October 12, 2013

The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Galatians

Tom Lowe

III. Doctrinal: Defense of Justification by Faith (3:1–4:31)

            A: Vindication of Justification by Faith (3.1-18)

                        2: The Example of Abraham (3.6-14)

Chapter III.A.2.a: The Faith of Abraham (3.6-9)

 

Galatians 3.6-9 (KJV)

 

6 just as Abraham "believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness."

7 Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham.

8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, "In you all the nations shall be blessed."

9 So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham.

 

Introduction 

Paul turns now from subjective experience to the objective evidence of the Word of God. We never judge the Scriptures by our experiences; we test our experiences by the Word of God. In the previous section (vv. 1-5), Paul asked four questions; in this section and verses 10-14 he will quote six Old Testament statements to prove that salvation is by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law. Since the Judaizers wanted to take believers back into the Law, Paul quotes the Law! And since they magnified the place of Abraham in their religion, Paul uses Abraham as one of his witnesses.

 

Commentary

 

6 just as Abraham "believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness."


The Judaizers claimed to have the Old Testament on their side, especially clamming Moses as their teacher. But Paul went further back in Jewish history than that, and said, “Consider Abraham.” How was he, who is the father of the Jewish people, justified? The answer was simple and to the point, Quoting Genesis 15.6, Paul declared, “he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.” Abraham’s faith in God’s ability to do what He promised was accepted by God as righteousness and so the great patriarch was justified—before he was circumcised: “Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin” (Gen. 17.24). How then, could the Judaizers insist that circumcision was necessary to being accepted by God?


The words “accounted” in this verse and “counted” in Genesis 15.6 mean the same as “imputed” in Romans 4.11: “And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also.” The Greek word means “to put to one’s account.” When the sinner trusts Christ, God’s righteousness is put to his account. And there’s more than this—the believers sins are no longer put to his account (see Rom. 4.1-8). This means that the record is always clean before God, and therefore the believer can never be brought into judgment for his sins.


Notice that it says, “Abraham believed God.” It does not say that he believed IN GOD. But he BELIEVED GOD. There is an infinity of difference between believing in God and believing God. Even the devil believes in God. Only a fool says “there is no God,”—The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God’" (Ps. 14.1). A man can believe IN God, but unless he BELIEVES GOD, he is still lost. To believe God means to ACCEPT HIS WORD, and to TRUST HIS PROMISES. Just believing in the existence of God is not enough. We must believe what He says. The only book which contains His promises is the Bible, therefore believing His promises is believing HIS WORD. Abraham believed what God said. Therefore, the vital question is: “What did Abraham believe?” We have the answer given in Genesis 15, from which Paul quotes in this section—“After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, "Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward." But Abram said, "Lord God, what will You give me, seeing I go childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?" Then Abram said, "Look, You have given me no offspring; indeed one born in my house is my heir!" And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, saying, "This one shall not be your heir, but one who will come from your own body shall be your heir." Then He brought him outside and said, "Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them." And He said to him, "So shall your descendants be." And he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness” (Gen. 15.1-6). Abraham believed that God would give him a miraculously born son, that he would have countless descendants, and that one of them would bless the world, because He would be the Savior, the Messiah.


It cannot be said that Abraham was justified by keeping the Law, because the Mosaic Law was not given until four hundred years after Abraham. Neither can it be said he was justified by circumcision, because he was justified before God gave him the commandment of circumcision. Circumcision was the badge and evidence of Abraham’s faith, just like baptism is the badge and evidence of a believer’s faith today. Neither circumcision nor baptism can save. In fact, they make no contribution to salvation. They are simply outward evidence of an inward work.


In the preceding verse (v. 3.5), Paul asked the Galatian believers, “Therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” The answer is taken for granted here—it was by the hearing of faith; following this up, he says, “Just as Abraham believed,” which was given in the previous paragraphs. God supplies you with the Spirit as the result of faith, not works, just as Abraham obtained justification by faith, not by works. Where justification is, there the Spirit is, so that if the former comes by faith, the later must also. There has never been a way to be justified to God that did not involve faith.


7 Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham.


Paul struck a tremendous blow against the Judaizers as he linked the past with the present and declared that just as Abraham was saved by faith so were those who now claimed to be His children (lit., “sons”). Abraham and his spiritual children, both Jews and Gentiles, have all been declared righteous by faith.


The Jewish people were very proud of their relationship with Abraham. The problem was, they thought this relationship guaranteed them eternal salvation. John the Baptist warned them that their physical decent did not guarantee them spiritual life: “and do not think to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones” (Matt. 3.9). Jesus made a clear distinction between “Abraham’s seed” physically and “Abraham’s children” spiritually (John 8.33-47). Some people today still imagine that salvation is inherited. Because mother and father were godly people, the children are automatically saved. But this is not true. It has been rightly said, “God has no grandchildren.”


Believing Jews and Gentiles are the true spiritual children of Abraham because they follow his example of faith: “And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also”…“ Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all” (Rom. 4.11, 16).


God made a covenant with Abraham. He promised to give him a miraculously born son, that he would have countless descendants, and that one of them would bless the world, because He would be the Savior, the Messiah; that was God’s part—and Abraham’s part was only to believe God. If the covenant depended on Abraham’s faithfulness—perhaps on him saying his prayers every night—he might miss one night, and then the promise would be no good. So God was the one who did all the promising, and the covenant depended on God’s faithfulness. God did this for Abraham before the Law was ever given. God did not make the covenant with him because of Abraham’s good works. He told Abraham, “I’ll do this for you if you believe Me.” Abraham said, “I believe you.”


God wants your faith to rest on a solid foundation. But, my friend, if you come to God, you must come by faith. He has come to the door of your heart. He cannot come any further. He will not break down the door. He will knock and say, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me” (Rev. 3.20). Only you can open the door by faith, my friend. When you and I trust Christ as Savior, we are saved the same way Abraham was saved—by faith.


8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, "In you all the nations shall be blessed."

9 So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham.


“And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham.” [Personifying the Scriptures was a common Jewish figure of speech.] If faith without works was sufficient for Abraham why should we desire something different? And since the blessing was not for Abraham keeping the Law or for him doing good deeds, but for his faith, why should we turn from faith to the Law and works?


“God…preached the gospel to Abraham.” When did He do that? The incident occurred near the end of Abraham’s life of faith, and after Isaac was full grown, and it is recorded in Genesis 22. It was after Abraham offered Isaac upon the alter. I say he offered him because he was just within a hair’s breadth of offering him when God stopped him. God considered that Abraham had actually done it—He accepted the MOTIVE for the ACT. He demonstrated that he had faith in God, believing that God would raise Isaac from the dead because He had promised him descendants through Isaac—“By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, "In Isaac your seed shall be called," concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense” (Heb. 11.19). Now notice God’s response to Abraham’s act of faith—“Then the Angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time out of heaven, and said: "By Myself I have sworn, says the Lord, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son—blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice" (Gen. 22.15-18). Apparently at this time God preached the gospel to Abraham, because the offering of Isaac is one of the finest pictures of the offering of Christ. [Thus the origin of the gospel is older than the Law, though the full development of the gospel occurred many centuries after the Law was given.] Although God spared Abraham’s son, God did not spare His only Son, but delivered Him up for us all. What is the Gospel? The Gospel is the good news of the death and resurrection of the virgin-born Son of promise.


The important thing that Paul wants us to see in Abraham’s life is that he obeyed the voice of God. Abraham was willing to offer his son when God commanded it, and when God said stop, he stopped. He obeyed the voice of God. He demonstrated by his action that he had faith in God. Abraham knew and believed all the time that God was going to do something miraculous. Again he believed God and He counted it to him for righteousness. Abram had also believed God about the miraculous birth of Isaac.


Abraham is the example of saving faith, and therefore is called the father of the faithful, and believers are called the children of Abraham (v. 7). Notice that it says, "IN YOU,” not in thy seed, “all the nations shall be blessed." Having shown that justification before God can only be obtained through faith in Jesus Christ, he says that people who share your faith in Him and imitate your faith, will be blessed, and they will be blessed “in thee,” as the father of the promised seed, that is, Jesus Christ, who is the object of faith. They will be blessed by an act of grace, not because they earned it by works. So, to those who follow Abraham, the father of the faithful, the blessing, that is, justification, comes purely by faith in Him who is the subject of the promise.


Paul’s quotation of Moses—“And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and IN THEE SHALL ALL FAMILIES OF THE EARTH BE BLESSED” (Gen. 12.3)—proves that from the very beginning of Abraham’s relationship with God, the blessings of salvation was promised to all the nations of the world. God preached the “Good News” to Abraham centuries ago, and Paul brought that same GOOD NEWS to the Galatians: sinners are justified by faith and not by keeping the Law. The logic here is evident,” if God promised to save the Gentiles by faith, then the Judaizers were wrong in wanting to take the Gentile believers back into Law. The true “children of Abraham” are not the Jews by physical descent, but Jews and Gentiles who have believed in Jesus Christ. All those who are “of Faith” (believers) are blessed with “believing Abraham.” Thus the justification of uncircumcised Gentiles was anticipated in the universal aspect of the Abrahamic Covenant when God announced the gospel to Abraham. It should be pointed out that Paul referred to Scripture speaking as though God were speaking, so that it can rightly be affirmed that what the Bible says, God says. This and similar verses, such as 2 Timothy 3.16—"All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness”—provide important support for believing in the absolute and total inspiration and authority of Scripture.


When you read God’s great covenant with Abraham in Genesis 12.1-3, you discover that many different blessings were promised—some personal, some national and political, and some universal and spiritual. Certainly God did make Abraham’s name great; he is revered not only by Jews, but by Christians, Muslims, and many others. God did multiply his descendants, and God did bless those who blessed Abraham. He also judged those who cursed his descendants (Egypt, Babylon, and Rome are cases in point). But the greatest blessings that God sent through Abraham and the Jewish nation have to do with our eternal salvation. Jesus Christ is that promised “seed,” through whom all the nations have been blessed (Gal. 3.16); but only those who have faith in Jesus Christ receive the blessing of justification.


God saves people today on the same basis that He saved Abraham. God asks faith from the sinner. God asked Abraham to believe that He would do certain things for him. God asks you and me to believe that He has already done certain things for us, by giving His Son Jesus Christ to die for us. Faith is the modus operandi by which man is saved today.


Abraham is the example of saving faith, and therefore is called the father of the faithful, and believers are called the children of Abraham (v. 7). We are not children of Abraham by natural birth, but by personal faith in Jesus Christ. Abraham’s faith is our example. The Apostle Paul in commenting on the verse said, "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness” (Rom. 4.3), concludes the argument as follows—“Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him, but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification” (Rom. 4.23-25). 

Make a Free Website with Yola.