by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 3 Paragraph # 3 Study # 4 March 25, 2012 Dayton, Texas (Download Audio)
(161)Thesis:The promises were made to only one "seed" and their fulfillment will only be fully realized when He is on the earth as "Christ".
Introduction:Last time we looked into the content of the "promises" that were made to Abraham and to his seed. We saw that those "promises" had their roots in the problem of Death and were given to counter the effectiveness of any "temptation" that could bring Death into the picture. In general we can say that the promises addressed "man" as a physical, soulish, spiritual, entity and addressed the basic needs that each of those three aspects of his being indicated. The basic needs of man as a physical being consist of duration and freedom from pain or degeneration of any kind. Said another way, the body is designed for eternal pleasure. The basic needs of man as a soul consist of relational unity with God as Spirit and freedom from fear of any kind. Said another way, the soul is designed for eternal joy flowing from God. The basic needs of man as a spirit consist of functional capacity and freedom from denigration of any kind. Said another way, the spirit of man is designed to energize his body to function in order to accomplish genuinely significant goals.
Tonight we are going to look into the reason Paul insisted upon the identity of the "seed" as "Christ".
I. The Textually Obvious Exaltation of Christ as the Seed.
A. First, Paul's basic argument in 3:15-18 does not obviously need the identification of Christ as the Seed of Abraham.
1. The basic flow of Paul's argument in the text is that God made certain promises to Abraham and that fact eliminates "law" as the medium of fulfillment.
2. The reality is that this argument does not "need" any reference to the "seed" of Abraham (one can read the text omitting the sections of 3:16 that insert "seed" into the argument and be completely on target in terms of Paul's larger point).
B. Second, for Paul to deliberately insert information that does not have an immediately obvious reason for being is an exaltation of that information.
II. The Meaning of Paul's Restriction of the Promises to Christ.
A. Paul, in effect, said that the promises were only made to two people: Abraham and his "seed".
1. By deliberately restricting the word "seed" to its "singular" form (as opposed to "seeds"), Paul eliminated all of the "seeds" of Abraham but one.
2. This is a strange argument in light of the use of "plural" seeds.
a. In multiple places in the New Testament the word "seed" is used exactly like we use it in English as a "collective noun" so that the singular can mean many individuals (seed can mean seeds); Matthew 13:24 and 38, (et. al.).
b. There are uses of "seeds" in the New Testament (as in Matthew 13:32).
3. But Paul deliberately argues for a single seed.
a. This is a strong reinforcement of the conservative doctrine of inspiration wherein Jesus' comment on the jot and tittle argues down to the smallest stroke of the pen (Matthew 5:18).
b. But it is also a strong reinforcement of Paul's concept of Christ as the "Last Adam".
4. The argument in Galatians 3 is clearly in view of this "singular seed" idea as 3:27-29 reveals.
B. Paul's focus is driven by at least three reasons.
1. The first reason is the concept of Christ as the Last Adam and its roots in the Unity of God and the legitimacy of Christ's redemption of many by one.
2. The second reason is the exposure of the hypocrisy of the legalists' insistence upon the keeping of the Law as a way to become "the seed of Abraham".
a. It is clear from the New Testament that the Jews considered themselves "special" because they were the "seeds" of Abraham (John 8:33).
b. But the legalism of the Jews effectively eliminated their own sense of security in being those "seeds" because that legalism eliminated certain of the seeds if the behavior was sufficiently corrupt and that legalism allowed "non-seeds" to participate in the eternal glory if their behavior embraced circumcision and law-keeping.
c. It is fundamentally hypocritical to hold oneself up as superior by reason of physical generation and then turn around and allow physical generation to mean nothing if the behavior is sufficiently bad (the bottom line here is that "superiority" in legalism is rooted in "superior obedience" and, therefore, can never be rooted in genealogy, but the Jews reveled in their superiority as "Jews").
3. The third reason is that there is a major "faith" difficulty in "promises" that never seem to actually come into play.
a. Abraham never saw the fulfillment of the promises in his lifetime.
1) Abraham never got to experience ownership of his land (the only part he ever "owned" was the part he bought to bury Sarah).
2) Abraham never got to see the realization of a great nation (before he died, his "great nation" consisted of Isaac's family of four).
3) Abraham never got to realize his status as a man with a "great name" (the greatness of his name only developed long after he was dead).
b. The nation of Israel saw all of what they would have called "fulfillments" disintegrate over time so that eventually they had no land, no nation, and no greatness of name.
c. Nor do the vast majority of the contemporary "seed" see any of this in their life times.
d. Thus, there must be an argument that keeps the promises at a level of significance that makes "faith" a working aspect of Christian living.
1) That argument consists of Paul's limitation of the "seed" to Christ because that means that no one should be expecting the fulfillment(s) until the Christ exists on the earth in "Christological" terms (King of Kings).
2) Thus, if we are to understand that our expectation is pretty much exclusively "future", two things ought to take place in our thinking.
a) First, we ought to look for the coming of our Great God and Savior with extreme longing.
b) Second, we ought to be willing to endure any, and every, thing that comes our way in this life with grateful aplomb.