Gracious God, give us the spirit of faith. Amen.
Text: Galatians 3:15-22
Brethren, I speak in the manner of men: Though it is only a man’s covenant, yet if it is confirmed, no one annuls or adds to it. Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as of many, but as of one, “And to your Seed,” who is Christ. And this I say, that the law, which was four hundred and thirty years later, cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ, that it should make the promise of no effect. For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no longer of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise. What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator. Now a mediator does not mediate for one only, but God is one. Is the law then against the promises of God? Certainly not! For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law. But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.
God promises to Abraham and his descendants the land of Canaan forever, but this land is the new transfigured earth with heavenly glory and salvation: Abraham’s descendant is Christ in His Church, the communion of all believers, both Jews and Gentiles. Faith, faith alone God Himself has made necessary for everyone who will share in the inheritance. “The promises” are God’s testament, His unchanging will, to which no one can add anything or take anything away. When God Himself later gave the law, no one must think that He is fickle and changed His own will that was already established, as if the law along with faith or the law instead of faith could give us the inheritance. “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent” [Num 23:19]. The law did not come to change or nullify the testament given. It certainly is God’s Word, one and the same Word of God, given through “a mediator,” namely Moses. Moses is not the mediator of one, not merely standing in the place of man to receive the law, but also in God’s place to give it to them. On the contrary, the law is rather to confirm the promise; the law multiplies transgressions and shows us our sin, so that it becomes clear that only grace can save us.
This is a truth precious beyond expression, the real doctrine of life and the sunshine of salvation, that chases away the harsh night of unbelief and bondage. It pleased God to establish this covenant; this is His eternal will and His last will and testament: Every single person who believes in Jesus Christ shall inherit the glory and blessedness of God’s children. And it pleased Him to give me “baptism into Christ” and let me learn this Gospel, so that I may believe. He also showed me my sin and drove me to Christ, so that I know nothing else for salvation but His cross and blood. What should condemn me now?
So neither will we, brethren, mix the law and our works into God’s testament. We have learned that everything in us is sin according to the law, and we see this more clearly every day. So our experience agrees with all of Scripture and says that faith alone, Christ alone, grace alone is the way for sinners to salvation. Isn’t this the faith and confession of your heart? See, God’s Spirit has created it in you, and where He is, there is freedom. “But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal 3:25-29).
God be praised who made this covenant and gave it to us! Now no one need be uncertain of salvation, since everything of our own is excluded and the inheritance is given us in the Gospel. Help us, Lord, to believe the truth and grace. Amen.
God should bring wrath upon us,
But now has in His Son
Our full salvation won us
And paid sin’s bitter loan.
The full load He has carried
And paid for us the price;
Now death itself is buried;
His payment shall suffice.
God’s reconciled unto us
And all our sin forgiv’n;
Now crowned in heav’n is Jesus
And royal seat is giv’n.
And Satan now must hear it
From under Jesus’ feet.
His rage, we do not fear it;
Our vict’ry is complete.
Petersen: Hvor lystelig og yndig L 517:6-7 tr. DeGarmeaux;
tune: Jeg raaber fast, O Herre (LHy 218); alternate hymn: Out of the depths I cry to Thee ELH 452:5