THE DOCTRINE OF
THE LAW AND THE PROMISES
In the third chapter of Galatians, the Apostle Paul clarifies the doctrine of Justification by Faith, by calling our attention to the fact that we are justified through faith in Godís promise, rather than through keeping the law. Beginning with the fact that faith in God's promise was imputed to Abraham for righteousness, he tells us that the promise Abraham believed was the gospel (verse 8). He then explains that as Abraham was justified through faith in Godís promise, all who trust in Christ are justified through faith in Godís promise (verse 22).
THE LAW AND THE PROMISES
6 ∂ Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.
7 Realize therefore that those who trust in Christ, are the children of Abraham.
8 And the scripture, having foreseen that God would justify the heathen through faith, proclaimed the gospel to Abraham in advance, saying, In you shall all nations be blessed.
9 So then those who are of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.
[Comment: In verse six Paul reminds us that faith was imputed to Abraham for righteousness. In verse seven we are told that all who share that faith are the spiritual children of Abraham. And, in verse eight we are told that the faith being spoken of is the same faith by which we are justified, namely faith in the gospel (the good news of forgiveness in Christ).]
10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one who does not continue to do everything that is written in the book of the law.
11 But it is clear that that no man is justified in the sight of God by the law: for, The just shall live by faith.
12 However the law has nothing to do with faith: for it says, The man who does these things will live by them.
[Comment: In verses 10-11 Paul emphasizes the fact the law can never make us just or righteous in the sight of God (see Romans 3:19-20). In verse twelve he then makes it clear that faith is not another requirement in addition to the law, but has nothing to do with the law. (Verse six defines faith as believing Godís gospel promise. See Romans 10:17.)]
13 Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one who hangs on a tree:
14 That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
[Comment: In these verses Paul first refers to the fact that Christ took the curse of our sin on Himself, and then tells us that He died in our place so that the blessing of forgiveness given to Abraham might be extended to the gentiles, and that all who believe might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.]
15 Brethren, what I am saying happens in everyday life; Even if a covenant is but a human agreement, once it is enacted, no man sets it aside, or adds to it.
16 Now the promises were made to Abraham and his seed. God did not say, And to your seeds, as referring to many; but, And to your seed, referring to one which is Christ.
17 My point is this, the covenant concerning faith in Christ, that was confirmed by God at the time of Abraham, cannot be nullified by the law, which came four hundred and thirty years later, so as to make the promise of no effect.
[Comment: In these verses Paul uses the fact that once an agreement (covenant) has been made it is final, to illustrate the fact that Godís covenant with Abraham was not nullified by the law (which came 430 years later). In verse 16 God himself tells us that Christ is the "seed" mentioned in His promise to Abraham.]
[Concerning verse 17: Since the law did not change the covenant that God gave to Abraham, forgiveness has always been through faith in Godís promise of forgiveness in Christ. Therefore, any promise of forgiveness connected with the law (animal sacrifice) was a promise of forgiveness in Christ. Likewise, any promise of forgiveness that God has connected with baptism is a promise of forgiveness in Christ. And, that forgiveness comes to us the same way it came to Abraham, namely, through believing Godís promise of forgiveness in Christ. (2Corinthians 1:21, Acts 10:43, Hosea 6:6, Matthew 12:7, Acts 22:16, Psalm 13:5)]
19 ∂ What then is the purpose of the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the seed to whom the promise referred had come; and it was put into force by angels in the hand of a mediator.
21 Is the law then against the promises of God? Absolutely not: for if there had been a law given that could have given life, righteousness truly would have been by the law.
[Comment: In verse 19 Paul tells us that the law was only added until Christ should come. In verse 21 he explains that if anyone could get to heaven through their own innocence God would never have sent Christ to die on the cross. And, verse 22 summarizes what Paul explained more fully in Romans 3:10-28, while making it clear that what God has promised can only become ours through faith in Jesus Christ.]
[Note: Verse 8 defines Abrahamís faith in Godís promise as faith in the gospel (no other faith would justify). And, (as verse 22 points out) because Godís promises are gospel, what is promised can only be received through faith in Christ. Our faith is faith in what the Bible says, and more specifically faith in God's promise of forgiveness in Christ (Romans 10:17).]
23 But before faith came, we were imprisoned by the law, kept under guard for the faith that would later be revealed.
24 Therefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.
25 But after faith has come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.
[Comment: These verses explain that the purpose of the law was to show us our sin and need of forgiveness in Christ. However, we no longer need to live under the constant threat of the law, for we are all the children of God through faith in Christ Jesus.]
[Note: This chapter makes it clear that throughout history, there has only been one way in which God has imparted His grace to men, and that is through faith in His promise of forgiveness in Christ. Baptism and the Lordís Supper (like preaching) are only tools that God uses to give us that promise. "Therefore, we may say that there is but one means by which the knowledge of grace and salvation, and grace and salvation itself, are imparted to us; it is the Gospel, the glad tidings of the grace of God in Christ Jesus." ("A Summary of Christian Doctrine", by Edward W. A. Koehler, page 189.)]
The doctrine set forth in these verses clarifies what the Bible says about Justification by Faith, while defining faith not only as faith in a promise, but more specifically as faith in God's promise of forgiveness in Christ (verse 22). Although our society tends to place esoteric meanings on the word "faith," the only faith that brings Godís blessing is faith in Christ. For that reason, each promise given to us in Scripture must be understood in the light of its relationship to Christ. For example; Abrahamís faith in Godís promise was only counted as righteousness because his confidence in that promise was faith in Christ [no other faith would justify] (Galatians 3:6&16, Romans 4:5).
Gary Ray Branscome