By Faith, or by Works of the Law?
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? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? 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—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. 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.” So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.
The Righteous Shall Live by Faith
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.” Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” 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”—so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.
The Law and the Promise
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. 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. This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.
Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary. Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one.
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. But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.
Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 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. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.
Galatians 3 Commentary
by Hank Workman
False teachings tickle the ears. Many times they play upon our senses. Often they stir an excitement from the mundane even and prompt us toward the pursuit of things not remotely of God. More to the point, many times false teachings speak into our own selfishness and desires so it’s easier to be drawn in and believe them.
I find it so fascinating Paul uses the word bewitched in his opening question. According to the dictionary being bewitched is to be affected by witchcraft or magic; to enchant, charm and fascinate. This is not a word we would use in our everyday conversations. For the setting of this letter though, magic was a common thing in Galatia. More on point, many of these magicians would use optical illusions utilizing Satan’s power to perform miracles. As you can imagine, it was more than fascinating, it drew people into the sensational.
There is reason to believe at least some of these people were present during Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came upon the people. Paul makes a strong point – the Spirit of God didn’t come because they were following the Law. The Spirit came as an act of faith. These had been empowered by the Spirit of God consequently as He set them free from the Law, they would grow through the Spirit. We grow personally when we are obedient to the Spirit when we are pursuing His strength, not by following rules or checking off a list.
And here’s where the Judaizers had a leg up. Faith seemed too easy. Meaning, the teaching that was following such faith from these false teachers was they would only come to God through following the rules. Obviously, there are disciplines we all must be involved in – from serving to prayer to meeting with the Body to studying Scripture – which all help us grow in Jesus. But these cannot take the place of our reliance and empowerment from the Holy Spirit.
Come back to the word bewitched. The word reflects sensationalism. And the word really throws a dagger in the reality of what serving God is like and being empowered by the Spirit of God. When you think about it, for most of us our daily lives are pretty much mundane, right? There is a part of us that wants the extra excitement and amazing stories of the Spirit of God working tangibly. Here’s the reality, He is always working but our call is to walk in the slow steady pace with Jesus. The transformation the Spirit brings to our lives is not a flash in the pan but a persistent, consistent walk.
Sure, there are those today who push rule-following. Sadly they are still entrenched in doing rather than being. There are also those who proclaim the sensational aspects of the Spirit that draw us in. They bring questions to our own commitment when we may not demonstrate such things. But your following Jesus is truly walking with one foot in front of the other. It’s living through the mundane as the Spirit of God empowers and equips you in ways you’re not even recognizing.
Galatians 3 Commentary
by Brad Boyles
Correction is tough. Nobody wants to be corrected. It can be humiliating and degrading. Furthermore, the person who is doing the correcting usually comes across as arrogant or “holier than thou.” Anytime we are being corrected, we must ask ourselves, why is this person correcting me? Are they doing it out of selfish motives, or, do they really care about me? When we distinguish between these two very different types of correction, we begin to ignore the deconstructive criticism and accept the constructive criticism.
Here at the beginning of Chapter 3, Paul lets loose a barrage of frustration at the Galatians. He calls them foolish and hypnotized. However, as he continues to write, we begin to see his deep concern for the Galatian believers. His passion is for their souls and the stakes are eternal!
Because of this, Paul doesn’t just hurl insults their way. He wakes them up and then pierces them with instructive truth. Similar to Jesus’ method of making powerful points, Paul begins to ask more questions. Don’t miss that point. Before he makes any absolute or sweeping statements, he first asks leading questions.
“Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law or by hearing with faith? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now going to be made complete by the flesh? So then, does God supply you with the Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law or by hearing with faith?”
Notice how many times the Spirit is invoked into the questions above (from verses 2, 3, 5)? Consider that the Jewish Christian teachers would have expected for the Gentiles to follow the law before receiving the Spirit. Paul was ripping the scales right off the Galatian’s eyes. In essence, he was saying, “You already HAVE the Spirit of God!”
Strangely, the Gentiles may not have understood that the Spirit would fulfill the law. However, through their simple faith, they were given that power. Paul is reminding them of it. I personally know many Christians who couldn’t even tell you what the word ‘theology’ means. But they have such a powerful and simple faith in Jesus. You can tell they are filled with the Spirit and their faith is strong. Sometimes we over-complicate the Message of Christ for others by adding all kinds of theological and doctrinal hoops to jump through.
When I look over this chapter it reminds me that we need to be firm but gentle in our correction of others. We also must be reminded of the faithful work of Christ and how the Spirit has changed us from the inside out. Paul wants the Galatians to draw from their own experience with the Spirit so that it will renew their faith. In the same way, when we are tempted to doubt God loves us, or that He hears us, we can be restored simply by reminding ourselves of His faithfulness and goodness in His Word and in our lives.