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Lesson 6: The Priority of the Promise *

Introduction: In Genesis 15:6 it says that "Abram believed the Lord, and He credited it to him as righteousness." Paul tells us that this is the model God has in mind for us. We need to believe and trust God. If we do, that is sufficient for us to be in a right relationship with Him. That is our ticket to heaven. But, is this correct? What about the fact that God gave the Ten Commandments to His people through Moses? What about the fact that Jesus made obedience even more difficult by saying that looking "lustfully" was "heart" adultery and just getting angry subjected you to judgment just like murder subjects you to judgment(Matthew 5)? Talk about making the standards more rigorous! Paul discusses the impact of the law in our study this week. Let's dive into the Bible and learn more!

  1. The Promise

    1. Read Galatians 3:15. What do you think is a "human covenant?" (A covenant is a contract, an agreement between two (or more) people.)

      1. Think about the last time you signed a contract. Did you promise to do anything? Did the other party promise to do something? (Lawyers call these promises "consideration." Each party to the contract makes a promise to do something.)

    2. Look again at Galatians 3:15. What does Paul say cannot be done to a signed contract? (You abide by its terms. You cannot ask more, and you cannot do less than you promised.)

      1. Is that your experience? (Paul is talking about what can be enforced. He is talking about the ideal. If you give your promise in a contract, you should keep it. If you agree that the other person should do a specific thing, you should not expect them to do more.)

    3. Read Galatians 3:16-17. How would you fit the Ten Commandments into the discussion we just had about contract promises? If the contract is that God considers you righteous if you trusted Him, what would be your reaction to adding the Ten Commandments? (I would complain about a breach of contract. I would complain even more loudly if God told me that those rules would be construed in the strictest way possible! I would argue that God was asking me to do a lot more than the original contract.)

      1. What is Paul's point here? (God would not do that. The law was not been given as part of the original contract between God and humans. It was given for some other purpose. The original contract stands.)

  2. Seed

    1. Read again Galatians 3:16 and focus on the discussion about "seed" and "seeds." Is Paul saying that this contract was not between God and Abraham (and his descendants), but rather between God, Abraham and Jesus?

      1. How could God make a contract with Himself? God the Father made a contract with God the Son?

      2. Is there any doubt that the "seed" is Jesus? (Paul specifically says that the seed is Christ.)

    2. Look again at the beginning of Galatians 3:17. Does Paul anticipate that we might not understand this? (He says, "What I mean is...." I don't understand this supposed contract with Jesus, so we need to continue to see if Paul clarifies it later on.)

    3. Read Galatians 3:18. Paul now introduces another legal term, "inheritance." What does inheritance have to do with what we are discussing? (A person can inherit contractual rights. Let's say that your father agreed to rent land to someone else for ten years for $10,000 a year. If your father died, and you inherited the land, you would take the land subject to the contract - which means that you continue the promise and you continue to benefit from the promise made by the other person. I think Paul tells us that we inherited Abraham's interest in the contract made between God and Abraham.)

    4. Read Galatians 3:19. How does this clarify the prior confusion about the Seed? (Instead of saying that the "Seed" is a beneficiary of the contract, it says the "Seed" is the subject of the contract. That makes perfect sense to me!)

  3. The Law

    1. Let's look at that part of Galatians 3:19 that talks about the "purpose" of the law. What does it state is the purpose of the law? (It was added "because of transgressions," and it has a limited time of application.)

      1. If Jesus obeyed the law on our behalf, and we are not subject to the penalty of the law, why would there be a need for the law to fill in the gap until Jesus came? Why would they need anything? (Think about the bigger picture. Does God want us to sin? Obviously not. Jesus came and kept the law in part to show that Adam could have kept the law. Keeping the law is a good thing. When Jesus came, He not only showed us how to live (showed us "more than the law" was the ideal, just keeping the law was aiming too low), He also sent the Holy Spirit to help us live a life in accord with God's will. We needed a guide.)

    2. Read Galatians 3:19-20. I've included verse 19 because I want to focus on the reference to a "mediator." Who do you think is this mediator? Moses? (Read 1 Timothy 2:5-6 and Hebrews 9:15. These verses clearly call Jesus our Mediator - especially because of His death on our behalf.)

      1. Look again at Galatians 19:19. Did Jesus put the law into "effect through angels?" How was the law part of the mediation? (Read Romans 5:10 and 2 Corinthians 5:17-19. God is holy and we are not. God's people, during their Egyptian captivity, had apparently lost sight of God's goal for their lives. To help them to come into better conformity with God's will, He gave them the law. Thus, I think that Moses is the original "mediator." However, Jesus is the true Mediator when He lived and died and paid the penalty for our sins.)

      2. What is Paul's point by writing that "God is one?" What does this have to do with Jesus being the "Mediator?" (A mediator does not represent either party. In current American law, a mediator tries to bring the two opposing parties into agreement. Jesus is fully God and fully human. He is One with God. Thus, Jesus has, in the most extraordinary sense, brought us together with God.)

    3. Re-read the first sentence of Galatians 3:19 and then read the first sentence of Galatians 3:21. We will study Galatians 3:21 next week, but right now I want you to look at the two questions posed in these two verses. Are both questions asking us the same thing? (Yes. If we can understand the purpose of the law, then we can tell whether it is opposed to the original contract between God and Abraham.)

      1. Considering God's overall goal for us, is the law in conflict with the contract?

      2. What did God want Abraham to do? (Trust Him!)

      3. Why would God want humans to trust Him? (They would live in harmony with God. We would trust that God's way and God's will were the best thing for our lives.)

      4. What does the law do for us? (Read Romans 7:7. The law reveals God's will for us. Want to know how to live a life in harmony with God's will? Read the Ten Commandments.)

      5. What about Jesus' comments on lust and anger being problems on the level of adultery and murder? Is that direction something that helps us to be in harmony with God? (Read James 1:13-15. Humans do not accidentally stumble into adultery or murder. The act begins with a desire, a plot in the mind, to do these deeds. I think Jesus' point is that if you do not commit adultery or murder simply because you do not have the opportunity, your life is not in harmony with God's will. If you are planning to commit adultery or murder, then your life is not in harmony with God's will.)

    4. How then, should we live? (If we accept Jesus' life, death and resurrection on our behalf, we have assurance that the penalty for sin does not apply to us. We are saved. At the same time, when we lead a life directed by the Holy Spirit, we realize that the whole point of what Jesus did was to bring us into harmony with God. Through the aid of the Holy Spirit, we choose to direct our thoughts and our lives in a way that is consistent with God's revealed commands. We do this because we trust God. We know that this will make our lives better, and we know that this will bring glory to God!)

    5. Friend, will you accept what Jesus has done on your behalf? Will you agree to trust Him in all that you do?

  4. Next week: The Road to Faith.
* Copr. 2017, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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