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The Gospel Has Always Been the Gospel: Galatians 3:6–25

28 July, 2010

b picAgain, some notes and observations on a sermon by Dominic Smart, here, first posted 7 May 2009.

The Galatians had come to believe in the message of the gospel of Christ and thus received the Spirit (Gal 3:1-5). Paul in this passage aims to convince them that the gospel of free grace in Christ has always been the gospel. The ‘Judaizers’ of all people should’ve been the very strongest advocates of the gospel faith of Abraham!

Law and Its Curse

Paul calls up the example of Abraham, then, the father of the faithful, who believed in the God of promise — promises that were made to the Gentiles and fulfilled among the Gentiles as well:

Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. (Gal 3:7-9, quoting Gen 12:3; see further Luke 19:9Rom 3:30)

In fact, righteousness is only attainable as a gift from God of the righteousness of another, a substitute who takes upon himself both the law and its heavy curse. Listen carefully to Paul’s clear words, and his emphatic grounding of this gospel in the Old Testament scriptures:

For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith. (Gal 3:10-14, quoting Deut 27:26Hab 2:4Lev 18:5, and Deut 21:23; see further Is 32:15, 44:3Jer 11:3Ezek 18:4;Joel 2:38Matt 5:19John 7:39Acts 5:30Gal 2:6, 4:5, 5:4Rom 1:17, 4:9, 15-16, 10:5Heb 10:382 Peter 2:1Rev 22:3)

This isn’t an evangelistic message to nonbelievers, this is an evangelistic message to Christians trying to live the Christian life by the law. Paul rather claims, on the basis of the promises of the scriptures, that what gets us in, gets us through to the end (Rom 1:17).

The God of Promise

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. (Gal 3:15-18, referencing Gen 12:7; see further Gen 15:13Exod 12:40-41Luke 1:55Acts 3:25, 7:6, 13:32Rom 4:13-14, 16Heb 6:13-14, 9:17)

Paul’s example was an everyday occurrence. God’s covenant with Abraham was a ‘unilateral’ or one-directional covenant given in order simply to bless — in other words, it was a promise. It doesn’t need to be added to, and it would be wrong to do so. Moses in no way detracts from or ‘corrects’ Abraham (when our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our hearts; 1 John 3:20), because Christ is the fulfillment of all.

The law is not a ladder by which we climb higher than Christ can place us, but it is what points us to and drives us to Christ, showing us what he’s done for us — the character and the fruit of which the promised Holy Spirit bears within us by the power of the gospel, to the glory of God.

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