” 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 “
– Galatians 3:8 –
Commentary by Enduring Word
Therefore know: The emphasis is clear. Paul made an important point, and he wanted each one of his readers to understand it.
“Know is imperative; Paul commands the Galatians to acquire this piece of knowledge.” (Morris)
Only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham: Since Abraham was made righteous by faith and not by works, Abraham was therefore the father of everyone who believes God and is accounted righteous.
“It is always possible that we should translate huioi Abraam, not so much children (or ‘sons’) of Abrahamas ‘real Abrahams.’ ” (Cole)
Are sons of Abraham: This was a strong rebuke to the Jewish Christians who tried to bring Gentile Christians under the law. They believed they were superior because they descended from Abraham and observed the law. Paul said that the most important link to Abraham was not the link of genetics and not the link of works, but it is the link of faith.
This would have been a shocking change of thinking for these particular opponents of Paul. They deeply believed that they had a standing before God because they were genetically descended from Abraham. At that time, some Jewish Rabbis taught that Abraham stood at the gates of Hell just to make sure that none of his descendants accidentally slipped by. John the Baptist dealt with this same thinking when he said, Do not think to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our father.” For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones (Matthew 3:9). Paul knocked down their blind reliance on genetic relation to Abraham and showed that what really mattered was faith in Jesus.
It’s the same today when people believe God accepts them because they come from a Christian family. God is a Father, not a grandfather; everyone must have their own faith in God.
Are sons of Abraham: This was a great comfort to the Gentile Christians who were regarded as “second class Christians” by others. Now they could know that they had a real, important link to Abraham and could consider themselves sons of Abraham.
Sadly, Christians have taken this glorious truth and misapplied it through the centuries. This has been a verse that many claim in support of replacement theology – the idea that God is finished with the people of Israel as a nation or a distinct ethnic group, and that the Church spiritually inherits all the promises made to Israel.
Replacement theology has done tremendous damage in the Church, providing the theological fuel for the fires of horrible persecution of the Jews. If Galatians 3:7 were the only verse in the Bible speaking to the issue, there might be a place for saying that the Church has completely replaced Israel. But we understand the Bible according to its entire message, and allow one passage to give light to others.
For example, Romans 11:25 (hardening in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in) states clearly that God is not finished with Israel as a nation or a distinct ethnic group. Even though God has turned the focus of His saving mercies away from Israel on to the Gentiles, He will turn it back again. This simple passage refutes those who insist that God is forever done with Israel as Israel, and that the Church is the New Israel and inherits every promise ever made to national and ethnic Israel of the Old Testament.
We are reminded of the enduring character of the promises made to national and ethnic Israel (such as Genesis 13:15 and Genesis 17:7-8). God is not “finished” with Israel, and Israel is not “spiritualized” as the church. While we do see and rejoice in a continuity of God’s work throughout all His people through all generations, we still see a distinction between Israel and the Church – a distinction that Paul understands well.
All who put their faith in Jesus Christ are sons of Abraham; but Abraham has his spiritual sons and his genetic sons, and God has a plan and a place for both. Yet no one can deny that it is far more important to be a spiritual son of Abraham than a genetic son.
And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the nations by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, “In you all the nations shall be blessed.”
And the Scripture: Paul spoke from the Scriptures. He had already spoken from his personal experience and from the experience of the Galatian Christians themselves. But this passage is even more important, because it shows how Paul’s teaching is correct according to the Bible itself.
It would have been just fine for Paul’s opponents to say, “Experiences are just fine Paul, but show us from the Scriptures.” Paul was more than ready to take up the challenge.
The Scripture, foreseeing . . . preached . . . saying: Remarkably, Paul referred to the Scripturesvirtually as a person who foresees, preaches, and says. This shows just how strongly Paul regarded the Bible as God’s word. Paul believed that when the Scriptures spoke, God spoke.
“Paul personifies Scripture.” (Morris) “Excellently spake he, who called the Scripture, Cor et animam Dei, The heart and soul of God.” (Trapp)
Foreseeing that God would justify the nations by faith: Paul observed that even back in Abraham’s day it was clear that this blessing of righteousness by faith was intended for every nation, for Gentiles as well as Jews, because God pronounced that in you all the nations shall be blessed (Genesis 12:3).
The intention was to destroy the idea that a Gentile must first become a Jew before they could become a Christian. If that were necessary God would never have said this blessing would extend to every nation, because Gentiles would have had to become part of the Israelite nation to be saved.
The idea is that the gospel goes out to the nations, not that the nations come and assimilate into Israel.
Those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham: The blessing we receive with believing Abraham is not the blessing of fantastic wealth and power, though Abraham was extremely wealthy and powerful. The blessing is something far more precious: the blessing of a right standing with God through faith.
“The faith of the fathers was directed at the Christ who was to come, while ours rests in the Christ who has come.” (Luther)
“They who are of faith are those whose characteristic is faith; it is not that they sometimes have an impulse to believe, but rather that believing is their constant attitude; faith is characteristic of them.” (Morris)