The Superiority of the Promise
“ ‘He was in the assembly in the desert, with the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our fathers; and he received living words to pass on to us’ ” (Acts 7:38, NIV).
In Galatians 3:19, 20, Paul continues his train of thought about the law not nullifying the covenant of grace; this is important because, if the theology of his opponents were correct, the law would do just that. Think, then, what our position as sinners would be if we had to rely on our law-keeping, as opposed to God’s grace, to save us. We would, in the end, be without hope.
Although the details of Paul’s comments in Galatians 3:19, 20 are difficult, his basic point is clear: the law is subsidiary to the promise, because it was mediated through angels and Moses. The connection of angels to the giving of the law is not mentioned in Exodus, but it is found in several other places in Scripture (Deut. 33:2; Acts 7:53; Heb. 2:2). Paul uses the word mediator in 1 Timothy 2:5 in reference to Christ, but his comments here strongly suggest he has Deuteronomy 5:5 (ESV) in mind, where Moses says, “I stood between the LORD and you at that time, to declare to you the word of the LORD.”
As majestic as the giving of the law was on Sinai, with countless angels in attendance, and as important as Moses was in the presentation of the law at that time, the giving of the law was indirect. In stark contrast, God’s promise was made directly to Abraham (and, therefore, to all believers), for there was no need for a mediator. In the end, however important the law, it is no substitute for the promise of salvation through grace by faith. On the contrary, the law helps us better understand just how wonderful that promise really is.
Describe the nature of Abraham’s direct encounters with God. What benefit was there to such immediacy with God? Consider Gen. 15:1-6, 18:1-33, 22:1-18.
Think about some of the other encounters people in the Bible had with God — Adam and Eve in Eden (Genesis 3); Jacob’s ladder (Genesis 28); Paul on the road to Damascus (Acts 9). Maybe you haven’t experienced anything as dramatic, but in what ways has God revealed Himself to you? Ask yourself, too, whether anything in your personal life might prevent you from having the kind of intimacy and immediacy that Abraham experienced with God. If so, what steps can you take to change?