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Galatians 3:18 – “For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.” (ESV)

Paul makes a distinction between the law and the promise. The law is a law of works. In order to be righteous by the law men had to work perfectly all the time. But Paul says the inheritance does not come by working but by promise. This means the promise is not obtained through work.

This doesn’t mean that we do not labor. Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness. That belief produced certain behavior. James says “I will show you my faith by my works.” So we know that obtaining the promise by faith still requires “work,” but it’s not man’s “work” that earns it as if it were all up to us (i.e. how the law worked). The “work” we do is work born from our faith, trusting confidently in God’s promises, and God uses that faith, exhibited in the natural realm by our works, and either providentially or supernaturally accomplishes the promises given us.

So as you read scripture and God highlights passages to you and indicates they are his promises to you, how do you receive them? You receive them by faith. It’s not about how hard you work and making all the right decisions on your own that gets you those promises. It’s simply that you work by faith and trust God to deliver that which he has promised. This is the essence of working “from the promise, not toward the promise.”