Commentary on Galatians, 3:15-18

Galatians 3:15-18

“15 Brethren, I speak according to the custom of men: Even with a covenant between men, once it has been confirmed, no one makes it void or adds to it.
16 Now to Abraham were the promises spoken, and to his seed. He did not say, ‘and to seeds,’ as of many, but as of one, ‘and to your seed,’ which is Christ.
17 Now this I say: A covenant confirmed beforehand by God is not annulled by the law, which came four hundred and thirty years later, so as to make the promise of no effect.” 

To make his point clear, Paul gives an example from everyday life. A covenant, or a contract between men, once the deal is done, no one can legally add to it or make it void. In the same way, God made His covenant with Abraham on the basis of faith (Gal 3:6-9). For 430 years, before the law came, Abraham and his descendants received salvation according to faith. Paul’s point is, that the law, that came 430 years later, couldn’t void out the covenant that God made with Abraham. Thus salvation has always been on the basis of faith. This is something the Judaizers didn’t understand.

16 Now to Abraham were the promises spoken, and to his seed. He did not say, ‘and to seeds,’ as of many, but as of one, ‘and to your seed,’ which is Christ.

The promises of blessing and salvation (Ge 22:17,18) were made to both Abraham, and to his seed, in the singular, referring to Christ, and not specifically to the descendants of Abraham. We are the “seed” of Abraham through faith in Christ, and not according to human descent, as Paul says in verse 29:

“And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, heirs according to promise.”

Paul also says in verse 26 that we are “sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.”

All the promises to Abraham and to his descendants (Israel) are fulfilled in Christ. In other words, the true seed of Abraham is not by way of human birth, but by way of Christ, through faith in Him. Jews could not claim to be true Jews just because they were born in the human line of Abraham, as Paul says elsewhere:

“28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh: 
29 but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.”  (Ro 2:28,29)

“For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek: for the same [Lord] is Lord of all, and is rich to all who call upon Him.”  (Ro 10:12)

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, neither salve nor free, nor is there male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal 3:29)

And to that, Jesus agrees:

“I know your tribulation, and your poverty (but you are rich), and the blasphemy of them that say they are Jews, and they art not, but are a synagogue of Satan.”  (Rev 2:9)

“Behold, I will make them who are of the synagogue of Satan, of them who say they are Jews, and they are not, but lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you.”  (Rev 3:9)

I don’t know how Paul could make it any clearer, there is “no distinction” between Jews and Gentiles. We are all “one in Christ Jesus,” through our common faith in Him. And again, Jesus confirms what Paul taught. 

Today many Christians want to make a distinction between Israel and the Church, but there is NO DISTINCTION. The only two classes of people in the eyes of God, are those who are in Christ, and those who are not. The true seed of Abraham and the true sons of God, are those who are in Christ. Thus, the Church is true Israel. The nation of Israel has no inheritance, and that is exactly what Jesus taught in the parable of the wicked tenants in Luke 20:9-18. In verses 16-18 of that passage, Jesus said:

“16 He will come and destroy those tenants, and will give the vineyard to others. And when they heard it, they said, ‘surely not!’
17 But He looked upon them, and said, what then is this that is written, “The stone which the builders rejected, the same was made the cornerstone?” 
18 Every one that falls on that stone shall be broken to pieces; but on whomever it shall fall, it will crush him as dust. 

The nation of Israel has been unfaithful, and that is why Jesus came and “destroyed” Jerusalem in AD 70. He “gave the vineyard to others,” that is, the promises and blessings were given to those who place their faith in Him, both Jew and Gentile. Listen to what Jesus says in Matthew 23:37,38:

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, that kills the prophets, and stones those that are sent to her! How often would I have gathered your children together, even as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, and you would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.”

After the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, the house of Israel was left “desolate,” and deserted. Peter, too, confirms the same thing about Israel and the Church. He refers back to what Jesus taught in the parable of the wicked tenants in 1 Peter:

“4 unto whom coming, a living stone, rejected indeed of men, but with God elect, precious, 
5 you also, as living stones, are built up a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 
6 Because it is contained in scripture, Behold, I lay in Zion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: And he who believes on Him shall not be put to shame. 
7 For you therefore that believe is the preciousness: but for such as disbelieve, The stone which the builders rejected, The same was made the cornerstone
8 and, A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence; for they stumble at the word, being disobedient: to this they were also appointed. 
9 But you are a elect race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, that you may show forth the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light: 
10 who in time past were no people, but now are the people of God: who had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.”  (1 Pet 2:4-10) (bold mine)

Peter understood Israel’s unfaithfulness and rejection of Jesus as their Messiah. He also understood God’s rejection of them. Listen to the terms Peter uses to describe the Church:

spiritual house
holy priesthood
spiritual sacrifices
royal priesthood
holy nation
people of God

These are all Jewish terms used to describe the Church. There is absolutely no question that Peter understood that true Israel is the Church. However, the Church doesn’t replace Israel; not at all. The Church, rather, is the continuation of Israel, true Israel. All the promises to Israel are fulfilled in Christ, who is Head of the Church. 

Therefore, there is no longer any distinction between Jew and Gentile. God does not have a separate plan for the nation of Israel, and another for the Church. They are one and the same. 

The kingdom that the nation of Israel looks forward to, and the same “1000 year kingdom” that many Christians claim for them, is not a Jewish kingdom of this world, but is the Eternal Kingdom that all of us in Christ will one day enjoy in the “new heavens and new earth” (Rev 21:1; 2 Pet 3:13; Is 65:17; Is 66:22). Peter, as a Jewish Christian, wasn’t looking forward to a kingdom of this world, but to the Eternal Kingdom. The writer of Hebrews says the same thing (He 11:14-16; He 12:22-28; He 13:14).

“18 For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no longer of promise, but God has granted it to Abraham by promise.”

The promise to Abraham was made on the basis of faith. If our inheritance (salvation and all the eternal blessings that go with it) is by way of the law, then that means that the promise has been replaced. But Paul makes it clear throughout this discussion that the law (or anything else) can never replace or invalidate a promise of God.