Saturday, 2 April 2016
Now a mediator does not mediate for one only, but God is one. Galatians 3:20
We arrive at one of the most widely interpreted verses in the entire Bible. At the time of Charles Ellicott, the 19th century Bible scholar, there were at least 430 different interpretations of what is thought to have been on Paul’s mind. Therefore, it is without a doubt a verse which has a great deal of meaning contained within itself.
However, context needs to be ascertained for any verse. This one comes during a discussion about the covenant with Abraham which is followed by the giving of the Law of Moses. Vincent’s Word Studies notes that the Greek term translated here as “now” is explanatory, not antithetic. Therefore, what has been previously said is now further explained.
Abraham was given a promise; Abraham believed that promised; and Abraham was declared righteous. After this, the Lord made a covenant with him, and He alone passed through the divided animals. The covenant was made and settled.
However, because the covenant was made, and despite it only being made by One, meaning God, to change it would still require both party’s approval (verse 15). As Abraham was not alive 430 years later (verse 17), the institution of the Law of Moses could not have had any bearing on the promise.
Another note concerning the Greek is that there is an article attached to “mediator,” and thus it is “the mediator.” It is therefore marked as a class noun, thus “giving it the sense, ‘a mediator as such'” (Pulpit Commentary). Understanding this, we can then look at what has brought about the annulling of the Law of Moses, which is the New Covenant. This is made explicit based on the words of Hebrews which states with all certainty that it is 1) annulled; 2) set aside; and 3) obsolete.
The New Covenant came through Christ. He is called in both Hebrews 9:15 and Hebrews 12:24 “the Mediator of the New Covenant.” If He is the Mediator, and the covenant is based on grace in accord with the promise made to Abraham, not on works of the law, then Christ is God. The “fullness of the Godhead” bodily subsists in Him. It is certain that Paul is referring to Christ in this verse because He was mentioned in verse 3:19, He will be referred to throughout the rest of the chapter, and He will again be referred to in verse 4:4 – all in the context of this issue.
As we are counted in the “seed of Abraham” (verse 16) because of Christ, we become one with Christ – we are “in Christ,” and we have “put on Christ,” meaning we are clothed in Him (verse 3:27). This is why we are again called “Abraham’s seed” in verse 3:29. Logically, this means that as God is One, and because we are “in Christ,” we are fully reconciled to God through His work. This is made explicit in Colossians 1:20, 21 –
“For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, 20 and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.”
In anticipation of that marvelous position in which we stand by faith, Jesus made His intercessory prayer for His people just prior to the act that would make it possible –
“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; 21 that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. 22 And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: 23 I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.” John 17:20-23
Life application: There is a ton of theology tied up in this verse. To fully explore it requires fully exploring the entire Bible. Suffice it to say that if you have accepted Jesus, you are fully reconciled to God and are clothed in Christ. We could no more lose our standing with God than Christ could. And as God is One, and yet Jesus is called our Mediator, then Jesus must be God. The principle tenets of the faith are all wrapped up in understanding the marvel of what God did for us in Christ. However, being in Christ requires that we live by faith in Him and not by works of the law. This is the entire point of Paul’s letter to the Galatians. The law is opposed to faith. To insert the law into one’s attempt to be justified before God thus excludes one from being “in Christ.”
Heavenly Father, everything is tied up in the question of whether Jesus Christ is fully God or not. If He is, then You have ordained that He is the focal point for all worship from all people. If He is not, then there is no hope of ever being reconciled to You. The faith of Abraham, coming before the law, shows us this. And so I trust Christ, and Him alone, to bring me back to You. I bow my knee to the King of kings and the Lord of lords. I receive Jesus! Amen.