“Now 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.”
How many churches there were in Galatia, we are not informed, nor is it necessary for us to know, whether many or few, they were all addressed by the faithful and divinely inspired apostle of our Lord Jesus Christ. The peculiar circumstances which called for the admonitions, reproofs and corrections in righteousness, with which this epistle abounds, are disclosed by the apostle, who used great plainness of speech in this his labor of love. Paul marveled to find these Galatians, before whose eyes Jesus Christ had been evidently set forth crucified, so soon moved from him who had called them into the grace of Christ, unto another gospel; which is not another; but there were some who troubled them, and who would pervert the gospel of Christ. These troublers of the churches were detected by the holy apostle of our Lord, and their base designs to pervert the gospel of our blessed Redeemer, are discovered and exposed, and the record of the same placed as a beacon upon the hill of Zion, for an everlasting warning to the saints of God, in all succeeding ages of their militant state, to beware of those workmongrel legalists, who, under pretense of setting up a higher standard of morality and religion, than that which was taught by Christ and his apostles, insinuate themselves into the confidence of the saints, until they find opportunity to beguile unstable souls. It is probable that in every age of the gospel church, from Pentecost to the present day, some portions of the church have been infested with the same description of troublers, under a variety of names, forms and pretenses, but whose grand design has been to so pervert the gospel of Christ as to represent it unsafe to trust alone for justification before God in the blood and righteousness of the Son of God, without some work of the creature to give efficiency to the Savior’s blood, and to entitle us to the saving benefits of his righteousness: “Except ye be circumcised and keep the law of Moses,” say they, “ye cannot be saved.” This was the language of Judaizing teachers at Antioch, at Galatia, and such, in substance, is the doctrine of all will-worshipers, and gospel perverters, down to the present hour. The same arguments used by the inspired Paul, in this epistle, for the refutation of the doctrines of those who troubled the Galatian saints, are equally in point at this day, in resisting the strong current of arminianism which has only waxed more strong, artful and sly, as it has progressed in years.
Having himself been brought up a pharisee, in the Jews’ religion, this apostle to the Gentiles was eminently qualified to treat upon the subject of the old covenant, and the whole Jewish economy; but by the immediate inspiration of the Holy Ghost, his arguments, deductions and conclusions, are free from all the imperfections of human judgment, infallible, beyond all contradiction. These simple-hearted Gentile converts, who knew that circumcision was enjoined upon the carnal seed of Abraham, by the old covenant, and that the sons of Jacob were required by the Sinai covenant to keep the law of Moses, were easily ensnared by designing and artful Judaizers, to drink in the plausible but intoxicating and bewitching doctrines which they taught, and probably thought that even if the gospel was alone sufficient to save them, as a prudential measure, they would be still more safe, if in addition to justification by Christ, they could avail themselves of a law-righteousness to fall back upon in case of necessity, and it could do them no harm. If such were their thoughts, how surprised and mortified must they have been to hear the apostle affirm that this notion was a complete perversion of the gospel of Christ; that if they were circumcised they became debtors to do the whole law, and if they performed all the law, and were justified by the law, they were then fallen from grace, and Christ should profit them nothing; that if salvation be of grace, it is no more of works, &c.
By way of correcting the wrong impressions which had been made on the minds of the saints, by false teachers, in regard to the spirit and design of the law, to show them what that law could, and what it could not do, the apostle labored to show them, that while the letter of the law with its almost interminable ceremonies, temporal blessings for obedience to its precepts, and temporal curses for disobedience, was given to the carnal, or fleshly tribes of Israel, and adapted to their carnal state and condition, that every precept, every rite, ordinance and ceremony, that it contained, was typical of good things to come; of things of a spiritual nature. Even Abraham, and all the patriarchs, in their persons, in their progeny, and in all their history, including all that is written of them in the Scriptures, were figures of things which should be brought to light under the gospel dispensation. Conspicuous among these types, the apostle recognized the covenant which God made with Abraham, in which Abraham, as a unit, and Abraham, as multiplied beyond the number of the starry hosts, was included, and to this covenant, and its provisions, the apostle alludes in the text proposed for consideration.
Now to Abraham and to his seed were the promises made. For an account of the covenant and promises, read Gen. xii. 1-3. “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: and I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: and I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” Also, Gen, xvii. 3-7. “And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying, As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations. Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee. And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee. And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and thy seed after thee.” And for the confirmation of this covenant, read Gen. xxii. 15-18. “And the angel of the Lord called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time, and said, By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord; for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son; that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.”
From these Scriptures we perceive the truth of the apostle’s declaration, that unto Abraham and his seed were the promises made. All the seed of Abraham being in the loins of Abraham at the time the promises were first made, and only Isaac his son, his “only son,” made manifest by generation, when the promises were confirmed by the oath of God, to Abraham and to his seed.
“He saith not, And to seeds as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed which is Christ.” How strikingly sublime and glorious the figure before us! Abraham the chosen, called and consecrated friend and servant of the eternal God, separated from his father’s house, from all his kindred, and from all the inhabitants of the world; called out alone. In him embodied, and by him represented the whole election of God. All their life and being was in him, when the covenant and promises were made. The covenant and promises, providing for, and securing their subsequent manifestation, by generation after the flesh, and all their covenant blessings given and secured to them in him. They were so completely identified with Abraham, that the patriarch could not be known in the covenant or promises without them. “Blessing I will bless thee, multiplying, I will multiply thee.” The personal pronoun “thee” as fully identified the seed, as the progenitor. Thee, when viewed as a unit, and equally so, when multiplied. Thee, when called from his father’s house and kindred, and thee, when multiplied into many nations. The singular number must not be lost sight of in this astonishing figure, for, “He saith not, unto seeds, as of many, but as of one.” One before the birth of any of his posterity, and but one in the development of all his seed. Here then we have the patterns of the things in heaven; though this is but a man’s covenant, or a covenant made with Abraham, as a man, and embracing his natural posterity after the flesh; yet inasmuch as it was confirmed by the oath of him who could swear by no greater, and who swore by himself, none could annul or add to it. All the provisions of the covenant, and all the blessings promised, were made certain and secure to Abraham and his seed. According to the covenant and promises, the process of multiplying began with the birth of Isaac, and continued until Abraham outnumbered the sands of the sea shore, and had branched out into a multitude of nations. This multiplication which began with Isaac, terminated, or was completed, by the birth of the Messiah, for confirmation of which, read Matthew i. 1-16. Now to Abraham, in his seed, was the land wherein Abraham sojourned being a stranger, eventually given; according to the covenant and promises, after that seed had sojourned in Egyptian captivity four hundred years, and all the other stipulations of the covenant were fulfilled to Abraham, in his seed, according to his flesh, no man disannulling nor adding thereto. “So [says Paul] after he [Abraham] had patiently endured, he obtained the promise.” - Heb. vi. 15. What promise? The promise made in this covenant, “Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying, I will multiply thee.” - See verse 14, same chapter. Though Abraham, in his individual person, had been dead for centuries, yet Abraham multiplied, in his seed, received the promises. Now for the application of the figure. “He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as one, and to thy seed which is Christ.” It is Christ, set forth, the same as the rock in Horeb, which supplied the streams of life and salvation to Israel in the wilderness, was Christ. According to the flesh, Christ was of the seed of Abraham. - See Matthew i. 1. But we understand the expression in a higher, and more important sense, Christ as the grand antitype of all types, and the substance of all the shadows going before. Christ in coming in the flesh, “took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham.” - Heb. ii. 16. “And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” - Gal. Iii. 29.
Abraham as the head of life to, and personal embodiment of all the fleshly seed, very fitly represented in figure, what the gospel has now disclosed of the church of the living God created, chosen, blessed with all spiritual blessings, preserved, saved and called, in Christ Jesus before the world began. As Abraham was the head of life, and old covenant blessings to his posterity, so Christ is, and was, the Head of spiritual life, and of all new covenant blessings to his spiritual posterity; to that seed that should serve him, and that should be counted to the Lord for a generation. As all the fleshly seed of Abraham, including Levi, and all the levitical priesthood, was in the loins of Abraham, when the covenant and promises were made, and as God made that covenant, and those promises with, and to them, when, and as they then existed, only in him, so the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ hath blessed us, (all the saints and faithful in Christ Jesus, Eph. i. 1,) with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ; according as he hath chosen us in him, before the foundation of the world. - Eph. i. 3, 4. And as the covenant and promises made to Abraham, as fully and as infallibly embraced his posterity as his person, so the covenant of life and peace, which the eternal God has made with his chosen, as fully and infallibly embraced the whole election of grace, as it did the chosen and anointed Head over all things to his church. No old covenant blessings were ever added to the fleshly seed of Abraham, which were not provided for in the original covenant, neither is there any new covenant blessing ever to be given to the church of God, which was not embraced in covenant provision made and secured in Christ, for his people, before the world began; nor can any that were made ever fail to be accomplished. Hence our hope of eternal life is based on what God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began.
From what we have written, it will be perceived that we understand that the whole spiritual import of the covenant and promises made to Abraham, had reference to Christ. While the seed of Abraham embraced a numerous posterity after the flesh, which are not the children of God, a multitude of nations, &c., the antitypical, or spiritual application had Christ, and in him his church, alone in view. In this sense, Christ as a unit, is recognized as the seed of Abraham, but as all the election of grace are members of Christ, his body, his flesh and his bones, so, If ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. - Gal. iii. 29.
We might greatly extend our remarks on this interesting subject, but we must forbear for the present.
April 1, 1855
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 3
Pages 186 - 192