BEFORE AND AFTER

GALATIANS 3:19-29

Have you ever seen one of those "before and after" advertisements? It begins by showing you a picture of a person before they had used the advertised product. The person doesn't look so good. Depending what product is being advertised, the subject is overweight, bald, windblown, harried or otherwise unhappy. But then we see a photo of the individual after he or she had utilized the product. A wonderful change has taken place! Whatever it was that was ailing them has now disappeared.

Paul does something similar for us in Galatians 3:19-29. He paints a verbal "before and after" picture. He presents what life was like under the Law and what life is like now that we have come to Christ.

Galatians 3:19-24

Galatians 3:25-29

Then

Now

Life under the Law

Life now that Faith has come

The Law was given...

  • Because of transgressions (3:19-20).
  • To shut all under sin (2:21-22).
  • To bring us to Christ (3:23-24).

In our present liberty in Christ, we have...

  • A position as an adult son (3:25-26).
  • A baptism in Christ (3:27).
  • A bond of unity (1:28).
  • An inheritance (3:29).

 

LIFE UNDER THE LAW

There is a tendency among Christians to look at the Law and to think of it as something that was bad. This is wrong and an over-reaction to the wrong use of the Law. Consider the following passages of Scripture:

O how I love Thy law!

It is my meditation all the day. (Psalm 119:97).

Those who love Thy law have great peace. And nothing causes them to stumble. (Psalm 119:165).

But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, 9 realizing that law is not made for a righteous man, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane; for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, 10 and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching. (1 Timothy 1:8-10).

The Law was considered by the Jew to be a wonderful thing. It presented the very heart of God. Paul presents three primary usages of the Law and three purposes that the Law fulfilled.

1. The Law was Given Because of Transgressions

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.

Now a mediator is not for one party only; whereas God is only one. (Galatians 3:19-20).

Paul begins this section with a natural question that arises when we consider what he has said concerning our redemption apart from the Law. Let's review:

Each of these points were set forth to establish that the Law would not and could not save men from their sins. The Law was not designed to justify, it was only designed to condemn. At this point the reader naturally asks the question, "If the Law did not save, then what good is it? Why did God give the Law in the first place?"

The first reason for the Law is because of transgressions (3:19). It was given because there was a problem with sin. This is important. Which came first, sin or the Law? There is a sense in which you cannot have a breaking of the Law until there is a Law established that you can break. Romans 5:13 talks about this when it says that sin is not imputed where there is no law. At the same time, there are moral absolutes that existed before the Law was ever given on Mount Sinai. They come from the very character of God and are built into the very framework of the universe.

The Law was given because of transgressions. It was given to teach men the difference between right and wrong. It was given to correct their way and to tell us how we ought to live our lives.

I have been given to understand that there is a rule in the student handbook of Bob Jones University that prohibits the flying of kites from the roof of the men's dormitory. Why do you think they have such a rule in their handbook? It is because someone tried to do that very thing. The rule was given to prevent an action that could have some very negative consequences. The Law was given for the same reason.

Notice the manner in which this Law was given.

It was commonly taught among the Jews that the Law was given through the agency of angels.

The word translated "mediator" is the Greek word . It is used several times in the New Testament and always has reference to the ministry of Jesus as a mediator between God and man. Interestingly, it is also used once in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament. It is found in the book of Job. You remember Job's story. He had lost everything and he didn't know why. He prayed, but heaven remained silent. And in he grief, he wondered what God was doing.

"For He is not a man as I am that I may answer Hem,

That we may go to court together.

There is no UMPIRE between us,

Who may lay his hand upon us both. (Job 9:32-33).

Job mourns that there was no mediator between himself and God. But the Law was given through the agency of a mediator. Who was this mediator?

(1) Was it God himself? No, for a mediator is not for one party only; whereas God is only one (3:20).

(2) Was it Moses? He did serve as a mediator, yet he would have been for only one party, since he was just a man.

The mediator had to be one who was BOTH God and man. I suggest that Paul is making a reference to the deity and the corresponding humanity of Jesus.

The Law was given in an interim. It was given until. It was given, but was only to be there until something better would come. Its legal systems were designed to be temporary. Rather than being permanent, the Law was provisional. It was provided until the Promise that predated it could be fulfilled.

The car that I drive has a spare tire. But the spare is not as large or as sturdy as the other four tires on the car. It is a skinny little tire which is only designed to last as long as it takes me to get to a place where I can replace it with a permanent tire. The Law was like that. It was a temporary provision to get me where I needed to go so that I could get something better.

The Law came third-hand. It was ordained through angels and given by the agency of a mediator. The Promise, on the other hand, came directly from God. Do you remember the narrative of Genesis 15? It was the presence of God who moved in the form of a burning furnace through the elements of the sacrificed animals to ratify His covenant promises with Abraham.

2. The Law was Given To Shut all Under Sin.

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.

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. (Galatians 3:21-22).

The fact that the Law was given in the interim between the promise of a Seed and the fulfillment of that promise brings up an important question. Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God? Are we to become theological dualists in seeing the Law as bad while the Promise is good? Not at all. It is not a matter of one being good while the other is bad. The real issue is that the Law was not designed to do what the Promise was designed to do.

You do not say that a hammer is bad because it cannot saw wood. Or that a saw is bad because it cannot hammer nails. By the same token, the Law was not designed to impart life. That is not what it was supposed to do, so it should come as no surprise that it doesn't do it.

What the Law DID do is to shut up everyone under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe (3:22).

The Law is like a mirror. It shows you where the dirt is. It doesn't clean the dirt. It isn't designed for that task. But it reveals the fact that a cleansing is necessary. This brings us to Paul's next point.

3. The Law was Given To bring us to Christ.

But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed.

Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith.

But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. (Galatians 3:23-25).

Paul will further develop this theme in the next chapter. He says that the Law is like a tutor. The word "tutor" is translated from the Greek . It comes from the root word which refers to a baby or a child.

When we think of a tutor, we think of someone hired to help teach a difficult subject. But a tutor in the ancient world was more of a baby sitter. Children in the ancient world were often placed under the authority of a supervisor, usually a household servant, who would make sure that they got their lessons done and did not get lost along the way.

The Law served as a tutor during the infancy years of God's people, making sure that they did not go far afield, but keeping them in line for that which was to come. The purpose of the Law was to bring them to see the Messiah. But once faith has come, then the ministry of the tutor is no longer needed.

Imagine that you are on a ship that is cruising across the Atlantic. Suddenly the alarm rings. There has been a collision and the ship is taking on water. It will certainly sink. People are rushing around in panic as the deck begins to list. But then you notice a large metallic sign saying "Floatation device." It has an arrow pointing to a large box. Without hesitation, you pull off the heavy metal sign and you clutch it to your bosom and throw yourself into the waters. What is the result? You sink to the bottom of the ocean and drown. Why? What went wrong? You confused the sign with that to which the sign pointed.

The Judaizers were doing the same thing. They were clutching to themselves the Law instead of the One to whom the Law pointed. And the result was just as devastating.

The fact that we are no longer under a tutor does not therefore mean that we are now lawless. The reason that an adult does not need a baby-sitter is not only because he is now grown, but also because his behavior is now established apart from the tutelage of the baby-sitter. The Law was our baby-sitter, but now that we are grown, we live in a manner than requires no further baby-sitting.

 

LIFE IN THE LIGHT OF LIBERTY

Notice the change in personal pronouns. Up to this point, Paul has been talking in the first person plural: WE were kept in custody... the Law has become OUR tutor... WE are no longer under a tutor.

But now there will be a change. Paul switches to the second person plural. He addresses himself to YOU: YOU are all sons of God... all of YOU who were baptized into Christ... YOU are all one in Christ Jesus.

This is significant. Up to this point, he has been describing the Jewish experience of life under the Law. It was an experience that the Galatian church did not share. They had never been under the Law. They were Gentiles. But they HAVE entered into the salvation experience. And they have entered into this quite apart from the Law.

1. You are All Sons.

For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:26).

If you have believed in THE Son of God, then you have become A son of God. The word used here for "sons" here is . It is different from the who is only a child. A is a son -- it can refer either to an infant son or to an adult son, but he is not a mere child.

2. You are All Baptized.

For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. (Galatians 3:27).

The Judaizers wanted to enforce circumcision as the initiatory rite into the church. But Christians have a new initiatory rite. It is the rite of baptism. And Paul points out that all who were baptized into Christ have been clothed with Christ.

What is baptism? I am not really talking about modes of baptism or whether the word speaks exclusively of immersion or pouring or sprinkling. All of these involve getting wet. But what does the rite of baptism actually signify?

The verb comes from the Greek word . Whenever it is used, there is always ONE idea at the forefront. It is the idea of IDENTIFICATION. When you are baptized, you are being identified with something. This is seen in every baptism within the New Testament.

Baptism of John

Matthew 3:1-6

John baptized people to identify them with the coming kingdom

Baptism of Jesus

Matthew 3:13-15

Jesus was baptized by John to identify Himself with the kingdom of which John was preaching

Christian Baptism

Acts 3:38-41

Believers and their households were baptized to identify themselves with Jesus Christ and the cleansing power of His death, burial and resurrection

Baptism of Jesus' Death

Mark 10:38-39; Luke 12:50

Jesus was identified with our sins upon the cross. He described this as the "cup of His baptism" from which He must drink

Baptism in the Holy Spirit

Acts 1:5; 1 Corinthians 12:13

All believers have been identified with Christ through the ministry of the Holy Spirit

Baptism into Moses

1 Corinthians 10:2

The Israelites coming out of Egypt were identified with Moses and the God whom he followed

Each of these baptisms involve the idea of identification. The person being baptized is somehow being identified with that into which he or she is being baptized. As Christians, the rite of circumcision has been replaced by the rite of baptism.

It is important to remember that Paul is not substituting baptism for circumcision as a means to obtaining the favor of God. This is the Roman Catholic view of baptism. They teach that baptism is a means of obtaining the grace of God. Their error is much the same as the Judaizers except that they substitute circumcision for baptism as the requirement for being accepted by God.

Baptism is merely a sign. It points to a spiritual reality, but there is no saving grace imparted by the physical act of baptism.

3. You are All One.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28).

If the women of the Galatian church heard the teaching in verse 26 that we are all sons and wondered if that applied to them, here is the answer. Our unity in Christ transcends all racial, social and gender boundaries. We are all one in Him.

We must be careful here. Paul is not saying that all Christians necessarily have the same functional roles within the church. He elsewhere has some very specific instructions for men and women as well as for masters and slaves. What he IS saying here is that we all equally share our participation in the body of Christ.

4. You are All Abraham's Descendants.

And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's descendants, heirs according to promise. (Galatians 3:29).

There is an unfortunate translation here that loses a bit of the impact of Paul's closing statement. When he says, "You are Abraham's descendants", it literally reads, "You are Abraham's SEED." This cannot be divorced from what Paul said about the promise of the seed in verse 16.

The promise was to Abraham and His seed

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That seed is Christ

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If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed

If you have come to Christ in faith, then you are one with Him. And if you are one with Him, then you are His seed. And since He is the seed of Abraham, you are also the seed (singular) of Abraham.

Being of the seed of Abraham, the very thing that the Judaizers were offering to the Gentiles by means of circumcision, was already their through faith in Jesus Chris. Indeed, this is the only way in which ANYONE can be a true recepient of the promise.


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