Saturday, June 16, 2007


3:1-5 By Faith, or by Works of the Law?

O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. 2 Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by [1] the flesh? 4 Did you suffer [2] so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? 5 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—

Paul now applies his argument personally to the Galatians to develop it in more detail. He calls them foolish, as if they were gullible or unperceptive. He is astonished that they could be fooled or tricked into believing something contrary to what they had been taught.

He said Christ had been publicly portrayed to them as crucified. Why is that relevant? It is relevant because he preached to them that Christ died to pay the penalty of their sins and they were saved by faith in him, not by their own works. Paul is saying, knowing that Christ was crucified for your sins to accomplish your salvation, how can you now be fooled into thinking you can be righteous by your own works. He went on in verse 2 to put this in terms of their personal experience. He asked them “did you receive the Spirit by works or by believing in Christ (hearing in faith).

This is a rhetorical question, they were saved by faith. So, he goes on. If you began in the faith by the Spirit, can you now go forward by works? Have the rules changed? When he says “receive the Spirit”, he is again referring to salvation, which is when the believer receives the Holy Spirit. For example, Peter, in Acts 2:38, said “38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Ephesians 1:13 says “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit”.

God gave them the Spirit, and worked miracles among them, as a gift in response to their faith, not because they earned it or worked for it or observed the right rituals.

3:6-9 The Witness of Abraham

6 just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”?
7 Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify [3] the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” 9 So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

For the Jews, the authority and example of Abraham is all important. They consider him the father of their race and religion. So, Paul used him as an example that Abraham was made righteous, saved if you will, by faith. He believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness.

For the Gentiles among the Galatians, Abraham is also important, because it was Jewish Christians who were claiming the Gentiles needed to observe the law to become Christians. If their founder was made righteous by faith, their argument had to fail.

When Paul wrote that Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness, he is quoting Genesis 15:6. Abraham believed God’s promise that he would have a son and God counted it to him as righteousness.

Paul made the same argument in Romans 4:1-5. He said:

“What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.”

Abraham’s faith and God’s crediting it as righteousness happened before the advent of circumcision, which was given in Genesis 17. Remember it is circumcision and the other requirements of the law the Jewish Christians wish to impose on the Galatians. Again, Romans 4 deals with the same issue. In Romans 4:9-12, Paul wrote:

9 Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. 10 How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. 11 He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well, 12 and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.

Paul goes on to extend the application of faith. He said, since Abraham was justified by faith, the children of Abraham are not his physical descendants, but those who have faith in God. This, I think, also has great implications for those who claim that modern day Israel is still the chosen race and the covenant children of Abraham.

Paul goes further. He says the Old Testament scripture specifically included the Gentiles in the promise of faith, way back to the time Moses wrote the first books. (God, of course, included them all along and revealed it to Abraham.) In verse 8, Paul said the Scripture, which would be the Old Testament in this case, foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith. It preached the gospel to Abraham by saying all nations will be blessed in you. So, God revealed to Abraham that, not only was he justified by faith, but the Gentiles would be brought into the kingdom also by faith. So, Abraham truly became the father of a great multitude, because he was the father of all who believed and were credited with righteousness.

We don’t become righteous because of our works. Righteousness is credited to us through faith in Christ. Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us. This is justification. Romans 4:22 says:

That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” 23 But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, 24 but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, 25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification

3:10-14 The Righteous Shall Live by Faith

10 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.” 11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” [4] 12 But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” 13 Christ 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”— 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit [5] through faith.

The problem with trying to keep the law is that you have to abide by all the law or you fall under the curse of the law. Paul is quoting Deuteronomy 27:26. In fact the purpose of the law was to reveal sin and judge the guilty, not to justify or acquit them. God did not give the law in anticipation that men would obey it fully and be justified, then change course when they didn’t and send Christ. In fact, with the law, God gave requirements for sacrifices that would atone for sin.

We know we have all sinned. Therefore, we are all under the curse of the law. Death and separation from God follow from sin. God set out the specifics of the curse in Deuteronomy 28 as it applied to Israel. By the time of Christ, and then Paul, the Jews felt the weight of that curse. They were captives in their own land, completely in subjugation to the pagan Romans. Eventually, the Romans would destroy their country and their temple. Deuteronomy 28:49-51 said:

49 The Lord will bring a nation against you from far away, from the end of the earth, swooping down like the eagle, a nation whose language you do not understand, 50 a hard-faced nation who shall not respect the old or show mercy to the young. 51 It shall eat the offspring of your cattle and the fruit of your ground, until you are destroyed; it also shall not leave you grain, wine, or oil, the increase of your herds or the young of your flock, until they have caused you to perish.

But, in verse 13, Paul said Christ redeemed us from this curse by becoming the curse. He died for us, in our place, taking our sins and our curse upon him.

Isaiah 53:6 put it this way: All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Romans 3:23-25 says: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.

John 1:16-17 says And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

So, by faith, the blessing of Abraham, justification, came to the Gentiles by faith and we receive the Holy Spirit when we believe. This is what the Lord demonstrated through Peter, when he sent Peter to preach to Cornelius and those at his house. They believed the gospel and were saved. Acts 10:44-48 says:

44 While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. 45 And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. 46 For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, 47 “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days.

3:15-18 The Law and the Promise

15 To give a human example, brothers: [or brothers and sisters] even with a man-made covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been ratified. 16 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. 17 This 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. 18 For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.

Paul makes the point in verse 15 that a covenant lasts forever. It is not annulled or changed once it has been made. He said even a man made covenant is this way, meaning that, if it is that way with men, it is more so with God. If God makes a covenant, he keeps it. The covenant cannot be changed.

Now, skip to verse 17, because verse 16 is a sort of parenthetical statement on another topic and we’ll deal with that in a minute. Verse 17 applies to principle stated in verse 15 to the covenant God made with Abraham and the law. God made a covenant with Abraham and it cannot be modified or changed in any way and it lasts forever. The law came after this promise, but it did not annul the promise of covenant God made with Abraham or make the covenant void.

In verse 18, Paul said the inheritance promised to Abraham does not come by the law, but by the promise, God’s promise. God promised Abraham, or set the terms of a covenant with Abraham, in Genesis 12:3, that he would bless all nations or families of the earth in him (Abraham). Abraham believed God, or that God would do what he said, and God credited that belief to Abraham as righteousness. Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:18-22.

400 years later, God gave the law to Israel through Moses. The giving of the law did not annul the promise to or the covenant with Abraham. Remember, Paul said the covenant could not be modified or annulled. So, despite the giving of the law, the promise or covenant with Abraham continued undiminished.

Now, go back to verse 16. Paul says the covenant or promise was given to Abraham and his offspring, and that offspring was Christ. The offspring, the recipient of the promise in addition to Abraham, was not the Jews, but Christ. Paul is telling the Jews their thinking is wrong. The Abrahamic covenant is not going to be fulfilled in the Jews as a nation, but in Christ.

You can see this even more clearly if you relate it to Genesis 3:15. After the Fall, God promised Eve that a savior would come from her that would defeat Satan. That savior is Christ. He would come through the line of Abraham, as God promised Abraham in Genesis 12:3.

This is all relevant to Paul’s contention that the Gentiles did not have to become Jews and observe the law to become part of God’s family. The Jews believed that the promises to Abraham would be fulfilled in the Jews, so you had to become a Jew to become part of the covenant family. But, Paul said no, the promises are fulfilled in Christ, so you only have to become part of Christ to become part of God’s family. The entrance to God’s family is not through the Jews, it is through Christ. John 1:12 tells us this also: But as many as received him, to them he gave the right to become the children of God, to those who believed in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

John the Baptist even warned the Jews not to think that, because they were physical descendants of Abraham, that they would be saved. In Matthew 3:7-9, we hear John’s sermon to them. It says “7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.”

So, you ask, why then did God give the law? And, as usual, Paul anticipated that would be the next question, so he answered it beginning in verse 19.

3:19 The Purpose of the Law

19 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. 20 Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one.

The law was added because of transgressions. I think that means God gave the law to define sin and set before men and women his standards of righteousness. In Romans 7:7, Paul said “I would not have known sin except through the law.” (NKJV) God had chosen Israel, called them and redeemed them from slavery. They had lived for years in the midst of the pagan Egyptians. God said I have called you out of that and redeemed you and this is how you are to live. He gave them the law as a covenant. He would be their God and they would live according to his standards. If they did, he would bless them. If they did not, he would punish them.

The giving of the covenant of the law was not to replace the covenant of grace that God made with Abraham, promising to bless all nations through him. It was subordinate to it. It was subordinate in two ways: first, it was given to the Jews through an intermediary, Moses, and by angels, not from God directly, whereas God made the covenant with Abraham directly; second, it was temporary, compared to the permanent covenant of grace. Verse 19 tells us the law would only exist until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, Jesus. Once Jesus came, the law would cease to exist as a covenant.

Remember, Paul said a covenant could not be annulled or added to. So, what makes a covenant go away or no longer apply? That happens when it is fulfilled. In Matthew 5:17, Jesus said he did not come to destroy the law but to fulfill it. Jesus fulfilled all the requirements of the law. He fulfilled all the types of the ceremonies.

3:21-22 Does the Law Overrule the Promise?

21 Is 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. 22 But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.

The law is not contrary to and does not overrule the promises. They have different purposes. The promise to Abraham and Christ, made before the law, is not overruled by the giving of the law. The promise came first and supercedes the law. The law came second. It was not designed to give eternal life. Paul says, if it had been designed for that, that is how we would obtain righteousness. Instead, the law prepared the law for the fulfillment of the promise. The law revealed sin and showed us that we all sin and are incapable of righteousness. It prepared us to believe Christ and to receive salvation and eternal life from him.

Again, Paul is showing the Jewish believers are wrong to force the law on the Gentile believers, for the law cannot give them life.

3:23-29 The Law Was the Guardian

23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave [7] nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise.

The law functioned as a guardian or custodian. I think this is a picture of the Greek pedagogue. He was usually a slave appointed by the parent to educate and care for the child until he was of age. When the child reached the age of adulthood, he was no longer under the care and discipline of the pedagogue.

When Christ came, we became sons through faith. We are no longer under the authority of the custodian, the law. We have “put on” Christ. Our righteousness is from him. We take off the garments of our sinful life and put on the garments of Christ’s righteousness. The sign of this sonship is baptism, not circumcision.

All believers are sons, or children of God. Within this family, there are no distinctions. The difference between Jew and Greek is obliterated. There is no reason for the Gentile to become a Jew, in the church there are no Jews, only sons. Likewise, there are no males and females. There are only sons, or children. We are all one in Christ. If we are Christ’s, we are, by definition, Abraham’s offspring, heirs to the promise of blessing. No one else gets the blessing, except those who are Christ’s.
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