Paul argues the Law, which was a deal, does not nullify the promise given to Abraham. In a deal, two parties agree to certain obligations. But a promise is made by one party unconditionally.
Chapter 1: Paul introduced the two of his major themes: 1) his apostolic authority and, 2) the gospel of justification by faith alone. Paul claimed you can recognize the true gospel by its substance (grace based on the cross of Jesus Christ); its source (divine revelation).
Chapter 2: Paul argued that the gospel he preaches is not man-made, but he received it through revelation from Jesus Christ. He reviewed his biography to prove that he had no chance to learn the gospel from the other human beings. Yet the other apostles confirmed he preached the same gospel.
In Galatians 3:1-4:31, the apostle details five persuasive arguments for justification by faith alone.
- 3:2-5—argues from experience
- 3:6-14—argues Scripture confirms experience
- 3:15-22—appeals to common sense
- 3:23-4:11 explains the purpose of the Law
- 4:12-20—argues from his relationship to them
- 4:21-31—uses a story from biblical history as an illustration
15To give a human example, brothers: even with a man-made covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been ratified. 16Now 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. 17This 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. 18For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise. -Galatians 3:15-18
- 3:15-18—Paul argues that the law, which is a deal, does not annual God’s promise to Abraham.
- 3:19-22—Paul asks and answers two questions: Why the Law (3:19)? Is the law contrary to the promises of God (3:21)?
- A deal requires at least two parties. Both parties agree to certain responsibilities and consequences for failure (e.g. contracts).
- A promise requires only one party. One party pledges to do something regardless (e.g. marriage vows).
- A covenant is a promise, not a deal.
- In a unilateral covenant, a greater party commits to fulfill promises to a lesser party unconditionally.
- In a bilateral covenant, two equal parties commit to fulfill promises to each other unconditionally.
- 3:15—Once a covenant is made, it cannot be altered.
- 3:16—God made a promise to Abraham and his descendants. But not all of Abraham’s biological children inherit the promise. Only those who have faith like Abraham inherit the promise.
- 3:17—First God made a promise to Abraham. Later He made a deal with the children of Israel. The deal does not nullify the promise. The promise still stands.
- 3:18—If we inherit the promise by keeping the law, it is no longer a promise. It would be a deal. God did not make a deal with Abraham. He made a promise.
19Why 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. 20Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one. 21Is 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. 22But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. -Galatians 3:19-22
- The word translated “angels” (3:19) means a messenger. It can be a human or divine messenger. A theophany of God (angel/messenger) and a human intermediary, Moses, put the law in place.
- God did not give the Law so that we could earn salvation. God gave the Law so that we would learn how sinful we are. The Law quantifies our transgressions, increasing our awareness of them.
- You need an intermediary to make a deal like the Law. But God only needed Himself to make the promise.
- The promise was made to the people who have faith like Abraham and therefore belong to the Messiah. The Law was in effect until the Messiah came.
- Does the law contradict the promise? Certainly not. If we could keep the Law, then God would honor the deal. But we can’t keep the law. In striving to keep the Law, we learn we are sinners.
- The only way any of us will be saved is if we trust in the blood of Jesus Christ.