“Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Know ye therefore that they, which are of faith, the same, are the children of Abraham. And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, “In thee shall all nations be blessed.” So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham” (Gal. 3:6-9).
The great contention of those who had confused the Galatians was that the Gentiles who believed in Christ must be circumcised in order to be saved. In the nation of the case, they carried back to Abraham the obligation of circumcision, because in his family circumcision was instituted. They disconcerted the Galatians Christians by presenting to them this fallacious argument: —
The promise of inheriting the world, and, indeed, all the promises, was made to Abraham. Abraham and all his family were circumcised. Now it is perfectly proper to believe in Jesus for the forgiveness of sins; but in addition to this you must be circumcised, and so become children of Abraham, in order that, as children of Abraham, you can be heirs to the inheritance, the world to come, that was promised to Abraham. None but true children can inherit from the father. Therefore do you not see that if you would inherit from Abraham, you must be children of Abraham? That is plain enough. But Abraham, to whom the property belongs, was circumcised. You can be children of his only by circumcision; because all his children must be circumcised. Therefore do you not see that while it is proper and even necessary to believe in Jesus for the forgiveness of sins, it is essential that in addition to that you shall be circumcised in order to be saved, and so to inherit the land and all the promises given to Abraham, the father? Do you not now see how Paul is robbing you of your inheritance, and shutting you out from all the blessings of Abraham our father, by telling you that you need not be circumcised?
Now, that argument is wholly fallacious, and is shown to be fallacious in the double fact that Abraham received the promise of the inheritance, and, indeed, all the promises, and also that which makes sure the inheritance, before he was circumcised. In other words, it was while Abraham was a Gentile that he received the promises; and he received them altogether by faith then, whosoever are of faith, these are the children of Abraham.
Righteousness is that which makes sure the inheritance; and it is written: “Abraham believed God, and it [his believing God] was accounted to him for righteousness.” Thus Abraham obtained the righteousness of God by believing God. He obtained the inheritance, the world to come, also by believing God. Thus both the inheritance and the righteousness that makes it sure were received by Abraham by faith alone.
So, then, all that are of faith are the children of Abraham; and, being children of Abraham, are heirs of the inheritance, which is the world to come.
It was also while Abraham was yet uncircumcised, while in that respect he was yet “a heathen,” that God gave to him the promise that he would “justify the heathen,” in the words: “In thee shall all nations be blessed.” Therefore, again, as it was while he was yet a heathen that Abraham was justified, and justified wholly by faith; and, as it was then too that God promised to Abraham that he would justify all the heathen exactly as he had justified Abraham, it follows inevitably that all the heathen must be justified by faith, in order to be children of Abraham. And, so, being thus by faith children of Abraham, they are “heirs according to the promise” given to Abraham. “So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.”
And this justifying, saving faith is not faith and circumcision; but faith without circumcision. For “cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also? For we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness. How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision. And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised.”
And this was so in order “that he might be the father of all them that BELIEVE, though they be NOT circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also; and the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised.”
That is to say that even though they were children of Abraham by natural birth confirmed by circumcision, yet he was their father, and they were really his children only when they were justified by that faith which he had, and when they walked in the steps of that faith which he had while he was yet, as regards circumcision, a Gentile. And now when He had come in whom Abraham while a Gentile had believed and had been justified and had obtained the promises, and these Gentiles had believed in him, just as had Abraham when he was a Gentile, for those who were circumcised to insist that those believing Gentiles must be circumcised in order to be the children of Abraham and to be saved, was simply to show themselves altogether behind the times, and sadly lacking in understanding of the very truths which they themselves professed, and of which they bore the mark.
Therefore it is faith in Christ, and faith alone, that avails: it is faith in Christ that avails to obtain forgiveness of sins; it is faith in Christ that obtains the inheritance; it is faith in Christ that obtains the righteousness which, alone, can make the inheritance sure. And it is faith in Christ, and that alone, that can enable the one whose sins are forgiven, so to walk in the path of righteousness that he shall enter, in full and assured heirship, upon the inheritance that was given to Abraham and his seed, through the righteousness of faith.
[Advent Review and Sabbath Herald | November 21, 1899]