Patrick Henry said, “Give me liberty or give me death!” He recognized there is no life apart from liberty. This is true spiritually as well. Jesus came to give us life and liberty. He said, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” What is this truth? Our Lord responds, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” Jesus came to give us life through a personal relationship with Him that sets us free from the shackles of sin and death. Paul explains further concerning the life of liberty in Galatians 3:15-29.
This liberty is a promise of God (v.15-18). The word, “promise” is used eight times in Galatians 3:15-29. Specifically, this promise refers to God’s covenant with Abraham. God chose Abraham in sovereign grace, Abraham responded by faith, and God imputed righteousness (3:6).
Since the covenant preceded the law, the false teachers in Galatia said that the law replaced the covenant. Paul counters this with an illustration from the secular world (v.15). A contract between two cannot be negated later by someone not a party to the agreement. Neither could it be argued the covenant was fulfilled when the law was given, because fulfillment was in Christ (v.16). Abraham didn’t make the covenant and promises. God did—unilaterally and unconditionally.
What is given by promise is not earned by obedience (v.17-18). Like oil and water, they don’t mix. The Greeks had a word for agreement between partners. That is not the term used here. Salvation is based on God’s faithfulness, not ours.
If the law did not supersede the covenant of grace, then why was it given? That is presented in verses 19-22. The law is a compass to show us how far we’ve strayed. It is plumb line to show how crooked we are. It is a thermometer to show how sick we are. This is meant to drive us in desperation to Christ. The expression, “confined all under sin” (v.22) means “lock up in jail.” The law sentences us to death row, but that causes us to seek pardon. We can’t escape, so we must have someone intervene. Like a mirror, the law shows us we are dirty, but cannot cleanse us.
Children need supervision and a restricted area. Baby-sitters and playpens set limits that are good for them. We are put in protective custody (v.23). We are given a tutor (v.24-25). In the ancient world this was a slave in charge of minor. He had moral supervision and was a strict disciplinarian. This is what the law is to us. The tutor’s task was finished when the child reached maturity. The word, “sons” (v.26) means “of full age.” Christians have outgrown the need of a playpen and baby-sitter. Adulthood brings freedom from that. Why would anyone want to return to infancy?
Instead, we are to “put on Christ” (v.27). In Roman society, when youth came of age, they were given a special toga. The child of God has laid aside the old garments of sin and put on a robe of righteousness. In Christ, there is no distinction of skin color, social class, or sexual category (v.28). The ground is level at the cross. The Jews thought they were Abraham’s seed because of keeping the law. Paul says it is a relationship to Christ by faith that makes us heirs of Abraham’s promises (v.29).
Only Christ can free us from sin and death. Call out to Him today!