Galatians 3:18
For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise.
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(18) The fulfilment of the promise is unaffected by the Law. For it is not dependent upon the Law, or upon the Law and the promise combined (the Law modifying the promise), but upon the promise alone. The Law does not come in at all. Law and promise—in other words, contract and free gift—are incompatible ideas. But the land of Canaan was promised to Abraham as a free gift, and as a free gift the spiritual Canaan is thrown open to his spiritual descendants.

The inheritance.—In the first instance, the temporal inheritance of the land of Canaan; but here understood of the spiritual blessings of the Messianic kingdom.

Gave it.—In the original a strong word: God hath freely given it. There is an antithesis to the idea of “covenant” or “contract,” in which both parties have to perform a part. The promise was given by God to Abraham freely, gratuitously, unfettered by any engagement on his side by the non-fulfilment of which it might be made void.

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.For if the inheritance - The inheritance promised to Abraham. The sum of the promise was, that "he should be the heir of the world;" see Romans 4:13, and the note at that verse. To that heirship or inheritance Paul refers here, and says that it was an essential part of it that it was to be in virtue of the promise made to him, and not by fulfilling the Law.

Be of the law - If it is by observing the Law of Moses; or if it come in any way by the fulfilling of law. This is plain. Yet the Jews contended that the blessings of justification and salvation were to be in virtue of the observance of the Law of Moses. But if so, says Paul, then it could not be by the promise made to Abraham, since there could not be two ways of obtaining the same blessing.

But God gave it to Abraham by promise - That, says Paul, is a settled point. It is perfectly clear; and that is to be held as an indisputable fact, that the blessing was given to Abraham by a promise. That promise was confirmed and ratified hundreds of years before the Law was given, and the giving of the Law could not affect it. But that promise was, that he would be the ancestor of the Messiah, and that in him all the nations of the earth should be blessed. Of course, if they were to be blessed in this way, then it was not to be by the observance of the Law, and the Law must have been given for a different purpose. What that was, he states in the following verses.

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).

If the inheritance of the heavenly Canaan, typified by the earthly Canaan, the promise of which was made to Abraham, be to be obtained by the fulfilling of the law, and yielding obedience to it, then it is no more of the promise. It is much the same with what the apostle said before, Romans 4:14; and with what he had said, Romans 11:6: If by grace, then it is no more of works, otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace; otherwise work is no more work. He shows, that there is an opposition between grace and work, the law and the promise; that which is of grace, and of the promise, is of free love; that which is of works, and the law, is wages, and a reward of debt.

But (saith the apostle) God gave the inheritance to Abraham by promise; he of his free love engaging himself thereunto.

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.

{21} For if the {n} inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise.

(21) An objection: we grant that the promise was not cancelled by the covenant of the Law, and therefore we join the Law with the promise. No, the apostle says, these two cannot stand together, that is, that the inheritance should both be given by the Law and also by promise, for the promise is free. And from this it follows that the Law was not given to justify, for by that means the promise would be broken.

(n) By this word inheritance is meant the right of the seed, which is, that God should be our God, that is to say, that by virtue of the covenant that was made with faithful Abraham, we that are faithful might by that means be blessed by God as well as Abraham.

Galatians 3:18. “I am right in denying, that through the law the διαθήκη passes out of force and the promise is to cease.” The proof depends on the relation of contrast between law and promise, whereby the working of the one excludes the like working of the other. For if the possession of the Messianic salvation proceeds from the law, which must have been the case if God’s covenant with Abraham had lost its validity by means of the law, then this possession comes no longer from promise,—a case which, although necessary on that supposition, cannot occur, as is evident from the precedent of Abraham, to whom salvation was given by God through promise. The mode of conclusion adopted in Romans 4:14 is similar.

ἐκ νόμου] so that the law is the institution which causes this result (in the way of following its commandments). Comp. on ἐν νόμῳ, Galatians 3:11.

ἡ κληρονομία] the possession, נַחֲלָה, refers in the theocratic-historical sense of the O.T. to the land of Canaan and its several portions (Deuteronomy 4:21; Joshua 13:23); but in its N.T. sense, the conception of the κληρονομία is elevated to the idea of its Messianic fulfilment (Matthew 5:5), so that the kingdom of the Messiah and the whole of its fulness of salvation and glory are understood thereby (1 Corinthians 6:9; Galatians 5:21; Ephesians 5:5; Acts 20:32, et al.). Comp. on Romans 4:13; Ephesians 1:11. So also here; and Paul uses this word (not ἡ σωτηρία, ἡ ζωή, or the like) because he has previously (see on Galatians 3:16) referred to passages in which the κληρονομία (that is, according to this Christian idealizing of the O.T. historical sense: the kingdom of the Messiah) is promised.

οὐκέτι] The one relation, if it exists, cancels the other. It is (in opposition to Koppe) the logical (not historical) no longer. Comp. Romans 7:17; Romans 11:6.

διʼ ἐπαγγελίας] by means of promise, so that in his case the possession of the Messianic salvation is the fulfilment (by way of grace) of a promise, and not the possible result (by way of reward) of rendering prescribed services, and the like, which fall under the idea of the νόμος.

κεχάρισται] sc. τὴν κληρονομίαν donavit (Vulgate), bestowed by way of gift (the contrast to ὀφείλημα, Romans 4:4; Romans 4:16), namely, as a future possession to be realized at the time of the παρουσία (Matthew 8:11). On χαρίζεσθαι τινί τι, comp. Romans 8:32; 1 Corinthians 2:12; Php 1:29; Php 2:9; Acts 27:24; Xen. Cyrop. 8:6. 22; Polyb. xvi. 24. 9. Without supplying anything, Schott and Matthias render: to Abraham God has, through promise, been gracious. Comp. Holsten: He has bestowed a favour on him. But the supplying of τὴν κληρονομίαν harmonizes best with the immediate context and the logical relation of the two divisions of the verse, the second of which forms the propositio minor, and therefore, like the major, must speak of the κληρονομία.[139] Caspari (in d. Strassb. Beitr. 1854, p. 206 ff.), following classical usage, but not that of the N.T., has wrongly taken κεχάρισται in a passive sense, so that God is conceived as the inheritance. This is in opposition to the context, and also against the view of the N.T. generally, according to which the κληρονομία proceeds from God (Romans 8:17), and is not God Himself, but eternal life (Galatians 3:21; Titus 3:7; Matthew 19:29, et al.), the kingdom of the Messiah (Galatians 5:21; 1 Corinthians 6:9; 1 Corinthians 15:50; Jam 2:5), and its salvation (Romans 1:16) and dominion (Romans 4:13 f.; Matthew 5:5; 2 Timothy 2:12).

[139] Ver. 18 is a syllogismus conditionalis of the nature of a dilemma, the conclusion of which, because self-obvious, is not expressed.

18. The concluding words of the previous verse suggest the thought—‘Yes, the promise would be at once invalidated, if the inheritance were dependent on the law’. Law and promises, works and faith, are opposing principles, of which the antagonism is most clearly seen in their issues—condemnation and justification. We have a parallel passage in Romans 4:13; comp. also Romans 11:6.

God gave it] Has bestowed as a free gift. ‘The perfect tense marks the permanence of its effects.’ Bp. Lightfoot. All who enjoy it or shall enjoy it, do so as the gift of God’s sovereign mercy, unsolicited, unmerited, unconditional. To see the force of the verb here rendered ‘gave’, we may compare Luke 7:42, ‘he frankly (freely) forgave them’, ‘made them a present of the amount owed’, Romans 8:32; 1 Corinthians 2:12.

Galatians 3:18. Εἰ, if) A conditional syllogism, of which, when the consequent is taken away, the antecedent is taken away; so that the conclusion is, therefore the inheritance is not from the law.—ὁ Θεὸς, God) Here the promise is expressly predicated of God.

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. Galatians 3:18In the analogy of Galatians 3:15 there was contemplated the double possibility of invalidation or addition. With relation to God's promise, the Judaisers insisted on addition; since, while they preached faith in the promise and in its fulfillment in Christ, they made the inheritance of the promise dependent upon the fulfilling of the law. Paul, on the other hand, holds that the Judaistic addition involves invalidation. Salvation must rest either upon the promise or upon the law. The Judaiser said, upon the promise and the law. For God gave the inheritance to Abraham by promise. It has been shown that the law did not abrogate the promise. Hence, if the inheritance be of the law it is no more of the promise. Comp. Romans 4:14.

Gave (κεχάρισται)

Freely bestowed as a gracious gift. See on Luke 7:21.

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