Paul continued to defend the Gospel of grace by showing the Galatians that salvation came by faith and not by keeping the Mosaic Law. He used Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation, as the illustration of how salvation could not be obtained by keeping the Law. Remember that Abraham was the father of the Jewish nation, but he had believed in Jesus Christ while he was a Gentile and, as we will see, it was 430 years before the Mosaic Law was given. Paul went on to explain the purpose of the Law, which he reemphasized was not the means of being justified before God.
In Galatians 3:10, Paul explained that those who were seeking to be justified by keeping the Law had placed themselves under a curse. Paul then quoted a verse from Deuteronomy 27:26: “Cursed be the person who does not continue in all the words of the Law to do them.” In other words, a person condemns himself by not keeping the Law perfectly.
In Galatians 3:11, Paul then quoted Habakkuk 2:4, which says: “The just shall live by his faith.” This quote made Paul’s point that no person can be justified in the sight of God by keeping the Law. The Old Testament prophets understood and taught this truth. Anyone who continues to attempt to be justified by the Law continues to be under the curse of the Law. The curse of the Law is condemnation (separation from God). The word just describes the legal position of a person who places his or her faith in Jesus Christ. We call this positional truth. Shall live refers to eternal life, which is freely given in grace to the believer at salvation.
In Galatians 3:12, Paul quoted Leviticus 18:5, which says: “You shall keep My statues and My judgments, which if a man do, he shall live in them: I am the Lord.” There are two types of righteousness: 1) human 2) divine. If you are living by the Law, then you can produce only human righteousness. However, if you are living by faith, then as a believer you can produce divine righteousness (under the guidance of the Holy Spirit). Human righteousness is not good enough to get a person to Heaven. Divine righteousness is good enough to get a person to Heaven. Human righteousness is a by-works function. Divine righteousness is a by-faith function.
Galatians 3:13-16 outlines the process that God used to fulfill the Abrahamic Covenant. Since the Abrahamic Covenant was a by-faith covenant, human righteousness could have nothing to do with it. Therefore, God sent His Son Jesus Christ as the Mediator of the covenant. It is only through Jesus Christ that this covenant to Abraham could have been fulfilled. No other human being (or angel) could have made the required payment to redeem fallen mankind. Believers are therefore redeemed from the curse that the Law reveals, namely separation from God for all eternity. The humanity of Jesus Christ was separated from God for three hours on the Cross, as He became “the curse” on our behalf.
The Biblical definition of the word redeemed is “to be purchased from the slave-market of sin.” There are three Greek words for redemption: “agorazo” meaning to buy, “exagorazo” meaning to buy out of or remove from sale and “lutroo” meaning to release on receipt of ransom or payment. Christ has redeemed us from the slave-market of sin, which includes all three categories of the definition. (Romans 7:14)
The believer is also redeemed from the Mosaic Law, which had been distorted into a system of “pseudo-salvation” by religious Jewish leaders. The Law was never designed to provide salvation, but rather it shows us our need for a Savior and points us to Jesus Christ.
The Old Testament practice of the “kinsman redeemer” is a perfect example of how Christ redeems us from the Law and from sin. Certain requirements had to be met in order for a person to free someone from slavery. The redeemer had to be a relative, he had to be able to redeem by meeting the purchase price and he had to be willing to redeem the person in slavery.
By His taking on humanity, Jesus Christ became a “kinsman” to all mankind. (John 1:1-3,14) In order to meet the purchase price, Christ had to be perfect (no sin of His own to pay for). He was born of a virgin, therefore, He had no sin nature and He lived a sinless life, which qualified Him to meet the purchase price for our sin. (Matthew 1:23, I Timothy 3:16; Romans 5:8; II Corinthians 5:21, Hebrews 2:9-11, 4:15: I Peter 1:18) Christ was also willing to redeem us. He was obedient to the Father’s plan for salvation and gave His life freely. Christ even restricted the use of the power of His deity (doctrine of Kenosis) and used the power of the Holy Spirit to accomplish all of this for us. (Philippians 2:5-8; Romans 5:19, Luke 22:42, 23:46)
A covenant is an agreement (testament) between two parties. God’s covenants with man fall into two categories: 1) Conditional - if man will keep the conditions of the agreement then God will fulfill the promise that was given 2) Unconditional – God will fulfill His promise that was given regardless of man’s response to the condition of the agreement. God’s covenants to man are always based on His grace and always line up perfectly with the dispensations found in Scripture.
This unconditional covenant was given to Abraham in seven parts:
Paul mentions a further blessing that resulted from the fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant, which is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The indwelling of God the Holy Spirit begins immediately at salvation and is permanent. This ministry is unique to the Church Age in which we live. It is this ministry that assures our royal status, since all believers, regardless of their spiritual health, are equally indwelt by the Holy Spirit. This ministry also creates a temple in the body of each believer for the indwelling of Christ, the Shekinah Glory. “Shekinah” literally means “dwelling.” It is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that sets up the potential for the believer to understand spiritual truth, to glorify Christ, to be comforted, to be guided through life and to witness for Christ. It is still up to the individual believer to use his volition (free will) to choose to allow God the Holy Spirit to control his life. (Galatians 3:2-3; 4:6; Acts 1:8; Romans 8:9; I Corinthians 2:12; 3:16-17; 6:19-20; John 14:16-20; Colossians 1:27)
In Galatians 3:15-18, Paul once again used his debater’s technique to prove that salvation is by faith and not by keeping the Law. First, Paul explained the premise of a covenant (any covenant). Paul said, once a covenant is made and validated, it cannot be dissolved or added to (you would have to make a new covenant). Therefore, no one is able to dissolve or add to the Abrahamic Covenant – it stands confirmed by God, forever. Furthermore, this covenant was between Abraham and his “seed,” which we learn here is the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Mosaic Law, which was introduced to Israel 430 years after the Abrahamic Covenant and validated by God (in Christ), cannot dissolve this covenant. If it could nullify the covenant, the promise of God to Abraham and Jesus Christ would be of no effect. This, of course, would make God a liar, which is unthinkable. To reemphasize the point, Paul said the same thing in a different way. If, Paul said, the inheritance (eternal life) was by means of the Mosaic Law, then it could not be by means of a by-faith covenant. But, Paul said, God gave the promise of the covenant to Abraham and the Lord Jesus Christ. As believers, we merely share in this promise (inheritance by means of our faith in Jesus Christ and our union with Him).
The logical question would now be, “What was the purpose of the Mosaic Law?”
Galatians 3:19-29 answers that question and more. We will begin there in our next lesson.