THE BLESSINGS OF ABRAHAM IN CHRIST FOR THE GENTILES (Galatians 3:14)
There is something triumphant in this statement from the inspired pen of Paul. It is the triumph of the Gentiles and the islands of the sea. The fulfillment of the proclaimed Gospel, “in thee shall all nations be blessed.” (Gal. 3:8; Gen. 18:18) The very divine purpose of the promise to Abraham was not that Abraham would be the progenitor of a Jewish nation, as the Chiliast holds so very zealously, but it was that there might be a church of new-born saints, whether Jew or Greek, in one body in Christ! And this purpose and design of God can be attained only in Christ’s becoming a curse and hanging on the tree. That removes the curse and breaks down the middle wall of the commandments, contained in ordinances of the law. The middle-wall of the law must be taken away, a new temple must be built in Zion where both Jew and Greek, all the elect of God, will be the one new manhood in heavenly perfection as the free-born. sons of adoption. (Eph. 2:14-17). Thus peace can be preached to those who are near and to those who are far off. It is the triumph of grace, the triumph of the Cross over sin, death, and hell.
Yes, the blessing of Abraham must be in Christ Jesus. It must become in him. The verb “geneetai” means become a reality. It is the same verb used by John when he says, “Grace and truth became through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17, 18) And God was revealed in all His glory in this Christ, in grace and truth for all the elect in all nations. This means that the Cross is a historic happening, the very crux of the bringing of Salvation. Here the curse was cursed; it was nailed to the Cross as the handwriting which was against us. (Col. 2:14) Thus God loved the world. He loved the world in the Cross as the expression of love through wrath and the curse upon us. This was the Divine “must” of the Cross in bringing many sons to glory. (Heb. 2:10) This Cross and the salvation of the Gentiles in Christ is no afterthought. Such is the blind and stupid error of the Premillennialists. God never loved the Jews as Jews, but only loved them as many as were elect in Christ together with the elect out of the Gentile world. Christ is in that sense the propitiation for the “whole world.” Let not Jewish zealots now disturb the peace and faith of these Galatians with their corruptions of the basic terms of the promises of God!
And this implies that we receive “the promise of the Spirit,” that is, the promised Spirit by faith. The Spirit does not promise here, but the Spirit is promised by God in the Old Testament for all nations. If the nations are to be blessed in Abraham, it means that they shall receive the Spirit of the risen and glorified Christ. (John 7:37-39) Joel prophesied of this Spirit and promised it to all flesh. (Joel 3:1-5; Acts 2:16-21) Does not Peter say on the great day of Pentecost, “the gift of the Holy Spirit”? This is not what the Spirit gives, but it is the “gift” which is the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of the risen and glorified Christ, who was made both Lord and Chris. (Acts 2:26) This Spirit is the Comforter who is sent by Christ so that the church, Jew and Greek, would not be comfortless orphans in the world, but well-provided children.
THE BASIC PREMISE IS PROVEN IN VERSES 1-14 OF CHAPTER 2.
1. The basic premise is proven that all who are under law are under curse, and not under the loving blessing of the free gift of grace and salvation. There is no exception to this dictum of the Bible. For this is the clear teaching of the Old Testament Scriptures. And these Scriptures cannot be broken. This should shut the mouth of all evil speakers.
2. This is not some philosophy but is the explicit and clear teaching of Moses in Deut. 27:26. “Cursed is every one that does not remain in all things of the book of the law to perform it.”
3. Besides, the opposite is clearly taught in Habakkuk 2:4. The sense of this passage is that neither the Assyrians nor the men of Judah are righteous. Both go down under the curse of God, except those who believe. These are justified by faith in the Lord, faith in the Christ to come, in a righteousness which is without law. (Rom. 1:16, 17; Rom. 3:20-25) All boasting is excluded by the law of faith, which establishes the law. (Rom. 3:31)
4. And now the blessing of Abraham is for the Gentiles. It is made sure to them by the death of Christ, by which Christ merited the promised Spirit.
5. Surely this Spirit is received by faith’s hearing and not by law-works. That stands as the rock. And this Rock is Christ, the stone laid in Zion, the chief cornerstone. Let not these Galatians nor we be moved from this hope of the Gospel, which is as an anchor in the holy place, for all who take refuge to God in Christ.
6. The Church is, therefore, not Jewish. Circumcision or uncircumcision both avail nothing. It is only the new creature! The man born from above, born by the Spirit.
THE PROMISES OF GOD UNALTERABLY RATIFIED BY GOD (Galatians 3:15, 16)
Paul now will take another viewpoint of the matter here under consideration. He begins a little different type of reasoning. He is so sure that he has now established his argument from Scripture that he can now proceed in a bit more conciliatory tone of voice. Wherefore, now he does not say once more “you foolish Galatians,” but he says “brethren.” He gathers them as it were about him in a circle to look together in the sacred Scriptures on a certain point. This point is the basic preeminence which the promises to Abraham have over and above the law-giving to Israel at Sinai by the Mediator, Moses. This is a very crucial point to understand. And when this is once understood profoundly, believers will indeed revere the law for its pedagogical intent, but will never let it usurp the place of the Promises made to Abraham. We do well to include also ourselves among these “brethren” whom Paul here addresses.
Paul will now make his point crystal clear by the use of a legal example, a case in law among men in the courts of the land. He will speak “according to man,” merely on the human level; he will see what is binding among men and in the courts by the judges of the land, when they are honest and upright judges. And this language ought to be clear to the Galatians. Paul does not doubt but that he will make his point clearer that salvation is by hearing of faith and not by works of law.
He uses the case of a “Covenant,” a testament which is merely a human document and not given by God from heaven. Such a document containing certain gifts and bequests is ratified by the courts. In the case of a “will” the terms stand after the tesator has died. These wishes must be executed. After the document has been ratified, no additions can be made, and no terms can be changed by anyone, not even by the courts. This is an argument in which it is reasoned from what is less certain to that which is more certain, that is, from man’s sure documents to God’s more certain terms in His promises to Abraham. We call this reasoning a fortiori.
Now how does Paul very carefully and surely climb from the human plane of realities to that of the Divine-heavenly plane of the realities of the promised salvation in the Spirit of Jesus Christ? Here we must listen carefully and discern. He will compare the promises made to Abraham in Christ with the lawgiving in Sinai. He then asserts that the latter (the law-giving) could not add or change the terms that salvation is in Christ alone! We read “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.” Legally, the law cannot change the position of the promise. This is a very basic point to understand. The promises are “confirmed” before the highest tribunal of God with solemn oath. God, who cannot lie, swore by Himself, because He could swear by none greater, to Abraham. The promise is confirmed by oath! Hence, they stand fast forever and ever. His mercies fail never, and they are without repentance. (Rom. 11:26-29)
Now the law surely “became” afterward. The term in the Greek, translated “was,” is more expressive than the English translation indicates with the simple past tense “was” of the verb “to be.” The term indicates that the law then came to stay as a rather permanent institution. The perfect participle is “gegonoos.” It came at Sinai, when Israel was enroute to Canaan from Egypt, and it is still with the people of God till the time when the Seed should come. It is a long period and epoch in Israel’s history. Fact is, that this period is some fifteen hundred years. A long time indeed this was. Israel was so much under this law and so long that they had to be reminded that they had been under the promise longer, that is by the space of four hundred and thirty years. Both are points in history, in the history of the dealings of God with Abraham and with his seed. And, we may add, that both deal with God’s dealing with His people in Christ. For the covenant was before confirmed in Christ by God Himself. So that in both of these dealings of God, whether under promise or under law, it has reference to the Christ to come. Both are history.
How do they relate?
Negatively, the law could not make the promise of none effect. No matter what the law demanded, the law was not the way in which a man could redeem himself from sin and death. Under law meant to be under a ratified curse in the land. Paul makes it crystal clear that the law by historical reckoning in years came later by four hundred and thirty years. Paul, to be sure doesnot say, “The exact number of years from the time that God promised to Abraham in his sojourning in the land as a stranger till the law-giving is four hundred thirty years!” Paul is not determining dates in chronological exactitude! He says that his law-giving was a long time after the giving of the promise, at least four hundred and thirty years. That is a matter of the knowledge of Moses, who stood nearer to that period of history than did the translators of the Septuagint Greek of the Old Testament Scriptures. These translators engage in a bit of daring interpolation of the text in Exodus 12:40. There we read in the KJV, “Now the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years.” The Greek Jews of Alexandria, who translated the Old Testament Scriptures into Greek, insert in their translation something into the text which is not in the original Hebrew written by Moses himself. They insert the phrase “and in Canaan.” The four hundred and thirty years of which the text speaks must be spread over the entire period from Abraham’s time till the date of Israel’s departure from Egypt in the night of the death of the firstborn of Egypt when Israel kept the Passover.
How must we think of this?
It is the conviction of this writer that Paul is not interested in chronological exactitude at all in this statement here in Gal. 3:17. He is comparing two great epochs of God’s covenantal dealings with Israel in Christ, asserting that the promise still has the priority even when the law was superimposed upon it.