… just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”? Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.
We are justified by faith as proven by the fact that we received the Spirit – the proof of our salvation – by faith and not by self-effort.
So was Abraham!
Abraham, the ancestor of the Jews, was Paul’s star witness to prove that justification is by faith alone, not by law-keeping
I. ABRAHAM WAS COUNTED RIGHTEOUS BY FAITH.
The word “counted” shows that Abraham’s righteousness is an imputed righteousness (see Gen. 15:6). In himself he was imperfect and a sinner just like any of us. But God by his grace accepted him as righteous. Clearly, this righteousness which made him acceptable to God was not something that resided in him or was earned by him. It was a perfect righteousness – it had to be perfect for God to accept it – that came from outside him, which was nevertheless credited or counted in his favor.
Abraham was not saved by works of the law because he was declared righteous even before he was circumcised (Rom. 4:3, 9-10). In fact, he lived long before the law was given to Moses.
Abraham actually believed in Jesus Christ (John 8:56-59)! And it was Christ’s perfect righteousness that was credited into his account or counted in his favor.
II. THOSE WHO ARE OF FAITH ARE ABRAHAM’S TRUE CHILDREN.
Those who are of faith are the true Jews. This was a slap in the face of the Judaizers who taught that in effect you had to become a Jew by law-keeping in order to be saved. But Paul was saying that to be a true child of Abraham is a matter of spiritual rather than physical descent. Thus, a true Jew is the one who follows the example of Abraham, the man of faith, regardless of his or her ethnicity.
The fact that the gospel was preached to Abraham means that the way of salvation is the same in both the Old and New Testaments: We are all saved by faith in Jesus Christ. Old Testament believers looked forward to Christ and the salvation he would accomplish for them; New Testament believers look back to Christ and his finished work on the cross. The gospel too was preached to Adam and Eve when God declared that the seed of the woman would crush the head of the serpent. Whether in the OT or in the NT, people are saved the same way: By believing in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
III. THE BLESSING OF JUSTIFICATION WAS INTENDED FOR ALL NATIONS.
As already mentioned, the Gospel was preached even in the Old Testament (Gen. 3:15). So, from the very beginning, even before the law was given, salvation was meant to be through faith in Jesus Christ. Not what we could do for ourselves, but what he would do for us (and, in fact, already did) – bruise the serpent’s head – was, and is, the basis of our salvation.
The fact that God intended the Gentiles to be recipients of the Abrahamic blessing means you don’t have to be a Jew, you don’t have to keep the law, in order to receive the blessing of justification.
Of course, this doesn’t mean we should not keep the law at all. The law is good and we should do our best to keep it, in particular the moral law, which is applicable even now, even if the ceremonial laws have already been abolished. But we don’t keep the law in order to be saved; we keep the law out of gratitude for God’s saving us by grace.
Because salvation is by faith and not by law-keeping, it is therefore for all who believe, not only for the Jews to whom the law was given (Rom. 1:16, 10:11, 13). Abraham, the man of faith, is our pattern here.