Living By Promise, Not Performance
Topic: The Gospel Passage: Galatians 3:15–3:22
Paul shows us from every possible angle and every possible argument that Christians do not live under the law or laws. Paul has contrasted law and faith, law and the Spirit, and now law and promise. Instead of living by laws we live by faith. Instead of living by laws we live by the Spirit, by the influence and leading of the Spirit. Instead of living by the law we live by the promise! We are people of promise, children of promise. We are promise receivers.
There are two ways to live, by law or by promise. Are you working your way to a blessing? Are you working your way to God? Are you working, and hoping, and trying to be qualified for the blessing of God? Or do you know and believe that you ARE qualified and blessed right here and now solely by the promise of God?
God gives us ALL his blessings, all the benefits of salvation, by a promise, that is received by faith. You are not left to hope that your own performance of law keeping is good enough. But you are saved today, you stand in God’s grace and favor today, because God promised that to you in Jesus Christ. You are loved and accepted by God today, right with God, received by God, you enjoy the outpouring of the Spirit, and ALL God has for you, through the promise of God! You merely receive that by faith.
Real Christian salvation begins when you believe the promise of God to save you through Christ. And you continue on, by believing the promise of God that, in Christ, you stand in grace and righteousness and blessing and favor with God, from now through ALL ETERNITY! We LIVE on the PROMISE OF GOD, believing the promise today and tomorrow…. That is our life!!
The basic logic of this passage is this: Promises of exceedingly great blessing were made to Abraham and to his seed. That seed is Jesus Christ. We are connected to Jesus Christ by faith. Therefore, we too, receive these massive blessings from God! Verse 29 of chapter 3 says, “And all who belong to Christ, then are Abraham’s seed, and are heirs according to the promise.”!
It was as if God gathered every blessing of heaven and earth and promised that to one man. But that blessing was not just for him! God said through him, (and his future descendant, Jesus Christ), all the nations would be blessed. If you are connected to Abraham through faith in Christ then all these promised blessings flow to you!! - and flow freely too.
The big idea here though, is that God gave this ULTIMATE blessing to Abraham through a promise. Verse 18 “For if the inheritance depends on the law, them it no longer depends on the promise; BUT GOD, IN HIS GRACE, GAVE IT TO ABRAHAM THROUGH A PROMISE”.
If the blessing and favor of God depend on you and I keeping the law, passing a test, meeting a standard, then they are not based on a promise. If you promise to give someone a thousand dollars and then a month later say, “To get that money, you have to do my dishes and mow my lawn and clean my house and wash my car for a year”, then the $1000 is not based on a promise. Two ways to receive something, either you work for it, or you receive it simply because it promised to you. God says we are given access to HIS blessing through a promise.
Benjamin Warfield married his wife Annie when he was 25 years old. On their honeymoon in Europe, his new bride was struck by lightning and permanently paralyzed. Benjamin cared for her for 39 years, till her death. He said that he seldom left home for more than 2 hours at a time, during all those years of marriage. Why did he do all that? Because he made a promise. His love and commitment to his wife was based on a promise, for better for worse, in sickness and in health, for richer for poorer. He never considered doing anything other than care for her!
Even thought she was an invalid, his love and care and all his resources were hers for life, because they were given to her by promise. They were not given to her on the basis of her abilities, or her performance as a wife, or her beauty, or her keeping some kind of expected duties. His love and provision and blessing to her was not “based on law” but on a promise he made.
God committed himself to you in that same way. He promised himself to you. He committed himself to bless you by promise. He relates to you to you through a promise! You simply “marry” into that promise by faith!
*But anybody that knows anything about the Bible or Religion, knows that God also gave a law, a set of rules, or commands. “You shall. You shall not.” The question is: Was God, in effect, taking back his promise to freely bless us, when he gave the Law. Paul’s answer is that the law did NOT set aside the truth that God relates to us, and gives himself to us by a promise, received by faith.
Verse 15 says, once a promise is made, nothing else can set that aside. “Brothers and sisters, let me take an example from everyday life. Just as no one can set aside OR add to a human covenant that has been duly established so it is in this case”. Paul said this the way it works, even in human legal documents. If any person makes a will, a last will and testament, that will, functions like a promise. That person’s possessions and wealth are passed on to another person. And nothing can stop it! In spiritual terms, YOU are in the will! You inherit massive riches, just because it is promised to you in God’s will.
Then Paul applies this to the law in verse 17 “What I mean is this; the law introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God, and thus does NOT do away with the promise”.
The point here is that the laws of God were given AFTER the promise, in fact 430 years after the promise. For 430 years Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and Joseph and all the others LIVED under THE PROMISE OF BLESSING. God kept speaking to them, “I will bless you, all the peoples of the earth will be blessed through you, I am with you, I will watch over you, I will not leave you until I have done what I promised to you”. And NOTHING in the law’s rituals and requirements, CANCELS out the promise God made of blessing!
IE Once you receive the promise, nothing else can prevent the blessing! The Law cannot prevent God’s blessing, Satan cannot prevent his blessing, no other person can prevent the blessing of God, because the blessing of God is upon you in Christ Jesus through a promise!
Promises are received by faith, not by doing something really hard to qualify for them! Let’s go back to Verse 7 which says, “So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham the believer”. Abraham received the massive promise of God by believing God. It say, “Abraham believed God and his faith was counted to him as righteousness”. This verse says, you are linked into this SAME favor, by faith in the promise! You are linked up to the most blessed human being ever!
Your link to Abraham’s blessing is faith, not genetics, not blood line, not race, not being Jewish, and not keeping the law, the thing that links you in to the blessing is believing God! Faith! Your job day and night is to be a believer! From beginning of your Christian life to the end your number one job is to believe!!! By faith in Christ, you are blessed with Abraham the believer. If you don’t believe you are blessed today, then either you have not entered into the blessing by faith, or somehow you have gotten your eyes off the promised blessing, and onto some kind of law based living, like the Galatians! Later Paul will ask them where is that sense of blessing you had?
The question obviously is this? Why then was the law given? What is the purpose of “Do this! Don’t do that! You shall. You shall not.”? Verse 19 “Why then was the law given at all? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred has come”, meaning, UNTIL Jesus comes. In other words it had a temporary purpose. It was added because human beings transgress or sin against God, it was added to make us conscious of our transgression,.
Verse 21, “Is the law of God then opposed to the promise? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law”. IF a law could give you LIFE, and make you happy and holy and good, then that’s the end of the story! There is no need for Jesus, no need for the cross, no need for the Spirit. But no kind of law or commandment can change your heart!
Verse 22, “But the scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin”, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.” The NASB says, “The scripture has shut up everyone under sin”. The law showed us all to be sinners. It destroyed our hope in ourselves! Romans 3:20 says, “through the law we become conscious of our sin”. The law is not OPPOSED to the promise, but it PREPARES us for it! By showing us our spiritual and moral failures, the law of God leads us to the promise. It show our need. It causes us to DESIRE the promise, to appreciate the promise.
It’s purpose was to show us how far from God we are, in ourselves. Its purpose is to frustrate us with ourselves, and our own efforts, to condemn us of our failure to be righteous. Nearly every person in the world has the impression that righteousness is by keeping some kind of law or laws or a law. It is so deeply embedded in man’s heart that it takes the holy and perfect and righteous standards of God to break through the big lie of SELF righteousness.
This monster of self-righteousness, this stiff-necked beast, needs a big axe. And that is what the Law is, a big axe. Accordingly, the proper use and function of the Law is to threaten until the conscience is scared stiff.
As long as a person is not a murderer, adulterer, thief, he would swear that he is righteous. How is God going to humble such a person except by the Law?” He says God uses his law, “to tear to pieces that monster called self-righteousness. As long as a person thinks he is right he is going to be incomprehensibly proud and presumptuous. He is going to hate God, despise His grace and mercy, and ignore the promises in Christ. The Gospel of the free forgiveness of sins through Christ will never appeal to the self-righteous.
So the work of the law will make you feel your guilt, sin and shame before a holy God. So I want to address this issue of how we escape feelings of guilt, shame, condemnation, feeling that we don’t measure up, or a sense of worthlessness. The answer of some is to declare themselves to be atheists. They say God makes them feel guilty and they are tired of that. But the answer that you will hear most often today is to “just throw off those feelings and tell yourself, “I am OK. I am NOT worthless. I am important. I am worthy. I am significant. I am special. I am good and nobody can tell me any different!”
But that’s not the solution of the gospel! The solution of the gospel is that awareness of your sin and shame and guilt drives you to the cross of Jesus Christ. The answer to your failure before the law is Jesus. The answer to your sin and shame is Jesus!
I want every person free from guilt, shame, condemnation, feeling unaccepted, unworthy. But the truth is that IS what we are ON OUR OWN! And that is what the law shows us to be. Then, freedom comes through the promise of God to grant you righteousness, and worthiness, and acceptance, and dignity, and love IN Jesus Christ. Worthiness and beauty come through Jesus Christ. That sense of being RIGHT and WHOLE, and CLEAN, and GOOD, is given through Jesus Christ, as you fix your faith on him.
Those feelings of guilt and shame, at a time in your life, could be the very thing that drives you to TRUE relationship with Christ. If you have those feelings, come to the One who saves the condemned, who justifies the sinner, who lifts the poor and needy, who comforts the hurting. And keep coming.
Luther, “When the Law drives you to the point of despair, let it drive you a little farther, let it drive you straight into the arms of Jesus who says: ‘Come to me all you that labor and are heavily burdened and I will give you rest”.
BUT, to wallow in those AFTER being set free by Jesus in unhealthy. It is really living under law, and the feeling and frustration that the law always brings! It is not living by the promise of God! Once you have come to the cross, you are included in the promise and you live under the promise.
The Law is meant to prepare you for the Savior, “Till the seed should come”. It has never been God’s intention that you live under it AFTER you come to Jesus!
Let’s go back to verse 22 “But the scripture has imprisoned ALL under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe”. The Law left us condemned by our failures to keep it; it put us in prison, BUT THERE IS ONE DOOR OF ESCAPE, and that is the promise of blessing through faith in Jesus. William Tydale said, “The law and the gospel are two keys. The law is the key that shutteth up all men under condemnation, and the gospel is the key which opens the door and lets them out”.
Romans 3:23,24 says the same thing, “There is no distinction between any of us, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” The law has made us all hopeless cases, and therefore we are all justified by faith in a promise; NO ONE COMES ANY OTHER WAY!
Verse 24, “The Law was put in charge to lead us to Christ”. It was like schoolmaster, to prepare us for Christ. The law leads us to grace. The Holy requirements of God prepares us for the promise of Christ. When you stop trying to justify yourself, when you come to Jesus with nothing in your hand, then the law has done its work in you. Once the law has destroyed your hope in yourself and driven you to faith in Jesus in a REAL WAY, you are no longer under a schoolmaster.
Every blessing God ever prepared for human beings is yours in Christ on the basis of the unshakable unbreakable promise of God. All the blessings of God and salvation and all the riches of Christ and the Holy Spirit are yours through a promise, NOT by your performance. You take it and enjoy it by faith in the promise. And that is how you live every day.
Are you living under the promise? And you enjoying God and living with this sense of blessing? Do you consider yourself a blessed person today? Are you walking under the smile of God? You can be, by faith in Christ. You can start right now.