The Changeless Promise
15 Brethren, I speak in the manner of men: Though it is only a man’s covenant, yet if it is confirmed, no one annuls or adds to it. 16 Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as of many, but as of one, “And to your Seed,” who is Christ. 17 And this I say, that the law, which was four hundred and thirty years later, cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ, that it should make the promise of no effect. 18 For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no longer of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise.
The Apostle Paul while writing to the Galatian church, informs them of the actual blessing for the Gentiles of the Abrahamic Covenant. He begins by instructing why the covenant is an everlasting covenant. He reminds the church how a last will and testament cannot be changed or added to once it has been ratified. Ratified by the death of the testator (person whose will and testament). It cannot be changed because the person who created it and has the right to change or add to it is gone.
A covenant is made under the same conditions. When studying the Abrahamic Covenant we read:
12 Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee:
2 And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing:
3 And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.
The I will statements made by God:
- I will show you a land
- I will make you a great nation
- I will make your name great
- I will make you a blessing
- I will bless them that bless you and curse those who curse you
- I will bless all the families of the earth through you
Notice there are no conditions for Abraham to receive these promises. In ancient days a most solemn agreement between two parties was ratified in a gory ceremony. In Genesis 15 we see the covenant’s ratification. The chapter begins with God repeating His covenant to Abraham. Although we are told in Scripture Abraham believed God he asked a question, “Lord God, whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it?” God instructs Abraham to prepare the covenant ceremony. In this ceremony the individuals entering into the covenant will take animals and cut them into halves; then the pieces a arranged in two lines and together the covenant makers walk between the pieces. In effect stating, my life will be required if I break this covenant. It was called a blood covenant. Abraham would have been very acquainted with this ceremony; he would know the rules governing this arrangement.
Now notice in verse 17 — read it for yourself — the smoking furnace and the burning lamp are representations of God. Only God walks through the animal pieces. God obligates only Himself for the fulfill of this covenant! This action agreed with His previous “I will” statements. Some would argue that circumcision is required by God — that’s exactly what the Judaizers in Paul’s day said. Where in the entire chapter do you see it? Nowhere in chapter 15 when the covenant is ratified is there any language that required anything from Abraham. This covenant with God is unconditional. Even belief is not a condition, but the grounds for entrance to the covenant.
So now after the covenant is ratified it cannot be altered in any way. The only person with the authority to change it is God. We see in Malachi 3:6, “For I am the Lord, I change not.” God will not, indeed cannot change His mind.
- Abrahamic Covenant was made to Abraham and to Christ and fulfilled in Christ
- Abrahamic Covenant is unconditional: God swore alone in its blessings and ratified the covenant alone. It depends entirely on God’s sovereignty and will
- The only party in the covenant with the authority to modify it is God
- God is unchanging therefore His covenant is unchanging
It interesting to note that in the east there is still the custom to “look to the lamp of the temple” to witness a contract.
The “Age of Promise” which began when God called Abraham continued until the time Jacob went into Egypt. Throughout all this time the patriarchs are justified by their faith in God. This demonstrates that the faith way has always been the way to acceptance with God.
Go back up and read verse 16. Paul states that God made this promise to Jesus Christ as well. The “Seed” who God will use to bless the world is Christ — God promised it to Him. This is precisely how the Abrahamic Covenant applies to Christians. We are not God’s covenant people. That is Israel. The church is wholly separate from the nation of Israel. However, because the Christian is “in Christ” we are blessed because of the promise God made His Beloved Son.
Wrapping up the verses see that the Law given some 400+ years after the Abrahamic Covenant was ratified. The Law was given by God as a separate (new and different) agreement. It has no bearing whatsoever on grace and the Abrahamic Covenant. It cannot add any stipulations to the agreement nor can it nullify it, nor any part of it.
Since the time of Adam, God has been saving people by faith without works.
This study is one of many that absolutely changed my life, my study habits of Scripture, searching for the truths in God’s Word to let God speak for Himself. God’s Word will prove itself true.