“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’” (Gal. 3:8, ESV). Paul writes that not only was the gospel preached to Abraham, but it was God who preached it; so, it must have been the true gospel. But when did God preach the gospel to Abraham? Paul’s quotation of Genesis 12:3 indicates he has in mind the covenant that God made with Abraham when he called him in Genesis 12:1–3.
Read Genesis 12:1–3. What does this tell us about the nature of the covenant that God made with Abraham?
The basis of God’s covenant with Abraham centered on God’s promises to him. God says to Abraham four times, “I will.” God’s promises to Abraham are amazing because they are completely one-sided. God does all the promising; Abraham promises nothing. This is the opposite of how most people try to relate to God. We usually promise we will serve Him, if only He will do something for us in return. But that is legalism. God did not ask Abraham to promise anything but to accept His promises by faith. Of course, that was no easy task, because Abraham had to learn to trust completely in God and not in himself (see Genesis 22). The call of Abraham illustrates, therefore, the essence of the gospel, which is salvation by faith.
Some mistakenly conclude that the Bible teaches two ways of salvation. They claim that in Old Testament times salvation was based on keeping the commandments; then, because that did not work very well, God abolished the law and made salvation possible by faith. This could not be farther from the truth. As Paul wrote in Galatians 1:7, there is only one gospel.
We often hear the phrase “cheap grace.” Yet, it’s a misnomer. Grace isn’t cheap—it’s free (at least for us). But we ruin it when we think that we can add to it by our works or when we think we can use it as an excuse to sin. In your own experience, which one of these two ways are you more inclined to lean toward, and how can you stop?