…This was how the Galatian believer saw the history of God’s people from Adam onwards.
Now for them, Christ’s coming and dying was very important: We must realize that these Galatians were not denying the centrality of Christ or His cross. But, they thought, surely the law comes first – the law is foundational.
The default way in which God relates to His people has surely been law. From the garden of Eden, surely – He commands and we are to obey. And when Moses went up Mount Sinai surely he was given the law of laws – He was given the very commands of God, written by His finger on stone. Surely these words, being God’s words, express His eternal will for the people of God. Bottom line – there is a law, law is to be obeyed.
Now, in this timeline, the cross is important, and Jesus’ dying is central because we need His sacrificial death for all our failures at law-keeping. So there is an understanding of Gospel here.
The Gospel comes and helps us out when we fail to live up to the law. But, basically, what God wants is legal obedience. That is the bottom line for being a Christian.
Now this view of history was a big problem for the Galatian church. Because they thought like this, when preachers came and told them that they needed to obey the OT Law of circumcision to be a proper Christian, they fell for it. Why? Because, they have gospel and law running along together, side-by-side, in their minds and hearts. They have faith in Jesus AND legal obedience in their thinking about what makes someone a Christian.
If you have this understanding in your head about Law and Gospel then you will fall for false teaching time and again. You will seek your Christian identity in duties and observances and not in Christ.
So we need to over-turn this telling of history. And thankfully Paul does that for us in chapter 3, beginning at v6.
First thing he does is he under-cuts Moses. Paul goes back in Israel’s history and leap-frogs over Moses and says ‘think about Abraham. Think about when there was no Mosaic law to be obeyed, not even the covenant of circumcision, think about the life of the people of God before there were any commandments at all. What made Abraham a fully-fledged believer?’ Answer (v6):
“He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham.
In verse 8 Paul describes this faith as faith in the Gospel. We are children of Abraham when we trust the Gospel, because that’s what Abraham trusted.
So the history of the people of God does not begin with law at all it begins with Gospel
Now the Gospel promises spoken to Abraham were about the Seed (v16) and that Seed, that promised offspring, was Christ. That’s why I’ve got the Gospel stretching right back to the time of Adam because the Seed who was promised to Abraham was first promised to Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:15. Right from the garden of Eden, Jesus was promised as the Seed of the woman. He would crush Satan’s head but at great cost to Himself. Right from the beginning, Christ’s incarnation and death and resurrection, His victory over Satan was preached. And people trusted this gospel – people like Abraham – and they were saved.
So this Gospel is how God relates to people. Gospel is God’s bottom line.
But if that’s true – where does the Law fit in? It begins 430 years after Abraham (v17) and it lasts until (v19) the Seed had come.
The Law begins at the mountain of Sinai and ends at the mountain of Golgotha. That is the Law’s place….