Full Text for Galatians- Volume 27 - What is the point of Paul's argument where he appeals about Abraham and the giving of the law to Moses? (Video)

No. 27. >> Thank you. Your comments helped to clarify the position of the Galatian Christians. Now, to move us forward, let me ask you a larger question: Paul clearly seems interested in the law in this letter to the Galatians. He even goes back to the institution of the law on Mt. Sinai. What is the point of his argument where he appeals about Abraham and the giving of the law to Moses? Are Paul's references to law in this letter identical to his references to the law in his letter to the Romans? >>DR. ARTHUR A. JUST, JR.: At this point in Paul's argument, after the statement about Jesus being cursed on the cross, Paul now in a sense retreats a little bit. Not in terms of his confidence that his argument is going to make it's way with the Galatians. But he retreats by going back and rehearsing with them the meaning of the law and what the law is all about. And he needs to place this in the context of salvation history. Now, this is a very, very important part of the argument. And I think you can see here that Paul is somebody who sees the larger historical context in a different way from his opponents. And what the law and the giving of the law to Moses on Mt. Sinai means is different to Paul than it is to his opponents. And this is where he, in a sense now, lays that out. Now, he begins -- and this section needs to be divided into two sections. I'm talking about 15 to 25. 15 to 18 he's talking about the difference between law and promise. And then in 19 to 25, he's talking about the difference between law and faith of Christ. And he's in a sense here going to bring forward two motifs. One is what is the precise nature of the covenantal promise made by God to Abraham. What was that all about? And then secondly, the sharp differentiation of the promise from the law. Now, he is going to make a very simple point. And that is that the law came much later than the promise to Abraham. And therefore, is secondary. That the blessing given to Abraham in Genesis 12, the inheritance is for Jews and Gentiles, that takes precedence over the law. And I mean here you've got to go back and read Genesis 12, Genesis 15, and then Genesis 17. Genesis 17 is what he's going to be citing in Verse 16. And before we get there, I think we have to talk a little bit about the context of Genesis 17. Genesis 17 is the key chapter because there you are going to see that there are three promises. Three promises given to Abraham. The first promise is that he would inherit the land of Canaan. Now that's very important for the Jews. And of course in many ways, that is what kind of drove their understanding of who they were. That they had inherited this land given to them by God. The second promise is related to the covenant of circumcision. Now, this is the promise that Paul's opponents are highlighting. That this is the key to understanding Abraham, the circumcision covenant. The third promise is that the Gentiles are all blessed in Abraham. Now, that is the promise that matters to Paul. Of the three promises, Paul picks one. His opponents pick one. But they are different ones. All three of them are there. And I think historically speaking -- and I think here we would agree with Paul, the land of Cana and the promise of circumcision are historically conditioned. But the promise that all nations will be blessed in Abraham is an eternal promise. Now, that is a very important point because if you don't see that you'll have a very difficult time differentiating the two arguments between Paul and his opponents. Now, let's look at the text here for a moment. Verse 15, Paul calls them brethren. Remember, that's an endearing term. Part of the family of God. We are brothers and sisters in Christ. God is our Father. Jesus is our brother. And together in the church we are brothers and sisters in Christ. And he says: I am speaking according to man literally but he says what I'm going to do is I'm going to give you a human example here that everybody can understand. And it's a very simple one. He says: When there is a covenant, a man-made covenant -- we're talking now just about a simple covenant or testament, you know, or if you want to call it will or testament. And I think will or testament is a better translation here. A man-made will, no one can annul it, no one can add a codicil to it. Now, that's not only true for the time of Paul and the time of Abraham, that's true today. You know, just the other day my Father and I went down to the lawyer to talk about his will. He's moved to Indiana. There are some different things going on here. So he wants to revise his will. I cannot add to that will. I cannot annul it. Only my Father can. No one can do that. That, humanly speaking, is a given. We all can understand that. And Paul wants to say then that that's the same thing if you translate it over into the covenants that God makes with us. Now, remember what a covenant is. A covenant is where God -- I mean -- let's back up and say what is a covenant between human beings? A covenant is where we make an agreement. And usually they would call about it as cutting a covenant. And they would take the animal. And they would cut it in two. And there would be a space between them. And if you and I were to make a covenant with one another, you know, an agreement of some sort, then we would both walk between the animal. And by doing that, we would say to one another that if any one of us broke that covenant, we could render the other like this animal. We could cut them in two. Which is kind of an interesting thought, isn't it? When God makes a covenant, though, he's the only one that goes through the animal. And if you remember in Genesis the covenant with Abraham with the smoking pot, which was the presence of God. And Abraham didn't go through there because it's a unilateral covenant. Now, Paul is building on that concept, this unilateral covenant, when he's talking about the covenant made with Abraham. And look at Verse 16. And here you have to notice that the promises is in the plural. Like I said, there were three promises. Verse 16 says the promises that were made, that were added to Abraham and to his seed -- now, that's singular. The promises is plural. Three promises, Cana, circumcision, all nations blessed in Abraham. And to his seed. Singular. It does not say and to seeds, Paul says as to many. But as to one and to your seed, who is Christ. Whoa. Now that's an amazing interpretation. Nobody else I think up until this point had ever made an interpretation of that text like had this one. And what he is doing here, Paul is, is showing the kind of interpretation of Scripture that he and Jesus are doing now after the incarnation of Jesus. And that is a radical christological namely interpreting the Scriptures in terms of Jesus. Now, I think the Jews may have seen this as a reference to the Messiah. But they saw these promises being fulfilled through the generations, through the loins of the people in Israel who contain the seed of the Messiah. I don't think they saw that there was a direct link between the promise given to Abraham and Christ that kind of jumped over all of Old Testament history and found it's place then in Christ. Now, that's what Paul is saying. Paul is saying that the promises are given directly to Christ. And if you think about those three promises, they all come to fulfillment in Christ. Jesus coming to the Promised Land is himself now the Promised Land. He's heaven it self. He is where we now have our being. Jesus in his circumcision brings an end to circumcision. Jesus sheds his blood on his eighth day and for all intents and purposes, all of humanity is circumcised as him. And that's the end of it. And Jesus dies not just for the Jews but he dies for all of the people of God. And that promise, that the seed of Abraham, who is Christ, now brings salvation to all people is the promise that matters. And that is exactly, exactly what Paul wants to say here. That it's not to the many seeds, but it's just to the one seed. But it's all about going from Abraham to Christ. Now, if you do that, if you go from Genesis to the New Testament, what you skip over is the law. And that shows you that the intent of the promise of Abraham was to find it's end in Christ. Not in the law given to Moses. That is the point of his argument. Now, if you go onto Verse 17 and 18, you're going to see that he now explains this. And this is where you can see very clearly that Paul's interpretation of God's promise to Abraham finds it's end in Christ and then the salvation of the Gentiles. This is what he says. And this is now -- I'm in Verse 17. He says: This is what I mean. This is what I'm saying. The law which came -- and this is interesting -- 430 years afterward does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God. So as to make the promise null and void. Now, this is where he tells you how he sees the law. The law is a parentheses. The law comes 430 years after the promise given to Abraham. And it is not something that like a will and testament of a human being, when it comes, annuls or adds to the promise. It is simply a parentheses. And he is in Verse 19 going to explain to us what it is, that the law is all about. But here he puts it in its historical context. And it's important to recognize that the law does not annul the promise, the covenant, given to Abraham that came 430 years earlier. And he goes onto explain what he means by that. And here in Verse 18, you can see that he uses now for the first time the language of inheritance. For if the inheritance of Abraham -- and these are the progeny of Abraham. And these are both uncircumcised Gentiles and Jews. In other words, that which creates -- or let's put it this way: The church creating spirit of Christ, that's the inheritance. That if this inheritance comes by the law, then it is no longer by the promise. But God has gifted it to Abraham by means of the promise. Now, here you've got to see that the law is not opposed to the promise in a sense that's what Paul's opponents are doing. They are setting the law and the promise against one another. And Paul is saying very clearly: Hey, listen. The law is great. I'm not against the law. But don't try to make the law the promise or the promise the law. They are two different things. They came at two different times. They are historically conditioned. And the law does not in any way nullify the promise. Now, the law is not opposed to the promise. And I think it's important to say this. And the reason why the law is not opposed to the promise is because the law is not able to give life. It does not compete with the promise in giving life. He's going to say that. That's important. Secondly, it has a different function from the law. It's to shut up everything under sin's power. This is the argument that he's going to make in the next section. So that's what the law does. You know, the law actually points you to the promise. And then third, and this is related, the law closes every door of access to God except Christ's faith and our faith in Christ. So the law is not opposed to the promise. It just does different things. And as he says: If the inheritance -- in other words, that which creates the church, that which creates children of Abraham and makes them part of his inheritance. If that's not by the promise, then it's not the inheritance. Because God gave this promise to Abraham. Not by means of the law. But by means of grace. And that's why he uses the word gifted. He granted it. He gifted it to them. This is a space in which God is making right what has gone wrong. That is what the promise is about. The law does not make right what has gone wrong. It can't. He's already talked about that. And he's building on that now in terms of his interpretation of the Abrahamic covenant. And so at this point what we see is that Christ is the true heir of the promise of Abraham. And if one is united with Christ in his life, then we receive the same inheritance that was promised to Abraham and is now fulfilled in Christ.