s Law was a contract that he would never break, but he would fulfill it and he did in Jesus! What the Law could never do Jesus did and the promise was completed in him through our faith. Therefore our faith is the promise of the law fulfilled!
We are redeemed from the Law’s curse! Jesus is the Promise we need! Our faith is the promise of the law fulfilled!
This article is copyrighted © 2016 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.