And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, “In you all the nations shall be blessed” (Galatians 3:8).
In the above passage, Paul writes that God announced the gospel in advance to Abraham. It’s an interesting statement, and one that raises questions. Why was the gospel preached to the father of the faith long before Jesus came to earth? Was something happening that made him need to hear good news?
Sin and death
Let’s start all the way back with Adam and Eve. Their disobedience to God resulted in death, something that God had warned them of: “but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:17).
The pain and suffering caused by sin and death struck Adam’s family when Cain, their oldest son, disobeyed God’s word and killed his younger brother, Abel. What a terrible day it must have been when Eve heard that she would never hug or talk to her son again!
Adam lived 930 years and died, Genesis 5:5 says. From that moment on, death reigned. No matter how long the patriarchs lived, sooner or later they all died. The phrase “and he died” is repeated eight times in Genesis 5. You would think that people would have changed the way they lived after realizing that everyone was dying, but they didn’t. Disobedience got worse.
By the time of Noah, Jehovah saw that there was great wickedness on earth (6:5) and decided to send a flood through which “All in whose nostrils was the breath of the spirit of life, all that was on the dry land, died” (7:22). Only Noah found favor with God, and only he and his family survived in the ark. But even Noah, after another 350 years, died. Everyone dies.
The fact that all have sinned and no one lives forever is not good news. In fact, the Bible says that after the Flood, human lifespan became shorter and shorter. In Genesis 11, after the Tower of Babel and prior to God’s call of Abram, each of the generations had their children at a younger age.
However, with Abram, it was a different situation. He married a beautiful woman who was ten years younger than he, and it appeared they were going to be a blessed family. But things didn’t turn out like that. Death haunted Abram’s house when his brother, Haran, died and when his father, Terah, died at the end of Genesis 11. In addition to this, Abram learned that his wife, Sarai, was barren (vv. 27-31).
It’s not a pretty picture, then or now. Because of Adam and Eve’s disobedience, the bad news of suffering and death became a reality for every family on earth. But thank God, He did not leave things that way. Genesis 12 begins with the word Now, indicating a new beginning and contrast with what came before. God turned the bad news, the sad and cruel reality of death, into hope and blessing. Here, as Paul quotes in Galatians, God has good news for Abram: “In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (vv. 2, 3).
Through Abraham, God promised to transform everything.
Later, Abraham’s family traveled to Egypt and lived there. In that foreign country, God exalted them: “The children of Israel . . . multiplied and grew exceedingly mighty; and the land was filled with them” (Exodus 1:7).
But by the hand of Pharaoh, Israel was forced to work without compassion. In bondage, their lives were made bitter by his cruel demands. The day came when the Israelites could no longer bear so much pain and suffering in slavery, and they cried to God for help. When God heard their groaning, He remembered the covenant He had made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He looked on the children of Israel and was concerned about them (2:23-25).
God had more than compassion; He planned to act and liberate them. He saw their affliction, heard their cry, knew their anguish, and came down with a double purpose: to deliver them from oppression and bring them to a better place (3:7, 8). As Paul preached in Antioch, God took Israel out with an uplifted arm (Acts 13:17). God also endured them for the forty years that they walked in the desert. He gave them an inheritance in a new land and afterward gave them judges for 400 years. And when they asked for a king, He selected Saul. When his reign ended in disaster, God gave them David, through whom God promised an eternal heir. Paul tells the good news that a thousand years later, according to the promise, God raised up Jesus as Savior to Israel (vv. 18-23).
Do you notice all that God gives in these passages? The gifts of God climax in the gift of the gospel of God in Jesus Christ. As Paul concludes, “the family of Abraham, and those among you who fear God, to you the word of this salvation has been sent” (v. 26).
The gospel of God belongs to God. Nothing escapes His knowledge and power: “I am the first and I am the last; besides Me there is no God” (Isaiah 44:6).
Every hour approximately 6,400 people die around the world; every minute, 107 people. This means that every second, two people die around the world. Medicine, science, and technology have advanced, but they cannot and will not prevent dying. Our reality is that death is everywhere, for the wages of sin is death.
But God sees and acts for us. The good news declared beforehand to Abraham was manifested in Jesus Christ. By Him, God has changed everything.
That is the gospel of salvation Paul preached in Antioch. At that moment in history, he claims, the word of this salvation had been sent. He speaks of the unjust death of the Savior Jesus and that God raised Him from the dead. He says that at that very moment they, the witnesses of Jesus, were announcing the gospel of the promise, made first to Abraham.
The gospel of Christ “is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). It has the power to turn pain and suffering into peace and hope, and death into life. It is the gospel promised from the beginning:
The gospel of God which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead (vv. 1-4).
The gospel of God is the answer to the old problem of sin and death that started long before Abram. It gives eternal life in Christ Jesus because He has defeated death.
Read the wonderful news of the gospel, promised for the future:
“Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:3, 4).
The gospel continues to be heard and shared for the “obedience of the faith among all nations for His name” (Romans 1:5) — just as Abraham did. This gospel of God gives abundant life so we can dwell in freedom and obedience as He transforms us for His glory.