March 18 Morning Verse of The Day

3:8 scripture In this context, this refers to what is now called the ot.

God would justify the Gentiles by faith Paul argues here that his gospel message—the justification of Gentiles through faith apart from the law—was always part of God’s plan. Elsewhere, Paul refers to this as a mystery (Rom 16:25; Eph 1:9; 3:9). Inclusion in the people of God would occur by faith in Christ, the promised seed of Abraham (Gal 3:7–8).

In you all the nations will be blessed This quotation comes from Gen 12:3. In the context of Galatians, this blessing is the Spirit and the gift of justification by faith.[1]

3:8 Scripture, foreseeing. Personifying the Scriptures was a common Jewish figure of speech (cf. 4:30; Jn 7:38, 42; 19:37; Ro 9:17; 10:11; 11:2; 1Ti 5:18). Because Scripture is God’s Word, when it speaks, God speaks. preached the gospel … to Abraham. The “good news” to Abraham was the news of salvation for all the nations (quoted from Ge 12:3; 18:18). See Ge 22:18; Jn 8:56; Ac 26:22, 23. Salvation has always, in every age, been by faith.[2]

3:8. The Scripture refers to the OT (cf. Gen 12:3; 18:18; 22:18; 26:4; 28:14). Paul sees in these promises more than mere temporal material blessings mediated by Abraham’s descendants, the nation of Israel. He sees a primary reference to the fact that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, that is, through faith in Abraham’s greatest Son, Jesus Christ.

The term gospel means good news. In the NT it sometimes refers to justification by faith. But other times it refers to sanctification by perseverance in faith and good works (e.g., Gal 2:19–20). Thus one should not think that Abraham was born again by believing the Gen 12:3 pronouncement. The content of his faith was the promise of eternal life through faith in the miracle Seed that was to come (Gen 15:6).[3]

3:8 The OT is depicted as a prophet, looking down the centuries and foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles as well as Jews on the principle of faith. The blessing of the Gentiles by faith was not only foreseen by the OT, but was actually announced to Abraham in Genesis 12:3—“In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

When we first read this quotation from Genesis, we find it difficult to see how Paul found such a meaning in it. Yet the Holy Spirit, who wrote that verse in the OT, knew that it contained the gospel of salvation by faith to all nations. Since Paul was writing by inspiration of the same Holy Spirit, he was enabled to explain to us the underlying meaning: In you—that is, along with Abraham, in the same way as Abraham. All the nations—the Gentiles as well as the Jews. Shall be blessed—be saved. How was Abraham saved? By faith. How will the nations be saved? In the same way as Abraham—by faith. Moreover, they will be saved as Gentiles, not by becoming Jews.[4]

3:8 “The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith” This Hebraic idiom affirms the full inspiration of the OT. In this verse the Scripture is personified twice.

The salvation of all humans has always been God’s plan (cf. Gen. 3:15). There is only one God and all humans are made in His image (Gen. 1:26; 5:1; 9:6); therefore, He loves everyone (cf. Ezek. 18:32; John 3:16; 1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9). The universal love of God which includes the Gentiles is clearly seen in Isaiah (cf. 2:2–4; 45:21–25; 56:1–8; 60:1–3), Jonah, John 3:16, and Eph. 2:11–3:13.

© “A ll the nations will be blessed in you” Here Paul quotes God’s promise to Abraham, recorded in Gen. 12:3; 18:18; 22:18; 26:4. The Hebrew verb form may be (1) a PASSIVE form, “will be blessed” (cf. Gen. 18:18; 28:14) or (2) a MIDDLE REFLEXIVE form, “will bless themselves” (cf. Gen. 22:16–18; 26:4). However, in the Septuagint and in Paul’s quote, it is PASSIVE, not MIDDLE. In this text Paul combined Gen. 12:3 with 18:18 from the Septuagint.[5]

8. Continued: Now Scripture, foreseeing that it was by faith that God would justify the Gentiles, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, (saying): “In you all the nations shall be blessed.” In the words “Scripture foreseeing … preached the gospel beforehand” we have a very emphatic identification of God and his Word: what Scripture promises God promises, for he is the Speaker. Since the Holy Spirit is Scripture’s Primary Author the conclusion is inevitable that God and his Word are most closely connected. The thing foreseen, because it had been thus ordained before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4, 11), was that it was “by faith” and not “by works” that God would justify the Gentiles. If the Galatians would only understand this, they would not allow themselves to he misled by the Judaizers. “By faith” means “by trustfully receiving” God’s gift out of his hand. It is thus, thus only, that the nations of the world were to receive pardon, right standing in the sight of God and his holy law, and adoption as sons; in a word: justification. This precious doctrine had been previously “gospeled” to Abraham. It had been proclaimed to him as good tidings of great joy for the entire world. This promise, though always valid, was to be realized on an international scale with the coming of Christ and of the dispensation which that coming would usher in. The content of the promise proclaimed to Abraham, recorded in words varying slightly but always essentially the same, was this: “In you all the nations shall be blessed” (Gen. 12:3; 18:18; 22:18). The blessing of which Paul is thinking is that of “justification by faith,” as the context indicates; and this, in turn, was basic to all the blessings of salvation full and free. But inasmuch as the fulfilment of this promise, on a world-wide scale, was a matter of the future, it is readily understood that the phrase “in you” must be understood as Abraham himself also certainly understood it, namely, “in the Messiah,” “the seed of the woman” (Gen. 3:15), Abraham’s seed (see on verse 16).[6]

Ver. 8. And the Scripture foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith.—

The Scripture foreseeing:—

I. God foresaw that He would justify the heathen through faith.

II. Foreseeing this issue, God announced it by word of mouth to Abraham.

III. Moses recorded it in the spirit of prophecy.

IV. Paul justifies this use of Scripture here, and in Rom. 15:1–4, and 1 Cor. 10:1–11. See also 1 Peter 1:11, 12.

V. We may apply it to the New Testament. 1. The Scripture foresaw and provided against the doctrine of the supremacy of Peter, which is the foundation of the Papal claims (Gal. 2:11, &c.; Eph. 2:20; 1 Peter 5:1–3). 2. Against mariolatry (Luke 8:21; Luke 9:28). (Dean Goulburn.)

The foresight of Scripture:—The Old Testament is endowed with foresight of the New; the New with foresight of things that should come after in the history of the Church. The Scripture expresses the prescience of its Divine Author. Nor is there any ground for confining this prescience to great events, and the solemn crises of ecclesiastical history. God foresaw us, with the circumstances into which we should be thrown, the characters which we should exhibit, the temptations to which we should be subjected. Writing in the spirit of foresight we may well conceive then that He has dropped a word for each one of us somewhere in His book, and that this word will find us out, and come home to us if we study it under the light of prayer. (Ibid.)

The gospel:—

I. Its antiquity—preached to Abraham.

II. Its universality. 1. In its objects: heathen, all nations. 2. In its terms: faith.

III. The slowness but sureness of its development: foreseeing.

IV. Its gratuitousness: justification.

V. Its blessedness. 1. Fellowship in Abraham’s privileges on earth. 2. Fellowship with Abraham in heaven. The universality of the gospel. Salvation is for all the sinful family of man. The plan is vast, immense, worthy of God. The arms of Divine love are open to embrace all. All nations are invited to the life-giving waters of God’s grace. Let the sons of wealth come, and they shall be welcome; let the hardy sons of toil come, and they shall quench their thirst; let the ignorant come, and they shall be made wise unto salvation; let the young come, and God will be their guide through life; let the aged come, and they shall find peace at the eleventh hour. (Thomas Jones.)

The worst are justified by faith:—Mr. Fleming, in his “Fulfilling of the Scriptures,” relates the case of a man who was a very great sinner, and for his horrible wickedness was put to death in the town of Ayr. This man had been so stupid and brutish a fellow, that all who knew him thought him beyond the reach of all ordinary means of grace; but while the man was in prison, the Lord wonderfully wrought on his heart, and in such a measure discovered to him his sinfulness, that after much serious exercise and sore wrestling, a most kindly work of repentance followed, with great assurance of mercy, insomuch, that when he came to the place of execution, he could not cease crying out to the people, under the sense of pardon, and the comforts of the presence and favour of God,—“O, He is a great forgiver! He is a great forgiver!” And he added the following words,—“Now hath perfect love cast out fear. I know God hath nothing to lay against me, for Jesus Christ hath paid all; and those are free whom the Son makes free.”

The gospel is:—I. Old as Abraham: the promise given to him contained the spirit of it—the assurance of it—the power of it, for he was justified by faith. II. Comprehensive as the world: it includes all nations—offers them the same privileges—on the same terms. III. Unchangeable as God: it is His purpose; foreseen and predicted—steadily advancing with the course of time—must be fully accomplished in the happiness of all nations. (J. Lyth.)[7]

8. When Paul says ‘Scripture says’, or as here, scripture, foreseeing, he is not crediting the Bible with existence, knowledge, or activity independent of God; he is simply using a normal Hebraic form of speech. For Paul, as in the Gospels, ‘Scripture says’ (e.g. John 19:37) is the equivalent of saying ‘The Lord of Scripture says’. Here, therefore, Paul’s meaning is that the wording of Scripture is appropriate and corresponds to what God will do long afterwards in the gospel of Christ. Nor is this correspondence, to Paul, an accident; it arises from the deliberate overruling by God of the content of Scripture. Any study of the Pauline doctrine of inspiration and revelation must take this into account.

The word dikaioi, would justify, is probably not to be taken in a future sense, as ‘would yet, in the future, justify’, although it is true that, in colloquial New Testament Greek, the present tense frequently has a future meaning, as it does in colloquial English. It is better to see in it a continuous present, and to translate it as ‘justifies’. God is ‘the Gentile-justifier’, the one whose way it is to justify the Gentiles purely on the ground of their faith, their helpless committal to him in trust. Indeed, this is what God was doing at that very moment in the case of Abraham. The only difference between Abraham and us is that the reason for the possibility of such a process of justification is now made plain to us in Jesus Christ: the ‘justification’ itself is still exactly the same principle in either case.

This also helps to explain the verb proeuēngelisato, preached the gospel beforehand, where Scripture is the formal subject, but God is the actual subject. In one sense, the Christian cannot speak of the gospel being preached before Calvary. In another sense, here is an anticipation of the gospel. Indeed, it is far more than an anticipation, for it comes close to an identity with it, in that God’s ways of dealing with humanity are eternally the same. It was a commonplace of Hebrew thought that Abraham was a prophet (Gen. 20:7, with John 8:56). The exact meaning of the Hebrew word lying behind the Greek eneulogēthēsontai is disputed. It could be translated ‘bless themselves’ rather than be blessed. In that case it would mean that, when Gentiles wished to invoke blessing on one another, they would say, ‘May the God of Abraham bless you’, because they could conceive of no higher blessing to use. Genesis 18:18 could perhaps be translated thus, whatever may be the case with Genesis 12:3. But the traditional Jewish exegesis was the straight passive, and Paul clearly takes it as a direct passive here.[8]

8. The scripture foreseeing. What he had said in a general manner is now applied expressly to the Gentiles; for the calling of the Gentiles was a new and extraordinary occurrence. Doubts existed as to the manner in which they should be called. Some thought that they were required “to be circumcised and to keep the law,” (Acts 15:24,) and that otherwise they were shut out from having a share in the covenant. But Paul shews, on the other hand, that by faith they arrive at the blessing, and by faith they must be “ingrafted” (Rom. 11:17, 24) into the family of Abraham. How does he prove this? Because it is said, In thee shall all nations be blessed. These words unquestionably mean that all must be blessed in the same manner as Abraham; for he is the model, nay, the rule, to be universally observed. Now, he obtained the blessing by faith, and in the same manner must it be obtained by all.[9]

Ver. 8.—The substance of this verse, taken in conjunction with the next, is this: The announcement which the Scripture records as made to Abraham, that “in him all the nations should be blessed,” that is, that by being like him in faith all nations should be blessed like him, did thus early preach to Abraham that which is the great cardinal truth of the gospel preached now: it proceeded upon a foresight of the fact now coming to pass, that by faith simply God would justify the Gentiles. As well as the Scripture quoted before from Gen. 15, so this announcement also ascertains to us the position that they that are of faith, and they alone, are blessed with the believing patriarch. Such appears to be the general scope of the passage; but the verbal details are not free from difficulty. And the Scripture, foreseeing (προϊδοῦσα δὲ ἡ γραφή); and, again, the Scripture, foreseeing. The conjunction δὲ indicates transition to another item of proof, as, e.g. in Rom. 9:27, Ἡσαΐας δέ. The word “Scripture” in 2 Pet. 1:20, “no prophecy of Scripture,” certainly denotes the sacred writings as taken collectively, that is, what is frequently recited by the plural, αἱ γραφαί, “the Scriptures.” So probably in Acts 8:22, “the passage of Scripture.” We are, therefore, warranted in supposing it possible, and being possible it is here also probable, that this is the sense in which the apostle now uses the term as well as in ver. 22, rather than as denoting, either the one particular passage cited or the particular book out of which it is taken. This view better suits the personification under which the Old Testament is here presented. This personification groups with that in Rom. 9:17, “The Scripture saith unto Pharaoh, For this very purpose did I raise thee up.” In both cases the “Scripture” is put in place of the announcement which Scripture records as having been made, the Scripture itself being written after the time of both Abraham and Pharaoh, and not addressed to them. But here there is the additional feature, of foresight being attributed to Scripture—a foresight, not exactly of the Holy Spirit inspiring the Scripture, but of the Divine Being who, on the occasion referred to, was holding communication with Abraham; although, yet again, “the Scripture” seems in the words, “foreseeing that God would justify,” etc., distinguished from “God.” The sense, however, is clear; Scripture shows that, as early as the time of Abraham, a Divine intimation was given that God would, on the ground of faith simply, justify any human being throughout the world that should believe in him as Abraham did. Rabbinical scholars tell us that in those writings a citation from Scripture is frequently introduced with the words, “What sees the Scripture?” or, “What sees he [or, ‘it’]?” That God would justify the heathen through faith (ὅτι ἐκ πίστεως δικαιοῖ τὰ ἔθνη ὁ Θεός); that by (Greek, out of) faith would God justify the nations. The position of ἐκ πίστεως betokens that the apostle’s point here is, not that God would justify the Gentiles, but that it was by faith that he would do so irrespectively of any fulfillment on their part of ceremonial observances. The tense of the present indicative δικαιοῖ is hardly to be explained thus: would justify as we now see he is doing. The usual effect of the oratio obliqua transfers the standpoint of time in δικαιοῖ to the time of the foresight, the present tense being put instead of the future (δικαιώσει), as intimating that God was, so to speak, even now preparing thus to justify, or, in the Divine estimate of spaces of time, was on the eve of thus justifying; analogously with the force of the present tense in the participles “given” and “poured out” (διδόμενον, ἐκχυνόμενον) in Luke 22:19, 20. The condition of mankind in the meanwhile is described in vers. 22, 23—shut up unto the faith that was to be revealed. A question arises as to the exact interpretation of the word ἔθνη as twice occurring in this verse. Does the apostle use it as the correlative to Jews, “Gentiles;” or without any such sense of contradistinction, “nations” including both Jews and Gentiles? In answer, we observe: (1) The great point in these verses (6–9) is, not the call of the Gentiles, but the efficacy of faith without Levitical ceremonialism, as summed up in the words of ver. 9. (2) The original passage which the apostle is now referring to is that in Gen. 12:3, where the Septuagint, conformably with the Hebrew, has Καὶ ἐνευλογηθήσονται ἐν σοὶ πᾶσαι αἱ φυλὰι τῆς γῆς: in our Authorized Version, “And in thee shall all families [Hebrew, mishpechōth] of the earth be blessed:” only, through some cause or other, instead of “all families,” he writes the words, “all nations” (πάντα τὰ ἔθνη), which we find in what was said by the Lord to the two angels (Gen. 18:18), Καὶ ἐνευλογηθήσονται ἐν αὐτῷ [that is, Abraham] πάντα τὰ ἔθνη τῆς γῆς: Authorized Version, “all the nations of the earth” (Gen. 22:18, and the promise to Isaac, Gen. 26:4, are irrelevant to the point now under consideration). We, therefore, are warranted in assuming that, as ἔθνη might be used as coextensive with φυλαί (“families”), it really is here employed by the apostle with the same extension of application. We may add that, most certainly, the apostle utterly repudiated the notion that God justifies Gentiles on a different footing from that on which he justifies Jews: whether Jews or Gentiles, they only who are of faith are blessed with Abraham; and, whether Jews or Gentiles all who are of faith are blessed with him. Preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying (προευηγγελίσατο τῷ Ἀβραάμ, ὅτι); preached the gospel beforehand unto Abraham, saying. Very striking and animated is the apostle’s use of this word προευηγγελίσατο, a compound verb, minted no doubt for the occasion out of his own ardent thought, though it is found also in his senior contemporary, Philo. It is plainly an allusion to the “gospel” now openly proclaimed to the world as having been “by anticipation” already then announced to Abraham, the Most High himself the herald; signifying also the joy which it brought to the patriarch, and (Chrysostom adds) his great desire for its accomplishment. The blessed and glorious gospel of the grace of God has been the thought of God in all ages. May we connect with this the mysterious passage in John 8:56? In point of construction, the verb εὐαγγελίζομαι is nowhere else followed by ὅτι: but as it is sometimes found governing an accusative of the matter preached (Luke 1:19; 2:10; Acts 5:42; 8:12; Eph. 2:17), there is no harshness in its construction with ὅτι, which we may here represent in English by “saying.” In thee shall all nations be blessed (ἐνευλογηθήσονται [Receptus, εὐλογηθήσονται] ἐν σοὶ πάντα τὰ ἔθνη). “In thee” as their type and pattern, in respect both to the “blessing” bestowed upon him and to the faith out of which his blessing sprang. The “blessing” consists of God’s love and all the well-being which can flow from God’s love; the form of well-being varying according to the believer’s circumstances, whether in this life or in the life to come; it receives its consummation with the final utterance, “Come, ye blessed (εὐλογημένοι) of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” Into this condition of blessedness the sinful and guilty can only be brought through justification; but justification through Christ does of necessary consequence bring us into it. The compound form of the verb, ἐνευλογηθήσονται, added to ἐν σοὶ, forcibly indicates that moral inherency in Abraham, through our being in faith and obedience his spiritual offspring, whereby alone the blessing is attained and possessed. Chrysostom remarks, “If, then those were Abraham’s sons, not, who were related to him by blood, but who follow his faith, for this is the meaning of the words, ‘In thee all nations,’ it is plain that the Gentiles are brought into kindred with him.” Augustine explains “in thee”, similarly: “To wit, by imitation of his faith by which he was justified even before the sacrament of circumcision.” Luther writes “In Abraham are we blessed, but in what Abraham? The believing Abraham, to wit; because if we are not in Abraham, we are under a curse rather, even if we were in Abraham according to the flesh.” Calvin likewise: “These words beyonds all doubt mean that all must become objects of blessing after Abraham’s fashion; for he is the common pattern, nay rather, rule. But he by faiths obtained blessing; therefore faith is for all the means.”[10]

3:8 / Paul’s scriptural citation does not follow exactly Gen. 12:3, which reads “and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” It appears that Paul has conflated Gen. 12:3 with Gen. 18:18 (“all nations on earth will be blessed through him”) and perhaps also with Gen. 22:18 (“through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me”). Paul may have chosen to use Gen. 12:3 primarily while adding features from the other two passages because for his argument he needed a scriptural passage that occurred prior to the story about God requiring circumcision (Gen. 17), and he wanted to work with the contrast of blessing and curse that occurs in Gen. 12:3 (“I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse”).[11]

A doctrine with a wide geography (v. 8)

Paul reminds us of something foreseen long ago by Holy Scripture: ‘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” [a quotation from Genesis 12:3]’ (v. 8).

The New Testament interprets this for us. A Saviour would come in Abraham’s line. In and by the gospel he would be presented to all the nations as an object of saving faith, and people would believe in him and be justified. That is what was foreseen and announced. And it has happened! Justification by faith, the doctrine with a long history, has come to have, as it were, a wide geography. It is being preached in every corner of the globe, and wherever it goes it both announces rich blessing for sinners and communicates it to everyone who believes. It did so in Gentile Galatia. By faith in the Jesus whom Paul preached to them, the Galatians fell heirs to the same blessing of justification that Abraham enjoyed. It is no different today. All over the world, helpless sinners are hearing of a Saviour to whom they can go in their desperate need, a Saviour who pardons them and clothes them with his perfect righteousness the moment they believe in him.[12]

8 Paul takes another step forward in his argument as he cites a particular word of promise spoken by God to Abraham as, somewhat surprisingly, the result of “Scripture” announcing the gospel ahead of time to Abraham: “Now the Scripture, perceiving in advance that God would bring the gentiles in line with his righteousness on the basis of trust, announced the message of good news ahead of time to Abraham that ‘All the nations will be blessed in you.’ ”

In this citation, Paul blends together God’s initial word of promise to Abraham (“all the tribes of the earth will be blessed in you,” Gen 12:3) with a second utterance spoken by God about Abraham (“all the nations will be blessed in him,” Gen 18:18). Paul retains the direct address of the first, but uses the phrase “all the nations” from the second, as it better underscores God’s purposes for the gentile nations as well as the Jewish nations within the scope of God’s promise. The promise to Abraham focused on land, descendants, and the blessing of the nations through him or through his seed. It is the third element of the promise that most captures Paul’s attention—and that most defined his own understanding of his call as apostle to the nations (1:16; 2:9). It is foregrounded in the first utterance of the promise in Gen 12:3, perhaps accounting for Paul’s choice of this text here, in combination with Gen 18:18.

Paul presents the word of Gen 12:3/18:18 as a proleptic announcement of the gospel to Abraham. “All the nations will be blessed in you” (3:8b) thus becomes the equivalent of “God will make the nations righteous on the basis of faith” (3:8a)—the plan of God as ordained from before Abraham and thus preannounced to Abraham. This was therefore God’s plan for all the nations from the beginning (with Torah playing a decidedly different and more limited role; see Gal 3:19–25). Paul’s view of God’s plan renders Abraham’s faith even more similar to the Galatian converts’ faith: in both instances, it is trust in the gospel! Paul’s move here is not without precedent. His claim that Scripture “proclaimed the gospel to Abraham in advance” mirrors the similar claims of earlier Jewish authors that God had revealed the Torah to Abraham (and the other patriarchs) “in advance,” with the result that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob all lived Torah-observant lives prior to the revelation of the Torah on Sinai. Paul will develop the continuity between the promise to Abraham and the good news of Christ in 3:15–22, 29.

It is “Scripture” that both foresees and, on that basis, fore-evangelizes. Although it is tempting to understand “Scripture” merely as a metonymy for God (the product for the producer, or the writing for the writer),50 such a move may not do justice to Paul’s sense of Scripture as indeed something that “speaks,” a medium of divine revelation and almost an independent witness to the plans and promises of God—something “living and active” in itself, to borrow the language of Paul’s ministry colleague (Heb 4:12), and not mere ink on parchment.

The expression “all the nations” (3:8b) implicitly includes the Jewish nation alongside non-Jewish nations (the latter being referred to simply as “the nations” in Jewish literature; also in 3:8a). Paul underscores the fact that Abraham is the vehicle for God’s blessing of all nations, and that the non-Jewish nations, in particular, are made righteous by God on the basis of their trust, in imitation of their spiritual progenitor. Perhaps not accidentally, the element “in you” in 3:8b most closely corresponds to the element “on the basis of trust”—the trust that Abraham also showed and that therefore characterizes those who are “in him” as his family, his body of heirs—in 3:8a. Genesis 12:3/18:18, understood as God’s communication of the essence of the gospel to Abraham, establishes “trust” as the basis upon which (or means by which) the blessing of “righteousness” is bequeathed upon “all the nations,” insofar as their members (Jew or gentile) exhibit the same trust and reliance upon God’s provision that Abraham himself exhibited, becoming thereby his spiritual descendants and proper heirs (see 3:7, 9). This is also the context for Paul’s critique of and complaint against the Torah, which serves to keep Jews and gentile nations separate from one another, preventing the formation of the one family God promised to Abraham. In presenting the promise to Abraham (Gal 3:8b) as a proleptic announcement of the justification of the nations (Gal 3:8a), Paul is giving specific content to the general “blessing” that is promised to the nations through Abraham (Gen 12:3/18:18): the blessing is to be “made righteous” by God, even as Abraham’s own trust led to righteousness for him (Gen 15:6/Gal 3:6).[13]

8  Paul’s citation of God’s promise to Abraham is a conflation of Gen. 12:3c (cf. 28:14c) and 22:18a (cf. 18:18b; 26:4c) in the LXX; the words “all nations” from 22:18a are substituted for “all the families” in 12:3c so as to bring in the word “nations” (ethnē), because of its current use in the sense of “Gentiles.” In the MT the Hebrew niphal verb niḇreḵû, “bless,” may have reflexive force, in which case the meaning is “shall pray to be blessed as Abraham was blessed” (cf. RSV and NEB at Gen. 12:3c; 18:18a), and the rendering “shall find blessing” in our verse may be an attempt to bring out the distinctive sense of the niphal. Niḇreḵu is usually taken, however, in a passive sense. In any case the LXX translators understood the Hebrew verb in the passive sense and rendered it as unambiguously passive in the Greek. It is in this sense that Paul understands the original promise and sees its fulfillment in the mission to the Gentiles.

Citing God’s promise to Abraham, then, Paul says that Scripture “declared the Gospel to Abraham beforehand,” thereby recognizing in God’s promise to Abraham an announcement of the gospel in advance.13 Paul is able to do so because he takes the “in you” (en soi) of the quotation, not (as the Judaizers no doubt did) in its locative and genealogical sense of physical relationship with Abraham, but, in accordance with the precise force of Heb. be (translated en in the LXX in Gen. 12:3 and 18:18) and particularly in the light of the Christ-event, in its instrumental sense, as “by means of you” (so NIV “through you,” both in Galatians and in the two OT references). By his believing response to God’s promise Abraham had “given occasion to the establishment and announcement of the principle that God’s approval and blessing are upon those that believe.”14 Paul further explains that Scripture’s declaration to Abraham was due to its “foreseeing” (the participle has causal force) that God would justify the Gentiles16 through faith. The significance of God’s promise to Abraham lies, therefore, not merely in its value “as documentation of the theme that the Gospel is to be preached to the Gentiles,”18 but in its testimony that the doctrine of justification by faith was implicitly involved and anticipated in the promise to Abraham.

We may, therefore, reconstruct Paul’s reasoning in v. 8 as follows: Abraham received righteousness by faith (v. 6); his believing response was the occasion of the establishment of the principle of justification by faith; God foresaw that he was to justify the Gentiles according to this principle; this principle was announced as the timeless principle of the gospel (this is the force of the present tense of the verb “justify”) when God (in Scripture) made the promise to Abraham that through him all the nations (that is, the Gentiles) would be blessed.[14]

[1] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., Whitehead, M. M., Grigoni, M. R., & Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Ga 3:8). Lexham Press.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Ga 3:8). Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[3] Wilkin, R. N. (2010). The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Galatians. In R. N. Wilkin (Ed.), The Grace New Testament Commentary (p. 833). Grace Evangelical Society.

[4] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments (A. Farstad, Ed.; p. 1882). Thomas Nelson.

[5] Utley, R. J. (1997). Paul’s First Letters: Galatians and I & II Thessalonians: Vol. Volume 11 (p. 31). Bible Lessons International.

[6] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of Galatians (Vol. 8, pp. 123–124). Baker Book House.

[7] Exell, J. S. (n.d.). The Biblical Illustrator: Galatians (pp. 152–153). Fleming H. Revell Company.

[8] Cole, R. A. (1989). Galatians: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 9, pp. 136–137). InterVarsity Press.

[9] Calvin, J., & Pringle, W. (2010). Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul to the Galatians and Ephesians (pp. 87–88). Logos Bible Software.

[10] Spence-Jones, H. D. M., ed. (1909). Galatians (pp. 124–126). Funk & Wagnalls Company.

[11] Jervis, L. A. (2011). Galatians (pp. 87–88). Baker Book.

[12] Campbell, D. (2009). Opening Up Galatians (pp. 54–55). Day One Publications.

[13] deSilva, D. A. (2018). The Letter to the Galatians (N. B. Stonehouse, F. F. Bruce, G. D. Fee, & J. B. Green, Eds.; pp. 282–284). William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

[14] Fung, R. Y. K. (1988). The Epistle to the Galatians (pp. 138–140). Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.