Galatians 3:7-9 – Credited as Righteous

The audience of the letter of Galatians are Gentiles who have responded to God by believing in Jesus as savior. Paul says that they are justified, right with God as a result of that faith. This experience is not unlike that of Abraham, who believed God and “it was credited to him as righteousness” (3:7-9). In the second part of Galatians. Paul turns to a biblical argument, focusing on the phrase “credited as righteousness” in story of Abraham in Genesis 15.

Abraham BelievedIn this story, Abraham believed in the word of God as revealed to him and God considered him “right with God” as a result. At this point in history, Abraham must be considered a Gentile, at least by the rules imposed by the Agitators in the Galatian churches. He was uncircumcised and food traditions and Sabbath laws have not been given yet. But because he believed in the God who called him out of his father’s land, he became a “converted pagan,” just like they Gentile believers in Paul’s churches. Abraham is therefore the perfect model for Paul to use since he was justified before the Law: he was justified by faith not by the act of circumcision.

How did “scripture foresee that God would justify the Gentiles by faith” (Gal 3:8)? The Abrahamic covenant states that the whole world would be blessed by the seed of Abraham (Gen 12:1-3). How the nations would be blesses is left unstated, but we know from Galatians that it is through the death and resurrection of Jesus that nations are able to participate in the blessing of Abraham’s covenant.

It is quite possible that there were many Jews living at the time of Paul who would have disagreed at this point, but most would have agreed that God would do something to bring the Gentiles into his future kingdom. The only disagreement was on the percentage of the nations who would respond when the Messiah comes. For some, the nations would come streaming to Zion (Isa 25:6-8), but for others, very few Gentiles would enter the Kingdom. A book like 4 Ezra, for example, doubts if many of the Jews will enter the Kingdom!

But it is highly unlikely that any of the existing Jewish groups as we know them would have expected God to justify the Gentiles by faith, apart from the works of the Law.  This is the contribution of Paul: the Gentiles can be right with God without converting to Judaism or keeping the Law or by practicing the boundary markers of Judaism.

The fact that Gentiles would be blessed by the seed of Abraham should not therefore be a surprise to the Jewish church. What is a shock to the Jewish Christians is that Gentiles are to be justified apart from the Law. This was unanticipated in the Hebrew Bible. Abraham therefore becomes the model for the Gentiles since he too was a Gentile, saved by faith in God and not works of the Law.

8 thoughts on “Galatians 3:7-9 – Credited as Righteous

  1. I think that the biggest thing for me while reading this post was realizing that Abraham was not a “man of God”, because of his circumcision, but because he believed in God and followed him out of his father’s land, because he believed in God. There was no “strings attached” as in he did not have to be circumcised, or even the food laws. “Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.” (Gen. 12:1-2). Abram was called “right with God”, because he followed the Lord, and what God had called him to do, and I feel as though this would have a been a big handle to hold onto for Paul as he spoke to the Jewish Christians. One of the most influential men, Abram, did not have to follow the law just to be “right with God” in the beginning.

  2. I had never though of Abraham as being the perfect example for Gentile salvation, now i realize that it should have been obvious. Obviously, the Jewish, people would never have thought this way about the father of their people. It’s very ironic that Paul uses the Jews own argument against them. Most of the meat in the argument for Gentiles converting to Judaism comes from God’s covenant with Abraham to set His people apart. However, it is obviously forgotten that Abraham was not a part of God’s people until after. Even more than that, God’s promise to Abraham came solely because of his faith. “Abraham’s standing with God was not based on circumcision or any other work but solely on faith” (Polhill 148). It’s then particularly interesting that Paul continues to use the Abraham story to point out that God’s promise was to bless ALL the nations through him. On top of that, the promise to bless could only come because of the incredible faith that Abraham had.

  3. It is interesting how the Jewish people should not be surprised that the Gentiles will “be blessed by the seed of Abraham” (P. Long). However, they are surprised that the Gentiles did not have to follow the law. It seems like they would have been able to make the connection that the Gentiles were being blessed by not having to follow the law, and still being saved by the death of Jesus on the cross. However, many Jews disagreed with this and believed that the Gentiles needed to convert to Judaism and follow the law. Paul argued that they did not need the law to be saved. Polhill says, “Paul responded with Genesis 15:6 to argue that Abraham’s standing with God was not based on circumcision or any other work but solely on faith” (Polhill, 148). Paul uses this argument as the prime example of how Gentile faith should look.

  4. What i find intresting is Abraham himself was the first and he was not really a righteous man until God called him from his life. This being true Abraham even stumbled and fell himself knowing this is all by faith. With this in mind it wouldnt be a new concept to the Jewish believers in Galatia. “Abraham’s standing with God was not based on circumcision or any other work but solely on faith” (Polhill 148). This is also echoed in the faith chapter of Hebrews as its not a man thing, or even a law thing but only a God thing. The Jews however do still hold to the truth the blessing is from Abraham and was brought so through his line.

  5. After reading the post, it does become obvious that Abraham can be considered a Gentile. It proves that even before the coming of the Messiah, and before the Mosaic Law was set in place, faith in God was still the “key” to salvation. I like how Zac put it, how “the Jews use their own argument against them”. It is funny though how contradictory it is that the Jews were so set on following the law, but they never reflected on Abraham’s lifestyle.

  6. I just love the OT! It is full of some many great events and foreshadowing to the New Testament, and what God was planned to do among humanity. I had never thought of the magnitude of understanding Abraham as a Gentile and what that meant for Paul’s mission. “This was unanticipated in the Hebrew Bible” (Plong). Not sure if you are saying this not covered, or not mentioned, or what? Sorry for not understanding… I love how the OT keeps Jesus, the seed of Abraham a mystery. This was an awesome post very interesting.

  7. God called Abraham and made His promises to him before Abraham had really gotten into the religious aspect of being a Jew. Abraham would have been an uncircumcised Gentile at the time of his calling and God already chose him as being worthy to fulfill His plan (Gen 12:1-2). As P. Long states in the post, it seems likely that although many Jews would have disagreed with Paul that nations would be able to participate in the blessing of Abraham’s covenant through Christ’s death and resurrection, it is likely that many Jews would concede the Gentiles would be brought into the God’s future kingdom in some way. The most prevalent problem for Jews accepting Gentiles as included in Abraham’s blessing is their distinction from the Jews in keeping the Law as part of salvation. Paul’s message of a Law-free gospel for the Gentiles likely shocked and appalled many Jews. Perhaps Paul references Abraham in Galatians because the Jews respected Abraham as a man set apart by God and the Gentiles could see him as a model of a Gentile who was justified in God’s eyes through faith and not by the Law.

Leave a Reply