COMMENTARY ON GALATIANS
LESSON NUMBER 33
Gal 3:29 "And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." (Gal 3:29)
THEN YE ARE ABRAHAM'S SEED AND HEIRS
The manner in which the epistle to the Galatian churches is written suggests they were mostly Gentiles (Gal 2:2,8; 3:14,28). Luke's report of Paul preaching in the region of Galatia mentions three cities: Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe. It is written that in Iconium a great number of Jews and some Greeks believed (Acts 14:1). There were "brethren" in Lystra and Derbe, but no report is given of Paul preaching in one of their synagogues. Yet Paul is now speaking extensively about Abraham who, according to the flesh, was the father of the Jews. He also makes strong appeals to the Law being a schoolmaster, to bring us to Christ (Gal 3:24-25). He also clearly distinguishes the Law from the Gospel (Gal 2:16,19,21; 3:2,5,10-13,17-19, 21,23-24; 4:4-5,21; 5:3,14,19; 6:13).
This manner of teaching is most arresting. Although a considerable number of the Galatians were Gentiles by nature, yet they were taught the purpose of the Law, and the distinction of being justified by Law versus by grace. The same may be said of the brethren in Rome (Rom 2-4), Corinth (1 Cor 7:39; 9:8-9; 14:21,34; 15:56, Ephesus (Eph 2:15), Philippi (Phil 3:9), and Colossae (Col 2:14). This confirms that the effective presentation of the Gospel requires some reasonable presentation of the Law, and of the distinctiveness of the Gospel when compared with it. The need for a Savior cannot be correctly established independently of the Law. In addition to this, there have always been a plethora of teachers promoting Law as a means to righteousness. This also requires that a clear distinction of appropriating righteousness by the Law, and appropriating it by faith is made. There is almost a total lack of this kind of approach in the contemporary church. This is one of the factors that has contributed to the rise of erroneous gospels and fictitious Christs. God is not been represented as requiring righteousness in people, but is rather depicted as being tolerant of an unrighteous condition. Paul is addressing this issue in his characteristically insightful manner. In spite of this, there are comparatively few "church" people who discern this matter in the book of Galatians. An even more critical matter is the fact that few people are even interested in perceiving these distinctions. The seriousness of the issue is confirmed by the way Paul states our text, referring to being "Christ's" as being "Abraham's seed."
IF YE BE CHRIST'S
Gal 3:29a "And if ye be Christ's . . ." Other versions read, "if you belong to Christ," NASB "If you are the Messiah's," MRD "if ye are of Christ," YLT and "And if you belong to Christ [are in Him Who is Abraham's Seed]." AMPLIFIED
And what does it mean to "be Christ's," or "belong to Christ?" In view of what is affirmed of these people, it is critical that we have a good understanding of the statement. This cannot be a mere formal identity, or one that is primarily outward. There are multitudes of people who are identified with Abraham after the flesh, yet are not his in the promissory sense of the word. It is even said of fleshly Israel, "they are not all Israel, which are of Israel" (Rom 9:8). I will here deal with a few of the aspects of belonging to Christ.
GIVEN TO CHRIST. First, these are the children who have been given to Christ by God. The gift was facilitated by drawing them to Christ. Therefore Jesus said, "All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me; and him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out" (John 6:37). He then added, "No man can come to Me, except the Father which hath sent Me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day" (John 6:44). He then added, "But there are some of you that believe not . . . Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto Me, except it were given unto him of My Father" (John 6:64-65). This is a wonderful aspect of salvation that prohibits all human boasting.
In the process of bringing the sons to glory, Jesus says of them, ""My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father's hand." NKJV (John 10:29). On the night of His betrayal, He referred to His followers as those God had given to Him (John 17:6-12). In the end, the glorified Christ will say of the body of the redeemed, "Behold I and the children which God hath given Me" (Heb 2:13). The apostles' doctrine makes a point of the fact that Christ received those given to Him. "Christ also received us to the glory of God" (Rom 15:7). That is a most glorious circumstance.
PURCHASED, OR BOUGHT. We belong to Christ because He has bought us. As it is written, "For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's" (1 Cor 6:20). And again, "Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men" (1 Cor 7:23). The entire church is described as having been "purchased with His own blood" (Acts 20:28). Therefore we belong to Christ because He has paid a staggering price for us. It is a strictly legal transaction, being honored in heaven. This is such a firm foundation that a Divine assessment is made in view of it. There is every reason to possess the strong confidence that is derived from the spiritual knowledge of this fact. It is totally unreasonable to be a slave of the Law when we have been freed by a God-honored purchase.
ADDED TO THE LORD. It is said of the effects of believing and obeying the Gospel, "and believers were the more added to the Lord" (Acts 5:14). Some versions read, "added to their number." However, most, if not all, Greek manuscripts read "Lord" (kuri,w|), not "number." This is another way of saying they were "set" in the body, "as it hath pleased Him" (1 Cor 12:18), therefore belonging to Him. In a secondary sense "added to the Lord" refers to becoming a part of His family, or household. In that sense also, they belong to Him.
JOINED TO THE LORD. It is said of those in Christ, "But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit" (1 Cor 6:17). The closest of all earthly relationships is that of a husband to his wife. They become "one flesh" (Gen 2:24; Eph 5:31). However, here is a transcendent association that soars far beyond the flesh: "one spirit." That involves having His mind, and being conformed to His image. Such people belong to Christ.
CALLED INTO FELLOWSHIP WITH CHRIST. Being called into fellowship with Christ is involved with belonging to Him. He has not been called into our fellowship, we have been called into His. As it is written, "God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord" (1 Cor 1:9). Belonging to Christ involves infinitely more than Him being available to us. He includes the blessedness of being "taught by Him" (Eph 4:21).
BETROTHED TO CHRIST. We cannot overlook belonging to Christ by means of betrothal - the prospect of being His "wife." That glorious expectation involves making ourselves ready for the consummation of the betrothal (Rev 19:7). In this respect, belonging to Him requires remaining a "chaste virgin," not prostituting our affection to others (2 Cor 11:2-3).
A DISCIPLE OF CHRIST. Finally, belonging to Christ describes the association of a disciple to his Master. This requires forsaking all (Lk 14:33), denying self and taking up our cross (Lk 9:23), and placing all other personalities into a subordinate position (Lk 14:26).
Belonging to Christ is not a mere technicality. If the association is real, it will be attended with certain undeniable evidences. Let it be clear that our text assumes all of the things I have just mentioned, and more. No person has the right to claim identity with Jesus Christ who lacks the evidence thereof. If the person does, in fact, belong to Christ, then what is now affirmed applies to them without any equivocation whatever.
THEN ARE YE ABRAHAM'S SEED
3:29b " . . . then are ye Abraham's seed . . ." Other versions read, "Abraham's offspring," NASB "seed of Abraham," CJB "Abraham's descendants," GWN "Abraham's descendant," NAB "That progeny of Abraham," NJB "the true children of Abraham," NLT "true descendants of Abraham," LIVING "real descendants of Abraham," WILLIAMS "part of Abraham's family," CEV and "Abraham's famous 'descendant.'" MESSAGE
This text is a classic example of the sloppy manner in which men have often handled the translation of Scripture. Two completely different ideas are presented by the above versions, which are examples of all other versions as well. First, most versions do use the singular form of the word: "seed," "offspring," and "descendant." However, a number of versions employ the plural form of the word: "descendants," "progeny," "children," and "family."
The word translated "seed" is in the singular form (spe,rma), and is to be so considered. The next clause in this verse gives a plural view, but here the point is the singularity of the seed, not a plurality of seed. This is fully supported by the doctrine of the apostles, and is a most marvelous thing to consider.
THE BODY OF CHRIST. The term "body of Christ" is intended to denote the association we have with Him. His body is a part of Himself, just as surely as Eve was a part of Adam himself. Christ Jesus is not to be considered independently of His body, and His body cannot be perceived as being thoroughly distinct from Him. In a very precise definition the Scriptures affirm of Christ, "And He is the Head of the body, the church" (Col 1:18). That is, the church is not a body of believers, but is Christ's own body - spiritual body. In a micro-expression it is written, "So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another" (Rom 12:5). In First Corinthians, Paul states the case even more succinctly. "For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ" (1 Cor 12:12).
OF HIS FLESH AND OF HIS BONE. In elaborating on the body of Christ, Paul accents our direct association with Him, so that, in the covenantal sense, we are not to be considered independently of Him. "For we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones" (Eph 5:30). This is precisely the reason for the requirement to forsake all in order to follow Christ. Paul continues his reasoning: "For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church" (Eph 5:31-32). Paul was not delineating the various aspects of married life, but the intricacies of spiritual life, or being joined to the Lord.
BAPTIZED INTO CHRIST. Our baptism was wrapped in a visible display, but the effective baptism took place behind the scenes of that time when we "obeyed from the heart the form of the doctrine" (Rom 6:17). It is a transgression of enormous magnitude to omit this in teaching the necessity of baptism. Thus we read, "For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ" (Gal 3:27). Romans 6:3 states that we were "baptized into Jesus Christ," thereby becoming identified with Him. This association is so precise that God does not consider Jesus Christ His Son without simultaneously considering those who are in Him! In heaven, the Son of God and the sons of God are "one," even though they are not often so considered upon the earth. That failure reveals the absence of the mind of Christ.
ONE SPIRIT WITH CHRIST. As already stated, this is the closest and most precise of all unions - being "one spirit" with the Lord (1 Cor 6:17). That means that the same life is found in both the Savior and the saved. The same affection and preferences are resident in the Head and His body. The same manner of thought is entertained as well. In all of these, there are differing measures in Christ's body - those who "are Christ's." But the substance is the same.
MADE ONE WITH HIM. In a grand transaction of which Deity alone is capable, those in Christ have been made "one" with Him. In His Gethsemane prayer, Jesus referred to this marvelous oneness. "That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in us . . . And the glory which thou gavest Me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one" (John 17:21-23). This condition is the implication that is implicit in belonging to Christ.
THINGS ARE DONE OR NOT DONE UNTO HIM. The oneness of the body with the Head, and the children with the Divine Householder is so close, that reactions to the children are defined as reactions to Christ Himself. "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me" (Matt 25:40), and "Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to Me" (Matt 25:45). That has staggering implications that will, if perceived, contribute to the maturity of sobriety.
In Jesus Christ the saying is brought to its fulfillment, "For thus saith the LORD of hosts . . . he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of His eye" (Zech 2:8).There is a sense in which "eternal judgment" will be determined by how the sons of God were treated.
HEIRS ACCORDING TO THE PROMISE
3:29c " . . . and heirs according to the promise." Other versions read, "heirs according to promise," NASB "the heritage by the right of God's undertaking given to Abraham," BBE "heirs, as God promised," GWN "his heirs, and God's promise to Abraham belongs to you," NLT "heirs by promise," TNT "his heirs, and God's promise to Abraham belongs to you," LIVING "You receive all of God's blessings because of the promise," IE " heirs in fulfilment of the promise," WEYMOUTH and "[spiritual] heirs according to promise." AMPLIFIED
The "promise" of reference is the one given to Abraham, not the ones pronounced under the Law. Those who insist on declaring that the promises attached to the Law, or the First Covenant are the ones realized in Christ Jesus only betray their ignorance. Deuteronomy 28:1-14 are nowhere declared to be applicable to the body of Christ, for they were contingent upon perfect and consistent obedience to the Law, and had nothing whatsoever to do with faith (Gal 3:12). I realize this kind of preaching has made a lot of people rich, and has permitted the development of impressive religious empires. But they have all been founded on a lie.
The promise given to Abraham is equated with the New Covenant and the message through which it was implemented - the Gospel of Christ. Thus it is written that "the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed" (Gal 3:8). Therefore, the promise boiled down to its essence was justification by faith. The New Covenant was a fuller development of the promise of blessing that was given to the patriarch.
The initial provisions of the covenant are identified as (1) - Putting God's laws into the minds of the people, thereby causing them to think of them in a pleasing and satisfying manner. (2) - Writing His laws upon their hearts, thus giving them an affection and preference for them. (3) - God would be perceived as their God. (4) - God would recognize them as His people. (5) - All of the people would know the Lord. (6) - God would be merciful to their unrighteousness. (7) - God would remember their sins and iniquities "no more" (Heb 8:10-12).
All of this, together with the revealed implications resident in that covenant, belong to those who are in Christ Jesus. They are a breakdown of "the promise."
HEIRS. There is a certain heirship associated with those who are in Christ, and are identified as "Abraham's seed" [singular]. The covenant specified above begins to take place in this world, and will be brought to full maturity in the world to come. Being "heirs" has to do with the world to come. This is worthy of some elaboration. It will at once be seen as another subject with which the nominal church is almost totally unfamiliar.
REIGN WITH HIM. Being "Abraham's seed" has to do with ultimately reigning with Christ. We are introduced to the reign here in this world, being given the blessing of reigning in life by Christ Jesus (Rom 5:17). We are given grace to bring our body into subjection (1 Cor 9:27), effectively resist the devil (James 4:7), and cast down bastions of thought (2 Cor 10:4-5). But that is only the beginning. Our names are "written in heaven," and there, if we suffer with Jesus here, we will "reign with Him" in the glory (2 Tim 2:12). We will judge both the world and angels (2 Cor 6:2-3), and even "inherit the earth" (Psa 37: 11; Matt 5:5).
WE WILL SIT WITH HIM IN HIS THRONE. Speaking even more precisely of what is involved in being "heirs according to the promise," Jesus said "to the churches," "To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with Me in My throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with My Father in His throne. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches" (Rev 3:21-22). That is part and parcel of being "Abraham's seed" - of being made one with Christ, and being of His flesh and of His bones. It is WHY, according to God's own purpose and predestination, we are being conformed to the image of Christ (Rom 8:29). Eventually, anything and everything that is unlike Jesus will be eliminated from us - including our present bodies. Then we will be able to sit with Him in His throne in a kind of perfect blend or harmony.
THE KINGDOM WILL BE GIVEN TO US. This is a most arresting consideration, but it is something that has been revealed. The righteous shall "inherit the Kingdom of God" (Matt 25:34; 1 Cor 6:9; Gal 5:21). It was revealed to Daniel that there is an appointed time when "the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High" (Dan 7:27,18,22). He told His disciples, "it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom" (Luke 12:32). That is involved in being an heir. It is grievous to consider how very little is being said of these things today - an era which is little more than a failed problem-solving age. Those in Christ are being robbed!
WE WILL BE JOINT HEIRS WITH CHRIST. This whole matter can be summarized in the wonderful promise, "And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together" (Rom 8:17). This is what the Galatians had forfeited by being "removed from Him that" had called them "into the grace of Christ" (Gal 1:6). How innocent can a condition like that really be?