Galatians 3


Galatians 3:1-6

O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. 2Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? 3Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? 4Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? 5Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith— 6just as Abraham "believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness"?

Paul asks a rhetorical question, "Who has bewitched you?" (Galatians 3:1).  The word "bewitched" is used to emphasize to the Galatians that to follow such a teaching is similar to being led by an evil spirit; like practicing witchcraft.  He reminds them that the message they received from him was Christ and him crucified (see I Corinthians 2:2; remember Galatians 1:6-9), not a gospel filled with commands about keeping the Law of Moses.  The next several verses ask a series of questions to make these Christians think about the significance of accepting a gospel based on works: 

  • "Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?" (Galatians 3:2).  Paul knew what their response should be – he had taught them.  From the beginning of the church, the Holy Spirit was promised to believers who "repent and be baptized" (Acts 2:37-38).  He reminded the Thessalonians that, "our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction" (I Thessalonians 1:5).  He reminded the Corinthians that, "there are a variety of gifts, but the same Spirit" (I Corinthians 12:4).  He knew that it was impossible to know the gospel and not know about the Holy Spirit (see Acts 19:1-7).

 

  • "Are you so foolish?  Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?" (Galatians 3:3).  Since he knew what the answer to the first question should be, and he expected that answer, he asks them to think about the consequences of the false teaching: They had received salvation when they had believed and followed Jesus.  Would it make sense that after receiving salvation and the Holy Spirit, they should submit to Jewish customs such as circumcision as a part of salvation?  The answer, of course, is that they would be foolish to do so!

 

  • "Did you suffer so many things in vain- if indeed it was in vain?" (Galatians 3:4).  To understand the tumult and suffering that they endured to become Christians, read Acts 13:13-14:24.  Paul, himself was stoned and left for dead in one of their cities (Acts 14:19-20).  Paul did not have to remind them that the suffering they did was at the hands of Jews who now want them to continue to practice the law (see Acts 14:2 and 19 as examples).

 

·      "Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith - just as Abraham 'believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness?'" (Galatians 3:5-6).  They had seen Paul perform miracles (Acts 14:3) and had received the Spirit from God through Paul's preaching, not through the law.  This was one more reason why they should accept salvation on the basis of faith, not on the basis of the Law of Moses.

 

Galatians 3:7-9

Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. 8And 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." 9So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

After asking this set of questions, Paul is ready to go to the Scriptures for answers to questions concerning the keeping of the Law.  He will use three examples, all involving the individual that most Jews looked upon as the most important father in their lineage, that is Abraham.  Paul's first point is: "Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham" (Galatians 3:7).  This concept was totally foreign to the Jews.  Their belief was that being able to trace the family tree was the important thing.  Paul contradicts this and says it is faith!  John the Baptist had warned the Jews of this line of reasoning (Matthew 3:9).  Paul regularly talked about its fallacies  (see Romans chapters 2 and 4, I Corinthians 11:18-22, Philippians 3:4-8).  He quotes the Old Testament to show them that, "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'" (Galatians 3:8-9).  The quote Paul uses is from Genesis 12:3.  He went right to the heart of the Judaizing teachers' belief system: Father Abraham and Moses' writings! His conclusion:  "So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith" (Galatians 3:9).

Galatians 3:10-14

For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, "Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them." 11Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for "The righteous shall live by faith." 12But the law is not of faith, rather "The one who does them shall live by them." 13Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree"— 14so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.

Paul's second argument is, "all who rely on works of the law are under a curse" (Galatians 3:10).  His proof of this?  "For it is written, 'Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all the things written in the Book of the Law, and do them'" (Galatians 3:10).  This quotation is from Deuteronomy 27:26, again quoting Moses.  Another quote to confirm his position, "Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for 'The righteous shall live by faith'" (Galatians 3:11) is from Habakkuk 2:4. The difference, he says, is that "the law is not of faith, rather 'The one who does them shall live by them" (Galatians 3:12, see Leviticus 18:5).  The good news is that "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us" (Galatians 3:13).  He did this by dying on the cross, or as Deuteronomy 21:23 states, "Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree."  The conclusion of his second argument is, "so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith" (Galatians 3:14).  This is diametrically opposed to salvation through the law!

Galatians 3:15-18

To give a human example, brothers: even with a man-made covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been ratified. 16Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, "And to offsprings," referring to many, but referring to one, "And to your offspring," who is Christ. 17This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. 18For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.

To illustrate the third point about Abraham, Paul uses the example of a covenant made between two individuals.  His point is, "even with a man-made covenant, no one annuals it or adds to it once it has been ratified" (Galatians 3:15).  And the same holds true of promises made by God.  "Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring.  It does not say, 'And to offsprings,' referring to many, but referring to one, 'And to your offspring,' who is Christ" (Galatians 3:16).  [An aside to the major point under discussion has to do with inspiration.  That is, that to Paul, the Bible is so accurately inspired that an argument can be made from the use of singular or plural.  The student is encouraged to study the section on "The Bible" found in the "Questions"  part of this web site.]  The major point is, "This is what I mean: the law which came 430 years afterward, does not annual a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void" (Galatians 3:17).  The inheritance could either come by the law or by the promise, but not both.  If you want it God's way, it came by promise to Abraham (Galatians 3:18).

Galatians 3:19-23

Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary. 20Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one.

21Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. 22But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.

23Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 

This understanding of the promise as coming from Abraham and not through the law could Traise some questions.  Paul anticipates and answers two of them:

"Why then the law?" (Galatians 3:19).  Some might believe that Paul is saying that the law didn't have a purpose.  That was not Paul's point.  The answer is, "It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made" (Galatians 3:19b).  Or as Paul told the Romans, "If it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin.  I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, 'You shall not covet'" (Romans 7:7b).  So the law had a purpose and it was to last until Christ came.

"Is the law then contrary to the promises of God?"  (Galatians 3:21).  Paul's emphatic answer is, "Certainly not!  For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law" (Galatians 3:21b).  Since it could not give life, it "imprisoned" us (Galatians 3:22-23).

Galatians 3:24-29

So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise.

Paul describes the purpose of the law by saying, "So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith" (Galatians 3:24).  This is a further answer to the question Paul had asked in Galatians 3:19, “Why then the law?”  The word "guardian" is a descriptor of a caretaker of a child and is translated "guide" in I Corinthians 4:15.  While the law was a guardian, by contrast, "in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith" (Galatians 3:26).  Those who are Christians have given up the guardian or caretaker and have been adopted as sons of God.  According to Paul, this allows us to cry out to God, "Abba, Father!" and to be an heir of God and fellow heir with Christ (see Romans 8:12-17).  Being children of God is one of the great blessings of being "in Christ."  For more information on the blessings of being "in Christ," see Romans 8:1, II Corinthians 5:17, Ephesians 1:3, 4:32, Colossians 1:13-14, II Timothy 2:10, I John 5:11 and Revelation 14:13.  The student may also look at notes on Ephesians 1:3 in the Ephesians course.  Paul explains that the way we get into Christ is to be "baptized into Christ" (Galatians 3:27, also Romans 6:3-4).  Those who have been baptized into Christ have "put on Christ" (Galatians 3:27b), thus becoming recipients of His blessings.  This illustration might best be seen through the eyes of one who is standing with nothing on.  That person is seen as he/she really is.  For those who have been baptized into Christ, they have put on Christ, thus they look like him.  When God looks at such individuals, He does not see their nakedness, but the clothing of Christ.  What a beautiful picture of salvation!  When this happens, God does not see us by all the earthly designations that tend to be made.  Rather, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28).  God sees us looking like Christ.  Oh, that we could learn the lesson to see things as God does!  The promise that comes with this life in Christ: "And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise" (Galatians 3:29).  So the ones who have Abraham for their father are those who live a life of faith, not those who can trace their ancestry back through the generations.

 

 

 

 

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