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"Blessed with Believing Abraham "
Wednesday Evening Home Bible Study
October 12, 2005
In arguing for justification by faith, Paul was inventing nothing new.
It was the plan that was laid out in the Old Testament Scriptures all along.
This passage has many references to the Old Testament. Key passages drawn
- Genesis 15:1-6;
- Genesis 12:1-3;
- Deuteronomy 27;
- Habakkuk 2:4;
- Leviticus 18:1-5; and
- Deuteronomy 21:22-23.
THE SCRIPTURES SHOW THAT GOD'S PLAN TO JUSTIFY BY FAITH . . .
I. WAS REVEALED IN THE EXPERIENCE OF ABRAHAM (vv. 6-9).
A. In calling the Galatians to trust completely in the sufficiency of
Christ's cross as the means of our justification, Paul points to Abraham as
the foundational example of saving faith (vv. 6-7).
1. Abraham was important to point to because he is an example of
someone God saved though faith in God's promise. This was apart from God's
law, because he lived four-hundred and thirty years before the law was given
2. Paul cites Genesis 15:6 as scriptural proof that salvation by
faith in God's promise. Abraham believed God's promise of a heir that would
come from his own body. This was a confirmation of God's promise that, in
Abraham - that is, in his seed - the whole world would be blessed (Genesis
12:3). This itself was a confirmation of the promise God made concerning
the Seed of the woman who would bruise the head of the serpent - that is, the
promise of the Savior (Genesis 3:15).
3. The basis of God's act toward Abraham was not works but
Abraham's faith in God's promise. And as a result, God "reckoned" his faith
(logizomai, that is "imputed", "credited", "counted") to him as
"righteousness". This stands forever as Scripture's primary example of a
faith that saves (Romans 4:1-3; 13-22). Therefore, we are to "know" (an
imperative) that those who are of faith are truly the sons of Abraham (and,
by implication, not those who seek God's favor through the law [cf. John
B. That, as verse 7 suggests, is the true standard of salvation for
the Jew. But Paul makes it clear from the Scripture that this example was
not meant to stand for the Jew alone, but also for the Gentile who would
believe as Abraham did (vv. 8-9).
1. The Scripture "foresaw" that God would justify those who are
of the faith of Abraham - that is, who place their faith in the promise of God
apart from the works of the law. It "foresaw" it in the sense that it
declared it BEFORE the law was given; in that it "preached the gospel to
Abraham beforehand" (proeuanggelizomai, to announce joyful news beforehand)
by God telling him at the time of his call, "In you all the nations shall be
blessed" (Genesis 12:3).
2. In verse 7, Paul said that all those who are of faith are sons
of Abraham. Now, in verse 9, he asserts that all those who are of faith are
blessed with Abraham! He here calls him "believing Abraham". Abraham is
the original "believer".
II. WAS MADE NECESSARY BY THE CURSE OF THE LAW (vv. 10-12).
A. Paul now paints a contrast from the faith of believing Abraham (v.
1. Those who have faith are blessed; but those who are of works
of the law (that is, that try to achieve favor with God on the basis of
conformity to the law of Moses) are far from "blessed". They are, in fact,
"under the curse".
2. It is called "the curse", because the Scripture has placed all
under a curse who fails to keep God's law. This was affirmed when, at the
second giving of God's law - just before the people of Israel entered the
promised land - the Levites pronounced a curse on all who didn't keep God's
law, as the people responded with their "Amen!": "Cursed is everyone who
does not continue in all the things which are written in the book of the
law, to do them" (see Deuteronomy 27:26).
B. But even then, the Scripture made it clear that no one could ever
become righteous before God on the basis of the law, but only on the basis
of faith. This is something that should have already been known.
1. This is "evident" (dălos; "clearly visible, manifest") from
what it says in Habakkuk 2:4; that "the just shall live by faith" (see also
Romans 1:17; Hebrews 10:38) - that is, not as one who keeps the law through
works, but as one who believes in the promise of God as did Abraham.
2. The standard given in Habakkuk 2:4 is not possible to keep by
works of the law, because works of the law performed to earn God's favor are
not of faith. The standard of works of the law is different from the
standard of faith; for when it comes to the law, "the man who does them
shall live by them" (Leviticus 18:5). The original intent of those words in
Leviticus was to encourage the people to stay true to God's law because, by
them, they will live the prosperous life. But Paul takes that meaning and
uses it to underscore the impossibility of keeping the standard (Matthew
5:48; James 2:10; Romans 3:20) - and thus bringing a curse upon one's self and
making salvation through faith in God's promise of grace our only hope
(Romans 4:1-5; Galatians 3:22-24).
III. WAS BROUGHT INTO EFFECT BY THE WORK OF CHRIST (vv. 13-14).
A. Christ has "redeemed" us from the curse of the law. To "redeem"
(exagoraző) means to redeem or to buy out - such as when a slave is bought out
of his slavery by the grace of another.
B. Jesus did this for us by becoming "a curse" for us. He Himself
hung on the cross and experienced the curse of Deuteronomy 21:23 - "Cursed is
everyone who hangs on a tree" (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:22-24).
"Tree" (xulon) can mean "timber" or "stocks" or "wood" in general as well as
"tree". Thus He paid the debt of the curse for us.
C. He did this so that the blessing of Abraham - that is, the blessing
that comes through being related to the promise given to him by faith - might
come not only on the Jew who believes on Christ, but also on the Gentiles
who believe on Christ. To receive the promise of the Spirit, as Paul says
it here, is synonymous with being saved (see verse 3). This, he affirms, is
only by faith.