Summary: We see 1) what true biblical faith does, 2) what works cannot do. and 3) Positive Hope in Jesus Christ
In the final days of US President Bush’s term of office, he has been trying to reconcile warning factions in the Middle East. Conflict between the Israelites and their neighbors has been hostile from their first existence. Many negotiators and presidents before them have tried and failed to broker peace to the middle east. The Israelites to this day consider themselves God’s people because they occupy a piece of real estate and descend from an ethnic lineage. Romans 11 indeed indicates a future for those who are ethnically Jews, but it comes as it always has: Belief in God though the Lord Jesus Christ.
After having shown the Galatian believers from their own experience that they were justified by faith and not by works of the law (Gal. 3:1–5), 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 Chapters 3–4 of Galatians, Paul explains the relationship between law and grace. Three words that are repeated frequently are faith (fourteen times), law (nineteen times) and promise (eleven times). Paul presents six arguments, three in each chapter, seeking to prove that salvation is by grace, through faith, apart from the works of the Law (Wiersbe, W. W. (1997, c1992). Wiersbe’s expository outlines on the New Testament (521). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.)
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. His first line of argument from the Old Testament is 1) positive, showing what true biblical faith does, and his 2) second line of argument is negative, showing what works cannot do. He concludes with 3) Positive Hope in Jesus Christ
1) POSITIVE PROOF FROM THE OLD TESTAMENT: (Galatians 3:6–9)
Galatians 3:6-9 just as Abraham "believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness"? Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, "In you shall all the nations be blessed." So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. (ESV)
To understand the nature of the confusion of the Jews and how God exactly acted, we will focus on verse six a great deal before moving on.
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. After first calling Abraham to leave his homeland of Ur of Chaldea, the Lord promised: “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” (Gen. 12:2–3). Abraham and his descendants were later commanded to be circumcised as a sign of God’s covenant and a constant illustration of the need for spiritual cleansing from sin: “This is My covenant, which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: every male among you shall be circumcised” (Gen. 17:10). (The cutting away of the foreskin on the male procreative organ signified the need to cut away sin from the heart-sin that was inherent, passed from one generation to the next; cf. Deut. 10:16; Jer. 4:4; Col. 2:11.)
Putting those two accounts together, the Judaizers argued, “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? If all the nations of the earth will be blessed in Abraham, they will have to become like Abraham and be circumcised.”
Please turn to Genesis 15
“But that doesn’t follow,” Paul replied in effect. Quoting Genesis 15:6, he asked, “Don’t you know that just as Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness?
The patriarch Abraham, who is mentioned nineteen times in Paul’s letters, is the pivotal figure in all of Paul’s arguments from Scripture in Galatians (George, T. (2001, c1994). Vol. 30: Galatians (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; The New American Commentary (216). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.)
The Greek tense describing how Abraham believed God, the dative does not mean, “in, about or on God,” but believed what God said,