Summary: The superiority of the covenant of promise in seen in 1) ITS CONFIRMATION2) ITS CHRIST-CENTEREDNESS 3) ITS CHRONOLOGY & 4) ITS COMPLETENESS
The transition of terms between US President Bush and president elect Obama has an interesting ping pong of promises. Bush has to decide what he can do now that won’t be overturned in two months by Obama. A traditional end of term practice is Presidential pardons, where the president is allowed through executive orders to overturn convictions and offer pardons to convicted offenders. Conrad Black has personally appealed to Bush for one of these. Also in the words is the prospective bailout of the Auto makers. If one is granted now will it be overturned or vise versa.
Under attacks from the Judaizers, the Galatians were confronted with the prospect of their relationship with God changing due to a misunderstood introduction of law into their lives. They begin to question if Paul did not present the full picture of faith and if now everything must change with the introduction of law.
In Galatians 3:1–14 Paul proves from Old Testament Scripture that Abraham was justified by faith and not by law and that every other believer, whether ethnically a Jew or Gentile, is likewise saved only by faith, made effective by Christ’s taking sin’s curse upon Himself. First, he argued from experience-the experience the Galatians had when they received the Holy Spirit (Gal. 3:1-5). Next he argued from Scripture-The Biblical record about Abraham, the man of faith (Gal. 3:6-14).
Now in verses 15-18 the apostle anticipates the probable argument his adversaries, the Judaizers, would likely make against what he has just proved. “Very well,” they would argue. “But granted that Abraham and his pre-Sinai descendants were saved by faith, it is obvious that when God gave the law to Moses, the basis of salvation changed. A new covenant was made and a new means of salvation was then established. After Moses, the basis of salvation became law in place of faith or at least as a necessary supplement to faith. The covenant with Moses annulled and supplanted the covenant with Abraham, a temporary measure God provided until He gave Moses the more perfect and complete covenant of law. Abraham and others who lived before the law saved by faith only because they did not have the law. Why else would God have given the Mosaic covenant of law?”
In understanding the relationship between the promises of God and His law, what does God expect us to do in order to receive His promises ? Which promises in Scripture are for us? Can circumstances change that cause God to change a promise?
In contrasting the covenants of promise and of law, Paul first shows the superiority of the one and then the inferiority of the other. In Galatians 3:15-18 four reasons are given for affirming the superiority of the covenant of promise: its 1) Confirmation, its 2) Christ-centeredness, its 3) Chronology, and its 4) Completeness.
1) ITS CONFIRMATION GALATIANS 3:15
Galatians 3:15 To give a human example, brothers: even with a man-made covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been ratified. (ESV)
There is a delightful change of tone here. Paul now addressed the Galatians here as “brothers,” a term of endearment he had not used since 1:11, although it would occur again seven other times in the letter (4:12, 28, 31; 5:11, 13; 6:1, 18). Although the Galatians were confused, foolish, and bewitched, and although Paul felt betrayed, perplexed, and forlorn about them, still they were adelphoi, “brothers.” This term of relationship is especially appropriate at the beginning of a passage that will seek to answer the questions: “What makes a family a family? Who are the true children of Abraham, the heirs of the promise, and thus entitled to call one another brothers and sisters?” (George, T. (2001, c1994). Vol. 30: Galatians (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; The New American Commentary (244). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers).
Galatians 3:15–18 is an analogy between human and divine covenants and more technically what we have here is a similitudo or simile. A simile is a bit different from an example (exemplum), though it has a force or rhetorical effect very similar to an example (Inst. Or. 5.11.22). Basically the force of the argument is strengthened to the degree that the things being compared are equal or nearly so. This form of proof is less powerful than for example the appeal to the Galatians’ experience, not least because it involves an artificial, or humanly devised proof. Paul has presented his two divine proofs, one from supernatural experience and one from the sacred Scriptures, and now he will turn to more mundane, merely human arguments, or as Chrysostom put it, Paul now uses human examples. Paul is not signalling the weakness of the analogy, only the humanness of the argument (Witherington III, B. (1998). Grace in Galatia : A Commentary on St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians (240). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.