Studying the Bible; Making a Tremendous Discovery. Galatians 3:8-14.

In Galatians chapter 3 Paul assures the reader that Abraham was the first man to hear the gospel and the first to realize that the gospel is a missionary calling to bless the nations. Here is what Paul writes:

The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the unreached peoples by faith, and preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham: “All unreached peoples will be blessed through you.” 9 So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

10 For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all the things written in the book of the law.” 11 Now it is evident that no one is reckoned as righteous before God by the law, for “the one who is righteous will live by faith.” 12 But the law does not rest on faith; on the contrary, “Whoever does the works of the law will live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”— 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the unreached peoples, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

This passage is from the book of Galatians chapter 3, and in verse 8 Paul gives answers to three questions:

  1. To whom did God preach the gospel?
  2. When did God preach the gospel?
  3. What is the gospel?

Background. As the reader knows, in chapter 1 Paul has expressed his great concern that the Galatian congregation may have turned away from the true gospel. He writes:

Not that there is another gospel, but there are some who are confusing you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should proclaim to you a gospel contrary to what we proclaimed to you, let that one be accursed! (1:7-8)

Someone has arrived in Galatia after Paul left, persuading the Christians there to doubt what Paul has taught them. Paul knows that everything is lost if the Christians in Galatia turn away from the truth of the gospel, so he repeats his warning: “I repeat, if anyone proclaims to you a gospel contrary to what you received, let that one be accursed!” (1:9)

In chapter 2 Paul stays with the topic, assuring his readers that he is certified by the leaders of the Jerusalem church, and therefore they can rely on Paul to teach the true gospel. Paul recounting his visit to the church leaders in Jerusalem:

Then I laid before them (though only in a private meeting with the acknowledged leaders) the gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles, in order to make sure that I was not running, or had not run, in vain. [“I am glad to say,” Paul is saying] that not even Titus, who was with me, was not compelled to be circumcised, though he was a Greek (2:2-3).

Paul is assuring the doubters in Galatia, then, that they must stop going the wrong way and return to the true gospel.

In chapter 3 Paul answers three questions, “What is the gospel?” “When was it first explained?” and “To whom was it first preached?” Dear reader, I do not hear church leaders today giving Paul’s answer to these questions. We know there is no gospel apart from the crucifixion of Christ. We are glad beyond words that Christ died for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:3). Christ is the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29). The gospel is Jesus Christ (Mark 1:1). Here in Galatians chapter 3, Paul gives answer to the question, “What is the gospel?” setting his answer in Abraham’s call to bless the nations. The gospel is not a doctrine only, though most theologians whittled it down to that. The gospel, in Galatians is this: “All nations shall be blessed through you.” Paul is quoting Genesis 12:3. Walter C. Kaiser of Gordon-Conwell Seminary calls Genesis 12:3 “the gospel encapsulated.”[1]
We must read the Bible to understand it, even when we see something that we never saw before. What is the gospel? It is God’s mission to the unreached peoples. They shall live by faith (by faithfulness!), the same as Abraham lived. Therefore, the teaching of the gospel is not true to the Bible except as Paul made clear to the Galatians. How much Paul wants to persuade his readers of missionary purpose of the gospel is evident by what Paul writes next to the Galatians: “Christ has redeemed us so that the blessings given to Abraham might also come to the unreached peoples” (3:13a-14). This is the answer to the question, “Why has Christ redeemed us?” He redeemed us so we can feel the weight of the Great Commission, the same as Abraham felt it. “And Abram did what God told him.” (Genesis 12:4).

Dear reader, how do you feel about this? And thank you for reading.

[1] Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., “Israel’s Missionary Call,” in Perspectives on the World Christian Movement, ed. Ralph D. Winter and Steve Hawthorne (Pasadena: William Carey Library, 1999), 16.