Saturday, 19 March 2016
…just as Abraham “believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Galatians 3:6
In the previous verse, Paul asked a question of the Galatians. Now in verse 6, and because of the obvious nature of a proper response, he skips the answer entirely. Instead, he simply moves into an illustration of the answer. The illustration is not from the time of the law, but rather from before the giving of the law. Further, it involves the great man of faith to the Hebrew people, Father Abraham.
And so, in his illustration, he begins with “…just as Abraham.” If one were to pull out any example of faith in God and in His promises, Abraham is the logical person to choose. The record of his life demonstrates a reliance on the Lord at a time when such reliance was unknown to the ancient world. Because of this, the example Paul gives will show that a precedent had been set which preempts righteousness coming through the law. Instead, “Abraham ‘believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.'”
As the law was still hundreds of years later in history, then this demonstrates that righteousness is not something granted by the law. If he was granted righteousness apart from the law, then it shows that this is the standard and proper way for people to be saved in this manner at any and all points in history.
Paul’s quoting of this passage from Genesis is that of the Greek translation of it. It is the same quote that he made, and with the same intent, as in Romans 4:3; that of the timing of God’s declaration of righteousness. Not only was Genesis 15:6 prior to the giving of the law, but it also came several chapters and many years before the sign of circumcision.
Circumcision was mandated in Genesis 17 when Abraham was 99 years old and when Ishmael was 13. However, Genesis 15 was prior to the conception and birth of Ishmael. Therefore, the declaration of righteousness was at least 14 years earlier, possibly more. Further, Abraham’s offering of Isaac in Genesis 22, and which is noted in James 2, came many long years after that.
Because Abraham’s faith was credited as righteousness prior to either of these acts, as well as prior to the giving of the law, then none of these could have had any bearing at all upon his declaration of righteousness.
As a side note, this verse completely and entirely demonstrates that the doctrine of regeneration held to by Calvinists is wrong. Faith, which comes from within the man, results in justification. A man is not “regenerated” first in order to believe, as if God were injecting him with something externally in order for the act to occur. Further, to demonstrate that “faith” is not a “work,” we can contemplate the following argument –
1) Deeds of the law, or works, do not lead to justification (as noted in Romans 3:28).
2a) “Faith” is not something required within the context of the law. The law is of works and demands perfect obedience (Romans 3:19, 20 & Galatians 3:11).
2b) But by faith a person is justified and declared righteous (Romans 3:28, Galatians 3:24)
3) Therefore, because the law demands works, and faith is not a requirement under the law, then faith cannot be a work; it is something entirely different.
It is completely evident, fully supportable, and biblically correct to note from this one verse that, 1) belief is an act of the free will of man; 2) it is not placed in man through a nebulous process of being “regenerated to believe” by which he then believes; and that 3) this faith is in no way considered a work.
Therefore, the truth of Scripture indicates, from the first pages of Genesis, that man has been granted free will and that He must exercise that gift in faith. Further this faith must be properly directed and in line with the revealed light which God has provided.
Life application: Doctrine matters.
Heavenly Father, thank You for the great examples of people of faith which permeate the pages of the Bible. It seems that there is an example for every one of my failings. Whatever I face which is a challenge to my faith, there is some person who has faced the same thing and who prevailed over their struggle. You carefully, lovingly, and meticulously recorded their lives so that we can turn to such an account and be strengthened. Thank You for this marvelous and tender attention to our needs! Amen.