(171)Thesis:The Law was never intended to bring men to "the inheritance" so that it never has stood in opposition to the promises.
Introduction:In our study last week we looked into Paul's description of the Law as an "angelic/mediator" established phenomenon. We saw that it is impossible to not see that Paul is downgrading the identity of "Law" so that it cannot be held to be a means to imparting, or even enhancing, "the inheritance" to human beings. At its very root the Law was a mediated agreement between two parties. This makes it impossible to be a means to the inheritance because the only way the promise can be sure is if it is totally up to God. Since God's integrity is in the balance once He has made a promise, it is beyond impossible that He would put that integrity into someone else's lesser hands.
This, Paul assumes, will raise another question in the minds of his readers: is the Law contrary to the promises? This is the issue Paul raises and addresses in 3:21-22. Just as an observation as we move into these words of Paul, let me just say that the very notion that the Law could be contrary to the promises can only exist in the minds of those who already misconstrue the identity and function of "Law" as a basic principle. If a person clearly understands God's reasons for promise and law, the idea that there is a conflict is completely off the charts. So, this evening we are going to see if we can get that idea of conflict "off the charts" for all of us.
I. The Roots of "Conflict".
A. There are only two causes of "conflict".
1. Obviously, if there are two opposing objectives in view, those holding the objectives will be at odds with each other.
2. Just as obviously, if there are two opposing methods for achieving an objective, those who pursue one method will be at odds with those who pursue the opposite.
B. In the issue of Promise vs. Law, both adversaries claim that their objective is "to enable a man to obtain a portion of the inheritance".
1. This is not "real", however, as Paul points out in a couple of places in Galatians where he describes the motives of those involved in subjecting people to the Law (4:17; 5:26 and 6:12).
2. But, real or not, Paul decided to clarify exactly what the objective of "Law" was/is so that his later comments could serve to explain the deceit of his adversaries.
a. Paul's question of conflict between Law and the promises naturally arises from his claim that God's "oneness" eliminates "Law" as a possible contender for the position of "the accepted methodology".
b. Paul's answer is adamant and instructive.
1) He explained that if the Law could make a dead person alive, then it would have been a legitimate methodology for the attainment of justification.
a) Under "law" man is accountable for what he does and his accountability is somewhat proportional to his ability.
b) Therefore, if "law" had empowered man so that he could keep it, he would be required to keep it.
i. The issue of "empowerment", for Paul, is the issue of "life" and the reality of incapacity is the result of "death".
ii. The beginning point to the argument is the indisputable fact that men are "dead" before any consideration of "Law" or "Promise" is brought into the picture.
iii. Given that men are dead, the problem for "legalists" is that there is no "law" that can bring the dead to life.
2) He then goes further to explain that "the Scriptures (of the Law)" are beyond argument in their presentation that all men everywhere are "under sin".
a) This is argued in detail by Paul in Romans 1:16-3:9.
b) At issue is the fact that Paul's phrase "under sin" does not merely mean that all men "have sinned"; it means that all men are "compulsive sinners": it is inherent in their nature (Romans 5:12).
c) This completely destroys the notion that "law" can serve to "justify".
i. Even just one sin negates the possibility that "Law" can "declare a man just".
ii. Forgiveness of sins is an "illegal" function: forgiveness destroys Law's ability to execute Justice.
3) He then concludes that it was actually the purpose of "Law" to bring men to guilt so that they would approach the issue of "the inheritance" from some other methodology.
a) His wording is deliberate: the Promise is "by the faith of Jesus Christ" so that if/ since Jesus Christ believes what the Father has promised, the Father is compelled by His own integrity to "give" what He has promised to those who believe.
b) The promises were not given to any but Abraham and his Seed, but "faith" by either of those two means that God has to do whatever has to be done in order to fulfill His words.
c) Thus, when anyone "believes" in the faith of Jesus Christ, the Promise is extended to that "believer" because at that point he/she is made an integral part of Jesus Christ by the baptism of the Spirit.