Whose son or daughter are you?
Consider your answer in the space here for a moment or jot it down in your Bible study notebook.
You may be like me and write some names with, “It’s complicated” in the margin.
Your storyline might look slightly simpler, but life is rarely without complication.
Paul accuses the Galatians, at the beginning of Galatians 3, of foolishness, not because of their history, or their life circumstances, but because of their definitions of all of it.
Read Galatians 3:6-9 and look for the answer to this question:
In what did the Judaizers want the Galatians to find their justification, their ground for inclusion in the community of faith?
… just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”?
7 Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. 8 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.”9 So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. (Galatians 3:6-9)
Abraham, sons of Abraham, along with Abraham…
Abraham was the heritage of the Jews, the father, the great-great-great to beat all great-grandfathers. He represented the seed of faith for them. Without his legacy, I think they felt unmoored, unsure where to turn, unsure what they would point at in order to say, “I’m ok. You’re ok. We’re justified. Safe.”
We can experience this too when we look to our parents, our grandparents, or our heritage for mooring, for identity and certainty. When broken marriages and families are part of our history, we don’t know where to put that. When national oppression, the Crusades, the Holocaust are in the lineup of our family or faith tree, ack, I don’t even know where to put that.
But God does.
Paul helps the Galatians, and even the Judaizers by redefining their heritage. Abraham made sense to them. The line of Abraham has been what they followed for generations. God, through Paul’s pen, offers a new way of defining their heritage in Abraham:
Abraham received the Gospel beforehand.
It wasn’t that Abraham received the law of circumcision that mattered. That wasn’t the heritage that God was passing down for generation to generation. It was that he received the Gospel to pass down from generation to generation.
I am not, and Paul is not, discounting the epic that is the nation of Israel, the people of Israel’s story. It’s that the law of circumcision, the heritage of Israel, is only as useful as what it points to – the Gospel.
This is what Abraham passed down:
And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness. And he said to him, “I am the Lord who brought you out from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to possess.” Genesis 15:6-7
This is what Paul points to in Galatians 3:6-7, as well.
God spoke and Abraham believed. It wasn’t his name that mattered to God or where he came from.
God spoke. Abraham believed. Abraham, in all his issues and complications (and there are many – see Genesis 16 or Genesis 20 for just two examples) was credited as righteous because of God’s Word spoken over Him, God’s Word passed down through Him.
Just as complications of families’ lines, heritage, and nationalities are passed down and threaded through our history- the good, the bad, and the ugly – so are God’s work and God’s Word.
God can work outside of us and in spite of us.
I’m complicated, you’re complicated, families are complicated, heritage is complicated.
Isn’t all of life?
There are no easy answers.
Through the Word, the Gospel spoken, Faith works in and around all of the complication.
Freedom doesn’t come dependent on where you came from or who you came from. God’s Word spoken brings freedom to our families. If your family passed that freedom on to you, great! If not, it’s your turn. You are passing on the faith now, in this time, to the next generation. From the time of Abraham, to the Gospels, to the Apostle Paul and the Galatians, and now to us, freedom comes in the Word of Life.
We are opening that Word together, now, as you read. That is a powerful thing. We share it with one another. We share it with the next generation – that is a powerful thing.
No matter what complications come our way or we put into our family line, when we have the Word, share the Word, live in the Word, there is freedom.
What complications in your family history can you identify?
What complications in Christian history can you identify? (The not so pretty times, decisions, and pieces of Christianity across time.)
What freedom have you seen God work in the midst of and through the complications?