COMMENTARY ON GALATIANS
LESSON NUMBER 24
Gal 3:8 "And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. 9So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham." (Gal 3:8-9)
A PROPHECY OF THE GOSPEL
The issue before us is the justification of men. What is required for a person to be just before God? This is a critical subject throughout New Covenant writings. As early as the time of Job, the question was asked, "But HOW should man be just with God?" (Job 9:2). Job said if he justified himself, his own mouth would condemn him (Job 9:20). Isaiah prophesied of the coming Messiah, "by His knowledge shall My righteous Servant justify many; for He shall bear their iniquities" (Isa 53:11). As seen originally in Abraham, being justified involved being considered righteous in God's sight. As it is written, "And he believed in the LORD; and He counted it to him for righteousness" (Gen 15:6). The correlation between justification and being made righteous is declared in Romans 3:24-28. One of the things that has happened in our day, particularly in the last 2-3 generation, is that professing Christians have had their minds turned earthward in an unprecedented way. Jesus is not rarely perceived as a Savior who is bringing many sons to glory. Now He is declared, and understood, to be the appointed means of resolving human dilemmas and realizing personal worldly ambitions. The absolute need of men to be considered righteous in the eyes of God has been buried beneath institutional rubble. This is one reason why the Scriptures are not seen as a necessity. The modern mind has picked up on the absence of a this-world emphasis in the Bible, so it has been placed upon the shelf of neglect. In other words, the same thing that had taken place in Galatia has taken place in our time - the exception being that the diversion has degenerated even more. Paul, however, will not get caught up in semantics or sectarian squabbling. Instead, he chooses to deal with a matter than has to do with how men appear before God. He knows that in the end, all men will stand before God to give an account for the deeds done in the body, whether they are good or bad (2 Cor 5:10). He knows that, in their present state, the Galatians are by no means prepared for that appointment. Unless things change for them, they will not have "boldness in the day of judgment" (1 John 4:17), and may very well be rejected (Matt 7:23). He therefore throws himself into establishing the nature and necessity of the Gospel, and of the means by which men become righteous before God. In this work, he is in harmony with the nature of salvation.
THE CENTRALITY OF SCRIPTURE
Gal 3:8a "And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith. . ."
Paul will now buttress his words with Scripture. He anchors the thinking of his readers to the Scriptures, which have been given in order that "the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works" (2 Tim 3:17).
All departures and retrogressions are the result of neglecting the Gospel, and thus losing a proper perspective of Christ and the salvation He is effecting. In the case of the Galatians, the removal from the Lord was the result of hearing "another gospel," which really was not another (Gal 1:6). That is the most dangerous kind of delusion because it allows a person to maintain a profession of faith, while living under the domination of the flesh.
THE SCRIPTURE. Other versions read, "The Holy Writings," BBE "the Writing," YLT and "the Scriptures," LIVING The expression "the Scripture" is found 26 times in the Bible, the words "the Scriptures" are found 18 times. This refers to the inspired writings, for "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God" (2 Tim 3:16). Concerning Scripture it is written that "holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost" (2 Pet 1:21).
In order to buttress his argument, Paul makes an appeal to "the Scripture" - to the message that has been written by Holy men who were moved along by the Spirit of God. The notion that words of this sort were only sure in the time when they were written is an insult to the God who inspired them. Nothing can be truly authoritative that is uncertain or subject to ultimate distortion. If men "live by every word of God" (Lk 4:4), then that word must be certain, and perfectly depictive of the mind of the Lord.
FORSEEING. Other versions read "forsaw," NIV "seeing before," BBE "saw ahead of time," GWN "saw in advance," NAB "looked forward," NLT and "anticipating." MONTGOMERY
Notice how "the Scripture" is assigned attributes, as though it was a person. Other similar things are said of the Word of God. For example, it is "quick and powerful," and discerns "the thoughts and intents of the heart" (Heb 4:12). Jesus said His words were "spirit" and "life" (John 6:63). It is also written that the Scriptures are "able to make the man of God perfect, thoroughly furnished unto every good work" (2 Tim 3:17). The word is also said to "effectually" work in those who believe (1 Thess 2:3). As though referring to a person, we are asked, "what saith the Scripture?" (Rom 4:3; Gal 4:30). And again, "the Scripture saith" (Rom 9:17; 10:11; 11:2; 1 Tim 5:18; James 4:15).
What is declared by "the Scripture" cannot possibly be wrong, or skewed in the wrong direction, or in anyway faulty or misrepresentative. For this reason, one's life must be shaped around "the Scripture," for what it says is as sure as the thunderous voice of the Lord at Mount Sinai. It ought to be apparent that an ignorance of Scripture puts one at a decided disadvantage.
THAT GOD WOULD JUSTIFY THE HEATHEN. Other versions read, "justify the Gentiles," NKJV "give the Gentiles righteousness," BBE "consider the Gentiles righteous," CJB "justify the nations," DARBY "give His approval to non-Jewish people," GWN "the Gentiles would be made just," MRD and "justify (declare righteous, put in right standing with Himself) the Gentiles." AMPLIFIED
What does it mean for people to be justified? Some of the language employed by the various translations is extremely weak: "consider . . . righteous," CJB "give His approval." GWN This might lead a person to believe this being justified, or made righteous, is theoretical and not real. Thus God would consider men righteous, even though they were not. However this is not a fair presentation of the case. The saved are actually "made righteous" (Rom 5:19). Because of Christ's vicarious death, they are "made the righteousness of God" (2 Cor 5:21). Thus John writes, "he that doeth righteousness IS righteous, even as He IS righteous" (1 John 3:7). The reality of this righteousness is confirmed in the lives of those who have been "made righteous." That righteousness is of the same order as that of Christ - and His righteousness is real. In this text, the heathen - those who know not God - will be made righteous, according to Scripture.
THROUGH FAITH. And how will they be "made righteous?" It will be by the same means experienced by Abraham: FAITH! Faith is like the coin through which righteousness is obtained. Those without faith are like spiritual paupers who can by no mans appropriate what they so sorely need: righteousness. The "heathen" is a term that applies to every nation but the Jews. The accent of the term is not placed upon intellectual inferiority or uncivilized conduct. Etymologically the word means "nations." Doctrinally, it refers to the bodies of people that do not know God. Thus, Paul wrote of "the Gentiles which know not God" (1 Thess 4:8).
In the Scriptures God promised to make these people righteous, even though they did not know Him. He would thus be found of them that did not seek Him (Isa 65:1; Rom 10:20). God would not justify the heathen because of what they accomplished, for apart from intuitive knowledge (Rom 2:15), they did not know the Divine requirements for conduct. Yet, God promised He would justify them through faith - just as He did Abraham.
THE GOSPEL WAS PREACHED TO ABRAHAM
3:8b " . . . preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed."
Here is where "spiritual understanding," discernment and comprehension come in. The text that Paul will adduce as proof of this would never be chosen by the average "Christian." Paul saw something in the text he now cites that few men have seen. He refers to the preaching of the Gospel in a manner that sounds strange to the novice and the sophist.
PREACHED THE GOSPEL BEFORE. Other versions read, "announced," NIV "declared," NRSV "gave," BBE "told," CJB "foretold," CSB "showed," TNT and "proclaim." YLT The words "preached before the Gospel" are translated from a single Greek word: proeuhggeli,sato. This word means, "proclaimed good news in advance." GINGRICH Here we are exposed to the Divine nature, and the surety of His word. Although the majority of the revelation vouchsafed to Abraham concerned his offspring, the Jews, the day of salvation would extend beyond them. Further, the appointed means of becoming righteous would apply to both Israel and the rest of the nations. This confirms that the Gospel was not an afterthought.
The Scripture confirms that the New Covenant was actually the first one, with the Law being added because of transgression. As it is written, "Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator" (Gal 3:19). Later, this chapter will affirm that the Law was given 430 years after the promise of the covenant that is in Christ Jesus. "And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect" (Gal 3:17).
This is a most remarkable text, confirming that Abraham was truly God's "friend" (2 Chron 20:7; Isa 41:8; James 2:23). Abraham lived nearly 2,000 years before Jesus Christ. The breakdown of the years is as follows: (1) Abraham to Israel's deliverance = 500 years. The time of the Law from Moses until Jesus = 1,500 years. Yet, in that most spiritually primitive time, God Almighty divulged what He had purposed to do through Christ.
In the Garden, God revealed that He had determined the ultimate demise of the devil (Gen 3:15). There is no record of God revealing anything about the day of salvation to Seth, Enoch, or Noah. Roughly 2,000 years after the original promise of the conquering Seed, God unfolded more of the nature of salvation to Abraham than any mortal had ever previously heard.
Between Abraham and Moses, there was precious little revealed about the coming salvation. Jacob gave a vague allusion to the Savior when blessing his sons just prior to his departure from this world: "The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto Him shall the gathering of the people be" (Gen 49:10). Shiloh is an epithet for the Messiah that accented Him being the place of gathering for the people of God. Aside from this text, I know of no direct references to either the Messiah or the New Covenant between Abraham and Moses. That makes the word given to Abraham all the more remarkable. We do well to ponder it with determination.
Paul here refers to this as the preaching of the Gospel. The words that were delivered were only introductory, but they confirmed the basis upon which men would be made acceptable.
ALL NATIONS WILL BE BLESSED. The word to which Paul refers is this: "and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed" (Gen 12:3). This is repeated again in Genesis18:18, where God said of Abraham, "all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him." It is stated again to Abraham in Genesis 22:18: "And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed." It was also confirmed to Isaac: "in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed" (Gen 26:4). It was also confirmed to Jacob: "in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed" (Gen 28:14). Peter referred to this promise when preaching in Solomon's porch: "And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed" (Acts 3:25).
The blessing of all nations would not be owing to their obedience, personal discipline, or high level of morality. Rather, they would be blessed because of Another, not themselves - the Seed of Abraham. And precisely how would this be accomplished? It would be by faith - by believing what the Lord had promised to do, for God "cannot lie" (Tit 1:2).
When the foundation of being made righteous is a promise, the only thing that can appropriate that promise is faith. It must be believed, else righteousness becomes an impossibility. Faith does come "by hearing" which is vastly superior to seeing (Rom 10:17). If, then, the promise is not declared, righteousness is placed beyond the reach of man. Works cannot bridge that gap. The word must be "nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is the word of faith which we preach" (Rom 10:8). When it comes down to the bottom line, men can only be saved by what God has said He will do, which will was accomplished by Jesus.
BLESSED WITH FAITHFUL ABRAHAM
3:9 "So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham."
Abraham provides the archetype, or original, of how a person is saved, justified, made righteous, and made acceptable. We have very few examples of Abraham's "works," apart from his instant obedience to the commandments of the Lord (Heb 11:8,17). The only other "work" was his remarkable defeat of "Chedorlaomer, and of the kings that were with him, at the valley of Shaveh, which is the king's dale" (Gen 14:17), doing so with 318 trained servants, born in his own house (Gen 14:14). However, not even that would qualify as a basis for righteousness. Abraham's faith is mentioned ten times in Scripture (Rom 4:9,12,13,16; Gal 3:7,8,9,14; Heb 11:8,17). The fact that he "believed God" is mentioned three times (Rom 4:3; Gal 3:6; James 2:23). Further, so far as faith is concerned, he is referred to as "our father" (Rom 4:1,12; James 2:21), and "the father of us all" (Rom 4:15).
No person should give heed to a message concerning Christ or salvation that does not require a faith like that of Abraham. His is the kind of faith that saves, and is the only kind of faith God will honor. All other purported "faiths" are spurious. This means that Abraham is not a hero of the faith. Rather, he is the ordained example of faith.
THEY WHICH BE OF FAITH. Other versions read, "those who are of faith," NASB "those who have faith," NIV "those who believe," NRSV "those who are men of faith," RSV "those who rely on trusting and being faithful," CJB "they who are on the principle of faith," DARBY "those who possess faith," WEYMOUTH "those who are the children of faith," MONTGOMERY and "those who are people of faith." AMPLIFIED
Let it be clear that the absence of faith, or the presence of unbelief, is unanimously and consistently condemned (Matt 17:20; Mk 6:6; 16:14; Rom 4:20; 11:20,23; Heb 3:12,19; 4:6,11). It did not cheer the heart when Jesus said, "Where is your faith" (Lk 8:25), "O ye of little faith" (Matt 6:30), "how is it that ye have no faith" (Mk 4:40).
To be "of faith" is to be a person of faith - noted for believing God. A person cannot pretend to have faith, for such a posture will not be honored by God. After all, the objective of the commandment is "faith unfeigned" (1 Tim 1:5), and that is the only kind of faith that is valid (2 Tim 1:5). This is the kind of faith that immediately responds to God, as illustrated in Abraham. If a person is retarded in their response to the Lord, they do not have "the faith of Abraham" (Rom 4:16). If God says "Leave," the person who does not do so is lacking in faith.
When addressing the matter of leaders in the body of Christ, faith is a critical factor. The book of Hebrews states it this way: "Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation. Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever" (Heb 13:7-8). That is, the "outcome of their conduct" NASB is localized in Jesus Christ, who is the unchanging One. No person who is deficient in faith can occupy a place in the leadership of the body of Christ.
ARE BLESSED. Other versions read, "have a part in the blessing," BBE "shall be blessed," DOUAY "receive the same blessing," NJB "share the same blessing," NLT "blessed in the same way," IE "are blessed as partners," WILLIAMS and "are blessed and made happy and favored by God [as partners in fellowship]." AMPLIFIED
The blessing to which the text refers is being counted, or made, righteous - not because of human achievement, but because God was believed, and trusted without reservation. In this case, the blessing of God is a primary objective, not the realization of personal ambition in this present evil world. It seems to me that when we give thanks for blessing, being made righteous should be a primary factor. If this is not the case, then this text makes no sense.
WITH FAITHFUL ABRAHAM. Other versions read, "Abraham, the believer," NKJV "believing Abraham," NASB "Abraham, the man of faith," NIV "Abraham who had faith," RSV "Abraham, who was full of faith," BBE "Abraham, who trusted and was faithful," CJB and "the believing and trusting Abraham." AMPLIFIED
A person of faith is never unfaithful! Unfaithfulness springs from unbelief, not faith. We have no record of Abraham ever running from God, disobeying Him, or stubbornly seeking his own will. Even when he appeared to conduct himself in a seemingly questionable (when Ishmael was begotten, and when he said Sarah was his sister), he was being driven by the promise of God. During those times, the promise had not been fully defined, and thus the patriarch was attempting to live in accord with the promise of God as best he could. However, when the Divine commitment was fully clarified, Abraham never acted in such a manner again. He was a man of faith, and he was blessed because of it.
Do you want the blessing of Abraham - the benefit of being perceived as righteous by God - then faith is the means through which that blessing will be obtained. It requires that we be aware of what God has promised, and that we lay hold of it, so to speak, with both hands. God did not overlook Abraham's faith, and He will not pass over yours! You will be blessed!