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The Law Did Not Nullify the Promise. 15 [a]Brothers, in human terms I say that no one can annul or amend even a human will once ratified.(A) 16 Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his descendant.[b] It does not say, “And to descendants,” as referring to many, but as referring to one, “And to your descendant,” who is Christ.(B) 17 This is what I mean: the law, which came four hundred and thirty years afterward,[c] does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to cancel the promise.(C)

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  1. 3:15–18 A third argument to support Paul’s position that salvation is not through the law but by promise (Gal 3:1–14) comes from legal practice and scriptural history. A legal agreement or human will, duly ratified, is unalterable (Gal 3:15). God’s covenant with Abraham and its repeated promises (Gn 12:2–3, 7; 13:15; 17:7–8; 22:16–18; 24:7) is not superseded by the law, which came much later, in the time of Moses. The inheritance (of the Spirit and the blessings) is by promise, not by law (Gal 3:18). Paul’s argument hinges on the fact that the same Greek word, diathēkē, can be rendered as will or testament (Gal 3:15) and as covenant (Gal 3:17).
  2. 3:16 Descendant: literally, “and to his seed.” The Hebrew, as in Gn 12:7; 15:18; 22:17–18, is a collective singular, traditionally rendered as a plural, descendants, but taken by Paul in its literal number to refer to Christ as descendant of Abraham.
  3. 3:17 Four hundred and thirty years afterward: follows Ex 12:40 in the Greek (Septuagint) version, in contrast to Gn 15:13 and Acts 7:6, for chronology.

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