In our study of Galatians chapter three, we will look at how our experiences with Christ will help us to grow in our faith in Christ. In chapter two, we saw how the other apostles experienced the grace that had been given to Paul to preach the gospel. That is they were able to see it in action and not just words. Now, Paul will use the experiences of the Galatians as well as that of Abraham to remind them that you cannot add the law to grace.
You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified.
Paul begins this section of his letter with what is seemingly a very harsh question. When he calls them "foolish", he is basically telling them that they have stopped using their mind (thinking). He goes on to describe them as "bewitched" and that speaks of the fact that they had listened to men who were causing them to forget what they had already learned and seen. Paul then reminds them that they were taught that Jesus Christ was crucified for their sins but these men had caused them to forget that.
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?
Now, Paul asks them to remember their salvation experience. We are told throughout the Word that the presence of the Holy Spirit is evidence that the believer is saved. By asking this question of when they received the Spirit, he is asking them to think once again of that time when they were saved from the coming wrath of God. Did they get the Spirit because they kept the rules or because they believed that Jesus fulfilled the law for them?
Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?
Once again, Paul asks if they have stopped thinking and remembering their past experience with Christ. This foolishness is turning away from the Spirit and back to the law as a means of justification. That is foolish because the standard of the law is perfection and, as we know, we are imperfect people.
Have you suffered so much for nothing - if it really was for nothing?
Paul reminds them that they did not just have one experience of salvation through the Holy Spirit but have had many experiences of seeing the Spirit in action in their lives. It is easy for us as humans to discount a single event but when a bunch of events happen and they all point to the same thing then it is a lot harder to ignore. That is why Paul is reminding them of this point and he is confident that their experiences were not in vain. This combination of experiences over our lives as a Christian is what God uses to grow us closer in our walk with Him.
Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?
Paul is asking them this question to get them to look at the wonderful things that God is currently doing in their lives. He is reminding them of the fact that God did not just save them and forget about them but instead is at work in their daily lives. This points to the fact that, through the Holy Spirit, we have wonderful experiences with God each and every day. This daily walk is because of the relationship that has been repaired and not because of any works that we can do.
Consider Abraham: 'He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.' Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham.
Paul continues by reminding the Galatians that faith (belief in God) is the only way that anyone (including Abraham) has ever been made right with God. He also points out that those who believe are Abraham's children and not just the Jews. That is a reminder that our righteousness does not come from our family line but once again by faith.
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.' So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.
In Genesis 22:17 & 18, God told Abraham that he would be blessed and have children from all nations. God was announcing to the world that salvation would be available to non-Jews as well as to the Jewish people. That is the blessing that is referred to in this passage and we see that the blessing (salvation) comes by faith for us just as it did for Abraham and our Jewish brothers. We are blessed through Abraham because he was obedient to God. There are those who believe that we (Gentiles) are kind of a plan B for God in that, when the Jews rejected Jesus, He, then, turned to us but this passage shows that we were a part of God's plan from the beginning. (God does not need a plan B).
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.'
Paul quotes Deuteronomy 27:26 and reminds us that, if you trust in the law for salvation, it is a curse. It is a curse because there is no way that man can keep the law perfectly and the standard is perfection.
Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, 'The righteous will live by faith.' The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, 'The man who does these things will live by them.'
As people, it is easier for us to do something than to trust someone else. That is why so many people fall into legalistic religious traps but, as we see in this passage, it is only by faith that we are declared not guilty of sin. That faith is belief in the fact that Jesus paid our penalty for sin (died) and was raised again.
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.'
Jesus came to the earth and kept the law for us so that He could be the perfect (unblemished) sacrifice. Then, He went and died on the cross (becoming cursed for our imperfection). Our faith in Him, as that perfect sacrifice, is the basis for our right relationship with God.
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.
God's promise to Abraham, in Genesis 22, is fulfilled in us through Jesus Christ. God had promised him that he would have children from many nations and not just his own people. Through Jesus Christ, we are brought into the family of God along with Abraham. Through the same faith that he had, we have salvation and receive the promise of God with us through the Holy Spirit.
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.
A covenant is a contract where the details of a relationship are set out. Most contracts are witnessed by two people and, once it is signed (duly established), it is binding. Today, it is usually done in writing but, for most of history, a man's spoken word was as good as a signature. With this in mind, Paul is going to apply it to the Abrahamic covenant.
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.
God's promises to Abraham were a contract that could only be fulfilled by Jesus Christ. Although it is tough for many to accept, there is only one way and that is Jesus Christ. Many want to claim Abraham as the father of their faith but, even though he had another son (Ishmael), the promise was not spoken to him.
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.
The law did not change the promise but was simply an instrument that God used in fulfilling the promise. The purpose of the law was to make us understand that we need Jesus. Jesus was the promise that God made to Abraham and, through Jesus, we all have the ability to be children of that 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.
When you try to add any works to grace, then you no longer have grace. Neither Abraham nor us did anything to deserve the promise and we cannot lose the promise because of something that we do. This is the same struggle that many face even today as we, as people, want to earn salvation but cannot.
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.
The law was given and put into effect to point us to the need for a Savior which is Jesus Christ. A mediator is someone who gets between two parties to help them to settle their differences and that is just what Jesus did for us. He made a way for us to be reconciled to God and that was the fulfillment of God's promise to Abraham.
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.
The law is like a signpost along the highway. It doesn't actually take you to where you want to go but it tells you where you are at and where you are headed. It is the same with the law. It can tell you the same things but it has no power to make us right with God.
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.
The entire world is full of sin but God promised that we would be saved from it. That promise is fulfilled through our faith in Jesus as the perfect atoning sacrifice for that sin.
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.
Jesus was the perfect sacrifice because He kept the entire law on our behalf. We were prisoners of that law because we were unable to keep it on our own. When we accept by faith that Jesus took the penalty for us, we are no longer under the threat of penalty or controlled by the law. Its only purpose was to point us to the need for Jesus Christ.
You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourself with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
This passage should eliminate all discrimination in the life of a Christian. When we realize that we are all either "sons of God" or lost, then it should help us to see others in a different light. All the "isms" in the world such as racism, sexism, etc. should be taken off when we put on the new clothes of a Christian (see Colossians 3).
If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.
Jesus made it possible for us to be adopted into the family of God. This family was promised to Abraham and, as family, we are also heirs.