Sermons

Summary: God called Abraham, and He made him a “promise.”

October 23, 2013

The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Galatians

Tom Lowe

Chapter III.A.3.a: The Promise Given to Abraham’s Seed, Christ (3:15-16)

Galatians 3.15-16 (KJV)

15 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.

16 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.

Commentary

15 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.

16 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.

“Brethren” is a term of endearment which Paul uses to express his love for the Galatians—which they may have begun to question in light of his stern rebuke—“O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? (Gal. 3.1, 3). The immutability of God’s arrangements should be beyond debate, but Paul finds it necessary to discuss the matter to make it fully clear to his readers.

God called Abraham, and He made him a “promise.” The word “promise” refers to God’s promise made to Abraham (called the Abrahamic covenant) that in him all the nations of the earth would be blessed—“Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 12.1-3). God made Abraham a blessing to the world through Jesus Christ, a descendant of Abraham. Christ is the one who brought salvation to the world. This promise involved being justified by faith and having all the blessings of salvation, which was confirmed by Paul—“Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham” (Gal 3.6-9). It is obvious that the promise made to Abraham (and through Christ, to us today), given about 2000 B.C., preceded by centuries the Law of Moses (about 1450 B.C.). The Judaizers argued that the giving of the Law changed that original covenant of promise. Paul argues that it did not. Even if Paul’s opponents admitted that Abraham was justified by faith, those Judaizers might have argued that the Law, since it came after the promise was given, entirely changed the basis for obtaining salvation. To refute this, Paul declared that just as a properly executed Roman covenant (or will) cannot arbitrarily be set aside or changed (probably a reference to ancient Greek law), so the promises of God are unchallengeable. Furthermore, the promises…spoken to Abraham and to his seed were not fulfilled before the giving of the Law. Rather, they found fulfillment in Christ, and are in effect forever. The blessing of justification by faith is therefore permanent and could not be changed by the Law

Let me give you an example of a “man’s covenant” that may illustrate the point Paul makes here. Suppose you make a contract with a man and agree to pay him one hundred dollars. Then about a month later you decide you will only pay him fifty dollars. You go to him and say, “Here is the fifty dollars I owe you.” The man says, “Wait a minute, you agreed to pay me one hundred dollars.” You say, “Well, I have changed my mind, and now I am going to pay you fifty dollars, and that is all.” He says, “Oh, no, you don’t! You can’t change your contract after it has been made.” Also, once two parties make an agreement, a third party can’t come along years later and change that agreement. The only persons who can change an original agreement are the persons who made it. It would be illegal to add anything to it or take anything from it.

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