Paul shows God’s unbreakable promise to Abraham and how through him all nations would be blessed.
Galatians 3:6-9: Just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”? Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. (ESV)
My son Asher is 4, and like many other kids, sometimes he can be a handful. The other night my wife, who volunteers with the fire department, was out on a fire call. I needed to get some work done, but Asher was unwilling to calm down. Eventually, all his siblings were asleep.
I made a deal with him. If I let him stay up late, he would go to bed after an hour with no argument. Then, I went to my home office to work while Asher watched cartoons. After an hour, I told him it was time for bed, and he freaked out. He caused such a commotion that he woke his sisters up, which made me mad.
I told him, “If you say something and break your word, that makes you a liar.” He surprised me and yelled, “Daddy, you’re the liar!” Now I was offended, but I thought perhaps the boy did not grasp the idea of lying. I said, “When did I lie?”
The kid said, “You told me that you would lay down with me, but you didn’t.” He was right.
Yes, my little man called me a liar, convicted me of my error, and got my deepest apology. He also got extra time to watch TV and made me lay down with him.
I know I did not make a promise exactly because I am so afraid of breaking a promise that I do not make them, and my family knows it. But I had told him what I would do, and my actions went against what I had said.
The saying “do not make promises that you cannot keep” is common. But my philosophy is different, do not make promises, period. Why? Because it is not the promise that makes us believe the person, but the person that makes the promise. When we fall short, it questions our credibility, and it takes away hope from the ones we promise. I try never to make any promises, but I always try my best to do what I say with God’s help.
Our God is a mighty God who can make promises and keep them through generations after generations, regardless of how the recipient of the promise behaves. Why? Because promises are about the person who makes them. Our God is not afraid of making promises because He can never forget them and can never break them.
As we enter the advent season, for the next four Sundays, our Galatians series will focus on Christ, the “Promised One,” as the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham and through him to all the nations.
I’m starting with the promise of blessing, which in the context of Galatians is the blessing of being justified through Christ alone, through faith alone, through grace alone. Paul shows God’s promise to Abraham and how through him all nations were blessed.
The false teachers, the Judaizers, knew God’s promised one, the Messiah, had arrived, so they believed in Christ. The challenge was that they were putting a huge roadblock up to restrict the promise of the blessing through Abraham to all nations. This roadblock was the law of works.
They saw the promise of the blessing only for the biological children of Abraham, and if others wanted to attain this blessing, they had to come through the doors of the Mosaic law and Jewish tradition.
In this passage, Paul argues against this and explains how Abraham was declared righteous in the first place and how he received the promise of the blessing in order to show:
1) how everyone receives the blessing of the Messiah, whether they are Jews or Gentiles, and
2) how the blessing expands from Abraham to the rest of the world.
Blessing for Everyone
In verses 6-7, the promise of the blessing is for all sons of Abraham. However, the false teachers, the Judaizers, took pride in the fact that Abraham was their father and that God spoke to Abraham and made a covenant with him and through him to his descendants. This is all true, but they were wrong about the implication of the promise of the blessing to Abraham.
Paul takes them back to the mutually agreeable authoritative source of revelation, the Old Testament. Verse 6 is from Genesis 15:6: “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.”
Notice that both verses do not say Abraham believed in God, it says Abraham believed God. Abraham knew that God’s word was His word, and that God could be trusted.
Do you believe in God or believe God?
Next, notice two words, reckon and righteousness. The English word reckon is translated from logízomai. This is to take something into account, to declare or credit something to one’s account. The word for righteousness is dikaiosuné, which means righteousness or justice. It communicates a judicial verdict, and that righteousness was credited or imputed to Abraham and the Galatians because they believed God by hearing the gospel.
It was a judicial approval by God as judge that He deemed them fit to be justified before His eyes. Why? Because the righteousness of Christ was imputed to them. Righteousness is the only acceptable state of a person to God.
But the source of righteousness is always God Himself. Man can never earn it. Therefore, the righteousness of Abraham, Jewish Christians, and Gentile Christians like the Galatians was not something that they could take credit for. It was a divine matter in the divine court settled by and between the divine beings God the father and God the Son. The knowledge of this truth to humans is administered by God the Holy Spirit.
Therefore, Paul insists in verse 7: “Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham.”
What is the implication of this? We all who believe God and His living Word are made Abraham’s spiritual children by the power of the Spirit and stand right before God because of Christ, the Promised one. His righteousness is imputed to us.
From Abraham to the Whole World
In verse 8, this promise of blessing is for all nations in Abraham. Paul takes the qualification of being children of Abraham and applies it to all nations because the original promise of the blessing was not limited to Abraham. It was extended through Abraham to all nations in Christ, the promised one. Paul says this Gospel was preached to Abraham beforehand, and He believed God.
Just as Galatian believers were passive participants in the work of their justification when they first heard the Gospel by the power of Spirit and were saved, Paul shows Abraham, too, was a passive participant in his justification before God because God took the initiative by calling Abraham and preaching the Gospel beforehand.
Why does Paul say this? Because the Old Testament was not there, but God was, and He spoke the scriptures, and when Abraham believed God, it was reckoned righteousness to him.
Here we have a few takeaways, but I want to give you only one: God’s vision for nations. Though Arabs and Jews are biological descendants of Abraham and about 30% of the world population claims him as their spiritual father, unless they receive Christ, the promised one, those claims do nothing for them.
This was God’s plan all along to create one nation, one people group under the banner of His Son Jesus. This is why in Matthew 28 Jesus commissioned us to go and make disciples of all nations.
All Believers Are Equal
In verse 9, this promise of blessing is for all believers along with Abraham. Paul destroys racial pride in being children of Abraham by redefining who are Abraham’s children. He destroys national pride by showing how the promise of the blessing was for all nations, and the Israelites did not have an exclusive claim on the blessing. Finally, Paul destroys the backbone of this by showing Abraham did nothing to attain the blessing. He did not work for it. He was the recipient, just like all other believers.
Once people become believers by hearing the gospel, their faith in Christ is reckoned to them as righteousness along with Abraham, and Christ’s righteousness (not Abraham’s) is imputed to them. Just as Abraham was justified by grace through faith because He believed God’s Word, God wants to save all humans. They could be justified in the same way as Abraham was justified – by grace through trusting God’s Word.
Today, prosperity gospel preachers are leading people to believe that God’s promise of the blessing to Abraham is to bless us materialistically. Can God bless us with material things? Yes. But is it the primary purpose of God’s promises to bless us? No, I do not believe that, because that is not what the scriptures teach.
God’s promises are first and foremost to glorify His own name. Therefore, every time when God fulfills His promises, He receives the intended glory, and we receive His blessing. We may feel that there is a delay in His promises, but as His children we can count on it. God always fulfills His promises in His time to glorify His own name. The purpose of the promise of the blessing to Abraham was to bless the nations so that they could become one in Christ. By restricting the blessing to others, the Judaizers were restricting the purpose of the blessing and, ultimately, the glory of God. When we do not share our faith with others, we too restrict the promise of the blessing and, thus the glory of God.
I challenge you to share your faith, the blessed hope in Christ, this Christmas season.
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