Moses and Abraham, or the Law Versus the Promise An Exposition of Galatians 3:15–22 -- By: S. Lewis Johnson, Jr.

Journal: Emmaus Journal
Volume: EMJ 13:1 (Summer 2004)
Article: Moses and Abraham, or the Law Versus the Promise An Exposition of Galatians 3:15–22
Author: S. Lewis Johnson, Jr.

Moses and Abraham, or the Law Versus the Promise
An Exposition of Galatians 3:15–221

S. Lewis Johnson, Jr.a


In the preceding chapter of this letter the apostle had made a great deal over “the truth of the gospel” (cf. 2:5). He was so concerned over it that he would not yield for an hour to the attempts of the Judaizers to compel Titus to be circumcised. Further, in Antioch he did not hesitate to rebuke Peter before the entire assembly of believers for his failure to understand and follow the principles of grace. Peter was not being “straightforward about the truth of the gospel” (2:14). The truth of the gospel, then, was an important matter for Paul, and it took precedence over “Christian love,” falsely so called. In fact, for Paul it was not biblical love, if it was not rooted in biblical truth. While believers should speak the truth in love, only love in the truth is God’s love. Sentimental, gushy “luuve,” is out, when the truth is at stake. No “sloppy agape” for him, to use Dr. J. Vernon McGee’s phrase.

Galatians expounds Paul’s “truth of the gospel” in a beautifully clear way. It consists of the gospel of “the five onlys,” as someone has put it. All of his message is founded upon:

Sola Scriptura, that is, the truth of the gospel comes by Scripture alone.

Sola Gratia, that is, a man is saved by grace alone.

Sola Fidei, that is, we are saved through faith alone.

Solo Christo, that is, the saving work has been done by Christ alone.

Soli Deo Gloria, that is, the whole plan results in the glorifying of God alone. Thus, soli deo gloria: to God alone be the glory!

There is another important matter that is raised in this section, and it is the use of the Law of Moses. If one is not justified by the Law, just what purpose did it serve? Different opinions regarding this matter have been held by Christians, even among those of Reformed persuasion. Lutherans have generally held that the Law’s proper use was, first, to convict the sinner of his sin and guilt, and to terrify and humble him. Then, second, the law was an aid in curbing the flesh, which is still in the believer after his conversion.2

John Calvin spoke of three functions of the Law. As a mirror, it revealed our sin and its curse. In the s...

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