Awhile back a pastor friend, Wayne Larson, wondered why pastors tweet and post comments on “grace” so much more than Jesus. Many consider the book of Galatians to be a treatise on grace. It insists that God’s grace in saving sinners cannot be separated from the person and work of Jesus Christ. Wayne was right to question grace talk separated from Jesus. We pastors need to make sure we’re talking about Jesus. We all need to keep grace and Jesus Christ together in our minds and conversations.
Grace and Jesus Christ in Galatians 3:15-18
Contrary to what the Judaizers insinuated, the law introduced through Moses didn’t nullify the promise the Lord made to Abraham. It came later, but it didn’t annul the promise. Paul provides a human example to illustrate. His example works from the lesser to the greater. If this principle is true on the human plane, how much more is it true with God?
By “covenant” he has in mind a final will or testament that determines who inherits a person’s estate. Scholars quibble about whether he’s thinking about Greek, Roman, or Hebrew testaments. They each had their legal differences. It really doesn’t matter because they all reach a point when they are ratified and cannot be annulled. Such is the case with God’s covenant with Abraham. Since it has been ratified, it can’t be annulled.
Grace and Jesus Christ: the Abrahamic Promise
God made the promise to Christ. That’s the point in verse 16. Paul goes back to the Abrahamic promises, and observes that the Lord made them to Abraham’s “offspring.” Paul was trained as a Pharisee. He understood that Jews interpreted that word as a collective singular. But he also knows that they understood it biologically. There’s a better understanding in this case. God made the promise to a particular offspring. That offspring was Jesus Christ. God had Christ in view when He made the promise. Therefore, although the law came 430 years after the promise, it didn’t annul the promise.
That brings us to verse 18. The conditional assumes the “if” part of the statement to be false. The “then” part must also be false. If the Abrahamic inheritance comes by the law, then it cannot come by the promise. By insisting that it comes by law, a person would nullify the covenant that God already ratified. But, as we’ve seen, the promise stands. In other words, the idea that the inheritance comes through law conflicts with Scripture.
Grace and Jesus Christ: the Heir
The promise to Abraham is received in Jesus. He’s the designated heir in whom a person receives the inheritance. Josh’s mother married a man of whom her father disapproved. For that reason, Josh didn’t see his grandfather very often. They weren’t close. They were together only a handful of times in the seventeen years that Josh knew him. Despite that fact, his grandfather had a soft spot for him.Though he hadn’t seen Josh for several years before his death, he named him the heir of his estate.It included a 36-acre island and more than 80 acres of valuable farmland. But there was something even more unexpected in the will. There was a detailed list of antique jewelry and loose gems that were in “the thermos.” There was no hint as to where this thermos was. But Josh’s mom remembered an oblique reference her father once made to “treasure island.” If and when the thermos turns up, it belongs to Josh. His grandfather named him the heir.
Just as his grandfather named Josh the heir of his estate, so Paul argues that Jesus is the heir in whom the promise to Abraham is received. Grace and Jesus Christ are inseparably linked. To receive the promise, you have to receive Jesus by faith. To receive any of the promised blessings, you have to receive the heir. For God to be your God, and to have all the other specific promises, you must be united to Jesus. He’s the first and chief blessing in whom all the other blessings of God are received. Apart from Jesus there is no redeeming grace. It’s great to talk about grace. But Jesus is the subject really worth talking about!