In this lesson, we discuss how the gospel message was announced to Abraham. Galatians 3.8, "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."
There was an issue in Galatia (a region where Paul planted churches): does a Gentile need to become a Jew in order to be a Christian? The group known as the Judaizers said “Yes, Gentiles need to become Jews first” (meaning that Gentile men need to be circumcised to ensure that they were considered Christians). In Galatians 3, Paul “strenuously objects” to this line of thinking. To Paul, there were no external actions that could be taken in order for one to be considered a follower of Jesus. It was an act of grace received by faith. The Judaizers probably appealed to Abraham. They (the Jews) were children of Abraham. They may have even referred to several passages in Genesis to make their case.
Reference 1: Genesis 12.3 “…and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” That is, the Gentiles will be blessed through becoming family members of Abraham.
Reference 2: God then makes a covenant with Abraham in Genesis 17.9-11 and the sign of that covenant is circumcision of the males.
The Judaizers put it together: God made a covenant to bless all people through the family of Abraham (even the Gentiles); Jesus is a son of Abraham; the sign of membership in Abraham’s family is circumcision; thus, in order to become a member of Abraham’s family (the family chosen by God), the Gentiles must become circumcised.
This does not mesh well with Paul’s “grace by faith” salvation message. Paul will also appeal to Abraham and he will also appeal to Genesis to make his case.
Galatians 3.2 – salvation is from the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is received by faith, not by observing the Law (symbolized by being circumcised).
Abraham is indeed the model here: he “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness” (verse 6 appealing to Genesis 15.6). In Paul’s eyes, Abraham’s right relationship with God was on the basis of his belief in God’s promise, instead of his deeds or even his obedience to the Law. His righteousness came before he was circumcised and came centuries before the Law of Moses.
The Gospel – the reference to Genesis 12.3 was indeed the announcement of a future day of salvation for the Gentiles. It is the gospel announced beforehand. Scripture announced the gospel message to Abraham and it provides the model of how one is brought into Abraham’s family (salvation). Abraham’s salvation/justification before God was dependant on his faith; therefore those follow Abraham’s example, and believe the promise of God by faith, are belong to Abraham’s family of faith (they are saved by their faith as was Abraham).
Basically, Paul appeals to Abraham’s faith, which is credited to him as righteousness, and notes that this covenant is the gospel. Abraham was saved by believing in the promise and it came before the sign of the covenant (circumcision Genesis 17) and it came before the Law.
Therefore, according to Galatians 3.1-14, the gospel is the message that salvation is the reception of the Holy Spirit and the Spirit is received through faith in the message concerning the redemption of Christ. This message was announced to Abraham and the message of the Gospel includes salvation to all people and from the beginning, salvation (a right relationship with God) was achieved by faith. Salvation is not about following the Law (and it never was).