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Galatians 3 (web)

Justification by the Law 
Justification by Faith

3:1 Foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you not to obey the truth,
before whose eyes Jesus Christ was openly set forth among you as crucified?

Didn't you receive the Spirit by Faith?

3:2 I just want to learn this from you. Did you receive the Spirit 3:3 Are you so foolish?
Having begun in the Spirit, are you now completed in the flesh?
3:4 Did you suffer so many things in vain, if it is indeed in vain?
3:5 He therefore who supplies the Spirit to you,
and works miracles among you, does he do it

Haven't you been justfied by faith like Abraham?

3:6 Even as Abraham "believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness." (Gen 15:6)

3:7 Know therefore that those who are of faith, the same are children of Abraham.
3:8 The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, "In you all the nations will be blessed." (Gen 22:18)
3:9 So then, those who are of faith are blessed with the faithful Abraham.

Are You Relying on the Law?

Summary Conclusion & Transition

Or are you under the New Covenant?

3:15 Brothers, I speak like men.
Though it is only a man's covenant,
yet when it has been confirmed, no one makes it void, or adds to it.
3:16 Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed.
He doesn't say, "To seeds," as of many,
but as of one, "To your seed," which is Christ. (Gen 17:7; 22:18)
3:17 Now I say this. A covenant confirmed beforehand by God in Christ, the law,
which came four hundred thirty years after, does not annul, so as to make the promise of no effect.
3:18 For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no more of promise;
but God has granted it to Abraham by promise.

Doesn't the Law serve a different purpose?

3:19 What then is the law?
It was added because of transgressions,
until the seed should come to whom the promise has been made.
It was ordained through angels by the hand of a mediator.

3:20 Now a mediator is not between one, but God is one.
3:21 Is the law then against the promises of God? Certainly not!
For if there had been a law given which could make alive,
most assuredly righteousness would have been of the law.
3:22 But the Scriptures shut up all things under sin,
that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.
3:23 But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law,
shut up to the faith which should afterwards be revealed.

3:24 So that the law has become our tutor to bring us to Christ,
that we might be justified by faith.

3:25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.


3:26 For you are all children of God, through faith in Christ Jesus.
3:27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man,
there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

3:29 If you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed and heirs according to promise.

Discussion Questions

How much and what kind of effort does it take to obtain justifcation (the forgiveness of your sins)?
What was the manner in which you received the Spirit?
Did you receive the Spirit because you obeyed Christ's commands?
What does it mean to be justfied by faith? (Romans 4:4,5)
Could "relying on observing the law" as be considered the same as relying on obedience to Christ's commands? (Gal 5:14)
Why is the living under the law like living under a curse?
What is the purpose of the law?
Has it served this purpose for you personally?
Do you reckon yourself to presently be a child of God, or are you working up to achieve that status?
If you are a child of God, then what is promised you?


Paul's Basic Argument in this Section

The Legal Implication of Christ's Death

Gal 3:1 You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified.

Eph 2: 14,15 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace

The barrier which divided were the regulations associated with the Law which kept Jew from Gentile. He "canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross." Col 2:14 and Paul goes on to say in Col 2:16 "Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day" These two ideas go hand in hand. Legalism died on the cross.

How did you receive the Spirit?

Gal 3:2-5 I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard?  Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?  Have you suffered so much for nothingó if it really was for nothing?  Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?

Paul presumes that they had received the Spirit. Afterall it says, "if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ." Rom 8:9 Once a person comes to faith in Christ he receives the Spirit. The point here is that the receiving of the Spirit is not a matter of ceremony or following certain rules and regulations. It's not even a matter of prayer, nor of wishful thinking. It's a matter of believing the gospel.

Paul says elsewhere, "As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him." Col 2:6 The way you're supposed to receive Christ is by faith and not by ceremony; not by following certain rules and regulations. And in the same manner you received Christ, so you're supposed to live - by faith.

By "human effort" Paul is referring to relying upon rituals to attain the goal. The observance of days, the eating or abstaining from certain foods, or even water baptism and communion - if people are relying on such things to achieve their goal, then they are caught up in legalism. It is not that rituals are bad, or even inappropriate. For some, such as water baptism and communion, are even commanded by the Lord. But the issue of legalism comes up when people rely upon the ceremonial aspects of these to confer some sort of grace or salvation.

Furthermore when Paul speaks of "faith" here obviously he is referring to faith in Christ and not faith in ceremonies or rituals. For indeed the Galatians were exercising "a faith" - but it was a faith in ceremonies and not a faith in Christ.

Our father Abraham's example

Gal 3:6-9
Consider Abraham: "He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness."  (Gen 15:6) Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: "All nations will be blessed through you."  (Gen 22:18) So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

Likewise Paul writes, "It was not through law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith." Rom 4:13

Note that even Gentile Christians are reckoned children of Abraham. Paul invokes Abraham's example again in Romans chapter 4 as a model for Christian faith. In saying this Paul reveals that there is no distinction between Jewish and Gentile believers, and so none should be made in the Christian community. What is relevant to salvation is not a person's cultural background but rather their faith in Christ.

Rom 4:16  Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all

Are You Relying on the Law?

Gal 3:10-12
All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law."  (Deut 27:26) Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, "The righteous will live by faith."  (Hab 2:4) The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, "The man who does these things will live by them."  (Lev 18:5)

Some are under the impression that people in the Old Testament and perhaps Jews today are justified by their obedience to the Law. But the Bible teaches that no one has ever been justified by obedience to the Law. And Paul even goes so far as to say that this fact is clearly evident. Justification has always been based upon faith and not upon law. This is not to say that there is not a lifestyle characteristic of faith. For indeed "The righteous will live by faith". If their lifestyle is inconsistent with their alleged faith, that is just evidence that they don't really believe. But faith in works is not faith in Christ. Faith in works for salvaiton is relying upon law for justification.

He became a curse

Gal 3:13
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree."  (Deut 21:23)

This verse along with 2Cor 5:21 are speaking of Christ's public reputation. It is not that the circumstances of one's death makes one accursed of God. But rather his reputation was marred in the public eye to the point of his enemies feeling justified in crucifying him, hanging him on a tree. Dying as a victim of unjustified suffering, Jesus paid for our sins. With regards to his pubic reputation Isaiah says, "He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted." Is 53:3,4 But while those Isaiah writes of regret misjudging Christ, those of a Reformed Theology hold to the idea that God reckoned Jesus a sinner, reckoning guilt to him, and that based upon crimes he did not actually commit. Jesus' enemies said of him, "We know this man is a sinner." John 9:24 They are mistaken on that point. But God, along with Jesus' cooperation, orchestrated events which would lead to his crucifixion, much of which was not very difficult. All you have to do is humiliate the religiously proud and they'll crucify you.

Those of a Reformed Theology tend to overlook God's judicial nature when they interpret scripture. But the Bible says in 2Th 1:6,7:

God is just:
1. He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you
2.  and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well.

The first principle is payback, which Liberal Theology ignores.
The second principle is is that God justly compensates victims of unjustified suffering, which Reformed Theology overlooks.

Since God justly compensates victims of unjustified suffering, so did Christ die as a innocent victim of unjustified suffering, being compensated for by paying for the sins of the world. In this case the two principles of justice nullified each other in the cross. In this way Christ atoned for sin, to satisfy God's judicial nature, cancelling our debt, whereas other theologies marginalize Godís judicial nature.

Blessings of Abraham to us

Gal 3:14
He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.

This is in contrast to being justified by law. The blessings promises Abraham were not conditioned upon law. Rather the promise to Abraham was given with the intention of applying it to Gentiles - those who were not under the ceremonial laws of Moses.

Secondly note that the promise is not simply salvation, or justification. Rather it incorporated the reception of the Holy Spirit. Only those who have received the Spirit belong to Christ. (Rom 8:9) The reception of the Spirit is based upon faith - not upon things like Baptism (as some today practice with regards to unbelieving infants). Nor, in the case of the Galatians, is reception of the Spirit contingent upon the circumcision commanded in the Law of Moses.

Two Covenants

Gal 3:15-18
Brothers, let me take an example from everyday life. Just as no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case. The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not say "and to seeds," meaning many people, but "and to your seed," meaning one person, who is Christ. What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise. For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on a promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise.

Notice how Paul's interpretation concerning "seed" depends upon a grammatical detail. This is the extent to which we can rely on the accuracy of the scriptures, where details matter. The singularity of the "seed" implies a singular category - namely those who are in Christ. For those Jews and Gentiles who are not in Christ, this covenant does not apply. "Commencing with Gen 3:15, the word "seed" is regularly used as a collective noun in the singular (never plural). This technical term is an important aspect of the promise doctrine, for Hebrew never uses the plural of this root to refer to "posterity" or "offspring." ... Thus the word designates the whole line of descendants as a unit, yet it is deliberately flexible enough to denote either one person who epitomizes the whole group (i.e. the man of promise and ultimately Christ), or the many persons in that whole line of natural and/or spiritual descendants." Theological Wordbook of the Old Testment, Moody Bible Institute of Chicago, 1980.

When did the Abrahamic covenant end? It never did. It was the covenant of grace applied to all believers up to the present day. Consider for example King David committed murder and adultery. Under the Law of Moses he was to be put to death. So under what agreement was he forgiven? While being under the curse of the Law, he was also under the covenant of grace. What is called "The New Covenant" is actually a fulfillment of the promise spoken to Abraham, and in this sense the New Covenant precedes the Old.

Thirdly note the concept of "precedent", a concept which is commonly used both by Jesus and the New Testament authors and is even applied in courts of law today. In this case with regards to salvation the precedent of the covenant of grace could not be overridden by the covenant of the law. That is, it was the promise of the imputation of  righteousness being  a function of faith was prior to the idea of salvation by works.

The Purpose of the Law 1

Gal 3:19,20
What, then, was the purpose of the law? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was put into effect through angels by a mediator. A mediator, however, does not represent just one party; but God is one.

So the covenant of law did not replace the covenant of grace, but rather was an addition. It was added to make us aware of our sin. For "through the law we become conscious of sin." Rom 3:20

Moses was the mediator of the Old Covenant while Christ was the mediator of the new.  "For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" 1Tim 2:5 "The ministry Jesus has received is as superior to  (the Levitical line of priests) as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, and it is founded on better promises." Heb 8:6 The New Covenant is founded upon promises given to Abraham which are superior to promises given in the law, as those in the law are performance-based instead of faith-based.

The Purpose of the Law 2

Gal 3:21,22
Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law.  But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.

Understand that the debate is over the issue of the means of salvation. The Law makes no provision for salvation - only that Moses describes in this way the righteousness that is by the law: "The man who does these things will live by them." (Lev 18:5) But there is no salvation from sin under the law - the sacrifices in the law only having to do with sins of ignorance and ceremonial matters. Thus while the law brings condemnation, it does not bring life. Life comes through the righteousness which is by faith. Thus one does not oppose the other, but complements the other.

"Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus." Rom 3:19-24

The Purpose of the Law 3

Gal 3:23-25
Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed.  So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.  Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law.

And we should allow the Law to lead people to Christ. Afterall that's it's purpose. Didn't the ministry of John the Baptist, preaching a baptism of repentance, precede Jesus? And didn't Jesus utilitize the Law in his own ministry to convict people of sin? And doesn't Paul start off his gospel in Romans convicting people of sin? If people are not convicted of sin, neither will they see or understand the relevance of the gospel of Christ to themselves. Like Paul said, "Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law." Rom 7:7  and "in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it produced death in me through what was good, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful." Rom 7:13 So let us not under utilize the law in leading people to Christ.

Belonging 1

Gal 3:26-27
You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

A person being born of God is preconditioned upon their putting their faith in Christ. Thus it says, "to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God." John 1:12

"Baptize" does not necessarily refer to water baptism. The word "baptize" simply means to immerse one thing into another. Thus Jesus said, "John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit." Acts 1:5 In the case here in Galatians 3:27 Christ is what people are being immersed into. To be baptized into Christ is to be immersed into Christ - belonging to him and inheriting the promise of Abraham given him.

Now if a person belongs to Christ, he should take on his character qualities. Paul writes, "We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life." Rom 6:4 The clothes are alluding to the works and attitudes of faith, like Peter said, "clothe yourselves with humility toward one another" 1Peter 5:5 and in Rev 19:8 "Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints." But Paul's main point here is that you all wear the same "uniform" - namely Christ. And therefore the next verse....

Belonging 2

Gal 3:28,29
There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abrahamís seed, and heirs according to the promise.

The Jewish legalists attempted to give Gentile Christians the sense that they were still outsiders - strangers to the promise, which in fact was the case prior to their becoming Christians as Paul himself wrote, "at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world." Eph 2:12 But Paul's point is that having become Christians they now do belong, as he said, "Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God." Eph 2:19

Because all Christians equally belong to Christ, regardless of cultural background, gender, social status or the like, the Christian community should be free of prejudice. The legalists may have been arguing that the Gentiles had to become Jews to become Christians. But the fact is that Christians are already Abraham's seed through faith - apart from the Law of Moses. In fact it is the Jewish legalists who are not Abraham's seed and are therefore disqualified from the promise.

Likewise there are alleged "Christians" today who will treat legitimate Christians as if they were still outside the body. Like there are those who may say of those who are not members of their particular denomination that they are not legitimate Christians.

The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources

Aug 18,2020