23/08/20 – Galatians 3:15-22


Galatians 3:15Brethren, I speak after the manner of men; Though [it be] but a man’s covenant, yet [if it be] confirmed, no man disannulleth, or addeth thereto.


speaklego (say; speak; affirm; teach; exhort; advise; command; point out with words; intend; mean to say; call by name; call; name; speak out; speak of; mention)


after the manner of – or “according to” (kata) Translated “according to” 107 times out of 480 occurrences. Paul is using an example that might be commonly used in the affairs of men.


Though (it be) butnevertheless; yet


yet (if it be) confirmedkuroo (to make valid; confirm publicly or solemnly; ratify)


disannullethatheteo (do away with; set aside; disregard; nullify; make void; frustrate; reject; refuse; to slight)

Translated “will bring to nothing” in 1 Corinthians 1:19For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. and “do … frustrate” in Galatians 2:21I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness [come] by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.


A covenant was an agreement between two (can be more) people or parties. Once it was signed and sealed, it could not be altered without the agreement of both parties concerned. Even then it might not be considered fully legal (confirmed; ratified) unless certain conditions be fulfilled first. Once it was signed, sealed, and all conditions met (confirmed), then it could not be added to nor have any clauses removed. For example, an agreement to buy a product may be made, with conditions such as delivery of the goods and payment details to be carried out as confirmation before the covenant is settled.


A last will and testament is a type of covenant. Once it is properly signed, it may not be altered in any way. No new clauses may be added, nor any clauses removed. However, it is still not a fully operational legal document until one final condition is fulfilled: the death of the testator. In the OT God’s covenant with Israel required to sacrifice of animals to confirm it. However, the covenant above is not of this type.


God commanded Israel to neither add to nor take away from His word.

Deuteronomy 4:2Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish [ought] from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.


The covenant Paul is discussing is “that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” (Galatians 3:14) Salvation is a covenant between God and man. Each party must bring the required conditions to confirm the covenant. God promises that anyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved, and man promises to make his life subject to God’s authority. When man genuinely prays for salvation God answers His commitment immediately. However, it still requires that man subject his life to God’s authority (see Romans 12:1) to ratify his side of the covenant. This doesn’t necessarily happen at once.


Basically Paul is saying that God will never permit to be annulled or altered any covenant for salvation that He makes with anyone on the basis of faith in Christ, as long as that covenant is confirmed.


Far too many people today accept God’s promised salvation with no care given to their commitment to God. Too many want the benefits of salvation yet do not want to give up yet their enjoyments of the world they were supposed to have left behind. The Bible makes it clear that we must burn our worldly bridges behind us. If we don’t, then we will be tempted to return to the world without fully committing ourselves to God. Thus, the covenant may not have been confirmed and may not be legally binding upon God. Unless a person commits his life to God, takes up his cross and forsakes the world behind him, he cannot be Christ’s disciple (Luke 14:27; 33), nor will Christ consider him worthy (Matthew 10:38). However, once the covenant is properly confirmed, it will never be annulled, nor extra clauses added to it.


Galatians 3:16Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.


This relates to Genesis 13:15For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever. (also see Genesis 17:8)

seed’ is often translated “descendants” yet the original is masculine singular case, possibly indicating one male descendant (although it may also be seen as a collective noun).

Here Paul makes it clear that “seed” in the OT passage is definitely singular, not plural, not many but “as of one”.


The word “seed” could refer to Abraham’s descendants collectively. The original promises to Abraham may have initially been for Abraham’s descendants in general: Israel. Here Paul picks out just one of Abraham’s descendants, Christ, who, on His own, is the “seed’ of Abraham to whom the promises were made. Paul emphasises that “seed” here must be read as one only of his descendants: Christ.


seed” in the following is generally taken to refer ultimately to Christ defeating satan.

Genesis 3:15And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. (where “seed” in both cases is masculine singular.


Benson says: And in thy seed, he argues that the seed in which the nations of the earth should be blessed, is not Abraham’s seed in general, but one of his seed in particular, namely, Christ; who, by dying for all nations, hath delivered them from the curse of the law, that the blessing of justification by faith might come on believers of all nations, through Christ, as was promised to Abraham and to Christ.


Of course, “seed” here may still be a collective noun even when used of Christ. The NT does teach that many will be in Christ; thus Christ may represent all those who are part of His body, the Church.

Colossians 3:3For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.

1 Corinthians 12:14For the body is not one member, but many.


Some commentaries (such as Pulpit) interpret this as firstly selecting the correct line of descent (that is, not Hagar’s son Ishmael but Isaac, and so on) and then through to Christ. This may be so, noting what he said is Galatians 4:21-31. However, it doesn’t change the fact that the ultimate “seed” is Christ.


Galatians 3:17And this I say, [that] the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect.


that was confirmed beforeprokyroo (to sanction, ratify, or establish beforehand) That is, the covenant was confirmed by God beforehand as regards the law.


disannulakyroo (render void; deprive of force and authority) from the negative of kyroo which is translated “yet (if it be) confirmed” in Vs 15 above.

“disannul” means to annul or cancel. As verbs the difference between disannul and annul is that disannul is to annul, do away with; to cancel while annul is to formally revoke the validity of. (Wiki)

“annul” means to make or declare void or null, or invalidate an agreement.


of none effectkatargeo (to render idle; unemployed; inactive; inoperative; cause to cease; put an end to; annul; abolish)


God ratified His covenant with Abraham with sacrifices as follows:

Genesis 15:8-118And he said, Lord God, whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it? 9And he said unto him, Take me an heifer of three years old, and a she goat of three years old, and a ram of three years old, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon. 10And he took unto him all these, and divided them in the midst, and laid each piece one against another: but the birds divided he not. 11And when the fowls came down upon the carcases, Abram drove them away.


Once it was ratified (confirmed), it could never be disannulled. Even the law, which it says was 430 years after the covenant was confirmed, could not disannul it. That is, the covenant, by reason of being established first, could not be overruled by the law. Thus the law absolutely cannot interfere in any way with the promise of God through Abraham.


In fact, this may be the key verse here, that the covenant even overrules the law of Moses, something the Jews would have denied. The Jews didn’t actually think that the law did away with the covenant, but it is clear that they considered the law (especially circumcision in this case) to be so necessary that to not be circumcised would be to deny the gospel itself. They apparently considered that the law at least enhanced the effectiveness of the covenant, thus making it better. Ultimately, by the time of the pharisees, the law became the assessment of the covenant, in the same way that works become the assessment of salvation in SDA doctrines.


The Jewish Christians clearly accepted the gospel as true, but they saw the assessment of that gospel in whether or not the person was circumcised. It’s a bit like the SDAs teaching the gospel but saying that if you worship on a day other than the sabbath, then you just cannot be saved! Or catholics teaching the gospel but also requiring that you take mass and attend confession in order to be declared saved.


Today many accept the Bible as being God’s word as the truth, yet assess Christians via the enlightened teachings of well-known religious leaders, mystics and church foundation leaders. (These include Smith, Calvin, White, Russell, Augustine etc).


“And this I say (This is my conclusion) that the covenant which was confirmed beforehand (with respect to the law) cannot be disannulled by the law which came 430 years later and therefore the law cannot render the covenant inoperable.”


The Jews, therefore, had no right to demand circumcision according to the law because the covenant didn’t require it and the law couldn’t argue with that!


which was four hundred and thirty years after – Note that there is some confusion over this 430 years, for if they dwelt in Egypt for 430 years (Exodus 12:40), after which the law was given to them, then how do we account for the time from Abraham now to the start of their time in Egypt? If we assume that the law was given 430 years after the covenant was confirmed, and if the covenant were confirmed by sacrifice in Genesis 15:8-11, then they didn't dwell in Egypt for 430 years!

Exodus 12:40 (KJV) - Now the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, [was] four hundred and thirty years.

while the LXX (Septuagint) says “And the sojourning of the children of Israel, while they sojourned in the land of Egypt and the land of Chanaan, [was] four hundred and thirty years.

From the time of this covenant until their start in Egypt adds up to around 215 years, leaving another 215 years in Egypt before the Exodus, with the law following soon after that.


Galatians 3:18For if the inheritance [be] of the law, [it is] no more of promise: but God gave [it] to Abraham by promise.


“For if the inheritance (of the promise) were by the law, then it is no longer a promise but a requirement of the law. Yet God gave this inheritance to Abraham by means of a promise.” Thus, the law demands obedience; a promise requires a choice.

Hebrews 11:8-10; 17-198By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. 9By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as [in] a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: 10For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker [is] God.

17By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten [son], 18Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: 19Accounting that God [was] able to raise [him] up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.


And God had already planned back in Abraham’s day that many nations (thus including Gentiles) would be the children of Abraham.

Romans 4:17-1817(As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, [even] God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were. 18Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations; according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be.


Galatians 3:19Wherefore then [serveth] the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come (erchomai) to whom the promise was made; [and it was] ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.


mediatormesites (one who intervenes between two in order to make or restore peace and friendship, or for ratifying a covenant; arbitrator) From mesos (middle; the midst; in the midst of; amongst) Used here and in Vs 20 below, plus 3 times in Hebrews and once in 1 Timothy. For more on the “mediator” here, see below.


was addedprostithemi (to put to; to add; to join to; to gather with; to be gathered to your fathers in death)


the handcheir (by the help or agency of anyone; by means of anyone; figuratively applied to God symbolising his might, activity, power)


ordaineddiatasso (command; appoint; ordain; prescribe; give order) From dia (by; through) and tasso (to assign; appoint; ordain; order; to appoint on one’s own responsibility or authority)

tasso is translated “ordained” in Romans 13:1-21Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained (tasso) of God. 2Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance (diatage) of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.

[where “ordinance” is diatage (a noun form of diatasso)]

Thus “ordained” (diatasso) has to be an order given by reason of authority.

Therefore man can resist God’s ordinance; and likewise may resist the Holy Spirit.

Acts 7:51Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers [did], so [do] ye.

How can people resist God if they have no free will to do so?


So why bother having a law when the promise is already in place? If the covenant is all that is needed, then doesn’t that mean that the law is superfluous?

The law was added because of transgressions; it defined and identified transgressions and provided penalties for offences against the law. The law was there to reveal the transgression more clearly so that sin could be identified more easily. There could be little doubt over what was right or wrong once the law was applied. Ignorance of the law was a thing of the past.


The law defined the holiness of God; His people were to be holy as He is holy (Leviticus 19:2). The law was effectively a measure of man’s holiness. Perfection was a standard that could never be achieved, for God is perfectly holy. Just one transgression meant that man could never ever achieve holiness. Thus man could only transgress. All the law did, therefore, was to reveal man’s sinfulness and condemn man for his transgressions against God.


The seed here is Christ their Messiah. This verse is discussing the work of the law until Christ the “seed” should come.


ordained by angels – Apparently angels were given the task of proclaiming God’s judgments. diatasso can mean to give orders.

Hebrews 2:2-32For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward; 3How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard [him];

Also Acts 7:53Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept [it].


in the hand of a mediator – A mediator brings peace between two opposing parties. The “seed” is Christ who was yet to come when the law was given to the Hebrews.

Therefore the mediator here would have to be Moses who stood between God and man. Moses said to the Hebrews “I stood between the Lord and you at that time, to shew you the word of the Lord: for ye were afraid by reason of the fire, and went not up into the mount” (Deuteronomy 5:5)


Also note Exodus 32:9-11; 31-329And the Lord said unto Moses, I have seen this people, and, behold, it [is] a stiffnecked people: 10Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them: and I will make of thee a great nation. 11And Moses besought the Lord his God, and said, Lord, why doth thy wrath wax hot against thy people, which thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power, and with a mighty hand?

31And Moses returned unto the Lord, and said, Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold. 32Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin —; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written.


Yet in this context Christ is also the mediator of the new covenant (see Vs 20 below).

He is our peace who has broken down the wall dividing us from God.

Ephesians 2:14-1714For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition [between us]; 15Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, [even] the law of commandments [contained] in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, [so] making peace; 16And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: 17And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.


Thus, if Moses is the mediator here, then he would be a type of Christ who was to be the mediator of the new covenant.


Galatians 3:20Now a mediator is not [a mediator] of one, but God is one.


A mediator normally arbitrates between two parties, but God is one only. A mediator is there to establish peace, in this case between God and man. But it is not man that requires propitiating but God Himself.

“to propitiate” is to gain or regain the goodwill or favour of; appease. God was rightfully wrathful against man’s transgressions against His perfect holiness. According to the law, sin must be paid for with the death of the transgressor. Only the penalty of death could propitiate God for man’s sins (Romans 6:23).


Christ became the propitiation for our sins to satisfy the holy requirements of God; thus Christ became mediator for the Father. Effectively Christ became us (took our place) in order to reconcile Himself (and therefore us) to God. The mediator (who is Christ here) therefore also fulfills the requirements for peace on our behalf. And God is the party who must be appeased, not man whose place is taken by the mediator. And it is the mediator who appeases God.


Moses might have been considered the mediator of the OT covenant between God and man. Man had a responsibility to obey the law in order to satisfy God’s requirements for life. If man obeyed the law, then God would grant him life. But it was not possible for man to obey the law.


So God, under the new covenant, has now promised salvation by faith to all who call upon the name of the Lord, and as such man no longer has works to do to satisfy God. Under the law man is required to be fully obedient or die, yet under the promise man is only required to believe by faith in Christ who takes his place.

(In fact, it was always salvation by faith, but the law was there until the new covenant superseded it. The law was always meant to demonstrate the inability of man to be obedient to the law. Thus Abraham believed God and his faith was accounted for righteousness – Galatians 3:6.)


The law makes demands on both parties; yet a promise makes demands only on the one who promises. It is not of works lest any man should boast (Ephesians 2:8-9). We must make peace with the one who promises, yet we cannot do that. Only Christ may make peace on our behalf with God, and then offer that reconciliation as a gift to us by the promise of God.


The better mediator of the new covenant is Christ.

Hebrews 8:6But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises.


Moses mediated between 2 parties. But Christ is mediator of the promise of God, and a promise needs no 2nd party to ratify it, for God may promise absolutely without any reference to any other. Such a promise is not a contract and therefore does not require mediation between 2 parties.  

1 Timothy 2:5For [there is] one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;

Hebrews 9:15And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions [that were] under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.

That makes Christ our advocate in court before God (1 John 2:1), pleading peace on our behalf through His sacrifice on the cross.


Galatians 3:21[Is] the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law.


against – or “contrary to”


have given lifezoopoieo (to produce alive; begat or bear living young; cause to live; make alive; give life; restore to life; give increase of life; of seeds: germination)

Note Ephesians 2:5Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) where “hath quickened us together” is syzoopoieo (to make one alive together with another)


God forbid!me (no; not lest) and ginomai (become; come into existence; happen; come to pass) Thus “Let it not happen!” or “Let it not come to pass!”

Let not this be! Impossible!


verilyontos (truly; in reality; in point of fact as opposed to what is pretended, false, fictitious or conjectural; that which is indeed)

This word is translated “verily” only once out of 10 times; translated “indeed” 6 times, “certainly” 1 time and “of a truth” 1 time. It is translated “clean” in 2 Peter 2:18For when they speak great swelling [words] of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, [through much] wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error.

In the NT “verily” is mostly translated from “amen” (101 times) and “men” (14 times).


So, does this mean that the law is contrary to the promises of God? Does the law undermine God’s promises? Absolutely not! For if it were possible for any law to exist that could have ensured life, then truly righteousness could have come by the law. But there is a problem with any law in that a law can only exist to reveal the breaking of that law. The very nature of a law is to discover infringements and to apply a penalty for such. Even today the laws we live by really only govern by control. A law assumes a penalty for infringements, and thus a law is really only effective if it controls people’s behaviour by use of penalties. The law tends to avoid (or even ignore) those who are obedient!


Therefore, says Paul, by its very nature, the law of Moses couldn’t give life, but only declare those who broke it ineligible for life. The law defined our sin, but was unable to redeem it. The law condemned but couldn't buy us back again.

That the law cannot give life does not automatically render it in opposition to or contrary to the promises of God. In fact, the law declares all to be sinful (Vs 22 below), thereby causing all who desire life to gain it through faith in Jesus Christ. That is, the law’s purpose is not to oppose the promises of God but to point sinful man toward faith in Christ. (Galatians 3:23-25)


Galatians 3:22But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.


hath concludedsygkleio (to shut up together; enclose; of a shoal of fishes in a net; to shut up or in on all sides; shut up completely) From syn (many parts making one whole) and kleio (shut; shut up; cause heavens to withhold rain; obstruct the entrance into the kingdom of heaven)

This is a synthesis word; many parts or individuals acting together as one. Thus all together in sin.

The same word is used in Romans 11:32 (for the same phrase "hath concluded").


Thus Galatians 3:22 refers to “all” here closed up together in the one basket or net. All are “in the same boat”. Not one may be declared unsinful.

Romans 3:23-2423For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; 24Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:


Following on from Vs 21 above, the law fulfills its purpose by declaring all mankind to be as one under condemnation of sin in order that the promise of God in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe by faith rather than by works.

Romans 4:4-54Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. 5But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.


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