Summary: Faith has always been the God-required respo9nse that brings salvation.
Blessed or Cursed?
When the Philippian jailer asked what he must do to be saved, Paul concisely answered, “believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved” (Acts 16:31). Salvation is appropriated by faith; and that faith is personal, internal, and spiritual, having nothing to do with ceremonies, rituals, observances, good works, or externals of any sort.
Faith has always been the God-required respo9nse that brings salvation. After having reprimanded Peter in front of the church and showing the Galatian believers from their own experience that they were justified by faith and not by works of the law, Paul now defends that doctrine from Scripture.
The Judaizers doubtlessly quoted many passages from the Old Testament in support of their legalistic claims. And because their interpretations of those passages were based on long-accepted and revered rabbinical tradition, many believing Jews in Galatia and elsewhere found the claims persuasive.
In Galatians 3:6-14, Paul exposes those misinterpretations, showing that the Judaizers were heretical in their doctrine because they were mistaken in their understanding of Scripture. He first shows them what true biblical faith does and then shows them what works cannot do. So let’s take a look at that tonight and see what we can glean from the Word of God.
I. Positive Proof from the Old Testament (vv. 6-9)
• Paul’s positive proof that the Old Testament teaches salvation by faith rather than works revolves around Abraham, father of the Hebrew people and supreme patriarch of Judaism.
• The Judaizers doubtlessly used Abraham as certain proof that circumcision was necessary to please God and become acceptable to Him.
o In Gen. 12: 2-3 we hear the exact words of God to Abraham, “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 shall be blessed.”
o It was later in Gen. 17:10, that Abraham and his descendants were commanded to be circumcised as a sign of god’s covenant and a constant illustration of the need for spiritual cleansing from sin.
• Putting those two accounts together, the Judaizers argues, “Isn’t it obvious that if the rest of the world, that is, Gentiles, are to share in the promised blessings to Abraham, they must first take on the sign that marks God’s people, the Jews?
o “But that doesn’t follow,” Paul replied in effect.
o Quoting Gen. 15:6, he asked “Don’t you know that even so Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness?”
o They had forgotten that it was Abraham’s faith in God that made him righteous, not the circumcision to follow.
• The Judaizers, like most other Jews of that day, had completely reversed the relationship of circumcision and salvation.
o Circumcision was only a mark, not the means of salvation.
• Since the Fall, proud mankind has been naturally inclined to trust in himself, including his ability to please God by his own character and efforts.
o By counting on ceremonial nationalism, legalistic Jews imagined they were in the spiritual as well as racial heritage of Abraham, whereas they were really in the spiritual heritage of Cain, who, in rejecting God’s way, not only followed his own way but also Satan’s.
• It should be noted also that Abraham is not only the pattern for justification by faith but for obedient living by that faith as well.
o By faith Abraham followed God to an unknown land and by faith he was willing to give back to God the son who alone could be the means of fulfilling the divine promise.
• To reemphasis the absolute importance of what Paul is trying to say, he adds, “Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham.”
o Personifying God’s Word, the apostle goes on to say, “the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham – which is an exposition of Genesis 12:3: ‘All the nations shall be blessed in you.’”
• Those who are saved are saved because of their faith, and those who are lost are lost because of their unbelief.
II. Negative Proof from the Old Testament (vv. 10-12)
• The Judaizers also strongly advocated the necessity of keeping the Mosaic Law in order to be saved.
• But here again, simply the sequence of Old Testament events should have shown them the foolishness of that belief.
• Abraham not only was declared righteous about 14 years before he was commanded to be circumcised, but more than 500 years before God revealed His law to Moses at Sinai.