PROMISE OF THE SPIRIT – GALATIA

OVERVIEW – The “promise of the Spirit” is part of the “blessing of Abraham” promised to the nations, and those who receive it become the “children of Abraham.” 

In his letter to the Galatians, the Apostle Paul referred to the “promise of the Spirit,” which he identified with the “blessing of Abraham.” Jesus came under the “curse” of the Law to redeem believers from it, so that, the “blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.”


Elsewhere, Paul wrote that believers are “sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, the earnest of our inheritance, until the redemption of the purchased-possession.” The gift of the Spirit promised by God constituted a down payment to guarantee the full possession of the promised inheritance by all who exercised faith in Jesus – (Ephesians 1:13-14).

The term “purchased possession” echoes the original land promise made to Abraham:

  • (Genesis 17:8)– “And I will give to you and to your seed after you the land of your sojourning, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be to them a God.

Thus, the Apostle linked the gift of the Spirit to the covenant promises to Abraham, including the possession of the promised land. Jesus himself referred to the Spirit as the “promise of the Father.” Before his ascent to heaven, he commanded his disciples to tarry in Jerusalem until they received the “promise of the Father,” the outpouring of the Spirit – (Luke 24:49, Acts 1:4, 2:16-21).

With his Resurrection and Ascension, the promised gift of the Spirit was granted to God’s covenant community. This new era of the Spirit began on the “Day of Pentecost” when the Spirit was poured out on the 120 disciples gathered to pray in Jerusalem. But the promise was not limited to that first group or the events of that day. Instead, the promise of the Spirit was “to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call unto him” – (Acts 2:39).

Chapter 10 of the Book of Acts tells the story of the opening of the gospel to the Gentiles. At the height of his sermon to the household of Cornelius, the Spirit fell on the Gentiles, and they began to speak in tongues. The Jews that had accompanied Peter were amazed because the Spirit had been received by uncircumcised Gentiles, “just as on us at the beginning,” a reference to the first outpouring on Pentecost.

To his critics, Peter pointed to the gift of the Spirit as the definitive proof that God had accepted believing Gentiles without circumcision. They had received the very same gift as circumcised, Torah-observant Jewish followers of Jesus. Therefore, how could anyone insist that Gentile believers must now be circumcised?

In his first argument to the Galatians, Paul applied this very same logic. Since they had received the Spirit by faith, and while in an uncircumcised state, and thus, apart from the “works of the Law,” why were they contemplating adding circumcision and other “works of the Law” to their faith? Rather than bringing them to “completion,” adopting circumcision would obligate them to keep the entire Mosaic legislation and, inevitably, fall under its “curse.” But God had given them the Spirit “through the hearing of faith,” not “from the works of the Law,” including circumcision – (Galatians 3:1-10).

Waterfalls – Photo by Carlo Borella on Unsplash

Next, Paul presented an argument from the life of Abraham. His appeal to the Patriarch at this point was quite deliberate. The underlying issue at Galatia was circumcision, the rite and “sign of the covenant” originally given to Abraham, yet Yahweh declared him righteous by his faith BEFORE the institution of circumcision – (“Even as Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him for righteousness”).

Thus, those who are of the same faith as the Patriarch are the “sons of Abraham” apart from the “works of the Law.” And the Abrahamic covenant itself anticipated the inclusion of the Gentiles “from faith” when God declared to Abraham: “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” Therefore, “they that are from faith are blessed with the faithful Abraham.”

In contrast, “as many as are from the works of the law are under a curse… cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things that are written in the book of the law.” Fortunately, Jesus “redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us.” And this was so that “upon the Gentiles might come the blessing of Abraham in Christ Jesus; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith” – (Galatians 3:10-14).

And the promises were given to Abraham, and to “his seed, which is Christ.” Moreover, the “inheritance” is from “promise,” not “from the law,” otherwise, it would be rendered void. And since the law came after the covenant confirmed by Yahweh Himself, it cannot add to, subtract from, or otherwise “disannul the promise” – (Galatians 3:15-21).

The Law was added to deal with “transgressions,” not to justify anyone or to undo the covenant promises, and only “until” the “seed should come.” However, now that the “faith” has come in the person of Jesus, the “seed of Abraham,” no longer are “we under the custodian,” that is, the Law – (Galatians 3:22-25).

So now, all of us are “sons of God through the faith of Christ Jesus,” both Jews and Gentiles; that is, all who have been baptized “into Christ”’ and therefore, “in him,” no longer can there be “Jew or Greek, bond or free, male and female, for all are one in Christ Jesus.” The old distinctions no longer apply and have no place in the body of Christ – (Galatians 3:26-28).

And if we do truly belong to him, then we are “Abraham’s seed, heirs according to promise,” both Jewish and Gentile believers alike. And that “promise” included the gift of the Spirit, the “blessing of Abraham.”

Thus, the Church and the gift of the Spirit were not unforeseen things made necessary by later events, or detours in the redemptive plan of God, but, first and always, they were integral parts of His purposes. The “promise of the Spirit” is part of the “blessing of Abraham” promised to the nations, and those who have received it are the “children of Abraham.”

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