What Abraham experienced under the stars of night was not an experience, which any astronomer in the world could ever have had, who did not read these “stars” in the light of the revelation of God in Christ Jesus. They may see many mythical figures in the sky, as really all the ancient and modern pagans did and do; but they could not see any connection between these numberless stars and the numberless throng of the redeemed of all ages, out of every tongue, tribe, people, and nation. That connection is part of the mystery which was hid in God from eternity, and gradually unfolded in the Gospel in the Old Testament, and finally fulfilled in God’s only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. This is implied in that profound statement of Christ in John 8:56, “Abraham your father rejoiced exceedingly that he might see my day, arid he saw it and was glad.” If Abraham saw “Christ’s day,” then he saw the suffering Servant of the Lord, as a prophet and a believer; he saw the Cross and the perfect righteousness for poor, damn-worthy sinners such as he was, and rejoiced in the glad prospect of hope and faith in the forgiveness of sins. Yes, Abraham perceived that this salvation, this righteousness was for him and for all his spiritual children, whether they were in uncircumcision or in circumcision. And he gloried in the Lord, His righteousness. The “day,” which Abraham rejoiced to see in the “Seed” which would be his, was that Christ became to him from God wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and complete redemption. (I Cor. 1:30, 31; Rom. 4:1-11)
Particularly, we may say, that the text teaches that Abraham’s faith was accounted unto him for righteousness. No, this does not mean that there was any meritoriousness in his faith; there was none at all. Faith is a gift of God and faith itself is one of the gifts of salvation which Christ merited for us on the Cross, and which is bestowed according eternal election which is before the foundation of the world in Christ Jesus. (Eph. 1:4) This is what our fathers saw so clearly in the days of the Sixteenth Century Reformation, and expressed in the Heidelberg Catechism, Question 61: “. . . not that I am acceptable on account of the worthiness of my faith; but because only the satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ. . . .” And the fathers of Dordt write in the Canons, Second Head Of Doctrine, Article 8: “. . . that he (Christ) shouldconfer upon them faith, which together with all the other saving gifts of the Holy Spirit, he purchased for them by his death. . . .”
Faith by which we are justified has too been purchased with the great price of the blood of the Son of God! What a cheap faith this is that is merely an act of man’s imaginary free-will, and by which he determines his relationship to God in Christ as a justified sinner. This is not a faith at all. For faith is the tie which connects us with Christ, even as the branch is connected with the vine. Faith is the-vibrant lifeline which is the fruit of the Holy Spirit, both its first implantation and its continuance and perfection. It is all of God; God’s gift it is whereby the almighty God draws us to Christ. (Eph. 2:8-10; John 6:44) It is really a new life in Christ: God’s creation in Christ Jesus unto good works!
Such was the faith of Abraham! It was the tie which connected him with Christ and with the entire church, the multitude of the believers. In this faith we see that Abraham was a new creature. That was all that profited. It was faith which worked by love. (Gal. 5:6) And such was the faith which was accounted unto righteousness. Because faith laid hold on Christ, drank deeply from the fulness of Christ, it drank his righteousness. And God put all of the righteousness of Christ on Abraham’s account. This erased Abraham’s sin and guilt before God. In this righteousness, which was promised Abraham in the Christ, Abraham is righteous. Yes, his conscience accused him that he had kept none of God’s commandments, yea, that he had broken them all; he was “ungodly” as he stands there looking at the stars of heaven, but he believed in God’s Christ, and the finished work in the redeemed, justified, and sanctified church of all ages, the Israel of God, and it was counted to him for righteousness without works of law which he had performed. (Rom. 4:5)
Those who would pervert the gospel of Christ in the Galatian churches disown Abraham; implicitly they deny that they are children of Abraham. And the experience of the Galatians is on a par with that of Abraham. They that are of faith are children of Abraham. Let no one further. deceive you and rob you of your liberty and sonship in Christ Jesus.
THE TRUE AND REAL SONS OF ABRAHAM (Galatians 3:7, 8, 9)
This is a point which the Galatians must really see and perceive. It should be abundantly clear that “those are sons of Abraham” who are out of faith. These are in the great family of the redeemed, the household of faith, the Israel of God. Not a Jew is a son of Abraham as Jew, and a Gentile is not one as Gentile, but a class called “sons of Abraham” is taken by elective love out of both, out of all nations. These are a chosen generation, a holy priesthood, a peculiar possession unto the Lord, purchased with His own blood. (I Peter 2:9, 10; Exodus 19:6; Hosea 1:6-9)
The Scripture passage which Paul quoted from Genesis 15:6 clearly teaches this proposition. It is propositionaltruth which is implied in Abraham’s being the father of believers and that he, as father, was the proto-type of the justification of all his children. And thus the proposition is cogent and irrefutable in our reasonable service and faith: only the ones who are out of faith, ingrafted into Christ, are sons of Abraham; heirs they are with Abraham, heir of the world, in the new heaven and the new earth. (Rom. 4:13) This is propositional truth which is a dogma, a pattern of sound doctrine. From this the church has wandered far in the past, and always the forces of darkness would pervert this truth. In our day we see this in the teaching of the so-called “kerugma,” the “message” of the new “Hermeneutic” which distills its messages from the Bible, without preaching the Bible according to sound exegesis of it, as did Paul under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
In this “know ye then” we see a very fine conclusion drawn from a seemingly obscure text in Genesis 15:6. The particle “then” is the translation of the Greek particle “ara”. It indicates “a transition to what naturally follows by inference from what precedes.” (Robinson’s Greek Lexicon) Compare Rom. 7:21, 8:1 for two other examples of this Greek particle.
It should also be observed that the Greek verb in the text is ginooskete which is translated “ye know.” The term could be translated as an imperative: know ye. However, the context points out that the indicative mood must have been in Paul’s mind: ye know. For a very fine discussion on this point it is well to read Dr. Lightfoot, who refers to such passages as Gal. 4:8, 9; I John 2:29; Eph. 5:5; I Cor. 2:11, to demonstrate that the verb here means: see, perceive, recognize. They see this as an experiential fact, corroborated by the Scripture. Here they will not drown in the quagmire of human reasonings and uncertainties, but they stand on solid ground, and keep the course. The proposition stands: those who are of faith are blessed with faithful, believing Abraham. No one, who is not out of the faith, ever is blessed. He is under the curse of the law!
However, to make this one Scriptural teaching sure and steadfast in. the minds of the Galatians he will cite another passage from Moses which is very clear and exact in regard to this matter of the “Gentiles” being the intended and God-ordained sons of Abraham without needing to pass through the ceremonial laws and ordinances of the Old Testament “law” as given by God to Israel through Moses. The passage here is the Word of God spoken to Abraham prior to his going forth from Ur of the Chaldees. God came to Abraham as the “God of glory.” (Acts 7:2) He came to Abraham in a glorious appearance, called a Theophany. He is the God of all glory, power, and majesty in infinite wisdom, love, and grace. And in His grace and glory He will save all the sons of Abraham. He gives here expression to what Paul calls in Ephesians 3:8, “to preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ . . . to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God.” For known unto God are all His works from eternity. Christ is before Abraham became. (Acts 15:18; Is. 45:20-25; John 8:58) And, therefore, Paul cites a very illuminating text in which the entire scope and design of Abraham and Israel as a nation is set in bold relief. It is within the framework of the teaching of this text that all the further experiences and blessings recorded concerning Abraham in Genesis and all of Scripture must be seen. The one text is recorded in Genesis 12:3b: “and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” This is quoted by Paul here in Galatians 3:8.
1. It is quite evident that “all families” must refer to all “nations.” And these nations were known to Abraham as they existed in his day as having come forth from the three sons of Noah: Shem, Ham, and Japheth. These we have recorded for us in Genesis 10 and Genesis 11. And these had been formed by the Lord by the confusion of tongues at Babel. (Gen. 11:1-9) So these are very concrete nations, families of the earth. They were definite families which grew and developed into “nations.”
2. It is also quite evident that this was the realization of the prophecy of Moses concerning the future of his sons as given in Genesis 9:24-27. The promise that Japheth would dwell in the tents of Shem, and that Japheth would be “enlarged” refers to the salvation of the “families” of the earth. Abraham knew of this prophecy of Noah. It was the “tradition” of the elders in his day; yes, it was rather recently given. God now reveals more of the implication of the prophecy of Noah spoken by the Spirit of Prophecy. Noah was a holy man moved by the Spirit to speak a word which was not of private interpretation. (II Peter 1:20, 21) Surely, this Word of God to Abraham is anchored in the more sure prophetic Word of God unto which he did well to give heed as unto a light that shines in a dark place, till the day dawn . . . the day which he greatly rejoiced to see, the power and coming of Jesus Christ. Surely the day dawned in Abraham’s soul when this Word of God came to him: in thee shall all nations be blessed.
3. Later Moses tells Israel, as recorded in Deuteronomy 32:7, 8, that “when the Lord the Most High divided the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel. For the Lord’s portion in His people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance.” Here we see both history and geography as in the hands of God, subservient to the gathering of the church in all nations. It is the manifold wisdom of God. Paul speaks similarly in Mars Hill in Athens, referring to the Lord’s having “determined the times before appointed and the bounds of their habitations.” (Acts 17:26, 27)