To summarize what we have studied so far, we have seen that Paul was writing to the churches of Galatia (1:1-2) to remind them of the gospel and to clarify what the true gospel of grace is (1:3-5). This was because the gospel was being distorted by false teachers who were preaching a different gospel and perverting the gospel of truth (1:6-9), causing the Galatians to turn away from God to a different gospel (1:6) and to be bewitched (3:1).
Paul describes his own conversion (a stunning and clear act of grace!) and call to be an apostle (1:10-24), and then begins to define and defend the gospel truth. Many were wanting to add to the gospel by works of the law (i.e., circumcision), but Paul maintains and declares the gospel of grace: that we are not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ (2:16, 3:11).
In chapter 3, Paul has been describing this justification (being made right with God) by faith. We are saved by faith in Christ and His finished work on the cross, not by the works of the law or the things that we do. Our salvation is a gift of grace.
He begins to clarify for them then what the law is and is not. If the law doesn’t save us, what does it do? What is it? In Galatians 3:10-14, we saw that the law brings a curse, but that Christ redeemed us from the curse by becoming a curse for us.
Today we pick up with Galatians 3:15-18, again seeing what the law is not:
15 Brethren, I speak in the manner of men: Though it is only a man’s covenant, yet if it is confirmed, no one annuls or adds to it. 16 Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as of many, but as of one, “And to your Seed,” who is Christ. 17 And this I say, that the law, which was four hundred and thirty years later, cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ, that it should make the promise of no effect. 18 For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no longer of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise. (NKJV)
Paul introduces the word “covenant” here. In Genesis 12:1-3, God called Abraham out of his country and family to go to a land that He would show him. God promised to make Abraham a great nation and bless him, to make his name great, and that he would be a blessing. In the Abrahamic “covenant” God promised to bless those who bless Abraham and curse those who curse him and that in him all the families of the earth would be blessed.
The passage today references back to this covenant with Abraham. The law was given 430 after the covenant, after the Israelites had been freed from slavery in Egypt, to teach them how to live. The law is not the covenant and cannot annul the covenant, which was confirmed by God and which was given to Abraham by promise.
This passage also points out that the promises were made to Abraham and his Seed, who is Christ. All of these promises are ultimately fulfilled in Christ. My Bible notes say, “Christ is the final focus of God’s promises, the ultimate Seed.” And as we have already seen in Galatians 3:7, those of faith are the sons of Abraham, the spiritual descendants.
So the law brings a curse (Gal. 3:10), and it cannot annul the covenant and the promise that was confirmed before by God in Christ (3:17). What then is the purpose of the law? We will see that tomorrow in the coming verses.
PRAYER: Thank you, God, that you are a God who keeps your word and your promises. You made a covenant with Abraham, and you fulfill your promises in Christ. Praise you that we today who are believers by faith in Christ are blessed to be Abraham’s spiritual descendants and heirs of this promise. Thank you also that you are a God who brings freedom. You led the Israelites out of Egypt, out of bondage by a great and mighty hand. In the same way, you lead us out of our sin and bondage into life and freedom in you, through Christ, the ultimate Seed. This is by faith, not by works or law. Help us to live by faith in you. We praise you and bless your great name, In Jesus’ name, Amen.