Unlike other memorable Three Sixteens in this series, here in Galatians the 3:16 verse is no piece of cake! It is perhaps quite confusing. It talks of the promises to Abraham (land, people, fame, blessing) which you usually think of as being received by many descendants. God made the promised family group descending from Abraham into a great, blessed nation. Through this nation all the world would be blessed. Yet here Paul seems to be saying ONE person receives the promise. Have a look:
Galatians 3:14-18 (NLT)
Through Christ Jesus, God has blessed the Gentiles with the same blessing he promised to Abraham, so that we who are believers might receive the promised Holy Spirit through faith. 15 Dear brothers and sisters, here’s an example from everyday life. Just as no one can set aside or amend an irrevocable agreement, so it is in this case. 16 God gave the promises to Abraham and his child. And notice that the Scripture doesn’t say “to his children” as if it meant many descendants. Rather, it says “to his child”—and that, of course, means Christ. 17 This is what I am trying to say: The agreement God made with Abraham could not be canceled 430 years later when God gave the law to Moses. God would be breaking his promise. 18 For if the inheritance could be received by keeping the law, then it would not be the result of accepting God’s promise. But God graciously gave it to Abraham as a promise.
The Scripture referred to here in verse 16 is Genesis 12:7 and 13:15, where God promises he will give this land to Abraham’s “offspring”, or in Hebrew “seed”.
Now like me you may be taken at this point with the fact that “seed” could be used as a singular noun, or a plural one. Perhaps Paul was using this grammatical anomaly to his advantage (as some commentaries would suggest), playing on the “seed/seeds” confusion to make a point to his Jewish audience. Just because they were Jews, one of the many “seeds” who had sprouted up as part of Abraham’s family tree, this did not automatically make them a true child of Abraham, a true child of this promise. Afterall, these were the “foolish Galatians” (3:1) who were hoping to receive the salvation Christ won for many (by his death and resurrection) by their own good works – by keeping the Jewish law. Paul says no. Don’t go back to trying to keep the law! You must be IN Christ, who is the true heir of this promise.
This is the certainty we have. Christ and only Christ is the way of blessing, open to all who receive him as their Lord and Saviour, regardless of their racial credentials. Through Christ many can come into God’s family, not by their own merit, but by Christ’s. Jesus is the ONE descendant from Abraham who makes it possible for us to receive the GRACE of this promise. He is the promised Seed, who fulfilled all the promises of God, promises to Adam and Eve, promises to Abraham, promises to King David – promises made through Isaiah of a suffering servant King who would give his life as a ransom for many. The Promise was to Abraham, and it is fulfilled in Christ. We must be IN Christ, not just in Abraham’s family tree, to be co-heirs of the Promise, with Christ. This is a remarkable reminder of God’s grace to us IN Christ. In Him we receive the undeserved favour of the Son who should ALONE receive the blessings of the Father. But we also receive these blessings IN Christ, if we are IN Christ.
Let’s continue to rest in His righteousness and not our own.
Ps. If you are intrigued by that CD cover image at the top, you can click here to find out more about the album.