Galatians 3:6-9 “Abraham, the Man of Faith”

Posted: August 24, 2010 by Rick Hogaboam in Biblical Studies, Galatians
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Galatians 3.6t9 abraham the man of faith

6 just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”? 7 Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. 8 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.” 9 So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

Instruction (6-9)

–          Abraham’s faith (6)

–          Abraham’s children (7-9)

  • Gentiles are fully included (8)

6 just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”?

–          I like the NIV “consider Abraham”. Indicative statement. “He believed…”

–          Paul is bringing up Abraham, who is viewed as the quintessential Jew by the Jews. He is the first Jew. Paul takes Abraham and relates his story in such a way to show that He is the quintessential Gentile believer as well and a father to many nations, meaning many peoples, many ethnes.

–          The issue in Galatians is JUSTIFICATION, how does one “get right with God”. What is required to be counted as righteous in God’s eyes?

–          Genesis 15:1–6 (ESV) — 1 After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” 2 But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” 3 And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.” 4 And behold, the word of the Lord came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” 5 And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 6 And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.

–          Abram’s old, the promise comes. There is no imperative or command in this discourse, only promise.  Abram responds in faith by “believing”.

–          God counted it as righteousness.

  • “counted” = “hasab” > make a judgment, count, reckon. 
  • “righteousness” = “sedeq” > moral worthiness and fulfilling of goodness, s state of innocence (being without sin), judicially acquitted, relational rightness
  • When combining these terms, it carries the idea of both a judicial rendering, God being the judge who needs to “hasab”, make a judgment, with a referent to “it”, whereas the antecedent is Abram’s faith. Abram’s trusting in God’s promise satisfies the judge, who also made the promise, and he is now righteous. There was no imperative in this covenant promise, but Abram believes, which is the implicit response that God is looking for when He makes promises, and by believing, God counts him as righteous.
  • While this counting as righteous is judicial, it is also relational in nature, which means that it brings Abram into a very real relationship with Yahweh. This belief in Abram is just the beginning of a relationship.

–          James 2:21–23 (ESV) — 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God.

  • James here is not contradicting Paul, their emphases are different. They draw the boundaries in a complementary fashion.
  • James says that Abraham was called a friend of God, emphasizing the relational nature of Abraham’s faith.  His faith was not a one-time prayer, but alive and active in His journey with God.
  • While Paul is emphasizing that our being counted as righteous in God’s eyes is dependent upon faith, apart from works of the law, he will later go on to speak of a very real relational dynamic to this faith that actually “works”:

–          Galatians 5:6 (ESV) — 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.

–          Galatians 5:13–26 (ESV) — 13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. 16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

  • This doctrine of justification by faith and then the imperatives of what that faith must look like creates a tension for many. If I am saved by believing and it is all of grace, then what does it matter how I live. If I am saved by believing, why all these threats on what my life looks like. It sounds like one minute we are saved not by works and then we are threatened if we have no works.
  • This tension is resolved in looking at the “type” of faith that saves you. A real faith will produce fruit.
  • We begin our new life by faith alone. The faith that saves will produce fruit in sanctification, however we need to make sure that justification and sanctification are kept distinct. Whereas they operate together like two sides of the same coin, if one side is missing, then the coin is of no value; they are distinct and the temporal order needs to be kept in mind. I wasn’t saved after producing some measure of fruit. I was saved before I produced fruit. My deeds were as filthy rags, but now my deeds are made pleasing in His sight because we are in Christ and our lives are shaped for His glory.
  • Justification and Sanctification are both works of grace!!! We ought never think of salvation as a hand up where we are then left on our own, or a hand out that we seek to repay. Saving grace is sustaining grace!!!
  • All this to say that Paul is making clear that the “judicial” standing of the Gentiles rests completely in the grace of God who counts all righteous who will “believe” His promise of salvation in Christ.  The Judaizers are attacking the Gentiles “standing” before God.
  • Once Paul resolves this issue, you have the second half of the book dealing with the relational dynamic that comes from being people of the Spirit. “faith workings through love”.

7         Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham.

  • Abraham’s children:
    • There are ethnic sons: Ishmael and Isaac
    • Issac was son of promise and this extends though Jacob over Esau
    • Romans 9:6–13 (ESV) — 6 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, 7 and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 8 This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. 9 For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.” 10 And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— 12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”
    • Jesus is called the true son of Abraham
    • Galatians 3:16 (ESV) — 16 Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ.
    • God was free to make the promise to Abraham, free to pass the promise through Isaac, free to pass on through Jacob, leading to Christ, who is the culminating seed and Son of promise.
    • We are recipients of the promise to Abraham to bless all the peoples of the earth by coming to Christ in faith, which was the ultimate aim of the Abrahamic covenant!!!

–          All of the promises of God are Yes and Amen in Christ. There is no blessing apart from faith in the true Son of promise.

–          The true children of Abraham are those who have faith in Christ!!! This is further confirmed by the free, sovereign, gracious work of the Spirit:

–          Galatians 4:6–7 (ESV) — 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

–          The proof is in the Spirit!!!

–          The Spirit is given to “those of faith”, which we see here in v. 7, to be reiterated in v.9, so “faith” alone is the “righteous” response to promise.

–          In v. 8, Paul, the able attorney, marshals yet another text to show that this inclusion of “all peoples” is not something weird or aberrant, but was the actual aim of the Abrahamic covenant to begin with. How could they miss this???

8 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.”

–          Genesis 12:1–3 (ESV) — 1 Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

–          This was the aim of Israel, to bring blessings to the whole earth. We see this fulfilled in Jesus, who becomes the true Israel and thus fulfills the mission of Israel as servant.

–          Paul is making an argument from redemptive history and we must pay particular attention to this most important story of the Bible…how God is working out a singular plan for His glory!!!

–          Isaiah 42:1–7 (ESV) — 1 Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. 2 He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; 3 a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. 4 He will not grow faint or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law. 5 Thus says God, the Lord, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people on it and spirit to those who walk in it: 6 “I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations, 7 to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.

–          We see here that the mission of Israel will be consolidated into the “Servant”, who will fulfill the mission!!!

–          Luke 2:25–32 (ESV) — 25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, 28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, 29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; 30 for my eyes have seen your salvation 31 that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.”

Closing –

9 So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

  • Are you a man or woman or child of faith? No, really, are you a person of faith?
  • This phrase gets thrown around so flippantly, being a “person of faith”. Do you have “real” faith?
  • Are you a friend of God? We are natural-born enemies of God. All sin, all cursings against God, all of it can be washed away if you will respond in trust and love to the promise of salvation that Jesus lays before you this morning in His Word!!!
  • Perhaps you are a “friend of God”, but how’s your relationship?
  • Lastly, Jews, Gentiles, rich, poor, criminals of the worst kind, all of us meet Jesus at the foot of the cross. We MUST, we MUST embrace one another, no matter how sketchy our past, how different our culture, and we must never act discriminatory towards fellow believers in the Body of Christ.
    • The reason Paul is arguing all of these things to defend the status of Gentiles. In this sense, theology is wholly practical!!! Paul is not amusing himself with how many angels can dance on the pin of a needle, He is teaching Scripture with the aim of God’s glory!!!
    • Get to know the story, read the Word, read it, be mighty in it, be conversant, be equipped for every good work!!!
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