Gal 3:15-25 Brothers, I speak according to man, a covenant having been ratified, even among mankind, no one sets aside or adds to it. (16) And to Abraham and to his Seed the promises were spoken. It does not say, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, “And to your Seed,” which is Christ. (17) And I say this, A covenant having been ratified by God in Christ, the Law (coming into being four hundred and thirty years after) does not annul the promise, so as to abolish it. (18) For if the inheritance is of Law, it is no more of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by way of promise. (19) Why then the Law? It was added because of transgressions, until the Seed should come to those to whom it had been promised, being ordained through angels in the Mediator’s hand. (20) But a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one. (21) Is the Law then against the promises of God? Let it not be said! For if a law had been given which could have given life, indeed righteousness would have been by the Law. (22) But the Scripture shut up all under sin, so that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. (23) But before faith came, we were kept under Law, having been shut up to the faith about to be revealed. (24) So that the Law has become a tutor of us until Christ, that we might be justified by faith. (25) But faith coming, we are no longer under a tutor.
The gospel is not of man; it is from God alone. (Gal 1:11-12) This means that the gospel is neither Jewish nor Greek (Gentile) in its origin nor in its understanding. The cross of the Lord Jesus Christ is the heart of the gospel; and the Apostle writes in another letter that the cross is a cause of stumbling to the Jews, and is folly to the Greeks. If the gospel were natural to humans, whether Jewish or Gentile, then resistance to it would not be so strong among the Jewish people, or among nominal Christians who fear God and do righteousness, and think that they are good enough to inherit eternal life. Born-again believers need to renew their mind by the Word of God and the Holy Spirit to know and to live by the will of God in light of the truth of the gospel.
The gospel of Jesus Christ gives salvation to those who believe: it is the gift of God by grace to those who repent and believe the gospel for salvation from sin and its consequences. No person can earn salvation by good works, or by being a good person, but must be born-again by the Holy Spirit through faith in God’s way of salvation for both Jews and non-Jews. By such living faith, a person is justified by God and no longer under the condemnation of His Law (Torah). All have sinned, and need a Savior, and His name is Yeshua/Jesus. There will be no other Savior! (Acts 4:12)
The Law Unable To Annul The Promise v. 15-18
Belief in the gospel changes a person’s life and his world-view, and brings a unity among all who believe, from whatever people or tribe or tongue. The New Covenant brings significant changes from the Law of Moses, and therefore it requires Jewish people first to believe what the God of Israel spoke concerning these things, and also the Gentiles, for whom all of this was new, not having the covenants which God cut with the Jewish people and Israel. The gospel is God’s way of redeeming back to Himself those from all nations which He scattered after the sin of the Tower of Babel. This gospel He spoke already to Abraham – the father by supernatural intervention of the Jewish people in the flesh, and of “many nations” through the faith of Abraham –when YHVH said that through Abraham’s seed, all the families of the Earth (all the nations) would be blessed. (Gen 12:3; Gal 3:8) This seed is not only the Jewish people, but more specifically the Messiah, the Lord Yeshua, who became a man as an Israeli Jew. (Mic 5:2; Mt 2:1-6, 19-21)
What is the promise? The promise to those who believe as Abraham did – that YHVH God could, and would, raise the dead in order to fulfill His promise – is to be justified to inherit the world with Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and to rule with Him over Israel and the nations and God’s creation in the world to come (the Millennial Kingdom), when the knowledge of the glory of YHVH fills the whole Earth . (Gen 1:26-28; Ps 8; Is 11 – 12; Rev 3:21-22; Rev 20:4-6) For this, we need to be conformed to the image of the Son of God in order to be suited to rule in a godly manner.
The Governmental Objective of the Law [given to Israel at Mt Sinai] v. 19-22
“So what purpose did/does the Law serve?” This is Paul’s question in v. 19 to lead into his answer as why the Law had a purpose even though it could not make anyone righteous, nor nullify the promise. He answers it: “The Law was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator.” (Dt 33:1-4 esp the Sept; the visible YHVH; M. Heiser, The Unseen Realm, p. 166-169) We have already seen that individual humanity had greatly sinned before the flood (Gen 6:5-8); that the nations had sinned in Babylon with the Tower of Babel (Gen 11:1-9); and the Children of Jacob/Israel were living like the Egyptians before they receive the Law at Mt. Sinai. YHVH God gave His holy, righteous, and good Law with its commandments to teach His people to live in a way which distinguished them from all other nations and people. (Dt 4:5-10) His people are to be holy, for He is holy, righteous, and good. (Rom 7:12) He is not like the other gods whom the Gentiles serve and worship.
“It was added.—It was not a part of the original scheme, but came in as a sort of marginal addition. It was, as it were, a parenthesis in the design of Providence. The direct line of God’s dealings with man ran through the promise and its fulfilment. The Law came in by the way.
“Because of transgressions.—It has been usual to give to this one of two opposite interpretations, to make it mean (1) to check or put down transgressions; (2) to multiply and increase transgressions, as in Romans 5:20. The expression seems wide enough to cover both ideas. The Law was given “because of transgressions:” i.e., it had its object in transgressions. Its original purpose was to make them known, and by imposing a penalty to check them; its real effect was to provoke and enhance them. The expression “because of transgressions” leaves it ambiguous which of these points is meant, or rather, it includes them all.” (Ellicott’s Commentary)
God wants us to know the sinfulness of sin in our very nature that is opposed to His perfectly holy and pure nature. All persons are found to be sinners: without Law, with Law, even with the Holy Spirit. We all, without exception, need God to save us from our sins, which He knew before He created the world. (Rev 13:8; Eph 1:4)
YHVH had chosen Israel as His first-born son as the means to draw all nations back to Him. Israel is intended to be a kingdom of priests, and a light to the nations. All nations are to be blessed through Abraham’s children in covenant with YHVH. Salvation is from the Jews, Jesus tells us. (Jn 4:22) But this salvation is not by obeying commandments and laws. Salvation – in both an Old Testament sense, and in the New – comes with loving the one true God and being loyal to Him. (Jer 7:22-23; Lk 10:25-28) The one true God is revealed to be YHVH God — the Father, His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. The Father and the Spirit are invisible; Jesus came as the visible God.
Faith Having Come Fulfills the Purpose of The Law v. 23-25
One can keep laws and customs, while at the same time having a divided loyalty of heart to the one God. God demands whole-hearted faith and loyalty. This is demonstrated by loving Him above all, and giving thanks for who He is, and for what He has done for us. Jesus has fought the battle for us against sin – which the Law only brought out the more! – and YHVH alone has died for us and risen from the dead to defeat the enemy, and to deliver us from the penalty of eternal separation from God. We are all – those who believe in Him – His children, whether we are Jewish or are not.
People often say that King David sinned much more than King Saul, and don’t understand why God took His Spirit from Saul and cast him away, but not only promised David so much, but also is keeping His covenanted promises to him. The reason is what we have just said: Saul was not faithful to the Lord, and sought help from other sources, and persecuted the one whom God had chosen, the one whose heart was for the Lord. David, although he committed adultery and murder, never wavered in his heart commitment to YHVH his God, and he was miserable in his soul until he confessed his sins, and accepted the evil consequences of his sins for the rest of his life, even though God forgave him and reconfirmed His covenant with him.
When we ask why Saul was condemned and David was forgiven, we betray our own misunderstanding of the ways of God, who searches the thoughts and intentions of our hears. We judge [usually] by what a man does; God judges the heart, and for a repentant sinner, He has paid the price required due to our guilt.
So, now for us: we do fail in keeping the commandments of Jesus, but this does not separate us from Him. Apostasy and idolatry are still the two sins of a divided heart which would prove our disloyalty and unfaithfulness; in other words, our lack of love for Him as the only God and Savior, and for disobedience to His commandments to us who belong to Him. These two sins of the heart weaken the fear of the LORD in us, which is a key to living for the glory of God alone.
A major factor in why a believer would seek to keep laws and customs of what religion or culture he/she had before would be to find acceptance by those of our family, friends, society who do not want to believe in the one true God and in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. We want to avoid the “offense of the cross”, which separates light from darkness, and sin from righteousness, in order to still be accepted as “okay” to the world. But, beloved brothers and sisters, we are called outside the camp to bear the reproach of Christ with Him, even as we are in the world as His servants and ambassadors to preach the gospel that others may also be saved from their sins and eternal separation from God, who gave His Son a sacrifice that we might be His, to His everlasting glory and joy. (Is 53:10)
The Law is given as a tutor is to children, guarding them for their adulthood. God’s Law through angels to Moses for Israel was given to protect the chosen people from foreign gods, and to learn the holiness and righteousness of YHVH, God of Israel. Once faith in Messiah has come, we are no longer children under a tutor, but are being ‘graduated’ to adulthood and to sonship, with its privileges and freedoms. Yet this freedom carries with it greater responsibility and accountability than is the case for children, or for slaves. We grow unto full maturity; we do not return to childish immaturity. We focus on things of eternal value, not on those things which are already passing away. With faith in the promised Seed – Yeshua – the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in the believer, and enables us to fulfill the righteousness of the Law. (Rom 8:3-4) We may feel, or know that we are inadequate, or that we did not excel at studies, but by faith in the grace of God we move on into the professional world.
Law brings us to know our need for a Savior, so that we can fulfill the righteous requirements of the Law – and of the Law of Christ. Faith does not mean that we no longer have to obey the Lord, or that we do not have a cultural way of life, but it does mean that we are to believe and to live in accord with the New Covenant which the truth of the gospel has revealed. There are some significant changes, as Jesus our peace has broken down the wall of hostility between Jews and Gentiles, as well as the standard of perfection which kept all of us from personal relationship and fellowship with God! (Acts 15:10) God is now bringing into His family born-again believers from out of every nation – fulfilling the promise of God to Abraham — dwelling by His Spirit within each of us, so that we equally call Him Father: Christ in us, the hope of glory!