Pastor Doug Newell, IV
There are three vital terms needed to understand Galatians 3:15-18 – covenant, promise, and inheritance. Paul makes the case for justification by faith alone, not by works.
God says he saves by grace, through faith. This has always been the case. There were some false teachers (and some today) who say that you have to keep the law to earn salvation. Some false teachers say baptism is necessary for salvation or you must join their church. Paul proves in the book of Galatians that you are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in the finished work of Christ alone. In this section, Paul appeals to God’s promise to Abraham and that since Abraham was saved by faith, so will his descendants.
If you make a contract with someone and both parties agree and sign on the dotted line, then legally, the contract won’t be annulled. God, in Christ, made an eternal covenant. God the Father chose a particular people among the fallen human race to show his great mercy and love by saving them and giving them eternal life. God the Son, the Lamb of God, would come and die for those people, redeem them through His blood, be their substitute and sin sacrifice. God’s people would stand before God holy and just having Christ’s righteousness. This covenant, or compact of the Godhead was not conditional. God pronounced this covenant to Abraham in a promise. The promise was the revelation, or the unveiling of the covenant God had made to Abraham and his seed, which was Christ. And through Christ, all the nations of the Earth would be blessed. The revealing of the covenant in this promise, assured Abraham’s spiritual children an inheritance. An inheritance is to receive something by legal descent. We receive justification, salvation, redemption, and eternal life through this covenant.
Centuries later (430 years as Paul tells us) after this promise to Abraham, God made the covenant with Moses. In Paul’s day, there were a great many people saying the law given to Moses was the only way to get to Heaven. You had to keep the law. You had to follow the Levitical patterns and precepts. You had to shun certain foods and wear certain clothes in order to be saved and have your sins forgiven. But Paul reminds us of the covenant. God made a covenant, a contract and agreement that cannot be disannulled. God, who does not lie and does not change (Hebrews 6:16-17) promised Abraham the inheritance. There is nothing that can change God’s eternal covenant, revealed in the promise to Abraham, assuring God’s people of receiving the inheritance, through Christ, by faith. Abraham was not saved by works, but by faith, and so are his people. If the inheritance is given by the law, then it is not in the same line of the promise, and not based upon the covenant, and not grounded in the work of Christ. It does not legally hold water and you have no hope.