GALATIANS-CHAPTER 3

3  O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? 3:1–2

When the Gospel is preached and is received with the “hearing with faith” (this is better translated the “hearing of faith” – also in verse 5), there will be evidence of the transformational event in the life of the newly reborn believer. The forms that evidence takes is a subject for another discussion, but the truly converted person will begin to become “Christian”…a “little Christ”. Positive changes in behavior and in attitude will begin to occur and to progress over time. If this evidence is lacking or there is not a steady progressive trans-formation then something is wrong. (2 Corinthians 5:17; Romans 8:9-11, etc.)

Paul here uses the word “bewitched”. I don‘t think he is speaking entirely metaphorically: He is has reason to speak literally. He comes from a culture that accepts the reality of the supernatural as a commonplace, and he is very aware of the great spiritual War that is raging in the dimensions of angels and demons that both transcend and intersect with our own. And he writes much in other places about spiritual delusions and demonic deceptions and the mind-games of the devil.

There is a blurred line between the lies and heresies of men and the doctrines of demons, and in the realm of religion, which binds human beings with the fear of death and damnation; the demonic certainly often crosses over that line and uses self-serving men and women to lead foolish and unwary souls first into temporal bondage and ulti-mately into eternal loss.

Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? 3:3

Paul had introduced the first Galatian believers to the New Cov-enant liberty of the Law of Love in Christ, and they had been rejoicing together freely in that liberty when he had moved on to continue his missionary work. But at some point not long after, as I have said above, his Judaizing enemies had arrived at the young church and, claiming the weighty authority of Jesus‘ own half-brother James and the mystique of Jerusalem, had first intimidated the Jewish believers in the fellowship into returning to their practice of the Law of Moses, and then had gone about persuasively teaching the less biblically knowledgeable Gentile Christians that they also needed to follow the appropriate “biblical” path through Moses to Messiah in order to properly approach God. Without Paul‘s strong personal presence and clear scripturally grounded refutation to counter these persuasive legalistic arguments, most of the fellow-ship was succumbing to the intimidating pressure to return to the Old Covenant form and practice, and the Holy Spirit, grieved and stifled, was being quenched.

Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? 3:4

Apparently there had been some degree of local persecution of these Christians because of their public confession of Christ.

Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, 3:5

I want to note here that the Galatian fellowships were lively fellowships. Where the Holy Spirit is free to move miracles happen. This is the way it was in the First Church as a normal state of affairs. This is the way it should be today. Nothing has changed… Except, perhaps, we don‘t believe as we ought. (Ps. 89:33-34; Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8; Matthew 13:58)

or by hearing with faith just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”? Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. 3:5–7

I have explored the faith of Abraham at depth in the Romans and Ephesians essays, and I don‘t want to reiterate what I have said there. As a reminder, I believe that Paul makes it abundantly clear that God has not changed His terms for the restoration of the souls of men since Abraham‘s day. Christ has been crucified “since before the foundation of the world“… the Lamb has been slain, the Sacrifice made. Revelation 13:8; 1 Peter 1:18-20  Abraham saw the Day of the Son of Man, and was glad. John 8:48ff That Day abides still in God‘s time; Nothing in the process of our history changes or nullifies this.

The Gospel of Grace both preceded and terminated the Law of Moses. God has not changed His terms for redemption. He has only clarified the Revelation and progressed in His Plan and Purposes along our timeline. And it is because of this that I say emphatically that the same “faith of Abraham” is available today to those who know no more of the True God than did Abraham, a Chaldean raised to worship the moon god, Sin, and a man who did not apparently even ever come to know the Name of Yahweh (a Name not revealed, according to the record, until it was shared with Moses). Abraham (Abram), the pagan from Ur, was accounted righteous according to the light which he had.

It is according to this same unchanging mercy that God today will reach down to every seeking soul among men regardless of where they are and whether or not a bible-toting Christian missionary manages to get them to say a sinner‘s prayer. Paul‘s extended argument in Romans reveals and establishes this truth. Again I emphasize: No man comes to the Father except through Christ, but this does not mean that every man who comes to Christ has to be a card-carrying Evangelical Christian. To argue that it does means that many bent reeds would be broken, many smoldering embers would be extinguished, and the Lord doesn‘t do either of these things.

“Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles. He will not quarrel or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets; a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory; and in his name the Gentiles will hope.” Matthew 12:18-21

In Galatians:
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.” (The desire of our Father for the redemption of all mankind is the Gospel of the Kingdom) 3:8

Paul is saying here that the prophetic texts, the scripture, which God had given to the Jews to steward, clearly revealed the fact of the universality of the Gospel of the Kingdom and of justification by faith, not works, in the same Torah that held the Law of Moses. There was no excuse for the rabbinical scholars not to have known of this from their microscopic study of these texts.

However, the biblical texts, being more than human in origin, do not lend themselves to “man-handling”. Unless they are approached humbly and prayerfully they will, at best, be understood as books of ancient history; at worst, as arcane myths and occult lore. God will not reveal Himself to insincere persons. (1 Corinthians 2:6-16; 2 Corinthians 2:16; 2 Peter 3:14-18; Luke 10:21-22;Jeremiah 29:11–14;)

The fact that there were those teachers (e.g. Nicodemus) in Israel who did recognize Jesus as Messiah proves that the Gospel message was clearly in view in the Law and the Prophets, and was available to those who rightly divided the Word. Maji came from Babylon to worship at Christ‘s birth because they had the legacy of Daniel (who in truth had founded their order) as well as the Hebrew Tanakh and understood from these the coming of Messiah: If they could understand this, so also could the scholars of Jerusalem. The fact that Gentiles responded to Jesus spontaneously and that He re-ceived them testifies that the Gospel message was clearly in view in the Law and the Prophets because the prophecies contained in the scriptures were in fact the Word of God and came to pass in real time as He walked among us. These “God fearers” had learned these things in the myriad synagogues of the Roman Empire and beyond, and through the Septuagint Greek translation of the Old Testament.

The fact that Paul, as an Old Testament scholar, was able to so completely reinterpret the Old Covenant into the New Covenant without distortion and without radical editing proves that the Gospel was clearly and completely contained in the Law and the Prophets and was only awaiting the coming of the Messiah to be realized into its fulfillment. Jesus opened the Old Testament to the disciples he walked with them on the Emmaus road after the Resur-rection, and connected all the dots for them (Luke 24:27): Paul was given the task of doing this in greater detail through direct reve-lation for the permanent record.

So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. (This is “the Israel of God” referred to below.) 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.” 3:9–10

Paul wraps up his argument against the Judaizers conclusively: The very book of the Law from which they were arguing that the Gentiles must become Jews and must keep the Law of Moses in order to be Christians and be saved preceded in its own texts the Law of Moses with the Covenant of Grace as it was revealed to Abraham. The Gospel encloses, like a pair of parentheses, the Law of Moses, with the Abrahamic covenant before, and the empty tomb at the end.

He doubles down with greater force as he goes on.  (I want to note here also that in both Hebrew and Greek the ideas of the Blessing and the Curse hold in them the larger meanings of “words of power”, that is that behind and beyond the words spoken or written are inevitable and inexorable metaphysical consequences which those words when acted upon invoke. We, today, at least we of the “en-lightened” West, tend to scoff, but this is because we have a dimin-ished respect for the reality of the realms of the spiritual. Here Paul is saying that when the soul responds to God in Faith through the work of Christ the blessings of Grace follow, but if that soul then returns to seeking to approach God through the religious rituals of the Law that soul once again has chosen to try to keep the entire Law in all of its details in order to be pleasing to God, and that that soul, therefore, has come in reality under a spiritual bondage with psychological and spiritual effects.)

Paul begins to argue in specifics, with scriptural backing, his case for the New Covenant. This is the earlier of his two polemics on the Law of Liberty superseding and transcending the Law of Moses, the second more detailed and complex argument being that which he has written in the first 12 chapters of the letter to the Romans. The two letters, Galatians and Romans, together contain the full revel-ation of the Gospel of the Kingdom as Paul received it and should be studied together.

Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” (Habakkuk 2:4) But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” (Leviticus 18:5) Christ redeemed us (Jews, to whom the Law was given) from the curse of the law 3:10–13

(The curse of the Law is the knowledge of sin and the promise of judgment. The “sting” of sin is death {first mortal death but primarily spiritual death}, which comes to every human being whether or not they know of sin. Christ put an end to the ultimate victory of death, and therefore rendered the Law unnecessary for the Jew, for whom it was a “stop-gap” measure by which the curse was deferred, and for the Gentile, to whom the Law never was applied but whom death still ultimately conquered .)

by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree” (Deuteronomy 21:23)so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we (Jews) might receive the promised Spirit through faith. 3:13–14

(Christ had to fulfill the Law as a Jew for the Jews so that it could be legally and finally moved “off the table”. It had served its purpose in preserving and preparing a “womb people” through whom the Messiah could be born into the world. He then fulfilled its terms in Himself so that Satan no longer could hold it against God‘s people.

The Law of Moses never directly applied to the Gentiles. They stood condemned by the Adamic curse of original sin to death, and, as we have established {see also the essays on Romans}, God held them accountable only for those sins which they understood according to whatever light they had. Christ‘s self-sacrifice on Calvary also resolved the Adamic curse of sin and death for all mankind. So, Paul is able to write the above verse as he does.

Paul keeps trying to break through the fog of deception that has begun to cloud the minds of the believers in Galatia. The Gospel is not, in its fundamental premises, complicated or “mysterious”, but the fact that we are spiritual beings poured into material stuff, and the fact that we are living in a spiritual war zone in the midst of the enemy camp and surrounded by enemy agents and sympathizers makes it, oftentimes, difficult for us to hear the Truth, especially when we are less familiar with the ways of the Lord than with the ways of the world from which we have just begun to escape. So the message of the Bible necessarily must be repeated over and over again in as many ways as possible in the hope that somehow its Truths might cut through the static and distractions and take root in our souls. )

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. 3:15

Contracts once cut are not usually modified or canceled or annulled. (And if they are, it is only by complex and highly detailed renego-tiation.) Primarily the way a contract is closed is by its fulfillment. This is exactly how God has dealt with the sin problem and with the Old Covenant: It was “finished”, or “accomplished”, or “fulfilled” on that late Friday afternoon on Golgotha. John 19:30;Matthew 5:18 This is also exactly how the Lord is dealing with His earlier separate promise to Abraham. It is the Covenant with Abraham which con-tains the promise of Messiah; the Mosaic Covenant dealt with the preparation of the womb out of which Messiah would be born. The earlier and greater Covenant by promise is now the one that applies.

Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. Genesis 15 It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as make the promise void. 3:16–17

The Gospel covenant (vs.8) is a completely separate covenant from the Mosaic Covenant with Israel.

For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but gave it to Abraham by a promise. Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, 3:18–19

(The Law was given specifically to Israel to keep them on track in order that they might bring forth Messiah/Christ at the appointed time. Once it served its purpose it passed away, as is stated in He-brews, and has become an archive of Divine History, a book of inspiration, and a record of promises both kept and yet to be kept to Israel because of the Patriarchs. Romans 11:28;cf. Deuteronomy 7:8
For the “Nations” (the Gentiles) the Gospel is found in the New Covenant, as is also the actual salvation of the Jews, which is what Paul is arguing here.)

until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary. 3:19

(That is, Moses…the Law of Moses works on an “if you do this, then I will do this” basis …tit-for-tat.

But the promise is a face-to-face interaction between Father and Son. Dad says, “Son, I promise you that I will do this for you as soon as the time is right.” Calvary was the right time. Galatians 4:4; Romans 5:6; 1 Timothy 2:6 There are no other conditions to be met. Dad is keeping his promise to his Son. We simply have to join our-selves to the Son to enter into the promise. That is the Son‘s promise to us. This is why it says in Hebrews that God, in confirming the New Covenant promise to Abraham, swore by “two immutable things“: First He swore an oath by His own Name, since there is nothing higher by which to swear, and second He swore that oath by His own character: He cannot lie. (Genesis 22:15-18; Hebrews 6:13-20)

Now an intermediary implies more than one 3:20

(Intermediaries intercede between two or more parties to arrange agreements with terms that bear on all and require mutual parti-cipation), but God is one (the most fundamental premise of Judaism …the Shema. Deuteronomy 6:4 God included Abraham in the pro-mise, but the terms of the promise did not ask anything of Abraham; he was present as a witness.  Abraham actually was in a “deep sleep” at the time, a Divinely induced trance of some sort.

God made a determination within Himself to bless Abraham be-cause Abraham had already been accepted by God because of his faith. Abraham was His beloved friend. The promise was a decision among the Persons of the Trinity.)

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. 3:21

(The Law was given as a detailed explanation or “object lesson” of why the Grace of God is required for man to approach God. It is in the heart of man to deceive himself that he is somehow worthy enough, somehow significant enough, somehow important enough in his own stature and accomplishments to stand boastfully, or at least proudly, before God Almighty. This is a legacy of our fall. (Remember, the temptation was “…you shall be like God” Genesis 3:5).

We have an irresistible compulsion to present ourselves as worthy. This is also precisely the symptom of our great problem, which is self-centeredness … the essence of sin. The Law was given in order to convince us that even at a relatively simple level we are unable to meet God‘s expectations consistently. We might keep some of the Law some of the time, but the Law describes in piecemeal detail the whole cloth of Divine holiness. It is a stitch-by-stitch examination through examples of obedience and the living of life of the intri-cately woven tapestry of the righteousness in which our Creator designed us to live, and which is required of all human creatures if they would be fit to dwell in the Kingdom of God. God said that to
break one of its precepts is to fail entirely. Deuteronomy 6:25;James 2:10; Galatians 5:3

These are two of the reasons why He gave the sacrificial code along with the Law…to provide a pressure valve for the guilty conscience that realized that it could not attain to the Law‘s standard, and to help us to understand that something other than the keeping of rules of conduct and behavior would be necessary for us to be able to resolve our spiritual angst, and that that something else was costly, requiring the death of an innocent life. The Law is not con-trary to the promises of God: Rather it is the backdrop which gives the clearest perspective to the Grace of God in the Gospel.)

But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given 3:22 

(it has always been the Father‘s intention to GIVE the Kingdom to His children: but He has had to do it in His time and according to His plan)

to those who believe. 3:22

Now before faith came, we (Jews) were held captive under the law, until the coming faith 3:23

(Paul again speaks of faith as a substantial objective thing the coming of which could be anticipated in experiential time, not just a subjective mental acknowledgment of a belief in some insubstantial imagination) would be revealed.

So then, law was our guardian 3:23–24 (it is interesting and significant that Paul equates captivity and guardianship here: The Law held the Jews in a “protective custody”) until Christ came, in order that 3:24 (for a specific purpose that was always in God‘s mind) we (Jews) might be justified by faith. (cf. Romans 9-11) But now that faith has come, we (Jews) are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you (Jews and Greeks) are all sons of God, through faith. 3:24–26 For as many of you (Jews and Greeks) as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek (answering the Judaizers), there is neither slave nor free (answering status and class), is no male and female (removing misogynistic prejudice), for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 3:27–28 (cf. Colossians 3:11) And if you are Christ‘s, then you (all together; plural) are Abraham‘s offspring (singular, referring to our unified identity in Christ and to our individuality before God), heirs (Jew and Gentile alike and equal) according to promise 3:29 (as a gift, not by any work or terms of contractual agreement).

Paul seems here to turn his attention to those Galatian Christians who have converted from Judaism and who are now being pulled back into the circle of the Judaizers and away from the Gentile Christians with whom they had been sharing fellowship freely.
The Judaizers were teaching that salvation belonged to the children of Abraham and that in order to be a child of Abraham one first had to be a Jew, that is, had to submit to circumcision (women were not really being included in their thinking except as carry-on baggage through marriage, much as is taught by Islam). Paul here is arguing that the promise of God came to Abraham BEFORE he was circum-cised, not after, (Genesis 15 then Genesis 17) and that it was given to Abraham on terms of faith, not law. Because of this, Paul argues that the distinctions Jew/Gentile, male/female, slave/free, etc. have no legitimacy or bearing on the issue of salvation or forgiveness of sin or entry into the Kingdom of God.

"all who were down on their luck came around—losers and vagrants and misfits of all sorts." 1 Samuel 22:2

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