Salvation is the Same
Father Abraham has many sons and you’re one, when you’re saved by faith Galatians 3:6-9
Do you know it? Father Abraham had many sons, and many sons had Father Abraham; and I am one of them, and so are you, so let’s all praise the Lord! Do you remember that sanctified, “Hokey Pokey”? It’s basic theology—it’s sound. I had no idea what it meant when I first heard it. I was confused, since I knew the Bible clearly taught it was Jacob who had all the kids! So who are the sons of Abraham? As Paul writes the Galatians now in chapter 3, Abraham becomes a major focus. Abraham is Judaizer evidence that those wanting salvation need to be circumcised first. But for Paul, Abraham is proof to those wanting salvation that faith alone will save you. Paul is battling for the Gospel, that salvation is by grace, through faith, in Christ alone.
False teachers had made their way into the Galatian churches right after Paul planted them, teaching that salvation can only be won by first embracing the customs, laws, rituals, ceremonies, and diet of first century Judaism. They taught salvation in Christ must be accompanied by necessary works. The Judaizers were Jewish false teachers who claimed Christ, but still believed they had to maintain all their Jewish ceremonies, traditions and diet in order to be saved. These Judaizers taught the only way to become a true child of Abraham was to be circumcised, just as God required of Abraham and his offspring who followed him. The Judaizers believed, until a Gentile was circumcised, he had no right to call Abraham his father–to call God his Father, or consider himself saved for that matter.
So now Paul turns his discussion to Abraham. At first, it seems a strange link from verse 5, but in fact it is genius. Paul is now countering the claims of these false teachers, who say, “It’s great that you have faith in Christ–now, to become and remain acceptable to God, you need to live as a Jew.” The father of the Jews, is Abraham–he’s the first Jew. The people of Israel began when God promised this ancient ancestor that He would make his descendants into a great nation in order to reach the nations, live in a promised land, and experience the blessings of God.
But here, Paul now calls Abraham as a witness in his case. To these Gentile Christians Paul says, “When you consider Abraham, who is the first Jew, you will actually discover just how verse 1 ‘bewitched’ you actually have become by these errant teachers.” Why? Because when you look at Abraham, you see a man who was not under God’s law, and a man who was not circumcised, but verse 6, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Abraham was saved by faith. What is most important about Abraham is that he was a verse 9, “man of faith”. Paul is saying, the father-founder of the Jewish people would agree with me/Paul, that salvation, true salvation, has always been by faith.
In order to break their verse 1 spell, Paul had to win the contest against the Judaizers on the Law-lovers’ own turf–the Old Testament. The Judaizers’ false gospel had so strongly emphasized Moses as the pre-eminent Jew and the Mosaic Law as the model for religion, that Paul’s undefeatable arguments had to include clear evidence and accurate exegesis from the Old Testament.
Sadly, when Judaizers looked at Abraham, they only saw the mark of salvation, which was circumcision, and not the means of salvation, which was earlier and only by faith. So Paul reaches even further back in Jewish history, before Moses, to Abraham–the first Hebrew patriarch. Paul shows from Abraham’s life that the very father of the Jewish nation had himself been saved by grace through faith–not by keeping the Law and not by being circumcised.
You know what Paul is facing. He just returned from his first missionary journey, which was mainly in modern day Turkey. Within weeks, Judaizer false teachers entered into those baby churches and taught, you must become a Jew first in order to be saved. So Paul fires off his first New Testament inspired letter, Galatians, to correct the error and strongly affirm the truth of salvation by grace, through faith in Christ. You need this passage today in order to . . .
1 Understand that salvation by grace through faith has always been the only way anyone in history since Genesis 3, Old Testament and New Testament, could ever be saved
2 Embrace that living by faith is how we please our Lord and glorify our God
3 Recognize how faith immediately makes you part of a special eternal family
4 Fathom how faith can completely cleanse and forgive by saving even the worst person
5 Be freed from trying to perform for Christ, and begin truly enjoying Christ
Let’s read together out loud verses 6 through 9, and remember that Abraham proves that true salvation has always been by faith. “Even so Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. 7Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. 8The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘All the nations will be blessed in you.’ 9So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer” (Galatians 3:6 to 9).
Undoubtedly, the reason the apostle Paul has so much to say about Abraham in Galatians 3 and 4 is the Judaizers made such a fuss over him. They claimed that Father Abraham and all his children belonged to God–not by faith alone, but by works of the Law and especially through the mark of salvation, circumcision. In addition to misunderstanding the Gospel, the Judaizers were also guilty of misunderstanding the Old Testament.
So Paul refutes their performance-based version of Christianity, by going back to the Hebrew Old Testament Scriptures. In verses 1 to 5 last week, Paul’s argument for justification by faith alone appealed to their conversion experience, particularly the work of the Holy Spirit. Now in verses 6 to 9 moving forward, Paul argues for faith alone on the basis of biblical history, using Abraham as the key test case, starting in verse 6 with . . .
#1 Pursue DEMONSTRATING faith Verse 6a
Verse 6a starts with, “Even so Abraham believed God”–Paul begins by quoting Genesis 15:6, where Abraham responds to God’s promise of a coming heir and incalculable, innumerable, inestimable descendants. I’m confident you’re picking up the importance of quoting this specific Old Testament reference. The Judaizers would often quote not Genesis 15, but they would quote Genesis 17, where God’s promise to Abraham was sealed by circumcision.
But Paul went back even further, to Genesis 15, to God’s promise of a child. Here Abraham is told he will have a son in his old age. Frankly, that’s hard to believe. Even prior to Genesis 15, God had made lots of promises to Abraham, like Genesis 12. God had promised Abraham a land, but Abraham still did not own any property. Now God promised Abraham an heir, but Abraham still didn’t have any children–and Abraham wasn’t getting any younger! He’s pushing a hundred years old.
My cute wife and I just met a man at Starbucks who was 94, and could barely walk. Abraham, fathering a son at that age? I don’t think so. But to show Abraham what he had in mind, God took Abraham outside and showed him the stars. He said in Genesis 15:5, “Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them. And He said to him, So shall your descendants be.” Are you feeling it? What God promised to do for Abraham was impossible. Yet Abraham believed that God would make it so.
Abraham embraced God’s promise the way every God-given promise ought to be enveloped–as a guaranteed truth, by faith. Just as the Scripture says in Genesis 15:6, “He believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.” Abraham, old and childless, believed God would keep His Word and do as God promised. In other words, Abraham responded to God’s Word with simple, dependent faith. How did Abraham demonstrate faith? How should you? He believed God, even though his situation was impossible–having a son in his old age. Are you exercising faith over our country–believing God is still in control in its decline? Are you demonstrating faith over your children–even though one has walked away from Christ? Are you displaying faith in the midst of failing health, or a strained relationship?
The Judaizers turned to Genesis 17 and said, “You must be circumcised to be saved, to be related to Abraham, to be saved by the One true God–you must be circumcised.” Then Paul steps up to the plate and finishes the game with a grand slam–how? Paul says, “Look back fourteen years earlier in Abrahams life–fourteen years before God required His people to be circumcised. Fourteen years before circumcision was even discussed–that was the moment Abraham was reckoned righteous by faith alone.”
Like Babe Ruth pointing to the bleachers before he hits a towering home run, Paul points to Abraham’s salvation only by grace through faith, fourteen years before he was circumcised. And for all you Law lovers, you do realize that it was 400 years later, after Abraham was saved by faith alone, that the Law was given by Moses. Salvation was the same in the Old Testament as it is in the New Testament, just like Abraham was saved, sinners are only reckoned righteous by God’s graciousness through faith alone.
#2 DEPEND on Faith as the path to imputed righteousness Verse 6b
Verse 6, “Even so Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” Abraham, the first Hebrew, was not justified by keeping the Law, but by faith. Again, at least fourteen years had passed before God even instituted circumcision in Genesis 17, and Moses wouldn’t receive the Law until some four hundred years later. So Abraham did not find favor with God as a result of his personal devotion, public ritual, religious zeal, circumcision, Law-keeping, or hard work. But by grace alone through faith alone, apart from anything Abraham had done or would do, God declared him righteous.
The Greek word Paul uses for reckoned is from a Greek word meaning to be declared or accounted. It’s an accounting term describing money that was being received and counted as payment toward some end. The English term credited generally means the same thing–to confer a status on something that was not there before. If you lease-to-buy a car, it means your rental payments can be used to purchase the car if you later choose to buy it. The moment that lease-to-buy decision is made, your rental payments are credited to you as car payments. A new status is conferred on them.
So what does it mean that Abraham’s faith was “credited to him as righteousness”? It means that faith in God’s word and promise results in righteousness. If we believe God exists and that we owe Him our obedience and worship, then out of that heart will flow righteous living. But here we have something more–something unique, something counterintuitive. This is faith counted as righteousness. When the Bible tells us God credits Abraham’s faith as righteousness, it means God is treating Abraham as if he were living a righteous life.
Judaizers back then and some today distort Genesis 15:6. They argue that Abram’s faith was itself a form of righteousness that pleased God–that his faith was an act of obedience that merited God’s favor, that Abraham’s righteousness was a reward for his obedience, that Abraham’s right standing before God was not a gift, but something earned. But verse 6 does not say Abraham’s faith was righteousness. Rather, Abraham’s faith was counted as (as if it were) righteousness.
Douglas Moo tells us, “When we compare other verses with the same grammatical construction used in Genesis 15:6, the clear conclusion is this … the [crediting] of Abram’s faith as righteousness means ‘to account him a righteousness that does not inherently belong to him’.” (The Epistle to the Romans, page 262)
When God credits righteousness, He is conferring a legal status on you. He treats you as actually righteous and free from condemnation, even though you are still actually unrighteous in your heart and behavior. You are justified. This flies in the face of all traditional religion, which tells you that either you are living righteously and therefore acceptable to God, or you are living unrighteously and are therefore alienated from God. But Paul (and Abraham) are proving that it is possible to be loved and accepted by God while we are ourselves sinful and imperfect.
Paul makes the same point in Romans when he says that God justifies the ungodly. Romans 4:5, “to one who without works trusts him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness.” When a person receives credited righteousness, he or she is still ungodly. The justified status is not given to them because they achieved a certain level of obedience or worship. You don’t clean up your life in order to earn credited righteousness. Rather, you receive it even while you are a sinner.
For Abraham, for Paul, and for every Christian here, trusting God was like opening a bank account. Immediately, God transferred righteousness into Abraham’s and your account. Again, this does not mean Abraham was actually righteous–he was declared righteous. He was considered to have a right standing before God. To use the proper theological term, God “imputed” righteousness to Abraham. God alone has the legal right to state whether a man is righteous or unrighteous–and in this case, he considered Abraham righteous through his faith.
The shocking truth about Abraham is, he was justified before he did any works. Romans 4:3 repeats the same truth—”Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Abraham was justified, not as a worker, but as a believer. Faith was the instrumentality of his justification. Abraham did not have to get circumcised, obey laws, follow rituals, or arrive at sinlessness to be justified. This is a slam dunk for Paul versus the Judaizers–God counted Abraham righteous before he had even heard of circumcision. The great patriarch was justified, saved, forgiven, made righteous while he was still an uncircumcised Chaldean. It is only by faith that you can be reckoned righteous before God.
#3 DISCOVER that Faith alone immerses you into God’s Family Verse 7
Get this–Abraham was justified as a Gentile. That made him the perfect example to use for the Galatians, who’d been wrestling with two questions. Whom does God accept, and on what basis? For his answer, Paul took Abraham’s history and applied it to their situation, and to ours. Verse 7, “Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham.”
No doubt, this statement enraged the Judaizers. Their claim to fame was that they were the children of Abraham, while others were not. They would gloat, “We’ve been circumcised, so we’re the sons of Abraham!” Paul picked up their vocabulary and slapped them with it, declaring this–the only real children of Abraham are those who believe. Grammatically, Paul is pointed in verse 7, which literally reads, “The ones of faith, these are the sons of Abraham.” All who believe, and only those who believe, are children of Abraham.
Membership in Abraham’s family is not hereditary. Father Abraham’s true sons and daughters are not the people who keep the Law, but only the people who live by faith. Their family resemblance is spiritual, rather than physical–like father, like son. If Abraham was justified by faith, then his true children must be justified by faith as well. Therefore, we will never become children of God by what we do, but only by what we believe.
What must we believe? Did you discern the object of Abraham’s faith? Simply, Abraham put his trust in God. God was the focus of Abrahams faith. Verse 6, “Abraham believed God, and this was credited to him as righteousness.” What Abraham believed was not simply God’s promises, which he could hardly believe, but God Himself. Abraham put his faith in the God who made him the promise. When Abraham didn’t know where he was going or how he was going to get there, he trusted God to guide him. When he didn’t have any children, he believed God would make good on His promise. Against all hope and beyond all doubt, Abraham committed his entire life to his God.
Romans 4:20 to 22 makes this clear—“No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21being fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. 22Therefore his faith ‘was reckoned to him as righteousness.’” If you’re to become children of Abraham, and therefore children of God, you must put your faith in God alone. You must trust the God who keeps every promise He has ever made.
You trust Him for guidance, believing He will show you the way you should go.
You trust Him for providence, believing He will take care of whatever you need.
You trust Him for deliverance, believing He will bring you through times of trial.
You trust Him for everything, just as Abraham did. But most of all . . .
You trust Him for salvation, through His Son.
Abraham looked ahead to the cross, and you look back to the cross. So now that God the Son has come into the world, our faith in God is to embrace the Gospel of Christ. To have faith is to believe the good news of the cross and the empty tomb. It is to accept what the Bible says about the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. It is to trust that Jesus died on the cross for our sins and was raised from the dead to give us eternal life. To have faith like Abraham, is to be saved by God’s provision, not your performance. All Jews who have no faith in Christ are not true sons of Abraham, nor of God. All Gentiles who have faith in Christ are true sons of Abraham and of God, leading to . . .
#4 DISCERN that Faith justifies even the Gentiles Verses 8 to 9
Long ago, humanity refused to obey God, so God judged humanity by confusing their languages. This created people groups, nations and most likely different races. But because the Lord is so gracious, He determined to choose one nation to be His witness to reach the nations with the knowledge which leads to faith. The tower judgment is in Genesis 11, and in Genesis 12 God called one man who would be God’s nation, His active witness in the world. Abraham would become Israel.
Part of Abraham’s call from Genesis 12 is repeated here in verses 8 to 9. “The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘All the nations will be blessed in you.’ 9So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer.”
True faith is not just for Abraham and the Galatians, but for each one of you. In verse 6, Paul proved that justification by faith was God’s plan for Abraham. In verse 7, he showed that people like the Galatians could become Abraham’s children by the same faith. Then in verses 8 to 9, Paul proves that justification by faith alone has always been God’s plan for all people everywhere, in three ways.
First ABRAHAM embraced JUSTIFICATION by Faith Verse 8a
Verse 8a, “The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying.” Gospel means good news–and God’s good news to mankind has always been salvation by faith alone, prompted by His grace. Salvation by works is not good news–trying to earn salvation by works is bad news, since you have a lot of work to do to please a perfect God and somehow avert His wrath over your sin. It’s impossible. It can’t be done.
By quoting from Genesis in this way, Paul is telling you something about the Bible. The promises in Genesis come from the mouth of God, but for Paul, what the Bible says and what God says are one and the same. See it in verse 8, “The Scripture … preached”–even though God was the one doing the talking, it’s Scripture.
The Bible is God’s Word written. This is why the Scripture is alive. The words on the pages of the Bible come straight from the mouth of God. Because it was written by God through prophets and apostles, the Bible communicates one message. That one message is justification by faith alone. This one Gospel message first appeared in history in Genesis 3:15, the proto-evangelium, the first Gospel. When Adam and Eve fell into sin, God immediately shared the only way they could be justified (through the seed of the woman). They were the first to hear it.
And Abraham also understood the good news. Abraham didn’t know Christ by name, but Abraham believed God would forgive his sins and grant him eternal life. We know this clearly from Abraham’s actions when he was told by God to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, on Mount Moriah in Genesis 22. Isaac asked, “Hey dad, where is the lamb for the sacrifice?” Abraham said he believed God would provide the atoning sacrifice, which God did–a ram caught in the thicket, which Abraham offered.
We know Abraham had faith in the resurrection, as he told the young men who traveled with him to Moriah, “We will go and worship–then WE will come to you again.” Hebrews 11:19 reminds us that Abraham believed “that God is able even to raise someone from the dead.” And verse 8 here makes it really clear that Abraham knew from God’s living Word in Genesis 12, that the Gentiles would also be able to respond to justification by faith.
In Abraham’s call, God was obvious that the Gentiles, these other nations just created at the tower judgment, confusing languages and probably creating different races, can all now believe in the one true God, and find a gracious salvation by faith–not works. Paul makes it clear that those who’re not part of Abraham’s offspring, the nations–Gentiles who are not Jews can respond to the good news of justification by faith.
For Adam and Eve, for Abraham, and for Paul, for Luther, for Calvin and for you FBC–justification by faith is the only way anyone can be declared righteous before God. And God’s perfect righteousness is the only way you will ever live in God’s face-to-face presence in Heaven. If there is no imputed righteousness, or no reckoned righteousness–that means there is no salvation now or ever. So then, can anyone be saved? Yes.
Second The Gentiles can be Justified, just like ABRAHAM Verse 8b
Verse 8b, “All the nations will be blessed in you.” All the nations means Jews and Gentiles alike can be justified and blessed for the same reason Abraham was justified and blessed–faith. This quotation takes us further back in Abraham’s story, to the very first promise God ever made to him in Genesis 12:2 to 3, “And I will make of you a great nation, … and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” From the very beginning, Israel was called to be a witness to the nations–to dispense the knowledge which leads to faith.
Psalm 67:1 to 2 says it clearly, “May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, Selah 2that your way may be known upon earth, your saving power among all nations.” When God created all the nations of the world by confusing their languages in Genesis 11, His plan was to create a nation who would dispense the knowledge which leads to faith in Genesis 12, and that is Abraham, the forefather of the Jewish nation.
To be blessed means to be the recipient of all the divine love, grace and mercy God bestows on those who are in Christ. Paul later calls it in Ephesians 1:3, “every spiritual blessing.” John MacArthur explains salvation blessing in this manner. “When Gentiles are saved, they are saved as Gentiles, just as Jews are saved as Jews. But no one from either group is saved or not saved due to racial or ethnic identity. Those who are saved are saved because of their faith, and those who are lost are lost because of their unbelief. A Gentile has absolutely no advantage in becoming a Jew before he becomes a Christian. In fact, by expecting salvation through the rite of circumcision, a person, whether Jew or Gentile, nullifies the grace of God and declares, in effect, that ‘Christ died needlessly’ (Gal 2:21).”
So through the people of Israel, the offspring of Abraham, the nations were supposed to hear the message of justification by faith. That same calling falls on you, Church. Jesus said in Matthew 28:19 to 20, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” That is our mission now–and this is why Paul went to Galatia and proclaimed the Gospel of justification by faith with the people in the Galatia region. Are you fulfilling your purpose, or have you lost your way like Israel. Why should we share the Gospel?
Third All who of FAITH are BLESSED the same way as ABRAHAM Verse 9
In verse 9, Paul summarizes what he has been saying to this point. “So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer.” This verse speaks of a common blessing. You’re blessed with Abraham, so that all his blessings become your blessings. When you respond in faith, you become the object of the blessing God promised to Abraham. Abraham becomes your brother, as well as your father. God offers one salvation in one Christ, to be shared by one people–Abraham included.
Paul even calls him, “Abraham, the believer”—and some translations say, “Faithful Abraham”. Calvin says, “This expression is very emphatic. They are blessed, not with Abraham as circumcised, nor as entitled to boast of the works of the law, nor as a Hebrew, nor as relying on his own excellence, but blessed with Abraham, who by faith alone obtained the blessing; for no personal quality is here taken into the account, but faith alone.”
There was not one ounce of difference between the Gospel that Paul preached to the Gentiles and the Gospel that God preached to Abraham. The blessing bestowed on Abraham of being counted righteous on the basis of his faith in the Lord, is the blessing now bestowed on every one of you who has turned to Christ by grace through faith alone. Abraham came to salvation by faith alone and lived by faith alone. But there is another way to live–what is it? To know that, you have to come back next week.
A Turn to the SCRIPTURE for the answers on truth, error and life
Paul made it really clear that the Bible alone has the answers you need as to what is true and what is false. Paul quotes Genesis 15:6 and Genesis 12:1 to 3, reminding you all your answers are found in the living and active Word of God. Are you turning to the Word for the questions you are battling with?
B Glorify God by living by FAITH
Romans 4:20, (Abraham) “did not waver in unbelief, but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God.” When you don’t trust God or His Word, you’re taking a shot at God and maligning His character. First John 5:10 says, “The one who does not believe God has made Him a liar.” In other words, when you doubt God, you make Him look bad. No matter what you face, when you doubt or worry, you’re telling the world, “My God cannot really be trusted.”
Maintain intimacy with Christ through prayer and study, and interconnectedness with God’s people through fellowship and service, and you’ll be more prone to live by faith. You remember Daniel and his three friends in the fiery furnace–no one had ever been there before. There was no ready-reference Bible verses they could look to for a promise that they would survive. “Let’s see, what does God say about furnaces?”
If they gave in, God would not have been glorified. Instead, they took a stand by faith in the goodness of God. Their faith was vindicated and God was glorified before an entire nation. Lean on Christ, trust in Him, depend on Him, rely on His promises and bring Him glory.
C Living by Faith frees you from a PERFORMANCE lifestyle
Everyone who is seeking to save themselves by their own performance or works will experience the curse of fear. Attempting to be saved by works will lead to profound anxiety and insecurity, because you can never be sure you are sufficiently living up to your religious standards, whatever they may be. This makes you over-sensitive to criticism, envious, and intimidated by others who outshine you. It makes you nervous and timid (because you are unsure of where you stand) or else swaggering and boastful (because you are trying to convince yourself of where you stand). Either way, you live with a sense of curse and condemnation.
But living by the finished work of Christ on your behalf by faith, day-by-day, will free you from performance. The more you live under the reality that God did everything to save you, forgive you, cleanse you–and every single sin, past, present and future has been paid, you will be freed to live by grace through faith.
D Have you come to Christ by FAITH?
“Father Abraham had many sons, and many sons had Father Abraham; and I am one of them, and so are you, so let’s all praise the Lord!” Who are the sons of Abraham? You are, if you turn to Christ by faith. Exchange all that you are for all that He is. Depend on Christ and His work on the cross. Believe that Christ, the God-man, died for your sins, rose from the dead and ascended into Heaven.
Come to an end of yourself, hate your sin, and cry out to Christ to cleanse and forgive you. Believe that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life–and there is no other way to be saved. Trust that Christ provides a real salvation, including a transformation, but only by faith. Let’s pray.