Galatians 3:15-22

The Inheritance Through the Promise

By David M Rogers

www.BibleTruth.cc

Published: February 2011

Table of Contents

Abraham's Seed

The Inheritance Given Through a Promise

Why the Torah was "Added"

 


Galatians 3:15-22 (New International Version)

Brothers, let me take an example from everyday life. Just as no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case.  The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not say "and to seeds," meaning many people, but "and to your seed," meaning one person, who is Christ.  What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise.  For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on a promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise.  What, then, was the purpose of the law? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was put into effect through angels by a mediator.  A mediator, however, does not represent just one party; but God is one.  Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law.  But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.

I've presented this text using the New International Version, but we will examine the meaning of the text below and present a translation that more accurately represents the meaning of Paul's line of reasoning.

Abraham's Seed

Paul begins this section of his letter by reviewing the promises Elohim made to Avraham:

Brothers, let me take an example from everyday life. Just as no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case.  The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not say "and to seeds," meaning many people, but "and to your seed," meaning one person, who is Christ. (Galatians 3:15-16, NIV)

Paul is referring to the details of the Hebrew text.  In several places where the promises are articulated, the Hebrew text reading "seed" is in the singular.

The blessings and promises given to Avram are first recorded in Bereshith 12:

Yahuwah had said to Avram, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you.  I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you." (Bereshith 12:1-3)

Then in verse seven, as Avram and his household are entering into the land of Canaan,

Yahuwah appeared to Avram and said, "To your descendants (Heb. “seed”) I will give this land." So Avram built an altar there to Yahuwah, who had appeared to him.

Though many English translations render this text "to your descendents," the Hebrew reads, "to you seed."  The promise is given to Abram and one particular offspring of Abram's!

Again, when Avram was 99 years old, some 24 years later, Yahuwah appears to him and reiterates the promise:

I will give the whole land of Canaan--the land where you are residing--to you and your descendants (Heb. “seed”) after you as a permanent possession. I will be their Elohim." (Bereshith 17:8)

Now this promise is developed a short time later when Yahuwah identifies this "seed" who will inherit with Avram:

But I will establish my covenant with Yitzchak, whom Sarah will bear to you at this set time next year. (Bereshith 17:21)

Though the promise for one particular seed is identified as Yitzchak (Isaac), the promise has more than one meaning.  Though Yitzchak was indeed the direct seed of Avram, the promise actually referred to another direct seed of Avram.  Paul explains that the "seed" promised is Messiah:

The Scripture does not say "and to seeds," meaning many people, but "and to your seed," meaning one person, who is Messiah. (Galatians 3:16)

Messiah, then, is the Seed to whom the promises apply.  Messiah is to inherit the whole land upon which Avraham walked.  Messiah will rule and reign over this inheritance during the Messianic Age.

The Inheritance Given Through a Promise

Next, Paul explains the relationship between the inheritance and the law and the promise:

What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise.  For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on a promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise. (Galatians 3:17-18, NIV)

First, let's see when the covenant was "previously established."  The promise of inheritance was first given to Avraham as recorded in Genesis 12:7, as we noted above:

Yahuwah appeared to Avram and said, "To your descendants (Heb. “seed”) I will give this land." So Avram built an altar there to Yahuwah, who had appeared to him.

Elohim made this promise to give the land to Avram and to his descendents - meaning, to his seed, the Messiah.  Then, 430 years later, Yahuwah met his people on Mt Sinai and gave Mosheh the Law.

Abraham was commended for his fidelity even before he was circumcised:

Then the word of Yahuwah came to him: "This man will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be your heir."  He took him outside and said, "Look up at the heavens and count the stars-- if indeed you can count them." Then he said to him, "So shall your offspring be."  Avram believed Yahuwah, and he credited it to him as righteousness. (Bereshith [Genesis] 15:4-6)

This episode took place well before Avraham received the commandment of circumcision.  Elohim's promise preceded the commandment of circumcision.

The point Paul is making is that the Torah given later at Sinai did not annul the promise of inheritance of land nor did it replace the promise.  Rather, the Law was complementary to the promise.  The inheritance does not depend on the Torah.  Elohim has promised to give it to the Messiah, Avraham's Seed.

Why the Torah was "Added"

If the inheritance was given as a promise and is not contingent upon the Torah, then why did Elohim give his people the Law?

What, then, was the purpose of the law? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was put into effect through angels by a mediator.  A mediator, however, does not represent just one party; but God is one.  Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law.  But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe. (Galatians 3:19-22, NIV)

Gal 3:19  Why, then, the Torah?  It was added (enjoined) because of transgressions, until the Seed should come to whom the promise was made.  And it was ordained through messengers in the hand of a mediator.

What transgressions?  I thought that there were no transgressions where there is no law?

Of course there was knowledge of law and therefore accountability for sin.

Torah was “added” meaning it was re-introduced in full so that there would be understanding for all of sin and righteousness.

“until the Seed should come…” but not terminating with!  Messiah continued to teach Torah to his talmidim.

Gal 3:20 The Mediator, however, is not of one, but Elohim is one.

The Messiah is both of Elohim and of man

21  Is the Torah then against the promises of Elohim? Let it not be! For if a (man-made) law had been given that was able to make alive, truly righteousness would have been by (Oral) Torah.

22  But the Scripture has shut up all mankind under sin, that the promise by fidelity in Messiah might be given to those who are faithful (to Him).

The Life-Imparting Torah!

Devarim 30:15 "Look! I have set before you today life and prosperity on the one hand, and death and disaster on the other.

16 What I am commanding you today is to love Yahuwah your Elohim, to walk in his ways, and to obey his commandments, his rules, and his right-rulings. Then you will live and become numerous and Yahuwah your Elohim will bless you in the land which you are about to possess.

Your Life – By Torah

Devarim 32:45 When Moshe finished reciting all these words to all Yisrael

46 he said to them, "Keep in mind all the words I am solemnly proclaiming to you today; you must command your children to observe carefully all the words of this instruction.

47 For this is no idle word for you--it is your life! By this word you will live a long time in the land you are about to cross the Yardan to possess."

Torah is NOT against the promises – it is consistent with the Promises

It is NOT obedience to a man made commandment that gives righteousness – oral Torah does NOT impart life!  Christian doctrine, tradition, practice or lifestyle will not bring life to the Christian!

But fidelity, faithfulness to, agreement with and love for Yahuwah which results in wholesale obedience to written Torah DOES impart life.

Brothers, as a man I say it: a covenant, even though it is man’s, yet if it is confirmed, no one sets it aside, or adds to it.  But the promises were spoken to Abraham, and to his Seed. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as of many, but as of one, “And to your Seed,” who is Messiah.  Now this I say, Torah, that came four hundred and thirty years later, does not annul a covenant previously confirmed by Elohim in Messiah, so as to do away with the promise.  For if the inheritance is by Torah, it is no longer by promise, but Elohim gave it to Avraham through a promise.  Why, then, the Torah?  It was added (enjoined) because of transgressions, until the Seed should come to whom the promise was made.  And it was ordained through messengers in the hand of a mediator.  The Mediator, however, is not of one, but Elohim is one.  Is the Torah then against the promises of Elohim? Let it not be! For if a (man-made) law had been given that was able to make alive, truly righteousness would have been by (Oral) Torah.  But the Scripture has shut up all mankind under sin, that the promise by fidelity in Messiah might be given to those who are faithful (to Him).

END