FREEDOM FROM BARS, RODS & JOB DESCRIPTIONS
…for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. (Galatians 3:26 & 29)
Last week Paul laid down the argument that Jesus sets us free from the law. He asked the question, “How did you get saved? By works of the law, or by faith?” Then he asked, “How did Abraham get saved, by works of the law, or by faith?” – which of course was a trick question because Abraham lived almost 500 years before the law. Today he is going to continue that argument in a message that I have entailed “Freedom from Bars, Rods, and Job Descriptions.” Lets look at Galatians 3:15ff.
The Law does not cancel the Promise
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.
a. Contract vs Promise (Last Will and Testament)
Paul says, let me give an illustration from the customs of man. He is trying to explain some deep theological truths but only has human customs in hand to illustrate. So, as a familiar example, lets look at a human ‘last will and testament’. Both in our modern world and in the ancient world, men will often draw up a will.
“A will or testament is a legal declaration by which a person names one or more persons to manage his or her estate and provides for the distribution of his property at death.” wiki
One draws up a ‘will’ to state what will happen to his personal property after he dies. Even in our human affairs it is clearly understood that a will is binding. Nothing can break a person’s last will and testament. If I make a testament that when I die all my belongings shall go to my eldest son, or that they shall be split up equally between my 3 children there is virtually nothing that can break that testament. Sure, there may be loop holes, but they are very difficult holes to loop. If I am not mistaken, the will and testament is a kind of legal document that has the highest of priorities. So any loops will be difficult holes to get through.
So with that illustration in hand Paul is saying, “If a human testament can not be broken, then how much more will it be true that God’s testament may not be broken? If God makes a will and testament (or “promise” as it is translated in the ESV) then can anything break it? Are there loop holes? The answer is clearly, “No.” So then, what does God’s testament say? Here is God’s will or promise to Abraham.
“…in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.” Genesis 12, 18, 22
That is God’s promise and Paul is arguing that God said it, he meant it, it is a testament, or a will, or a promise, and nothing can cancel it. God said, “Through Abraham’s offspring (which is singular, meaning one particular offspring) I will bless the entire earth!” You and I know that offspring is Jesus.
b. Jesus was part of that promise
Paul explains, “This is what I am trying to tell you, Jesus was the fulfillment of that promise. Think about this. Jesus is God, he died, and now his last will and testament is being given to the inheritors. Therefore, God is blessing the earth right now because he promised he would when the offspring comes. Jesus has come and that blessing comes with him and nothing can change that. Nothing can cancel the promises of God. God can not lie and if he makes a promise it will be kept.
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.
c. therefore the Law does not cancel the promise.
So the question is, is the Law that God gave to Moses, some sort of loop hole? Did God change his mind 430 years after he made that promise. When Moses came and received the Law, was God tearing up that original promise and giving us a new one. A different one. One that was more contractual. The answer, Paul’s answer, is “No!” Paul argues, “The Law does not cancel a promise previously established by God, so as to make the promise void.” In fact, the law was not even a part of that original discussion. God said, “I promise.” Not, “If you do this and not that.”
“When Christ died, this testament was sealed by His blood. After His death the testament was opened, it was published to the nations. No man ought to alter God’s testament as the false apostles do who substitute the Law and traditions of men for the testament of God. As the false prophets tampered with God’s testament in the days of Paul, so many do in our day.” Martin Luther.
This is a continuation of Paul’s original question regarding whether Abraham’s salvation was given to him based on ‘works of the law’ or through faith. The Bible always answers that question with this same sentence, “It was given to Abraham as credit, because of his faith.” God gave salvation to Abraham by a promise, not through a contract.
It might be important for us to clarify the difference between a promise and a contract. Abraham received a promise but Moses received the contract. A promise is given and contract is earned. A promise is unconditioned and a contract is conditional. All of us know what a contract looks like. You were given one when you took your job. It is called a “job description”. That contract says, “If you do ‘this and that’, then we will pay you this much plus give you 2 weeks of vacation per year. Furthermore, you will receive an annual review to determine whether you are in fact doing ‘this and that’ and whether we should continue to pay such and such amount. More to that, in your review, if you have proven to perform well at ‘this and that’, we might (and reserve the right to not) give you a raise or a bonus, and pay you more such and suches.”
A contract, like your job description, is a conditioned legal agreement. “If you perform – then you get paid. If you produce – you get paid. If you don’t produce – then you don’t get paid.” Here’s a question, does that sound anything like God’s promise to Abraham? No it doesn’t. God did not make a contract, he made a promise to Abraham. But… the Law does kinda sound like that. The Law says, “If you do ‘this and that’ then you will get ‘such and such’. Paul is drawing a contrast between the promise of blessing and the Law. His argument is that the promised is better. It was first. It is more binding. It is a last will and testament and nothing can break it, not even a contract that is drawn up later.
“A testament is not a law, but an inheritance. Heirs do not look for laws and assessments when they open a last will; they look for grants and favors. The testament which God made out to Abraham did not contain laws. It contained promises of great spiritual blessings.” Martin Luther.
II. Why did God give the Law then?
19 Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made… …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.
Why then the Law? This question naturally arises in our minds. Doesn’t it? It always does. That question rears its ugly head all through out the New Testament. Because, it feels like Paul is a being a bit radical. It feels like blaspheme. It sounds rebellious and makes you want to say something like, “Well, shoot, if the Law doesn’t count then we might as well go a little crazy. Lets get crazy tonight! Let’s increase in some sin so that grace may also increase.”
“People foolish but wise in their conceits jump to the conclusion: If the Law does not justify, it is good for nothing. How about that? Because money does not justify, would you say that money is good for nothing? Because the eyes do not justify, would you have them taken out? Because the Law does not justify it does not follow that the Law is without value. We must find and define the proper purpose of the Law. We do not offhand condemn the Law because we say it does not justify. Martin Luther.
a. Added b/c of Sin – until the offspring (Jesus) came.
Paul has an answer to your questions. The Law was given because of sin. God does not like sin. He destroyed the whole earth with a flood because there was so much sin. After that, sin continued. It increased. So, instead of a flood God gave the Law. But notice that there was a boundary to the Law. A time limit. Just as the flood was only for a time, it rained 40 days and 40 nights, the Law also has a time boundary. The Law has one of those labels on it that reads, “Best if served before ‘such and such’ date.” Did you notice the date? Did you notice the boundary? It says, “Until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made.”
b. The Twofold Purpose of the Law
So the Law was given for sin. That is Paul’s short and simple answer. Since that is what the bible says the law was given for, scholars have explained the Law as having a Twofold purpose. It has 2 uses for us today. The first is civil and second is spiritual. Let me explain.
First, God gave laws in order to punish a crime. Each and every law was given to control sin When the law says, “Do not kill, do not steal, do not commit adultery,” I feel the weight of that law and I will try not to do those things because of fear of what will happen to me if I do. I fear jail, prison, hefty fines, or even the electric chair. The law, keeps me civil, or else I will be punished. But notice that my obedience is motivated out of fear. The law is like a prison. It is a violent, threatening, constraining kind of a thing.
So the first use of the law is civil. It serves to control us. It does not save us. Now, the second purpose of the Law is spiritual. Spiritually, our sin separates us from God. So the Law’s second purpose is to reveal to us or convict us of our sin. Luther says it functions to tear to pieces that monster called self-righteousness:
“This is the principal purpose of the Law and its most valuable contribution. As long as a person is not a murderer, adulterer, thief, he would swear that he is righteous. How is God going to humble such a person except by the Law? As long as a person thinks he is right he is going to be incomprehensibly proud and presumptuous. He is going to hate God, despise His grace and mercy, and ignore the promises in Christ. The Gospel of the free forgiveness of sins through Christ will never appeal to the self-righteous. This monster of self-righteousness, this stiff-necked beast, needs a big axe. And that is what the Law is, a big axe. Accordingly, the proper use and function of the Law is to threaten until the conscience is scared stiff.” Martin Luther.
I think this is a bit ironic. If you think about it, it is always the legalists who try to control others by that first use of Law. I think of the Pharisees who questioned why the disciples didn’t wash their hands before dinner. I think of the guy in the navy blue suit, holding his extra large bible, looking down his nose at the Sunday guest who isn’t wearing a suit, not toting a bible and smells like he smoked a pack of parliemtn on the way to church. It is those legalistic people who wield the first use of the law to bully others. They are the “holier-than-thou’s.” And sometimes – they even make up their own laws to push people around with. But the ironic thing is this: it is they who actually need the law the most. The second use of the law exist to humble the proud. No humble person, who has been beaten by the law, could then wield the same law as a club to beat others. But isn’t always the legalist who seem to love the law? I say let them have it. They need it.
But, and this is where I get to take a beating by the same law, is it not our loving responsibility to set them free as well? Isn’t that exactly what Paul is fighting for in this book? Even the legalists, especially the legalists, need to be set free. Incidentally, that is precisely why we are moving so slowly through this book. That is why I have entitled this series “Freedom”. Because we all need to be set free. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.
So Paul asks, “Why then the Law?”, the answer, “For sin.” So there are two uses or purpose of the Law in regard to sin. The 1st is to control and punish sin. The 2nd is to humble us, to scare us, and to bring us to the end of our rope so that we have no other choice but to bet it all on Jesus. That is what the Law is for. Paul asks, “Is the Law contrary to the promise?” No. Again, not contrary, just different. You see we must never forget these 2 purpose of the Law. The law does not, can not justify or save anyone. It can only scare you and humble you into believing that you need to be saved. That is what the Law is for. But that is not how we use it. That is not how I was taught. I as taught, “If you do ‘this and that’ then you get to go to heaven and if you do ‘that or this’ then you will go to hell.”
So you see – the Law imprisons you, but the Gospel sets you free. The Law condemns and punishes, but the Gospel says there is now no judgment, no punishment, not condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. The Law blows a whistle, beats you down with its club, and throws you in the slammer. The Gospel lifts you up and sits you in a leather high back chair in a lawyer’s office where he reads to you the blessings of your new legal inheritance. We must understand the difference between promise & contract and Law & Gospel.
The silence in the Church concerning the difference between the Law and the Gospel has resulted in untold harm. Unless a sharp distinction is maintained between the purpose and function of the Law and the Gospel, the Christian doctrine cannot be kept free from error.” Martin Luther.
c. It was Guardian (imprisoned all under sin and 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. 23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith.
Paul really drives this concept home. The law is for control and fear. He has called it a prison, one the Christ has set us free from, and now he calls it a school-master. Some translations say ‘tutor’, others ‘guardian’. Unfortunately none of those do justice to what Paul is actually saying. ‘Tutor’ sounds like this nice little sweet college student that helps us understand things we are having a hard time understanding. Guardian, makes it sound like a person who is always protecting you and loving you and cherishing you. Some one like Mary Poppins. Paul, is not saying that the Law is like Mary Poppins. On the contrary, the Law is more like a harsh school master. The word Paul uses in Greek is pedagogue and means “a slave with responsibility for a child.”
In the ancient world, parents would assign a slave as a guardian, teacher, and protector for the children. Now, there may have been slaves who acted like Mary Poppins, but the most common, even the stereo type of a pedagogue is “that of a harsh disciplinarian who frequently resorted to physical force and corporal punishment as a way of keeping his children in line.” (Constable)
“Show me a pupil who loves his schoolmaster. You cannot expect anything else. How can a pupil love a teacher who frustrates his desires? And if the pupil disobeys, the schoolmaster whips him, and the pupil has to like it and even kiss the rod with which he was beaten. Do you think the schoolboy feels good about it? As soon as the teacher turns his back, the pupil breaks the rod and throws it into the fire. And if he were stronger than the teacher he would not take the beatings, but beat up the teacher.” Martin Luther
We Are Heirs of the Promise
But notice again, there is a time boundary for this guardian. He will not beat the kid forever. One day the child will grow up and no longer have need for the school master. Paul repeats that time limit here, “So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith.” So you see the Law is good. School-masters are good. Guardians are good. They protect and they teach. But they only exist to prepare us for our inheritance. God’s law was given by God and it is good. It served its purpose (2 purposes actually) but now Jesus has come to set us free from the school-master. We have no need for the school-master because we are now being given our inheritance 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.
Again, I want to remind you that this entire book is a fight from freedom. Paul is fighting against the tyranny of religion, and legalism, and fundamentalism. He has been arguing and teaching and proving that if the Son has set you free then you are free indeed. You are free from the need to please that gauy in the navy blue suit and the extra large bible. You are free from the legalistic demands of the law that says don’t eat, don’t drink, wash three times day, and tithe a tenth of your mint and your dill. today Paul is throwing a combo left hook and right uppercut. He says, “You are free from the prison that the Law puts you in” (left hook) and, “You are free from your harsh school-master with his rod of correction” (right uppercut).
Conclusion: In Christ Sons of God
…for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. (Galatians 3:26 & 29)
If you are in Christ then you can rejoice because Christ fulfilled the Law for you. Paul always has the word “faith” on the tip of his tongue. By faith, says he, we are the children of God. IT is not throughout the Law it is through faith. Just as Abraham our father received the promise through faith, so too we, the children of Abraham receive the promise through faith.
So here is my question to you. Has the Law done its part. Have you been beaten and humbled. Has the law and your sin imprisoned you? Do you struggle with addictions? Are you wrestling with anger? Do you lust, or lie, or gossip? I know that you do. And, if you understand what the bible says you are condemned by the Law. You deserve punishment. The school master is constantly cracking that stick on your desk reminding you —- thou shalt not, and you fall short. Do you hear that? do you feel that? Then that is good. You see the Law has done its part.
But now, let me encourage you, let the Gospel do it’s part. Let Christ set you free. Place your trust in Jesus. Be baptized with Christ and you will become a son or a daughter of God. He has made a promise. One that says he will give his inheritance to all who believe in the offspring of Abraham named Jesus.
“The proverb has it that Hunger is the best cook. The Law makes afflicted consciences hungry for Christ. Christ tastes good to them. Hungry hearts appreciate Christ. Thirsty souls are what Christ wants. He invites them: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Christ’s benefits are so precious that He will dispense them only to those who need them and really desire them.” Martin Luther.