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The Superiority of God's Promise, Part 3

July 18, 2010 Pastor: John Fonville Series: Galatians

Scripture: Galatians 3:15–3:18

The Superiority of God’s Promise

Part 3


Text: Galatians 3:15-18


July 18, 2010




I.       The Promise is Permanent. v. 15


II.       The Promise is Grounded in Christ. v. 16




III.       The promise is Antecedent to the Law. v. 17


9 Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. 10 How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. 11 He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well…” (Romans 4:9-11).


Why does Paul stress the seniority of the Abrahamic Covenant over against the Mosaic Covenant?


A.       To uphold the character of God.


“If the Law abolishes the promise, then it follows that by our works we make God a liar and make His promise invalid. For if the Law justifies, it liberates from sin and death, and, consequently, so do our works and human powers that keep the Law; then the promise to Abraham becomes invalid and altogether useless. Then it follows that God is a liar and a babbler. For if one who promises does not want to perform what he has promised but wants to make it invalid, what does this mean but that he is a liar and babbler,” (Luther’s Works, vol. 26, p. 299).


“How dare we attribute to God the kind of chicanery we do not even tolerate among sinful human beings,” (Timothy George, Galatians, pp. 248-249).


B.       To guard the doctrine of justification through faith alone.


“…it was intentional that He preceded the Law with the promises; for if He had wanted us to be justified by the Law, He would have given it four hundred and thirty years before the promise or certainly with the promise. But now He is completely silent about the Law at first; He establishes it finally after four hundred and thirty years. Meanwhile, for that entire time, He speaks about promises. Therefore, the blessing and the gift of righteousness came before the Law, through the promise. And therefore the promise is superior to the Law. Thus the Law does not abrogate the promise,” (Luther’s Works, vol. 26, p. 300).


IV.       The promise is the basis of the Inheritance. v. 18


God accepts us on the basis of promise not performance. 


“…the promise and the Law are as far apart from each other as heaven and earth. For the Law demands: “Do This!” The promise grants: “Accept this!” Therefore Paul concludes as follows: The blessing is given on the basis of the promise; therefore it is not given on the basis of the Law. . .Therefore, he who has the Law does not have enough, for he does not yet have the blessing and so remains under the curse. Hence the Law cannot justify, because the blessing has not been added to it…This is an argument from contraries: The inheritance is given on the basis of the promise; therefore it is not on the basis of the Law,” (Luther’s Works, vol. 26, p. 303).




“Salvation in Christ does not rest on a law that we inevitably break; it rests on a promise that God cannot break…Salvation in Christ is not a commercial transaction. My relationship with God is not based on my ability to make a deal or strike a bargain. The Christian life is not a quid pro quo, so that if I do what God wants, then God will do what I want. God simply does not operate this way. Instead, my relationship with God is based entirely on believing His gracious promise,” (Phil Ryken, Galatians, p. 128).


© John Fonville

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