“just as Abraham ‘believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.’ Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham” (Galatians 3:6-7).
To further illustrate the concept of “salvation by faith and not of works” Paul the Apostle turned to one of the greatest examples of faith within the Scriptures: “Consider Abraham: ‘He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.’ Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham” (NIV).
The Scriptures tells us that God called Abram (as he was then known) at age seventy-five to leave his home and travel to another land that God would later reveal to him (see Genesis 12:1). In addition, God told Abram, “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing” (Genesis 12:2 NIV). Although Abram and his wife were well beyond normal child-bearing age, we’re told that he took God at His word and “…departed as the Lord instructed him…” (Genesis 12:4).
Abram continued his journey until he finally reached the land of Canaan (Genesis 12:4-8), a region that generally encompassed the area we know today as the modern-day nation of Israel. Although Abram was quite wealthy by that time (Genesis 13:2), the truth was that he was an elderly man in an unfamiliar environment with few friends and many prospective enemies. Those enemies included a number of potentially hostile neighbors such as the Canaanites and another local people group known as the Perizzites (Genesis 13:7).
So other than his servants, his possessions, and a nephew named Lot (who would later make an ill-fated decision to leave his uncle and establish a new residence in the region of Sodom), Abram had little more than a promise from God- a promise he accepted and believed by faith. Because of this, Genesis 15:6 tells us that “(Abram) believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness” (NIV).
One source summarizes the purpose behind this narrative with the following observation…
“Paul’s utilization of the Abraham story is basically designed to make two major points: (1) Abraham’s righteous standing before God occurred prior to the institution of circumcision and the Mosaic law; (2) Abraham’s righteous standing before God was made possible through a gracious declaration of God, in acceptance of Abraham’s belief. Thus, the prototypical Jew is to be viewed as one who received his place in sacred history by grace through faith!” (1)
(1) McClelland, S. E. (1995). Galatians. In Evangelical Commentary on the Bible (Vol. 3, p. 1012). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.