Galatians Part 5 – The Faith of Abraham
Continuing in Galatians we come to Paul’s assertion that, “everyone who has faith is a child of Abraham.” (Galatians 3:7). From the very beginning God’s intention has always been to bless allnations through the family of Abraham (Genesis 12: 3). This promise God made to Abraham is entirely dependent upon the grace of God. Therefore, God established the promise on the foundation of the impossible and miraculous birth of Isaac as a witness to a blessing that no one could claim credit for. Then, as if you make the point crystal clear, the promise is carried into the next generation after Isaac through the similarly impossible birth of Jacob. Therefore, anyone who can trace their ancestry to the line of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob owes their physical existence to the miraculous intervention by God. To be called a child of Abraham is to recognise that you have been the recipient of an extraordinary and otherwise impossible gift of grace.
However, many generations later, the descendants of Abraham had become complacent, despite their miraculous pedigree. However, just because someone happens to have the blood of Abraham running in their veins it does not follow that they are truly children of Abraham. As Paul has it in his letter to the Romans, “For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children.”(Romans 9: 6-7). Rather, as Paul concludes, “It is not the children by physical descent who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring.” (Romans 9: 8). Therefore, just as it was in the birth of Isaac, being a child of the promise is notdetermined by flesh: it is entirely a matter of Spirit.
Even though we gentiles do not physically descend from Abraham; through faith our spiritual ancestry is every bit as miraculous and authentic as that of Isaac. Thus, both Jew and gentile are included by faith and both are considered members of the family of Abraham by equally impossible means. In the very same way that that Isaac exists miraculously by faith, so we gentiles are the spiritual descendants of Abraham by that same faith. As the apostle John has it, “Yet to all who did receivehim [i.e. – Jesus Christ], 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.” (John 1: 12-13). Being a ‘child of Abraham’ is a freely given gift which no one can acquire by means of the flesh; it can only be received by means of the Spirit.
This is the point of the entire letter to the Galatians. We are all included in the family of Abraham and the blessing on that family by faith and are therefore recipients of the promise to the same extent as any physical descendant of Abraham. So, Paul can add, “This means that everyone who has faith will share in the blessings that were given to Abraham because of his faith.” (Galatians 3: 9). Again, Paul underscores the truth that our righteousness is not something we can acquire, it is only something we can receive.