Galatians 3:16

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WrittenFromUtopia

Puritan Board Graduate
16 Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, "œAnd to offsprings," referring to many, but referring to one, "œAnd to your offspring," who is Christ.

What does this verse mean? How can Reformed people reconcile this verse with the idea that the promise is still to those who believe and their offspring, since this seems to say that is fulfilled in Christ as being the offspring?
 
Seed is a plural noun. That is, it can refer to a single seed, or it can refer to many seeds considered together because of the unitary identity of the subject. The term has the same usage in Greek, Hebrew, and English. Paul takes the unitary idea embedded in the word and uses it to press a theological argument. The promise to Abraham could be seen to have its fulfillment ideally in a single seed (Christ). That this should be evident is found in the fact that the promise in Abraham's first generation was to be found in Isaac alone. Any share of the spiritual blessings of Abraham had to be found in identifying with the owner of the birthright. Ishmael could go off and set up his own house. He could found a nation of 12 princes (Gen 25:16). But if he wanted identity with the people of God, he had to submit to the spiritual authority of the brother he scorned (Gen 21:9). In Christ are all God's blessings concentrated. We share in the blessing by our covenantal relation to him.
 
Originally posted by WrittenFromUtopia
16 Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, "œAnd to offsprings," referring to many, but referring to one, "œAnd to your offspring," who is Christ.

What does this verse mean? How can Reformed people reconcile this verse with the idea that the promise is still to those who believe and their offspring, since this seems to say that is fulfilled in Christ as being the offspring?

This is true; However, it is retroactive from before the foundation of the world.
 
When I'm presenting the covenantal argument to Baptists, they always get hung up on this verse and a few others. No matter how much I explain it, similar to how Bruce just did, they don't seem to get it. I'm wondering what can help out, but really I think it is a matter of presuppositions that we bring to a text.
 
Hello Bruce,
Thank you for your excellent and thoughtful post.
You wrote:-
Originally posted by Contra_Mundum
Seed is a plural noun. That is, it can refer to a single seed, or it can refer to many seeds considered together because of the unitary identity of the subject. The term has the same usage in Greek, Hebrew, and English. Paul takes the unitary idea embedded in the word and uses it to press a theological argument. The promise to Abraham could be seen to have its fulfillment ideally in a single seed (Christ).
:amen: But not in Christ alone, but also to those who are in Him. Gal 3:29. 'And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.'

You continued:-
That this should be evident is found in the fact that the promise in Abraham's first generation was to be found in Isaac alone. Any share of the spiritual blessings of Abraham had to be found in identifying with the owner of the birthright. Ishmael could go off and set up his own house. He could found a nation of 12 princes (Gen 25:16). But if he wanted identity with the people of God, he had to submit to the spiritual authority of the brother he scorned (Gen 21:9).
Having struggled to convince Paul of this, I'm glad to see that you believe that Ishmael's circumcision did not bring him into the covenant. But tell me, how might Ishmael have attained this identity with the people of God that you speak of? By works? By promise? Or by grace through faith? -Gal 3:9.

You continued:-
In Christ are all God's blessings concentrated. We share in the blessing by our covenantal relation to him.
:amen: again! But how do we attain that covenantal relationship? By works? By promise? Or by faith? 'For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus' (Gal 3:26 ).

Grace & Peace,

Martin

[Edited on 7-19-2005 by Martin Marprelate]
 
I'm glad to see that you believe that Ishmael's circumcision did not bring him into the covenant.

That makes no sense. Circumcision was the administration of the covenant, nothing less. It had no other significance. It was a covenantal act according to the promise.

When Abram was ninety-nine years old the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, "œI am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless, 2 that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly." 3 Then Abram fell on his face. And God said to him, 4 "œBehold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations.

7 And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. 8 And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God."

9 And God said to Abraham, "œAs for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations. 10 This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised.
 
Hi again, Gabriel,
Perhaps I have mis-understood Bruce, but he can tell me that for himself if I have.

To you, I can only repeat what I pointed out to Paul on another thread. In Gen 17:18-19, God makes it very clear to Abraham that Ishmael is NOT in the covenant. Then, knowing this, Abraham circumcises Ishmael according to God's command (v26 ).

The conclusion I draw from this is that circumcision did not, of itself, bring one into the Abrahamic Covenant. That seems to me to be what Bruce is also saying.

Grace & Peace,

Martin
 
This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised.
 
Originally posted by WrittenFromUtopia
When I'm presenting the covenantal argument to Baptists, they always get hung up on this verse and a few others. No matter how much I explain it, similar to how Bruce just did, they don't seem to get it. I'm wondering what can help out, but really I think it is a matter of presuppositions that we bring to a text.

I agree. This was one of the hardest passages for me to get over as well. Especially because of Gal 3:29. There it seems to indicate that the SEED is Jesus, and that promise applies to us in so much as we are in Christ. The Baptist presupposition about what it means to be "in Christ" or "belong to Christ" prevents them from seeing a paedobaptist position. (Or, as they would say, a paedobaptist presupposition keeps us from seeing a credobaptist position...)

I've found it helpful when discussing this with family and friends to actually take a step back and talk about what it means to be "in Christ." Then from there I proceed with infant baptism.
 
Originally posted by WrittenFromUtopia
This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised.

Yes, well I do know that Gen 17:10 is in the Bible, and I am in full agreement that Abraham was instructed to circumcise all the males in his household. but I think you need to read this text in the light of the whole chapter, not to mention Rom 4, Gal 3 and Heb 8-10 etc. The words, 'This is My covenant' refer back to vs 1-9, not only to the act of circumcision. You would also do well to read Bruce's post again. The whole household was circumcised, but only Abraham, Sarah and Isaac were in the covenant. That fact seems to me to have implications for one's view of the covenants of promise. The whole of Israel was circumcised in the days of King David, but he said, ' Yet He has made with ME an everlasting covenant (2Sam 23:5 ).

Gabriel, I am off on holiday now, and I would rather not leave on bad terms with a brother in Christ. What I have tried to do in my posts is to challenge some of the pre-suppositions which there seem to be among some of the presbyterian brethren here. Hence my challenge to think about Ishmael's circumcision, the Larger Catechism and one or two other points. For some reason, this seems to have driven you and Paul into a rage. For my part, I am truly sorry if I have upset you and I hope that when I return in a fortnight I hope we shall be able to discuss in a calm and friendly spirit.

When one hears something that challenges one's dearly-held pre-suppositions, there are two possible attitudes to take. One is descibed in Acts 22:22; the other, more noble, course is found in Acts 17:11.

Grace & Peace,

Martin
 
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