This Sunday morning we come to the 14th and final message in our series, “The Rescue”, a study of the first half of Paul’s letter to the Galatians. At first blush it may seem strange to stop a series in the middle of a letter, but when you examine every one of Paul’s letters you find that they are always divided into two parts; and the order is always CRUCIAL!
Paul always begins with what Jesus Christ has done for the Christian. In theological parlance this is called “the Indicative”. In every one of his letters Paul begins by detailing what the Gospel indicates that God has done, through Christ, for the believer. Another way of putting it is that the indicative fully indicates our new identity as justified sinners. This is what Paul does in the first half of his letter to the Galatians. The truth is, he never moves on from the indicative until he has nailed down the truth of the Gospel in every possible way.
Once he has well established what Christ has already done for us, and he’s labored the point that we are spiritually alive and in a vital relationship with the living God through the finished work of Jesus Christ in His active and passive obedience, Paul then moves on to “the Imperative” section of his letter. Another way of describing the second half of Paul’s letters is to say that they are the “so what” or the “therefores.” In other words, because of our identity in Christ and our inheritance in Christ, he details how we should then live. What does it mean to live out what God, in Christ, has put into us? In the case of his letter to the Galatians, this will be the focus of our next series, “Freedom”. The “Freedom” series will commence on January 8 with a message entitled “Adoption” from Galatians 3:26-4:7.
One of the bridges Paul builds between the indicative and the imperative in Galatians is the use of two words at the end of chapter 3 and the beginning of chapter 4 – “guardian” (Gal. 3:25) and “adoption” (Gal. 4:5). We are going to have much to say about both words in our “Freedom” series, but for now the first word – guardian (or as the NIV poorly translates it - “put in charge”) is critical to our understanding of Paul’s teaching on the law and the Christian.
Remember the question he asks in 3:21, “Is the law of God contrary to the promises of God?” In other words, “What good is the law for the Christian who’s been saved by grace?” How do the law and the Gospel fit together?
While many think they don’t, Paul isn’t one of them. In fact, in Sunday’s text – Galatians 3:19-29, Paul lays out (1) the purpose of the law for the Christian, (2) the privilege of the law, (3) the passion of the law, and (4) the pairing of the law. Unlike many commentators, the Apostle Paul upholds the law as vital in the life of every growing Christian; BUT, in a way that is entirely different than the way the law was in force prior to a Christian’s regeneration.
On Sunday we will look at the role of the law prior to our conversion. Second, the extraordinary gift God has given to every Christian to walk in step with the law. And finally, the inexorable link between the law of God and love of God that is on full display at Calvary.
In preparation for Sunday you may wish to consider the following:
- What three purposes of the law did Luther teach?
- How can the law be comforting?
- What does Paul mean when he says that “the law was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come…?”
- What does Paul mean in verse 23 when he says “We were held captive under the law…until the coming faith was rewarded.”?
- What does Paul mean in verse 24 when he calls the law, “our guardian until Christ came”?
- Didn’t people in the Old Testament have faith?
- What changes in faith after Christ comes?
- How does Romans 8:1 & 2 inform us?
- Read Exodus 33:17-34:7.
- How does God demonstrate to all the world that He is both the God of love and the God of justice?