Galatians 3:15-29: But you promised!

Though the details of the case were buried under layers of family history, the defense attorney was determined to get to the truth.

Rachel: When did we sell our first dog?

Dad: I don’t remember.

Rachel: My diary says it was September 22, 1987. My sixth birthday.

Dad: Ouch.

Rachel: Did you or did you not promise that we would get a new dog when Becca turned four?

Dad: I think I said it was when you were old enough to take care of a dog.

Rachel: I have your statement written here on page 667 of my personal notebook. “We will get a dog when you all are old enough to take care of it, specifically when Becca turns four and Rachel starts fourth grade.”

Dad: You haven’t started fourth grade yet.

Rachel: School begins in six weeks.

Dad: Good. Because I’ve added something. You have to memorize hymns before you can get the dog.

Rachel: Objection!  You didn’t state that condition when you made the promise.

Dad: Overruled. I’m Dad.   I’m adding a condition now. You’ll be a better pet owner. You can sing to the dog.

Rachel: How many hymns?

Dad: Twelve. Two per week. Here’s the list.

Rachel: (Looking over the list). How many verses?

Dad: All of them.

Rachel: OK. Sign here. No more conditions. Case dismissed.

We bought Frisky the beagle on the first day of school. Rachel can still sing all twelve hymns, every verse.

Arguing their case. Do you have a little lawyer in your house? When our kids argue their case, we realize how important the language of promise is. They will hold you to it, every detail. I learned early on not to make promises lightly, because I would have to deliver even if I changed my mind.

Along the way I learned to hedge my promises with conditions.  “Yes, you can have ice cream, but only if you finish your dinner.” ” Yes, you can go to your friend’s house, but only if you clean up your room first.”  These conditional promises took pressure off me by putting some of it on my kids.

Promise or law? This week’s passage is long and tightly argued. Paul is playing the part of the defense attorney. God gave an unconditional promise to Abraham. Over 400 years later, 430 to be exact, God gave the law to Moses. Did the law change the promise or not?

Some teachers said it did. If they are right, it would change the truth of the gospel. That’s why Paul is arguing, with every bit of legal acumen he possesses that it does not.

This week’s questions. These fifteen verses are dense because Paul takes every word seriously. He is precise in his logic, word choice and grammar. When he makes his final statement at the end of the chapter, it has the sound of a judge’s gavel. “Not Guilty!”

Let’s follow his argument and see how irrevocably Christ has set us free.


1. What did God promise Abraham?  See Genesis 12:2-3, also 13:15-16, 15:5-7, 17:8). To whom?  (See Galatians 3:16. “Offspring” can be used as a collective or as a singular word. Can you see how the promise could have a double fulfillment?) Who did it depend on? (See Genesis 15:8-16)

2. What law did God give to Moses?  See Exodus 20:1-17.  For whom?  See Exodus 20:18-21. How was the relationship between God and the people different from the one between God and Abraham?  Who did it depend on?  See Exodus 20:22-24.

3. According to Paul how do the law and the promise relate to each other? See Galatians 3:17, 18, 19, 21.

4. The law is compared to a prison guard and a legal guardian (Galatians 3:23-25).  What do these two terms have in common?  How are they different?  How does the latter point to the true purpose of the law?


5. Jesus our Savior relates to both the law and the promise.  Consider what it means for him to be “the true Offspring.”  (Galatians 3:16)  How does that truth guarantee the promise of blessing to us who have believed in him?

6. Consider what it means for Jesus to be the “true Mediator.”  Compare his role on the cross to the role of Moses at Mt. Sinai.  Read Exodus 20:18-21 again and compare their relationship with God to yours today.


7. Galatians 3:25 starts “But now…” List the blessings in Christ that Paul describes in the next five verses.  Pick one and begin thanking God for it in as much detail as you can.

8. One blessing we have in Christ Jesus is unity with those who are different from us.  Read Galatians 3:28 and add other contrasts to the list according to the divisions you see around you.  For example, neither home schoolers nor public schoolers, neither jocks nor nerds…End by praying for someone in Christ who is different from you.

Feel free to stretch this lesson out.  Mark will preach this passage on Sunday, but then there will be a two week break before we start Galatians 4.

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