Critique Of "The Book Of Signs" Part 3
The primary emphasis of Paul's letter to the church in Galatia is the temporary nature of the Mosaic dispensation. This is vital to our understanding of the covenant we have with God in Christ. Moreover, it guides us in the interpretation of prophetic passages concerning Israel.
In Galatians 3:15-18, Paul continues his defense of the priority of the Abrahamic covenant by drawing his readers' attention to an example from everyday life (Galatians 3:15). This should not confuse us. God works with his people in ways understandable to them. In other words, if it is the norm in the human environment for an irrevocable agreement (covenant) to be safe from an amendment or change, how much more so when God is the author of the agreement.
It is also important to note that Paul does not spiritualize the promises given to Abraham and his child (seed). This is important because the promises made to Abraham have to do with very practical things - including a particular piece of real estate. Yet, the focus of Paul in Galatians 3:16 is not really the nature of the promises but the fact that the promise was made to Abraham in Christ. This is crucial; the promise was not actually made to the descendants (plural) of Abraham but to the singular seed, and that of course means Christ (Galatians 3:16).
This alerts us to the appropriate way to interpret God's word; Jesus is the key to understanding everything God has done. Indeed, Jesus is the key to understanding God's plans for the future as well. As we will see, it is mandatory we understand the Mosaic dispensation in light of Jesus and his position as the true seed (heir) of Abraham. It is also significant that Paul does not "spiritualize" the promises given to Abraham. Instead, he interprets them in light of Jesus and thereby they are magnificently enlarged. For instance, the "land promise" (Genesis 13:15, 15:18, 17:8 etc.) becomes a global promise. Thus, Clearly, God's promise to give the whole earth to Abraham and his descendants was based not on his obedience to God's law, but on a right relationship with God that comes by faith (Romans 4:13). According to Paul, God promised to give the whole earth to Abraham and his seed - not just the land of Palestine. Moreover, Paul does not bother to tell how it is that God didn't make this more clear in the original giving of the promise. Instead he simply interprets the Scripture in light of Jesus and expects his readers to do the same.
In Galatians 3:17 Paul explains his purpose in drawing his readers' attention to Jesus as the seed of Abraham. He tells the Galatians that the law of Moses did not impinge upon the original Abrahamic promise. It is popular within dispensational and neo-dispensational circles to talk about the church as the great parentheses. The truth is, it is the Mosaic dispensation that was the great parentheses. It was a period of time used by God to reveal the inability of his people to fulfill the calling originally given to Adam and renewed in Abraham. In this light, it is helpful to understand Israel as the "second Adam," keeping in mind that Jesus is the last Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45).
So, Paul wants to draw the attention of the Galatians to the fact that subjugation to the principles of the Mosaic dispensation places them in the "great parentheses," a period never meant to last beyond the completion of God's plan in Christ. Paul declares the covenant promises to Abraham continued unabated even while this additional relational layer was placed upon the people of God. He is emphatic; the law has nothing to do with the covenant promises (Galatians 3:18). The inheritance of Abraham cannot be realized through participation in the Mosaic dispensation. Indeed, the attempt to prolong the relevance of the law is a heinous insult to the seed to whom the promise was made. And that seed, of course, is Jesus the Christ.
We will continue this discussion next week.
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