Friday, May 26
Why the Law?
15 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. 16 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. 17 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. 18 For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise. 19 Why 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. 20 Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one. 21 Is 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. 22 But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. (Gal 3:15-22 ESV)
Verse 19 is a question we have all asked. If Jesus justifies us by grace and the law does not have that power, why do we have the law? What is its purpose? It might be easier to not have the law at all.
First, the law was given to reveal God’s holy standard. In revealing God’s holiness, it also reveals our sinfulness. It vividly, and sometimes with sadness, points out to us the depravity of our hearts. The law shows us it is sinful to covet our neighbor’s possessions, it is sinful to hate our brother, it is sinful to talk about people behind their backs, and the list can go on. When we commit those sins, it is more than just making a mistake. It is a violation of God’s holy standards. When we drive 65 mph in a 55 mph zone, even though it might be a mistake, we have violated the standards of the law. As violators we are subject to the appropriate penalty under the law. For a speeding ticket, it is fines and increased insurance cost. For violation of God’s holy law, the penalty is much more severe; it leads to death.
At this point, we might wonder if this makes God mean? After all, He gave us a standard we can not possibly live up to. You could make an argument it would be cruel to give man an unobtainable law unless God also provided a way out.
This is the second function of the law: it points us to Jesus Christ. As the law reveals our wickedness, it also demonstrates how desperately we need someone to stand before God on our behalf. As Job lamented, “If only there were someone to mediate between us, someone to bring us together” (Job 9:33, NIV). The law screams that we need a Savior. God in His wisdom and love provides a Savior, Jesus Christ.
When asked about the law, Jesus replied, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Mat 5:17 ESV). Jesus does what we can never do. Jesus perfectly fulfilled every aspect of the Law. Then He went further. Jesus not only took on our sin, He died the death that was meant for us in order that He might save us. Now there exists someone who can mediate between God and us. It is Jesus Christ.
Why the Law? It reveals our sin and points us to Jesus. Thanks be to a God who loves us enough to provide what we need the most, a Savior.
“Father, we confess we break your law far too often. In doing so, it leaves us dead in our sins. But you, in your great mercy and grace sent a Mediator. Thank you for sending Jesus Christ so that through His sacrifice on the cross we might obtain the promise of faith. Amen.”
Wednesday, May 24
One in Christ
25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. (Gal 3:25-29 ESV)
Chapter 3 ends with a declaration of the unity in the church. Peter’s hypocrisy earlier rebuilt the walls of division Jesus tore down on the cross. This was a radical message in a time when Jews thought they were the only ones picked for salvation. They were the righteous who would see God while everyone else was a sinner and not worthy of God’s salvation. When Jesus died on the cross, every dividing line was erased.
This message is still true today. One of the sad truths about the church today is the homogeneity among worshippers. It has been said that 11:00 on Sunday is the most segregated hour in America. When we gather to worship, we usually look like everyone around us. The 11:00 hour does not bear witness to the truth of “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
While on this earth there will be racial, ethnic, and gender differences, those differences show God loves diversity. After all, He is the one who created the races, ethnicities, and genders. But who we are in Christ is not defined by those distinctions. John Piper puts it this way. “While on this earth our ethnicities are precious distinctions, but they are not the essential identity of any Christian anymore.” I am not an American Christian. I am a Christian. I am not a white Christian. I am a Christian. Our identity now is in Christ and in Christ alone.
This truth will be realized fully in Heaven. “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’” (Revelation 7:9-10). Until we get to heaven, we must be mindful of the unity we have in Christ across any type of God-given difference or artificial man-made barrier.
“Father, thank you that we are one in Christ. Forgive us for those times when we have erected barriers instead of celebrating the unity we have through you. May we be witnesses of the unity we have in you. Amen.”
Monday, May 22
10 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.” 11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” 12 But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” 13 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”– 14 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 3:11-14 ESV)
“The righteous shall live by faith.” These six words come from the prophet Habakkuk. They were originally penned during a time of great distress for the nation of Israel. It was a reminder that God was in control of history. In the New Testament it is quoted three times; each time the emphasis is on a different word in the verse. In Romans 1:17, the emphasis is on the word faith; in Hebrews 10:38, it is on the word live; and here in Galatians, it is on righteous. This follows the argument being made throughout Galatians: it is faith that saves, not the law.
In this section Paul is contrasting the results of the law and grace. The law declares our guilt with the result of our being placed under a curse (verse 10). The curse is a direct result of our inability to perfectly keep the law. On the other hand, the result of grace is the declaration of righteousness. This declaration is obtained through faith.
But what is faith? Biblical faith is not some wishy-washy, hope-so mentality. This mentality is devoid of an object in which to place your faith. Biblical faith is always has an object: God, Jesus, God’s promises, or the gospel. While the exact object can be different, it always points back to God. Faith is a response to who God is and, by extension, a response to any of His purposes.
Saving faith in Christ, as described in Galatians, is to “let oneself fall into the his open arms.”1 Jesus opened his arms on the cross to remove the curse of the law. The law of God could not be nullified. It had to be satisfied. Jesus’ death satisfied the righteous demands of the law and thus redeemed us from the curse of the law. Our faith is found in Christ and what He accomplished. In trying to make our works the object of our faith, we deny the adequacy of the sacrifice Christ made and declare Him an inadequate Savior. Faith in Christ loudly proclaims the sacrifice Jesus Christ made on the cross is absolutely sufficient to save.
Perhaps the best question in the Bible comes from the lips of the Philippian jailer. He asked, “What must I do to be saved?” In response, Paul stated, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.” It was, is, and forever will be the complete and total answer to that question. Salvation will always be through faith alone.
“Father, we confess today there have been times when we have worked for our salvation or your approval. Forgive us for those sins. We thank you that our salvation is found in Christ alone through faith alone. Amen.”
1 Packer, J.I. 18 Words. Scotland: Christian Focus Publications, 2014.
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