Sermons

Summary: We never judge the Scriptures by our experiences; we test our experiences by the Word of God.

October 12, 2013

Tom Lowe

The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Galatians

Chapter III.A.2.a: The Faith of Abraham (3.6-9)

Galatians 3.6-9 (KJV)

6 just as Abraham "believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness."

7 Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham.

8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, "In you all the nations shall be blessed."

9 So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham.

Introduction

Paul turns now from subjective experience to the objective evidence of the Word of God. We never judge the Scriptures by our experiences; we test our experiences by the Word of God. In the previous section (vv. 1-5), Paul asked four questions; in this section and verses 10-14 he will quote six Old Testament statements to prove that salvation is by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law. Since the Judaizers wanted to take believers back into the Law, Paul quotes the Law! And since they magnified the place of Abraham in their religion, Paul uses Abraham as one of his witnesses.

Commentary

6 just as Abraham "believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness."

The Judaizers claimed to have the Old Testament on their side, especially clamming Moses as their teacher. But Paul went further back in Jewish history than that, and said, “Consider Abraham.” How was he, who is the father of the Jewish people, justified? The answer was simple and to the point, Quoting Genesis 15.6, Paul declared, “he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.” Abraham’s faith in God’s ability to do what He promised was accepted by God as righteousness and so the great patriarch was justified—before he was circumcised: “Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin” (Gen. 17.24). How then, could the Judaizers insist that circumcision was necessary to being accepted by God?

The words “accounted” in this verse and “counted” in Genesis 15.6 mean the same as “imputed” in Romans 4.11: “And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also.” The Greek word means “to put to one’s account.” When the sinner trusts Christ, God’s righteousness is put to his account. And there’s more than this—the believers sins are no longer put to his account (see Rom. 4.1-8). This means that the record is always clean before God, and therefore the believer can never be brought into judgment for his sins.

Notice that it says, “Abraham believed God.” It does not say that he believed IN GOD. But he BELIEVED GOD. There is an infinity of difference between believing in God and believing God. Even the devil believes in God. Only a fool says “there is no God,”—“The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God’" (Ps. 14.1). A man can believe IN God, but unless he BELIEVES GOD, he is still lost. To believe God means to ACCEPT HIS WORD, and to TRUST HIS PROMISES. Just believing in the existence of God is not enough. We must believe what He says. The only book which contains His promises is the Bible, therefore believing His promises is believing HIS WORD. Abraham believed what God said. Therefore, the vital question is: “What did Abraham believe?” We have the answer given in Genesis 15, from which Paul quotes in this section—“After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, "Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward." But Abram said, "Lord God, what will You give me, seeing I go childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?" Then Abram said, "Look, You have given me no offspring; indeed one born in my house is my heir!" And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, saying, "This one shall not be your heir, but one who will come from your own body shall be your heir." Then He brought him outside and said, "Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them." And He said to him, "So shall your descendants be." And he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness” (Gen. 15.1-6). Abraham believed that God would give him a miraculously born son, that he would have countless descendants, and that one of them would bless the world, because He would be the Savior, the Messiah.

It cannot be said that Abraham was justified by keeping the Law, because the Mosaic Law was not given until four hundred years after Abraham. Neither can it be said he was justified by circumcision, because he was justified before God gave him the commandment of circumcision. Circumcision was the badge and evidence of Abraham’s faith, just like baptism is the badge and evidence of a believer’s faith today. Neither circumcision nor baptism can save. In fact, they make no contribution to salvation. They are simply outward evidence of an inward work.

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