After Paul’s attention-getting charge of “you foolish Galatians,” he begins to teach them about faith. Paul writes, “Even so Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the nations will be blessed in you.” So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer.” (Galatians 3:6–9, NASB95) Abraham will come up several times as we continue our exploration of Galatians.
Keep the issues stirring up the Galatians in mind. Folks had convinced them that the only way to be saved was to become Jewish in practice. In other words, to keep the Law of Moses as it is laid out in the Torah (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy). Especially in view were the dietary laws and the rite of circumcision. Paul is essentially taking them further back, back to the promises given to Abraham.
The passage which Paul quotes is “Then he believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.” (Genesis 15:6, NASB95) It is important to note that God considered Abraham righteous based on faith prior to the covenant of circumcision, which comes much later in Abraham’s life (Genesis 17:11). Contrary to the teachings of the Judaizers and those teaching law instead of grace, salvation does not begin or is entered through law-keeping. At this stage of Abraham’s life, he had heard and followed one command – (paraphrased) “Leave home and go where I show you.” Because of his faith, God reckoned Abraham as righteous.
Everyone who accepts Christ takes that same journey. We hear God’s invitation through Jesus to leave our old lives and enter a new one. Not unlike Abraham leaving his hometown and family and traveling to an unknown land.
Paul’s second point is that the promise of the Gentiles entering the Kingdom is an old one. It was part of God’s promise to Abraham at the very beginning of his journey. “Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go forth from your country, And from your relatives And from your father’s house, To the land which I will show you; And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing; And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” (Genesis 12:1–3, NASB95) It is interesting that while all of God’s promises did come to pass, very little of it was evident in Abraham’s lifetime.
Paul’s point is that God had planned and promised that all families (tribes, tongues, clans, nations) would be blessed with Abraham. And this extended beyond those who kept the Law of Moses or identified as Jewish.
It is perhaps humanity’s fallen nature that leads us to divide and separate. But it is God’s nature to make a way for all. It was His plan and desire from the beginning. A desire which is sprinkled throughout the Old Testament and comes into full view in the New Testament. Through faith, we are all sons and daughters of Abraham and share in his blessing from God.
Law separates folks into law-keepers and law-breakers. Faith joins people with all kinds of differences into one family. We may not look alike or sound alike. We may have vastly different views on politics, hot-button issues, and the way forward. We may be different in our age, our financial situation, our education, our dreams, and desires. We may be separated in a thousand different ways. We may have different views on some issues of faith and practice. And yet, through our common faith in Jesus Christ, we are family. We are one. That is the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham and the key to unlocking the Gospel of Grace.