Saturday, December 01, 2007

Whats Abraham got to do with it?

In many ways it can surprise us how little the new testament really explains things on its own. The bst way to explain what happened at the cross, for example, may well be to look at the old testament accounts of the first passover and the day of atonement. And good stuff it is.

On friday me and Laurence studied Galatians 3:1-14, i'd eaten a ceremonial bacon roll beforehand so i was ready for what Paul had for us. It can seem at times that Paul is just indulging his knowledge of Judaism to wow his opponents. Or we could think that Paul is just jewish point scoring. We can think that studying this is of little point, because it all seems to technical, so obscure, so unrelated to anything that we might encounter. But it's not. In Galatians 3, particularly verses 4-14, Paul is constructing the building block, the foundation stone of the whole church. That is justification by faith...the just, by faith shall live. He sends his opponents fleeing to the hills with his superior knowledge and application of Abraham and how he relates to Jesus, how Jesus is not abolishing the old testament law, but rather is it's apex, it's matrix.

How does Paul start his arguement? Does the Spirit, that the is the deposit, the mark of saving faith come by faith or by works? By works of course, sneer the opponents. But then Paul plays his ace. Abraham. How did Abraham get right with God? How did he live? By faith. Woah! If Abraham was justified by faith, what does that mean for the rest of us? Well, continues Paul, it means that those who are the real sons of Abraham are so by faith...not by circumcision or food laws. Faith. Scripture forsaw this, that God would bring the gentiles in by faith preached the Gospel beforehand to Abraham. And what was that Gospel? In you shall all the nations be blessed...

Now, if you asked someone what the Gospel was, and they gave you that response, you'd be pretty surprised wouldn't you. I would be. But Paul uses it here to illustrate that this blessing comes about by faith, not by anything else. Abraham is important for that reason. Justification by faith is not a new thing that started at Calvary. It started before time, and was preached to Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation. Paul's trump card. So why does the law not justify anyone?

Verses 10-14 give us two reasons. Firstly, because the one who does them shall live by them. That is, no one can keep the law perfectly, which is what is neccesary, so they are cursed by their failure. But more importantly, they are cursed because God has ordained that the righteous shall live by faith, so He will justify no one because of the works of the law. The law curses people...stop it! The righteous shall live by faith...start it! But how? Or rather, who?

Just as Paul starts with Abraham, he ends with Jesus. Jesus becomes the curse, cursed is everyone who hangs on the tree. He becomes all that we are, that through Him we could be everything we could never be. What effect does this have? It means that the promise given to Abraham (received of course by faith) can come to the gentiles. What starts in Abraham ends in Jesus. Abraham and Jesus don't represent different Gospels, or different Gods, rather, Jesus is the root, and the shoot...the reason behind and the solution to the Gospel preached to Abraham. Thats why all nations shall by blessed though Abraham, because from Abraham comes Jesus, and before Abraham was, I AM says Jesus.

So this is not obscure Jewish theologising. This is the Gospel. It started with Abraham, it is fullfilled in Jesus. It comes by faith, not works. Not works not works not works. By grace through faith. Our salvation is blood blood blood. And nothing else. Paul's sends a rocket to blow his opponents away. He gives us hope and light and life. Christ became a curse, we get the blessing. What a Gospel!

1 comment:

Thomas said...

Thanks for that, Ed. I love the Old Testament because of the way it explains the New. Right from the beginning! I wish everyone would read it more!