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Lowell Brueckner

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Abraham’s Offspring


Galatians 3:15-29

V. 15-18 “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. 
16. Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, ‘And to offsprings,’ referring to many, but referring to one, ‘And to your offspring,’ who is Christ.
17. This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. 
18. For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.” 

One of the main points, which I am trying to make very clear in this Bible study, is that you cannot understand Paul's letters without being a student of the Old Testament. Some of you have heard that the New Testament is for the Christian era and the Old Testament is of less importance for us today. I want to expose that false assumption for the lie that it is, without any fear of contradiction from any noted authority of the Bible.

A question that I often put before listeners or readers is this: If the Old Testament was not meant for us, then who was it meant for? All that Abraham knew of the Scriptures was little beyond the creation, the flood and the tower of Babel. Moses knew of the governorship of Joseph in Egypt, the formation of the Hebrew nation, their deliverance from slavery and their wanderings in the wilderness. David knew nothing of the writings of the major or minor prophets and Isaiah knew none of the history of the captivity. Jeremiah never read of the return of the captives to their native land and the rebuilding of the temple and the city of Jerusalem. Ezekiel also missed out on these events, as well as the writing of the last of the prophets, such as Malachi.

Paul plainly answers my question: “They were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come” (1 Co.10:11), and “whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Ro.15:4). Study also these texts: Romans 4:23-24; 1 Corinthians 9:9-10; 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

Paul’s preaching, writing and doctrine was firmly built upon the Old Testament Scriptures. We have more of it in verse 15 and 16. This is a very interesting passage, in which Paul writes of a particular descendant of Abraham. Although the record in Genesis often refers to a body of offspring or posterity for Abraham, it never refers to all. For instance, the promise is not to Ishmael, nor Abraham’s seed through his concubines. It did not include his grandson Esau, and sometimes, it particularly means his spiritual seed, those who are of faith.

In Genesis 3:15, when the Bible is speaking of the seed of the woman, it is speaking specifically of one Man, who is to come and crush the head of the serpent. Paul saw that Abraham also carried within him one special Seed, which was passed from generation to generation, until it was conceived in the womb of the Virgen Mary. Paul saw by the revelation of the Holy Spirit that that descendant was Christ.  

The apostle argues that a legal, man-made covenant, once ratified, cannot be changed in any way in the future, by adding to or taking away from it. The promise of God to Abraham and his Seed is infinitely more binding. It is confirmed by divine authority 430 years before the law came into being through Moses. The Jews claimed that the law changed everything and the Judaizers stood with them. “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved” (Ac.15:1). Paul declared that if a covenant between men cannot be legally changed, then certainly God’s word cannot be amended or nullified. It stands untouched above the law and it lives on today.

The gospel was preached to Abraham. What is at stake in these verses is the blessing of salvation, given to Abraham, because he believed God. It was given also to all those who are of the faith of Abraham. The Judaizers insisted that the believer must keep the law, but the apostle, called and sent out by God and not man, assures every believer that this is not so. Paul will have nothing to do with dual contributing factors to salvation. The one who inserts the law, is proclaiming that salvation by faith is partial and incomplete. Paul states that if it comes by the law in any way, it no longer comes by promise. The Judaizers cannot be allowed to attack the integrity of God’s promise.     

V. 19-29 “Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary. 
20. Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one. 
21.  Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. 
22.  But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. 
23.  Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 
24.  So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 
25.  But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 
26.  for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 
27.  For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 
28. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 
29.  And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise.”

Paul teaches us that the law is good and we should never allow ourselves to think otherwise. After all, it is the law of God. The giving of the law brought great fear to Moses and the Israelites. Jesus amplified the law, showing that it went beyond the literal deeds committed, but that it revealed the condition of the heart of man, along with his thoughts and motivation.  “The law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good” (Ro.7:12). “We know that the law is good” (1 Ti.1:8). The law is not competing with the promise; they serve different purposes. It is the Judaizer, who does not understand this properly, and therefore, he is causing friction.

Paul asks the obvious question: For what purpose then is the law? In an earlier study, we learned of one important purpose. “Through the law is the knowledge of sin” (Ro.3:20). It is the only absolute authority on what is sin and what is not sin. Warren Wiersbe comments, “The Law is a mirror that helps us see our dirty faces, but you do not wash your face with the mirror.” We do not point the sinner to his present condition as the proof of his sin by saying, “Look at the miserable life you are living! See how you suffer and cause others to suffer!” No! You must point to the law of God and say, “This is what God said you should or should not do. You have not been obedient and therefore you stand guilty before an infinitely holy God. Your problem is with God!”

Paul said here that the law was added because of transgressions. He amplified this point to Timothy: “The law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine” (1 Ti.1:9-10).

More than a pact with Abraham, the promise was made principally to his Descendant. It was a promise by the Father made to the Son. There was oneness in the promise; it was wholly divine. The law, on the other hand, came by an intermediary. Angels were involved and it was delivered through Moses, therefore human and angelic elements came into play. Paul is teaching that the promise is superior.

There is no contradiction between the promise and the law. They work together to carry out the purpose of God. The law does not make the sinner righteous, but shows him his sin and condemns him. The promise gives righteousness and life to the believer, who places all his confidence in the sovereign word of God.

The full intention of Scripture, giving first the promise and then adding the law, is to show to both Jew and Gentile that there is life and blessing in store for the believer, although they are prisoners of sin. The law holds him within the four walls of a prison. He further illustrates by showing a custom that the Gentiles also would understand… the child guardian. The well-bred Roman and Greek child was entrusted to a slave for his upbringing, protection and discipline. The father gave the child life, but the slave guarded his life. To the Jew, Paul was saying, that the law was placed to prepare the nation for the coming of Christ.

The guardian was temporary and imperfect. It held the sinner in check and protected him against himself and his true nature. It kept him from destroying himself, showing him the absolute depravity of his nature. Though it instructed and disciplined him, it did not stop him from sinning.

However, faith is the perfect way to life and righteousness. It frees from sin and the sinner made righteous is no longer under the guardian, which is the law. We are made to be sons of God, with a new nature compatible with His nature. This new life comes with an inbuilt longing for holiness.

Verse 27 does not refer to water baptism, but to what baptism represents. “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles” (1 Co.12:13). The Holy Spirit immerses us into the body of Christ. It takes us back to chapter 2, verse 20: “I am crucified with Christ… Christ lives within me.” This is the Christian life and righteousness, that is, that Christ comes to live within: “This is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son of God has life” (1 Jn.5:11,12).

The Christian needs to remember that his race and nationality are secondary and so is his social status. The overriding characteristic of his life is that he is a Christian and all sons of God are his brothers. Christ lives in him and Christ lives in every believer. In our times, not only the racial barriers, the social barriers and the economic barriers, but the denominational barriers must be broken down, as well. Of course, I am only speaking concerning the unity of true Bible believers, who trust solely in Christ and have been born again.

Paul summarizes in verse 29. The promise is given to the Seed, who is Christ, and if you belong to Him, you enter into the promise and are a son of Abraham by faith. You are an heir of God and a joint-heir with Christ. Do you belong to Him? Are you trusting in Him alone for your righteousness or are you still clinging to a self-confident performance of your own? Have you surrendered totally to His lordship and ownership, so that you are not your own? Have you put your life’s purpose into His hand, so that He can freely use you to fulfill heavenly, eternal plans?

I want to end this study with a question, which you may be asking, concerning the Old Testament saints. We said that the gospel was preached to Abraham and we know that there is only one gospel… the gospel of Jesus Christ. Did Abraham know of the sacrifice of Christ? The answer is that he certainly did and so did Adam and Eve, Abel and all the Old Testament believers, who built altars and sincerely sacrificed lambs. They were looking forward by faith to “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn.1:29). Abraham stretched well beyond his human, natural knowledge, when he told Isaac, “God will provide for Himself the lamb” (Gen.22:8).

David saw in detail Christ forsaken on the cross, His hands and His feet pierced. He saw the soldiers casting lots for His garments, but he also saw Him resurrected, standing in the midst of His brothers (Ps.22). Isaiah knew that He was fulfilling the will of His Father, when “He was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed” (Is.53). 


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