Paul’s audience in the first century knew what he meant when he wrote about the law. Do we?
— Galatians 3.19-20 – Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring would come to whom the promise had been made, and it was ordained through angels by a mediator.
Now a mediator involves more than one party, but God is one.
What was the general understanding of the law in the first century?
— The Ten Commandments – These commandments are the heart of the law.
Rudy Ross often calls them the “Constitution” of God’s people. They certainly are the foundation of all other laws in Hebrew history.
Like Americans have done with our Constitution, the Hebrews added more laws to protect the integrity of the Ten Commandments.
In America, there are entire law libraries of case law that derive from the foundation of the Constitution. The same was true of the Jews.
What was the purpose of the law?
According to Paul, the purpose of the law (the Ten Commandments and all of the other Jewish laws) was to prevent transgressions.
Governments can enact laws, but experience shows that legal statutes by themselves do not stop the breaking of the law. The 1.9 million incarcerated persons in the United States are a testament to this fact.
What about God’s promise?
What the law was unable to accomplish, God’s promise did.
The law continues to be valuable because it is God’s gracious guide to show us how to love him and each other.
God’s promise is valuable because it enables us to embrace the principles of the law as we live a Jesus-kind-of-life.
— Galatians 3.21-22 – Is the law then opposed to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could make alive, then righteousness would indeed come through the law.
But the scripture has imprisoned all things under the power of sin, so that what was promised through the faith of Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.
Rudy Ross believes that Paul had Isaiah 54-56 in mind when he was writing Galatians 3. If you read those chapters, you will see profound promises that were fulfilled in Jesus.
Here are three images from Isaiah that can be applied to us in 2022. I hope they will encourage you to read the chapters in full.
(1) The God of the whole earth desires a personal relationship with us.
Do not fear, for you will not be ashamed;
do not be discouraged, for you will not suffer disgrace,
for you will forget the shame of your youth,
and the disgrace of your widowhood you will remember no more.
For your Maker is your husband;
the Lord of hosts is his name;
the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer;
the God of the whole earth he is called. (Isaiah 54.4-5)
(2) God promises life to everyone who will come to him.
Hear, everyone who thirsts;
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread
and your earnings for that which does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food.
Incline your ear, and come to me;
listen, so that you may live. (Isaiah 55.1-3a)
(3) God’s promise is for both Jews and Gentiles.
Through the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, along with the gift of the Holy Spirit, we can have a relationship with God that is real and personal.
And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord,
to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord,
and to be his servants,
all who keep the Sabbath and do not profane it
and hold fast my covenant—
These I will bring to my holy mountain
and make them joyful in my house of prayer;
their burnt offerings and their sacrifices
will be accepted on my altar,
for my house shall be called a house of prayer
for all peoples. (Isaiah 56.6-7)
Live in the promise.
My father was a man of his word. He often told us, “A man’s word is his bond.”
I tested my father’s promises on a few occasions and saw that he was true to his word. If he promised, he would deliver.
The three passages from Isaiah are promises God made to humans that were fulfilled by Jesus.
If he promised a personal and life-giving relationship to his children, we should live in the joy of that promise.
Rudy Ross and I have produced a video on this passage. It can be seen on the Bob Spradling YouTube channel.
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