As I look at this passage, I can’t help but wonder if Paul thought back to the argument Jesus had with the Jews in John 8. Because essentially, it’s talking about the same issue: who are the true children of Abraham?
To the Jews, it was they who were the true descendants of Abraham. He was, after all, their forefather and what’s more, they had and followed the law of God given through Moses. And so when Jesus said that if they held to his teaching, they would know the truth and the truth would set them free, they immediately answered,
We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free? (John 8:33)
And that started a long conversation about who the true children of Abraham were. Jesus pointed out, “You guys still sin. You claim to be free as children of Abraham, but you are still slaves to sin. But I am the one that can set you free from sin so that you will no longer be slaves to sin, but true children of God.” (John 8:34-36)
When the Jews continued to insist that they were true children of Abraham, Jesus told them,
If you were Abraham’s children…then you would do the things Abraham did. As it is, you are determined to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. (John 8:39-40)
In other words, when Abraham heard God’s words, he believed them. He took them by faith, and that’s what saved him. That’s what made him a child of God. But the Jews proved themselves to be not true children of Abraham because they didn’t accept Jesus and his words by faith. Instead they rejected him.
And that’s what Paul is saying here in Galatians.
Consider Abraham: “He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. (6-9)
Paul is saying here, that Abraham himself was not credited as righteous by his keeping the law. The law had not even come into existence yet. Further, if you look at his life, Abraham fell into sin from time to time. But ultimately, he was justified by God because he had put his faith in God and His promise.
All true children of Abraham are the same way. We may fail. We may sin. But we are not credited as righteous because we keep the law perfectly. Rather, we are credited as righteous because we put our faith in Jesus.
In fact, Paul says that if we try to earn this status as “righteous before God” through our works, we actually put ourselves under a curse. For,
Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law. (10)
And as I said, no one keeps it perfectly.
But Christ took our curse for us. More, Paul says,
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” (13)
By dying on the cross, he took all the curse of the law upon himself, taking all of God’s wrath toward us upon himself. Paul then tells us that Jesus redeemed us, that is, he bought us out of slavery to sin and Satan’s kingdom. And now, the blessing of salvation that Abraham received is available to us if we do what Abraham did: simply believe in the promises of God.
No one is justified before God by the law, because, “The righteous will live by faith.”(11)
How about you? Are you a true child of Abraham, putting your trust in Jesus? Or are you still trying to make yourself right before God by your own efforts? No one can truly say they are saved if can’t truly trust God for their salvation and insist on trusting their own efforts or qualifications.
Who or what are you trusting in for your salvation?