The Purpose of the Law (Galatians 3:19-25)

The Purpose of the Law(Galatians 3:19-25)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends church in Poland, OH on Sunday, February 24, 2019

I am going to be going to Galatians 3:19-25 in a minute, but let me introduce the passage by talking about lions and cages. Can you imagine keeping a lion as a pet? These people did and his name is Christian, watch this:

They kept a lion as a pet! Who would do that? When is that okay? Generally, we would all have no problem being around a lion as long the lion is in a cage, isn’t that correct? I like going to the zoo and looking at lions behind bars. I like watching lions on television, but not in my front yard.

Now, think about this: we are the lion and the Old Testament Law functions as bars of a cage to keep us from sinning. Now, if our lion nature changes there is no need for the bars. That is what this passage is about.

Paul has been writing about the Law. Paul has been saying that we are NOT made right with God by the Law. We are made right with God by faith. So, what is the purpose of the Law? That is what Paul jumps into in Galatians 3:19, let’s go there and talk about it.

My theme today is this:

The Law was our tutor until Christ came.

Let’s read Galatians 3:19-25:

Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator, until the seed would come to whom the promise had been made. 20 Now a mediator is not for one party only; whereas God is only one. 21 Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God? May it never be! For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law. 22 But the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.

23 But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. 24 Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.

  1. “What, then, was the purpose of the law?” (vv. 19–20)
    1. These verses bring to a conclusion Paul’s long parenthesis which began in verse 10 and goes through verse 25. Paul has been talking about the purpose of the law.
    2. We must remember to allow Scripture to interpret Scripture. As the New American Commentary points out, Paul seems to be writing in Theological shorthand. Paul will later expand on these themes in the letter of Romans. So, we must look to Romans for any problems interpreting these passages.
    3. Further, the New American Commentary points out: Paul’s meaning is essentially clear: the law is not on the same par with the covenant of promise not only because it was chronologically limited but also because it was handed down by angels with a man acting as a go-between.
    4. In Verse 19 we see that:
      1. The law was ordained by angels.
      2. Moses was the mediator.
  • Moses was less of a mediator than Jesus.
  1. Jesus would come.
  1. The verse says that we needed the law because of our transgressions. There are various views on the need for the law and transgressions.
  2. There are four purposes for the law:
    1. “to provide a sacrificial system to deal temporarily with transgressions,”
    2. “to teach people more clearly what God requires and thereby to restrain transgressions,”
    3. “to show that transgressions violated an explicit written law,” or
    4. “to reveal people’s sinfulness and need for a savior” (cf. 3:20: “through the law comes knowledge of sin”).
  3. All four senses are theologically true, but the last is probably uppermost in Paul’s mind.[1]
  1. One source points out the following: The preventive and provocative functions correspond to the civil and spiritual uses of the law as developed by Luther.95Clearly, Luther thought, God has ordained civil laws for the purpose of restraining evildoers. Just as a rope or chain prevents a wild animal from attacking an innocent bystander, so too the law with its “thou shalt nots” and penal code prevents sinful humanity from going on a rampage and completely destroying itself. Obviously without the civil use of the law, human society could not be sustained.
  2. So, we needed the law to show us that we are sinners in need of a Savior in addition to the other reasons listed.
  3. I think it is amazing that this verse points to Christ as the Seed, the Savior.
  4. By the way, we get the idea of angels involved in the giving of the law and this came from Acts 7:53: You received the law by decrees given by angels, but you did not obey it.”
  5. Now, moving to verse 20:
  6. We have a lot of discussion about this idea of the mediator. I believe Moses was the mediator, but he was a fallen mediator and that also points to Jesus. That also points to the idea that the law was lacking.
  7. This verse is also attesting to the Shema from Deut. 6:4 that the Lord is One.
  1. “Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God?” (vv. 21–22)
    1. Paul is totally opposed to this idea, he responds: “Certainly not!” Or, “May it never be.”
    2. The Greek expression Paul used, mē genoito, conveys horror and shock at the very concept under consideration.110Of its fifteen occurrences in the New Testament, thirteen are in Paul’s writings, invariably translated “God forbid!” by the KJV: “Is God unrighteous who taketh vengeance? God forbid” (Rom 3:6). “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid” (Rom 3:31). “Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid” (Rom 6:1–2). “Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid” (Rom 9:14). “Is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid” (Gal 2:17).[2]
    3. Verse 21 continues with the point that the law could not impart life. Righteousness could not come from the law.
    4. Verse 22, notice how Paul uses the word translated as Scripture. He says everyone is shut up under sin. He uses the idea of a cage. John MacArthur shares: The Greek verb translated “imprisoned” means “to enclose on all sides.” Paul portrays all mankind as hopelessly trapped in sin, like a school of fish caught in a net.[3]
    5. The promise comes by faith in Jesus.
  • Now, we come to the concluding paragraph (vv. 23–25)
    1. We continue the thought of the second paragraph, summing up the function of the law in terms of a new metaphor, that of the paidagōgos. This is translated as tutor.
    2. We were kept in custody under the law. Think about that. This is like those bars that keep the lion inside.
    3. Verse 24 says that the Law became a tutor.
    4. Verse 24 says that we are justified, which means made right with God, declared righteous, by faith.
    5. We need to talk about this idea of the tutor.
      1. This is what I read about it:
      2. In ancient Greece and Rome wealthy parents often placed their newborn babies under the care of a wet-nurse who in turn would pass them on to an older woman, a nanny who would care for their basic needs until about the age of six. At that time they came under the supervision of another household servant, the paidagōgos, who remained in charge of their upbringing until late adolescence. The pedagogue took over where the nanny left off in terms of offering menial care and completing the process of socialization for his charge. For example, one of the functions of the pedagogue was to offer instruction in the basics of manners as this description from Plutarch reveals: “And yet what do tutors [they] teach? To walk in the public streets with lowered head; to touch salt-fish but with one finger, but fresh fish, bread, and meat with two; to sit in such and such a posture; in such and such a way to wear their cloaks.”124The pedagogues also offered round-the-clock supervision and protection to those under their care. In this regard Libanius described the pedagogues as guardians of young teenage boys who warded off unsolicited homosexual advances their charges regularly encountered in the public baths, thus becoming “like barking dogs to wolves.”125
  • No doubt there were many pedagogues who were known for their kindness and held in affection by their wards, but the dominant image was that of a harsh disciplinarian who frequently resorted to physical force and corporal punishment as a way of keeping his children in line. For example, a certain pedagogue named Socicrines was described as a “fierce and mean old man” because of his physically breaking up a rowdy party. He then dragged away his young man, Charicles, “like the lowest slave” and delivered the other troublemakers to the jailer with instructions that they should be handed over to “the public executioner.”126The ancient Christian writer Theodoret of Cyrrhus observed that “students are scared of their pedagogues.”127And well they might have been because pedagogues frequently accomplished their task by tweaking the ear, cuffing the hands, whipping, caning, pinching, and other unpleasant means of applied correction.
  1. Now, isn’t that interesting? I love that background information. We may translate that word as “tutor,” but it means so much more. The law was a very strong disciplinarian to lead us until Christ. Some translations say, “to” Christ. But it is probably better translated as “until” Christ.
  1. Let’s make some applications:
    1. The Law was important.
    2. The law is still important because it does give us bars, or guard rails for right and wrong.
    3. But the law does not save us, Jesus saves.
    4. It is all about Jesus.
    5. Our salvation was, and is, and always will be, all about Jesus.
    6. STOP trying to earn it.
    7. Our salvation is Jesus plus nothing.
    9. RELIGION is how we earn our way to Heaven.
    10. CHRISTIANITY is what Jesus has done to pay our way to Heaven.
    11. When we fall down spiritually, we can trust the grace of Christ.
    12. Christ paid for our salvation.
    13. More than that, Christ paid for our justification.
    14. Christ made us righteous.
    15. Give Him Praise and glory and serve HIM.


I like to run, but I do not like running on the treadmill. On the treadmill I always feel like I am not going anywhere. The scenery always looks the same. I have to look at the odometer to know if I did anything. That is what the Law was like, you don’t go anywhere, there is no salvation.

I am a terrible swimmer. I can swim enough to drown, and I realized that on a NJROTC trip in 1998. I was in Pensacola, Florida and we were visiting Navy bases etc. We then went to the beach. Everyone was swimming out to a sand bar. I started swimming and kept going trying to get there. However, the waves kept pulling me back. I kept swimming and I was not making any progress. I was starting to get worn out. I was swimming and not getting any closer. I was getting fatigued. I kept swimming and looking up over the surf and I literally was getting further away. Eventually, I called for help and one of them helped me out and then pulled me back in. I don’t know if I ever have been so tired in my life.

That is what the law is like. We get worn out trying to earn our way to Heaven. The law was a disciplinarian, a tutor trying to show us we needed a Savior in addition to giving us guard rails.

The law could not make us righteous. Jesus paid for our sins on the cross and Jesus gives us His righteousness.





110Note the various translations given to this use of the optative to express an emphatic negative wish: “certainly not” (Phillips); “of course not” (JB); “unthinkable!” (NAB); “no, never!” (NEB); “das sei ferne!” (Luther). For once, Clarence Jordan’s Cotton Patch translation misses the mark for being too weak: “not necessarily.” On the wider use of this term in the NT, see C. F. D. Moule, An Idiom-Book of New Testament Greek(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1953), 23.

[2]Timothy George, Galatians, vol. 30, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994), 258–259.

[3]Excerpt From: Crossway. “The MacArthur Study Bible, ESV.” Apple Books.


124Plutarch, Mor. 439f–440, cited in Young, “PAIDAGŌGOS,” 160–61.

125Ibid., 159.

126This incident is cited by Alciphron in EP.3.7.3–5, quoted by Lull, “ ‘The Law Was Our Pedagogue,’ ” 489–90.

127Epistle 36; Young, “PAIDAGŌGOS,” 162, n. 138. Cf. Libanius’s likening of the pounding of the boat’s oars on the sea to the pedagogue’s lash upon a child’s back (Epistle 1188, 3–4; ibid.).

Human Law Shows the Promise to Abraham Stands and Is Fulfilled in Jesus(Galatians 3:15-18)

Human Law Shows the Promise to Abraham Stands and Is Fulfilled in Jesus (Galatians 3:15-18)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church on Sunday, February 10, 2019

A Hands-Tied Experience

Imagine if I was preaching in a straight jacket right now…

I would illustrate our tendency to return over and over again to the constraints and strictures of the Law instead of enjoying the fact that we are “Free to Enjoy” the new life God gives us.

We limit ourselves by thinking we are saved by keeping the law. We limit our ability to rely on the Holy Spirit. We end up literally tying our hands because we are living on our own strength and not the strength of God.

Think more about grace… 

I know a family who adopted an older child from an unspeakably horrific orphanage in another country. When they brought her home one of the things they told her was that she was expected to clean her room every day. When she heard about that responsibility, she fixated on it and saw it as a way she would earn her family’s love. In other words, she isolated the responsibility and applied it to her existing frame of thinking that was shaped by life in the orphanage. Thus, every morning when her parents came in her room, it was immaculate and she would sit on the bed and would say, “My room is clean. Can I stay? Do you still love me?” Her words broke her new parents’ hearts.

Eventually, the girl learned to hear her parents’ words as their unconditionally beloved child who would never be forsaken, not as a visitor trying to earn her place in the family. After she knew that she was an inseparable part of the family story, even correction and discipline did not cause her to question her family’s love for her; she understood correction and discipline to be part of what it meant to be in the family.[1]

We are continuing our series on Galatians. Galatians continues to show that we are saved by grace and not by the law.

My theme today is:

Human Law Shows the Promise to Abraham Stands and Is Fulfilled in Jesus

Let’s read from the text:

Galatians 3:15-18:

Brethren, I speak in terms of human relations: even though it is only a man’s covenant, yet when it has been ratified, no one sets it aside or adds conditions to it. 16 Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as referring to many, but rather to one, “And to your seed,” that is, Christ. 17 What I am saying is this: the Law, which came four hundred and thirty years later, does not invalidate a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise. 18 For if the inheritance is based on law, it is no longer based on a promise; but God has granted it to Abraham by means of a promise.

  1. The covenant doesn’t change.

We see this in verse 15.

Notice that Paul begins the verse with “brethren.”

He has not used a loving term of endearment since chapter 1:11.

One writes: We are struck by the fact that Paul addressed the Galatians here as “brothers,” a term of endearment he had not used since 1:11, although it would occur again seven other times in the letter (4:12, 28, 31; 5:11, 13; 6:1, 18). Although the Galatians were confused, foolish, and bewitched, and although Paul felt betrayed, perplexed, and forlorn about them, still they were adelphoi, “brothers.” This term of relationship is especially appropriate at the beginning of a passage that will seek to answer the questions: “What makes a family a family? Who are the true children of Abraham, the heirs of the promise, and thus entitled to call one another brothers and sisters?”[2]

God set a covenant with Abraham and Paul is about to show that that covenant does not change.

2. The covenant was to Abraham’s seed, Christ.

  1. In verse 16, Paul shares that this covenant was spoken to Abraham’s seed.
  2. Paul shares that this was Abraham’s seed in the singular and that would be Christ. The verse says: Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as referringto many, but rather to one, “And to your seed,” that is, Christ.
  3. The ESV Study Bible shares: God spoke promises to Abraham on several occasions, but probably Gen. 13:15 and 17:8 are particularly in view. And to your offspring. Paul knows that the singular (Hb. zera‘) can be used as a collective singular that has a plural sense (he interprets it in a plural sense in Rom. 4:18). But it also can have a singular meaning, and here Paul, knowing that only in Christ would the promised blessings come to the Gentiles, sees that the most true and ultimate fulfillment of these OT promises comes to one “offspring,” namely, Christ.
  4. God is faithful to the promise which is fulfilled in Christ.
  • Now, the law came later, but does not change the promise.
    1. Verse 17 expands on this. What I am saying is this: the Law, which camefour hundred and thirty years later, does not invalidate a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise.
    1. There are a few explanations of how Paul got 430 years. The ESV Study Bible shares: Paul is apparently referring to the Septuagint translation of Ex. 12:40, “The dwelling of the children of Israel . . . in Egypt and in Canaan was 430 years,” which would mean 430 years from Abraham to the exodus (the Hb. text does not include “and in Canaan”). Another explanation is that Paul is not counting the time from the first statement of the promise to Abraham but from the last affirmation of that promise to Jacob before he went to Egypt in Gen. 46:3–4. This method would then count the entire time in Egypt as the time from the “promise” to the “law.” If this is so, then Paul is relying on the Hebrew text of Ex. 12:40 to affirm a 430-year stay in Egypt.
    1. Exodus 12:40 shares: Now the time that the sons of Israel lived in Egypt was four hundred and thirty years.
    1. The point is clear. Even though the law came later, it does not change the promise made to Abraham.
    1. Remember in context Paul has been talking about salvation by grace through faith.
    1. Look at verse 14: in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
    1. Look at verse 6, quoting Genesis 15:6: Even so Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.
    1. God is faithful to His promise that we are saved by grace through faith as it was with Abraham.
    1. In Luther’s commentary on this text he drew the individual believer into the sequence of salvation history Paul had outlined and encouraged those who felt condemned by the accusation of the law to reply: “ ‘Lady Law, you are not coming on time; you are coming too late. Look back 430 years; if these were rolled back, you could come. But you are coming too late and tardily; for you have been preceded for 430 years by the promise, to which I agree and in which I gently rest. Therefore you have nothing to do with me; I do not hear you. Now I am living after Abraham a believer; or rather, I am living after the revelation of Christ, who has abrogated and abolished you.’ Thus let Christ always be set forth to the heart as a kind of summary of all the arguments in support of faith and against the righteousness of the flesh, the law, works, and merits.”89[3]
  1. The covenant is based on a promise.
    1. Notice this in verse 18.
    1. Forif the inheritance is based on law, it is no longer based on a promise; but God has granted it to Abraham by means of a promise.
    1. Now Paul brings up an inheritance.
    1. Think about inheritance. The promise of a future inheritance is one of the many promises God makes to us in the Bible. But the concept itself is difficult for us to comprehend. One way to think about it would be to turn to some familiar names across the pond. When Princess Diana died in 1997, she left a sizeable inheritance for her two sons, William and Harry, in the amount of $20.4 million. With investments and interest, that amount grew during their teens and twenties to $31.4 million. But the provision was such that William and Harry were only able to inherit this considerable estate after their 30th birthdays. In June 2012, William turned 30 and inherited his portion. Harry will inherit his portion on his 30th birthday as well. The estate is theirs. It is has been promised to them. It is in theirnames, and it has been set aside for them. In the same way, as followers of Christ, we have an inheritance. Based on Jesus’ promise, it is ours. It’s in your name, and it’s set aside for you. At the right time, you too will receive your inheritance in full.[4]

Let’s apply this passage:

  1. We are saved by Jesus plus nothing, We must worship Jesus and not the law.
  2. We must recognize that God keeps His promises. His promise to Abraham was kept in Christ.
  3. We must recognize that our inheritance is in Christ and not the law. If it is by the law Christ died for nothing (verse 18 and Gal. 2:21)
  4. Our thinking must be on Christ and not the law.
  5. Our view of salvation must be focused on Christ and not the law.
  6. We must not neglect the importance of the law either but see it as a second step to the promise. Like what was written: In other words, for Paul the law was not merely a late addition in the history of salvation; rather it was a completely different kind of covenant than the one God had concluded with Abraham centuries before. G. E. Mendenhall has described the contrast that was at the heart of Paul’s distinction between the two covenants:[5]

It is not often enough seen that no obligations are imposed upon Abraham. Circumcision is not originally an obligation, but a sign of the covenant, like the rainbow in Genesis 9. It serves to identify the recipient(s) of the covenant, as well as to give a concrete indication that a covenant exists. It is for the protection of the promise, perhaps, like the mark of Cain in Genesis 4. The covenant of Moses, on the other hand, is almost the exact opposite. It imposes specific obligations on the tribes or clans without binding Yahweh to specific obligations.86[6]

  1. We must trust in Jesus who keeps His promises.


[1]David E. Prince, “How Biblical Application Really Works,” PreachingToday Skills Article (January 2018)


[2]Timothy George, Galatians, vol. 30, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994), 244–245.


[3]Timothy George, Galatians, vol. 30, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994), 249–250.

22Submitted by Jared E. Alcántara, Princeton, New Jersey; source: Frank Lovelace, “Prince William turns 30, inherits share of Diana estate,” Newsday (6-20-12)


[5]Timothy George, Galatians, vol. 30, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994), 249.

86G. E. Mendenhall, “Covenant Forms in Israelite Tradition,” BA17 (1954): 62. See also the discussion in Bligh, Galatians, 274–81.

[6]Timothy George, Galatians, vol. 30, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994), 249.

The Problem of the Law, but the Solution of Jesus (Gal. 3:10-14)

The problem of the law, but the solution of Jesus

(Galatians 3:10-14)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Sunday, February 3, 2019

Bryan Loritts writes:

Recently I was sitting in a doctor’s office with one of my young sons, and the nurse wanted to draw blood from him for a test. As you can imagine, he did not want to have blood taken from him. Who does? So he told me, “Dad, I can’t do it. I just can’t do it.”

The nurse said, “Here’s the deal, buddy. We’ve got this numbing spray. We’ll spray the numbing spray on you, and then we’ll stick the needle in you, and you won’t even feel it.”

But my son kept saying, “I can’t do it. I can’t do it.”

Finally I said to the nurse, “Ma’am, I know what I’m about to ask you may be out of bounds, but can you stick me first? Can you do it without the numbing spray? I just need to show my son.”

She said, “Yes, I’ll do it. We’ll keep this between us.” 

So I put my son on my lap, and I said, “Watch Daddy.” I rolled up my sleeve and stuck my arm out. Then the nurse stuck me and drew blood. A smile came over my son’s face. Yes, he was still a little nervous, but when he saw that Daddy already went through what he was about to go through, with no numbing spray, he stuck his arm out. It gave him courage.

In the same way, when you find yourself in the midst of hard times, look to the place where they drew Jesus’ blood. Look to the cross, and there you will find rest for your souls.[1]

Today, we are continuing our series on Galatians and we are continuing with the emphasis on Jesus taking our place on the cross and we are saved by faith in Him. No one could keep the law.

The Old Testament law can be explained the following way. I had a professor in a class share: I am going to give you a test and none of you can pass it, but if you fail the test then you fail the course. That is how he explained the books of the Law. In fact, the Bible shares just that. The law just gives us knowledge of our sin (Romans 3:20; 7:7-9).  We cannot keep the law.

Romans 3:20 says:

because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.

My theme:

The problem of the law, but the solution of Jesus

Or, to say it another way:

The law curses but Jesus saves.

Let’s read Galatians 3:10-14:

 For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them.” 11 Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, “The righteous man shall live by faith.” 12 However, the Law is not of faith; on the contrary, “He who practices them shall live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”— 14 in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

The Moody Bible Commentary explains the logic of this passage:

The logic of vv. 10-14 runs this way:

  1. The blessing of the Law is promised to those who obey it (v. 12, quoting Lv 18:5).
  2. What Paul left unstated is that the blessing is never actually received. Instead, those who rely on works are not able to do ALL that is WRITTEN IN the law (cf. Rm 3:20; 4:15; 5:20; 6:14).
  3. Thus, all who rely on law are CURSED (v. 10, quoting Dt 27:26).
  4. The truth of statement 3 above is confirmed. Since Hab 2:4 says that blessing comes by faith (cf. Rm 1:16-17), it cannot come by obedience to law.
  5. Through his crucifixion, Christ redeemed (exagorazo refers to buying someone or something out of a dangerous position; cf. 4:5) believers from the penalty of the Law (the curse; v. 13 quoting Dt 21:23).
  6. Thus the blessing that was promised to Abraham—including the Holy Spirit (cf. 3:2)—comes to all those who have faith, even Gentiles (v. 14).[2]
  1. Let’s talk about the curse of the law (verses 10-12)
    1. The verse is saying we are cursed for following the works of the law because we cannot keep them. There is a quote from Deut. 27:26.
    2. This is a larger section about being justified by faith.
    3. The point is clear, if we are living under the law we are cursed if we do not keep the whole law.
    4. Verse 11: the just shall live by faith (Hab 2:4) so no one is justified by the works of the law (this is evident) because no one can keep the whole law.
      1. David Jeremiah’s study Bible, (page 1626) shares: the law is like a chain that moors ships to a dock. Just as one broken link causes the entire chain to fail, so one transgression breaks the entire law. Since this is an all-or-nothing proposition, no amount of work can save us— only God can declare us just (James 2:10). Paul cites the words of Hab. 2:4 as proof of this truth.
      2. Gal. 2:16 shares: no one is justified by the works of the law.
    5. Verse 12: the law is not of faith, the man who does them, lives by them (Lev 18:5)
    6. David Jeremiah points out (Page 1626 of his study Bible) that Lev 18:5 reminds us we have to keep the whole law and no one could do that but Christ.
    7. If you practice the law you have to live by the law, rather than living by faith.
    8. Verses 10-12 are negative about living under the law.
    9. Verses 13-14 switch to Christ.
    10. One source points out: if someone really were to fulfill the entire corpus of Pentateuchal law, with its 242 positive commands and 365 prohibitions (according to one rabbinic reckoning), then indeed such a person could stand before God at the bar of judgment and demand admittance to heaven on the basis of his or her performance. Yet where on earth can such a flawless person be found?[3]
    11. The same source shares: That no one can obey the law perfectly and so receive life on this basis (Lev 18:5) is demonstrated on a national scale by Israelites who, no less than the Canaanites, had polluted the holy land and had been expelled therefrom because of their sin. Thus both of these texts point to Israel’s historical plight and God’s eschatological solution as the context for Paul’s presentation of the work of Jesus Christ.[4]
    12. Keeping the law is compared to the character of Sisyphus in Greek mythology, they are forever consigned to rolling a huge boulder up a mountain only to have it come crashing down upon their heads again and again.[5]
  2. Jesus’ solution, Jesus saves (verses 13-14)
    1. Verse 13: Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us (there is a quote from Deut 21:23)
    2. Again the idea switches to redemption in Christ.
    3. Verse 14: the blessing of Abraham has come upon the gentiles in Christ… through faith
    4. I like the David Jeremiah Study Bible point (on page 1627): “The Judaizers boasted of being sons of Abraham— direct descendants of the father of their faith and thus members of God’s chosen people. But now that Christ has come, all who put their faith in Jesus receive the promise of the Spirit and become spiritual sons and daughters of Abraham.”
    5. This verse begins with “In order that” and this is a purpose. Christ redeemed us (verse 13) with the purpose that, verse 14: the blessing of Abraham might come to the gentiles, so that, we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
    6. Christ redeemed us and this means we have the promises of Abraham and this is great!!! This is awesome!!! We have the blessing of Abraham!!!
    7. I like what one writers shares: Paul was working here with the idea of an “exchange curse” by which the sin, guilt, and hell of lost men and women are placed upon Christ while his righteousness, blessing, and merit are imputed to those in whose place he stands. Luther spoke of this atoning transaction as “a happy exchange.” [6]
    8. One writes: Yet Christ emerged victorious over sin, death, and the eternal curse. This he did “for us.” For this reason the doctrine of atonement can never be merely a matter of cool theologizing or dispassionate discourse. For us the Son of God became a curse. For us he shed his precious blood. For us he who from all eternity knew only the intimacy of the Father’s bosom came “to stand in that relation with God which normally is the result of sin, estranged from God and the object of his wrath.”All this—for us! What response can we offer except that of wonder, devotion, and trust![7]
    9. In verse 14 Paul summarizes his train of thought in chapter 3 up to this point. There are 2 conclusions: 1) the blessing of Abraham is available to all the gentiles in Christ and 2) that the promise of the Holy Spirit might be bestowed by faith.
  • Applications
    1. This is an encouraging passage about our righteous status before God.
    2. Oftentimes we are drained thinking we cannot meet someone’s expectations. In this case we could not keep the law and so God took care of us.
    3. Isn’t that awesome, God took care of us. Does that encourage you?
    4. Are you encouraged that though God’s standard is too high for you to reach, he took care of you?
    5. Jesus’ death paid the penalty for our sins. Here, let me tell you a story. A teenage boy took his new car out for a spin. As he was driving along the highway, he saw flashing lights behind him and quickly pulled over. The cop told him that he had been going 40 miles over the speed limit and he had to take him to court. The boy trudged into the courtroom and saw his father sitting in the judge’s seat. Now the father has a problem. His son is obviously guilty, but he loves his son and doesn’t want to hurt him. The father gives his son a $100 dollar fine for speeding; he has to be just so he can’t do anything else. Then, the father hits the gavel and ends the case. The son is of course very upset, but can you even imagine how the father felt? Then, the father steps down from the bench, takes off his robes, and pays the fine for his son. Just as the father had to sentence his son, God must sentence us. But even as the father paid the fine so also Jesus paid the penalty for our sins by dying on the cross (Romans 4:25). Even though the father paid the fine, the son is still guilty of speeding. Though, Jesus paid the price for our sins, are we still guilty?
    6. No because Jesus did not only forgive us but gave us His righteousness. Isn’t that amazing? Jesus did more than forgive us. I have another illustration:
    7. A father and daughter open a joint checking account and as soon as possible the daughter started to spend the money. After the money in the account ran out, she kept writing checks. Of course, these checks bounced, and the bank placed heavy fines on her. Finally, she had a major negative balance and realized that she owed more money than she could pay for. Her father found out and paid back all the money. The bank had put a hold on the account because of the negative balance so the daughter was left without an account to draw from. Then, the father transferred the account into his name only and opened up a new account for her with $1000 in it. Like that story, Jesus transferred our sin to His account and then transferred His innocence to our account (2 Cor. 5:21). Now when God looks at us, He sees us as innocent and worthy of heaven.
    8. Jesus forgives us and gives us right standing before God.
    9. We have the blessing of Abraham, we have righteousness before God, we have the Holy Spirit too.
    10. Isaiah 44:3 shares: ‘For I will pour out water on the thirsty land
      And streams on the dry ground;
      I will pour out My Spirit on your offspring
      And My blessing on your descendants
    11. Don’t forget the HOLY SPIRIT.
    12. We receive the promise of the Holy Spirit.
    13. In Galatians 5 and 6 Paul will expand on what it means to have the Holy Spirit.
    14. We do only receive this promise through faith, we must have faith in Jesus.
    15. There was a famous acrobat and wire walker whose greatest trick was to walk a wire over Niagara Falls pushing a wheelbarrow with 200 pounds of flour in it. He walked to one end and walked back, and the crowd cheered SO loudly for him.  He asked the crowd to raise their hand if they thought that he could push an actual man in the wheelbarrow over the falls, and everyone there raised their hand. Then he asked the crowd to raise their hand if they were willing to get in the wheelbarrow, and no one raised their hand. That is faith.[8]


Scot McKnight shares:

I often compare the role of the law in history to the role typewriters have played in the development of word processing. The technology and idea of a typewriter was eventually developed into an electronic, faster, and far more complex computer that does word processing. But when typing on a computer, we realize that we are still using the old manual typewriter’s technology. Further, we realize that the computer far transcends the typewriter. Everything that a typewriter wanted to be when it was a little boy (and more!) is now found in the computer. This compares to the law. Everything the law wanted to be when it was young (as revealed to Moses) is found now in Christ and in the life of the Spirit. Thus, when a Christian lives in the Spirit and under Christ, that Christian is not living contrary to the law, but is living in transcendence of the law. It is for this very reason that life lived primarily under the law is wrong.

When the computer age arrived, we put away our manual typewriters because they belonged to the former era. Paul’s critique of the Judaizers is that they are typing on manual typewriters after computers are on the desk! He calls them to put the manual typewriters away. But in putting them away, we do not destroy them. We fulfill them by typing on the computers. Every maneuver on a computer is the final hope of the manual typewriter. “Now that faith/Christ has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law” but not because the law is contrary to the promises; rather, it is because the law is fulfilled in Christ and the Spirit in a manner similar to the way a typewriter is fulfilled in the technology of a computer. And I am profoundly thankful for both![9]


[1]Bryan Loritts, from the sermon “The Great Exchange,” preached at Fellowship Memphis, in Memphis, Tennessee

[2]The Moody Bible Commentary (Kindle Locations 75784-75791). Moody Publishers. Kindle Edition.

[3]Timothy George, Galatians, vol. 30, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994), 235.

[4]Timothy George, Galatians, vol. 30, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994).

[5]Timothy George, Galatians, vol. 30, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994), 237.

[6]Timothy George, Galatians, vol. 30, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994), 242.

[7]Timothy George, Galatians, vol. 30, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994), 242.


[9]Scot McKnight, The NIV Application Commentary: Galatians (Zondervan 1995), p. 184

The Gospel in the Old Testament (Gal. 3:6-9)

The Gospel in the Old Testament, Abraham (Galatians 3:6-9)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Sunday, January 27, 2019

Slavery… think with me about slavery:

Frederick Douglass grew up as a slave in Maryland in the early nineteenth century and experienced slavery’s every brutality. He was taken from his mother when he was only an infant. For years as a child, all he had to eat was runny corn meal dumped in a trough that kids fought to scoop out with oyster shells. He worked in the hot fields from before sunup until after sundown. He was whipped many times with a cowhide whip until blood ran down his back, kicked and beaten by his master until he almost died, and attacked with a spike by a gang of whites.

But even so, when Frederick considered trying to escape to freedom, he struggled with the decision. He writes in Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave that he had two great fears.

The first was leaving behind his friends:

I had a number of warm-hearted friends in Baltimore, friends that I loved almost as I did my life and the thought of being separated from them forever was painful beyond expression. It is my opinion that thousands would escape from slavery, who now remain, but for the strong cords of affection that bind them to their friends.

His second fear was this: “If I failed in this attempt, my case would be a hopeless one it would seal my fate as a slave forever.”

Today, people who find themselves in slavery to sin, and who think about escaping to freedom in Christ, may have similar fears. They may fear leaving behind friends. They may fear they’ll fail in their attempt to break from sin and live free for God.

They should take heart from Douglass’s experience. On September 3, 1838, he remembers:

I left my chains, and succeeded in reaching New York without the slightest interruption of any kind I have been frequently asked how I felt when I found myself in a free State It was a moment of the highest excitement I ever experienced I felt like one who had escaped a den of hungry lions.[1]

So, I wonder, are you a slave? Thank God we can be set free, but not through the law, only by Jesus’ blood.

Today, my theme is:

Abraham was justified by faith and so are we.

Let’s read Galatians 3:6-9:

Even so Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham.The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the nations will be blessed in you.”So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer.

Last week we began a new section of Galatians. Paul started writing about how they, and we, are made right with God through faith. In these next four verses Paul uses Abraham as an example.

  1. Abraham was made right with God by believing.
  2. This is verse 6, quoting Genesis 15:6.
  3. Paul writes about this using the exact same term in Romans 4:3.
  4. In Romans 4, Paul writes about justification. Here, Paul is writing about justification.
  5. To be justified means that God declares us righteous. In this case Abraham was justified before God and so he was declared righteous.
  6. Let’s talk about justification for a minute:
  7. So, what is justification? Is it “just-as-if-I-never-sinned”?
  8. Not really. Unfortunately, I have used that but there is so much more to justification then that.
  9. Justification is a legal term.
  10. Justification has two parts:
  11. Forgiveness of sins
  12. Imputed Christ’s righteousness
  13. Without forgiveness of sins we are guilty, so this removes the guilt.
  14. Imputing Christ’s righteousness takes the wrath of God away from us and makes it so that we can stand before God. Imputing Christ’s righteousness restores our relationship with God.
  15. Suppose we Stand before the JUDGE— He examines the defendant against the evidence (using omniscience). The judge is God and He is examining us.
  16. He pronounces judgment. Later will follow the pronouncing of sentence.
  17. HIS JUDGMENT = NOT GUILTY by reason of the Atonement of Christ.
  18. Rom 4.5 “Justifies the ungodly
  19. The definition of justification is To Declare Righteous
  20. NOT, To Make Righteous as that would be (Sanctification, and finally glorification)
  21. Therefore, your right standing is a declaration of the judge, not the result of your actually being good.
  22. Forgiveness of Sins

Romans 4:8

“Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him.”

  1. Justification implies a freedom from guilt.
  2. Not that we are not guilty, but that we have been freed from its condemnation. Rom 8:1 is about this.
  3. The Implication is God receives us as he would his own son (Heb 4.16).
  4. So, that is justification
  5. Isn’t that awesome! We are not just forgiven!
  6. We are declared righteous. We are declared right with God.
  7. This is all about grace:

Hounded by the Pharisees, betrayed by a friend, forsaken by His disciples, brutalized by police, beaten by His inquisitors, led in disgrace to a rigged trial.

Arrogant men sitting in judgment over Him, crowning Him with thorns, mocking and disdaining. Beating Him without mercy, nailing Him to the cross, the worst of tortures, stretched out between thieves.

Miserably thirsty, utterly forsaken by His Father for the first time, the picture of complete aloneness.

Hell on earth! Not just one man’s hell, but the hell of billions. At any moment—in a millisecond—He could have called legions of angels to deliver Him and destroy His enemies. Instead, He bears forever the scars of sin, rebellion, mockery, and hatred… the scars of God’s grace.

The cost of redemption cannot be overstated. The wonders of grace cannot be overemphasized. Christ took the hell He didn’t deserve so we could have the heaven we don’t deserve.

If you’re not stunned by the thought of grace, then you aren’t grasping what grace offers you, or what it cost Jesus.[2]

  1. In verse 7, Paul says that we can be assured those who are of faith are sons of Abraham. This is how we are all sons of Abraham, we are grafted in.
  1. Abraham was told all of the nations would be blessed through him, quoting Genesis 12:3.
    1. This is verse 8.
    1. In verse 9, Paul wraps this up saying that we are blessed with Abraham who was the believer.
    1. Once again, we cannot be saved by works.

WHITE OUTS by Pastor Rick Sams

  White outs come in the form of blizzards where you cannot see a thing. No wants to think about these after the brutal winter we’ve had.

  Then there’s the kind we used before computers. Wite-Out dates to 1966 when an insurance-company clerk named George Kloosterhouse and a guy who waterproofed basements developed a correction fluid for typing mistakes. It was originally called “Wite-Out WO-1 Erasing Liquid.”*

  Have you ever sent a text message that you regretted? Now you can electronically “white it out” by using Apple’s app called “Wiper Messenger.”**

  Don’t you wish we had a “white out” for all your words and actions?

  We try to use white out when we say we’ve “stretched the truth,” but we’ve flat out lied.

  We call it “spin” when it’s actually false reporting.

  “Re-inventing” products is really the same old stuff in a bigger package and bigger price.

  “Revisionist history” is just bad research and recall.

  “Pardon my French” is a cover up for swearing. I’ve heard French and what follows this phrase is not French.

  “Bless their heart,” is often used right after we’ve smeared  someone, as if this makes it right.

  “Communication breakdown” is often a cover for laziness or somebody not doing their job.

  “Mistakes” are too often sins.

  “Affairs” are adultery.

  “Issues” are really problems–usually big and bad.

  But the Bible says there really are do-overs and white outs: “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18b).

  Jesus’ death on Good Friday didn’t just white out our sin. He took our pain and penalty on Himself, which was separation from God.

  But you must RECEIVE this gift for it to “work.” You must receive HIM: “To those who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God…whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 1:12; 11:25).

  What a Savior. What a white out.


* “Forgiveness Is God’s Gift to ‘Wite-Out’ Mistakes,” John Ortberg, 8/5/14 **“Delete Your Conversations from Other People’s Phones,” Kim Komando blog (9-9-14)

God created us to be with him. (Genesis 1-2)

Our sin separated us from God. (Genesis 3)

Sins cannot be removed by good deeds (Gen 4-Mal 4)

Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again. (Matthew – Luke)

Everyone who trusts in Him alone has eternal life. (John – Jude)

Life that’s eternal means we will be with Jesus forever. (Revelation 22:5)



[1] Kevin Miller, vice president, Christianity Today International, Wheaton, Illinois