Galatians 3:6-9 Trust and obedience are evidences of faith towards righteousness, not rituals, baptism or knowledge
Galatians 3:6-9 Trust and obedience are evidences of faith towards righteousness, not rituals, baptism or knowledge
6 Even so Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. 7 Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. 8 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.” 9 So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer.
Apparently, the Judaizers had influenced the Galatians into thinking that in order to be true children of Abraham they have to follow in his footsteps, which is to be circumcised. The Judaizers had purported that circumcision was the seal of righteousness that must be received in spite of their faith in Christ. Today’s devotion teaches us that trust and obedience are evidences of faith towards righteousness, not rituals, baptism or knowledge.
Even so Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.
Paul responds to the Judaizers by correcting their understanding of the Old Testament text. Using Genesis 15:6 (”Then he believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness”), Paul shows the circumstances by which Abraham was declared righteous by God. Abraham believed God when he heard the divine directives (see Genesis 15:1-5). His response reflects his complete trust in God’s love and wisdom. God, seeing Abraham’s willingness to obey conferred upon him divine righteousness. And as long as Abraham continues to walk in obedience, and not turn from his allegiance to God, he is considered as righteous.
It is important to note, that Abraham was declared righteous (by God) even before the covenant of circumcision was given (Genesis 17:4-14). Thus, circumcision is not the requisite for righteousness as the Judaizers claimed. And Abraham’s subsequent acts of obedience: circumcision, in particular do not add to this righteousness that is initially conferred upon Abraham. It merely proves that Abraham’s actions are worthy of his stature of righteousness. That said, the commandment to religious observances (e.g. circumcision, baptism or any spiritual rituals) must be differentiated from the first commandment to love God and love others. True faith and righteousness is unequivocally displayed when one loves God with all his heart and loves other as himself. Jesus condemned the Jews who were steep in religious observances because they did not live out the truth. For they supposed that by being circumcised as Abraham’s descendants, they were considered as righteous. Jesus said to them,
“Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.”… “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never yet been enslaved to anyone.” – John 8:24, 31-33
Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham.
“Those who are of faith” can be better rephrased as “those who rely on faith”. And the opposite of “those who rely on faith” is “those who rely on the law”. While it can be said that “those who rely on faith” depend on God for righteousness, “those who rely on the law” depend on themselves. That said, Abraham’s faith was not specifically faith in Jesus Christ, but in God. Nevertheless, Abraham possessed a model of faith that is fundamental, a precursor to the Christian faith: A man’s righteousness can only be attained through continual trust and obedience in Christ as his Lord and Saviour. Towards the later part of his life, Abraham did exhibit a kind of faith that is likened to the Christian faith when he believed in God who is able to raise the dead (see Hebrews 11:19).
With this, Paul countered the claims of the Judaizers: indeed, only those who rely on faith are truly the sons of Abraham. As Abraham relied on faith and found righteousness, those who follow in Abraham’s faith will likewise find it.
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.”
Paul lifted the text from the foundational blessing, which is the last part of the Abrahamic covenant, “… all the nations will be blessed in you.” (Genesis 12:3). If all nations will be blessed “in you” (Abraham), by what means are the nations of Gentile believers blessed in Abraham? To put it specifically, what does “in you” denote? “In you” refers to Christ, the descendent of Abraham. In several passages, Christ is referred to as the seed of Abraham. Thus, “in you” (Gen 12:3), “in your seed” (Gen 22:18, 26:4), “in you… even in your seed” (Gen 28:14) are all synonymous expressions referring to Christ. Thus, it is through Christ (the seed of Abraham), that the blessing of salvation is extended to all the nations.
When God said to Abraham, “All the nations will be blessed in you”, God was in fact preaching the gospel of Christ to him. Abraham believes that it is through the one descendant (as opposed to all his descendants) by which the nations are saved. Here, Paul wants all Gentile believers to know that they were in God’s mind when He first gave the covenant to Abraham. That said, it remains for all today to attain righteousness by emulating Abraham’s faith in God, not his works of the law. Even as Abraham believes God and received his blessing, Christians must exercise faith in Christ by taking up the cross and follow Him.
Our works and capabilities alone cannot give us success which faith can.
Abraham was considered by God as righteous because he is willing to do all that God has commanded him. Abraham’s faith stamps from his belief that whatever God has commanded is out of His perfect love and wisdom. Thus, it is important to note that Abraham was drawn not by the benefits inherent in the promises, but by God’s attributes of love, power and wisdom. In short, Abraham cared not for his own agenda, but for God’s. This is seen by Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his only son, Isaac at God’s request.
Having described Abraham’s faith, what about his works? Works are important, for without works, there will be no progress. However, the driving force behind our works is faith in God’s faithfulness to provide and to give success. A believer who relies on faith depends on God. He keeps growing in competence and wisdom to produce greater works. And he does not dwell on his failures believing that God will grant success. Instead, he perseveres believing that God will fill up his inadequacies with His grace. However, one who relies on his works and achievements depends only on himself. Such a one will be in constant distress for he only has his personal abilities to depend on. He is also plagued by guilt, for not being able to live up to expectations.
Many started out well, faithfully depending on God for divine guidance and enablement. But when they become successful, they plateau and decline. Closer examination reveals a shift in their attitudes: from reliance on faith to his works and achievements, from dependence on God to self, and from God’s agenda to their own. Abraham had never stopped prospering and his legacy led to a powerful and eternal kingdom where all nations are blessed.
Trust and obedience are evidences of faith towards righteousness, not rituals, baptism or knowledge
Abraham is considered righteous when he obeyed the law of circumcision which Judaism sees as the seal of righteousness in addition to his faith. But, what Judaism considered as a true and sufficient condition for righteousness (circumcision) is quickly debunked when God requested for Abraham’s son, Isaac to be sacrificed (see Genesis 22). Apparently, Abraham’s commitment to circumcision is inadequate to ratify the Abrahamic covenant. God requires further testing to prove the authenticity of Abraham’s faith towards righteousness. Despite knowing that the sacrifice of Isaac will summarily cut off any means to fulfil the promises, Abraham trusted God completely believing that He can raise Isaac from the dead (see Hebrews 11:19). Just when Abraham was about to slay the child, God intervened being satisfied of Abraham’s faith in Him. It is only here, that God ratified His covenant to Abraham once and for all, making the promise of blessing for the nations irrevocable.
Indeed, the covenant of circumcision is not meant to seal Abraham’s righteousness or to ratify the Abrahamic covenant else God would not have to ratify His promises again (see Genesis 22:15-18). In fact, many who are circumcised have unequivocally proven their unbelief by rejecting Christ as their Lord and Saviour. Many churchgoers supposed by their baptism, church attendance and religious knowledge have proven their faith and attained righteousness. But God’s dealings with Abraham showed us that righteousness is not found in one’s observance of rituals, baptism or knowledge, but by one’s life of faith. Believers must prove their faith by trusting God through temptations, tribulations and many injustices. Jesus called his disciples to demonstrate faith by putting the call of God above their families and themselves (Luke 14:26). The faithful must be willing to set aside their material possessions for the work of the kingdom (Luke 14:33). And they must be ready to obey the directives of Christ and to put the interest of others above their own (John 8:31, 13:35).
Regrettably, the spirit of worldliness has infiltrated the church and many are oblivious to God’s calling in their lives. They are preoccupied with their career, investments, and their problems. Truly, Jesus has become their Saviour, but far from being their Lord. Such are like the Judaizers of Paul’s days who suppose by their baptism and circumcision are made righteous.
Do you depend on God or yourself for your success? One who depends on God reads the word consistently. He walks with God in the Spirit, being mindful of what is pleasing to God and what is not. One who has faith endeavours to do what is right in all circumstances. And he does not dwell on the negative, but on God who is able to prosper him.
When we read the word or worship God or eat the holy communion, we must be intentional in encountering Christ, the source of our righteousness. Religious rituals, baptism or and knowledge does not make us righteous or gain divine favour. But they help us to understand God’s wisdom and walk in it. They also inspires us by giving hope towards a glorious future. Water baptism does not add a single ounce of righteousness to us.
The Spirit’s baptism may accord a false sense of righteousness if we do not walk in the Spirit’s directives. When one experiences the baptism of the Spirit in an explicit manner, he may suppose that God is with him regardless of what he does. That said, the Spirit’s baptism does not directly accord righteousness to a person. It is only useful for one who trust God and obeys Him.
Unless religious rituals and knowledge serve their intended purpose, they give us a false sense of righteousness like they did to the Jews.
Dear Lord, I desire to encounter you in a greater way when I read the word, when I worship you and when I partake of the holy communion. Cause me to be more sensitive to your presence and to be sanctified by your Spirit. Increase my capacity to trust and obey your word. Prosper me and my family in all that we do. Use us as vessels for your kingdom’s work. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.