By Brooke Holt
“Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith—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. 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 3:5-10)
“Father Abraham had many sons,
Many sons had Father Abraham,
I am one of them, and so are you,
So let’s all praise the Lord!”
Do you know this song? If so, you are getting ready to shake your arms, nod your head, and turn around, right? If you didn’t grow up singing this song in Sunday school, you don’t understand what I’m talking about, but you do understand how the Galatian Christians may have felt. They didn’t grow up in Sunday school, and they definitely did not sing the “Father Abraham” song. Abraham was the patriarch of the Jewish nation and an enemy to the Gentile world.
So why did the apostle Paul quote the Old Testament and speak of Father Abraham so frequently in his letter to the Galatian churches?
As with all of Scripture, there was a divine inspiration to Paul’s writing. He wasn’t just quoting the Old Testament to show off his literary skills or Torah knowledge. Instead, Paul was showing the Galatians (and the Judaizers, who he hoped would also read his letter) the connection between faith, works, and righteousness. He used Abraham’s example and Old Testament verses to prove his points.
Paul wrote that Abraham was not declared righteous because of his works but because of his faith in God. Abraham became the father of the Israelite nation because his faith propelled him to trust God and obey God. And if you know the story of Abraham and Sarah, you know that Abraham’s obedience was not perfect! Abraham lied, committed adultery, and doubted the timing and fulfillment of God’s promises. But despite his sin, God still declared Abraham righteous and kept his covenant promises. Abraham became the father of many nations (Romans 4:17–18). From him, the whole world (not just the Jews) would come to know and worship the Lord.
Abraham modeled faith because he received the gift of God. He was made righteous, not because of his works but because of his faith. For centuries, the Jewish nation fell short of the Law of God. They could never earn their own righteousness, and God sent his Son to redeem them and free them from that law. Why would they ever look back to a life of works?
Paul quoted the Old Testament in his letter because it points to our Savior. Jesus, the perfect Son of God, fulfilled the law so that the Galatian believers could live free from that law and be declared righteous through Christ. Would they humbly receive this righteousness by faith as Abraham did, or would they succumb to the Judaizers’ pressure to earn their righteousness by works?
Paul proclaimed their freedom in Christ, a freedom the Lord longs for you to embrace today!
Are you seeking to be made righteous through your works, or will you follow the example of Abraham and Paul and receive the gift of righteousness through faith? Your works are a dead end, but faith is the way of abundant and eternal life. Choose wisely! We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
The Resurrected Life: Making All Things New - The Bible promises that those who are in Christ are "new creatures." But how does that transformation take place? This unique Easter-season small group Bible study provides a space in which we can discover what it truly means to live a new life. As we listen, we'll learn how the resurrection of Jesus Christ changes everything - for us. Begin the journey to new life today!
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