Thursday, August 8, 2013

"The Blessing of Abraham": What It Is and What It Is Not

"so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith." - Galatians 3:14 ESV

Just a cursory search on the world wide web shows that this passage of scripture is used by many in the health/wealth and word faith movement to justify a belief that God wants us to be healthy and wealthy (usually the emphasis is on material wealth). The argument is that if the blessing of Abraham comes to the Gentile then we also should expect to be blessed with everything that Abraham was blessed with (again with emphasis on material wealth).

There is a huge problem here. CONTEXT! CONTEXT! CONTEXT! I hate how people take one verse out of a passage to justify what they want to believe. Reading this passage in context pretty much tells us what Paul meant when he said "the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles." It certainly doesn't mean all the blessings ever given to Abraham.

The key to understanding this verse is found in a few verses proceding this one. Starting with verse 7 "Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham." God promised Abraham that he would make him into a great nation. Paul is trying to help the Galatians see that they are a part of the promise, but they do not have to follow the law as some are teaching them in order to inherit the promise. Abraham is used as an example of someone who received promises through faith and not works. They to have received salvation through faith and not works (particularly the demand of circumcision by "Judaizers").

Continuing in verses 8 & 9 it says "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." Two things are going on here. First, Abraham is being used as an example of a person who is blessed through faith. (Look at verse 6 "just as Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.") Verse 9 picks up this theme. Abraham was blessed through faith and so can we be blessed through faith. The nagging question becomes, with what kind of blessing?

The assumption is often made that a Christian is blessed with all the blessings of Abraham, but, and secondly, verse 8 really revealed the blessing that is being spoken of. Paul equates God's words "In you shall all the nations be blessed" with the Gospel message. The Gospel message is that Jesus came and currently offers a place in his kingdom. The blessing of all nations (which means Gentile nations) is through Jesus Christ. Essentially, to paraphrase what Paul is saying, "You, Gentile, part of a nation outside of Israel, can be a part of Abraham's family through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ."

Think about verse 14 now when Paul says "so that in Christ Jesus THE blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles" (emphasis mine). "THE blessing!" He did not say "the BLESSINGS of Abraham." He is speaking of one blessing. "In you shall all the nations be BLESSED" (emphasis mine). Paul is not speaking of the blessings given to Abraham by God. He is speaking of the blessing of the nations by God through Abraham (essentially Jesus). He is not saying that we can partake in all the blessings that Abraham received from God (with an emphasis on material blessing). He is saying we can partake of the ONE greater blessing through Abraham: salvation through Jesus Christ.

In fact, if you keep all of chapter 3 in context there is no way you can leave this passage believing that what Paul is saying is that we can experience the same blessings that Abraham experienced. To do so is to miss the point and promise of this passage. Paul's major concern is to show the Galatians that salvation (the greatest blessing and promise of the New Covenant) is not by works but by faith. Salvation through Jesus Christ is the greatest of all blessings and will be the only blessing we will truly be concerned with when this life is over.

I want THE blessing that comes through Abraham more than I want all the BLESSINGS given to Abraham. For THE blessing that comes through Abraham will be what gets me into heaven. The BLESSINGS of Abraham will only fade away when this world is gone. They will do nothing to help me inherit the greater promise. How about you?

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