Summary: The life of Abraham shows that justification is by faith, not by works.
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Have you ever done something really foolish?
“You foolish Galatians!” The Galatians weren’t stupid. But they were acting foolishly. He calls them “foolish” twice (vv. 1, 3).
What the Galatians were doing was so foolish that Paul wonders (not seriously) if they had been “bewitched”—if a spell had been cast on them!
Paul had clearly presented the message of justification by faith in the crucified Christ. Now he is astonished that they are embracing a different gospel—a gospel of faith plus the law.
Paul’s enemies (the Judaizers) were saying that Gentile believers could not be justified unless they believe in Christ plus follow the law (circumcision). So Paul uses the example of Abraham, the father of the Jews, to prove that justification is by faith alone.
• Abraham was justified BEFORE he was circumcised.
Consider Abraham: “He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness” (v. 6; cf. Genesis 15:6; 17:10-11).
“Is this blessedness only for the circumcision, or also for the uncircumcised? We have been saying that Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness. Under what circumstances was it credited? Was it after he was circumcised, or before? It was not after, but before! And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised” (Romans 4:9-11a). (Abraham’s circumcision was sort of like our baptism. Abraham was circumcised after he believed the promises of God; we are baptized after we put our faith in Christ.)
Three times in Scripture we find God crediting (imputing) sin or righteousness to someone else:
(1) When Adam sinned, his SIN was credited to us.
(2) When Christ died, our SIN was credited to Him.
(3) When we put our faith in Christ, His RIGHTEOUSNESS was credited to us. “God made [Christ] who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Justification is a gift, not a reward. “If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. What does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness’” (Romans 4:2-3).
• Abraham is the PROTOTYPE of the Gentile Christian.
“So then, [Abraham] is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them. And he is also the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised” (Romans 4:11b-12).
In Sunday School, we used to sing a song called “Father Abraham”:
Father Abraham had many sons,
And many sons had Father Abraham;
And I am one of them, and so are you,
So let’s all praise the Lord!
What does it mean to be a child of Abraham?
1. Being a child of Abraham doesn’t mean PHYSICALLY descending from Abraham.
“Abraham is our father,” they [the Jews] answered. “If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would do the things Abraham did” (John 8:39).
“God has no grandchildren.”
2. Being a child of Abraham means having the FAITH of Abraham.
Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham (v. 7).
3. Being a child of Abraham means being BLESSED through Abraham.
The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith (vv. 8-9; cf. Genesis 12:1-3; 17:3-5).
Matthew 28:19: “all nations”
“After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands” (Revelation 7:9).
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:28-29).
THE BLESSING OF JUSTIFICATION
The blessing of Abraham comes through his “seed,” Jesus Christ.
The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,” meaning one person, who is Christ (Galatians 3:16; cf. Genesis 12:7).
• Justification by faith removes the fear of standing before a HOLY GOD.
• Justification by faith removes the fear of DEATH.