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In spite of numerous racial tensions in the U.S. in recent months, there are still Christians who choose to remain silent about reconciliation and justice. They continue to remain steadfast in the belief that the gospel of Jesus Christ has nothing to do with rectifying the racial divide.

In fact, a prominent white evangelical celebrity pastor stated on a YouTube video that race is really a non-issue and Christians should simply preach the gospel, because God has determined how many people from different races will make up the elect for whom Jesus came to die.

Although these kinds of remarks are often preached from evangelical pulpits and will arouse a hardy amen from the mouths of some evangelicals, they nevertheless reveal a misunderstanding of God’s promise of cosmological renewal and universal blessing through Abraham.

God Preached the Unity of the Gospel in Genesis to Abraham

Paul continues his argument from Galatians 3:6-7 in 3:8 with comments about the inclusion of the Gentiles within the Abrahamic promise. He asserts that God’s justification of the Gentiles was foreseen in the scripture when the scripture announced the good news in advance to Abraham that “all the nations will be blessed by means of you” (3:8). Don’t miss this point: Paul says that the scripture foresaw and announced in advance the good news that God will justify the “Gentiles” (ethnē) by faith.

God’s plan to save the cosmos through Christ apart from works of law was not novel with Paul’s gospel. God announces this good news to Abraham beforehand in the scripture (Gal 3:22, 27; 4:30; cf. Gen 12:1-3; 15:1-5). Since Paul cites Gen. 12:1-3; 15:1-5 in Gal. 3:6, 8, the “scripture” clearly refers to the OT scripture. The gospel always had a universal and a cosmological nature from Gen. 3:15 to 12:1-3. And the gospel has always intended to unify all things and all people through the promised seed from Gen. 3:15 to 12:1-3, 15:1-5, 18:18, 24:7, and 26:4.

God has always desired and designed to make one family on the basis of faith out of a universal and diverse people through a singular seed (Gen. 3:15; 18:18; 24:7; 26:4; cf. Gal. 3:16). Paul’s statement in Gal. 3:8 about God’s promise of the justification of the Gentiles is a conflation of Gen. 12:3; 18:18, and 22:18. His exegesis provides a counter punch to his opponents’ exegesis of the Abrahamic narratives in conflation with their interpretation of the role of works of law in the lives of God’s covenant people.

Gen. 12:3 states that “all the tribes” (phulai) of the earth will be blessed, whereas Paul states all of the “nations” (ethnē) of the earth will be blessed. The specific reason for the difference between the two textual traditions could be coincidental (i.e. Paul used a different Greek version of Genesis from the traditions available to us) or intentional (i.e. Paul could have intentionally switched the words to make his remarks more appropriate to the Gentiles in Galatia, who were being compelled by Jewish teachers to embrace another gospel [Gal. 1:6-7]).

More likely, Paul conflates multiple texts from Genesis regarding God’s promise to bless Abraham (Gen. 12:3; 18:18; 22:18, and 26:4). Greek Gen. 18:18 and 22:18 specifically assert that all of the “Gentiles” (ethnē) will be blessed. Greek Gen. 18:18 asserts that all of the “Gentiles” (ethnē) will be blessed “in him” (i.e. in Abraham). Greek Gen. 22:18a states that all of the “Gentiles” (ethnē) will be blessed in “your seed,” a word (“seed,” sperma) that Paul introduces into his argument until Gal. 3:16 (cf. also Gen. 26:4). The promise of God’s universal blessing of the ethnē by Abraham’s seed explicitly emerges in Paul’s argument in Gal. 3:16-29.[1]

Paul’s amalgamation of these texts strengthen his argument as to why the Galatians should not embrace the opponents’ Torah-observant gospel: God announced beforehand to Abraham the good news that all the ethnē /Gentiles (i.e. all of the families of the earth) will be blessed by means of Abraham.

This statement is a sharp rhetorical jab against Paul’s opponents because Abraham, the uncircumcised Gentile and father of the Jews from Ur of the Chaldeans, was the agent through whom God would bless all people, Jews and Gentiles, to reconcile them into a unified family by means of a singular offspring (Gal. 3:16).

The Galatians who received the Abrahamic blessing by faith in Jesus Christ, who died to deliver diverse Jews and Gentiles from the curse of the law (3:10-14, 28), are more like Abraham than Paul’s Jewish opponents who preached a rival gospel based on Torah apart from faith alone.

Abraham was not Jewish, and he was justified apart from works of law and prior to circumcision—just like the Galatian Gentile Christians. Therefore, “those from faith” (Jews and Gentiles) are blessed with faithful Abraham (3:9). That is, those who have faith in Christ (2:16; 3:7-9, 11-12, 22), Abraham’s offspring (3:16), experience the Abrahamic blessing promised in various places throughout Genesis 12-24 to Abraham. And, by faith in Christ Jesus (the seed of Abraham), to whom God gave the promises (Gal. 3:16), diverse Jews and Gentiles become part of Abraham’s family, heirs according to the promise that God made to Abraham and to his seed, and are adopted into this unified and universal family (Gal. 3:6-29). This diverse, unified family in Christ is distinguished by faith in Christ, the Spirit, and Spirit-empowered and reconciled love for one another (3:2-14; 5:13-16, 22; 6:2), not by works of the law.

Conclusion

Christians who choose to be disinterested in or apathetic of racial reconciliation contradict the gospel. A gospel disinterested in human suffering and apathetic toward injustice and a gospel that cares little or less about the unification of all things and all people in Christ is not the gospel of Jesus Christ. God preached the gospel of reconciliation to Abraham, saying the nations would be universally blessed through his offspring. This announcement of universal blessing is a divine proclamation of the gospel of reconciliation.

 

[1]In the Dead Sea Scrolls, Jewish attitudes toward Gentile groups are negative. Gentiles are called idol worshipers without God (1QpHab XII.13; XIII.3-4), enemies of God (1QM XII.8-9), and objects of God’s judgment at the hands of his elect (1QpHab 5.4). But this attitude is not represented in every Jewish source. Multiple Jewish sources express Gentile optimism.

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