The Priority of the Promise

Stephen Terry


Commentary for the August 5, 2017 Sabbath School Lesson


“Why, then, was the law given at all? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come…” Galatians, 3:19, NIV

Jesus is truly the Alpha and Omega. Everything begins and ends with Him. The Bible says, “For in him we live and move and have our being,” as Paul quotes the Cretan philosopher Epimenides. (See Acts 17:28) Elsewhere, we read “…in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.” Colossians 1:16, NIV

Among the many things included in this created panoply are two that profoundly impact mankind: Law and Freedom. Law binds us in our transgressions and hands us over for justice. Freedom breaks those binding chains and allows us to follow the path to become everything we were created to be. Those who are free can rule over the Earth. Those who are bound cannot even rule over themselves. Instead they find themselves in servitude to that which binds them.

Man was created to be free. He was made the ruler of this planet. The Bible says, “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, `Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.’” Genesis 1:27-28, NIV

Mankind unfortunately chose to give up his freedom to be bound by the Law. Before he enslaved himself, he knew only good and the joy of freedom. But deciding that was not enough, he sought knowledge of evil. That knowledge can only come through the Law. The Bible puts it this way, “Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness.” 1 John 3:4, NIV There is no law where there is no sin. As Paul said “…I had not known sin, but by the law…” Romans 7:7, NIV

So to be free we only need to get rid of all laws? No. For the Law does not produce sin, but sin produces law. If mankind, beginning with Cain had not chosen to murder, there would be no law concerning murder. But every transgression produces its corresponding law. In our sins we cannot escape the chains of the Law. They bind us and sooner or later bring us to our graves.

The Devil, who is the father of all sin, knew this truth. He knew that through transgression, he could bind us in slavery. He knew this from personal experience for the law has enslaved him as well. The difference is that he created transgression, but mankind was deceived into it. Therefore our destinies are not linked. We have a way out.

The only way out is through perfect obedience. We do not have the strength for that. (See Jeremiah 13:23) The Devil knows that as well, and he encourages us to keep trying, knowing that eventually we will give up and resign ourselves to our chains. He doesn’t care if the law in question is the Ten Commandments, the laws concerning feasts, or even man made laws. He knows that every law is only the result of our failure to live in the freedom of God’s love and trying to create an illusion of freedom by replacing God’s love with laws.

There is only one man who ever lived that life of perfect obedience. That man was Christ Jesus. Being one with the Father, He modeled what freedom truly was. To us under the Law, that life appeared as perfect obedience because that is the only way out we can understand under the Law. But truly His life was without the Law because He was sinless, and where there is no sin, there is no law. From Adam until Christ, the law reigned supreme, but in Christ came the end of the Law through the elimination of sin.

Because Christ was more than a man, He was God; He could impart his sinlessness to us. Through His sinless life, he gave us power to break free of the Law. But this is not our power, it is His. Like the slave who lays his chains on the anvil so the blacksmith can cut them from his wrists, we can lay our bonds on the cross where He will set us free from the bondage we have created through transgression. The Bible says about Jesus, “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” John 8:36, KJV

It was never God’s desire that mankind should live in bondage. The miserable results of that are all too clear in the world around us. Even though we are enslaved through sin, we try to tell ourselves we are free. We should know better. The United States, which is often viewed as the champion of freedom for the world, has a higher percentage of its population in prison than any other nation. (New York Times, “U.S. prison population dwarfs that of other nations,” Adam Liptak, April 23, 2008) Obviously there is disconnection between our perception of freedom and the reality of our lives.

It doesn’t have to be that way. We have a way out. God offers us a way to be fit for heaven. We cannot go there with our sinful lives. We would quickly change it from a place of freedom and harmony to one of laws and justice. By surrendering to God now, we can learn to live in the imparted sinlessness of Christ today, to be able to live in the sinless atmosphere of heaven later. Paul puts it like this his letter to the Roman church, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” Romans 8:1-4, NIV

This is because the sinlessness required for our freedom was “fully met” at the cross. Because it was fully met there, it could be fully met in us. This is not through our doing, but God’s. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9, NIV And in Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi he wrote, “for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” Philippians 2:13, NIV

Just as that blacksmith hammers away at the chains the slave has laid on the anvil, so God in the person of the Holy Spirit hammers away at the bonds of sin in our lives. In each case the end is freedom. In each case we can only experience that freedom by submitting ourselves to the one who has the power to set us free.

When we receive the freedom that God provides, He also shows us how to walk and live in that freedom. He doesn’t want to see us enslaved again. Jesus put it like this, “…I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” John 10:10, KJV He wants to show us the abundant blessings we can receive when we are living free as we were meant to.

Jesus gives us the opportunity to proclaim like that old gospel hymn, “I’ve been redeemed!” But the Devil wants to tell us “No you haven’t!” and he points to our sins as the proof that we are still bound under the Law and facing a bad end. He is the accuser of the brethren (See Revelation 12:10), and he does his job well. He will not rest as long as there is any possibility of tearing us away from the free gift of God’s loving grace. But the sinlessness of Christ fulfilled all the requirements of the Law, and that sinlessness has been imparted to us, so we are no longer under the power of that condemnation, the Devil notwithstanding.




If you enjoyed this commentary, you might also enjoy this companion book on Galatians by the author of this commentary.

To learn more click on this link.
Galatians: Walking by Faith




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