Chapter # 3 Paragraph # 3 Study # 2
March 11, 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 "Human" Illustration.
- A. He introduces his argument by saying that he is "speaking after the manner of men" and he appeals to the fact that "even among men" covenants have a certain character.
- 1. The strength of his appeal is that "among men" there is no escape from the potency of his reasoning. If "men" consistently do something, no man can escape the recognition of that thing. If no man can escape the recognition, no man can argue against the "fact".
- a. Jesus, in Luke 19:22, used this principle to powerful effect: "Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee...thou knewest...".
- b. It is a very bad position in which to be when one's own words and actions prove his/her own knowledge of the principles at work (Romans 2:3).
- c. There is no strength in "knowledge" to "resist" the bondage to iniquity that exists, but there is a potent inexcusability (Luke 12:48). Men have turned this on its head and made men excusable for lack of ability and culpable in spite of lack of knowledge ("Ignorance", men say, "is no excuse."). God's reasons are not hard to discover. Men are impotent in their bondage because it is "hate" driven. It is man's antagonism toward God that drives his evil, not his "ignorance". This, rather than being a reason to excuse men, is sufficient reason to condemn them. Hatred is the express opposite of all that God is and does and cannot be "excusable".
- 2. By moving his argument into the realm of "men", he clearly does not wish to simply have his argument rooted in "T"heology. In other words, he does not allow the Galatians to argue against him by simply claiming that his "view of God" is faulty. Many good and sound arguments among men are dismissed by men because the root of the argument is "God" and men hate Him so much that they will not even listen if He is at the root of the issue. Paul, knowing this, does not allow the Galatians the luxury of such a dismissal.
- a. Paul's consistent claim is that "legalists" hate God while attempting to put the best "face" on it by attempting to prove their "love" for Him.
- b. Once the deck is cleared so that "hatred toward God" is seen as the driving force behind the appearances, Paul's move to use "the viewpoint of men" makes a lot of sense.
- 3. By stating his argument in terms of what men typically do, Paul is appealing to the same principle that he used in Romans 2:14-16 where he argued that what men do "by nature" is governed by what is "written on their hearts" (as is a universal reality throughout the Scriptures -- the heart rules) and that what men do stands as a principle of judgment when they come to Judgment because it establishes what they know.
- B. His argument.
- 1. Once a "covenant" is settled, however the men decide to settle it (hand-shake, lawyerly legalese, or whatever), it is considered inviolable (even though in perverse cultures, lawyers and judges often allow technicalities to dismiss the inescapable import of the covenant).
- 2. In spite of the human tendency to attempt to violate the "integrity" of a "covenant", it is clearly understood by all men everywhere that "covenants" are supposed to stand "inviolable". How can any kind of harmony exist without this? Without some form of inviolability total chaos will rule the day, and total chaos renders "life" impossible (if by "life" we mean something more than mere conscious existence).
- a. "Covenant's" origins are instructive: the implication of failure is to be "cut in half" -- i.e. totally destroyed.
- b. The issue of "covenant" is raised with significant clarity in Luke 1:72. There, Luke claims the word was in the mouth of Zacharias (a legitimate historical record of the facts) in terms of "His holy covenant", which is then specifically identified as an "oath" which had, as its basic content, "deliverance" and "fearless service" in "holiness and righteousness" for "all of our days". By defining "covenant" in terms of "oath", Zacharias clearly intended to communicate the concept stated in Hebrews 6:16 -- an end to all disputation. The word translated "oath" is "over the top" in terms of extreme commitment: no one can escape the consequence of one's "oath to God" if it goes unfulfilled (Matthew 5:33); John the Baptizer was put to death because of an "oath" (Matthew 14:7-9); and Peter used an "oath" to try to get out of being identified with Christ on the night He was betrayed (Matthew 26:72). All "liars" (covenant breakers) are consigned to the Second Death (Revelation 21:8).
- c. Hebrews 6:17 indicates that God interposed with an "oath" just so that men would regard His promises as inviolable.
- d. Acts 3:25 does the same thing as Paul is doing with his "covenant" terminology: it links the issue of covenant loyalty to the specific issue of Christ's redemption work.