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Friday, January 27, 2017

Today's Scripture Reading | Galatians 3:15–22

Brothers and sisters, I give an example from daily life: once a person’s will has been ratified, no one adds to it or annuls it. Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring; it does not say, “And to offsprings,” as of many; but it says, “And to your offspring,” that is, to one person, who is Christ. My point is this: the law, which came four hundred thirty years later, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise. For if the inheritance comes from the law, it no longer comes from the promise; but God granted it to Abraham through the promise.

Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring would come to whom the promise had been made; and it was ordained through angels by a mediator. Now a mediator involves more than one party; but God is one. Is the law then opposed to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could make alive, then righteousness would indeed come through the law. But the scripture has imprisoned all things under the power of sin, so that what was promised through faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. (NRSV)

Biblical commentators have called this one of Paul’s most difficult passages to understand. Paul was a trained rabbi, who used the scholastic methods of rabbinic argument. His hearers probably understood what he meant, though we may not.

Here is the essence of what he says:

The primary issue of human life is to get into a right relationship with God. That right relationship is embodied in Abraham, to whom God made a great promise in response to Abraham’s faith. Much later, the law was introduced with Moses as a means for humanity to recognize sin, so we may know when we have failed to live up to God’s truth and way. But the law cannot help us get into a right relationship with God. And the law does not alter the original covenant. That covenant finds its consummation in Jesus Christ. The way to peace with God is the way of faith and trust which Abraham took. We must repeat that way by looking to Jesus Christ in faith.

As William Barclay wrote:

“So long as we are afraid of [God], there can be no peace. How are we to achieve this right relationship? Shall it be by a meticulous and even self-torturing obedience to the law, by performing endless deeds and observing every smallest regulation the law lays down? If we take that way we will be forever in default . . . but if we abandon this hopeless struggle and bring our sin and ourselves to God, his grace opens its arms to us and we find ourselves at peace with a God who is no longer judge but father.”

Grace is God’s gift to us, and humanity cannot undo it.

Guard me, gracious God, from trying to earn your love. Open my heart to receive your grace. Amen.

Written by Victoria G. Curtiss, Associate Pastor for Mission

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