West Point Road Church of Christ
Jesus as Covenant Maker
- IntroductionPaul writes to the Galatians and addresses a problem they are having. The problem is that they are turning away from the Gospel to which they had responded and been converted.I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.In his letter, Paul will deal with those who are turning away from Jesus and turning back to the old covenant laws of God, specifically circumcision.As many as desire to make a fair shew in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ. For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law; but desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh.In so doing, he will once again point to Christ, only this time as the fulfillment of the covenant between God and Abraham, and the maker of a new covenant between God and man.The ProblemCircumcision was a distinguishing mark of being a Jew. It was so distinguishing that the very practice alone became synonymous with the whole of Judaism. Paul uses the synecdoche when talking about how he was to go to the heathen and James, Cephas, and John were to go to the Jews, referred to as simply “the circumcision.”And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.When Christianity emerged, some wanted to continue the practice. It became a question of whether circumcision was also necessary for salvation, in addition to the other requirements being preached, such as belief and baptism.A discussion about the issue is recorded for us in Acts 15, where we read of the concluding answer.Then pleased it the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed Barsabas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren: And they wrote letters by them after this manner; The apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia: Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment: It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell you the same things by mouth. For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.It was clear that circumcision was not going to be a commandment related to salvation in the Christian era.In Galatia, however, the issue had not been erased. There apparently were those who had converted to Christ who were still being told that circumcision was required.As many as desire to make a fair shew in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ.Apparently, the issue of circumcision was being used to persecute those who believed in Christ. It is also apparent that being circumcised meant that the persecution would be relaxed. Therefore, it is logical to conclude that the persecution for the cause of Christ was coming from Jews who were still believing in circumcision.Furthermore, Paul says that the ones causing the persecution did not even keep the law, but merely wanted to glory that other men had been circumcised.For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law; but desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh.As seen in 1 Corinthians, Paul is going to point his readers to Christ crucified.O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?Paul presents Christ crucified as the truth. Apparently, the Galatians were not obeying the truth as they turned to the requirement of the old law, circumcision.“We have to keep in mind, however, that the well-known contrast between the works of the law and faith in Christ was set forth not against the alleged legalistic function of the law in Judaism, but against the demand of the opponents that the Gentile Galatians should, besides faith in Christ, accept circumcision and the law in order to become full members of the covenant community of God. For this demand makes the law (and circumcision) an extra entrance requirement for the Gentile Christians.” In-Gyu Hong, The Law in Galatians (Sheffield, England: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, 1993), 192.Paul will write in the Book of Galatians about the old law compared to faith in Christ, the old covenant with Abraham, and the new covenant with Christ.The Old Covenant and the Old LawWhile circumcision is a part of the Old Law, Paul goes back even farther than the giving of the law to Moses at Mount Sinai. He goes back to the father of Judaism, Abraham.And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.God had promised to bless all nations of the earth through the lineage of Abraham. That promise was going to be fulfilled in the one who would be called Christ.Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.This covenant between God and Abraham came four hundred and thirty years before the law given to Moses.And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect.The law which was given later did not annul, or make void, the promise of the Christ that had been given to Abraham.For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise.Our inheritance with God is not with, nor was ever intended to be with the law. Our salvation does not lie within the law given to Moses. Paul makes the argument that if our inheritance did come through the law of Moses, then what was the point of the promise of the Christ to Abraham? Instead, the promise of the inheritance comes through the promise made to Abraham.So, what was the point of the law given to Moses? It was to point out sin until the seed, the Christ should come.Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.By having the law, we understand what sin is.Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.But later, the Christ would come and we would have the promise of the inheritance by faith in Him.But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.The law served as our child-leader, to take us to the true teacher, Jesus. Along the way it might teach lessons and try to keep us out of trouble, but its main purpose was to lead us to the end result, the Son of God.But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.Faith in ChristThe point missed by Jews and those in Galatia during the time of Paul’s writing was that Jesus was not anti-old law, He was the natural and promised fulfillment of it.Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.Paul has pointed out that the law was a child-leader, but a child-leader is supposed to be leading the child to something. The journey is not the end-all, be-all, but rather the destination is.Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.Verse 24 - The old law was leading us to the destination, which is Christ. The way of justification is going to be by faith in Him.Verse 25 - Once the faith of Jesus comes, we are no longer under the child-leader, which means we are no longer under the old law.“This contrast is ‘eschatological’ because a new entity comes on the scene and replaces the former and because it fulfills what the former provisionally anticipated or accomplishes what the former failed to do. Therefore, the new thing replaces the former thing because the emergence of the new has rendered the existence of the former outdated and thus eschatologically old.” Jason C. Meyer, The End of the Law (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2009), 119.For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.Verse 26 - Instead of Jews and Gentiles, we are children of God by faith in Jesus. Children of God get the inheritance of God. Remember, that the inheritance of God was promised to be in the Christ.Verse 27 - These Galatians had put on Christ by being baptized in Him.Verse 28 - Now, the distinctions that had once been seen, such as “circumcision” or “uncircumcision” are no longer present. All are one in Christ.Verse 29 - If these Galatians are in Christ, then they are the seed of Abraham. Jews are no longer the only “children of Abraham.” Gentiles can be called the “seed of Abraham,” too.Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.Why? Because they are all children of God and therefore heirs. But, heirs according to what? The promise that God gave to Abraham, four hundred and thirty years before the old law was even delivered to Moses.The Christ EventO foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?Why does Paul point to Christ crucified? Why is the crucifixion of Christ such an important event?The Fulfillment of the Abrahamic PromiseGod promised to bless all nations of the earth through the lineage of Abraham.And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.That promise to Abraham was to be fulfilled in the Christ.Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.As we saw before, all Christians are the seed of Abraham and are in God’s family and heirs of the promise. All nations of the earth can be blessed thanks to the promise fulfilled in Christ.“Paul’s christological emphasis is on the death of Christ (see the strong appeal in 3:1), and he puts it to pastoral use, namely, urging both gentile Christians and Jewish Christians to be united in the covenant going back to Abraham and fulfilled in Christ.” Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen, Christology: A Global Introduction (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group, 2016), 34.Salvation is in ChristThe promise of the inheritance was given to Abraham and would be fulfilled through the Christ.Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise.It is through Christ that the inheritance would be made available.Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.It is through the Christ that all nations of the earth would be blessed with the opportunity for salvation. It is in Christ, and in Christ alone, that salvation is possible.Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.Holding to the LawJews and people in Galatia were holding on to the old law. Holding on to the old law is ignoring the covenant with Abraham that came four hundred and thirty years before the old law, which was fulfilled in Jesus the Christ. It is ignoring the fact that the promise to bless all nations was made to the seed of Abraham, fulfilled in Jesus the Christ. It is ignoring that the inheritance, salvation itself, was promised in the seed of Abraham and the Abrahamic promise, not the old law! Jesus is not the destroyer of the Mosaical covenant, He is the fulfiller of the Abrahamic promise! He is the maker of a new covenant between man and God, and this time the promise is our very salvation!“Where Paul differs from other Jews is in the interpretation of Torah vis-a-vis his conviction that the Christ-event has brought about covenant and creation renewal in fulfilment of the promises to Abraham.” Christopher Zoccali, “What’s the Problem with the Law? Jews, Gentiles, and Covenant Identity in Galatians 3:10-12,” Neotestamentica 49.2 (2015): 409.Paul settles the matter clearly over whether circumcision should be an additional requirement to Christianity.He uses an allegory between Abraham’s two sons and the two covenants.For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise. Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar.Remember that the inheritance of God was placed in the promise to Abraham. Paul states that the one born in freedom was by promise.Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.Paul stated that the two sons of Abraham were an analogy of the two covenants. Here he states that Christ and His covenant has made us free. Therefore, we understand that the old covenant keeps us in the yoke of bondage. Paul makes it clear which one he wants the Galatians to choose.Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.Verse 2 - If the people in Galatia choose circumcision and return to the old law, Christ will profit them nothing.Verse 3 - If you return to the old law in circumcision, you will be required to obey the whole law.Verse 4 - Christ is no hope for your salvation. You have chosen to be obedient to the old law, you must now keep the old law. You will stand before God and be justified on whether or not you kept the old law. But remember, sin is the breaking of the law, and the punishment for sin is death. Therefore, the only way to be justified in keeping the old law is to keep it perfectly! By returning to the old law, you are fallen from grace! Grace is no longer applicable to you, because it was offered through Christ and you have rejected Him.Not only does Paul state that by choosing the old law the Christians in Galatia are “fallen from grace,” but he says they will be under the curse of death.So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham. For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.Remember in chapter five, verse four, that Paul said Christ has become of no effect to those who are justified by the law. But here he says that no one will be justified by the law. The only way to be justified is by faith in Christ.“Gal 3:10 presents a quite straightforward assertion to the Galatians. Since being in Christ is now the only means to obedience/righteousness and life (as surely the Galatians had already been taught by Paul), outside of Christ the perseverance demanded by the Torah is unattainable, rendering its curse of death unavoidable. Those who continue to predicate covenant identity upon normative Jewish identity— full Torah submission—are therefore accursed along with non-Jews outside the Christ community (cf. Gal 1:8-9; 2:16); a claim that is specific to the eschatological age of the gospel, and not before.” Zoccali, “What’s the Problem with the Law? Jews, Gentiles, and Covenant Identity in Galatians 3:10-12,” 400.Before the event of Christ, full Torah submission was the norm. After the Christ event, full Torah submission brings the curse of death.For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.Righteousness is the commandments of God.My tongue shall speak of thy word: For all thy commandments are righteousness.Therefore, Paul says that the Galatians can have righteousness by faith. We will be found righteous if we have obeyed the commandments of God, not in the old law, but by faith in Jesus Christ.For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.If you choose to follow Jesus, circumcision will avail you nothing. Therefore, it should not be considered an extra requirement for Christianity.Paul wrote to the Colossians about the type of circumcision that Christians would have.Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.The true circumcision needed is a spiritual one, a cutting away of sin.ConclusionsAbrahamic Fulfillment - Jesus did not come to destroy the law but to fulfill the promise to Abraham.Old Law’s Purpose - The old law was our child-leader that did not teach us everything, but rather led us to our end result, the true teacher, Jesus the Christ.“Paul addresses the Mosaic law's true purpose and denies the function and purpose implied by his opponents who insist on "law-keeping" (ëpya νόμου, Gal 3:10) to please God.” S.M. Baugh, “Galatians 3:20 and the Covenant of Redemption” Westminster Theological Journal 66 (2004): 53.The Christ Event - Returning to the old law is acting as if Christ had not come and died for the world. It is to live as if the turning point in human history had never occurred. Should it be any wonder that Paul points to Christ crucified?O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?Salvation - Those that are holding on to the old law are ignoring the previous promise that God had made to Abraham to bless all nations. The promise of the inheritance of God, salvation, was inherent in the promise to Abraham, which was to be fulfilled in the Christ.“In my opinion, the reason for Paul's rejection of Judaism is that he realizes, in the light of the Christ event, that by carrying away the curse of the law fallen on the Jews because of their transgression (Gal. 3.10, 13) Christ has fulfilled the promise of universal salvation which had been given to Abraham (Gen. 12.3; cf. Gal. 3.8) and has thus established a new covenant with all mankind in him.” Hong, The Law in Galatians, 192.New Covenant - Rather than continuing to follow the old covenant, we must now follow the new covenant established by Jesus on the cross.And he took a cup, and gave thanks, and gave to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many unto remission of sins.For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling them that have been defiled, sanctify unto the cleanness of the flesh: how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish unto God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this cause he is the mediator of a new covenant, that a death having taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first covenant, they that have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. For where a testament is, there must of necessity be the death of him that made it. For a testament is of force where there hath been death: for it doth never avail while he that made it liveth.
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