Sunday, February 3, 2013

Galatians 3:15-21a Messianic Style


Paul was determined to make the Galatians understand that they had already been saved by grace through faith in Messiah Yeshua and that they did not need to add anything further to their salvation.

He continued his argument.

Galatians 3:15-21 (KJV)
15 Brethren, I speak after the manner of men; Though it be but a man's covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disannulleth, or addeth thereto.
16 Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.
17 And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect.
18 For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise.
19 Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.
20 Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one.
21a Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid:

In verse 15 Paul compared God's covenant of salvation to the covenants that human beings make with others. Just as a human covenant cannot be annulled or added to once it is confirmed, God's covenant cannot be annulled or added to once it has been confirmed. The new Galatian believers' covenant with God was confirmed by the receiving of the Holy Spirit. That was it! Nothing needed to be added to it! (David Stern in the Jewish New Testament Commentary (548-549) uses the word "oath" instead of "covenant" to reflect that once an oath is made it cannot be changed, while strictly, a covenant can be changed by a codicil.)

Paul continued his discussion about Abraham in verse 16. The promises of salvation were made originally to Abraham. The promises were also made then to Abraham's seed (descendants), based on faith. But his descendants are "one" in Yeshua. David Stern summarizes with these nine truths:

          (1) Israel is God's son.
          (2) The Messiah is God's Son.
          (3) Israel is descended from Avraham (Abraham), is Avraham's seed, the children of Avraham.
          (4) The true children of Avraham are those who trust.
          (5) Those who trust in Yeshua are united with him by that trust -- they are part of his Body, one with him, one, singular.
          (6) In the thinking of the Tanakh (Old Testament), a king represents his people to the point of being one with them; and the king of Israel is treated as representing Israel, standing for them, being one with them.
          (7) The Messiah Yeshua is the King of Israel, the promised Son of David, one with Israel.
          (8) By trusting, Gentiles become identified with and in some sense a part of Israel.
          (9) All of God's promises reach their culmination and fulfillment in the Messiah, who is Avraham's "seed." (549)

In verse 17 Paul stated that the promises to Abraham were given 430 years prior to the giving of the Law. Therfore, the Law cannot annul those promises. If the observing of any laws made the people heirs of God, it wouldn't be then by promise (verse 18).

So what purpose then did the Torah serve?  It was to show sinful man what constituted right and wrong. With Yeshua's coming the Law was then written on the hearts of believers and the Torah no longer condemned believers. The Torah still exists to show unbelievers what constitutes right and wrong. Although the Torah doesn't condemn believers, the Torah is still meant to be the guide to behavior (verse 19). Paul stated that the Torah was given by the angels through Moses the mediator.

Verse 20's meaning is contested. However, Moses was the mediator, not of one, but of two, since he acted between God and the people of Israel. The promises given to Abraham were not given through a mediator, but through God himself. This may be another point that Paul was making regarding the superior position that the promise of salvation had over the Torah.

Lastly, was the Torah against the promises of God? Paul's response was a resounding "God forbid!"

Christianity has traditionally pitted the Torah against salvation received by grace through faith. But, Paul consistently stated otherwise, that they work together. This is the truth about law and grace.

This thought will be continued next time.