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The Children of Abraham Galatians 3:5-9, 29

Jan 30, 2010

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Galatians 3:5-9, 29 (esp. 7-9)

“Children of Abraham”

10/4/09

 What do we have here?

Some think that the Bible is a collection of rules and principles that we can apply to all the issues of our lives to make ourselves more moral, well-adjusted, respectable, or successful.  Others, noticing that it contains a lot of stories of impressive characters, think that it is a set of hero stories that we can dig into to find people we can admire and imitate, good examples for living the good life. 

All these things are, in a sense, true of the Bible.  It contains many precepts and many shining and inspiring examples – as well as a number of examples of how not to live.

But the Bible, although it is a library of 66 books, is not a religious resource library for us to dig stuff out of.  It is a single true story, the story of God’s salvation of sinful humanity.

  1. After Noah, however, the survivors from whom we are all descended went back to their old ways, completely failing to honor God or to follow His ways.

Then at the end of the 11th chapter of Genesis, we are introduced to a man named Abram, living in the ancient land of Babylonia, who God calls out to begin something new – the chosen people of faith.

The rest of the Old Testament is the story of the people of Abram, who is renamed Abraham, or “father of a multitude” by God.  God tells Abraham that he will be the father, not just of a multitude, but of a multitude of nations. 

Think of the person you know who to you best exemplifies what it means to be a Christian.  Then remember this:  that person was made right with God, and remains right with God, not because he or she deserves God’s blessing, but through faith in Jesus – and in the God who, as Paul says in Romans, “justifies the ungodly”. For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness." Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,

(Romans 4:2-5 ESV)

Who are your people?  Rodney Atkins sang, These are my people/ This is where I come from.  But Paul says to the Ephesians, …remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called "the uncircumcision" by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands-- remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. (Ephesians 2:11-12 ESV)  Peter says, “Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God.” (1 Peter 2:10)

God blessed Abraham and his offspring.  How do you get in on this blessing?

Abraham was justified not through his compliance with the Law’s requirements but through faith in God’s word. Barnes: Abraham believed God, and was justified, before the Law of Moses was given. It could not, therefore, be pretended that the Law was necessary to justification; for if it had been, Abraham could not have been saved. But if not necessary in his case, it was in no other; and this instance demonstrated that the false teachers among the Galatians were wrong even according to the Old Testament.

-          The true children of Abraham are those who have faith.

-          The Scripture that says that all the nations will be blessed in Abraham means that all peoples who share in Abraham’s faith will be justified.

-          The true recipients of the blessing God gave Abraham are those who have faith, whether Jews or Gentiles – all of those who believe, and none who do not believe.

-          (29) Those who belong to Christ are the true offspring of Abraham.

-          Those who belong to Christ are the true heirs of Abraham through God’s promise.

 

Those who have faith like Abraham are

-          Sons of Abraham

-          justified like Abraham

-          blessed with Abraham

-          the seed of Abraham

-          heirs of the promise given to Abraham


See Romans 4, esp. 16-17: That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring--not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, as it is written, "I have made you the father of many nations"--in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.

They answered him, "Abraham is our father." Jesus said to them, "If you were Abraham's children, you would be doing what Abraham did, (John 8:39)

Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad." So the Jews said to him, "You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?" Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am." (John 8:56-58)

And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written, "'After this I will return, and I will rebuild the tent of David that has fallen; I will rebuild its ruins,  and I will restore it, that the remnant of mankind may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who are called by my name,  says the Lord, who makes these things known from of old.' (Acts 15:15-18 ESV) (citing Amos 9:11-12)

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. 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. 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." So Abram went, as the LORD had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. (Genesis 12:1-4 ESV)

The LORD said, "Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring to Abraham what he has promised him." (Genesis 18:17-19 ESV)

So Abraham called the name of that place, "The LORD will provide"; as it is said to this day, "On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided." And the angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven and said, "By myself I have sworn, declares the LORD, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice."  (Genesis 22:14-18 ESV)

…he says: "It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth."  (Isaiah 49:6 ESV)

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, "Abba! Father!" The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs--heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.  (Romans 8:15-17 ESV)

This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.  (Ephesians 3:6 ESV)

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.  (Titus 3:4-7)

 

Albert Barnes:

Gal 3:6  Even as Abraham believed God … the most eminent of the patriarchs was not saved by the deeds of the Law. He was saved by faith, and this fact showed that it was possible to be saved in that way, and that it was the design of God to save people in this manner. Abraham believed God, and was justified, before the Law of Moses was given. It could not, therefore, be pretended that the Law was necessary to justification; for if it had been, Abraham could not have been saved. But if not necessary in his case, it was in no other; and this instance demonstrated that the false teachers among the Galatians were wrong even according to the Old Testament.

 Gal 3:7  … the children of Abraham - Abraham was the “father of the faithful.” The most remarkable trait in his character was his unwavering confidence in God. They who evinced the same trait, therefore were worthy to be called his children. They would be justified in the same way, and in the same manner meet the approbation of God. It is implied here, that it was sufficient for salvation to have a character which would render it proper to say that we are the children of Abraham..

 

[8] Foreseeing - That is, this doctrine is contained in the Old Testament. It was foreseen and predicted that the pagan would be justified by faith, and not by the works of the Law.  …In thee shall all nations be blessed - See the Act_3:25 note; Rom_4:13 note. All nations should be made happy in him, or through him. The sense is, that the Messiah was to be descended from him, and the religion of the Messiah, producing peace and salvation, was to be extended to all the nations of the earth…The full meaning of the promise, indeed, could not be gathered from the words themselves, but Abraham must have understood their application in a far more extensive sense than that “somehow through him all the nations of the earth would be made happy.” Whether the true import were made known to him directly by the Spirit of God, or discerned by him in typical representation, it is certain that Abraham’s faith terminated on the promised Seed, that is, Christ whose day he desired to see, and seeing it afar, was glad, Joh_8:56. “Hereof it followeth,” says Luther on the place, “that the blessing and faith of Abraham is the same that ours is, that Abraham’s Christ is our Christ, that Christ died as well for the sins of Abraham as for us.”)

 

Gal 3:9  So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham - In the same manner they are interested in the promises made to him, and they will be treated as he was. They are justified in the same manner, and admitted to the same privileges on earth and in heaven.

 

Gal 3:29  And if ye be Christ’s - If you belong to the Messiah, and are interested in his work.

Then are ye Abraham’s seed - The promise made to Abraham related to the Messiah. It was a promise that in him all should be blessed. Abraham believed in that Messiah, and was distinguished for his faith in him who was to come. If they believed in Christ, therefore, they showed that they were the spiritual descendants of Abraham. No matter whether they were Jews or Gentiles; whether they had been circumcised or not, they had the same spirit which he evinced, and were interested in the promises made to him.

And heirs according to the promise - …You inherit the blessings promised to Abraham, and partake of the felicity to which he looked forward. You have become truly heirs of God, and this is in accordance with the promise made to Abraham. It is not by the obedience of the Law; it is by faith - in the same way that Abraham possessed the blessing; an arrangement before the giving of the Law, and therefore one that may include all, whether Jews or Gentiles. All are on a level; and all are alike the children of God, and in the same manner, and on the same terms that Abraham was.

 John Gill:

Gal 3:6  Even as Abraham believed God.... The object of faith is God, Father, Son, and Spirit; here Jehovah the Son seems principally intended, who in Gen_15:1 is called the "Word of the Lord"; the essential Word, who was with God from everlasting, and was God, and in the fulness of time was made flesh and dwelt among men; and "Abraham's shield", the same the apostle in Eph_6:16 calls "the shield of faith"; meaning not the grace of faith, but Christ the object of faith; which faith lays hold on, and makes use of as a shield against the temptations of Satan: and also his "exceeding great reward"; his all in all, being made to him, as to all believers, wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption: him he believed, not only that he was God, but he believed his word of promise, and in his power and faithfulness to fulfil it; which regarded not only his natural offspring, and a numerous race, the enjoyment of the land of Canaan, and many temporal good things in it, but the Messiah, and spiritual blessings in him…

 [7] the children of Abraham; his spiritual seed, though they may not be his natural offspring; for he is the father of all that believe, whether of the circumcision or the uncircumcision, and of none else in a spiritual sense: in this the apostle strikes at the false teachers, who boasted of their being the seed of Abraham, his natural descendants, which they might be, and yet not his spiritual children; for none are such, but they that are of faith, or seek for righteousness by faith; not they that are of the law, or seek for justification by the works of it, and so not heirs of the blessing; were they, faith would be made void, and the promise of none effect… the Gentiles, who believe, are the true seed of Abraham, the children of the promise, those in many nations, he was promised to be the father of; and … as the father of the faithful was justified …by faith, so are they.

 

[8] preached before, the Gospel unto Abraham … Christ was the first preacher of the Gospel that ever was; he first preached it to Adam and Eve in the garden, and afterwards to Abraham: it was Gospel, it was good news to him, that the Messiah should spring from him, and all nations be blessed in him; he rejoiced at it, and by faith saw Christ's day … before his circumcision, of which that was a sign and seal, namely, that the righteousness of faith should be upon the uncircumcised Gentiles; and before the law of works was given on Mount Sinai…

in thee shall all nations be blessed; the passage referred to, is in Gen_12:3 and is repeated Gen_18:18 and in Gen 22:18 is thus expressed, in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; which shows, that this is not to be understood of Abraham personally, but of his seed; and which cannot intend Isaac, the immediate seed of Abraham, in whom it was never verified; and besides, is carried down to his seed, Gen_26:4 as not terminating in him; … nor the whole body of the Jews, the posterity of Jacob, in whom it never had its completion; for when and how have the nations of the earth been blessed in them? either whilst in their own land, when they would have no conversation with them, neither on a civil or sacred account, unless they conformed to their rites; or since their dispersion… but it is to be understood of the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the son of Abraham, took upon him the seed of Abraham…. here it designs blessings in Christ, and not temporal, but spiritual ones, even all spiritual blessings; as redemption, reconciliation, peace, pardon, adoption, sanctification, and eternal life, and particularly justification; this is the blessedness … which comes not upon the circumcision only, but the uncircumcision also; and they that partake of this are blessed indeed; for they are justified from all sin, are free from condemnation, secure from the wrath of God, have a title to eternal life, and shall certainly be glorified: and when it is said that "all nations" shall be thus blessed, the meaning is, not that every individual of all nations shall enjoy this happiness, for all are not in Christ, nor have his righteousness imputed to them, nor have faith in him, there are many that will be condemned … but some of all nations, that God will have saved, and Christ has redeemed by his blood; and these are the many he justifies, even all the elect of God, in the various nations of the world.

 Gal 3:9  So then they which be of faith,.... This is the apostle's …explanation of the preceding clause, and shows that it must be taken in a limited sense, and understood not of every individual; only of those who are of the same faith with Abraham, are believers in Christ, and seek for justification by faith in him, and not by the works of the law: these are blessed with faithful Abraham; in his seed Christ; they are blessed with a justifying righteousness in Christ as he was, and will be blessed with eternal life as he is; they shall sit with him, and with Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. The character of "faithful" given to him, respects not his uprightness and integrity among men, but his faith in God; and does not suppose that he was blessed for his faith, but that it was through faith that he received the blessing of justification, and not by the works of the law; and that in the same way, all that believe enjoy the same favour, for to them it is limited …

 

Gal 3:29  For if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed; not his natural but his spiritual seed, the seed that should come, and to whom the promises were made, Gal_3:16 and so were upon an equal foot even with the Jews that believed: and heirs according to the promise; being the children of God, they are heirs of God; and being the spiritual children of Abraham, the children of the promise, which are counted for the seed, they are, according to the promise made to Abraham and his spiritual seed, heirs of the blessings of the grace of life, and of the eternal inheritance; of the blessing of justification of life, and of everlasting salvation; of this world and of the world to come; of all the spiritual blessings of the covenant of grace, and of the incorruptible and undefiled inheritance of the saints in light; to which they are begotten through the abundant mercy of God, for which they are made meet by the grace of Christ; and to which they have a right by his justifying righteousness.

 Matthew Henry:

The apostle having reproved the Galatians for not obeying the truth, and endeavoured to impress them with a sense of their folly herein, in these verses he largely proves the doctrine which he had reproved them for rejecting, namely, that of justification by faith without the works of the law. This he does … [from] the example of Abraham's justification… Abraham believed God, and that was accounted to him for righteousness (Gal_3:6); that is, his faith fastened upon the word and promise of God, and upon his believing he was owned and accepted of God as a righteous man: as on this account he is represented as the father of the faithful, so … those who are of faith are the children of Abraham (Gal_3:7), not according to the flesh, but according to the promise; and… they are justified in the same way that he was. …. The scripture is said to foresee, because he that indited the scripture did foresee, that God would justify the heathen world in the way of faith; and therefore in Abraham, that is, in the seed of Abraham, which is Christ, not the Jews only, but the Gentiles also, should be blessed… as Abraham was, being justified as he was. This the apostle calls preaching the gospel to Abraham; and thence infers (Gal_3:9) that those who are of faith, that is, true believers, of what nation soever they are, are blessed with faithful Abraham. They are blessed with Abraham the father of the faithful, by the promise made to him, and therefore by faith as he was.

 

Robert Jamieson:

Gal 3:7 - they which are of faith, the samethese, and these alone, to the exclusion of all the other descendants of Abraham.

 Gal 3:8 - would justify — rather, “justifieth.” Present indicative. It is now, and at all times, God’s one way of justification….preached before the gospel — … For the “promise” was substantially the Gospel by anticipation… Thus the Gospel, in its essential germ, is older than the law... all nations — or as above, “all the Gentiles” … be blessed — an act of grace, not something earned by works. The blessing of justification was to Abraham by faith in the promise, not 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.

 [9] faithful — implying what it is in which they are “blessed together with him,” namely, faith, the prominent feature of his character, and of which the result to all who like him have it, is justification.