Galatians 3:1-6: The Holy Spirit by Law or by Grace?

Galatians 3:1‑6  •  20 min. read  •  grade level: 6
We have suggested that the book of Galatians may be divided into three parts, each part of two chapters. So we have now reached the second part of the book. The subject of the first part was a brief history of certain events in Paul’s life which showed that his apostleship and his teaching did not come from men, but from God. We suggested that the second part (ch. 3, 4) gives to us the doctrine connected with the subject of this epistle. But our readers may see that the last verses of ch. 2 have already given us some most important doctrines. We have there learned that we are dead to the law. Notice it does not say the law is dead, but we are dead to it. We are crucified with Christ; yet we live, risen with Him. Now we have a new life: Christ lives in me. And this new life we live by faith of the Son of God, who loved me and give Himself for me. These are doctrines of the very highest importance, and we find these doctrines in ch. 2. Truly no man can say where the subject of history ends and the subject of doctrine begins. Though the book clearly has these various subjects, yet they are so closely woven together as one letter, that we cannot divide it into different parts.
Again, let me remind my readers that when Paul wrote this letter there were no chapters or verses. Ch. 3 reads straight on from ch. 2. We have just learned that “Christ liveth in me” (vs. 2:20). Now we are to learn another, most blessed truth. The Spirit of God also lives in me. Let us read these verses together. (But compare Rom. 8:9, 109But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. 10And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. (Romans 8:9‑10)).
“O senseless Galatians, who has bewitched you, to whom, over against (your very) eyes, Jesus Christ has been publicly placarded—nailed on the cross. This only I wish to learn from you: Have you received the Spirit on the principle of works of law, or on the principle of a message (telling) of faith? Are you so senseless? Having begun by (the) Spirit, now are you making yourselves complete by (the) flesh? Have you suffered so many things for no reason? If indeed (they are) really for no reason? Therefore the One abundantly supplying to you the Spirit, and working mighty things in [or, among] you, (is it) on the principle of works of law, or on the principle of a message (telling) of faith? Just as Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” ch. 3:1-6.
The Apostle had just written the words: “The Son of God loved me and gave up Himself on my behalf.” That was the theme, the center, the substance of Paul’s message. “Christ died for our sins” (1 Cor. 15:33For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; (1 Corinthians 15:3)). You remember when he went to Corinth he determined in himself not to know anything except “Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:22For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. (1 Corinthians 2:2)). Paul had told this story until the Galatians had, as it were, seen Him with their own eyes nailed on the cross over against them. He had publicly placarded “Jesus Christ crucified” (vs. 1) before them.
The Son of God loved me, and gave Himself up for me. God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. It was grace, all unspeakable grace: but the Galatian Christians had “set aside God’s grace” and had chosen the law. The Galatian Christians had turned their eyes away from Christ crucified and were looking for righteousness to come by the law. If this is true, “then Christ died for nothing!” (ch. 2:21). The very thought makes Paul indignantly exclaim, “O senseless Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Who has fascinated you? Who has cast on you ‘the evil eye’?” How well we in China can understand this question! How many a mother is afraid that someone may “cast the evil eye” on one of her children! How many are frightened of witchcraft! So it was in Galatia. The Galatians also knew all about these things of heathendom; and Paul uses this, that they so well understand, to show that it was the devil’s evil work, not the work of God, to turn their eyes away from Christ to the law. These false teachers were nothing better than the heathen fortunetellers about them, practicing witchcraft, and they had bewitched the Galatians.
This indignant exclamation links together ch. 2, 3. You must not think of there being a division here. The words “O senseless Galatians” (vs. 1) reach back to the last verses of ch. 2 and forward to the first verses of ch. 3.
“This only would I learn from you.” It was as though Paul says: The one argument I now bring before you is enough to prove to you that you are wrong. That argument is the presence of the Spirit of God. It is, in truth, a mighty argument. But alas, today Christians believe so little in the presence of the Holy Spirit that they lose much of the power of it. Paul continues: “Have you received the Spirit on the principle of works of law, or on the principle of a message (telling) of faith?” The Galatians knew well that they had received the Spirit of God. They knew the mighty change which He had worked in themselves and in each other. Was this on the principle of law? They had never heard of having to keep the law when they received the Spirit of God; so certainly it was not by law. This question, indeed, should have answered everything for the Galatians.
But perhaps we should turn aside for a moment to consider more fully what the Scriptures teach regarding the Holy Spirit. Many true Christians today are not sure whether they have the Holy Spirit or not. Many are praying that He may be given to them. This is the test according to the Scriptures: If a man, convicted of sin and believing on the Lord Jesus as his only Savior who has finished the work of salvation, can truly from his heart say, “Abba, Father,” such a one possesses the Holy Spirit. “Ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear [which the law gives]; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father” (Rom. 8:1515For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. (Romans 8:15)). And again: “Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father” (ch. 4:6). The one who reads his Bible and believes it knows that this is true. But those who do not know this from their own Bibles very often do possess the consciousness of their relationship with God; He is their Father, and they are His children. And in the presence of God, in prayer, they will from their hearts address Him as “Father!” Such a person may be very ignorant and have much to learn. He may also have much to “unlearn” of false teaching he has received from men. But if he can truly say “Father,” then it is surely the Holy Spirit alone who has taught this to him. This is not simply “conversion.” A sinner, as a sinner, cannot receive the Spirit, but as soon as a man truly believes in Christ and His precious blood cleanses his sins, then the Holy Spirit comes and dwells in him. You remember the Apostle asks: “Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” (vs. 2). Eph. 1:1313In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, (Ephesians 1:13) answers this question. “In whom... after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise”.
We see the difference in the case of the prodigal son. He had come to himself; he had owned he had sinned and that he was ready to perish. He arose and set off to return to his father. He was acting rightly. He was truly converted: but as yet he had not on the best robe, nor the ring, nor the shoes. As yet he had not met his father. He knew well the wealth and bounty of his father’s house, but he did not know if he might enter there. He did not know if his father would receive him. He had not the sense of being a son. He meant to say, “Make me as one of thy hired servants” (Luke 15:1919And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. (Luke 15:19)), for he knew he was not worthy to be called a son. He had not the sense of being a son, although he truly was one. How many truly converted men and women are in this condition. They are not sealed by the Spirit. (Eph. 1:1313In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, (Ephesians 1:13).) We may not be able to explain how we cry “Abba, Father” or why we know we have this privilege. We may know nothing of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit (we must know something of the Scriptures to know this); but if we can truly cry, “Father!” then we must have the Spirit of God dwelling in us. There are many who, from bad teaching, are afraid to say they are children of God; but when they are alone in prayer, in God’s presence, they say, “Father!” and they say this blessed name from the bottom of their hearts. This is the work of the Spirit dwelling in them. “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Cor. 3:1717Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. (2 Corinthians 3:17)). There is not only liberty in the presence of God, but there is also liberty from the law and from the power of sin.
Now look for a moment at the work of the Holy Spirit for us. First, it is the Holy Spirit who convinces, or convicts, us of sin. (John 16:8, 98And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 9Of sin, because they believe not on me; (John 16:8‑9), margin.) He is not a spirit of bondage, but of adoption. (Rom. 8:1515For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. (Romans 8:15).) We know that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ. (Rom. 8:1717And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. (Romans 8:17).) If we are heirs, then we have an inheritance; but to be in such a relationship to God and to Christ is far more than having an inheritance, which is only the result of this relationship. All this we know by the Spirit.
But there is more. The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given to us. (Rom. 5:55And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. (Romans 5:5).) How precious this is. We dwell in love, the love of God; for God is love (1 John 4:1616And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. (1 John 4:16)), and by the Spirit, He dwells in us. The proof of the love is that God gave His only begotten Son, and that the Son gave Himself for us. But we can only enjoy this love through the Holy Spirit. By His presence the love is “shed abroad in our hearts” (Rom. 5:55And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. (Romans 5:5)).
The Apostle John says: “No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and His love is perfected in us. Hereby know we that we dwell in Him, and He in us, because He hath given us of His Spirit” (1 John 4:12-1312No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. 13Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit. (1 John 4:12‑13)). Then, to show that this belongs to all Christians, without any question, he says: “Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in Him, and he in God” (1 John 4:1515Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God. (1 John 4:15)).
It is difficult for one who does not walk with God to believe that we can dwell in God and God in us. But the Word clearly says: “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His” (Rom. 8:99But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. (Romans 8:9)). He dwells in us, and the one who walks in communion with God enjoys this and rejoices in it with humility and gratitude. The presence of God never makes us proud. He is too great for us to be anything before Him. It was not when Paul was in the third heaven that he was in danger of being exalted above measure, but when he came down to earth again. (See 2 Cor. 12.)
The Spirit of God also gives us to know that we are in Christ, and Christ in us. (John 14:2020At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you. (John 14:20).) There is no condemnation for them that are in Christ Jesus. (Rom. 8:11There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. (Romans 8:1).) (Note that the last half of this verse is not in the original Scriptures.) Not only are our sins forgiven and we are justified before God, but we are acceptable to God in our Lord Jesus who is the beloved, “accepted [or, taken into favor] in the Beloved” (Eph. 1:66To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. (Ephesians 1:6)). Here we see the believer’s perfect acceptance, and also his responsibility. Before God I am perfectly accepted in Christ. But if I am in Christ, Christ is in me as life and power, and I am responsible to manifest this life before the world. Christ is for us before God, and we are for Christ before the world.
By the Holy Spirit, therefore, we know that we are in Christ, and Christ in us. What a wonderful fact, that the Spirit of God dwells in us! This is the result of Christ’s perfect redemption. But what a responsibility this is also for the Christian! God did not dwell with Adam, even when he was innocent, before he sinned, in the Garden of Eden. God did not dwell with Abraham, though He visited him, and Abraham was called “the Friend of God” (James 2:2323And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. (James 2:23)). (See also Isa. 41:88But thou, Israel, art my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend. (Isaiah 41:8).) But as soon as Israel was redeemed by the blood of a lamb, even though this was but a type of the true redemption, then God came to dwell in the midst of His people and sat between the cherubim in the tabernacle, in the holy of holies. Now that the true redemption is completed, He comes to dwell in believers individually, and in His people, gathered together by the Holy Spirit. His presence in us is more than conversion. The persons washed in the blood of Jesus become the dwelling place of God. They are thus sealed for glory by means of the gift of the Holy Spirit.
But perhaps the Galatians reply: You do not speak fairly. You do not understand. We trust only in the work of Christ to save us and to make us righteous before God. But after we are saved, after we are made righteous, then we must have the law to keep us walking as we should. The law will help to keep us holy. The Apostle exclaims at such a suggestion: “Are you so senseless? Having begun by (the) Spirit, now are you making yourselves complete by (the) flesh?” There are very many today who will acknowledge that they must “begin by the Spirit.” It is only the Spirit of God who can bring conviction of sin. (See John 16:8,98And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 9Of sin, because they believe not on me; (John 16:8‑9), margin.) It is only the Spirit of God that can give us faith in Christ. So it is only by the Spirit that we can be justified. But after they are saved, there are multitudes who wish to take the law for “a rule of life.” “Are ye so senseless?” (vs. 3). asks the Holy Spirit. Do you suppose that God would save you and cleanse you and justify you, and then leave you to “make yourselves complete” by means of the old flesh that is enmity against God? (See Rom. 8:5-95For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. 6For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. 8So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. 9But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. (Romans 8:5‑9).) The words “making yourselves complete” are translated in this way because the Greek word “complete” is in the middle voice, meaning “to do something for myself.” Do you suppose that the law can sanctify you? can make you holy? Never! In John 17:1717Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. (John 17:17) the Lord prays: “Sanctify them through Thy truth: Thy Word is truth” (John 17:1717Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. (John 17:17)). In Eph. 5:2626That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, (Ephesians 5:26), speaking of the Church of God, we read: “That He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word” (Eph. 5:2626That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, (Ephesians 5:26)). In 1 Thess. 5:2323And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 5:23) it is God who sanctifies us. In Heb. 13:1212Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate. (Hebrews 13:12), “Wherefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered without the gate.” We might continue with other scriptures, but never would we find that the law sanctifies. O, dear readers, are any of you so senseless?
In the last verse of ch. 2 we read, “If righteousness come by the law, then Christ died for nothing.” Now the Apostle turns to the sufferings that the Galatian Christians passed through when they first confessed Christ. They thought it was well worthwhile then to suffer for Christ’s sake. But if they are justified by law, it was all a terrible mistake. Christ died for nothing, and their own sufferings were all without reason, all in vain. Paul adds: “If indeed (they are) really in vain.” It is as though he said, But though I say this, I really cannot believe it is so. I cannot help but think that surely those sufferings meant that you truly did trust in Christ.
We must compare these sufferings with Gal. 6:1212As many as desire to make a fair show in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ. (Galatians 6:12). There we find the true secret of the motives of those who preached circumcision. They did this “only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ” (ch. 6:12). It is the cross that brings suffering. The enemy hates the cross. He is willing to have the law, but not the cross. Leave out the cross and you can avoid suffering for Christ’s sake.
Notice the different expressions the Apostle uses: In ch. 2:2 he spoke of running “to no purpose”; in ch. 2:21 Christ died “for nothing.” Here in ch. 3:4 they themselves had suffered “without reason,” and in ch. 4:11 the Apostle says he fears lest he has bestowed on them labor “without reason.” These are three different expressions in the Greek, as shown in the translation, though all translated “in vain” in our English Bible.
But Paul continues the subject of the Holy Spirit. “Therefore the One abundantly supplying to you the Spirit, and working mighty things in you [or, among you], is it on the principle of works of law, or on the principle of a message (telling) of faith?” John 3:3434For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him. (John 3:34) says, “God giveth not the Spirit by measure.” It is God who gives the Spirit, and He supplies the Spirit abundantly. (This word in the Greek originally meant one who supplied a “chorus”—a group of singers—with everything they needed. A wealthy man would do this very generously and abundantly; so the word came to have the meaning of “supplying abundantly.”) You remember in John 7:3838He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (John 7:38), our Lord said: “He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water” (John 7:3838He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (John 7:38)). We read the explanation in the next verse: “But this spake He of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified” (John 7:3939(But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.) (John 7:39)). “Rivers of living water” speak of the abundant supply.
The Galatian believers had experienced this abundant supply of the Holy Spirit; and now the Apostle asks, Was it by law or by a message (telling) of faith? Or, perhaps we should translate it “a hearing of faith” (vs. 2). They heard the message and believed.
It seems as though the three great phases of the work of the Holy Spirit come before us in these verses. First, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit by works of law?” This tells of the convicting power of the Spirit, of the way He led the soul to faith in Christ, and then of how He came and dwelt in the new believer. Second, the Spirit completes the work He began. He first began the great work in the soul, and it is He who completes that work, making the believer more and more conformed to Christ. (Rom. 8:29; 12:229For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. (Romans 8:29)
2And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. (Romans 12:2)
; Phil. 3:1010That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; (Philippians 3:10).) “We all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Cor. 3:1818But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. (2 Corinthians 3:18)). Now, third, we have the Spirit abundantly supplied to the believers and working mighty things in them, or among them, which tells us not only of that mighty change which had taken place at their conversion, but also speaks of works of power, such as miracles; and would probably mean the gifts of the Spirit, such as we see in 1 Cor. 12:4-314Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. 6And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. 7But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. 8For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; 9To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; 10To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: 11But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will. 12For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. 13For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. 14For the body is not one member, but many. 15If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? 16And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? 17If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? 18But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. 19And if they were all one member, where were the body? 20But now are they many members, yet but one body. 21And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. 22Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: 23And those members of the body, which we think to be less honorable, upon these we bestow more abundant honor; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. 24For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honor to that part which lacked: 25That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. 26And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it. 27Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. 28And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. 29Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? 30Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret? 31But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet show I unto you a more excellent way. (1 Corinthians 12:4‑31). “To one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; to another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: but all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as He will” (1 Cor. 12:8-118For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; 9To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; 10To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: 11But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will. (1 Corinthians 12:8‑11)). These things the Galatian assemblies had seen among themselves. They knew they were all true. And they knew well that all this had come to them before ever there was one word said to them about works of the law. They had heard the message, the “report” (Isa. 53:11Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? (Isaiah 53:1)), and they had believed it; and they had then received all these blessings of the Spirit of God.
This leads the Apostle to his next great subject. Just as the Galatians had heard a message and believed it, had been justified by faith and received the Spirit by faith, so Abraham had heard a message from God. He had believed it, and God reckoned it to Abraham as righteousness. You remember the story—one of the most beautiful in the Bible, to make plain how a sinner is justified. It was a clear, starry night. The Lord brought Abraham forth out of his tent, and He said to him, “Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them,” (Gen. 15:55And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be. (Genesis 15:5)) and He said unto him, “So shall thy seed be” (Rom. 4:1818Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be. (Romans 4:18)). Abraham believed the Lord’s word, though he was then an old man and his wife an old woman. In the eyes of man this promise was impossible; but Abraham believed God, and God counted, or reckoned, this faith to him as righteousness. So the record goes in Gen. 15:5, 65And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be. 6And he believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness. (Genesis 15:5‑6). Nothing could be more clear and more simple. It was by simple faith in a simple statement. Abraham did not look at the impossibility of the promise, but he looked at the almighty power of the One who made it. And he said, “Yes, Lord, I believe you.” And God said, “Abraham, I count you to be a righteous man.” Even so does God count me a righteous man, wretched sinner though I am by nature. God says, “Christ died for the ungodly” (Rom. 5:66For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. (Romans 5:6)). I say, “That is myself; I believe it: I thank Thee.” And God says, “I count you a righteous man.” Reader, does God count you righteous? He waits to do so: He waits till you, by simple faith in His Word, trust only to the death of Christ for your sins. Then He says, I count, I reckon, you righteous. Remember that this happened 430 years before the law was given. Abraham had never heard of the law when God reckoned him righteous. It was all by grace. It was all by faith.
“Justified by faith” (ch. 2:16).