Aug 21, 2010
Galatians 3:18 says,
(18) For if the inheritance is based on law, it is no longer based on a promise; but God has granted it to Abraham by means of a promise.
Our inheritance has been promised in God's Last Will and Testament. The God of the Old Testament then came to earth, born in Bethlehem, and the Testator's death on the cross set into motion the transfer of inheritance to the heirs of the promise. Paul reminds us in Heb. 9:17 that "it is never in force while the one who made it lives." This proves the deity of Christ and establishes Him (in His pre-incarnate form) as the One who made the Covenant with Abraham.
When the executors of the Will read its provisions to the heirs, it is for the heirs to believe in its validity and that the Testator really did give such a Promise. There are no pre-conditions established that might link the inheritance to performance. It only remains to be accepted as is by faith in the One who made the Promise.
Then in verse 19 Paul answers the argument of the Judaizers, who were insisting that God made a further Covenant with Moses. This two-step process, they argued, shows that the second covenant is necessary to complete one's perfection. Abraham is good to get started, but one must be perfected by the law. Paul's response is:
(19) Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator, until the seed should come to whom the promise had been made.
In other words, after God drew up His Last Will and Testament with Abraham, promising divine blessing to the Heir and His sons, He thought it good to tell the heirs what it was that they were inheriting. Their inheritance was to put on the mind of Christ, the Testator. As heirs, they were destined to become like Him in their Being, and this change of Being would be reflected in their behavior.
But since the heirs were still imperfect, the Testator enrolled them in school and, as we see in Gal. 4:2, established the Law as their Schoolmaster. This was not a pre-condition to their inheritance, as if to say that only a passing grade would qualify them to receive it. The Law "was added because of transgressions." It was given--ordained through angels--because the people were yet sinful and immature in their spiritual growth.
What earthly Testator, in drawing up a Will, intending to bequeath His fortune to heirs who are yet children, would do so without putting them into the finest school in order to train them in the ways of righteousness? In giving His heirs rule over the whole world, would not a wise Testator teach those heirs how to treat others equitably and with equal justice?
The Promise came first and was unconditionally given to Abraham and his seed. The Law of Moses could not--and did not--change this fact. But the Will of God was revealed through Moses, as if the heirs were able to get a preview of it prior to the death of the Testator. When the Law said, "Thou shalt not steal," the Schoolmaster taught the principle to the students through discipline and study, but the underlying revelation was that this formed part of the very character of the Testator, and He intended to transform the heirs into His image.
Thus, the Promise to the heirs was that when the Will was activated at the death of the Testator, the Holy Spirit would be given to them, transforming their Being into His own Image, so that they truly would steal no more. Neither would they murder, commit adultery, or covet. In other words, what was instruction, discipline, and a call to obedience under the Mosaic Covenant was actually a Promise under the New Covenant. It was a Promise that God would send the Holy Spirit to work from within the heart and change one's character to conform to the perfect mind of God as expressed in the Law of Moses.
Paul's argument is not that the Law was evil or unjust or even carnal. He confessed everywhere that the Law was holy, just, and good (Rom. 7:12) and even spiritual (Rom. 7:14). It was given in order to teach righteousness to the heirs of the Promise, so they would know how God intended them to reign with the impartiality of Christ Himself. The problem was not the Law itself but in our relationship to the Law. As long as the Law was our interim schoolmaster, our time was being used wisely prior to the death of the Testator. But when the Testator died, activating the Will of God, the Holy Spirit was then sent to indwell us and change us into His image.
This change of Being and character did not come through the Mosaic Covenant. The schoolmaster was not capable of transforming us into the image of Christ. The schoolmaster could only reveal the righteousness of Christ in the Law. "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink." It was not possible for the heirs to be perfected by the schoolmaster, because in the end, "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23). In other words, whenever the schoolmaster tested the students, they all failed, because the passing grade was 100%, not a mere 70-75% as we see in most schools today.
Because the student-heirs were yet carnal and mortal, the Law was given because of their transgressions. But in the end, it was a training exercise designed to show them a great underlying revelation: that the schoolmaster had an impossible task in trying to perfect the flesh by diligent study and rigorous discipline. The wisdom of God, then, proved to the heirs and to all men that human effort would always be insufficient in achieving the glory of God.
Has the Law, then, passed away? Has the Law been rendered null and void? Paul answers this in Romans 3:31,
(31) Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law.
In other words, we dare not interpret Paul's writings to indicate that the Law has been put away. Such a view would misunderstand Paul completely. Rather, Paul is telling us that the Law is the expression of the mind of God, that man is incapable of achieving its righteous standard by his own strength and force of will, and that the only path to perfection is by the unconditional Promise to Abraham that was put into force at the death of the Testator. The Promise was the Holy Spirit, Who would work within us to achieve what neither the schoolmaster nor we ourselves could do.
Paul also points out that the Law was "ordained by angels by the agency of a mediator," namely Moses. In verse 20 he explains this further:
(20) Now a mediator is not for one party only; whereas God is only one.
The Mosaic covenant was an agreement between two parties, making the blessings of God conditional upon the people's ability to do "ALL that the Lord has spoken." In contrast, the Promise to Abraham was made while he was asleep (Gen. 15:12). God walked alone between the animals that had been cut in half (Gen. 15:17). Those animals prophesied of the death of the Testator Himself, and He too died alone to establish an unconditional "New Covenant" with us.
It was a Covenant that said, "I will put My Laws into their minds, and I will write them upon their hearts" (Heb. 8:10, quoted from Jer. 31:33). What Moses the schoolmaster could not do, Jesus Christ accomplishes by means of the Holy Spirit. It is the same Law, though appropriate changes were made in its outward forms to suit the new conditions. In particular, there are new Executors of the Will. Cohen and Sons lost the contract, and their lawyers were fired for greed and incompetence. The new Executors are now Melchizedek and Sons.
This is the fourteenth part of a series titled "Galatians." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones