Galatians 3:19-22 The pursuit of holiness is the key to a supernatural and glorious life
Galatians 3:19-22 The pursuit of holiness is the key to a supernatural and glorious life
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 would come to whom the promise had been made. 20
Now a mediator is not for one party only; whereas God is only one And the mediator is not of one, but God is one. 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. 22 But the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.
For 1,400 years, the people of Israel have been observing the Mosaic law. Even though the sacrifice of Christ has brought the observance of the law to a close, its spiritual significance lives on. The Mosaic law is employed primarily to deal with the sinful human nature. Indeed, for 1,400 years, the precepts and sacrifices of the law have impressed upon the Israelites the paramount importance of sanctification. And for 1,400 years, the message of sanctification is repeated so that they may be primed to experience the promise of the supernatural and glorious life. Paul said emphatically that the law is not contrary to the promises of God. The law speaks of holiness, the requisite to obtaining the promise, which is the Spirit. Today’s devotion teaches us: The pursuit of holiness is the key to a supernatural and glorious life.
Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator, until the seed would come to whom the promise had been made.
If the inheritance as promised to Abraham is not based on observance of the Mosaic law, why then is it added? If the inheritance is obtained through faith alone, why are circumcision, the precepts and sacrifices commanded of Abraham and Moses? The answer to that question is… The law was added to provide a judicial framework so that man’s sinful nature (transgressions) could be dealt with and forgiven through faith. The law must be added to bring forth the Seed to those who believe. How does it work? The law provides the legal framework to define sin, indict, forgive and sanctify the sinner. Before the law is given, for the lack of a legal structure, no man is legally accountable to God for their transgressions. And for the lack of an earthly sacrificial system, there is no judicial provisions for the forgiveness of sins.
An important element of the Mosaic law apart from the 10 commandments is the mediatory element. This mediatory system or mediator comprises the sacrifices and offerings, the tabernacle and the priesthood. And these constitute the judicial provisions for the forgiveness of sin. After Moses completed the construction of the tabernacle, and set up the priesthood and the sacrificial system, the angels proceed to ordain the tabernacle for its mediatory function. The scene at Mount Sinai was reported in Exodus 40:34 as a cloud covering the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Some are of the view that the mediator is Moses himself. This interpretation poses a problem as no man can live long enough to keep playing the mediatory role until the coming of Christ. And most importantly, Moses did not shed his blood for the sins of the people. Therefore, until the advent of Christ, mediation is done through animal sacrifices and a succession of priests.
20 and the mediator is not of one, but God is one… 21b For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law.
Here, Paul appeared to have raised two comments (verses 20 and 21a) in succession and thereafter followed up on them (verses 21b and 22) in succession as well. Hence, verse 20 is best treated together with 21b, and 21a with 22.
However, the way to treat verse 20 is to first look at the verse’s literal translation from the original Greek text: “and the mediator is not of one, but God is one.” Given this verse‘s terseness and obscurity, a simple approach is most appropriate without reading too much into it. Now, we know the “mediator” is the mediatory element of the law comprising the tabernacle, priesthood and sacrifices. What does “one” stand for? By examining the following verse, we can decipher what Paul meant by “one”. Now, looking at verse 21b, “For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law”. Paul is reiterating the inability of the law to impart life (through the mediator) because it is not divine in origin, but only an earthly set up. Hence, it is most probable that by “one”, Paul has in mind the “divine One”. Hence, by implication, we can treat verse 20 as a precursor to verse 21a: the mediator is not of the (divine) One, but God is the (divine) One. Indeed, the earthly mediator which comprises the physical tabernacle together with its sacrificial system cannot impart life which only the divine One can.
21a Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God? May it never be!… 22 But the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.
Having argued against the Judaizers’ claims concerning the mantle of the law to perfect believers, Paul now asks whether the law stands in opposition to the promise. The response: “May it never be!” captures Paul’s bewilderment at the absurdity of such a question. If God is the author of both law and promise, how can law and promise be opposing each other! And surely, the law had paramount significance in contributing to the realisation of the promise.
How then does the law relate to the promise? The primary function of the Mosaic law is to first hold humanity accountable to God for their sins thereby, putting all under the curse of the law. Hence, the first mantle of the law is to define sin, indict, and punish sinners by putting them under a curse. The second mantle, is to provide a legal basis for the forgiveness of sins through the mediator. That said, the effectuality of the mediator to forgive sins has nothing to do with the law, but everything to do with the animal employed in the sacrifice. The fact that priests make repeated animal sacrifices year after year speaks of the ineffectuality of the blood of animals to forgive sins. Therefore, the purpose of the law is to prepare the people to walk in holiness so that they may receive the promised Spirit and experience the glorious life.
But when Christ gave Himself by way of the law (day of atonement), the curse of the law is effectively broken for those who have faith in Christ. Besides destroying the curse, faith in Christ also begins the process of sanctification for the believer. Without the Mosaic law, Christ’s sacrifice remains ineffectual towards making believers righteous through faith. Faith in Christ has opened for believers a supernatural and glorious existence of Christ who is seated at the right hand of God.
The pursuit of holiness is the key to a supernatural and glorious life
It (the law) was added because of transgressions… The purpose of the law is to deal with transgressions. And for 1,400 years, the whole nation of Israel dealt with it by observing the Mosaic law. Why is it so important for the whole nation to observe the law continually for 1,400 years? This is to reflect the severe requirement for holiness: the transgressions of man or sinful nature cannot co-exist with the promised Spirit.
To recap, the law which comprises the precepts and the sacrifices is employed to pave the judicial path for forgiveness and sanctification of the believer. While the precepts pertains to the purity of the heart, the sacrifices pertains to divine grace to sanctify. For 1,400 years, the law has impressed upon the people the requisite of possessing the promise, which is a sanctified life. Through the centuries, the people are tutored in the ways of holiness (through the precepts), and the need for divine forgiveness (through the sacrifices).
Christ, the perfect sacrifice effectually broke the curse of sin releasing the promise of the Spirit over mankind. Although the sacrificing of animals has come to an end, the blood of Christ continues to flow within believers sanctifying them continually. Why is sanctification important? Because it is impossible for the supernatural and the glorious to co-exist with sin and darkness. Believers can experience the supernatural to the extent that their hearts are purified. They can live gloriously to the extent that they are willing to divorce themselves from the pleasures of the world. It is one thing to be saved, and quite another to live supernaturally and gloriously.
Why are experiences of the spirit world (the things above) not a norm but an exception in the church today? Why are believers’ communications with God lacking in clarity? Why has the mainstream church plateaued in the supernatural and the creative use of spiritual gifts? Why are the majority of Christians not assured of their salvation? Why are teachers rich in spiritual knowledge and poor in spiritual experiences? Because the church has neglected the truth of the Mosaic law. In wanting to be free from the works of the law, they overlook the significance that is working in the law. The early church had an abundance of revelations and miracles because they, being Jews knew the significance of the law: the pursuit of holiness. Even as the outward observance of the law has ceased, the spirit of the law has not. Instead, the law became internalised within them. Paul said,
For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. Romans 2:28-29a
Many churchgoers today celebrated the fact that they are free from legalism, from the works of the law; from circumcision. But it is also true that many remain inwardly uncircumcised. Indeed, the observance of the law that last 1,400 years has shown us the importance of sanctification without which no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14b).
Are you discouraged in your pursuit of holiness? Do not be discouraged. Continue to read the word and persevere in fighting against the sinful nature. God is pleased in your struggle against sin and does not hold your imperfections against you. And by His grace the supernatural life will open up to you.
How do we live a holy life? The below are some guidelines gleaned from the law through which we live the glorious life.
- Do all things out of love, not anger or selfishness.
- When making plans, do not depend on human instincts, but on divine directives
- Always give our first fruits, our best of our time and resources to God.
- Always be loyal to our parents and to our leaders especially those who are godly.
- Guard our hearts from fleshly ambitions, envy or the desire to dominate.
- Do not harbour hatred or allow bitterness to fester overnight.
- Persevere in the tasks and calling given to us, do not turn aside.
- Persevere in operating the spiritual gifts even if it does not seem to work. Always seek divine wisdom and explore new ways to operate them in our peculiar circumstances.
- Persevere in reading the word and seek divine wisdom to understand difficult passages and truths. Therein comes our breakthrough in divine wisdom and supernatural experiences.
Dear Lord, I understand the importance of holiness through which I can receive greater revelations and experience the supernatural. I receive your grace to press on and overcome my human weaknesses. I desire to live the life that Christ lives… at the right hand of the Father. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.