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Galatians 3:17  (King James Version)
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<< Galatians 3:16   Galatians 3:18 >>


Galatians 3:16-17

Paul writes these verses to assure all that the Abrahamic Covenant, which contained the wonderful promises that Herbert Armstrong simply called "the race and grace promises," was in no way negated or cancelled out by the Old Covenant.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 27)



Galatians 3:17

An alternate translation of this verse into more modern English makes it easier to understand:

I say this: the law which appeared four hundred thirty years later cannot void the covenant earlier ratified by God so as to make the promise ineffective. (King James Study Bible, notes)

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Wavesheaf and the Selfsame Day



Galatians 3:16-17

Under the New Covenant, the promises of the Abrahamic Covenant are valid, and Abraham is our spiritual father, as it were. He is the model of the family, with whom God first made the covenant, and he obeyed God's voice (Genesis 26:5). He kept the commandments and the laws, and Abraham's children are going to do the same thing! Otherwise, they will not really be his children.

Paul is not doing away with the law! He is simply saying that the law cannot justify us. We see here, by God's own witness, that Abraham lived up to the terms of the covenant. Because he did, it was passed on to Isaac for him to do as his father had done.

The problem of transgressions in the Old Covenant was not resolved until the promised Seed, Christ, came. He lived perfectly, qualifying to be the payment for sin, and at the same time, He confirmed the promises that were made unto Abraham—and they were made absolutely and eternally binding. God then proposed the New Covenant that He had previously shown in prophecy (Jeremiah 31). God has presented it to all of mankind—not just to Abraham's physical descendants.

It is not circumcision that makes one a part of this covenant. Rather, it is circumcision of the heart! The sign is repentance and faith in the sacrifice of the promised Seed, Jesus Christ. The receipt of the Holy Spirit is the seal; it authenticates what has occurred. It completes the making of the New Covenant with the individuals whom God calls.

Nowhere does God say that the laws that define sin are done away. On the contrary, the One who made the New Covenant possible said that not one jot or tittle would pass from the law until all was fulfilled (Matthew 5:18).

God's moral and spiritual laws have been from eternity, and an agreement between Him and mere man is not going to do away with them. God Himself would have to pass from existence for that to occur. In addition, the loving intent of those laws as they apply to human relationships is still valid.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 27)



Galatians 3:16-18

Comparing Genesis 17:23; Exodus 12:41; and Galatians 3:16-18, we have evidence of a significant Genesis event that later became a festival date, and thus it is important to Christianity. Exodus 12:2-6 dates the Passover on the fourteenth of Abib. Israel left Egypt on the next day, the fifteenth. Verse 41 strongly suggests that the Exodus was 430 years to the very day from when Abraham made the covenant with God which was sealed by the patriarch's circumcision. Galatians 3 reinforces the link between the events of the Exodus (Paul sums them up in the term "the law," which was given about two months after leaving Egypt), the 430 years and God's covenant with Abraham. These verses confirm that the Abrahamic covenant, the introduction of circumcision, and Israel's going out of Egypt took place on Abib 15, the First Day of Unleavened Bread.

John W. Ritenbaugh
God's Promises Are Sure!



Galatians 3:15-17

Four hundred and thirty years after the covenant God made with Abraham the law came. We understand that it was already in existence, but it was given to Israel in a codified form as a portion of the covenant that God made with him.

The real beginning of the Old Testament church was not at Mt. Sinai but in the land of inheritance where Abraham pitched his tent 430 years earlier; the Old Testament church began with Abraham. And the New Testament church, in that sense, also began at the same time—because Abraham is the father of the faithful. This highlights how important Nisan 15 is.

We understand that the real, true beginning of the New Testament church was on the day of Pentecost—when God gave His Spirit. But these are the very roots of that event! By combining Exodus 12:40-41 with Genesis 17 and Galatians 3, we know that these two events, God's covenant with Abraham and Israel's exodus from Egypt, took place on the same date 430 years apart.

From that small beginning with Abraham and Sarah came Isaac and Rebecca and then Jacob and his wives and children. Joseph was sold as a slave into Egypt. Then the famine drove Jacob down into Egypt along with all of his relatives, where they grew into a sizable nation subjugated by the Egyptians. They became a nation of about 2½ million people. Then came the raising up of Moses and the destruction of Egypt culminating in the slaying of the firstborn on Nisan 14. And then the climax: The children of Israel leaving Egypt 430 years to the day that God entered into the covenant with Abraham!

On that very day, Abraham, Ishmael, and all the males of Abraham's household were circumcised, and thus they received the sign of the covenant. The covenant made at Mt. Sinai was essentially the same covenant as that entered into by God and Abraham but expanded to include the entire nation (that is, all the descendants of Abraham). Added to it, then, were civil and ceremonial laws necessary for administering the covenant to the whole nation. That makes Nisan 15 a very significant date.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Night to be Much Observed



Galatians 3:16-17

Ceremonies identified Israel as a nation that was in the world but separate from all the other nations. It played a part in driving the Gentiles up the wall and building barriers between them.

What makes the spiritual family that God is drawing us into separate and distinct from the world? God makes it clear: It is the way we live, not ceremonies or rituals! Jesus said, "By this shall all men know that you are My disciples, if you love one another" (John 13:53).

God insured that the ceremonies could not be performed. He allowed the Temple and the altar to be destroyed, and scattered the Levites all over the world. Those three things were necessary for making sacrifices. In order to get the focus away from the nation of Israel and the Old Covenant, God made sure that they could not make those sacrifices. (1) They had to be made at the Temple. (2) They had to be made on one altar. And (3) it had to be done by the Levites, and, specifically, the family of Aaron.

God got that out of the way because He wants people to focus on the way His children live! And His children live according to His law. If you do away with His law, you cannot live according to His law. You cannot show the characteristics of God unless you know the way that He lives, and He lives according to His law, which describes Him.

Though God no longer requires ceremonies, this in no way means that the spiritual intent of those ceremonies is done away. Though we are no longer required to cut an animal's throat, bleed its blood out, and burn it on an altar—the intent, the stretching out of those principles, still applies.

Thus, Jesus said in Matthew 18:9, "If your eye offend you, pluck it out." Jesus requires sacrifices so that we do not sin. Paul also said, "Put to death therefore your members which are on earth" (Colossians 3:5). He restates this in Romans 12:1 and Ephesians 5:2.

The principle of sacrifice remains. This is why Jesus could say that not one jot or tittle of that law would pass until all is fulfilled (Matthew 5:18). In the book of Galatians, the laws of God are hardly even in question except as they pertain to justification. Those laws that define sin, which guide us in the way of God, are just as binding as they ever have been, and they will remain so because God is using them to prepare us to live at one with Him and His Family.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 27)



Galatians 3:17-25

Galatians 3:17 confirms that, when Paul was talking about the law, he was also talking about the entire Old Covenant. He uses "law" synonymously with "covenant."

The translators have difficulty deciding whether the "covenant" refers to the Mosaic covenant or the one made with Abraham. Most modern translations connect "covenant" to the one God made with Abraham. However, the more literal translations such as the King James version and Young's Literal Translation put the word "covenant" in the sentence so it refers to the Mosaic covenant. The Emphatic Diaglott translates it as, "Now this I affirm, that a covenant-engagement previously ratified by God, the Law, issued four hundred thirty years afterwards does not annul, so as to invalidate the promise." Thus, Paul viewed the law as the symbol and embodiment of the Old Covenant and used the terms "law" and covenant" synonymously.

This agrees with the way the covenant was sometimes referred to in the Old Testament. In II Chronicles 6:11, Solomon says, "And there I have put the ark, in which is the covenant of the LORD which He made with the children of Israel." Only the two tables of stone upon which were written the Ten Commandments were in the ark (II Chronicles 5:10).

Moses writes, "So He declared to you His covenant which He commanded you to perform, that is, the Ten Commandments; and He wrote them on two tablets of stone" (Deuteronomy 4:13; see Exodus 34:28). Even without this evidence, it is very clear that Paul refers to the two covenants, not just to what we would consider the law itself.

Further, notice how Paul uses the term "law" in Galatians 4:21-23. The births of Ishmael and Isaac are recorded in Genesis 16 and 21. Though this happened long before the Ten Commandments and the other laws were given through Moses, Paul refers to this portion of Scripture as the law! Obviously, Paul uses "law" to mean the entire Pentateuch or Torah (the first five books of the Bible), not just the Commandments. In Galatians 4:24, he specifically mentions the Old and New Covenants.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
What Was the Law 'Added Because of Transgressions'?




Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Galatians 3:17:

Genesis 15:12-18
Genesis 17:23
Exodus :
Galatians :
Galatians :

 

<< Galatians 3:16   Galatians 3:18 >>



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