Galatians 3:15 Brethren, I speak after the manner of men; Though it be but a man’s covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disannulleth, or addeth thereto.
16 Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.
17 And this I say, that 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.
18 For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise.
19 Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.
God wants man to think. He does not treat man as a robot or as someone who lacks intelligence. He wants man to see the blessing of trusting Him and following Him. True Christianity is the only rational belief system. False religions sometimes copy parts of their system from God’s Word but they all distort it. The matter of salvation is attacked and distorted in all false religions.
Paul has been addressing the matter of salvation in the book of Galatians. The saints in Galatia had been well taught. Paul was not a promoter of “repeat after me easy believism”. He had taught the people carefully and some had been saved. They had turned to God in repentance and trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ alone for salvation. After that, they had also received some teaching on how to walk as a born again Christian. The false teachers had come along and tried to disannul their true faith by stating that circumcision was necessary for salvation. God was not pleased with this lie and He directed Paul to write this letter to restate what true salvation is and to rebuke the saints for their insecurity regarding this very clear teaching they had received and believed.
Paul was led to use the illustration of a human contract. If a person were to offer to purchase a property, the buyer and the seller would agree to a price and conditions and they would sign an agreement. That agreement was binding on both parties. That agreement could not be cancelled by one party. It could not be changed either. It was binding.
Recently there was a case of a farmer in Canada who knew a grain buyer. The buyer needed a certain amount of grain for a deal he was working on. He sent emails to farmers he knew and asked if they were interested in selling him some grain at a suggested price. One particular farmer responded to the email with an emoji that indicated a thumbs up. The day for the delivery came and the farmer did not deliver the grain. The buyer ended up taking the farmer to court and he won the case. The court decided that a thumbs up in the return email indicated that the farmer agreed to sell a certain quantity of grain for a certain price to be delivered at the date stated. The farmer was out thousands of dollars because he broke his end of the contract. He assumed that a thumbs up was not binding, but the courts said it was. No doubt others will learn from this as well.
Contracts are binding. There would be an agreed upon method of accepting the contract and then it would be a legal and binding document.
Paul moved from the material side of things to the more important spiritual matters. God made a promise to Abraham. God made the promise. Abraham only needed to agree to the promise. Abraham did agree. He believed God and God counted it to him for righteousness. Abraham could not turn around and add anything to that promise. He tried to with Hagar. Sarah suggested a diversion to God’s will, but God rejected that. Ishmael was the result of that sin, but he was not the fulfilment of God’s promise. The promise was specific and God would fulfil it according to His promise. God had made him a very good promise. God certainly was not going to change His promise. God cannot lie. God can keep every promise He makes.
There was nothing in the promise made to Abraham about works. It was based on faith. Abraham believed what God had declared. God kept His promise. Abraham and his descendants were recipients of the blessings. In fact the entire world has been blessed in that promise made to Abraham.
In verse 16 God made it clear that the promise was to Abraham and his seed. It was not to seeds but to one seed. Paul stated that the seed was Christ. Isaac died. He is buried and his bones are well decayed. His soul is resting and awaiting the day of the resurrection of the Old Testament saints. His body will be resurrected and his soul will be reunited with his glorified body and he will spend eternity with the Lord, just like all other saints.
In verse 17 Paul pointed to the fact that the law was given four hundred and thirty years after the promise made to Abraham. Abraham’s faith was not related to law keeping. Abraham was dead and buried before the law was given. The law did not disannul the promise made to Abraham. In fact, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were all dead by the time the law was given. It took two parties to make the original promise effective. God made the promise and Abraham had to agree to the promise. Abraham was dead and so the promise could not be changed. God would certainly be cruel if He would change the promise after Abraham was dead. There would be no way for Abraham to comply with any changes made.
In verse 18 Paul stated that if there were conditions to the promise, then it was no longer a promise. The fact is that God did not put any conditions on the promise. He simply told Abraham what He was going to do and Abraham was given the opportunity to see evidence that God was going to keep His Word. However, Abraham needed to believe the promise made. Having stated all this, God was not promoting “easy believism” as is commonly taught today.
New Evangelicalism, and not just New Evangelicalism, tries to down play sin and suggest that all you need to do is believe in Jesus and you are saved. We need understand the Biblical meaning of believe. Abraham believed God and it was accounted unto him for righteousness. What did that believing look like. We know that Abraham left Ur of the Chaldees. We know that he was reluctant to obey God in this and so God made sure that Abraham followed His instructions. That was not works. It was a turning to God alone to guide and protect him and to provide for him as he moved to the land God promised him. Further Abraham needed to believe that God was capable of providing Abraham and Sarah with the promised seed even though they were too old to have a child. They needed to trust in God explicitly.
That is what true Biblical salvation is. It is a trusting in God alone. It is not holding on to the drugs and alcohol and the pornography and the rock music, etc. that you used when you were lost. It is a turning to God and leaving all that junk behind. It is finding that Jesus Christ is all you need. He is the saved person’s all in all.
We need to be careful not to cheapen Bible words. They are important and they have meaning. God gives them meaning and we do not look for a corrupted dictionary that might change the meaning. We look to the Word of God for the definition and that is when we are blessed with the promise.
In verse 19 and following, Paul answered the question of the purpose of the law. If salvation is by grace through faith, then why the law? Paul stated that the law was added because of transgressions. The law did not save anyone. No man can keep the law perfectly. The law showed the righteousness of God and showed the depravity of man. The law showed man that he needs God. He cannot make it on his own. Abraham was declared righteous by God without the law. Abraham also proved he could not live as a righteous man on his own. He already knew that lying was sin. Even sinful Abimelech knew that lying was sin. He also knew that taking another man’s wife was sin. Abimelech was a lost man who acted as a lost man. Abraham was a righteous man who acted like a lost man in these instances. He needed to be rebuked both by Abimelech and by God. What a shameful thing that Abimelech needed to rebuke Abraham for his sin.
God gave the law because people were brushing off sin as if it was acceptable. God needed to place the law before the nation of Israel so that they would understand that sin is not accepted by God. God also instituted the sacrificial system as the means for Old Testament saints to be atoned for their sins. That atonement would hold until Jesus Christ came and shed His blood for the forgiveness of sins. It is important to understand that law keeping cannot save and it cannot add anything to salvation. Salvation is a work of God through His Son the Lord Jesus Christ. The repentant sinner must trust in God’s provision for salvation, the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. That alone saves.