Thursday, 31 March 2016
For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no longer of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise. Galatians 3:18
Paul sums up this paragraph with an obvious conclusion of the thoughts he has thus far presented. How can one read these words and deny the evident nature of what they state? And yet, for 2000 years, people have been caught up in the legalistic practice of reinserting (or if Gentile, inserting) the law into their pacticing theology. Taken at face value, it is clear that this approach is utter folly.
He begins with, “For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no longer of promise.” The promise was given to Abraham without any strings attached to it. A promise was made; Abraham believed; and Abraham was declared righteous. In the covenant made at Mount Sinai, however, there was an agreement between both parties before the covenant was made. It was, in essence, a contract requiring performance. If either party failed to keep the contract, then there would be penalties associated with it. Such was not the case with Abraham. There was nothing to fulfill; there was simply a declaration of righteousness.
If the Lord later added the law into what was promised, then “it is no longer of promise.” The promise would not actually be a promise and the words of God to Abraham would have been deceitful, and the addition of the law would then have been manipulative. However, neither is the case. Instead, “God gave it to Abraham by promise.”
Abraham was given a promise which could in no way be affected by the later coming of the law. In this verse, the nouns “law” and “promise” have no article. They are being considered in their “characteristic principles, which were not only diverse, but contrary” (Pulpit Commentary). Further, the verb for “gave” in the Greek is in the perfect tense. Paul is showing that it was and it forever is an enduring promise. The matter is settled. Along with that, the placing of “God” is in the emphatic position, “…but to Abraham through a promise has granted (it) God.” The stress would be like saying, “…but no less than God Himself has given the promise to Abraham.”
As it is no less than God who gave the promise, and as it is a “forever and enduring promise,” then the contradictory idea of having the law later become a part of what is needed to receive the Messianic blessings is utterly ridiculous. Rather, the Galatians received the promise by faith and only by faith. For them to insert the law would nullify the words of promise.
Life application: Understanding right theology is hard work, but to shun it will inevitably lead one down a highway to heresy. Meditate on Scripture; contemplate the grace of Christ; and don’t let the next passing fad or smooth talking preacher lead you away from what is sound.
O God, it is such a challenge each day to get up and read a hundred different positions on something that seems so simple. We are told that one is saved by grace through faith and that works are excluded. And then some Johnny-come-lately says, “No, you must do this or that in order to please God.” If Johnny is right, then the Bible is wrong! And more, Christ died for nothing. If His death wasn’t sufficient to restore me to You, then what is? How could I add to what He did? Instead, I will press on in Your grace, receiving Christ as my Savior. This alone is where I place my trust! Amen.