NT, Part 14. Part 7 in our discussion of Galatians.
All of the blessings believers have in Christ come from God — our forgiveness, God’s grace, our position as heirs in God’s family. Now we’re descendants of Abraham, for we are followers of Christ, indwelt by the Holy Spirit.
Sons / Descendants / Posterity of Abraham
“Know then that it is those of faith who are sons of Abraham“ (Galatians 3:7 ESV). The word “sons” here means children, in a wider sense descendants, Abraham’s posterity, his family, both men and women. God offered Abraham a posterity like the stars of heaven.
Still today, some four thousand years after Abraham walked the earth, being one who is of the faith of Abraham, who believed God and whose faith is counted as righteousness, is significant.
To be Abraham’s descendant means the difference between eternal life in God’s presence for those who entrust themselves to Messiah Jesus OR an eternity away from God’s presence for those who make the decision to turn away from Jesus, God’s Messiah.
Faith or No Faith
In the Parable of the Talents, an eternity away from God’s presence is described by Matthew. “For to everyone who has [here faith and actions that display trust in the Master] will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not [here one who has no faith or confidence in the Master, one who ignores any good given by the Master], even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 25:29-30 ESV).
Matthew, the former tax collector, would be precise with the outcome of these spiritual investments. He dealt in monetary investments. He knows how investments works.
On the other hand, the one who entrusts their soul to Jesus Messiah, who places their confidence in the Savior, who holds firmly with conviction to their faith in Christ, this one is of the posterity of Abraham and spends eternity with God the Father, Jesus and all the believers who love him.
The Father of God’s People
“Abraham is the father of God’s people not because he is the biological ancestor of the Jews but because he has a family of spiritual children who follow in his footsteps by believing as he did. God promised Abraham that he would bring life from his dead body (Romans 4). Thus Abraham is a living Old Testament prophecy of the gospel: he was not an Israelite but a pagan, and God justified him by faith.” 1.
In the original Hebrew language of the Torah, the first five books of our Old Testament, the name Abram literally means “exalted father.” The name Abraham, however, contains another unused root word, which roughly means “multitude.” Abraham translated literally, then, means “father of a multitude.”
Abram and his half-sister Sarai, along with their two brothers and their wives, lived within their father Terah’s multi-generational family in the polytheistic culture of Ur of the Chaldeans, modern-day Iraq. Temples were numerous in Mesopotamia, and so were priests. The gods were worshiped with sacrifices of animals and human beings, with offerings of flowers, fruits, and bread, with instrumental and vocal music, dancing, and prayer.
Abram’s family was wealthy, and they were pagan. The city of Ur possessed a well-developed urban culture for that time period, and yet Abram’s father Terah relocated his family westward toward Haran.
At some point before they arrived in Haran, Abram had a personal encounter with God, who called Abram to leave behind his family and his father’s religion and traditions. Abram had married his half-sister Sarai, a common practice in ancient times to keep their tribe intact and to preserve family wealth. God’s plan included Sarai, which he clarified for Abram numerous times (Genesis 15, Genesis 22), starting here:
“The Lord had said to Abram, ‘Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you’” (Genesis 12:1-3 NIV).
Though Sarai had not yet borne any children, Abram obeyed God, and the rest is history. The Bible follows the history and trials of Abraham’s family. It records the birth and the ministry of Jesus, Abraham’s descendant, the One through whom “all peoples on earth will be blessed.”
When we turn to Jesus Messiah, committing our lives to him, asking him to be our Lord and our Savior, we likewise become members of Abraham’s family, his posterity, his descendants.When we turn to Jesus Messiah, committing our lives to him, asking him to be our Lord and our Savior, we likewise become members of Abraham's family, his posterity, his descendants. #Faith Click To Tweet
Dissecting Galatians 3:7-14
“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“ (Galatians 3:7-9 ESV).
To “justify” means to count someone as being righteous, to declare or set them forth as righteous. However, this is true: “For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them‘” (Galatians 3:10 ESV).
Keeping the Biblical Law is impossible, therefore, we NEED Christ’s fulfillment of the Law on our behalf.Keeping the Biblical Law is impossible, therefore, we NEED Christ's fulfillment of the Law on our behalf. #Faith Click To Tweet
Therefore, it’s clear that attempting to keep the Law does not result in one being “justified“ or “declared righteous.“ So, how are we justified? How are we declared righteous? As Paul discussed earlier in the letter:
“We ourselves are Jews by birth [hence Jewish sinners] and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified” (Galatians 2:15-16 ESV).
If Abram, a pagan from such a culture, and Paul, a former zealot, a rigid Pharisee, could come to faith in Christ, the resurrected and living God, and both could be justified, then so too can we.If Abram, a pagan, and Paul, a former zealot, a rigid Pharisee, could come to faith in Christ, the resurrected and living God, and both could be justified, then so too can we. #Faith Click To Tweet
“Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’ But the law is not of faith, rather ‘The one who does them shall live by them’” (Galatians 3:11-12 ESV).
Righteousness cannot be achieved by keeping the Law.
2 And the Lord answered me:
“Write the vision;
make it plain on tablets,
so he may run who reads it.
3 For still the vision awaits its appointed time;
it hastens to the end—it will not lie.
If it seems slow, wait for it;
it will surely come; it will not delay.
4 “Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him,
but the righteous shall live by his faith/faithfulness” (Habakkuk 2:2-4 ESV).
“It will take faith to wait patiently for God’s plan to unfold, but the righteous believe that God will accomplish it. The phrase ‘but the righteous shall live by his faith’ is quoted in the NT to emphasize that people are saved by grace through faith (Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11 above; cf. Ephesians 2:8) and that Christians should live by faith (Hebrews 10:38-39). The kind of faith that Habakkuk describes, and that the NT authors promote, is continuing trust in God and clinging to God’s promises, even in the darkest of days.” 1
“But my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him. But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls” (Hebrews 10:38-39 ESV)
When we come to faith in Christ, repenting of our sins and asking him to be the Lord and Savior we need so desperately, we step out from the under the oppression of the Law, for we cannot keep it.
In Galatians 2:18, Paul says we tend to think we can achieve obedience through our own efforts: “If [after giving my life to Christ] I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor.”
After coming to Christ, we often foolishly launch into a rigid lifestyle of keeping rule upon rule, a life of legalism, rather than a lifestyle of relying on Christ for help, conviction, growth, and change. And yet, because we are justified through faith in Christ Jesus, we are saved and forgiven in Christ.
“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith“ (Galatians 3:13-14 ESV).
The Holy Spirit was not given to them, nor to us, because of our stellar adherence to the Law. On the contrary, the Holy Spirit was given because of Christ’s perfect adherence to the Law on our behalf. We receive the promised Holy Spirit through faith in Jesus Messiah, his life, his death on the cross, his resurrection, and his ascension.
Thanks be to God! His Spirit works in our lives, bringing about our transformation.
- ESV Study Bible, Galatians 3:7-8, Crossway Bibles, Wheaton, Illinois. 2008.