We are still visiting with Abraham today. Way back in Genesis, when God told Abraham to go out and look at the night sky and then to try and count the stars. He couldn't even begin to count them. Then God says, "Abraham, I'm making you some promises today. You will have descendants numbering more than these stars, you will be blessed and be a blessing, and your descendants will include "the Seed"; the Messiah."
Background reading Genesis, Chapter 12 and Chapter 15.
So back to the New Testament and the Book of Galatians:
17. What I am saying is this: the Law, which came four hundred and thirty years later (than the promise God gave to Abraham), does not invalidate a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise. 18. For if the inheritance is based on law, it is no longer based on a promise; but God has granted it to Abraham by means of a promise.
19. Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator, until the Seed (Jesus Christ) should come to whom the promise had been made... 21. 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... 23. But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. 24. Therefore the Law has become our tutor [to lead us] to Christ, that we may be justified by faith.
How many of us have had to read this more than once...? How many of us truly understand what Paul is saying here...?
Verses 17 and 18 are key to the subject today. God's promises are for us no matter what. Does that sound too simple? Well, yes and no. There are so many promises in the Bible that are given to the children of Abraham. Remember, I'm not just talking about the Jewish people, but we as Christians lay claim to those promises also. These scripture verses are discussing the fact that before The Law and the 10 Commandments were given, God had given promises to Abraham. God had made a covenant with Abraham (Genesis 15) long before the 10 Commandments were given to Moses. The Promises of God were received by Abraham through Faith, not by abiding within rules and regulations. The Law did not invalidate the Promises, as Paul argues here, but the Law "complimented" the Promises. Paul is talking to the Galatians about the Judiazers trying to force them through fear to go back to the Jewish ways of doing things; sacrifices, celebrating the feasts, keeping the letter of the Law, circumcision, etc.
Verse 19 asks the question, "Why was the Law given?" Great question!! Paul says it's because of "transgressions". A good Biblical word for SIN.
Let's look at an analogy here: We're driving down the road and we see that the speed limit says 65 miles per hour. Now, testing and study have gone into the setting of the speed limit on this particular road. Is it straight or hilly, or winding? Is it 4 lane? How's the surface quality? Is there a lot of other traffic? Intersections and traffic lights? You get my idea. Speed limits are determined and posted for our safety and the safety of those around us. By following the speed limit we are trying to the best of our ability to be cautious, diligent, and model good driving manners. Now that doesn't mean that we won't have an accident, that our car may not break down, or that we might not get lost, but it does mean we are following the rules in one critical area of traffic safety; our speed.
How many of us though, upon seeing the speed limit sign just use that as a "concept" of how fast we can go. Do we push the pedal to the metal and say, "OK, I think I can do 70 mph and get away with it." Or...75...or hey, why not 80...if 65 mph is good, why not 80? OR, maybe we're just not paying attention and we unknowingly drift over to 68 mph. I'm not suggesting that we're all lawbreakers, but how many of us have pushed the "limit" here and there and gotten away with it. And not just with speed limits!
Same goes for the Law and the 10 Commandments. The speed limit wasn't given so that anyone who automatically goes over 65 mph goes straight to jail (although we may get a ticket), but it's a warning and a sign that if we do go over 65 we are violating the rules of the road. A lot of us get away with it, some of us don't. We keep the speed limit as a good faith gesture to ensure our safety and the safety of others.
No one EVER was able to keep the Law, the 10 Commandments, and all the hundreds of little rules that the Jewish leaders thought up. It was impossible, and even if someone had been able to do that. it wouldn't have gotten them to heaven. The Law was given to the Israelites to point out that they were sinners. The Law was a guideline, but they weren't going to go to heaven by the Law. It only showed that we are all incapable of keeping them. Verses 23 and 24 say we are held prisoners by the Law, locked up until Jesus was revealed, and that the Law was put in place to direct us to Jesus through faith in Him.
So the Promise to Abraham about his descendant, Jesus Christ, was going to stay current even though the Law would be given at a later time. Jesus came along as our payment for sin because in God's Holiness, there is always payment. Good thing Jesus' death on the cross was OUR payment for the sin we all have committed. Jesus was the New Covenant, or New Testament that then completed the Law. A progression.
On a personal level I want to say that God gives us all "promises" personally. Don't get caught up in trying to do everything perfectly in order to make them come about. Have faith in God and His Word. Stick with Him and have faith. He's looking for our faith, then let Him be responsible in bringing the "promise" to pass.
love in Jesus,