16 Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all,
1901 ASV Translation:
16 For this cause it is of faith, that it may be according to grace; to the end that the promise may be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all
I. Paul's Argument.
A. The only way the promise can be "sure" is if it is "according to grace".
1. The "issue" is whether the content of the "promise" is actually fulfilled in the experience of the "seed".
a. The content of the promise has already been given: inheritance of the world.
b. The identity of the seed has already been given: those who walk in the faith of Abraham.
1) There is a division in the seed: those who walk in the faith and are uncircumcised; and those who walk in the faith and are not circumcised.
2) The division is not in the area of the fundamental methodology (faith), but in the national identities (a father of many nations have I made thee).
a) Circumcision created the nation which would inherit the land of Canaan as Genesis 17:8 clearly declared.
b) The lack of circumcision created other national entities which were never to be subject to "the Law" and were not to inherit Canaan.
c. The seed must be brought to the inheritance of the world in its actual experience for the "promise" to have any final validity.
2. The "problem" of actual fulfillment is the question of whether anything can frustrate "promise".
a. Initially, there was the possibility that the promise would be frustrated by the lack of faith in the recipient (promise is of no effect in the face of unbelief), but once that recipient (Abraham) "believed", there could not, afterwards, be anything that could frustrate it because God's integrity was at stake from that point forward.
b. The major issue of "frustration" was the "problem" of unrighteousness.
1) Without "righteousness" man cannot enter into the blessing of God.
2) Without some method of "reckoning righteousness" that would permit sinful man to be separated from his sins so that he could be "reckoned" righteous, there was no way that he could "inherit the world".
c. The final issue is this: nothing man can do can frustrate the integrity of God.
3. The "standard" of "grace" is this: God provides for man what He requires of man so that man is qualified by God to be reckoned righteous by Him.
a. The "problem" this raises is the issue of whether man can be "reckoned" righteous without a real alteration in his basic makeup.
1) If man can simply be "reckoned righteous" on the basis of something outside of himself, he is unchanged.
2) If man is unchanged, inheritance of the world will ultimately be an inheritance of conflict and death.
b. This has to mean that "grace" does more than just provide an outside-of-man provision; there has to be an alteration of the heart within man.
1) The alteration within man must first be in the realm of values (love).
2) Then the alteration within man must reach to the realm of methods (faith).
c. Thus, it is "up to God" to alter our hearts and our minds if "grace" is going to produce the fulfillment of the promise in any real way.
B. The only way it can be "according to grace" is if it is "by faith".
1. The terminology, "by faith", includes both "conviction" and "content".
a. Any man who "believes" in "himself" has "conviction" without the proper "content".
b. Man must "believe" in "God" to have both conviction and content.
2. The issue of faith's relationship to grace is the issue of the internal changes that must take place within man.
a. Without faith there can be no fulfillment of promise because there is no foundation for a "reckoning" of "righteousness" to the man who does not "believe".
b. Faith is the method by which God alters the heart/mind reality of man.
1) It was "unbelief" that originally altered man's relationship with God.
2) It is only "faith" that can undo that original damage.
3. But Paul addresses "faith" as the means by which the "grace" can be applied in the specific sense of contrast to "law".
a. Law signals "faith in oneself" and applies that "faith" to one's own abilities to conform to the standards of righteousness.
b. Faith signals "faith in God" and applies that "faith" to God's abilities to produce the conformity that is required.
c. Grace does the actual producing of the requirements while faith embraces the changes.
4. The bottom line is this: God is the Effective Agent of both the objective reality of justification and the subjective application of that justification to man.
a. The "circumcision made with hands" is the human effort to maintain the pride of accomplishment.
b. The "circumcision of the heart" is the divine accomplishment of the humility of love.