Abraham’s Children


Studies in Paul’s Letter to the Galatians


by Bob Burridge ©2017

Lesson 7: Galatians 3:6-9

Abraham’s Children

Being part of a loving and caring family is a great blessing. It’s good when parents raise their children responsibly with love and caring discipline. It’s good when brothers and sisters look after one another, even though they might not always agree on everything. It’s important for families to stand by one another in tough times, to create great memories together in the good times, and to encourage one another to put God’s ways above their own ways at all times.

In our imperfect and fallen world, not everybody has a family like that. Homes are sometimes not places of refuge from a troubled world. No home is perfect. Those who live there are sinners, even those saved by God’s grace.

Some families are able to know their backgrounds. They have stories passed down about where they came from, and about their parent’s past. Probably, if we knew everything, everybody has ancestors they’d rather not tell others about. If we researched enough, all our families probably have some very honorable ancestors.

Some years ago we ordered a book about our family. It was just called “Burridge“. It told about the origin of the name, and traced our ancestors back to their homelands. In the appendix it listed the names and addresses of the known Burridges at the time. It was interesting to know a little more about our ancestry.

But there’s a family we’re all a part of — if you’re one of God’s children. It’s a real family with a perfect Father, and admittedly very imperfect brothers and sisters. Though we aren’t always what we should be, we’re supposed to be learning to love one another anyway.

And our spiritual family has a wonderful heritage we all can call our own. It includes all those in all times, who are redeemed by God’s grace, and united in Christ. We are the spiritual descendants of Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. We have spiritual ancestors who include: Joshua, David, Isaiah, Daniel, Paul, Luke and Peter.

The Apostle Paul many times refers to Abraham as our Father in the Faith. In Romans 4, he wrote about our rich heritage as the Children of Abraham.

In Galatians 3 Paul explained some of the rich benefits we have as Abraham’s spiritual family. But there were problems in Galatia at that time. There were some heretics who had become popular. Very persuasive and attractive people were saying things that appealed to imperfect hearts. They sounded very godly, but their spirituality wasn’t based on God’s pure truth.

So Paul was correcting an infectious error that was troubling the Galatian churches. There were Judaizers who didn’t understand that the Jewish laws were fulfilled in Christ. They thought the Gentile believers needed to be circumsised and live as Jews. They believed the Jews were special just because they were physical descendants of Abraham. It was as if God was obligated to love and bless them because of their physical heritage. They put their hopes of innocence in human efforts; either their own, or their forefathers.

That’s never what God’s word taught. Paul’s message to the Judaizers was that they were just plain wrong. What’s more, they were living nothing like Abraham. Genesis 15:6 explains the reason behind God’s blessing of Abraham. It says, “he believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.”

Paul used the biblical story of Abraham to make his point in Galatians 3:6-9.

6. just as Abraham “believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.”
7. Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham.
8. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, “In you all the nations shall be blessed.”
9. So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham.

His point is that Abraham was pronounced righteous because of his faith in God’s promises. Simply put, he was moved by God’s Grace to trust in what God said.

Notice that it says Abraham believed God, not just that he believed in God. Belief that a god exists saves nobody. The Bible tells us in James 2:19, “You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe — and tremble!” God is a fact. The difference is that the redeemed put their trust in God. That’s more than just believing he exists.

Abraham was obviously not a perfect man. He sometimes made bad choices and did things that were wrong. But he was a man of faith. He didn’t always just trust in himself. He trusted God when he was called to move his family to the distant country of Canaan. He took his son Isaac to the mountain altar to sacrifice his life if God so willed. But when he got to the altar and was prepared to obey, God stopped him.
It was a lesson to teach that another was going to be provided as a substitute by God. A Redeemer would come who would die in place of his people.

What’s very important is that Abraham knew he was a sinner. He understood the offense of his sins, and repented of them, and wanted to overcome them. He knew he could be forgiven by God’s grace through trust in the promised Redeemer.

The righteousness Abraham enjoyed came by Imputation. That means it was credited to him. It was considered to be his by God himself, the offended party and his judge. Our translation says it was “accounted” to Abraham. It wasn’t done by Abraham personally. It was a righteousness that would be earned by Jesus Christ, by his life and death. It was applied to Abraham as an unworthy sinner by grace alone. The evidence of it was his faith, his confidence in God’s promises. When Abraham trusted God’s promise, his faith was counted as righteousness.

This faith isn’t just a vague hope that all things will work out. It has a particular object. It’s an absolute trust and confidence in God’s provisions for us. It’s a full confidence in all Jesus Christ accomplished.

Jesus said in John 8:56 that this future hope is what gave Abraham spiritual understanding and confidence.”Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.”

Hebrews 11:13 explains that he saw the promises afar off. After reviewing the hope that was in Abraham and the other Old Testament believers, it says, “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.”

If Abraham is our Father in the Faith, then we who believe are his children.
Paul makes this point here in Galatians 3:7

7. Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham.

Sonship in the Bible has to do with sameness. Jesus said to the Jews in John 8:39
“If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham.”

Sameness is also the evidence that we are the Sons of God. In Ephesians 5:1 Paul says, “Therefore be imitators of God as dear children.” In 1 John 2:29 John says, “… everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him.”

Then later in that same letter, in 1 John 3:8-10, John says more about this sameness, “He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God. In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother.”

The verbs in that passage are not saying that God’s children never do anything wrong. The tenses are what we call constative, they mean that sin isn’t their way of life. More accurately it means, “they cannot keep sinning”. They aren’t people characterized by sinning. They’re striving to be like their Father.

We are Abraham’s children when we have faith like Abraham. It shows that the same God is at work in our hearts, who was at work in our father in the Faith.

It’s this same gospel promise that we and our spiritual ancestors trust in.

8. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, “In you all the nations shall be blessed.”
9. So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham.

Paul was quoting directly from God’s promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:3, where he said, “… in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

Abraham was pronounced righteous and blessed not by rituals, not by his works, and not by his ancestors, but by faith in God’s sure promise of redemption through the coming Messiah.

In Ephesians 1 Paul explained where our sonship with Abraham comes from. In verse 11 he said that in Jesus Christ we also, along with Abraham, “… have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will”.

We don’t get this faith by God looking ahead to see what we would do if he didn’t do anything. It says in Ephesians 1:4 & 5, “just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him, in love having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will”.

Those blessed with Abraham are believers in the same promises that encouraged and redeemed this ancestor.

Today’s church is that same olive tree with Israel, as Paul puts it in Romans 11. We are the same church, with the same Savior, and the same wonderful gospel. We are Abraham’s seed, his spiritual descendants. We have the same promises within the Covenant of God’s Grace.

We all have our own families here on earth into which we were born or raised. Some of our ancestors may have accomplished great things here on earth. Some have probably done some very bad things – but all who rest repentantly in God’s saving grace are also part of a spiritual family. Our ancestors in the faith haven’t been perfect, but we are united by one special blessing: a grace-given faith in God’s promises through Jesus Christ.

We should treasure the church family of which God has made us a part. It’s there that we worship, serve, and learn together. We ought to be an encouragement to one another. We’re brothers and sisters forever. There in glory we’ll be at home with all our spiritual ancestors who rested in the promise of the work of our Redeemer, Jesus Christ. We are brothers to Adam, the only man who ever lived before the fall into sin. We are spiritually descended from Noah, who survived the great flood with his sons and their wives, and Abraham, the father of God’s covenant people. We’ll be with our brothers Moses, Joshua, David, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Peter, Paul, Luke, and John.

We as Abraham’s children have a greater understanding of things than our Father Abraham had. He saw stars in the sky that somehow shine there every night declaring the glory of God. Today we know a lot about the amazing reactions the Creator built into the stars to produce that light. We have seen pictures of distant galaxies, a whole world of before unseen living creatures in the deep seas. And we know about the tiny world of atoms, protons, and quarks. We’ve seen God’s hand in the long history of the world since Abraham. We see how God moved nations and people through the turns of time to shape today’s world. We have more information about the past than the ancients did about their own time and place on earth.

Most importantly we have a completed Bible in our own languages, the complete word of God. We have good solid commentaries and computer Bible study software to dig into it’s depths. We have the advantage of good lessons in worship sermons, Sunday School classes, and Bible studies. Don’t let all these advantages of our age slip past you while you spend way to much time being entertained, shopping for things way beyond what we need, or just taking it easy.

Don’t head for heaven as malnourished children, guilty of neglecting God’s spiritual provisions. You can do your part for the Kingdom of God as your Father Abraham did. He wasn’t much more than a simple father of a family that moved out of town. He didn’t travel to big cities teaching with earth-shaking eloquence. He didn’t write a book, or compose a popular song, or invent a cure for some disease. He was a man of faith. He trusted God, prayed for his children, and repented honestly when he sinned. We remember this fallible, imperfect head of an ancient home as our Father in the Faith.

When God calls you to simple daily work, or to do something hard, something challenging like Abraham when he was called to go to a distant country, take up what God’s providence brings your way and do it well, trusting in the power of Christ.

When you wonder if your weaknesses and sins would disqualify you as God’s child admit that they do! Don’t brush them off as if they were nothing. Trust the way Abraham did – that God has provided forgiveness by his grace. Today we know it was accomplished by the perfect work of the Savior. He can’t fail and his promises are always reliable. Be encouraged that when this life is completed, you will have an eternity of blessing ahead.

You will live in your Heavenly Father’s house forever with all your ancestors in the faith: American or Russian, Jew or Gentile, rich or poor, Black or White, Democrat or Republican.

All who are redeemed by God’s Sovereign Grace, and moved by him to a sincere faith in Christ’s redemption, are together the spiritual children of Abraham – children of God – forever!

(The Bible quotations are from the New King James Version unless otherwise noted.)

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