We come now to the glorious example of Abraham, and the apostle Paul draws much gold out of the mines of Genesis. We will be occupied with this gold for much of the remainder of the third chapter of Galatians.
Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham. For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them (Gal. 3: 6-12)
OVERVIEW OF THE TEXT
Abraham trusted in God, and that was reckoned to him as righteousness (v. 6). And those who do the same thing that Abraham did can rightly be considered his children (v. 7). Not only this, but Scripture prophesied that this would in fact happen to the Gentiles when the gospel was declared to Abraham (v. 8). That gospel was put this way—through Abraham all
the nations would be blessed. That blessing is identified as the opportunity of being blessed with Abraham (v. 9), and this is for everyone who is “of faith.”
Being “of faith” is contrasted with being “of the works of the law.” Those who are of faith are blessed; those who are of the Judaic works of the law are cursed (v. 10). Everyone who does not continue in the works of the law is cursed (v. 10). It is clear, Paul says, that no one is justified by law-keeping for the just will live by faith (v. 11). The law, on the other hand, is based on doing, not believing (v. 12).
ABRAHAM AND THE GOSPEL
God told Abraham something, and Abraham believed God concerning that something. Note first that the object of Abraham’s faith was God. The “carrier” of this, the thing that Abraham wound up believing, was that all nations would be blessed through him.
This is so important. The sentence is Abraham believed God, not Abraham believed in Abraham believing the right way. The Scriptures do not say here that Abraham came to understand justification by faith. It says that he believed God. The gospel, as it was declared to Abraham, was that the heathen would all be converted. That is the gospel. That is what Abraham believed. That is what Abraham saw. “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad” (John 8:56).
HOW DO THE HEATHEN PARTAKE?
The contrast is between those who are “of faith” and those who are “of the works of the law.” But we must be very careful here. The contrast is not between the grace of “not having to do” and the work of having to do. This is backwards. The contrast is between the grace of “getting to do” and the condemnation of “not being able to do.”
Why are men never justified by the works of the law? It is not because they do them, only to discover it is no good. The reason law-keeping doesn’t work is because men don’t do it. Those who are of the works of the law are under a curse because—cursed is everyone that continues not . . . Remember that we are under grace, not under law. Therefore sin is no longer our master (Rom. 6:14).
THE JUST SHALL LIVE BY FAITH
No man is justified by law. The context of this argument is that no man is justified by keeping the works of law in a Mosaic context. But if we are spiritually wise, we will apply this central biblical principle to every form of “law-keeping.” Men are summoned to believe God, and not to seek to justify themselves through circumcision, Passover-keeping, monkish zeal, or by affirming sola fide. Affirming sola fide as a means of justifying oneself is a denial of sola fide.
THE MARK OF FAITH
Jump to the end of this chapter. We will consider this in greater detail later, but what distinguishes these Gentiles who have believed from others who have not (Gal. 3:27-29). We have to remember two things. First, baptism is the mark of this promise to all nations, and not the nationally limited mark of circumcision. True faith was no more visible to the naked eye in the first century than it is today. Second, those who are so baptized need to remember the solemn warnings that Paul gave to baptized Gentiles over against circumcised Jews. He commanded them not to make the same mistake the Jews had made. We do not support the root; the root supports us (Rom. 11: 19-22).