Galatians 3:16 — The Blessing of God’s Unbroken Promise
Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as referring to many, but rather to one, “And to your seed,” that is, Christ.
Every responsible adult owns a very important document. The document is unusual because its contents cannot be enforced until its owner dies. The document bears the title ‘Last Will and Testament.’ The document says, “These are my desires (will) and my promises (testament).”
Galatians deals with a last will and testament. The will is last because nothing needs to be added to it, and the testament or promise will be fulfilled. When Christ died, the new testament went into effect.
The Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Galatia concerning Christ’s will and testament. The congregation was confused about the importance of the Abrahamic Covenant and the Mosaic Covenant, the promises Jehovah made with Abraham and Moses. The Galatian church placed great importance upon the Mosaic Covenant, believing it to be superior to the older Abrahamic Covenant.
The church’s error was that they place the emphasis of salvation on the works which the Mosaic Covenant dictated. The Mosaic Covenant was a conditional covenant. In other words Jehovah said, “If you do this, I will do that.” If the people refused to do what the covenant demanded, Jehovah would punish the Israelites. In contrast no condition was placed upon the Lord’s covenant with Abraham. God promised to do for Abraham exactly what He said He would do.
The error Paul refuted in Galatians 3 is an error which has caused much confusion among Christianity even today. Christians generally consider themselves as part of Abraham’s seed, considering the Church to be the continuation or replacement of Israel, or they consider salvation as obtained and maintained by works rather than by faith in God’s unconditional promise. The truth lies in the middle. What Paul teaches may be applied directly to your life. God will do all that He has promised, regardless of our actions.
Note carefully what Paul wrote in verse sixteen, “Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as referring to many, but rather to one, “And to your seed,” that is, Christ.” Paul points to the word seed in Genesis 12:7. “The LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your descendants I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the LORD who had appeared to him.”
To us, quibbling over one word seems trivial, but we understand even in today’s world one word can make a great difference. Paul argues that the promise of the land given to the seed. Paul was basically saying that the seed was NOT Israel but Christ.
As is typical with all of humanity, people look at the world from their own perspective. When Israel looked at the Abrahamic Covenant, they looked at the promise from their own perspective rather than God’s. The Israelites held a self-centered view of the blessings of the Abrahamic Covenant. God did indeed promise a land for Abraham’s descendants, but according to the Abrahamic Covenant, the promise would not come into full effect until the Messiah would take His place on David’s throne in Jerusalem.
Why make such an important distinction about the promise made to Abraham? The promised land was not the fulfillment of the promise to Abraham; Christ was the fulfillment of the promise! Christ was the sum total of the Abrahamic Covenant as well as the fulfillment of all of God’s promises. Since Christ is the fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant, you may enjoy the blessings of God’s unbroken promise.
We may not have difficulty understanding the fact that salvation is not by works, but we may live practically by this belief. How do we do this? Some live by works and not faith when they hold external, man-made standards. Standards could be anything from the kind of clothing a person wears, the places he goes, the things he reads, or the games he plays, etc. Standards may be necessary because an organization needs them to operate efficiently. After all human organizations need standards and rules to maintain orderliness. The standards imposed by institutions or even by men, if not found explicitly or implicitly in God’s Word, are only human constructions. When we superimpose our own standards of what we believe to be appropriate Christian behavior, we add to our salvation.
Faith in Christ is simple, needing nothing else. Because of our faith in Christ, we are free to do what is right because we love Him. Christian liberty means freedom to do what is right. Christians do not live by a creed; they live life. Christians enjoy a freedom and simplicity found only in eternal life through Christ. Rules only tell a person what is wrong, but life is its own reward. Beware that you do not view other Christians through the lens of your preconceived notions of Christian behavior. We are saved by faith in Christ, and no work we do nor standard we impose can make us part of the seed of Abraham. Only God’s unconditional, unbroken promise of Christ can bring us true blessings in life.
What are your thoughts on this verse?
Can you identify standards that some believers elevate so much that they become litmus tests of spirituality?
When are standards necessary and appropriate?
How should a believer apply personal standards to live in holiness before God?