For if the inheritance [of what was promised] is based on [observing] the Law [as these false teachers claim], it is no longer based on a promise; however, God granted it to Abraham [as a gift] by virtue of His promise.
For if the inheritance [of the promise depends on observing] the Law [as these false teachers would like you to believe], it no longer [depends] on the promise; however, God gave it to Abraham [as a free gift solely] by virtue of His promise.
Can following the law give us the blessing God promised? If we could receive it by following the law, then it would not be God’s promise that brings it to us. But God freely gave his blessings to Abraham through the promise God made.
If the law could give us ·Abraham’s blessing [L the inheritance], then ·the promise would not be necessary [or it is not based on a promise]. But that is not possible, because God freely gave ·his blessings [L it] to Abraham through the promise he had made.
Can following the law give us what God promised? No! If this is so, it is not God’s promise that brings us the blessings. Instead God freely gave his blessings to Abraham through the promise he had made.
Now a promise was made to Abraham and to his seed. (Note in passing that the scripture says not “and to seeds” but uses the singular ‘and to your seed’, meaning Christ.) I say then that the Law, which came into existence four hundred and thirty years later, cannot render null and void the original “contract” which God had made, and thus rob the promise of its value. For if the receiving of the promised blessing were now made to depend on the Law, that would amount to a cancellation of the original “contract” which God made with Abraham as a promise.
Friends, let me give you an example from everyday affairs of the free life I am talking about. Once a person’s will has been ratified, no one else can annul it or add to it. Now, the promises were made to Abraham and to his descendant. You will observe that Scripture, in the careful language of a legal document, does not say “to descendants,” referring to everybody in general, but “to your descendant” (the noun, note, is singular), referring to Christ. This is the way I interpret this: A will, earlier ratified by God, is not annulled by an addendum attached 430 years later, thereby negating the promise of the will. No, this addendum, with its instructions and regulations, has nothing to do with the promised inheritance in the will.
What is the point, then, of the law, the attached addendum? It was a thoughtful addition to the original covenant promises made to Abraham. The purpose of the law was to keep a sinful people in the way of salvation until Christ (the descendant) came, inheriting the promises and distributing them to us. Obviously this law was not a firsthand encounter with God. It was arranged by angelic messengers through a middleman, Moses. But if there is a middleman as there was at Sinai, then the people are not dealing directly with God, are they? But the original promise is the direct blessing of God, received by faith.
If it had been possible to be saved from the punishment of sin by obeying the Law, the promise God gave Abraham would be worth nothing. But since it is not possible to be saved by obeying the Law, the promise God gave Abraham is worth everything.
This means that the covenant between God and Abraham was fulfilled in Messiah and cannot be altered. Yet the written law was not even given to Moses until 430 years later, after God had “signed” his contract with Abraham! The law, then, doesn’t supersede the promise since the royal proclamation was given before the law. If that were the case, it would have nullified what God said to Abraham. We receive all the promises because of the Promised One—not because we keep the law!
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