The Faith of Abraham: Part 2 of 2 (series: Lessons on Galatians)
by John Lowe
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).