by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 3 Paragraph # 3 Study # 3 March 18, 2012 Dayton, Texas
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:
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. The Content of "the Promises".
A. Paul only uses the plural twice (3:16; 3:21) although he refers to "promise(s)" nine times in this letter.
B. In 3:14 (Paul's first reference to "promise" in Galatians by terminology), Paul identifies the content of at least one of the "promises": the Spirit, as an indwelling presence. In this text, it is as clear as can be that "the promise of the Spirit" is directly linked to "the blessing of Abraham". In 3:18 the link is made to "the inheritance". In 3:21 the issue is the "method" by which a person is determined to be "righteous". Then, in 3:29 the thing "promised" is again identified as "the inheritance". And, finally, 4:28 calls us "children of promise" in terms that indicate that we have become what we are by the activity of God as the One Who made the promise as opposed to those who are who they are by the activities of men.
C. At root, then, the "promises" are the three outlined by God to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3: a "land", a "great nation", and a "great name" (all subsumed under the concept of "inheritance"). Additionally, those promises directly necessitate multiple other provisions (such as the presence of the indwelling Spirit of Christ and the attendant provision to "bless" those who bless Abraham and "curse" those who curse him) that are, by necessity, included because of the fact that the larger "promises" require multiple other provisions.
1. Our grasp of the content of "the promises" must begin with Genesis 12:1-3.
2. Our grasp of the "three life promises" must move beyond Genesis 12 to the realization of the greater context.
a. In Genesis 2:7 we have a three-fold development in God's creation of man.
b. In Genesis 3:6 we have a three-fold basis for the success of "temptation".
c. In 1 John 2:16 we have John summarizing "all that is in the world" in an inescapable parallelism to the Genesis 3:6 text.
d. The book of James, in dealing with the question of "how" to deal with "temptation", develops three major arenas wherein temptation must be faced and handled (the lust of the eyes, the pride of life, and the lust of the flesh).
D. In the light of the greater biblical context, the promises of Genesis 12:1-3 take on a very special significance.
1. The demands made in this text are in exact harmony with the Genesis 3 temptation.
2. The promises made are direct confrontations of the "fears" that the demands create.