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God Keeps His Promises: Covenant, Law, and Christ

Keith Acker SSC's picture

Covenant, Law, and Christ

            The story of the Good Samaritan is one of my favorites. Most of us don’t see ourselves as crossing the street to avoid the victim. Jesus specifically mentions the guy who reads his Bible, the one who helps out at church. But isn’t this the description of the guy who comes asking Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus cared about this man who came, who had studied Scripture, worked to follow the Torah, but didn’t understand God’s promises to him.

            If we are to honor Christ, we need to understand how God’s fulfills His promises. Paul write to the churches of Galatia, central Turkey to explain God’s promise of life in the Kingdom. We need to understand the God’s Promises, God’s Law, and the role of Jesus. 

When we are believe in Jesus and are baptized into the Family of God, we enter into a relationship with God that comes by God’s gift; it is what God does for us. We respond to God’s gift by honoring Christ in all that we do, by “true and laudable service”. Our motive to be righteous is to honor God. Life in Jesus is more than just obedience. Life in Jesus is more than doing good. Life in Jesus is about our relationship with God and His promises. Only in God’s promises will we honor Christ give glory to God.

Remember that Paul was the most educated, the brightest young Rabbi of his day. Paul did his post-doctoral studies in the religion department of the Temple School at Jerusalem, under the most famous Rabbi, Gamaliel. Paul knew his Bible and Prayer Book better than anyone. He knew Church History and Theology. He taught Bible Study better than anyone around.

This was Paul’s message: If you want to honor Christ you need to understand that you are no longer under the Law, but under Grace. He explains the Covenant of Abraham, the Law of Moses, and the Role of Jesus Christ.

The Covenant of Abraham

I signed a contract with Verizon for my mobile phone service. They promised to put my calls through when I pickup my cell and dial your number. I promised to give them a significant amount of money. It was all printed out in black and white and signed.

In our Epistle reading for this Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity, the third chapter of Paul’s letter to the churches of Galatia, God made a contract, a covenant, with Abraham. Paul points out that God made his promise to Abraham and to his seed (singular). Not seeds (plural), meaning many people, but a single person. The one person who would complete the contract wasn’t Abraham, it was Jesus.

In the Covenant Abraham was promised a land, descendants, and to be led by God. Abraham promised to follow God as God. God kept delivering and Abraham and his children didn’t. Oy! Now we’ve got a problem.

The Law of Moses

The Law of Moses was the fix, the patch, the security update. Jesus would fulfill God’s promise to Abraham, but until the coming of Christ, the Law was given. God doesn’t fulfill his promise by giving the Law, the Torah. God made the covenant promise with Abraham 430 years earlier. So the Covenant of Abraham isn’t dependent on the Law. The Law wasn’t going to complete the promises. The Law doesn’t replace the contract. God keeps His promises.

When you leave today, hop in your car, and you use your turn signal, go the speed limit, and follow every Motor Vehicle rule and regulation, I bet you when you roll in the driveway you aren’t expecting the Highway Patrol to be waiting to reward you for following the law. The law is about obedience, not rewards.

The temptation of the Law is to think that following the Law was going to earn you a reward, that by doing good things you earn a place in eternity in the family of God. The presumption in Paul’s time and in our time is that we have the right to a place in Heaven. The Law, following the rules, doing what God asks, doesn’t get you a reward.

So why worry about the Law? From the time of Abraham to the time of Moses people did terrible things. God said “Here is what I expect from you.” Paul says it was a mediator a negotiated settlement, a way survive until the fulfill of the promises of the contract. The Law would not fulfill the promises. The Law described the righteousness needed to be in relationship with God. And this righteousness that we need would need to be given to us.

The Role of Jesus Christ

Only the seed of Abraham, Jesus Christ, would the contract be completed. The grace given in Jesus Christ would fulfill the promise. Only in Jesus will we enter into the promise. Only by belief and incorporation into Jesus will we know the heavenly promise of life in relationship to God. Obedience doesn’t define our relationship with God and His Kingdom. It is God’s grace that defines our relationship with God and is given to us in Jesus that we might know the heavenly promises.

In our Prayer for Today we ask for faith, to believe, to live, move, and have our being in our Lord Jesus, to love God with our heart, soul, and mind, to love our neighbor who is hurt and in need, and to bring to every person the Good News of Jesus fulfillment of God’s promises, “that we fail not finally to attain [God’s] heavenly promises.” Our prayer this week is to receive the grace given in Jesus, that we might faithfully serve God, and that we might come into the heavenly promises.