For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law…
I. THE PROMISED INHERITANCE — "THE WORLD."
1. But in turning to the original covenant (Genesis 17), we find that only "the land of Canaan" was promised (Genesis 15:18). Along with that, however, are the assurances of Genesis 12:8; Genesis 22:15-18. On these rest all the predictions of the kingdom of the Messiah, even as these have their backward reference to Genesis 3:15. Which also had its implicit reference to the original place of dominion over all the earth from which man by transgression fell. Of the restoration of that dominion Psalm 8 is a triumphant anticipation; while on the promise made to Abraham (Genesis 22:17, 18) is founded the assurance, given to the King of Zion, that Jehovah would give to Him "the uttermost parts of the earth for His possession" (Psalm 2:8). On this also was made the similar announcements of (Psalm 72:8; Zechariah 9:10). And it is precisely upon this ground that St. Paul here assumes that the promise made to Abraham and his seed was a promise that they should inherit the world, of which Palestine was but a predictive type. The promise, therefore, clearly implied that so surely as the literal seed of Abraham were put in possession of the land of Canaan, so surely will the Christ Himself and His believing people, who are truly the Israel of God, be put into possession of the whole earth. For our Jesus, the seed of Abraham, shall "not fail nor be discouraged till He have set judgment in the earth," etc. (Isaiah 42:1-4). He is the Heir of the world, and He shall yet have His inheritance.
2. But even this does not fill up or complete the promise. For that was the promise of eternal inheritance (Genesis 17:7, 8). Such possession is not possible in this probationary state. To Abraham himself there was given "none inheritance," though God had "promised" it (Acts 7:5). He, and Isaac, and Jacob, who were "the heirs with him of the same promise," died without possession. Yet they lived and died in the confidence that the promise should be made good. And why? Because they looked for something better and more enduring, of which these earthly things were but the temporary types (Hebrews 11:10, 16). It was in recognition of this hope that the sublime predictions of Isaiah, concerning Messiah's kingdom, stretched out far away into the future, till they laid the foundations of and brought forth to perfection "the new heavens and the new earth" (Isaiah 65:17; Isaiah 66:22; Daniel 7:22; Daniel 12:1-3; Hebrews 11:39, 40). In and with Christ, the Seed of Abraham and the Son of God, "whom He hath appointed heir of all things," we shall "inherit all things" (Revelation 21).
II. THE HEIRS OF THIS INHERITANCE — Abraham and his seed. We must notice —
1. Those who are not heirs, or are not included in this seed to which the promise was made. Abraham himself was not an heir nor the father of heirs, merely as a man, but only as a believing man. The promise was not made either to him or to his descendants through the law, which had no existence till some "four hundred and thirty years after," and even if it had the promise must have been made of no effect; for the law, being transgressed, works only wrath. It was not conditional upon circumcision; for the promise was made before circumcision had been enjoined. It was not conditional upon natural descent; for then Ishmael and the sons of Keturah, and Esau with their descendents, must all have been included in the seed of promise — which they most certainly were not. Therefore the right of heirship did not pertain to the Jew as a Jew. It was needful that the nation, as a nation, should be maintained in possession of the land till the Christ should come, who was the true Seed of Abraham, and the appointed Heir of all things. But the promise apart from this would have received a true fulfilment, though the whole multitude of the seed had been gathered from amongst Gentile nations. For —
2. The true heirs are the men who are made partakers of "precious faith," like that of Abraham. That promise was given to him and confirmed by an oath, as he was a believing and justified man. Had he fallen away the whole covenant must have been annulled so far as he was concerned, and his right to the inheritance cancelled. And the seed which was to share the promise and the inheritance with him was to be, not a natural, but a spiritual seed. If an Israelite attained to the righteousness of faith, then he became part of the seed of Abraham and an heir according to the promise. But the same thing might be truly affirmed of any and every Gentile who also became a believer. For "before God" Abraham is the father of all believers from amongst all nations, as it is written, "I have made thee a father of many nations." And, therefore, to whatever nation, tribe, or people they may pertain, those who have become one with Christ by faith have given to them this assurance (Galatians 3:29).
Parallel VersesKJV: For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.