A Covenant, a Promise
A Study of Galatians 3:15-18
Brethren, I speak after the manner of men; Though [it be] but a man’s covenant, yet [if it be] confirmed, no man disannulleth, or addeth thereto. Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. And this I say, [that] the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect. For if the inheritance [be] of the law, [it is] no more of promise: but God gave [it] to Abraham by promise. [Gal 3:15-18]
Paul here reminds us of the way even man’s covenants are handled. While it is true that men are “covenant breakers” (Rom 1:31), we do know what is proper in a covenant. We do not always do what is right and we break the covenants we make, but we can be certain that God, the judge of all the earth, (Gen 18:25) that cannot lie (Tit 1:2), will not deal His covenants unrighteously. He is not a covenant breaker. It is also true that we generally do not allow a change to a contract or covenant after it has been confirmed. We do not allow that, because it would be wrong to change a contract after it has been signed so that the signer has his name signed to something he did not agree to. Why would we even bring this up? Because if we sinful members of Adam’s race know that this is a wrong practice, we must understand that God would call this a wrong practice, and the Righteous Judge will do right. He has made other covenants in addition to this one spoken of, but they do not do away with those that He has already made.
For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, [was] not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith. For if they which are of the law [be] heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect: Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, [there is] no transgression. Therefore [it is] of faith, that [it might be] by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all; [Rom 4:13-16]
The promises of God to Abraham are sure. God was very particular in His promise. Abraham would see the up close fulfillment: in Isaac shall thy seed be called (Gen 21:12). After Isaac was spared Abraham was able to see how that in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed (Gen 22:18). But the calling of the seed did not end with Isaac. The particular seed, Who is the seed by which all of the families of the earth will be blessed is Jesus Christ our Lord, and none other.
Now, it is also true that the multiplied seed would partake of the promise that God gave to Abraham. No one could read the Old Testament and just do away with God’s promises regarding Israel, especially in the Abrahamic Covenant and not see land and material blessing, but that is not the subject here in Galatians. Click on the link below and read the article below for some insight on this. It would move us too far off of the subject here to address this here. It will be enough to say here that even Israel, Abraham’s multiplied and redeemed seed, will only be blessed, and be a channel of blessing through our Lord Jesus Christ.
“A Simple Solution to a Puzzling Problem” by Pastor C.R. Stam
The point that Paul is making is that the law does not change the promises. The law added conditional blessings and curses, but it did not annul the promise. Those which are of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham, whether they are Israel, the natural seed, or whether they are gentiles: In thee shall all nations be blessed (Gal 3:8-9). It is not by the law, and it cannot be entered into by law.
And if by grace, then [is it] no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if [it be] of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work. [Rom 11:6]
Let us not “frustrate the grace of God” by trying to attempt to make ourselves righteous or holy by the arm of flesh. Let us live by faith as we are called.
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, Who loved me, and gave Himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness [come] by the law, then Christ is dead in vain. [Gal 2:20-21]
And ye are complete in Him, which is the head of all principality and power: [Col 2:10]
Charles Miller View All
Husband, father, engineer...Enjoys fishing, archery, guitar, running, and lifting, but most of all reading and studying God's Word.
Another good article with good insight. The leaders in Israel continued to break their part of the covenant and they still thought that God would bless them. They didn’t learn from all that befell them when they broke His law. Through them the whole world was to be blessed but they were not fulfilling their part of the contract and finally they even were forbidding Paul to preach the good news to the Gentiles. How thankful we are that God was not surprised at Israel’s attitude but that He had a Plan in mind all along that when the world was ripe for judgment He raised up the leader of the opposition, Saul of Tarsus, also known as Paul (his Gentile name), to be His vessel of Grace to all the Nations.
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in regards to the law 430 years after the promise: if there was no law, were people not punished for their transgressions? like Cain, who was sent away but didn’t forfeit his life. was the law retroactive for those people? or were they covered under grace until the law came in?
There was no written law, but that would not mean that God would allow “anything goes”. We do not have a lot of information on how God dealt with sin during the time of 430 years, except that as Paul says in Romans 1:32 that people who know “the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death”. This seems to go back to the conscience being the way that God dealt with mankind temporally, and judgment would be based on what they did with the witness that they had. “For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and [their] thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;)” [Rom 2:14-15]
All mankind since Adam has been under sin, and death by sin even before the law. The world in its entirety was judged and destroyed by the flood because of sins. All of the unsaved dead will stand before the Lord Jesus at the great white throne and be judged according to their own works. Those who have been saved of all time have only been saved on the basis of Christ’s death on the cross, granted by faith in what God has revealed to them. The object of faith has always been as with Abraham: “Abraham believed God”. What all of the details are of this were not revealed, but we do know what was revealed to us. That is that we believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and His death for our sins, and on Him who raised Him from the dead, then we are saved and sins are covered, by grace.
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