Gal 3:17-18 The Covenant 2/18/2007 ßà
#1. The Covenant of Grace? (Gal 3:15-18)
#2. The Covenant Confirmed (Gal 3:15,17 Ex 12:40-41)
#3. The Promise of the Inheritance (Gal 3:18, Eph 2:9, 1Sam 2:8, Gen 15:1, Rev 13:8, John 6:44, Rom 11:6, John 8:56)
Please open your Bibles to the Epistle to the Galatians, Gal 3:15 (2X). Today we have installment # 14 in the series “The Simplicity of the Gospel”. Last week we have seen from chapter 4 that there are two covenants. We have also seen that these two covenants do NOT represent two periods of time, as if the Old Testament time is the Old Covenant of the Law and the New Testament time is the New Covenant of Grace. That is a gross misinterpretation. Last week we have extensively looked into the Covenant of the Law, and we have seen that this is not a covenant by which God would save people at any time. People who are still subject to the Covenant of the Law are unsaved people who are still under obligation to obey the whole Law of God. It is a covenant under which people are still in bondage to the Law, are left in their unforgiven sins, and are left in the power of Satan exactly the way they came into this world. That is enough said about the covenant that does not save. Let us now turn our eyes to the covenant that saves, the Covenant of Grace. Therefore the title of today’s sermon is “The Covenant” (2X), which can also be titled “The Covenant of Grace”. What is:
#1. The Covenant of Grace? (Gal 3:15-18)
God tells us here in Gal 3:15-18 exactly what that Covenant of Grace is. We read in Gal 3:15-18,
Ga 3:15-18 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. 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. 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 (singular) of none effect. For if the inheritance (singular) be of the law, it is no more of promise (singular): but God gave it to Abraham by promise (singular).
There is much information in this short passage. #1. God speaks about a man’s covenant as a parallel to God’s Covenant. #2. He speaks about the confirmation of a covenant. #3. He speaks about the promise (singular) of God. #4. He speaks about an inheritance. And #5 He speaks about the Law having no power over any of the stipulations of the Covenant. Let us look at these five pieces of inform.
#1. What is this man’s covenant, which is held as an example of God’s Covenant? Well, since an inheritance is involved, we understand that this man’s covenant must be this man’s last will and testament. In fact, we can see that we are on the right track, because the word “Covenant” and the word “Testament” are exactly the same Greek word. Everywhere in the NT you can replace the word testament by the word covenant, or you can replace the word covenant by the word testament. And so, allow me to paraphrase verse 15, “Brethren, I am using the language commonly used by mortal men: If we consider a man’s last will and testament, yet if it is confirmed no one may annul or add to this man’s last will and testament”. And when will a man’s last will and testament be confirmed? It is confirmed when the man dies. From that point in time there can be no more changes made to this man’s last will and testament. This man’s last will and testament contains a number of action items that must be followed up. And it contains a list of beneficiaries to whom he leaves all his possessions. To all his beneficiaries he made promises which must be fulfilled from the moment the man dies, for this is his last will and testament. In our ungodly secular world such last wills and testaments are often disputed in court, but that is a sinful action which is not approved by the God of the Bible. Now God says, this man’s last will and testament, and the promises made therein, is an example of the Covenant of God. Therein, in that Covenant, were promises made, and the promises were made to Abraham and his seed. You find these promises to Abraham and his Seed extensively in Gen 12, and 13, and 15, and 17, and 21, and 22, and 24, and then these promises are repeated to Isaac and to Jacob. Let us look a
Just have your computer search for verses with the word “seed” and you will find a great harvest of insights into the Bible. When you read commentaries on these passages they always substitute Abraham’s physical descendants for the word “seed”. Indeed in some places that is what it means. But in most other places God did not intend for us to understand that this would refer to Abraham’s physical descendants. Here in Gal 3:16 God gave one verse as a commentary on all those verses in Genesis, and we must believe that this the inspired Word of God. All other commentaries must be in harmony with this one verse. We read here in Gal 3:16,
Ga 3:16 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.
Twice in this verse the word “Seed” refers to Christ. Capitalize this word in your Bible, so that you are reminded of the Person whom God refers to in this verse and in all the other verses in Genesis. It will greatly enhance your spiritual insight in the words of the OT, rather than understanding in it the plain historical physical descendants of Abraham, who for the greater majority of them remained unsaved and demonstrated that they were in rebellion against God. Christ and all those who are in Christ are in view in the blessings that God speaks about. Reprobate descendants are not a blessing. They are a grief to their fathers, and represent a curse rather than a blessing. And if you are using another translation than the King James Version, you should keep in mind that the English translation is not the inspired Word of God. The Hebrew and Greek text are the true inspired Word of God. And we can check on the translators with a concordance, or with a computer program, or with an interlinear Bible. Here in Gal 3:16 God clearly says that all the promises of His Covenant were promises made to Christ. There is no way you can misinterpret the meaning of this verse, unless you are using a Gnostic bible like the NIV, or something of that sort. And so, to whom were all the promises made? They were made to Christ. But Christ loved all those whom the Father chose to give Him and whom the Father placed in Him, and Christ loved them so much that He bore their sins and endured the penalty for their sins so that they could be with Him and in Him forever, and Christ presented them to the Father as if they were His body and His Bride, and thus the promises spoken of here in Gal 3:16 were made to Christ and to all those who were and are in Christ. When you check your computer for the expression “in Christ”, you will find that it occurs 77 times, plus when you check for the expression “in Him” you will find at least another 25 times that it refers to us being in Christ. It is amazing to me that there are people who assume that this expression “in Christ” should be interpreted symbolically. They must be either blind, or they are heavily influenced by the Arminian gospel. But the NT is abundantly clear that before the foundation of the world the Father placed in Christ all those whom He chose to become saved, which is the remnant chosen by grace out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues, and which is also called “the elect”. The nation of Israel is NOT “the elect”. They were only a picture of the elect. Most of the nation of Israel was in rebellion against God, and they died in unbelief. We should not call the nation of Israel God’s elect, for that is an insult to the omniscience and wisdom of God. In His wisdom God decided to make the nation of Israel a picture of the elect of God, so that we could learn how God deals with His elect. But God decided to save only a remnant out of Nat. Israel.
And so, to summarize, first God sets up the example of a man’s covenant, being his last will and testament where great promises were made to his beneficiaries, and then God lists the beneficiaries that are named in God’s Covenant, which is His last will and testament. The prime beneficiary in God’s Covenant is first of all the Lord Jesus Christ, and then all those who are in Christ, who demonstrate that they have been chosen by the Father by the gift of faith and trust in the saving work of Christ.
The second point in this passage of Gal 3:15-18 is about the confirmation of a covenant.
#2. The Covenant Confirmed (Gal 3:15,17 Ex 12:40-41)
When is a last will and testament confirmed? It is confirmed when the testator of that will dies. That is why we read in Gal 3:15, “yet if it be confirmed, no man disannulleth, or addeth thereto”. No man changes that will, because the will has been confirmed. When was God’s Covenant, or God’s last will and testament, written? It was written before the foundation of the world, for if God would have written it in the course of time He would not be infinitely wise and infinitely omniscient. But God is infinitely wise and infinitely omniscient. God does not get wiser as time goes on. Therefore He must have written His Covenant, His Testament, before the foundation of the world, as we shall see later from Heb 9. When was God’s last will and testament confirmed? It was when God died. Well, God did not completely die, for that is an impossibility. But the Lord Jesus Christ is God. And thus when the Lord Jesus Christ died on the cross the last will and testament of God was confirmed. This took place on Friday, April 3, in the year AD 33, at about 3 O’clock in the afternoon. You might say, that was the moment in time when God’s Covenant was sealed with His blood. Now, this conclusion seems to be at odds with Gal 3:17. Let us therefore read Gal 3:17 again.
Gal 3:17 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.
What is the 430 years referring to? It refers to the residence of the children of Israel in Egypt. God
arranged the presence of the children of Israel in Egypt to exactly 430 years, down to the exact day. Think about it: What would be God’s purpose in doing that? Let me read to you from Ex 12:40-41,
Ex 12:40-41 Now the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years. And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years, even the selfsame day it came to pass, that all the hosts of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt.
Exactly 430 years after the family of Jacob entered into the land of Egypt, the entire family of Jacob left Egypt in a great exodus. In that same year Moses received the Law of God on Mount Sinai. What does that tell us about the timing when the last will and testament of God was confirmed? God says in Gal 3:17 that His Covenant, His last will and testament, was confirmed about 1900 years BC, which means it was 1900 years before Christ hung on the cross. Does that contradict our earlier conclusions? Not really. In this verse, Gal 3:17, God indicated that He considers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as one unity. In fact, just before Jacob left from Beersheba in the land of Canaan, God gave His last message in a vision to Jacob, assuring him that God will fulfill His promises. And thus assured of this the family of Jacob left the land of Canaan and went into Egypt. But in the preceding 200 years God made promises to Abraham and to Isaac and to Jacob repeatedly, and God tells us that during that time the Covenant of God was confirmed. Why was it confirmed at that time if Christ had not yet died? Please turn in your Bibles three pages to your right to the Epistle to the Ephesians, Eph 1:4 (2X). There are at least three reasons why the Covenant of God was already confirmed in those promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, 1900 years before Christ went to the cross. Reason #1, The Love of God for His Elect. Reason #2, The Lamb That Was Slain. Reason #3, God Confirmed It by an Oath.
First of all, there is the love of God for those whom He elected to be saved and be His children.
Eph 1:4-5 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,
The meaning of these verses is very plain: The Father has chosen to save us because He favored us before the foundation of the world. He chose us in Christ, in order that we should be holy and without sin before Him, for Christ was going to take care of all our sins. He chose to save us not for any good qualities in us, and not for anything that we have done, or that we are going to do, but He chose us according to the good pleasure of His will. He chose to save us in spite of all the sins that were cleaving to us and in spite of all the rebellion that we showed towards God. And He chose us knowing full well that the Lord Jesus Christ would have to suffer in our place on the cross, the equivalent of an eternity in Hell. It means that there would be much sin in the world. Where did that sin come from? It came because Adam and Eve rebelled against God in the Garden of Eden. Is that not surprising? It means that the sin of Adam and Eve did not catch God by surprise, for God planned to save His elect through Christ on the cross long before the sin of Adam and Eve took place. Nevertheless, we cannot say that God was the Author of that sin, for God does not tempt anyone to sin. Man sins voluntarily. After Adam’s sin that is the only free will mankind has. We sin voluntarily, and that is why God can charge people with sin and cast them into Hell; it is because they voluntarily take the side of Satan against God. But God’s love for His sinful people is demonstrated in His compassion for the nation of Israel when they came out of Egypt. In that historical picture God shows His operating principle: His love for His elect knows no limits. Make sure that you remember who His elect is. It is the remnant chosen by grace out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues. And so, because God loves those who are His elect children, His plan to save them, or His decree whereby He promised to save them, already existed from before the foundation of the world. That is awesome! God’s last will and testament was written for the sake of His elect, whereby He promised in that testament to His elect that they should inherit all that He has, just because He loves them. It means that in the counsel of God, the counsel of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, it was already decided before the foundation of the world that this list of people shall be the beneficiaries of that Testament, or that Covenant. There was no turning back, for God is not a man that He would repent or turn back on His promises. And so, God’s Covenant, or Testament, was already confirmed before He created the first speck of dust in this universe. This Testament was confirmed in the all wise counsel of God.
Secondly, we must say that the Covenant, or Testament, was confirmed when Christ died.
Please turn in your Bibles to the Revelation of Jesus Christ, Rev 13:8 (2X). When the maker of the last will and testament dies, the will is confirmed, meaning it is solidified; it is cast in concrete; it is as unchangeable as the law of the Medes and the Persians. Is the Lord Jesus Christ also the Maker of this last will and testament? In His Divinity He is God Himself. In His Divinity He is called “Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” in Isa 9:6. And when the Spirit of God the Son took up residence in the womb of the Virgin Mary, in that incarnation God and man became united in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore when the Lord Jesus Christ died on the cross, legally we can say that the Maker of the will died and thus the Testament, the Covenant, was confirmed. But that did not take place until AD 33. How can God say that it was confirmed before the Law was given to Moses? For this we need to turn to Rev 13:8 (2X), where we read,
Re 13:8 And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.
This verse speaks of the reign of Antichrist over all the earth. It speaks of the horrible condition that Satan shall have given his power to many false teachers and preachers all over the world who are together making war against the saints, and the saints shall lose this war. The saints shall be silenced. And all that dwell upon the earth whose names are not written in the Testament of God shall worship Antichrist. Only those whose names are written in the Testament of God shall worship God. And the Testament of God, or the Covenant of God, is here given a wonderful new name: It is the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. Was Christ crucified twice? Absolutely NOT! But all the consequences of the crucifixion of Christ were made effective from the foundation of the world. It means that when righteous Abel was killed by his evil brother Cain, his soul immediately went in the presence of Christ in heaven, as if Christ had already suffered and died for his sins. It means that when righteous Enoch was raptured up with body and soul, he could immediately enjoy the presence of Christ in heaven as if Christ had already suffered and died for his sins. And when righteous Noah died after a full life of 950 years, his soul immediately went into the presence of Christ in heaven, as if Christ had already suffered and died for his sins. All these saints lived under the Covenant of Grace. Here is the operating principle by which God interferes into the lives of mortal men: Their names were written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. In other words, their names were written in the last will and testament of God that they should be co-heirs with Christ and receive the inheritance that was set aside for them. And so, this is the second reason why God’s Covenant, or God’s Testament, was already confirmed from the foundation of the world; because in principle Christ’s atonement was effective from the foundation of the world.
Thirdly, we must connect the confirmation of the Covenant with God’s dealings with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, for we read in Gal 3:17,
Gal 3:17 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.
This verse specifically points us to the patriarchs, Abraham Isaac and Jacob, in the 200 year period of time just before the children of Israel went into Egypt. Please turn in your Bibles to the Epistle to the Hebrews, Heb 6:13 (2X). And how did God confirm the Covenant at the time of the patriarchs?
God’s dealings with Abraham mark a pivotal change in God’s dealings with man. When God dealt with Abraham it was the beginning of God addressing a congregation, or a church. Abraham was the first individual of the OT church. Prior to that time God’s dealings with man were with single individuals, like Enoch, or like Noah, or like Lot. But Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were the patriarchs of the new congregation of Israel. God’s Covenant, or God’s last will and testament, is still with individuals, but these individuals congregate within NT churches, or within the OT church, the congregation of Israel. From the time of Abraham very few people were saved outside the congregation of Israel. What were the promises given to the patriarchs? The promises that God gave to Abraham, and to Isaac, and to Jacob, were first of all that God would multiply their Seed as the stars of heaven and as the sand which is upon the seashore. But in these promises we should see the Seed as representing Christ, and all those who are in Christ. Secondly, God gave them promises that they would inherit all the land of Canaan forever. But from Rom 4 we know that Abraham understood that he would inherit the world forever, which is correct since this sin cursed earth including the land of Canaan shall not remain forever. And thus the land of Canaan represented only a shadow of the Kingdom of God on this earth; it was not the real thing. Thirdly, when God promised to all three of them that “In thy Seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed” we must understand that this blessing refers exclusively to the Lord Jesus Christ, and not to the descendants of Jacob. God swore these blessings to Abraham with an oath. Let us now read the commentary of God’s swearing an oath. We read here in Heb 6:13-20,
Heb 6:13-14 For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself, Saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee.
Heb 6:15-16 And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise. For men verily swear by the greater: and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife.
Heb 6:17 Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath:
Heb 6:18 That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us:
Heb 6:19-20 Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil; Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.
We see in verse 15 that Abraham obtained the promise. What promise was that? Abraham himself never inherited the land of Canaan. But notice that this promise is in the singular. It is the promise of salvation in Christ that was already realized when he was still in the land of Canaan. And in verse 17 God swore an oath that He would show His salvation to the heirs (note: plural) of promise. Who are the heirs of promise? Of course, these are the children of promise. And who are the children of promise? Romans chapter 9 gives us 6 answers to this question. Can you see that this passage in Heb 6 is all about salvation, and not at all about real estate or about physical descendants? God confirmed the promise of His Covenant to all those who are called children of Abraham, which are all those who are in Christ. And God swore with an oath that God is faithful, and He will keep His promises. WE are those “heirs of promise” in verse 17, so that WE, in verse 18, might have a strong consolation that God’s promise can be understood as absolutely certain. God has confirmed it by two immutable things: the immutability of His counsel, and the immutability of His oath. And so, this is the third reason why God’s Covenant, or God’s Testament, was already confirmed during the 200 year period before the children of Israel went into Egypt. It was confirmed because God said so in Heb 6:17.
Let us now return to the Epistle to the Galatians, Gal 3:18 (2X). In this passage God speaks about:
#3. The Promise of the Inheritance (Gal 3:18, Eph 2:9, 1Sam 2:8, Gen 15:1, Rev 13:8, John 6:44)
Like the passage in Heb 6:13-20, here also in Gal 3:15-18 the plural promises of God to Abraham
and his Seed are spiraling down to a single promise and a single inheritance. This is the focus of all these promises. This is the focus that God wants us to have when we read this passage. We must closely pay attention to singular and plural expressions, for this is what the inspired Greek text says. These are words from God, and we would not dare to change the singular to the plural. Historians focus on the plural descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. But God focuses on Christ, singular.
Gal 3:18 For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise. (What inheritance is this? Is this the inheritance received from God’s last will and testament?)
Of course it is the inheritance that is received by all the beneficiaries of that last will and testament of God. The promise is the promise of salvation, for this is what God’s Covenant is all about. And the inheritance is eternal life with God and with Christ. But notice now what God is addressing in this verse. God says, “If the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise”. In other words, Salvation cannot be obtained by the works of the Law. And as you know, that is what this entire Epistle to the Galatians is all about. Salvation can only be received if it was promised in the Covenant of God, for salvation is only by the grace of God, “not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph 2:8). God wrote His last will and testament before the foundation of the world, and God wrote the names of all the beneficiaries in that Testament, which we call The Covenant of Grace. And God promised within Himself, he promised within the triune Godhead, and He swore to Abraham with an oath, that He would save these individuals from their slippery slide into Hell, and God promised that He would lift them up to heaven “to set them among princes and to make them inherit the throne of glory” (1Sam 2:8), and God promised that He would usher in the NH&NE to give these individuals the highest honor possible, and God promised that He would give these individuals Himself (Gen 15:1), which means if we have received God Himself we have everything that God has and that God can give, which means that we have the highest blessing possible. There is no condition more blessed than this. And all these blessings are imposed on us because God placed our names in His Last Will and Testament, and God delighted to shower us with these blessings entirely “according to the good pleasure of His will”. But keep in mind the nature of a Last Will and Testament. Once it has been confirmed, and the first time it was confirmed was from the foundation of the world according to Rev 13:8, no one can be added, and no one on the list can be forgotten. Therefore, this passage of Gal 3:15-18 is a strong statement against all those who peddle a works gospel, who peddle a gospel of choosing your savior by your own free will. How can you choose to believe if God does not draw you? The Lord Jesus said in John 6:44, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him”. How then can anyone by his own free will choose to believe the true Gospel? Those who try to do it by their own free will always come up with a works gospel and never with the Gospel of grace alone. It certainly shows when we see all the inventions of men whereby they say that: you must make the decision to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, or you must say the sinner’s prayer, or you must obey the altar call, or you must speak in tongues, or you must be slain in the Spirit, or you must be baptized in water, or you must partake of the Lord’s Supper, or you must give your money to the church, or you must join the church, or you must depart out of the church, and many other things that you must DO. These are all works gospels. Works gospels cannot save. If you are in a church that believes you must do something to become saved, or that believes that you must choose for Christ by your own free will, take note that you are in a church that does not believe the Bible, for the Bible does not say such things. The Bible says in Rom 11:6, “if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work”. The Gospel that we believe in is 100% grace, for if it is mixed with a tiny amount of work then it is no longer grace, but work. This is the salvation that also Abraham received, for Gal 3:18 says, “God gave it to Abraham by promise”. It means that Abraham already received the inheritance, and he was glad to see the day of Christ. The Lord Jesus said in John 8:56, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad”. Lastly we read:
Gal 3:17 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
Of course! If God wrote a last will and testament, and if that Testament was confirmed, then nothing can change that Testament, not even a violation of the Law of God. Therefore David remained in God’s Covenant, even after His adultery with Bathsheba, and even after his murder of Uriah the Hittite. So you see, the Law has no power over anyone of God’s elect. It does not mean that David’s sins remained unpunished. David’s sins, and any other sin committed by one of God’s elect, were imputed on the Lord Jesus Christ, and He bore the punishment of those sins until God’s righteousness was fully satisfied. The nature of a last will and testament is that it cannot be changed. And God took care of the sins of everyone who was written as one of the beneficiaries of that Testament, which is the Covenant of grace. The Covenant was a promise of God to mortal man. And no one is able to undo a promise from God. Even God Himself cannot undo His earlier promises, for God obligated Himself to abide by the stipulations of His Covenant. The Covenant of God is not an agreement between God and man, like “If you keep my commandments then I will pour My favors upon you”. No! The Covenant is not like a contract between two human beings. The Covenant is a one sided obligation by God to pour His favors upon beneficiaries whom He chose in the good pleasure of His will.
Let us now summarize what we have found: The Covenant of grace is the Last Will and Testament of God. This Covenant has been confirmed before the beginning of creation, and it has been confirmed by God with an oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and it has been confirmed at the cross. All the elect of God have been written in this Covenant as beneficiaries of the inheritance. The inheritance is eternal life itself, and the inheritance in the NH&NE is greater than anyone can imagine. We inherit God.
How does that affect us in our daily life? Answer: Do we demonstrate that we belong to Christ by
our gratitude? Do we demonstrate daily in all that we do that we are grateful to Him for not passing us by? Praise God for having chosen us unto salvation, and for giving us such an immeasurable gift. AMEN. Let us turn to the Lord in prayer.