Children of Abaraham
Galatians 3: 6-9
Key Verse 3:7
“Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham.”
[Intro: This is the last thing we looked at before we heard the Christmas messages. Galatians 3:1-5, where Paul rebukes the Galatians telling them: “You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? Have you suffered so much for nothing–if it really was for nothing? Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?” Paul had once preached the gospel to them, and they had believed it. When they believed the gospel, the Holy Spirit came on them, and began his work in their hearts and lives— the work of sanctification. That should have been evidence enough for them that all they needed was faith and trust in God to continue maturing and growing as Christians— approved and sealed by God through his Spirit. The problem was that some false teachers had come to them and apparently began to convince them that faith is not enough. They were told that Paul’s gospel teaching was inaccurate and lacking some vital aspects. They were told that after believing the gospel, they were supposed to be circumcised and begin to live by the teachings of the laws which God gave the Israelites through Moses.
In the first two chapters we saw clearly— as Paul tells us— that this kind of teaching is a false teaching, and this kind of gospel that teaches anything besides faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection is no gospel at all. After defending his apostleship, and exposing the errors of these false teachers, Paul now began to once again make plain to these Galatians— and us— the essence of what righteousness is all about in the sight of God. In the first 5 verses he rebukes their foolishness. He basically tells them, “After beginning with faith and the Spirit— that is, after God had worked in your hearts by his own power through your faith— are you now going to finish the work he began in you— that is, the work of righteousness and sanctification— through your own work or effort! He tells them why this kind of thinking or false teaching makes no sense. The Spirit who worked in you to give you a new birth in Christ, is the same Spirit who will continue the work in your hearts and lives. What God wants from you is your faith and trust in him. After this, in verses 6-9 Paul backs up his argument or teaching with evidences from the Bible— from what God had been doing in his people all along— even as far back as Abraham, the ancestor of faith— the one who set the example of faith— the faith that makes a person righteous— the faith that makes things right with God and restores a relationship with him— the faith that saves the souls of those who are living in the darkness of this world.]
So let us read verses 6-9 together and see what Paul is telling us about Abraham. “Consider Abraham: ‘He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.’ Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: ‘All nations will be blessed through you.’ So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.”
Most people don’t a clue as to what this means. “Children of Abraham”! Who are the children of Abraham? And why is this important for us to know. What’s the big deal here? That’s what we want to know when we review this particular passage. One thing is clear in this passage though, that it has nothing to do with one’s physical or biological descents. You don’t have to be a Jew to be a child of Abraham. What, then, makes you a child of Abraham, and how are you blessed because of that?
Verse 6 reads “Consider Abraham: ‘He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.’” This particular reference comes from Genesis 15:6. Here is what happened for those who don’t know or remember the story. Abraham rescued his useless nephew Lot from a horde of enemies who had captured him in their raids. And now he was afraid and feeling down although he himself was the grand victor in that war. God told him “Do not be afraid Abraham, I am your shield, your very great reward.” (Gen 151) It was the best counsel anyone could receive at a time of uncertainty and depression. God told him he had nothing to be afraid of— that he himself would protect him. God also told him not to worry about compensation— that God himself was his greatest reward— compensation. What God was telling him was that there is nothing he could gain in this world that would match what he already had— for he had God himself. But Abraham was still sulking, and gathered the courage to say to God: “But Lord you haven’t given me the son you promised to give me.” At that, God told him “Stop looking at yourself and your impossible situation; Now go outside and look at the stars in the sky and count them. I promise you that when I’m done with you, you will have as many children as there are stars in the skies.” (Genesis 15:5)
And what happened next was incredible, and marked the beginning of a new history of faith. That was the point when Abraham became the ancestor of God’s nation— the nation built not with stone and roads and politics and social progress, but a history built on faith and by faith. The Bible tells us that when God promised old and childless Abraham descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky, “Abram believed God” and as a result of believing God. God “credited it to him as righteousness”. (Genesis 15:6) In other words, Abraham believed the impossible! And God counted Abraham’s faith— that simple faith of believing God against all the odds— God counted it as righteousness. It means that God made Abraham righteous based on his faith in God. It was an impossible promise. But Abraham believed God and it made him righteous! In other words, he was justified before God as a forgiven sinner who will never ever be condemned by God for his sins. God would never ever make him accountable to his sins. In that moment, God himself justified him, purified him, and made him fit for heaven. God passed this once sinful and wretched and unworthy man from the realm of judgment and of death to the realm of life and peace with God. At that moment, based on his faith, Abraham became a child of God— one of God’s children. And he set the stage and example for all people to do the same. Why did God do that for Abraham? Because of his good works? No. Because of his good behavior? No. Because he lived a good life? No. Because he was a religious man who recited prayers and offered sacrifices to God? No. God did that for Abraham because Abraham believed God. And that is all that God wants from people— to believe him— to trust his words— to believe his promises.
What was Paul saying here to the Galatians? He was showing them how Abraham himself was justified before God and considered righteous— that it happened through Abraham’s faith and nothing else. What else was he telling the Galatians and us? He was telling them that God does not change the rules. What he credited earlier to Abraham as righteousness— based on his faith alone— he credits to all people also based on their faith alone. In other words, God has sent his Son to secure righteousness for us. Here is how he did it— he crucified him on the cross in our place so that we ourselves won’t have to die for our sins. Then God transferred all our sins to Jesus on the cross. He purified our hearts from sin. He counted us righteous. And through Jesus’ resurrection God gave us a new life, and sent us the Holy Spirit to continue the work of sanctification in our hearts. That is the promise God wants us and all people to believe. All we have to do is believe God on this. The Galatians thought they would have to add something to that faith. And Paul was saying “No!”, “righteousness was by faith, and is still by faith.” This is what God expects from us— faith— to trust in what he has done for us in and through Jesus. God also wants us have a trust relationship with him in all things— to believe all his words spoken to us in the Bible. Not only the promise of salvation, but everything else he teaches us in the Bible. There are those who believe God’s salvation but do not believe God’s love and sanctification in their lives. When they read the Bible, the promises seem farfetched. They seem to be for someone else rather than for them. This is not faith. Faith believes the word of God— even if— especially if— it seems impossible. That is when the Holy Spirit can do his perfect work in my heart, translating God’s word of promise into my every day life, so that I might live for God, and serve his purpose. On that day, God was amazed at Abraham’s faith, and signed a contract with him that this relationship— with all its privileges— were sealed and signed by God forever. (Genesis 15:9-21) That covenant— contract of life— was never ever to change. Notice that it was not Abraham’s faithfulness that guaranteed that, but God’s own faithfulness that did it. We simply believe God and lean on him fulfilling his promises to us.
Read verse 7 “Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham.” So all over again Paul laid down the foundation of justification by faith for the Galatians. In other words, when Abraham believed God, God made him righteous. And for all time thereafter, ever since the foundation of faith was laid right there and then in Abraham, God has assured us time and again, that the “righteous shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:17) The righteous believe and they live by that faith all their lives— from first to last. Paul tells us: “Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham.” Paul now confirms that those who believe— of course, as Abraham believed— are the children of Abraham. They would be considered children of Abraham— not by virtue of their blood ties, but by virtue of believing God by faith. In other words, Paul tells us that God’s family also has ties, but not blood ties, but rather spiritual ties of faith. Anyone, then, who believes the gospel, inadvertently becomes a child of Abraham. Now then, what can we say about the meaning of being a child of Abraham. What does it mean that when one believes God by faith, he or she becomes a child of Abraham? It means more than we can say in one sitting. But there are some truths that explain the meaning well.
Who then is the child of Abraham? And what does it mean that one is a child of Abraham. First of all we must be certain that it has nothing to do with physical descent. Nothing to do with gender or with race, or with experience nor social status, nor knowledge of any kind. To become a child of Abraham, simply means to become a child of God. To belong to God’s family. And God does this when a man or woman are born again. And this birth is not a physical birth but a spiritual one. One is born again when God gives life to that person through faith in Jesus. Listen to what John 1:13 tells us: “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” When a person receives Jesus as Lord and Savior, and believes in his name, which is above any other name in heaven or on earth, that person is given the right— the privilege— of being born into God’s household. He or she are born again. They become children of God. Therefore a child of Abraham is one who is born of the Spirit of God. That person permanently belongs to God’s family. He or she are related to Abraham as sons and daughters of faith.
Who are the children of Abraham? Here’s another meaning for it. One time Jesus had dinner at a chief tax collector’s house. When Jesus invited himself to this crooked and corrupt and greedy man’s house, this man Zacchaeus was so touched by Jesus’ love and forgiveness that he repented of his sins and decided to change his ways. At this Jesus said these words: “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham.” What Jesus was saying is that God had accepted Zacchaeus into God’s family based on his repentant faith. Jesus did not count against him any of his past wickedness. Rather Jesus saw his simple faith that believed the love and forgiveness of God in his life, and brought him into God’s family. Salvation had come to him. To be a child of Abraham means that salvation us granted to those who believe.
What does it mean to be a child of Abraham? It means those who walk in the footsteps of Abraham. In the book of Romans Paul tells us exactly who are the children of Abraham. They are not necessarily those who were descended from Abraham, but as Paul says those: “who … walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham”. (Romans 4:12) Paul said those whose walk in life was as that of Abraham who walked with God in faith— who not only trusted God and his word in spite of their circumstances, but who also continued walking in life by faith in God. Our Lord Jesus also explained what it means to walk in the footsteps of Abraham. He told the Jews who were proud of their heritage: “If you were Abraham’s children… then you would do the things Abraham did”. John 8:39) Abraham believed God. But his faith was not passive faith, it was active faith. It does not mean that God made him righteous because of what he did, but that because of his righteous faith, Abraham did things that were righteous in his life and became the father of all our faith. To be a child of Abraham, then, means to do as Abraham did. In his whole life, Abraham did what the Lord wanted him to do, and he did so with utmost faith and trust. All that he did he did by faith. [Which takes us to the next verse in Paul’s explanation.]
Read verse 8. “The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: ‘All nations will be blessed through you.’” Paul tells us that it was on the heart of God, when he rescued Abraham, to rescue all people from sin and death through the gospel of justification by faith. The gospel tells all people that they would be justified only through faith. And that’s the whole story behind the gospel which God has been preaching all this time. The gospel promises all who have faith like Abraham— would be made righteous and brought into God’s family and given the blessings God reserved for Abraham and for those who believe God’s promise by faith in Jesus. And Paul tells us that God announced this gospel ahead of time in the Bible. And in fact he announced it to Abraham himself when he told him: “All nations would be blessed through you.” When did God announce this gospel to Abraham? He did so on two occasions. The first time God announced this gospel of blessing is when God first called him. He said to him: “all nations would be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:1-3) And then God confirmed it after Abraham was ready and willing to sacrifice his Son Isaac as an offering to the Lord— as God had asked him to do. He again told yet him: “and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.” (Genesis 22:18)
At that time, Abraham showed remarkable faith in God. His story sheds light on what it means to walk in the footsteps of the faith of Abraham and to do what Abraham did. Abraham first showed faith, trusted God, when he was willing to leave his past life behind and begin a new life of following God. It was almost impossible to do it, because he was old and childless, but he did. He did as God told him to do. Then he showed remarkable faith when he agreed to sacrifice his only Son Isaac because God told him to do so. In this world, people would rather sacrifice God and their relationship with God than to sacrifice anyone dear to them. Those who are most dearest to them become the great hindrances to their relationship with God— understandably— because they love them and are attached to them. But Abraham who had an only Son Isaac, was willing to sacrifice him when God asked him to do so. It was the strangest thing God had ever asked Abraham to do— “Sacrifice your son for me.” And Abraham, against every shred of reasoning and emotion, decided to do so. How could Abraham do that? He could do that because he had learned not to make his own son an idol. He could do so because he had decided that as important and precious as his son was to him, God was more important and more precious. He could do that because he loved God more than he loved his son, his wife, his treasures, his social status, his career, more than he loved anything else in the world. He could do that because he fully trusted God. Most of all, Abraham did so because he understood that through Isaac, God wanted to bless the whole world, both Jew and Gentile. And if sacrificing him was part of God’s gospel work, then Abraham would do so for the glory of God and for the blessing of all people.
So in essence this is what it means to walk in his footsteps, to do as Abraham did. He lived by faith. He trusted God’s judgment above his own judgment. And his lived and served the gospel of God’s grace in his life. When Abraham believed God, and through his faith became righteous, he set the stage for the Messiah to come in time that the Messiah would give his life to ransom everyone who puts their faith and trust in him.
Read verse 9. “So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.” Whom does God bless along with Abraham? Those who have the faith of Abraham. And what is the blessing of those who have faith? As Abraham was blessed, so also are the children of Abraham equally blessed. They are born of God into God’s family, and made his children. And they become a blessing on all people as Abraham became a blessing on all people. The gospel is for all people. But the gospel must be believed. So God blessed us along with Abraham the man of faith, to live by faith and to share the gospel of life with the whole world. We can do so when we live by faith— walk in the footsteps of the faith of Abraham— and do as Abraham did. The greatest blessing of those who belong to Abraham’s line of faith is to bear gospel (of the justification by faith) to those around us— to be living testimony to the grace of God who wants to justify all people through faith and bring them into God’s family. Read verse 7 again.