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Life-Study of Galatiansby Witness Lee

ISBN: 0-7363-0961-6
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry

Currently in: Chapter 18 of 46 Section 1 of 2

LIFE-STUDY OF GALATIANS

MESSAGE EIGHTEEN

THE PROMISE VERSUS THE LAW

Scripture Reading: Gal. 3:2b, 3b, 6, 9-11, 13-14, 17, 21-25

The New Testament reveals that, in eternity past, God made a purpose, a plan. This purpose was to have a people chosen by Him to receive the sonship and thereby to become sons of God, with the Son of God as the Firstborn, and then to be formed into a corporate man to express God for eternity. This is a brief statement of God’s eternal purpose. After conceiving this purpose, God accomplished the work of creation. The focal point of God’s creation is man, because God’s purpose is to have a people for His expression. We know from Genesis 1 that man was made in God’s image and according to God’s likeness. In other words, man was created with the potential to express God. At the time of creation, man had neither the divine life nor the divine nature. However, he was created with the capacity to receive God and to become one with Him.

THE FALL, THE CURSE, AND THE PROMISE

We know that after creation, man fell. On the one hand, the fall of Adam brought in sin and sins; on the other hand, Adam’s fall brought in the curse. Hence, the man created by God in His own image and according to His likeness became involved with sin and came under the curse. The fact that mankind followed a downward course after Genesis 3 indicates that man is under a curse. We see this curse with Cain, the second generation of mankind. Because Cain’s descendants were all under the curse, they fell lower and lower. Eventually, man fell to such a degree that, at Babel, he became divided and confused. There can be no doubt that fallen man is both involved with sin and under the curse.

In the midst of such a fallen situation, the God of glory appeared to Abraham (Acts 7:2). It is significant that the Bible does not say that the God of love appeared to Abraham, but says that the God of glory appeared to him. With Adam we have sin and the curse, but with Abraham we have God’s promise. According to Genesis 12:3, God promised Abraham that in him all the nations would be blessed. The background of this promise was the curse upon mankind. Because mankind was under a curse, man’s direction was downward. But God came in, called Abraham, and promised that in him the nations, mankind in a state of division and confusion, would be blessed. Certainly this was good news. It is no wonder, then, that Paul considered it the gospel.

However, the matter we are emphasizing here is the promise. In calling Abraham, God gave him a promise. In Galatians 3:17 Paul speaks of both a promise and a covenant. In this chapter he also tells us, in verse 8, that God’s word to Abraham in Genesis 12:3 was the preaching of the gospel to Abraham. The speaking of that promise was the preaching of the gospel. Furthermore, the covenant ratified in Genesis 15 was the confirmation of the gospel.

In Genesis 12:3 the promise was only a promise, for it was still in need of fulfillment. In this chapter we are not told when, how, or where the promise would be fulfilled. Then in Genesis 15 the promise became a ratified covenant, and in Genesis 17 this covenant was confirmed by the sign of circumcision. However, even though the promise had been ratified as a covenant and confirmed, it still had not been fulfilled.

GOD DEALING WITH HIS PEOPLE
ACCORDING TO THE PROMISE

At the time God was ratifying the promise in Genesis 15, making it a covenant, a great darkness came upon Abraham (v. 12). This darkness was an indication that before the promise would be fulfilled, God’s people would undergo a time of darkness and suffer intensely. The Bible records that Abraham’s descendants went into Egypt and spent at least four hundred years under Egyptian tyranny. These years were a long period of darkness. Then, after those four hundred years, God brought them out of the darkness of Egyptian tyranny. God did not deal with them according to the law, which had not yet been given, but He dealt with them according to the promise He made to Abraham, their forefather.

It is difficult to find a verse in the book of Exodus telling us that God’s intention in bringing the children of Israel out of Egypt was to give them the law. However, it is clearly stated that God intended for them to hold a feast unto Him. Moses said to Pharaoh, “Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Let my people go, that they may hold a feast unto me in the wilderness” (Exo. 5:1). No doubt, God also planned to reveal to them the pattern of His dwelling place.

Before Exodus 19, there seems to be no indication that God had any intention to give them the law. At the beginning of this chapter, God spoke very pleasant words to the people: “Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself” (Exo. 19:4). The Lord went on to tell them that if they would obey His voice and keep His covenant, they would be a special treasure unto Him and become a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (vv. 5-6). God’s word was very gracious. When the people heard what God had spoken, they answered, “All that the Lord hath spoken we will do” (v. 8). After this response of the people, the atmosphere around Mount Sinai changed. The cherishing atmosphere was replaced by a terrifying one. Frightened by this atmosphere, the children of Israel told Moses to be their representative to meet with God. In the midst of such a situation, the Ten Commandments were given. Therefore, with Adam we have the fall; with Abraham, the promise; and with Moses, the law. Chapters twenty through twenty-three of Exodus are all related to the law.

But immediately following these chapters with their decrees and ordinances, we come to chapter twenty-four, where the situation around Mount Sinai is changed again. Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up the mountain. In the words of Exodus 24:10, “they saw the God of Israel: and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness.” What a beautiful scene this was! It was in such a setting that God revealed to Moses the pattern of the tabernacle.


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