This post will summarize the main points I would wish to make about how best to understand the seeming tension between Paul’s teaching about the “Seed” in his discussion of faith in Galatians 3. I believe if we are not going to turn much of the testimony of Scripture on its head we should not go down the road suggested by Grover Gunn in his explanation of the passage and his inferences based thereon.
In disagreeing with Gunn I am not saying that he is not justified in attending to the places in Genesis where the apostle appears to be getting his language about “and to your seed” from: that is, from Genesis 12 through 22. The problem comes in when he extrapolates from the false notion that Paul is quoting from only two places in the Septuagint and claims the land promise of these “seed” passages must be transferred to the Church and turned magically into promises of heaven. When Christians insist that this must be done they are going beyond the teaching of the NT, not to say the apostle Paul elsewhere (e.g. Romans 11). They are also claiming the OT cannot be properly understood without the New – a claim which sounds pious enough, until it is analyzed in light of its logical outcome (more on this soon).
My response (which, remember, was just a part response) is that in order for the Abrahamic covenant to be tied to the Church (especially its Gentile contingent), that covenant must be connected to the New covenant in Christ. If that is true then Paul is thinking along these lines when he cites the four words “and to your seed” from Genesis. He most probably does not have an exact reference in mind, as he did with his earlier quotation of Genesis 15:6, but rather has in view the repeated use of the phrase through the Abrahamic narrative (if I had to make a guess which passage Paul may have been citing I would go for Gen. 22:18).
If one accepts this thesis then the corporate dimension of the AC – which Paul needs to complete his argument in Galatians 3:29 – remains intact, but is channeled through the “Mediator of the New covenant” – the one “Seed” of Galatians 3:16. Thus, because the Church is a participant in the Abrahamic covenant via the promises in Genesis 12:3 and 22:18, it does so just because of its participation in the New covenant in Christ.
I realize that this view has not been widely accepted by many dispensationalists, but that is because they have gotten bogged down in Jeremiah 31:31 and have not recognized that the prophet is speaking there about the [future] participation of the Remnant Israelites in the eschaton. Why would Jeremiah mention the Church? No, if we are going to see whether the Church has any stake in the New covenant we must study the NT teaching about that issue. Surely 1 Corinthians 11 settles it? The Church also participates in the New covenant through Christ and therefore, can draw upon those promises in the AC which pertain to it. As for Israel, they shall enter into their promises; promises which include the land promised to Abraham and his [plural] seed (Psa. 105:6-11).
I think this is all I want to say about this interesting subject right now. The actual reasoning in the exposition of Galatians 3:1-16 is given in Part Two. Lord willing, when I write my longer series of posts on “Teleology and Eschatology” I shall revisit this question. Part Five