4. Arguments for the proposition, 3:1-4:7

ii] The second argument


From 3:1 to 4:11 Paul sets out to show, from scripture, how the gospel, of itself, apart from law-obedience, facilitates new life in Christ. In our passage for study he outlines the second argument in support of his proposition: Those who inherit God's promised new life are the spiritual children of Abraham, and like Abraham, they are people who rely in faith on the faithfulness of God, v6-9.


i] Context: See 3:1-5.


ii] Background: See 1:1-10.


iii] Structure: The second argument in support of the proposition:


The gospel, apart from the law, facilitates new life in Christ.

Supporting arguments:

#2. Those who inherit God's promised new life are the spiritual descendants of Abraham, 3:6-9;

The case of Abraham, v6-9;

Text, v6;

Who are the true children of Abraham? v7-9.


iv] Interpretation:

#2. The second argument: In v1-5 Paul has contended that the consequent blessings that flow from having been justified (set / judged right with God), here with particular reference to the gift of the Spirit, stem from God's grace (covenant mercy) facilitated in the faithfulness of Christ (the atonement), which grace is appropriated by faith in Christ rather than law-obedience. Paul now supports this contention by quoting Genesis 15:6, reminding his readers of Abraham, a man who rested on the faithfulness of God and thus stood right before God, v6. Paul then goes on to exegete the verse. It was not Abraham's willingness to leave Haran for the promised land, nor his circumcision, nor his willingness to sacrifice his son that gained him standing before God, rather, it was God's faithfulness (grace / covenant mercy) which Abraham appropriated through faith. The true children of Abraham are the children of "faith", not law, v7. It is they who are justified, v8, and who receive the promised blessings of the covenant, v9.


Garlington, Martyn, George, Bets, ... in fact, most commentators suggest that this passage reveals something of the line of argumentation used by the judaizers. There seems much to commend this idea, although we are left in the land of theory more than fact. Did the judaizers argue that Abraham served as the perfect example of a man of faith who progressed his life in faithful obedience, such that he was the father of obedience, the father of circumcision, eg., his willing offering of Isaac....? Then, from v7, did they argue that they, the children of the law, are properly the children of Abraham. So, is Paul establishing that Abraham is the father of "faith", and his children, the children of "faith", as a counter argument? Abraham, the man of faith, and his "true" children, the children of faith, certainly get a run in Galatians, as if central to Paul's argument against his opponents. As far as Paul is concerned, Abraham's life confirms that an ongoing and fruitful participation in the covenant, a genuine and worthy membership of the kingdom of God with all its associated blessings for now and forever, are dependent on the faithfulness of Christ appropriated through faith, and not works of the law.

The new perspective approach to what is a very difficult passage, is, as always, "left-of-field"; Abraham is properly part of the new inclusive covenant that has come to fruition in Christ and the Spirit, leaving behind the old and outmoded exclusive covenant of Judaism. Gentile inclusion certainly gets a run in this passage.


v] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage can be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

Text - 3:6

Arguments in support of the the proposition:

#2. Scripture reminds us that those who inherit God's promised new life are the spiritual descendants of Abraham, and like Abraham, they are people who rely on the faithfulness of God, v6-9.

Paul now asks his readers to consider the example of Abraham. Abraham's true descendants are, like him, children of faith; they rely on the faithfulness of God and not works of the law. To settle this issue Paul quotes Genesis 15:6. Abraham put his trust in God's promises, and this was "credited" (counted) to him "as righteousness".

kaqwV "consider / so also [Abraham]" - insomuch as, just as. The comparative here introduces a concrete example. It seems likely that it picks up on what is said in v5. So, possibly the paragraph ends with v9 and not v5, - Barclay, Bruce, ... v6; Moffatt, .... v7; Cassirer, Knox, .. v14. Possibly even standing for "thus is it written", Garlington. "Consider the case of Abraham", Cassirer. With his "just as" Paul seems to be comparing the Galatians gift of the Spirit with Abraham's gift of righteousness.

Abraam "Abraham" - Nominative subject of the verb "to believe." Presumably Abraham gets a run here because he is used by the nomists as the exemplary father of obedience. "Abraham was perfect in all his deeds with the Lord, and well-pleasing in righteousness all the days of his life", Jubilees 23:10; "he kept the law of the Most High", Sir.44:20. Yet, Paul reminds his readers that Abraham is actually the father of faith. God's favour toward him stemmed from his reliance on a promise-keeping God, not his obedience.

episteusen (pisteuw) "believed in" - believed. God set/judged Abraham righteous (justified) on the basis of his faith. Faith is not a meritorious work, nor does it equal obedience in God's sight, it is just that God, in his gracious kindness, counts a person right before him on the basis of their reliance on his promises; "trust in God's work, without consideration of what is attainable by human strength", Ridderbos. Note also, for Paul, the faith that justifies is not just an act of commitment at conversion (another possible approach adopted by the judaizers), rather, faith is "an ongoing trust in the Word of God", Barnes.

tw/ qeou/ dat. "God" - . Dative of direct object after the verb "to believe"; "he had faith in God", Moffatt.

elogisqh (logizomai) aor. pas. "it was credited" - it was accounted, reckoned. Divine passive. God chose to consider/regard Abraham as a covenant-keeping person. It has been traditionally understood that 1st century Judaism had come to understand faith as a deed that could be "accounted" as a meritorious work which earned entry to heaven, but recent investigations into 2nd temple Judaism show that this is unlikely. Abraham's faith was not depreciated, but rather viewed as a genuine dependance on God validated by his meritorious deeds. Abraham's works / deeds were viewed as the mechanism for maintaining covenant standing. It is for this reason that Paul quotes Gen.15:6 where his "hearing of faith" stands alone in securing his "accounted / reckoned righteousness" before God, long before "works of law" / meritorious deeds come into play (eg. the willing offering of Isaac, Gen.22). Given their 2nd temple nomist perspective, the judaizers obviously aligned justification with conversion (an error rampant in Christian circles today, ie., we begin by faith, but must go on in obedience - "trust and obey"). Of course, Abraham was already a child of God having responded to God's word in faith long before this moment in Genesis chapter 15. For Paul, justification "cannot be reduced to an event which takes place for the individual at the beginning of the Christian life", Seifrid.

autw/ "to him" - to him. Dative of indirect object / interest, advantage; "he [God] chose to regard him [Abraham]".

eiV "as" - to, into. Adverbial use of the preposition. "Chose to regard him to be right", that is, in respect/reference to his person.

dikaiosunhn (h) "righteousness" - "Fully right" = covenant compliant, right before God; "Upright".


Paul's law-bound opponents have implied that God's "blessing" of new life, evidenced in the gift of the Holy Spirit, comes only to those who, through circumcision and obedience to the law, align themselves with the patriarch Abraham. As far as Paul is concerned, this path leads to God's "curse". The children of Abraham are the children of faith, and it is they who are blessed.

ginwskete (ginwskw) aor. imp./ind. "understand" - know. Possibly imperative, as NIV, so Betz, Bruce, Fung, Garlington, Burton.., but indicative seems better, so Longenecker, Martyn, Barnes. Martyn sees it as an "epistolary disclosure formula" where Paul is drawing a truth from the quote; "so then, you are bound to see that ....", Barclay.

ara "then" - therefore. Drawing an inference from the quotation (possibly v5); "therefore". As noted above, the inference/conclusion is unclear. See below.

oJti "that" - Introducing a dependent statement of perception expressing what they should know.

oiJ "those who" - the ones. The article serves as a nominalizer turning the prepositional phrase ek pistewV, "from faith", into a substantive, "the ones from faith" = "those whose justification is derived from the faithfulness of Christ" (a statement that is both restrictive and emphatic). The preposition ek most likely expresses origin, "those whose identity is derived from faith", Martyn, or "on the basis of", Zerwick. Garlington and others suggest that "from" faith is a designation of those who, as Martyn has it, derive their identity from faith, as opposed to the judaizers who derive their identity from circumcision, ie., the law. = "those from the circumcision party." There is a good possibility, therefore, that this is a technical term coined by Paul.

pistewV (iV ewV) gen. "believe" - [from] faith. The primary question we face is whose faith is Paul referring to? It is usually understood as the "faith" of the believer, but there is much to support the idea that Paul has in mind "the faith of Christ" = Christ's faithfulness, cf., 2:16. As noted in 3:11, the faith-response of the believer is a necessary complement to the "faith of Christ". The person whose identity, as a justified person, is derived from faith, is a person who has applied both "the faith that is elicited by the message of Christ's death on [their] behalf and the faith of Christ enacted in his death", Martyn. Yet, what is the point of emphasizing that "those from faith are Abraham's children"? As noted above, Paul is answering the question, "who are the children of Abraham?" Ridderbos, cf., Fung, or even "how do people become children of Abraham and so receive God's blessing?" Allan. Paul may be establishing that "faith, not circumcision, was Abraham's means of entry into a covenant relationship and is thus the means of entry into the New Covenant relationship. So, those who by grace believe in Jesus as Messiah and Lord are members of the New Covenant", Dumbrell. As already noted, behind these arguments is the assumption that the judaizers claim Abraham as the father of law, his circumcision, Gen.17, particularly in his preparedness to sacrifice Isaac, Gen.22, to which Paul argues that he is more properly the father of faith, Gen.15:6, and therefore the father of "the faith party", Cole, rather than "the law party". Yet, as noted above, Paul may simply be supporting his contention that the blessings of the kingdom are ours on the basis of what Christ has done for us ("faith of Christ"), as evidenced in the gift of the Spirit, v1-5, and as evidenced in the fulfillment of the covenant promises given to Abraham, namely, the blessing of the nations, v6-9.

ek "-" - from [faith]. Expressing origin again; .

ouJtoi "-" - these ones. This resumptive pronoun is also emphatic; "these ones, that is, those from faith rather than from works of the law, are the sons of Abraham."

uiJoi "children" - [are] sons. Predicate nominative. The nonsexist "children" is better than the literal "sons" - "sons and daughters." Is it "are the children", or "are like the children"?

Abraam "of Abraham" - Classified as a genitive, adjectival, relational.


"Given that Abraham's covenant standing was based on faith [God's faith/faithfulness and his own faith/trust], Abraham's true children are those who take their stand upon faith, v7, and scripture tells us that those children include Gentiles, those whose covenant standing, and thus blessing, like Abraham's, is faith-based (not law-based)."

hJ grafh (h) "the scripture" - the writing. Probably referring to the quote to follow, Gen.12:2.

proidousa (proeidon) aor. part. "foresaw" - having seen ahead of time. The participle is adverbial, causal. "A figure of speech", Burton, expressing "divine foresight." A personification of God's Spirit speaking through the scriptures, so Bligh. God is fully aware of the inclusive nature of the time of fulfillment proclaimed in the gospel, and reveals the truth of the coming day of Gentile blessing to Abraham. "And the scriptures, seeing what is now happening", Martyn.

oJti "that" - Introducing a dependent statement of perception expressing what Abraham saw. Martyn translates it as appositional, "namely that ....."

ek pistewV "[would justify the Gentiles] by faith" - from faith. Usually taken to express means / basis, "by means of faith", Zerwick, but better "on the ground of their faith", Bruce. As already noted the "faith" is God's faith, his faithfulness to his promises, appropriated through faith, cf v7 and 2:16. "On the basis of faith", Martyn.

dikaioi (dikaiow) "would justify" - [god] would justify [the nations]. Futuristic present, Longenecker, Burton; "would bring into a right relationship", Barclay. See 2:16. None-the-less, aspect is probably more important with the present tense expressing durative action, "it is God's abiding policy", Bruce. cf. 2:16.

proeuhggelisato (proeuagglizomai) aor. "announced the gospel in advance" - communicated the news beforehand. In the sense that the covenant promises to Abraham foreshadowed the inclusive nature of the gospel, the kingdom at hand.

tw/ Abraam dat. "to Abraham" - Dative of indirect object.

oJti "-" - that. Here introducing a direct quote that supports Paul's assertion that faith-based Gentiles are properly Abraham's children.

ta eqhn "nations" - the nations. "Gentiles" is intended, Burton.

eneuloghqhsontai (eneulogew) fut. pas. "will be blessed" - The Heb. verb is reflective, "bless themselves", ie., the nations will bless themselves through their association with Israel. Paul's change is fairly radical and would have been contested by the judaizers, none the less the inclusive nature of the kingdom is better reflected in Paul's interpretive gloss. It can be argued that this text, Gen.12:3, is central to the argument posed by the judaizers and is only used by Paul for this reason. It can also be argued that Paul would be happier if the text had "justified" instead of "blessed", but then for Paul, the blessing of new life is the substance of justification. It is likely that the blessing of the Gentiles is central to Paul's own argument, even if he doesn't use the text again in this letter. Blessing in the Christian life is the issue here, blessings rightly appropriated by faith-based Gentiles, and this against the judaizers who may well accept that covenant acceptance rests on faith, but that the ongoing blessings of the covenant rest on obedience.

en + dat. "through [you]" - in, with [you all]. Here possibly expressing space/sphere, "in you shall all the nations be blessed", ESV, instrumental, expressing means, "through / by means of", as NIV, or more basal, "on the ground of", "on the basis of what he is, or has done", Burton. So, the prepositional phrase is somewhat ambiguous. For Paul, the sense is obviously "by virtue of Abraham's faith", but for the judaizers it was probably "by virtue of Abraham's obedience". Does Paul use this quote because it is used by the judaizers?


"Therefore, it is the children of faith, along with the man of faith, who receive the blessings of the covenant."

wJste "so" - so that. Often used to introduce a purpose clause, but here obviously a consecutive clause expressing result; "with the result that ...."

oiJ "those who [have faith]" - the ones [from faith]. The article serves as a nominalizer turning the prepositional phrase ek pistewV into a substantive, nominative subject of the verb "are blessed"; "The men of faith", Betz, possibly exegetes "all the nations" = "all the Gentiles [with a faith like Abraham's]." "Those who are marked by belief [in God]", Bruce, so "believers". Probably best expressed as "the ones whose right-standing before God is derived from the faithfulness of God realized in Christ", cf. v7.

eulogountai (eulogew) pres. pas. "are blessed" - Again the present tense expresses durative aspect and this with a divine passive. Again many commentators suggest that Paul would have been happier with "justified" instead of "blessed", possibly using "blessed" because it was the language of his opponents. Possibly it was their terminology, but for Paul, justification and it's product, the blessing of God, cannot be separated.

sun + dat. "along with" - with. Expressing association; "with / by means of ", Bruce. Of course, it is the children of Abraham that are blessed along with Abraham.

pistw/ adj. "[the man] of faith" - faithful, trustworthy [abraham]. Here though, "believing"; "the believing man", Bruce = "Abraham the believer", Betz.


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