by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 3 Paragraph # 3 Study # 2 March 11, 2012 Dayton, Texas (Download Audio)
(157)Thesis:Covenants are universally recognized as the way to create harmony.
Introduction:In our last study we focused on Paul's characterization of his readers as "brethren" and raised the question as to both what constitutes a "brother" and, to a lesser degree, why Paul decided to move in that direction. A "brother" is one who actually believes in justification by faith in the faithfulness of Christ as the only way to be acceptable to the Father. Paul calls his readers "brethren" because it is a way to get/keep them inclined to give his arguments a fair hearing.
This evening we are going to look into Paul's approach to the "brethren" regarding the critical issues of God's commitment to Abraham in "promise" and His reason(s) for the institution of the covenant of Law. The first issue is the question of why he deliberately starts with "human reasoning". He writes of "speaking according to the standards of men" and of "even men" using "covenants".
I. A General Reality.
A. In Paul's theology of "legalism", antagonism toward God is a given.
1. Romans 8:7 declares this reality.
2. It is also a given that legalists never admit this (John 8:42-44).
B. In application to the letter to the Galatians, Paul has to be dealing with folks whose attitude toward God is antagonistic.
1. Galatians 1:6 puts the Galatians into this antagonistic mindset.
2. This means that Paul is going to accept this reality in dealing with them.
II. Paul's "Human" Approach.
A. "Speaking after the manner of men" and "though it be a man's covenant" are both indications that Paul is not approaching the issues from a "T"helogical position.
B. Addressing things from a "human" point of view defuses some of the antagonism toward God.
C. Addressing things from a "human" point of view also, however, makes his argument unassailable.
1. If it is true that men universally accept "covenants" as a way to "settle" conflicts, it is not possible for the Galatians to refute him.
2. Is it true?
a. The "point" of a covenant is to enable progress toward some goal without undue opposition and conflict.
b. The use of a covenant is to "bind" the covenantors to a certain course of action.
1) The original concept of "covenant" was "cutting things in halves".
2) The agreement was that the person who attempted to violate the agreement would be "cut in half" -- i.e., killed and removed from the position of opponent.
c. Without some form of "binding" only chaos would exist: every time someone did not get what he/she wanted, unregulated conflict would erupt.
d. The existence of this form of regulation in every setting of mankind testifies to the universal recognition that men have to be "bound" in order for chaos to be kept in check.
III. God's Reinforcement of Paul's Argument.
A. In Luke 19:22 Jesus said that judgment would come straight out of the mouth of the one being judged.
B. In Romans 2:3 Paul nailed his opponents with this principle.
C. In Luke 12:48 Jesus established the issue of judgment with God: knowledge.
1. It is critical that we understand what is going on here.
2. With God "ability" does not mitigate judgment; "knowledge" does.
a. With God, what a person knows will determine how he shall be judged.
b. With God, whether a person is capable or not is of lesser significance because the issue of inability in the realm of moral behavior rests solely upon the attitude of the heart toward Him.
3. With men "knowledge" does not mitigate judgment; but "ability" does.
a. Men say "ignorance is no excuse" because they want to be able to nail their fellow man if it can be shown that he/she violated some "law".
b. But men also want some form of mitigation; thus, they argue for it on the basis of ability (thus, the "trial as a juvenile" and the "insanity defense" processes in our courts).