Online Bible Commentary
Sons of Abraham
Galatians 3:5 Therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?-- 6 just as Abraham "believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." 7 Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham. 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, "In you all the nations shall be blessed." 9 So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham. (NKJV)
The Apostle Paul is writing to believers in southern Galatia from his home city of Antioch, Syria in 49 A.D, prior to attending the Jerusalem Council meeting which occurred that same year. Paul has just completed his first missionary journey in which he and Barnabas planted churches in southern Galatia at Antioch in Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe. This letter is the first of Paul’s letters.
The churches in Galatia, influenced by Judaizers, have already turned from Paul’s Gospel to a false gospel of a mix of works and grace instead of grace alone. Judaizers claimed that Christians must also follow the Old Testament law, including circumcision. So Paul is writing to the Galatian believers to direct them back to the true Gospel of salvation by grace and not a combination of grace and works.
Paul begins this passage by writing that the Holy Spirit is given to Christians by God, who also “works miracles among you” (v. 5a). Then he asks a rhetorical question for which he knows the answer. He asks if Christians receive the Holy Spirit by “works of the law, or by the hearing of faith” (v. 5b).
Common sense would tell us the answer to this question. God is all knowing, all powerful, and all present. He needs nothing from us. There is nothing that mortal man can do to earn the Holy Spirit. Even if we are able to obey every detail of “the law”, God’s commandments, which we are not, we still could not earn the Holy Spirit.
Paul answers this question by quoting the Old Testament Scripture (Gen 15:6) about Abraham that he "believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness" (v. 6). So the answer is that the Holy Spirit is a gift to those who believe in God. The Holy Spirit is given to those who believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.
At the moment we become a Christian, righteousness is imputed upon us (Romans 4:11) by God and we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. The term “imputed righteousness” means that God sees us as righteous even though we are not. The Holy Spirit lives in every Christian and helps him to understand the Bible and to live the Christian life.
“Therefore only those who are of faith”, believers in God, “are sons of Abraham” (v. 7). As sons of Abraham, Christians also receive the righteousness that was imputed upon Abraham.
The Old Testament “Scripture (Gen. 12:3), foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith” in New Testament times “preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, "In you all the nations shall be blessed” (v. 8). This means that everyone, both Jews and Gentiles, would be blessed by God with salvation if they had the faith of Abraham. Abraham and “those who are of faith are blessed” with eternal life in Heaven (v. 9).
This passage reinforces the fact that salvation comes through faith and not works, by the grace of Jesus Christ. Grace means unmerited and undeserved favor. There is nothing we can do to earn our way to Heaven. We go on Jesus’ ticket because He died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins. Salvation cost Him everything but it is a free gift to those who believe in Him.