Galatians 3:19-29 – Sermon Notes

Galatians 3 is a challenging chapter in the Bible. 

Paul is, to some degree, writing in a theological shorthand to the Galatians and they fully understand what he is saying because he’s taught them. 

At the same time, Galatians is divinely inspired Scripture, and we have exactly what God intended us to have fitting the context.

The Big Idea: If all nations get all of God by faith, why was the law given?

Jesus helps us gain perspective in Matthew 19:1-12 by helping us to look in the right direction. 

  1. Rather than look at the created world through the lens of Moses and find some textual reason to put their wife away quietly, Jesus looks at Moses through the lens of his created intent. 
    1. Jesus begins with creation and looks at Moses, not the other way around.
    2. The Jews of the day, and those who came before, had made the mistake of interpreting Abraham through Moses rather than interpreting Moses through Abraham. They had the law out of place. 
  2. This helps us begin to understand God’s intent in the law by putting it in the correct place.

POINT OF CLARITY: When we say “law” we are not referring to the whole Old Testament.

We are referring to the 1. Moral law (10 commandments), 2. ceremonial law (laws specifying how to worship), 3. civil laws (laws outlining procedures and punishments for how life was conducted as a society). 

Paul has spent all of this time telling the Galatians they are not saved by keeping the law, so naturally, one has to wonder what purpose the law serves and whether we should even care. 

Thus verse 19 poses the natural question, “Why then was the law given?”

The law was given because of transgressions. V. 19a

  1. Preventative – the law was given to restrain the curse of sin. 
    1. The law restrains the effects of the fall. 
    2. Matthew 19:1-12 – Jesus on divorce…to restrain the effects of hard hearts.
      1. Illustration: Slave laws; Divorce laws
  2. Provocative (that is provoking more sin) – the law was given to increase sin and show sin to be. 
    1. Romans 5:20 (CSB) 20 The law came along to multiply the trespass.
    2. The Law’s provocative function was to increase transgressions, to make a terrible situation even more desperate, and thus to reveal to human beings their “sin, blindness, misery, wickedness, ignorance, hate and contempt of God…and the well-deserved wrath of God. (Timothy George, Galatians, vol. 30, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994), 254.)
    3. Romans 7:12-13 (CSB) 12 So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and just and good. 13 Therefore, did what is good become death to me? Absolutely not! But sin, in order to be recognized as sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that through the commandment, sin might become sinful beyond measure.

NOTE: THESE ROMANS REFERENCES ARE AN EXPANSION OF THE “SHORTHAND” OF GALATIANS 3.

  • Illustration: We know our kids are sinners, but that sinful heart does not get displayed fully until a rule to protect the child is put in place.
    1. That rule serves to keep them from killing themselves or others, and yet becomes the very thing that will reveal their desire to disobey the very ones who are trying to do them and others good.  
    2. That rule will increase their sinful behavior as they not only break it but then sneak around to break it and cover it up when they do. 
      1. The rule provokes sin and shows us the ugliness of sin.

The law was given to display the superiorithy of the gospel. V. 19c-20

NOTE: There is Jewish teaching, and the Septuagint translations of Deuteronomy 32 and Psalm 68 back this up somewhat, that attribute the fire and smoke on Sinai to the hosts of angels that descended on Mount Sinai when God gave Moese the law. 

Exodus 23:20-22 is also an example.

So, Paul refers to these Scriptures in saying that angels were assistants of God in bringing the law to Moses as Moses mediates it to the people. 

  1. The law was put into effect through hosts of angels by a human mediator, Moses, thus it is inferior to the gospel of promise that is put into effect by God and mediated by Jesus, who is the Son of God, and God is one and he alone is all that is needed. 
    1. Paul’s meaning is essentially clear: the law is not on the same par with the covenant of promise not only because it was chronologically limited (until used 2 x in Galatians 3:19-29) but also because it was handed down by angels with a man acting as a go-between. – (Timothy George, Galatians, vol. 30, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994), 256.)
    2. When Paul says, “God is one”, what is he saying? What’s that for?
      1. Paul is contrasting the mediation of Moses to the people with God mediating the promise to Abrham as he refers to Deuteronomy 6:4. 
        1. Angels asisst, Moses mediates in the law. 
        2. The one God himself in Jesus Christ mediates the promise of the gospel. 
        3. Thus, the promise of being saved by faith alone is superior to keeping the law. 

The law was given (knowing it would not save) in order to show the superiority of the gospel. V. 21

  1. The law served as a contrast to the gospel. 
  2. The law’s inability is contrasted with the ability of God to save according to the promise. 
    1. 2 Chronicles 30 illustrates the contrast in how keeping the law is not possible and in fact increases the problem and how believing God and God’s promise is superior. 

The law, and Paul calls the law “Scripture”, imprisons everything under sin so that we have no option but to run to Jesus by faith. V. 19b, 22-24

  1. The law was temporary (thus the use of the word “until” two times) and served to imprison all under sin until Jesus, the promised “Seed” (the one promised in Genesis 3:15) came to secure all who believe by faith. 
  2. The law served as a prison guardian to imprison by identifying our very best behavior as still sinful so that we might believe rather than attempt to earn, and thus by faith have our faith counted as righteousness. 
    1. The law prevented and provoked until it uncovered sin and showed sin to be fully sinful. 

In Jesus, we are freed from the prison of sin and are made daughters and sons of God. v. 25-27

  1. In Christ we don’t have the law as our identity. Our baptism (public declaration of faith in Jesus) identifies us as Jesus’ people. V. 27

Because we are saved by faith according to the promise, all barriers between God’s people are down. V. 28

  1. Verse 28 does not say there is no longer any distinction. 
    1. Distinction existed in creation before the curse of sin. 
  2. Verse 28 does say that distinction, which immediately began to be used against us by sin, is no longer is a barrier. 
    1. Why? Because the kingdom of God is one tribe and creed. One people with one doctrine. 
    2. We are a unity of diversity. 

Application:

Ephesians 2:11-22 (CSB) So, then, remember that at one time you were Gentiles in the flesh—called “the uncircumcised” by those called “the circumcised,” which is done in the flesh by human hands. 12 At that time you were without Christ, excluded from the citizenship of Israel, and foreigners to the covenants of promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus, you who were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he is our peace, who made both groups one and tore down the dividing wall of hostility. In his flesh, 15 he made of no effect the law consisting of commands and expressed in regulations, so that he might create in himself one new man from the two, resulting in peace. 16 He did this so that he might reconcile both to God in one body through the cross by which he put the hostility to death. 17 He came and proclaimed the good news of peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So, then, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with the saints, and members of God’s household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building, being put together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you are also being built together for God’s dwelling in the Spirit.

REMEMBER: THEY WERE NEEDING TO UNDERSTAND THE PLACE AND PURPOSE OF THE LAW BECAUSE THE LAW WAS BEING USE POORLY THAT RESULTED IN KEEPING ETHNIC DIVERSITY ON THE OUTSIDE.

  1. Be on mission to preach Jesus and his kingdom to any who will hear. 
    1. Christians being on mission is what revealed the challenges of including Gentiles and the limits of a homogenous Jewish context for including Gentiles. 
  2. Be ruthless with unnecessary barriers that keep people from Jesus. 
    1. Become aware of our unseen values (good and not so good) that may be hindrances. 
  3. Read the law and fight to rightly understand it. Make the effort to read it all through the lens of Jesus as he taught us in Luke 24. 
    1. Don’t turn the law into something it is not…
      1. A dietary guide. 
      2. A list of rules to be just be shoved aside and ignored without serious inquiry as to what God is saying and doing in redemptive history. Jesus said not to shove them aside.
  4. Fight for local church level unity that reflects the glorious transformed diversity of the city of God. 
    1. Pray for and integrate diverse biblically correct leadership.
    2. Never tokenize anyone. Be holy.
    3. Fellowship in great diversity. 

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