3:15-25 The Gospel Of Grace Is By Promise Of God
Memory Verse: Galatians 3:22
3:15-18 The Covenant: The Power Of God’s Promise
- 3:15 Paul uses the illustration of a human covenant to help us better understand the promise of the gospel between God and man. He says that a man’s covenant—which is an agreement between two people—cannot be changed once it is established. It cannot be rejected or declare invalid, nor can it be added to. Even if the circumstances change, the covenant is to be carried out in the manner that was agreed on by both parties when the covenant was established.
- 3:16 Then he comes back to Abraham and shows how this covenant illustration is useful and applicable to us through him. Paul already exemplified Abraham’s faith earlier in the chapter to show us that the gospel of grace is received by faith, but now he shows us that the gospel was made by promise to Abraham and his seed (a certain descendant)—this descendant is Jesus, who fulfilled this promise and anyone can partake of it through faith.
Galatians 3:6-9; Genesis 12:7; 13:15; 24:7
- 3:17 Next, Paul shows us the power of this promise or covenant. God made a covenant with Abraham—He promised that He would do certain things—ultimately bless all nations through Christ. This was God making a promise to mankind. No matter what would happen, we can rest assured that God would keep His promise. Then the law came 430 years after God made this promise to Abraham and people got confused. They acted as if God change the terms of the agreement, but that was never the purpose of the law—it was never meant to change the covenant or declare it invalid.
- 3:18 Paul reasons that if we received the “inheritance” (eternal life) because of the law, it is no more of promise. Law and promise are opposites. They both can’t be true. It is much like how Paul tells the Romans that grace and works are opposites. If you add works to grace then it is no longer grace. Therefore, we have to choose one as the object of our faith (promise or law). God gave it to Abraham by promise. Therefore we can conclude that the “inheritance” (eternal life) is by promise (grace) and not by law (works).
3:19-22 The Law: Purpose And Limitations
- 3:19a, 22a Paul asked the next logical question that he knew the readers of his letter would ask: “What is the purpose of the law?” If we can only be saved by promise which is by faith then what is the purpose of the law which is by works? Paul gives two main reasons for the purpose of the law. The first he states in this verse: “because of transgressions.” The law informs us about and exposes sin. Sin is a transgression—a violation of the law. The result of sin is death. Therefore, the law was given as a temporary standard of holiness (until Jesus came to fulfill the promise) that showed us our failure to keep it and the punishment for our disobedience. The scripture of the Old Testament and the Law concluded every single person is under sin.
Romans 3:20; 4:15; 5:12-21; 1 John 3:4; 1 Corinthians 15:56; James 2:8-12
- 3:19b-20 The law was given by God, ordained by angels in the hands of a mediator (probably Moses). These verses are a little hard to understand but going along with the flow of the argument it seems that Paul’s point is that God alone ratified the covenant with Abraham—thus it is based on God and not multiple parties—which is indicated by the use of a mediator. Simply stated, the promise is superior to the law because it depends on one party, God, and not many parties, us and God.
Deuteronomy 33:2; Psalm 68:17; Acts 7:53; Hebrews 2:2; Leviticus 26:46; John 1:17
- 3:21 Another question arises, “Since the law exist because of transgressions does that mean it is against the promises of God?” This question comes from trying to fully grasp the relationship of the law and the promise. Paul’s answer is an emphatic “No”—they do no contradict each other. Both of them come from God but they have different purposes. These purposes don’t contradict each other but they work together. Paul will explain more in the next verse be here he wants us to know one major limitation of the law (which he has stated before): righteousness cannot come by the law, it cannot give life.
Galatians 2:21; Romans 7:7; 2 Corinthians 3:6
- 3:22 Paul explains the second purpose of the law: “because of grace.” The law was also given to cause us to recognize our need of grace—a need that can only be fulfilled through the promise by faith in Jesus Christ. It shows us that our works cannot make us righteous but that righteousness is given—to them that believe. Thus, rightly understood, there is no contradiction between the law and the promise. The law shows a person he is not righteous and he can do nothing to make himself righteous through it. It shows the only option is grace. The promise offers this grace. It’s only condition is faith. The promise is reliable because it is based on the Promise Giver—God Himself.
Deuteronomy 27:26; Romans 3:9; 11:32
3:23-25 The Law: Before Faith And After Faith
- 3:23 Paul wants us to understand our position “before faith came.” We were kept under the law. We were captive under the law. We were “shut up” or imprisoned. Then “faith came” and it changed everything.
- 3:24 The law acted as a temporary “schoolmaster.” This schoolmaster is believed to be a slave that took care of school-aged children of his owner. They were the “active authority”. They were in control of teaching them what was right and disciplining them when they were wrong. The law had this same function, telling us what is right but disciplining our disobedience. As you can image, a child isn’t too fond of the person who is in charge of their discipline, especially if they are strict. Thus, being under the law prepared us for the appearance of Christ, that in Him we can be justified by faith (not works).
- 3:25 After “faith came” we no longer are under a “schoolmaster”—we are no longer under the law. We are no longer characterized by being a prisoner or a school-aged child who needs a tutor, but we are freed from the prison cell and have come to age—that we no longer need a disciplinarian. Once a person exercises faith in Jesus (belief) they are made free from the captivity and imprisonment of the law. They no longer have to obey the law out of fear or as a way of salvation. They remember the lessons the law taught them and are freed to joyfully obey God out of their gratefulness for all He has done to save them. We are no longer under the law but we are under grace.
- Is salvation by promise or by law?
- Who did God make the promise to?
- Did the law make the promise void?
- What is the purpose of the law? Does it contradict the promise?
- What happens to the law after faith?