|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
3:15-18 The covenant God made with Abraham, was not done away by the giving the law to Moses. The covenant was made with Abraham and his Seed. It is still in force; Christ abideth for ever in his person, and his spiritual seed, who are his by faith. By this we learn the difference between the promises of the law and those of the gospel. The promises of the law are made to the person of every man; the promises of the gospel are first made to Christ, then by him to those who are by faith ingrafted into Christ. Rightly to divide the word of truth, a great difference must be put between the promise and the law, as to the inward affections, and the whole practice of life. When the promise is mingled with the law, it is made nothing but the law. Let Christ be always before our eyes, as a sure argument for the defence of faith, against dependence on human righteousness.
Verse 18. - For if the inheritance be of the Law, it is no more of promise (εἰ γὰρ ἐκ νόμου ἡ κληρονομία [or, οὐκ ἔτι] ἐξ ἐπαγγελίας); for if from a Law the inheritance accrues, it accrues no longer from a promise. The two nouns "Law" and "promise" have no article, being regarded here in their several characteristic principles, which were not only diverse, but contrary. The Law says, "The man that doeth these things shall live by them;" and this while enforcing a great variety of minute positive principles by severe threats and penalties. The promise bestows of free grace without works. The promised bestowment is here styled "inheritance," because received by Abraham's seed as his heirs (see ver. 29 and Galatians 4:1). In the Old Testament it is a favourite designation of the land of Canaan; as e.g. in Psalm 105:11. Here it relates to a spiritual possession. Οὐκέτι seems preferred by editors of the text, when used logically, as if it were, It no longer appears to be (so Romans 7:17; Romans 11:6); whereas οὐκ ἔτι might be referred to a change which took place at the time when the Law was given. But God gave it to Abraham by promise (τῷ δὲ Ἀβραὰμ δι ἐπαγγελίας κεχάρισται ὁ Θεός); but God hath freely given it to Abraham by promise. The verb χαρίζομαι emphatically marks a gilt as freely and lavishly bestowed (compare its use in Romans 8:32; 1 Corinthians 2:12). The perfect tense points to the now and evermore enduring effect of the promise. The position of ὁ Θεὸς is emphatic - God, no less than he! (comp. Romans 8:31). The march of this sentence, with which the apostle closes up this paragraph of the discussion, gives, as it stands in the Greek, the reader to feel the apostle's soul dilating with wonder cud delight as he gives expression to the two notions - the gracious freeness of the gift, and the Divine personality of the Giver. The mention here of Abraham alone, without "his seed," is perhaps due to the apostle's sense of the long priority of this guaranteed bestowment to the giving of the Law. In appreciating the tone of the passage, we must not lose sight of the venerableness of this personage, the primordial father, not only of the Hebrew race, but of all believers in Christ to the end of the world.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
For if the inheritance be of the law,.... By the inheritance is meant, either the eternal inheritance, everlasting life and happiness in heaven, which is the gift of God through Christ, and not attained to and enforced by the works of the law; or particularly the blessing of justification, promised in the covenant to Abraham, and his spiritual seed; even to the Gentiles, and inherited by them; which is not obtained through obedience to the law of works, nor does it belong to those who seek for it by the deeds of the law, for these are not heirs of it; see Romans 4:14. For was this the case,
it is no more of promise; it cannot be by merit and by promise, by works and grace too; these can never be reconciled, and consist together; if it is by promise, then not of the law; and if it is of the law, it is not by promise: "but" nothing is more certain than this, that
God gave it, freely, without any consideration of the works of the law,
to Abraham by promise; wherefore justification is not by works, but by the free grace of God, through faith in the righteousness of Christ; and in this way men become heirs according to the hope of eternal life: all which is directly opposite to the notion of the Jews, who say, that, ,
"for the reward of the commandments, men shall inherit paradise (k).''
(k) Tzeror Hammor, fol. 152. 3.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
18. the inheritance—all the blessings to be inherited by Abraham's literal and spiritual children, according to the promise made to him and to his Seed, Christ, justification and glorification (Ga 4:7; Ro 8:17; 1Co 6:9).
but God, &c.—The Greek order requires rather, "But to Abraham it was by promise that God hath given it." The conclusion is, Therefore the inheritance is not of, or from the law (Ro 4:14).
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