Introduction: In this chapter Paul is showing the contrast between the works of the law (trying to obey them) and faith in Jesus Christ. The natural way of thinking was that one had to do something to get right with God. The Jews thought it was through obeying the Law (the Law of Moses or the first 5 books of the Old Testament). They thought that in this way they could be pleasing to God.
However we see in this chapter that the purpose of the Law was not to point to itself as the way for acceptance with God. Rather the law was meant to point people away from itself to Jesus as the One in whom acceptance could be found with God, Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. So chapter 3 is all about the inadequacy of the law. It was good but had no power of itself to help people become “good” in the sight of God. It is also about the sufficiency of what God has done for us in Christ to enable humans to be right in His sight (to be saved in and through Him.)
3:1-5. Questions Paul Asked Of The Galatians To Illustrate Their Foolishness. They had turned back to rely on good works
Question 1). “How come you are being foolish in turning away from God? Are you under some hypnotic spell? The truth is that Jesus Christ died on a cross to save you. The law can’t save you!” (1) O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. (They were trusting in having the law, and in trying to obey the commands God had given them. But they were not continuing to trust in Jesus who had fulfilled those words for ever.)
Question 2). “How did you receive the Holy Spirit? Was it while you were trying to obey the law or was it when you heard the gospel message and put your trust in Jesus Christ for salvation?” (2) Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? They knew the answer. It was when they heard the gospel message and trusted in Christ that they received the gift of the Holy Spirit. Paul was saying loudly to them in this epistle, “Wake up! Remember how you began your faith-journey!”
Question 3). “Why are you continuing to be so foolish? You began a new life when you believed the gospel message and the Spirit of God came into your lives. Are you forgetting all about that and trying to go back to obeying the law in order to be right with God?” (3) Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? What they were now doing made no sense. (The Spirit had brought them life. Why would they go back to relying on their own efforts and reject the efforts of Christ for them on the cross?)
Question 4). “You initially suffered persecution when you first became believers, so why turn away from your faith in Christ now? Surely your stand for Christ will not be in vain!” (4) Did you suffer so many things in vain–if indeed it was in vain? (Suffering for one’s faith in Christ can either be seen as a pain or a privilege! The Galatians needed to be reminded of the privilege of belonging to Christ even if it brought them pain.)
Question 5). “Here’s another question for you to answer. When you heard the gospel message about Jesus and trusted in Him, God poured out His Spirit on you. He did miraculous signs among you by the power of the Holy Spirit. Did God do that in your midst because you were trying to obey the law, or was it that you put your trust in Christ.” It was the latter obviously! (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–
The questions were asked to get the Galatians to reconsider what Christ had done for them through His sacrificial death on their behalf. It was also to get them to reconsider what He had continued to do in their midst as a community of faith. Answering the questions correctly should bring them back to being a people with a living faith in Christ and not revert to doing dead works apart from Christ. That was Paul’s purpose in writing to them.
3:6-10. Illustrations To Show That Getting Right With God Comes Through Faith In Christ. It was not by trying to obey the works of the law
1). The example of Abraham. He trusted God. (Seen in his ongoing trust in God and also in his willingness to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice.) (6) just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”?
2). The example of the sons of Abraham.These were present-day believers in Galatia who were sons of Abraham in the sense that they had faith in God like their father in the faith, Abraham did. (7) Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham.
3). The Scriptures predicted that the Gentiles could receive the blessing God promised to Abraham. The blessing was the gift of the Holy Spirit they received when they believed. (8) And 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.”(9) So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. Jews and Gentiles come the same way to God, through faith in Jesus. God had predicted that blessing for the Gentiles in His dealings with Abraham. The Gentile believers in Galatia had been the recipients of a promise from God.
4). Trying to obey the law to get right with God doesn’t help one little bit. Instead of bringing blessing from God it places one under a curse. The curse is the penalty pronounced by the law itself. Some friend! The penalty is that arising from the failure to obey the law perfectly. No one can obey the “all things” perfectly. (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.” There was another way that brought a blessing and not a curse. His name was Jesus!
3:11-16. The Short-Comings Of The Law Compared With Christ
1). The law can save no one. Christ can. You can only be righteous in the sight of God by putting your trust in Christ and not through trying to obey the law. Then you have to live by faith in Him. (11) Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.”
2). The law curses those who don’t obey it perfectly. (12) But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” (As James wrote, to fail in one point of the law is to be guilty of breaking the whole law, to become a law-breaker.)
3). Christ set us free from the curse by bearing the curse for us. (The curse we brought on ourselves by trying to obey the law perfectly and failing to do so.) (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”— (Jesus bore the curse for us.)
4). It is Christ who brings the promise of Abraham to those who trust in Him. The promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit to those who believe. (14) so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith. (Jew and Gentile believers receive the same promise of God, the gift of the Spirit through faith in Christ).
5). The law couldn’t bring the promises of the covenant to people. Only Christ could do so as the promised “offspring” of Abraham. (15) 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.(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. (The promise is in Him alone.)
3:17-29. THE POSITIVE PURPOSE OF THE LAW. Why God gave it!
The law God gave is not bad! It told people how they needed to behave in a way that was glorifying to their Creator God and also beneficial to their fellow humans. But it had a deficiency.
- The law pointed out the way to live but gave people no help in doing it. If they tried to obey the “good” law, it condemned them for not obeying it perfectly. (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.
- Well why did God give a law to obey if He knew we were incapable of obeying it? It was to make us realise that our attempts to obey the law would always fail, so we had to look for another way of getting right with God. (22) But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. (When humans fail to obey the holy law of God in any part it highlights the sinfulness of human sin. It shows that one is imprisoned in sin as a sinner. The promise however comes to those who put their trust in Christ.)
- That’s where the gospel message about Jesus comes in. He is that other way to which the law pointed. The real way. The only way. He came as the sinless Son of God and fulfilled the requirements of the law in two ways.
- i). He fulfilled what the law required by obeying it perfectly in the life He lived. The law had now been fulfilled by a human. It meant that no other human needed to live a perfect life as a means of getting right with God. They couldn’t anyway! 22) But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. 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.
- ii). He fulfilled the requirements of the law by bearing the curse for every failure of the human race throughout eternity to do what the law required. In other words He died to take away the sin of the world and bear in Himself the penalty those sins had incurred. 13) Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us— (Redemption is secured when a satisfactory death takes place to release those who are bound. That’s what Jesus did for all sinners by His death.)
- Now people could get right with God through receiving the gift God had given them. The gift of His Son. In receiving Christ by believing in Him, they also received the promised Holy Spirit. In doing so they were receiving the blessing God had promised Abraham, that through his seed [singular, meaning Jesus] all the nations of the world would be blessed. We know that was initially fulfilled on the day of Pentecost as the promised Holy Spirit fell on those from many nations. The falling of the Holy Spirit on the Gentiles who believed continued throughout Acts and will continue for ever for those who believe.
- Those who have faith in Christ are united as one in Him. They are the children of Abraham, heirs of the promise [of the Holy Spirit]. (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 nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (They are one in the Spirit. The same Spirit indwells them).
- The final verse sums it all up. No one can get right with God by trying to obey the law of God. It needs a perfect score! It is impossible. But God gave a promise to Abraham that all the nations of the world would be blessed. It would be through Abraham’s seed [singular]. Jesus was that seed. The blessing came as they put their trust in Jesus, the seed of Abraham, and received the new life by the Holy Spirit of God. In so doing they became fellow heirs in the family of God. 29) And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. Jesus the Saviour for all who believe!
Blog No.088. Jim Holbeck. Posted on Saturday 01September 2012