Pauline studies | Galatians 3 Bible study

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Chapter 3

Justified by Faith.

1.   O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified?


Note that Paul does not call the Galatians fools, this would have been contrary to the teaching of Jesus (Matt. 5:22) where the word Raca means worthless. He says that they are foolish, being silly or senseless in not obeying the truth of the Gospel that was given them when they first believed that Christ was Crucified in order to reconcile them to God (Rom. 5:10). He further asks them who has "bewitched them", that is, who has cast a spell over them that they should be so deceived.


2 - 5.   This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?—    Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?   Have you suffered so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain?   Therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?


In these verses he asks them a series of questions in order to bring them back to their senses. Was it by keeping the law that you received the Holy Spirit or did you receive Him by faith?  Their response should have been that they received the Holy Spirit by faith.  Are you really so senseless and stupid to believe that received anything from God except by faith? You began your new life spiritually, you were born again of the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the works of the flesh?   Their answer should be that it is by the work of regeneration by the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5). Have you  suffered so much persecution and had such great experiences for nothing, if in fact it was for no purpose ? Does Jesus Christ who gave the Holy Spirit and who works mighty miracles among you do so on the grounds that you are fulfilling the law, or is it by faith?   Again their answer should have been by faith alone.  


6.   Just as Abraham "believed god, and it was accounted to him for righteousness."


He uses the illustration of  God's promise to Abraham to bring home the point that it is not by the works of the law but by faith we are saved (Eph. 2:8). It was because Abraham believed the promise of God that his faith was credited to him as righteousness, he was justified by faith (Gen. 15:4-6).


7.   Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham.


It is only those who live by faith can be called the true sons of Abraham (Rom. 4:16).


8.   And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, "In you all the nations shall be blessed."


In Genesis 12:3 God foretold that His plan and purpose was to justify the Gentiles by faith in His Son. In giving Abraham this promise God was making known to him the Gospel message in advance.


9.   So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham.


What is the conclusion then of this heading? Those who are people of faith are made happy and favoured by God along with the believing and trusting Abraham.


The Law Brings a Curse.


10.   For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, "cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them."


The Law which God gave to Moses is righteous (Rom. 9:31) how then can it bring a curse?  (Deut. 27:26). Because the law has to be kept  completely, if a man fulfil all the law but fails in one small point then he is cursed (James 2:10).  


11.  But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for "the just shall live by faith."


There is no man who has ever lived who has kept every point of the Law except the man Christ Jesus.  God's own word states that no one is justified by the law for it declares "the just shall live by faith" (Hab. 2:4).  


12.   Yet the law is not of faith, but "the man who does them shall live by them."


The Law has nothing to do with faith, for the law itself says that whoever does the things laid down by the law shall live by them (Lev.18:5).


13.   Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, "cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree").


This is not only the key verse for the chapter but also the whole point of Paul's letter to the Galatians. Since no man has been able to keep the whole law then every one is under the curse of the law. Jesus Christ came into the world to fulfil the law and to become a curse for us (Deut. 21:23) and to redeem us back to God (Titus 2:14).


14.   That the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.


In receiving Jesus Christ as Saviour the promise of blessing given to Abraham comes upon the Gentiles. So that by faith the Gentiles might receive the promise of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:33).


The Unchangeable Promise.


15.   Brethren, I speak in the manner of men: Though it is only a man's covenant, yet if it is confirmed, no one annuls or adds to it.


Paul uses here an illustration from life. If a man makes an agreement or a will and it is confirmed by witnesses  then according to the man made law nothing can be done to alter it neither can anything be added or taken away from it.


16.   Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, "And to seeds," as of many, but as of one, "and to your seed," who is Christ.


The promises that God gave was to Abraham and his "Seed", not "seeds". That is, it was not given to all his offspring but to one in particular and that Seed is Jesus Christ.


17.   And this I say, that the law, which was four hundred and thirty years later, cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ, that it should make the promise of no effect.


The Law was given to Moses 430 years after God had given His promises to Abraham, therefore he did not receive them by keeping the law. When the law was given it did not alter or cancel the promises concerning the coming of Christ. It did not abolish, overrule, the promise.


18.   For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no longer of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise.


If the promise of justification by faith through Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit depends on keeping the law it can no longer be a promise.   How then are we justified - by the law or by faith ?  Answer:


Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law. (Rom. 3:28 NKJVTM)


The Purpose of the Law.


19.   What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator.


The Law was given because of sin and was to remain in force until the Lord Jesus Christ would come according to the promise that was given by God. The Law came through the angels and Moses as the mediator between God and the Israelites (Deut. 33:2). The purpose of it was to reveal sin and that  all are sinners.


20.    Now a mediator does not mediate for one only, but God is one.


A mediator, that is a go-between a reconciler, intercessor, has to do with more than one person. There can be no mediator with just one party, there has to be at least two. But there is only One God and One mediator between God and man, Jesus Christ (1 Tim. 2:5).


21.   Is the law then against the promises of God? Certainly not! For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law.


Is the Law opposed to the promise of God? Certainly not! For if there had been a  Law that could impart spiritual life, then righteousness would  have certainly come by the Law.  


22.  But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.


The Word of God has declared that "all have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23). But for those who believe and receive the promise through faith in Jesus Christ there is deliverance, salvation.


23.   But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed.


Before Christ came the Law guarded us, kept us in protective custody, until the Saviour should come.  


24.  Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.


The Law acted as a schoolteacher, as a guardian and a guide to Christ until He should come an that through His atoning death upon the cross we might be justified by faith.


25.   But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.


Now that Christ has come, faith in Him has brought us into the freedom of sons of God who and we no longer need the law as our guardian.


Abba, Father - Sons and Heirs.          


26 - 27. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. (NKJVTM)  


When we believe in Jesus Christ, our relationship change: toward God, we become His children; toward those who differ from us (Gal. 3:28); and towards God's people (Gal. 3:29). We are baptised into the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13) by the Holy Spirit, and we become part of His body. This does not refer to the baptism in water, but to our inclusion in the body of Christ by the Holy Spirit.  


28. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.


Our relationship with those who differ to us - different nationality, class, sex no longer prevent us from having a loving fellowship with each other in Christ. For we are all equal, all one, in Christ. These barriers are broken down which are the cause of hate, envy, etc in the world.


29. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to the promise.


Our relationship with God's people - belonging to Christ and being of Abraham's seed (as the father of the faithful) we have taken our place in the family of God, we are brothers and sisters in Christ. As such we are spiritual heirs together of the promise (Rom. 4:11-12).


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