Chapter # 3 Paragraph # 3 Study # 1
February 26, 2012
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.
1901 ASV Translation:
15 Brethren, I speak after the manner of men: Though it be but a man's covenant, yet when it hath been confirmed, no one maketh it void, or addeth thereto.
16 Now to Abraham were the promises spoken, and to his seed. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.
17 Now this I say: A covenant confirmed beforehand by God, the law, which came four hundred and thirty years after, doth not disannul, so as to make the promise of none effect.
18 For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no more of promise: but God hath granted it to Abraham by promise.
- I. Paul's "Brethren" Terminology.
- A. This clearly indicates that he is accepting the Galatians as "brethren".
- B. The only way a person is a "brother" is if he has the same parent(s).
- C. This is, on the face of it, a statement of spiritual brotherhood.
- D. As such, it is a statement that Paul believes that the Galatians are regenerated children of God even though the problems they face with "the faith" border on out-and-out apostasy.
- 1. There are some indications in this letter that he does wonder if his acceptance of them as brethren is a legitimate acceptance.
- a. Galatians 4:20. The issue is clearly the Galatians' ambivalence toward the incomparable Gospel and its specific issue of "the object of faith". Paul's ambivalence toward them is all about whether, or not, Christ has been formed in them; an issue without which there is no salvation.
- b. Paul clearly called anyone who preaches what the Galatians are stumbling into a "false" brother: Galatians 2:4.
- c. Paul warned that anyone who preached the distortion of the Gospel that was affecting the Galatians was to be "accursed": Galatians 1:8-9.
- 2. That he gives them the benefit of the doubt, however, reveals that he has few, if any, illusions about just what "having the Spirit of God dwelling in one's body" actually means. If the Galatians, and Cephas, can be practical apostates on the verge of doctrinal apostasy and still be regenerated children of God, there is very little "triumphalism" in Paul's theology if, by that term, we mean "inevitable" development as disciples.
- 3. On the other hand, we must understand that Paul wrote this letter because he "believed" that a Spirit-inspired, clearly argued, case for the Truth at least could (if not would) turn the children of God back to Him.
- a. The biblical record teaches certain "inevitabilities" to God's work of regeneration.
- 1) In the context of Jesus' instructions on holding "brethren" accountable in Matthew 18, the church was not to "give up on" a person until after three levels of confrontation had occurred.
- 2) In his confrontation of the carnal Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 11, Paul claimed that God would actually "put His children to 'sleep'" if they persisted overlong in seriously evil behavior so that they would not "be condemned with the world".
- 3) John's record in The Revelation of Jesus Christ contains the flat-out statement that if anyone receives the mark of the beast, he/she will perish (Revelation 14:9-10). It is not a big step of logic to conclude that if God is willing to end the earthly life of one of His own to keep them from being "condemned with the world", none of His own will be allowed to take the mark of the beast.
- b. The consistent issue in these texts of "inevitability" is a certain bottom line in God's conflict with Sin in the lives of His children: there is no "underwriting" of any level of growth in Christ; there is only an "underwriting" of a certain refusal to allow Sin to get to the point of out-and-out apostasy.