Let's start with the interesting way Paul talks about offspring. It's a recap from last week.
In verse 16, Paul clarifies what has been given to us and by whom:
Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ.
Don't misunderstand. Paul well knew that offspring was a collective noun. He knew that when God promised Abraham many offspring, and that they would be as numerous as the sand and stars, the promise was collective. But Paul also knew that the promise of many offspring would come from one - Isaac, Abraham's firstborn. Out of one comes many, but the many have to start with one.
Here's what Paul is driving at, in a very clever way.
Paul knew the plural application of offspring. He knew God's promise to Abraham in Genesis to make him the father of many nations. He knew all that. But here's what else Paul knew in the chiseling down of the word offspring. The promise to Abraham would come through his son, Isaac. God chose Isaac, not Ishmael, who was Abraham's first son, through his wife's handmaiden, Hagar. Isaac was the son of the promise, through Sarah and Abraham. Isaac was the one chosen…elected…by God as the next in line to give birth to many nations. Ishmael wasn't abandoned by God. Ishmael received God's blessing, but he was not the son of the promise. God chose…God's electing grace…Isaac for that. And so Paul says Jesus would be the child of the promise to Abraham and Sarah.
Here's something you might want to write down. This is the big point of verse 16:
The promise of the inheritance made to Abraham and his offspring is fulfilled only in Christ, by his death and resurrection.
That's why Matthew's genealogy of Jesus' birth begins with Abraham. Jesus Christ, the offspring of Abraham, is the One through whom all who believe in him are children of Abraham. It is a beautiful little package of priceless
In other words, when God chose to make Abraham the father of many nations, and when God chose to maintain that promise through Isaac, rather the Abraham's firstborn Ishmael, God knew every subsequent moment and sequential event would culminate in the birth of Jesus Christ, through whom God has chosen to save us. That is the divine purpose of God's electing grace.
I love how Paul keeps hammering away at this point. He is relentless is his pursuit of the essential nature of Christ's crucifixion and resurrection. Those two things were God's plan from before creation. If, as the false teachers were claiming, our salvation was based on law-keeping, then the promised life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ would have been worthless. Nothing. Neither essential nor necessary.
Here's something important to understand. The false teachers were simply expressing a worldview that is common even today. People are often bent toward works-righteousness. People sometimes struggle with understanding grace freely given because that's not how the world works. That's not how it feels the world should work. Of course I get what I deserve. Of course I get what I work for. Of course I make my own way. This is America…I pull myself up by my own bootstraps. Did you know that most people think the saying, "God helps those who help themselves" is from the Bible? Why did the Prosperity Gospel originate in the United States? Why is it so popular? Because of the western ethos of determining my success...directing the trajectory of my life. I can convince God to give me what I think I want or need. Of course I store up for myself tokens to redeem for valuable things. Of course…of course…of course. The false teachers could not let go of effort.
My wife and I watched a comedy series on Netflix that captured this perfectly. A character was dying of leukemia. She had been a successful doctor. Her character had done extensive work with "Physicians Without Borders," which is a real humanitarian organization that does really good work. On her death bed, she asked her ex-husband if he thought her work with "Physicians Without Borders" was enough to earn her, as she put it, a meet-and-greet with Jesus.
That way of thinking isn't far from the minds of unbelievers. And as Paul was dealing with in Galatians, people in the church can be drawn into it.
Here's the beauty of the promise of God, to Abraham and his offspring, which means us. When God made the promise to Abraham, He said, "I will,
I will, I will." Our salvation story starts with God's promise to us, beginning with Abraham. Later, with the law of Moses, we get, "Thou shalt, thou shalt, thou shalt." That's an important order of things. Later in the series we'll talk about the necessity of "Thou shalt." But for now, it's all about God's plan, God's grace, God's initiative, God's choosing you to believe in Him. Abraham's actions did not determine God's promise. Remember, the promise is always first. Always first.
Here's something else you might want to write down:
PRAISE GOD THAT HE DEALS WITH US ACCORDING TO HIS PROMISES, NOT ACCORDING TO OUR WORKS.
That is a wonderful inheritance. No one has to work for it. No one ever works for an inheritance. We simply believe that God will fulfill His promise to save us through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. That's it. No works to save us. No obedience to the law to save us. No performance to save us. The beautiful truth is that our standing before God does not fluctuate with the inconsistency of our daily obedience. And boy, do we
fluctuate. But it is the promise that holds us together. God's promise of
grace and mercy, not our works, are what anchor us in His love. Amen?
I close with this observation from a young Christian woman, Chloe Nicole:
When I was an atheist, I remember being so annoyed by Christians and how happy they always were. I was mad that they weren't miserable and angry like me! Now I'm in Christ Jesus, and this JOY I feel is so real, despite my circumstances. I rest and have peace in God!
SOLI DEO GLORIA…
To the Glory of God Alone!