The Faith of Abraham: Part 1 of 2 (series: Lessons on Galatians)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

Abraham

Abraham

October 12, 2013

The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Galatians
Tom Lowe

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.

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