“This is what I mean; the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void.” (Gal. 3:17)
God instituted his covenant with Abraham and his descendants 430 years before He gave the Israelites the Law of Moses. God intended for His covenant with Abraham to be an everlasting one and gave the law as a stop gap until the Messiah should come. Once the Messiah came the law was canceled and the Abrahamic covenant was back at the forefront.
The covenant of faith was always at the background of God’s interaction with mankind. The lack of faith (faith which obeys) is what caused Adam and Eve to lose access to the tree of life. So the book of Hebrews gives a long list of people from every time period who made the honor roll of faith. “By faith” is the key word for all of those God-pleasing people. Those who come to God must have faith in Him in order to be pleasing to Him. Not those who followed the Law and tried to keep all its rules and regulations, but those who had faith that moved them to obey God. Obedient faith is the key to Abraham’s righteousness and it is the key to ours as well.
The Law had its purpose as Paul will show but that purpose was not to void the promise God made to Abraham. No, the Law had a different purpose and this point is very important, the Law was a temporary measure. The significance of the 430 years is given to show that the promise was in effect for a long time before the Law was given. The Law was in that sense, 430 years too late to change the promise of God.
Genesis 12 describes the covenant God made with Abraham and how it was made. One of the significant things about this covenant is that it was made solely by God. Usually, two parties were involved but when God makes a covenant He stipulates all the conditions. Abraham did not contribute anything, God did it all. The covenant was God’s and thus the promises of the covenant were also God’s. His intention for the Law was not to annul the promise but to act as an instructor that would help lead the way to the Messiah, the key to the promises.
This verse is one of the reasons we can speak of the Law as being a parenthetical statement in the plan of God. It was not the saving part and Paul will certainly point that out. The saving part was the obedient faith of those who found favor. The Law had a definite purpose and we mustn’t forget that and Paul will explain that purpose two verses down. There are two possibilities and they are that we receive God’s blessings by the Law or by the promise. That’s why Paul brings in Abraham and the talk of offspring. He wants the answer to the question of possibilities to be perfectly clear.
Task for Today: The Law was not bad, it was ineffective as far as bringing about the inheritance. Today you can claim the inheritance if you are in Christ Jesus because He is the answer to the question Paul is raising. Have faith in Jesus. Name Him as Lord. Do not try to keep the law or rules or regulations but keep the faith. Trust Jesus to save you and not your own deeds. Remember that you are a sinner and lost because of sin and nothing you can do will change that except to have faith. That faith will lead you to salvation in Christ.