Summary: This section shows the superiority of the way of grace over the way of law. God 1st establish a covenant relationship with Abraham. Since the Abrahamic covenant was ratified & in force, it was not superceded or set aside by the later law.
THE SUPERIORITY OF THE PROMISE
The aim of this section is to show the superiority of the way of grace over the way of law. It begins by showing that the way of grace is older than the way of law. God first establish a covenant relationship with Abraham. Since the Abrahamic covenant was ratified and in force, it was not superceded or set aside by the law which came much later. This covenant or promise is also superior to the law because it came directly to Abraham while the law was given indirectly.
I. THE UNALTERABLE ORIGINAL COVENANT, 15-18.
II. THE REASON FOR THE LAW;19-20.
III. THE PROMISE OF FAITH, 21-22.
The covenant (or promise) was between God, Abraham and his Seed Christ. That covenant with Abraham represents God’s holy and irrevocable will. Verse 15 asks us to consider a solemn agreement or contract between two human parties. Brethren, I speak in terms of human relations [contracts]: even though it is only a man’s covenant, yet when it has been ratified, no one sets it aside or adds conditions to it.
The argument begins with an illustration from everyday life in order to help the listening Galatians understand better. Notice he calls the Galatians brothers indicating, despite all his rebuking, they were of the household of the faith. It was common knowledge that a last will or testament, legally ratified or established, cannot be nullified, added to or amplified. Only by the consent of both parties involved can it be changed, and if one has died it is no longer possible. This is certainly all the more true of the covenant- promise which the unchanging God made to Abraham and his Seed and then reaffirmed to Isaac and Jacob.
After confirming the irrevocable nature of the Abrahamic covenant, verse16 states the true recipient. Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his Seed. He does not say, "And to seeds," as referring to many, but rather to one, "And to your Seed," that is, Christ.
When Abraham made his venture of faith, God made His great promises to and with him. God’s promises (Gen 12:7, 13:15, 17:7, 22:18, 24:7) had been given to Abraham and ratified by his acts of faith. The bases of the covenant and its ratifications was based on faith. It was faith which set Abraham right with God. (See Gen.17:7,8 & 22:18).
The word seed can be a collective (Gen. 15:5, 16:10, 22:17, 46:6) or singular noun (Gen. 4:25, 21:13, 1 Sam. 1:11, 2 Sam. 7:12). Here our text argues for it being a singular noun. Certainly many other Scriptures indicate the blessings would come from one great person, the Messiah (Micah 5:21, 2 Sam 7:12,13, Gen. 3:15; 12:2-3,7; 13:15-16; 15:4-6; 17:4,7-8; 22:17-19;24:7) or Christ. It is in Him and Him alone that the many are blessed in and through the One descendent.
Having shown that the promises made to Abraham are fulfilled in Christ, the text again returns to the thought that a covenant once ratified by God cannot later be invalidated in verse 17. What I am saying is this: the Law, which came four hundred and thirty years later, does not invalidate a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise.
Though the Judaizers recognized Jesus as the Christ, they saw God’s full and final revelation not in Jesus but in the Mosaic Law. Thus they insisted that while Gentiles should believe in Christ, they must first be circumcised and live as Jews in keeping the Law.
Paul amplifies the thought of verse 15 here with reference to 430 years. God repeated His promise (Gen 12:3; 17:7-8) that He gave to Abraham (215 years earlier) to Jacob also (Gen.22:18; 26:4; 28:14). Then the tribes sojourn in Egypt for 400 years (Gen. 15:13; Acts 7:6). It was after this experience while Israel was in the wilderness that God handed down the law (Ex. 12:40).
The Mosaic Law that came hundreds of years later did not set aside the promises made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The prior covenant of salvation or blessings for all nations (Gen. 12:3) was ratified. The covenant of law did not set aside or nullify- meaning make inoperative- God’s covenant of blessings extended to all people through the Seed. More over during these hundreds of years before the law God justified men only by faith.
God kept His covenant promise to Abraham (Genesis 17:7-8) and He has not revoked it, though thousands of years have passed. He saved Abraham through his faith, and He blessed the world through Abraham by sending the Messiah as one of Abraham’s descendants. Circumstances may change, but God remains constant and does not break His promises. He has promised to forgive our sins through Jesus Christ, and we can be sure that He will do so.