Identity Crisis - Who are Abraham’s Children: Galatians 3:7-9 (Sermon)

Return to the gospel of grace so you can walk in freedom with the Spirit



Good morning. I am pastor Rob. I am glad you are joining us to worship God! Welcome to you who are tuning in online. Just a reminder, if you have prayer requests, put them on the connect card and place them in the giving box outside the sanctuary. Also, if you are watching our live stream, feel free to put your prayer request in the chat box or email the church office. We pray for you regularly as leaders and are so glad you are with us. 


Here is a question: What is your avatar? I am not talking about that movie with blue people. What I mean is a computer representation of yourself. Apple calls them memojis. Have you seen these? 

How would you represent yourself? We all identify ourselves in various ways. 

Here is an activity: 

Let me demonstrate. Stand up if you consider yourself a Michigander. Stay seated if you are not. 

Stay standing if you are a guy. Sit down if you are not. 

Stay standing if you are in school. Sit down if you are not. Look around. Thank you, students! You can all sit. 

We could further narrow down those who are standing by having those wearing glasses sit, or for fun, those who didn’t brush their teeth or shower stay standing. I don’t want to embarrass anyone. 


Why did I have us do this? I had us do that because we tend to identify ourselves in many ways: by occupation, gender, school, state, nationality, skin color, religion, and marital status, to name a few. 


Two thousand years ago, the Galatian people had an identity crisis, and some were in, and others were out. Their identity was wrapped in adherence to Jewish law. That would have been welcome news if they were Jewish ruler followers. It would have been great if they already had the rules down pat. What if they didn’t? The in-crowd wanted people to jump through religious hoops to be right with God. They deviated from what the Apostle Paul had taught them years before. Not only that, they had left what God had taught in Scripture. Let me show you. 


Turn in your Bibles to Galatians chapter 3, starting at verse 1. We will be reading through verse 9. We have a tradition of standing in honor of God’s Word. Would you stand with me, if you are able? I am going to have D.D. read for us. 


O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith— just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”? Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. 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.” So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. (Galatians 3:1–9)


Thanks D. Let’s pray. Dear God, thank you for your Word. Your Word is truth and light. You are amazing. Thank you for dying on the cross for our sins. You have blessed us and called us your sons and daughters. We love you. Use this time to inspire our hearts, train our minds, and equip our hands and feet in Jesus’s name, AMEN. You may be seated. 


The Apostle Paul had taught the Galatians the gospel. The gospel is a freeing, life-giving, Spirit-filled reality for those who trust Jesus as their Savior. Paul left the Galatians with that truth to plant and encourage other churches around the Mediterranean. In his absence, teachers came in and began to distort the message. The church adopted a belief that righteousness before God came by obedience to the Mosaic Law. Paul got wind of this and wrote a candid, corrective letter we are preaching through this year called Galatians. We pastors, after much study, came up with a summary statement for the book, Return to the Gospel of Grace so you can walk in freedom with the Spirit. Let me say that again, Return to the Gospel of Grace so you can walk in freedom with the Spirit; the Galatian church suffered from #gospeldrift.


This morning, we will focus on three verses: verses 7 through 9. These highlight that God planned for Gentiles to be blessed and considered sons of Abraham by faith. These three verses hang together with a quote from Scripture. Last week, Pastor Jeff referenced a different quotation in verse 6. Both refer to Abraham. The first, tells us Abraham was right with God by faith not following the Law of Moses. The second, we read that by faith, the Gentiles will become sons of Abraham and thus have God’s blessing. But we are getting ahead of ourselves. What I want us to do is go verse by verse and conclude with some application. 


Let’s look at Galatians 3, verse 7. What does it say? “Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham” (Galatians 3:7). This is not what everyone was thinking. For some, Abraham’s blessing seemed to be based on works of the Law more than anything. 


What is so bad about that? What is the big deal about being a child of Abraham by work or faith? It is a big deal because a blessing is at stake. What blessing was that? The sonship of Abraham is about being part of God’s family. Through faith in Jesus, God adopts us into his family. That means you are a child of God not just Abraham, regardless of your biological mom or dad, or compliance to Mosaic regulations. Paul has said - Jesus gave himself to deliver us from the present evil age (1:3). Paul was teaching we have a freedom in Christ and are no longer slaves to sin (2:4). Paul was teaching that we are justified or made right with God spiritually through faith in Jesus (2:16). Another blessing we have is that we are loved by Jesus (2:20). Add to that we have the Holy Spirit in us (3:2). And he is at work making us more like the men and women God wants us to be (3:3). That is amazing and if you are following Paul’s argument, this good news, this blessing of God wasn’t his message, it was God’s. If that is true, you would think there would be corroborating evidence that this sonship to Abraham was more Jesus than rule following. That is exactly what we find. 


Turn in your Bibles to John chapter 8. John 8, starting at verse 31. Here is an interesting interchange between Jesus and some people seeking to kill him. 

“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone.” (John 8:31–33)

Notice their offense at being told they would be set free if they abide in Jesus’s Word. They took him literally and didn’t like what they heard. 


They continued to interact with Jesus, 

How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.” They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” (John 8:33–39)

That is the second time they asserted they were sons of Abraham. Were they? Jesus said they were in verse 37, “I know that you are offspring of Abraham.” He gave them that. However, in verse 44 of chapter 8 (which we didn’t read), he said, “You are of your father, the Devil.” True spiritual sonship in Abraham is more than genetics or adherence to rules, it is rooted in him. 


Those speaking with Jesus were seeking to kill him. They didn’t have faith in him, their faith was in something or someone else. Jesus came to give abundant life, freedom from the slavery of sin, and hope everlasting. He was the descendant of Abraham who would be the key to bless all nations. It was through faith in Abraham’s descendant, Jesus, that all the Gentiles will be blessed.  


Jesus taught that he didn’t come to be served but to serve and give his life for a ransom for many. In Galatians 2:20, Paul says that Jesus loved him and gave his life for him. That is true for Paul as well as all who believe. 


Let’s go back to Galatians verse 8. “And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith.” Stop there. Paul is going back again to the Old Testament. He went there in verse 6 and again in verse 8. He was building a case. He was anchoring his logic that justification was by faith alone all along. Not only that, the good news was not meant for one people group, but the entire world, the nations. 


Did the Galatians believe Paul? Did they believe their Scriptures? Did they truly think the Creator of this complex universe could write himself into history and communicate with creation? They would do well to trust their Creator and their Scriptures. I think they did. Paul is helping them return to the gospel of grace. So he is going to quote once again the Old Testament. The need to believe their Bibles. They might conceptually, but practically they were succumbing to gospel distortion. 


Sometimes trust is hard. I saw this video this week, and it challenged me. (

That is hard to watch because I see myself in her. I want to believe but struggle. My life doesn’t always look right. It is also hard to watch because I am rooting for her to believe, and she walks away. It reminds me of some of my friends who have done the same. I think many of us are like pinballs going up and down. Our faith can be like that. We believe. We are resting and relying entirely on the gospel of grace one moment, then the next moment, we fall back to rely on something else. The Galatians were trusting in following the works of the law. They had #gospeldrift. Paul is pointing them back to God’s message. God planned for Gentiles to be blessed and considered sons of Abraham by faith.


Last week, Jeff challenged us to listen to God. Do we do that? Do we hear God to speak to us through the Bible? What was God saying to the Gentiles through Paul’s letter? He was telling these believers that they are blessed by God through faith, not the works of religiosity. Just like Abraham.


Paul continued, “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.’” The reality Paul asserted in verse 7, he proved in verse 8 with a quote from Genesis 12. 


Theologians call this a proto gospel. It is an early hint at the coming good news. Let’s look at Genesis 12. 


Starting at verse 1. I will have the words projected on the screen behind me. 

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” So Abram went, as the Lord had told him. (Genesis 12:1–4)

God picked a man out of the world and made a promise. What was that promise? He would receive a:

  1. Great Nation 

  2. Blessing 

  3. Name

The end result would be a 

  1. Resulting in Blessing of all families or nations


God repeated that blessing at various times: Genesis 18, 22, and 26. What did Abraham do to deserve this? Nothing. Zilch, Zippo, Nada. Abraham cut corners and didn’t always have faith. His faith would falter. But the trajectory was towards trust in God. That can be an encouragement. Our faith is in God, not a man from 4000 years ago or ourselves. The good news is that our hope is found outside of ourselves and our ability to be religious. God promised that from Abraham would come one who would reverse the curse, right the wrong, and change the trajectory of history. One would be born from his line and bless all nations, families, and tribes. As centuries passed, God revealed more and more about this one to come. Eventually, God sent him. He came and lived a perfect life. In Galatians 2:16, Paul said he justifies all who believe. In verse 20 of chapter 2, Paul said, he lives, “By faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). 


That blessing is ours as well. Jesus loves us. He gave himself for us. He justified us. He made us right. 


I had a friend at church point out that nations in verse 8 and Gentiles in the book of Galatains in Greek are the same word. So, we could translate verse 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 … [Gentiles will] be blessed.” God justifies Gentiles by grace through faith, just like Abraham. That is what verse 9 is about. 


Let’s look at verse 9. “So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith” (Galatians 3:9). Brothers and sisters, verse 9 echoes verse 7. If you are of faith, you can insert your name into this verse. 


This is terrific! Do you feel blessed? Do you believe you are blessed? Then, the more complicated question is, do you live like you believe you are blessed by faith? That Galatian church didn’t.  


I think, though, we say we believe in our heads and mouths; we operate like we don’t. At least, I don’t from time to time. Why do I say that? Do you remember our beginning exercise? We often find our identity in things other than our relationship with God. That can be fine when it comes to describing ourselves, but it can become deadly in several ways. Here are four ways our identity can drift us away from the gospel—arrogance, conceit, inferiority, and condemnation. 


For example, we take credit where it belongs ultimately to God. This can happen in regards to work. We are proud of our work. If that was you, think about how you got your job. You applied. But how did you get your job? They were hiring. Was that a result of your hard work? No. You had the proper credentials. Were they of your own doing? Perhaps in part. But what role did you play in the school’s existence, the previous job having a spot for you, and your natural abilities? What credit can you take from being born to the parents you had. So much of life is not ours to brag about. We all have the moments in front of us, sustained by a fragile thread of health and loads of invisible grace. Don’t drift from the gospel and think you are where you are by your own strength and intellect. 


Another way people can drift from the gospel is to carry a low-grade sense of conceit. We can look down on others who seem less intelligent, gifted, or disciplined. God made the orderly, the handyman, and the novice just as he made the CEO, doctor, and engineer. There is no room for thinking we are better than others. Don’t let conceit slip into your method of schooling or parenting. Possibly you look down on people with generations. We can distort the gospel by putting our identity ultimately in comparing our productivity, paychecks, or pecking order to others. Disdain those we render as below us. Don’t let the #gospeldrift happen. We are on level footing blessed only by grace through faith.  


I think the Galatians Paul is talking about would struggle with disdain and, or superiority towards those who don’t follow the Mosaic law. What about those who were Gentiles? Could they distort the gospel too? I think so. They could through the inverse of arrogance and conceit. Through, self-hatred and condemnation. 


Perhaps you don’t have a sense of superiority, but rather inferiority. This, too, can be adrift from the gospel. You see yourself as a worm, nothing, and a nobody. So bad, that God couldn’t bless you. Do you believe the Scripture? Do you believe in Jesus? Then, you are a child of Abraham and, if a child of Abraham, then a child of God, and if a child of God, then you are blessed and loved. This is another way people #gospeldrift.  


Finally, perhaps you see your sin. You believe, but are stuck in condemnation. Confess your sin and claim the promises of Galatians that your sin is crucified and you are alive because the Spirit of Jesus is in you. He loved you and gave himself up for you. He knows your past and knows your present as well as your future. There is, therefore, now, no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). It is not by being perfect that you are forgiven and loved by God, it is by grace. This condemnation, too, is #gospeldrift. It is a departure from the truth. 


Let us let the Bible tell us who we are, not our flesh, the world, or the Devil. The truth is we have all been debtors to God, dead spiritually speaking, and enemies. God flipped reality on its head. Our debt has been erased, and in its place is a heavenly inheritance. We were walking dead, but by grace through faith, God has infused spiritual life into our being. We were God-haters, but God changed all that and made us believers and lovers and adopted children of him. By faith you are a daughter or son of God, princes, and princesses with a heritage greater than the royalty of England.


Therefore: Let us walk with humility and joy and freedom so that others may come and know this tremendous blessing promised thousands of years ago to all nations, people, tribes, tongues, and languages.


Let’s pray. 

Dear God, Thank you for all that you have done. You are amazing. We are blessed. In Jesus’s name, Amen. 

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