Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Galatians Journal: Chapter 3, verse 9

Galatians 3:9 "So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith."

Paul completes his first scriptural argument regarding Abraham. Paul, of course, has raised this point first because the Jewish traditions recognized Abraham as the “spiritual father” of Judaism. The Jews of Paul’s time (and even today) believe Abraham’s righteous actions were imputed to the whole nation of Israel (his descendants), and that, in effect, all of Israel was saved through Abraham’s obedience. Paul has also used a common technique used by the Pharisees in New Testament times – connecting one proof text with another (here, in verse 6, he uses Genesis 15:6, and in verse 8, Genesis 12:3). In a sense, Paul is using the very intellectual traditions that the Judiazers probably used to argue their own points against them. Being a former Pharisee himself, Paul knew what he was doing. The average Pharisee-type in the Galatian audience would have respected Paul’s logic and debate techniques at least. The average Greek would have too, probably -- their philosophical tradition was also founded in logic. The applications are clear to us today – the panoply of New Testament scripture makes it seem obvious. But this was something new to first century Jewish believers. God had always intended to reach out to everyone – Jews AND Gentile --- and Paul proves this to a group of people who revered the authority of the Pentateuch (the first 5 books of the Old Testament, written by Moses) by showing them that God revealed this concept to Abraham at the very beginning of the Abraham narrative in the book of Genesis. Jews traditionally believed that the “righteous” were saved in Abraham. They also viewed this connection to Abraham as ethnic and national. The personification of “the righteous” was the nation of Israel. But here, Paul shows (in an argument that logically reflected Jewish intellectual traditions) that “believers” of all stripes, including Gentiles, are “blessed” – saved – in Abraham. Not because of Abraham himself, or what he did, but as a reflection of his example – Abraham believed; so we also believe, like Abraham, in Jesus, and it is credited to us. Later, in verse 15-18, Paul caps off the connection to Abraham,and the "credit" of righteousness through faith, fulfilled only and exclusively in Jesus.

“Man of faith” – Indeed, Abraham is a great example of what it is like to live by faith. He received a promise, and believed it, with little to support it other than his faith – his RELATIONSHIP with God. His faith-journey was filled with mistakes and episodes where he did not trust in God. But in his ultimate test – the sacrifice of his son, and therefore, the death of the fulfillment of the original promise – he knew God was telling the truth, and would be true to the promise. The Book of Hebrews indicates that he knew, even if he had killed Isaac, God would have fulfilled the promise by raising Isaac from the dead, if necessary. Abraham trusted God, because he knew God. Thus, even the example Paul uses to refute the Judiazers focuses on the concept of RELATIONSHIP! Everything involved with God’s Kingdom ultimately comes back to RELATIONSHIPS!!!!!

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