Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Mar 13 2020 - Galatians 3:1-20 – God’s promise to Abraham

God promised Abraham that all nations on earth would be blessed through him. This promise, says Paul, was made to Abraham and his seed (Galatians 3:16). Paul argues that the promise was made to Abraham’s “seed”, singular, not “seeds”, plural. It therefore points to one particular descendant of Abraham; the promise finds its fulfilment in Christ (3:19).

On first reading, Paul’s argument here may seem a little contrived. Does he not know that “seed” is a collective noun – the singular being used for a large quantity of seed? The answer is, Yes, Paul knows this quite well for he concludes his argument in verse 29 by saying, “If you belong to Christ, then you [plural] are Abraham’s seed [singular], and heirs according to the promise.”

Paul’s point is not that the promise belongs only to one person, but that it belongs only to one people and that this one people are defined in and by Christ. Jesus the Christ is the descendant of Abraham through whom God has determined to bless all the peoples of the world. He has become the source of all the blessings of God. By his death he endured the “curse” of God in our place (3:13); by his resurrection from the dead he has become the source of eternal life. This life is given by the Spirit of God, received through faith in Jesus Christ. To possess Christ is to possess all things; to be without Christ is to have nothing.

God’s promise to Abraham of blessing for all the peoples of the world has found its fulfilment in the preaching of the gospel and the outpouring of the Spirit upon people of every nation and language (3:14). Through the work of Christ and the gift of the Spirit, the many are becoming the one people of God.

So Paul reminds the Galatians that their Christian life began when they came to trust in Jesus Christ and received life from him through the Spirit. If they began their Christian life through the Spirit, why are they now trying to make progress in the Christian life through fleshly means (3:3) – by submitting to the law? As Paul discovered in his own experience, our lives become pleasing and acceptable to God not by binding ourselves up ever more tightly in all manner of restrictions and regulations, marks of our separation from others, but as Christ lives in and through us by his Spirit. He not only gives life, he gives freedom.

Paul’s words, written to the Galatian Christians long ago, speak equally to us today. We also need to go on living the Christian life through faith in Christ and by the enabling of the Spirit. This is the blessing of life that God has given us in Christ, the blessing promised to Abraham. Let’s enjoy the blessing.

But Paul also reminds us that this promise of blessing is for all the peoples of the earth. Jesus is the Saviour of the world; there is no other name under heaven by which we can be saved. This is the vision that energised Paul’s mission. It is this same vision that must energise Christian mission today. We too must be unashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God for the salvation of people from every nation, race and background. Jesus’ prayer is that they might be one.

Living God, we stand amazed at the wonders of your grace and the largeness of your saving purposes. You will not be satisfied until every knee bows to Jesus and every tongue confesses that he is Lord. You have promised him the nations as his inheritance. You have embraced the world in your love. Lord Jesus, it is your prayer that they may be one. Fill us with your Spirit and unite us in vision and purpose that we may proclaim the good news of sins forgiven and abundant blessing for all who turn to you.

Peter Misselbrook