in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. Galatians 3:14 NASB
Come to – In the margin of the NASB, you will find a note that gives an alternate translation. The alternate is “occur” (“the blessing of Abraham might occur to the Gentiles”). One of the reasons for suggesting an alternative is the fact that the Greek word ginomai in the New Testament really attempts to capture a Hebrew idiom. It actually isn’t the word for “to come,” but rather the word for “to be born, to become, to be manifest.” It is the same root that produces the word genesis – to come into being.
If you think about it, neither “come to” nor “occur to” really captures what Paul is attempting to communicate. Paul certainly has the Hebraic construction in mind since there is no direct equivalent for this idiom in Greek. If we think of the way the Hebrew is used, we realize that Paul’s expression is closer to the Hebraic phrase used in “the word of the Lord came to.” As we know, the actual Hebrew verb in this introduction to prophetic utterance is hayah, not bo’ (to bring, to come). In other words, the message from God was manifest in the prophet. It did not arrive. It arose.
Now let’s apply this Hebraic understanding to Paul’s statement about the Gentiles. The blessing of Abraham (we have yet to determine what that is) is manifest (is brought into being) in the Gentiles. When we see the Hebraic background, we recognize that the passive nuance of “comes to” is tempered by the Hebraic “is manifest in.” To be brought into being, to be manifest requires participation by both parties, the one who initiates and the one who cooperates; while the phrase “comes to” does not require any responding action on the part of the recipient. The blessing of Abraham is manifest in the Gentiles for the same reason Abraham experienced righteousness before YHWH. Abraham trusted God’s promise and it was counted as rightouesness. Wouldn’t we expect the same active trust on behalf of the Gentiles?
The context for this verse must include the prior verse. Why has the blessing of Abraham (the imputation of righteousness) been birthed in the Gentiles? Look at verse 13. Because Yeshua has redeemed us (both Jew and Gentile) from “the curse of the Law.” Set aside your previous interpretation that Paul is saying the Law itself is the curse. That is the mistaken position of replacement theology. If that were true, then it would be impossible to explain why Paul continued to be Torah-observant (as did the other disciples) or why he would often claim that the Law is holy and good. What Paul means (in typical Hebraic parlance) is that the Law delineates the curse for all those who fail to observe it. The Law contains both the way of life and the way of death. Those who fall short of its standard will experience its curse.
But Yeshua’s sacrifice has set aside the curse that would have inevitably fallen on all of us as sinner under the Law. Just as Abraham was accounted righteous because He trusted God to provide, so we are accounted righteous when we trust Yeshua to provide.
Notice how Paul closes this verse. “that we might receive the promise of the Spirit.” Did you see the pronoun “we?” Both Jew and Gentile depend on Yeshua’s sacrifice in order that the Spirit becomes operative in the lives of believers. We might even say that Paul implies the manifestation of the blessing in the Gentiles is the basis for all to receive the promise of the Spirit. In other words, Jews need Gentiles as much as Gentiles need Jews. Gentiles need Abraham and the Jews in order to participate in God’s redemptive plan and Jews need Gentiles in order to participate in God’s ultimate purpose. The Jewish destiny cannot be fulfilled without the manifestation of Abraham’s blessing among the Gentiles. The Gentiles cannot experience fellowship with YHWH, Israel’s God, without entering into the covenant relationship established with the Jews. The promise of the Spirit doesn’t arrive until both conditions are fulfilled.
Topical Index: come to, hayah, manifest in, blessing of Abraham, Galatians 3:14