The Law Does Not Replace the Covenant | Galatians 3:18

“For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise, but God gave it to Abraham by promise” (Gal. 3:18).

The Greek words are “ik nomos” “of law,” not “ik tou nomos” “of the law,” signifying law in general rather than any particular law. Thus the inheritance, exactly as justification, is received altogether by faith, and not at all by the works or deeds of any law.

It cannot possibly be otherwise, because the inheritance is the first and grand object in the call of Abraham. For, first of all, God said to Abram: “Get thee out of thy country and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will show thee” (Gen. 12:1). And in this “he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance;” and when so called he “obeyed, and he went out not knowing whither he went” (Heb. 11:8).

And since this inheritance is altogether in the world to come, and includes the whole world to come, it is absolutely impossible for any one ever to obtain it by works. It was and is impossible for Abraham or any other man ever to work enough to earn it; and so, since the inheritance is so utterly beyond all possible reach of the works of any man, in the nature of things it must come only as the gift of God, and can be received by men only by faith, altogether as the gift of God.

And since the inheritance is the one great object in the call of Abraham, everything else that came from God to Abraham was only contributory to this great object; it was only to fit Abraham to enter upon and enjoy in all its fullness that wondrous inheritance which is the original and settled object of the call to him.

For instance, God said to Abraham: “I will bless thee.” This blessing is essential to entering upon the inheritance; for no one who is under the curse can possibly have any part in the inheritance. Therefore, to be relieved from the curse, and to be put under the blessing, of God, is an essential to any one’s ever having any part in the inheritance. And this blessing upon Abraham, relieving him from the curse, and preparing him for the inheritance, was to be extended, through him, to all the families of the earth, that these also might be relieved of the curse and receive the blessing, and thus have a part in the grand inheritance.

Again, we have found that in the covenant with Abraham there was sacrifice and priesthood—the Melchisedec priesthood. This also was essential to the entering upon the inheritance, because “all have sinned,” and “without shedding of blood is no remission.” Therefore every one who will enter upon that grand inheritance must be absolutely cleansed and purified from all sin. But this can be done only by that great sacrifice which God made in the gift of his Son, and by the ministration of that priest and priesthood of Christ unto which he was ordained by God alone, “after the order of Melchisedec.” Thus the sacrifice and service of the priesthood are also essential in behalf of every soul who shall enter into that inheritance, and are essential in order that he may enter into that inheritance.

Righteousness is essential to the entering upon that inheritance. It is an eternal inheritance; the righteousness, which alone can fit anyone to enter upon the inheritance, must be eternal righteousness. But the only righteousness that is eternal is the righteousness of God. To this no man can possibly attain by works, or anything that he can do. It is only the righteousness of God, and it can come to man only as the free gift of God, and can be received by man only by faith.

Again, as this inheritance is an eternal inheritance, whosoever enters upon it must have eternal life in order to possess it. But all have sinned and “the wages of sin is death.” How then can these who are subject only to death ever obtain eternal life by any works that they can do? —It simply cannot be done. This life, therefore, being eternal life, must come from him who is eternal—the only source of eternal life, which is God. It can, therefore, come to men in no conceivable way except as the gift of God, and can be received only by faith. And since only in the way of righteousness is life, only in the way of eternal righteousness can be eternal life. And these both being essential to entering upon the inheritance, every soul who will ever enter upon that inheritance must have these. And they can come only as the gift of God, received only by faith.

Thus the inheritance being the great and original object of the call of Abraham; that inheritance being altogether the gift of God; and it being impossible for man ever to have obtained it otherwise, it follows that everything that can help man unto that inheritance, and fit him for the inheritance, must also be altogether from God, as the gift of God, received by men only by faith. And since the blessing of God, the sacrifice and priesthood of Christ, eternal righteousness, and eternal life, are the essentials to receiving the inheritance; and since all these are utterly beyond any possible reach of man by anything that he can do, it follows that these all, in the nature of things, come as the gift of God, and are obtained by men only by faith in God.
And, thank the Lord he has given all these.

He has given the blessing; for it written: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly things in Christ” (Eph. 1:3); and “sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities” (Acts 3:26).

He has given his only begotten Son, the Lamb of God, our priest, who “ever lives to make intercession” for us. (Heb. 7:25).
He has given his righteousness, the free gift of God “unto all and upon all them that believe, for there is no difference” (Rom. 3:22). To every creature he has sent his gospel, wherein is “the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith” (Rom. 1:17).

He has given eternal life; for it is written: “This is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life” (1 John 5:11, 12). And the Son of God says: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that hears my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life” (John 5:24).

Therefore the inheritance cannot possibly be of law, —of any kind of law, nor of all kinds of law, —“for if the inheritance be of law, it is no more of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise” (Gal. 3:18). And everything that God ever gave or ordained after this promise is, in the nature of things, contributory to the promise. And whoever would use anything God ever gave after the promise, at any time or in any way, without, in such use, holding the promise in view, frustrates every purpose of God in the giving of those things.

Therefore even though it had been a man’s covenant, yet, once confirmed, no man could disannul it nor add thereto. Much more, being God’s covenant, and being even doubly confirmed, it could not possibly be disannulled, neither could anything be added thereto. And since “to Abraham and his seed were the promises made,” and that seed “is Christ”; and since that covenant “was confirmed before of God in Christ,” anything that came afterward cannot take the place of the covenant, neither can it be added to the covenant.

[Advent Review and Sabbath Herald | January 30, 1900]