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Galatians 1-3 Listen
Introduction to Galatians
Around 50 A.D. or so, true Christianity was struggling with some vital questions. At first the church was a Jewish-only entity, but as Gentiles began to get saved, several questions needed answering: What about the Law of Moses? What part does it play in salvation? What about keeping the Law of Moses after salvation? What about salvation for the Gentiles who have never heard of nor kept the Law of Moses? The Book of Galatians deals with these questions. Within the boundaries of modern-day Turkey, Galatia was located approximately 400 miles northwest of Jerusalem across the Mediterranean Sea, although a 600 mile trip by foot north and then west would also get you there.
This is important. Galatians was written on the heels of the Jerusalem Council that is recorded in Acts 15 (see notes). You simply cannot get the proper perspective on the study of the Book of Galatians until you thoroughly understand the context, and that context is framed by the dispute and resolution at the Council of Jerusalem. The challenges faced there are completely resolved with the writing of this epistle...to some of the very same people about whom the dispute arose in the first place.
1 Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;)
2 And all the brethren which are with me, unto the churches of Galatia:
3 Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ,
4 Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father:
5 To whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Paul wastes no time setting the ground rules for his remarks in the Book of Galatians. In verse 1 he says, "Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;)" In other words, the content of this letter (Galatians) is a direct message ("apostle" means "messenger") from Jesus Christ/God, and is to be regarded as such. His own apostleship is a subject Paul later gives significant attention to in his writings to the Corinthians. For details on this issue, click here to read the notes on I Corinthians 9.
In verse 4 Paul refers to "this present evil world." The Greek noun used for world here is "aion" which is only translated "world" in the KJV in about 40% of its occurrences. Most commonly the word is to be understood in respect to time rather than location; in this case, the age or period of time in which they were all living is in view here as evidenced by the adjective "present." The question arises, "What made that age so evil?" The answer is to be found in Paul's later writing, II Corinthians 4:3-4 (see notes), "But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world [Greek: aion] hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them." In Ephesians 2:2 (see notes) Paul refers to Satan as "the prince of the power of the air." In other words, the source of evil in this world, then and now, is Satan.
It's not what Paul says in his greeting here that is so unusual, but rather what he does not say. In his other epistles to churches he mentions their faith in Jesus Christ in the introduction, but not to these churches. He simply says in verse 2, "...unto the churches of Galatia." Perhaps that is explained by verse 6 (see below); it appears that he may be purposely not commending them on their faith.
6 I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel:
7 Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.
8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.
9 As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.
10 For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.
The problem in Galatia was the presence and teaching of Judaizers from Jerusalem. These people insisted on adding various mixes of Judaism to salvation among the Gentiles. In their minds, salvation through Christ was an extension of the religion held by the Jews for hundreds of years. They believed that Judaism was the path to salvation in Christ. Paul had completely rejected this notion in his preaching to Gentiles. In fact, the Gospel message Paul had been preaching was one of salvation by grace alone through faith in Jesus Christ as one's personal savior - nothing added. Notice verse 6, "I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel." These Galatians were being bombarded by those who were preaching "another gospel" - a message that added works to getting and keeping salvation. Perhaps they had been influenced by this teaching to the point that Paul declined to commend them on their faith in his letter introduction.
There's an interesting distinction between two phrases in verses 6 and 7. The term "another gospel" of verse 6 is sharply contrasted to his warning in verse 7 where he says "Which is not another..." The Greek adjective for "another" in verse 6 is "heteros" i.e. another of a DIFFERENT kind. The underlying Greek word for "another" in verse 7 is "allos" i.e. another of the SAME kind. While it is difficult to make an absolute distinction in the two words when used independently, when used together (as they are here) Paul is indicating that the "another gospel" of verse 6 is an unacceptable salvation message as opposed to an acceptable variation in style that may sometimes be preached (verse 7). Let's explain it like this: These people were preaching a salvation message of a different ("perverted") kind rather than a slight variation of the acceptable gospel message.
Now notice the strong words of verses 8-9, "But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed." Gentiles do not come to Christ by first embracing Judaism. Those who preach that message are to be accursed. Whoa! Accursed? The Greek word is "anathema" - used twice in these two verses. It means "eternal damnation." Does Paul mean that literally for those Judaizing teachers? Let's put it like this: If you're teaching salvation by some other means rather than 100% grace, you've brought the curse upon yourself. Salvation is only by grace. Paul emphatically says that no one has the authority to preach another gospel that extends the conditions to salvation - not even angels - not even himself. The Gospel is what it is - a free gift of grace through faith in Jesus Christ - nothing more. Paul emphatically goes so far as to pronounce a curse on those who would distort the salvation message by adding works or law keeping to it.
Verse 10 contains a word on political correctness. You will recall that Paul's clear message of grace caused him continual problems among Jewish Believers - especially back in Jerusalem. The tendency of the early church was to provide a smooth transition from Judaism to Christianity; Paul was not adverse to that. His problem was the constant bombardment of Judaism on new Gentile Christians - first in Acts 15 (see notes) at the Jerusalem Council, then in Acts 21 (see notes) as he appeared before James and the Elders in Jerusalem again. As a matter of fact, the chief accusation against Paul in Acts 21 was that he had ceased teaching that the practice of Judaism among Jewish Believers was necessary to maintain favor with God after one's salvation experience. Let's face it; during this first-century transitional period, there was a great deal of confusion regarding the role of Judaism in Christianity. Paul was called by God to clarify this for everyone. The Book of Galatians does just that.
How did Paul come by this very clear Gospel? (Galatians 1:11-24)
11 But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man.
12 For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.
13 For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews’ religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it:
14 And profited in the Jews’ religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers.
15 But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace,
16 To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood:
17 Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus.
18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days.
19 But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord’s brother.
20 Now the things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not.
21 Afterwards I came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia;
22 And was unknown by face unto the churches of Judaea which were in Christ:
23 But they had heard only, That he which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed.
24 And they glorified God in me.
Some might question how Paul came by this revelation of the Gospel (grace without works) that he was preaching. Paul points out that he received it supernaturally from God, not from men in verses 11-12. His calling as an "Apostle of Jesus Christ" (verse 1, see above) gave him this authority. He then gives a word of personal testimony which extends into chapter 2. The purpose of this testimony is to validate that his Gospel message did not originate from the teaching of others, but came directly from God himself by revelation. He emphasizes that he was a very devout Jew prior to salvation, a point he also makes to the church at Philippi in Philippians 3:4-6 (see notes). Yet after God's personal training session, Paul was led to focus his ministry primarily on reaching Gentiles instead of Jews (the "heathen" of verse 16).
There's an interesting aspect to Paul's testimony in verses 11-15 that may not be immediately apparent. While Paul was excelling in the "Jews' religion" (verses 13 and 14), even going so far as to persecute those who were involved in the offshoot of Judaism (Christianity), he was actually building his resume for a credible ministry later on among those very Christians. He demonstrates that he views the whole of his Jewish experience as a necessity in God's training process when he declares that his calling to the Gospel ministry dates all the way back to when he was "separated" and "called" to this ministry in his "mother's womb" (verse 15). Paul was credible because of his extremely-Jewish background. Ironically, when Paul was persecuting Christians, he was preparing for his Gospel ministry.
We don't have a record in the Book of Acts regarding Paul's activity as specified in verse 17, but it would seem to fit with Acts 9:22-23 (see notes) where we see Paul ministering from Damascus. Paul's visit to Jerusalem in verse 18 would coincide with that of Acts 9:26-31 (see notes). His former running buddies, the Jews, tried to kill him on that visit. Welcome to Christianity, Paul! After that visit, in verses 21-22 Paul explains that he ministered away from Judea in Syria and Cilicia; that would probably have been on his way back to Tarsus as recorded in Acts 9:30 (see notes. The Christians in Judea only knew Paul by reputation, not by sight.
1 Then fourteen years after I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also.
2 And I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain.
3 But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised:
4 And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage:
5 To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.
6 But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man’s person:) for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me:
7 But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter;
8 (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:)
9 And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.
10 Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do.
Uncircumcision versus Circumcision
Circumcision was the procedure performed upon male Jewish children on the eighth day after birth, as specified to Abraham in Genesis 17:12 (see notes). Circumcision, from that point forward, became the identifying characteristic of those who enjoyed the divine benefits of God's covenant with Abraham. Thus, Jews are frequently referred to as those "of the circumcision" while Gentiles are those "of the uncircumcision."
Paul continues the description of where he had been and what revelations God had given him regarding grace versus law keeping. He points out that his Gentile sidekick, Titus, did not feel compelled to be circumcised as those Judaizers would have preferred. He acknowledges that the law message was not a message that he took to the Gentiles. The other apostles ministered to the Jews while Paul ministered to the Gentiles. Paul references his trip with Barnabas and Titus to Jerusalem. They make this journey around 49 A.D., and it is recorded in Acts 15 (see notes), although some scholars believe that, instead, this is the relief visit to Jerusalem found in Acts 11:27-30 (see notes). With the Acts 15 visit seeming more likely to be the reference here, at least 17 years have passed since Paul had gotten saved; for 14 of those years, Paul had been preaching the Gospel to primarily Gentiles. He summarizes this appearance in Jerusalem by simply saying in verse 9, "And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision."
Paul's mention of "false brethren" in verse 4 demonstrates the friction that existed regarding the preaching of the Gospel (without Law keeping) in those early days. We tend to believe that "false brethren" may be a reference to people without Christ. However, Paul is obviously talking about Judaizers who joined Paul's ministry under false pretenses - portraying they were endorsing Paul's message when they were actually just gathering evidence against him. They may have been misdirected Believers who were unclear regarding what part the Law of Moses should play in the lives of these new Gentile converts. As a matter of fact, Luke characterizes some of these Judaizing teachers in Acts 15:5 (see notes) when he reports, "But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses." They were Believers, but they were confused regarding the role of the Law of Moses in the salvation process.
11 But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed.
12 For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision.
13 And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation.
14 But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?
Paul cites a dispute between Peter and himself which took place in Antioch, 300 miles north of Jerusalem up in Syria. Peter, while visiting Paul, had acted a little hypocritical when Jews from the Jerusalem church showed up. The timing here is not certain, but it appears to be an incident which took place after the Jerusalem Council described in the preceding verses. Peter had been freely eating with the Gentile Believers with Paul until these Jewish visitors rolled in; then he withdrew from the Gentiles. Paul says of Peter on that occasion in Antioch in verse 11, "...I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed." Other Jews followed Peter's lead (verse 13), the hypocrisy of which disturbed Barnabas. Paul did not want to see the grace message compromised. Obviously many of the Jewish Christians still regarded Gentiles to be unclean. Paul sees a need to combat that notion. Verse 14 begins Paul's verbal reply on that occasion to Peter when he differentiates their experience (of Paul and Peter) from the Gentile Believers by saying, "We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles." That's the kickoff...next...the heavy-duty doctrine of grace without law. As a matter of fact, pay close attention to the usage of the pronouns "we/our" as opposed to the "you/your" in the remaining portion of this letter. Paul mentions the contrast between the Jewish salvation experience (of Paul and Peter) as opposed to the Gentile salvation experience by using these pronouns to do so...as he does so in the very next verse, verse 15.
15 We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles,
16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.
17 But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid.
18 For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.
19 For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God.
20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
21 I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.
Here's Paul's very specific pronoun usage I just mentioned at the end of the preceding paragraph above. In verse 15, Paul says, "We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles." He's comparing the Jewish pre-salvation experience of Peter and himself with that of the Gentiles who were not under the law prior to salvation. This "we" (Jews) versus "you" (Gentiles) comparison occurs numerous times in the next two chapters.
As Paul continues the account of his reply to Peter, here are some great verses regarding grace over law. Paul was adamant about this. I can't refrain from making a little prepositional distinction here...an important distinction. Notice verse 16 which says, "Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith OF Jesus Christ..." Also notice verse 20, "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith OF the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." In both verses the Greek genitive case of the noun is used rendering properly "of" instead of "in" as the proper preposition to precede it.
We're not justified because we muster up enough faith "in" Jesus as our Savior. Rather, when we choose to receive Christ as Savior, the "faith OF Christ" comes as part of that salvation package. Therefore, it's not the quality of OUR faith that makes us righteous before God, but rather the quality of Jesus' faith. Some translations have disregarded the genitive case and the concept taught here by translating these occurrences as "faith in Jesus Christ" in verse 16 and "faith in the Son of God" in verse 20. The usage of the preposition "in" makes the Greek preposition appear to be in the locative case. However, it is indisputably genitive and should be translated "of." To incorrectly translate these verses here with the word "in" would seem to indicate that the quality of one's faith in Jesus plays a part in salvation. Absolutely not! When we provide the willingness to trust Christ as Savior, Jesus provides the saving faith sufficient to do the job!
Now, you might be wondering why I am making such a big issue out of the difference between "faith of" and "faith in" in these two verses. It boils down to this question, "Is salvation a supernatural experience facilitated by the convicting power of the Holy Spirit, or is it a process of educating an individual to the point that they can muster up enough faith to trust Christ as Savior. Jesus said in John 6:44 (see notes), "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day." Jesus describes the process of salvation to Nicodemus in John 3:1-8 (see notes) as a "born again" experience. That clearly makes salvation the supernatural act of God, the process of which is identified in I Corinthians 12:13 (see notes) where Paul writes, "For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit." Salvation is a faith issue, and God provides the faith to trust Christ as Savior through the salvation ministry of the Holy Spirit. That is in contrast to the misguided teaching that there are certain tenets of the Christian faith which must be understood before a person can authentically receive Christ as Savior.
Here's what we know for certain regarding the relationship between the Word of God and salvation. Romans 10:17 (see notes) says, "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." That part is supernatural as well. When folks without Christ are exposed to the Word of God, the convicting power of the Holy Spirit miraculously facilitates their entry into the Body of Christ by the Holy Spirit's baptism as seen in I Corinthians 12:13 (see notes). I really can't tell you how much the convert needed to have understood about the tenets of the faith before salvation; I just depend upon God to sort it all out.
Here's the biggest danger of making salvation about education rather than the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit - the child's salvation experience. Adults everywhere are being told that their childhood experience of trusting Christ as Savior was insufficient because they didn't fully understand what they were doing at the time. I even heard one well-known speaker and Bible commentator declare that "salvation is not a child's proposition." That was in response to a question asked him regarding how much a child needs to understand in order to be saved. Here's the bottom line: Salvation is the supernatural act of God where the Word of God is presented, and the Holy Spirit provides the faith that causes one to accept Jesus Christ as his Savior. That's why it is important to understand verse 16 as "the faith OF Jesus Christ" and verse 20 as "the faith OF the Son of God."
Verse 17 has been deemed ambiguous by many scholars, but when read in the context of verse 15-21, Paul's logic seems quite easy to follow. Verse 17 says, "But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid." First of all, notice in verse 16 what his words are intended to refute when he uses the phrase, "a man is not justified by the works of the law" and again in verse 16, "not by the works of the law" and once again in verse 16, "by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified." If we don't see anything else in that verse, it ought to be that one cannot be justified (made righteous before God) through the works of the law. However, he's replying to Peter in these verses regarding those who were trying to make keeping the law part of the salvation proposition. So...verse 17 is a hypothetical presented to Peter. In essence, he is asking Peter, "We've told these new converts that they are justified by the faith of Christ, but now are we making them guilty again because they don't also keep the law?" He adds, "If that's the case, doesn't that make Christ the minister of sin (i.e. a sinful life without law)?" ...and then the strong negative in Greek to deny this hypothetical "me genoito" (translated "let it not be so" or as strongly as they could state a negative in 1611, "God forbid"). Verses 18-19 confirm that understanding when Paul says, "For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God." When he says "build again the things which I destroyed," he's talking about a life built on works of the law. He follows with his doctrinal position that he is "dead to the law."
Now, according to verse 20, Paul's righteousness is a product of "Christ liveth in me." That is to be contrasted with keeping the law as is evidenced when Paul declares in verse 21, "I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain." Look...can Paul be any clearer? Law keeping has nothing to do with righteousness before God. In verse 20 Paul emphasizes his righteousness without the Law of Moses by stating, "I am crucified with Christ." In Colossians 2:14 (see notes), he stated it like this, "Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross." Being "crucified with Christ" means accepting that Christ's death on the cross negated the condemnatory effects of the law against us. Paul again said in Romans 8:2, "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death."
It's not clear how much of Paul's words in verses 15-21 were stated to Peter directly - perhaps just verses 15-16. Verses 17-21 could just be a greater explanation regarding his remarks to Peter.
Salvation: How much works are involved? (Galatians 3:1-9)
1 O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?
2 This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?
3 Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?
4 Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain.
5 He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?
6 Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.
7 Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.
8 And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed.
9 So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.
Did Paul just insult their intellect in verse 1 when he says, "O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?" The adjective "foolish" comes from the Greek, "anoetos" which holds the connotation of not using one's mind to think rationally. The verb "bewitched" is likewise interesting from the Greek, "baskaino," which holds the connotation of practicing magic. That makes Paul's question in verse 1 rather inflammatory, "Who cast a magic spell on y'all to make you think so irrationally?" You must admit, it is frustrating to explain a concept and then be assured that your audience understands it thoroughly - only to find out later that they are confused again. They'd been ambushed by the Judaizers and had fallen off the "grace" wagon. So...let's go over it again in verse 2, "This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?" In other words, "Did you get saved by works or faith?" There's that word again ("foolish") in verse 3 (anoetos=irrational thinking). "Does it make sense that you were saved by faith, but now staying saved by the law?" Just imagine the reaction of the congregation as this letter is read to them in their public gathering, "Did Paul just tell us that the only way we could arrive at such irrational conclusions would have to be that someone has cast a spell on us to confuse our thinking?" Yup, I think that's what he just said.
Paul questions their progress in the faith in verses 4-5. The suffering these Galatians had endured because of their faith in the finished work of Christ, having rejected the Law as a means of salvation - was that suffering to be offset now as many of them apparently succumbed to the constant barrage of works-based salvation doctrine? Did you originally respond to salvation by faith or not?
So...here's the big question: How much of our salvation in Jesus Christ is dependent on works? Answer: NONE! One more clarification: Once saved, are you kept saved by works? Answer: Absolutely not! And here's a verse that proves it. Even Abraham was saved by faith and not works. Verse 6 is a quotation from Genesis 15:6 (see notes), "And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness." Salvation has always been about faith. It never was about keeping the law or being good. Notice two contrasting terms used here - "Spirit" and "flesh." Now notice that "Spirit" is associated here with "faith," and "flesh" here is associated with "law." Paul works very hard in these verses to be very clear that no one is made righteous by the Law (of Moses), nor are they kept righteous by the Law. How some Bible teachers today are able to justify mixing a little Law with their walk as Believers can only be answered one way: They haven't studied the Book of Galatians!
Paul builds upon Abraham's experience of imputed righteousness in verses 7-9. You see, Abraham precedes the Law of Moses; that makes Abraham's position of faith particularly meaningful here. Verse 7 - children of Abraham are such by faith rather than works. Then...a theological bombshell is to be found in verses 8-9 when Paul makes a linkage between God's covenant with Abraham and salvation in Jesus Christ. Let's analyze this. Notice the words of God to Abraham from which Paul draws in Genesis 12:1-3 (see notes), "Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy fathers house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed." Paul quotes exactly the ending of that covenant that God made with Abraham. He develops it further over the next few verses, but let me go ahead and give you the bottom line to Paul's comments. The promise to Abraham, "in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed," is a direct reference to the blessing everyone, including Gentiles, will receive as they accept Jesus Christ as their savior (verse 9). Hey! That's big! Look at the next section of verses to see Paul develop this further.
As I mentioned in the discussion of verse 2:15 (see above), it's important to know the who's who in this passage. The Galatian Gentiles are the "ye/you" in verses 1-7. Paul, as a Jew, is going to be using the "we/our" comparison in the next passage. You must pay close attention to this contrast in order to properly understand the difference between the experience of Jews and Gentiles prior to salvation.
10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.
11 But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.
12 And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them.
13 Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:
14 That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
Notice Paul's strong words of verse 10, "For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them." The law keepers have a curse upon them; he validates that statement by quoting Deuteronomy 27:26 (see notes). That was to be the pledge the people of Israel were to shout out between the mountains (Gerizim and Ebal) when they moved into Canaan. Paul's point is to make them understand the futility of thinking that adding some law keeping to faith could do any good whatsoever. Any shortcoming in one's efforts results in a curse. In verse 11, it's back to Abraham and his position before God when Paul declares, "The just shall live by faith."
The concept of justification by faith is not a doctrine unique to Paul's letter to the Galatians. Notice the following:
Individual salvation has always been a faith proposition. Many people, even today, get very confused about the purpose of the Law of Moses given to the Israelites in the Old Testament. That Law was the legal instrument of the Nation of Israel and was never intended to make people individually worthy or spiritually righteous before God.
We see in verse 12 that Paul is quite adamant about the spiritual condition of those who think keeping the law makes them righteous or keeps them righteous; in fact, they are under a curse instead of being made righteous. Verse 13 makes a point that Christ redeemed us from this curse of the law by quoting from Deuteronomy 21:23 (see notes). So, who exactly was under this "curse of the law" prior to salvation? As a Gentile, prior to salvation, I was certainly not on my way to Heaven, but I had not been subjected to the "curse of the law" as was the Jewish experience. The crucifixion of Christ upon the cross displayed Christ in the proper context of having been cursed according to Jewish law. A death by stoning would not have fulfilled this Old Testament picture contained in the Law of Moses. Only the death of our Savior on a cross could have fulfilled the Old Testament law. Verse 14 then concludes, "That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith." As you can see, the net result of Jesus' death on the cross is salvation for both Jews and Gentiles.
Ok...now understand the whole process Paul has taken us through so far:
15 Brethren, I speak after the manner of men; Though it be but a man’s covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disannulleth, or addeth thereto.
16 Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.
17 And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect.
18 For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise.
19 Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.
20 Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one.
21 Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law.
22 But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.
23 But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.
24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.
25 But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.
26 For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.
27 For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.
29 And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
Paul shifts gears a little bit in his argument beginning with verse 15. His tone lightens when he says, "Brethren, I speak after the manner of men." Here comes an analogy from everyday life ("after the manner of men"). Let's talk about "covenants." A covenant is a signed ("confirmed") contract ("covenant") between men and cannot be nullified. That's the analogy from everyday life upon which Paul will build in the next few verses. Now for the fine print of the contract (covenant) that God made with Abraham in Genesis - the specification of the word "seed" (singular) rather than "seeds" (plural). Notice the exact wording of verse 16, "Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ." Paul makes a distinction between the singular and plural usage of the word "seed" in the promises made to Abraham as follows:
However, the specific verse to which Paul is certainly referring in his comments here is Genesis 22:18 (see notes), "And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice." So, while some of the seed references given to Abraham obviously pertain to physical blessings given to the Hebrews themselves, Paul uses a fine point of Hebrew grammar here to extend the promise of spiritual blessings to all of those who trust Jesus Christ as their Savior. In other words, we have salvation today in Christ because of the promise that God made to Abraham. The people through the ages who have been blessed with salvation in Jesus Christ are innumerable, just as Paul points out in verse 16.
Paul emphasizes in verse 17 that the promise was given to Abraham by faith, and the law which came 430 years later cannot change God's mode for obtaining righteousness before God. He restates in different words the same proposition in verse 18 - the Law of Moses does not supersede the grace of Abraham. One might ask then, as in verse 19, "What's the point of the law then?" Answer: It was a temporary measure awaiting it's complete fulfillment by Christ on the cross. It was given to the Jews. Moses was the mediator of that first covenant, but God alone is the mediator of the covenant of salvation by grace (verse 20).
With that established, Paul sees a need to properly place the Law of Moses into our Christian experience. So...first of all, let's see what the law is not in verse 21:
Verse 22, "But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe." Obviously, no one has been made righteous by keeping the Law of Moses because "all" are "under sin." Verse 23 is applicable to Jews in Paul's day, "But before faith came, we [Jews] were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed." Incidentally, this is a Jewish-only experience...thus the usage of the pronoun "we" in verse 23 i.e. "we" Jews. Paul's Gentile converts were not "kept under the law." That's the point of this epistle.
Verses 24-26 continue an expansion on this Jewish reality before faith in Christ when Paul explains that, to the Jew, the Law served as one's schoolmaster. However, verse 25 plainly says, that schoolmaster was no longer necessary after one trusts Jesus Christ as Savior. It is critically important to notice the usages of the pronouns "we" and "our" in verses 24-25, a reference to the Jewish experience under the Law of Moses prior to salvation. But then notice verse 26, the reference to the Galatian Gentiles with the statement, "For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus." Likewise, we see the "ye/you" in verses 27-29. You'll get very confused about the Gentile versus Jewish pre-salvation experience if you don't pay close attention to the usage of the personal pronouns used in chapters 2-4.
Finally, Jews...Gentiles...we're all alike after salvation - saved in one Body of Christ as children of God (verses 26-28). Verse 29 caps it off, "And if ye [Gentiles] be Christs, then are ye [Gentiles] Abrahams seed, and heirs according to the promise." It's back to Abraham. Even though not necessarily a physical Jew, all who have received Christ as Savior are beneficiaries of the "seed promises" made to Abraham in Genesis, just as the Jews are.
So, let's review: How much of the Law of Moses are Believers required to keep in order to become righteous or stay righteous before God? NONE! ZERO! ZILCH! NAUGHT! GOOSE EGG! ZIPPO! NIL!