Continuing his argument from the point of Scripture, Paul tells us that the Gospel was preached to Abraham (Galatians 3:8). Is this true, and, if so, where do we see the Gospel, which Paul preached in the New Testament, given to Abraham? We find it in Genesis, the twenty-second chapter where Abraham was willing to offer up Isaac, his only son, as a sacrifice to God (Genesis 22:1-2, 18). God promised to bless all nations through Abraham and these blessings came only through Sarah and then through Isaac (Genesis 17:15-16, 19). The ram as a substitute pointed to Christ, and Isaac was received back by Abraham as though he were resurrected (Hebrews 11:17-18). Jesus said that Abraham was able to see his (Jesus) day through this sacrifice (John 8:56)
In terms of age, therefore, the Gospel came before the Law! It has preeminence due to age. Nevertheless, if this is so, why didn’t Israel obey the Gospel, which was clearly shown forth in Abraham? It is because the word preached through the Scriptures was not received through faith (Hebrews 4:2). Although the son is supposed to be as his father, Israel never acted like Abraham. In this point they missed the blessing of God. Jesus tells us that anyone who considers himself to be Abraham’s children ought to act like Abraham, their father (John 8:39). A father’s children have the heart of their father and will act accordingly.
What Jesus said in John 8:39 shows that those who inherit eternal life are not bereft of works of righteousness, and to this James agrees (James 2:19-26). Although one might conclude that James taught differently from Paul according to his statement in chapter two of his epistle, this is not so, if we view it in the context of Jesus’, James’ own brother’s, statement in John 8:39. Rather than discrediting or contradicting Paul, James was denying the validity of mere belief in God, which justifies no one. The faith that trusts God as Lord will bear the fruit of God’s Spirit in our lives, because faith, when it is done, produces works of righteousness in accordance with God’s desires (Ephesians 2:10; 4:1; Philippians 2:12-13).
This is the faith of Abraham, and such a faith requires our rest or confidence that God will bring it all to pass. This Gospel didn’t profit those under the Old Covenant, because their confidence was in their own efforts rather than in the promise of God to work it all out for them. Nevertheless, it is of us who have believed this same Gospel to rest in our confidence in God to do as he has promised to do, knowing that the work of our salvation was finished from the time of the very rebellion of Adam (Genesis 3:15; cf. Hebrews 4:3). Once God promised he would send the Seed in Genesis 3:15, it was as good, as done as far as our salvation was concerned. What God promises, he always does. Therefore, we can place our faith in or rest in whatever God says he will do.
God rested from all his labor on the seventh day as it says in Genesis 2:1. In other words, God was confident in his own labor that it was good and would produce good results. God would not have rested, if he thought what he had done was in danger of failing. Therefore, if God is confident in himself, we can enter into his rest, as well, confident that he will not allow any harm to come to us that would prevent his will for us to be realized.
Those who embraced the Old Covenant couldn’t trust in the Law and rest in confidence of God’s promise at the same time. Believing they could, through their own efforts, do everything God demanded, they ended up displeasing God, because their labor wasn’t exercised with trust in him but, rather, expressed confidence solely in self (Hebrews 3:11; cf. Psalms 95:11). The point of Paul’s argument, then, is that the Law cannot bring us to faith in God. Under the Law, Joshua couldn’t give Israel the rest God promised (Hebrews 4:8), because, as a whole, Israel didn’t trust God’s promise. They trusted in themselves to give them what they needed. Therefore, to be blessed with faithful Abraham (Galatians 3:9), one must enter into the rest of God and cease from our own labor to do what God, himself, has promised to do (cf. Hebrews 4:9-11).