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How are People Saved? A Study of Galatians 3

The question, “How are people saved from the consequences of their sins,” is answered in Galatians chapter 3.  God revealed to Abraham that justification is by faith far before doctrines such as circumcision, Calvinism, Mormonism, Islam, or denominational-ism in general came to be.  When someone tells you that you must “Say the sinner’s prayer” or “Accept Jesus into your heart to be saved” know that before these doctrines came to exist the word of God said, “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned unto him for righteousness” (Galatians 3:6).  All who emulate the faith of Abraham today are made righteous by the blood of Christ.  Galatians chapter 3 demands that we understand the faith of Abraham that we too can be justified.  Secondly, Galatians 3 demands that we respect the authorized word of God and never change it by adding or subtracting from it.

The Galatians had been taught that justification was by faith in Jesus Christ (see Galatians 2:16, 21).  False teachers, however, succeeded in confusing the new churches of Galatia.  Many of the Galatian Christians had been swayed away from the true gospel message to another doctrine (Galatians 1:6).  The apostle Paul referred to those who were swayed as “foolish” and “bewitched” (Galatians 3:1).  False teachers had taught them that they needed to be circumcised and keep the Mosaic Law in order to be saved (see Acts 15:5; Galatians 5:1-3).  Those who put their trust in the Law of Moses were failing to see its “weakness and unprofitableness,” that is, it was not designed to forgive sins (see Hebrews 7:18-19; 10:1-4).  Christians who permitted the Judaizing false teachers to trouble them were failing to realize that the Lord had always intended for them to receive justification through faithful obedience in his beloved Son (Galatians 3:8, 16).

Paul brings the character of Abraham into the discussion.  The Jews considered their family connections that traced them back to Abraham’s descendants as valuable to the eternal state of their soul and condition with God (see John 8:33-42).  Both Jew and Gentile needed to understand the true and divine system of salvation.  Abraham’s justification was proof that the Mosaic Law was not needed for man’s justification.  Abraham was justified before the Mosaic Law even came about (see Genesis 15:6; Galatians 3:6).  Paul explains that Abraham was justified when he complied with God’s will (see Hebrews 11:2, 8, 17-19; Genesis 18:19; 22:18; James 2:21-24).  Paul proved to the Galatians that justification, through an obedient faith in Christ, was the means of salvation 430 years before the Mosaic Law came into existence (Galatians 3:17).  The Law of Moses came along demanded perfect obedience with no remedy offered to the one who violated its principles (Galatians 3:10).  The conclusion ought to have been clearly seen by all.  The Law of Christ demands perfection as does the Mosaic Law yet provides forgiveness to all who fall short through sin.  Such a fact makes the Law of Christ superior to the Law of Moses.

Naturally, the Jews would ask, “What then is the purpose of the Law?”  Paul explained to the fallen Galatians that the Law was “added” to the covenant that God had made with Abraham due to sin (Galatians 3:19).  Sin separates a man from God and without a remedy there would be eternal separation (see Isaiah 59:1-2).  The Mosaic Law identified sin to mankind (Romans 7:7) and thereby served as a “tutor” to bring man unto Christ (Galatians 3:24).  Under law, man was doomed to punishment of death for his sin (Romans 3:23; 6:23).  The law held its adherents in bondage because it offered no hope of forgiveness (Galatians 3:23).  When there is no hope there is nothing but a curse (Galatians 3:10).  Thanks be to God that Christ suffered for us all on the cross so that we would not have to face the consequences of our sins (Galatians 3:13).

All those who now obey God’s instructions, through His Son Jesus Christ, are justified of sins as was Abraham when he obeyed the voice of God.  Divine instructions reveal baptism to be necessary in order for one to be justified of sins (Galatians 3:27).  Such an act of obedience causes one to be recognized as a “son of God” (Galatians 3:25).  When one is “in Christ” there is no distinction made between Jew, Greek, free, slave, male, or female because, “ye are all one man in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).  To belong to Christ is to display the obedient faith of Abraham and thereby called the spiritual “sons of Abraham” (Galatians 3:29).

The Holy Spirit Dwelled within the Galatians (3:1-9)

1 O foolish Galatians, who did bewitch you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was openly set forth crucified?” (3:1)

Paul now turned his attention back to the Galatians and addressed them personally as the “foolish” ones.  The word “foolish” (Greek anoetos) means “not within the province of thought, unintelligent… not understanding” (LS 73).  Paul states that the unintelligent and without understanding Galatians had been “bewitched” (baskaino) “to slander, malign, belie… to bewitch, by means of spells” (LS 148).  Moulton defines the Greek word anoetos as, “To delude” (Moulton 67).  The American Heritage Dictionary defines the word as, “To place under one’s power by or as if by magic; cast a spell over, to captivate completely; fascinate” (AHD 175).  These definitions point to the false teachers’ doctrines that were being spread and believed.  They were obviously denying Paul’s apostleship, saying that Paul taught a different gospel than the other apostles, and were teaching that Christians should obey the Mosaic Law and be circumcised.  Some of the Galatians had taken these concepts “hook, line, and sinker.”  They had truly been “bewitched.”  The Apostle Paul was amazed at the state of mind they had come to seeing that he and Barnabas had previously taught them the truth and established churches in Galatia.

Paul and Barnabas had previously taught the Galatians that “Jesus Christ (was) openly set forth crucified.”  The words “openly set forth” (Greek prographo) means “to give public notice of anything… to summon by public notice… to be set forth publicly” (LS 673).  Jesus was openly set forth as being crucified for the remission of man’s sins and the hope of eternal salvation by public preaching (cf. Acts 13:23ff; 1 Corinthians 2:1-2) and eye witnesses (see Acts 2:22-24).  The Galatians had been served a public notice regarding perfection, righteousness, justification, and the forgiveness of sins.  They had accepted this message and the witness of the apostles yet now had been turned away from Christ by false doctrine.

2 This only would I learn from you, received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” (3:2).

Paul has asked, “Who has bewitched you” and now he asks, “Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?”  There are connecting factors throughout Galatians chapter three that must be kept up with if the correct conclusions are to be drawn.  Paul associates the public notice of Christ crucifixion to having “received the Spirit” and the “hearing of faith.”  The reception of the Holy Spirit could not have been both ways; i.e., by the works of the Mosaic Law and the hearing of faith.  The obvious point under consideration is man’s justification.  Contextually Paul has rebuked Peter publicly because Peter hypocritically aligned himself with the Mosaic Law when he was in the presence of Jews (see Galatians 2:11-15).  That which was at stake was man’s “justification” (Galatians 2:16).  Justification is the forgiveness of sins through the redeeming blood of Christ that one receives when baptized (see Ephesians 1:7 and Acts 2:38; Galatians 3:27).  When one follows the gospel he is not following the works of the law.  The two are different in that the Mosaic Law makes no man perfect while faith in Christ does.  Justification, faith in Christ, and righteousness are all equated to the “grace of God” (Galatians 2:21 see also Ephesians 1:7).

The work of the Holy Spirit was to convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment by divine revelation (see John 16:8-10).  The obvious objective of Paul’s question, “Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith” is that challenge the Galatians to consider HOW they were justified of their sins initially.  Receiving the Spirit by the hearing of faith is how one is justified from their sins.  Contextually, we see that “receiving the Spirit” is equivalent to the idea of “Jesus Christ was openly set forth as crucified” (Christ’s sacrifice was preached by eye witnesses and confirmed as truth by the miracles they performed) (see Galatians 3:5 below).

Paul’s entire discussion with the Galatians had to do with their soul’s final abode.  The word “receive” (lambano) means “to have given one, to get, gain, win… to receive in marriage… to receive as produce or profit… to take a cold… to take hold of, lay hold on” (LS 463-464).  So, Paul asked the Galatians if they had received (laid hold of) the Holy Spirit (i.e., been justified of sins) by performing perfect law keeping (Mosaic Law) or by “the hearing of faith?”  The receiving of the Holy Spirit can come of only one of these (i.e., Mosaic Law keeping or the hearing of faith).  The NT reveals that the Holy Spirit comes to one by the hearing of faith (gospel message).

When one hears the gospel (hearing of faith) and follows its instructions he is said to be “walking in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16) and being “led by the Spirit” (John 16:10; Galatians 5:18; Romans 8:14). Note that faith in Jesus comes of hearing the word of God (the gospel message) (Romans 10:17).  The apostle John states, “Whosoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is begotten of God:” (1 John 5:1).  How can I believe without the gospel message?  The gospel message causes one to be begotten of God through the word of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17).  One is produced a Christian (begotten of God) by the Spirit’s word so that in a sense, the Christian is one “born of the Spirit” (see 1 Corinthians 12:13).

The Spirit’s work is to reveal the gospel to man (John 16:8-13).  When one receives this gospel he has, in effect, received the Spirit (the Spirit’s teaching which comes from the Father and Son) and is justified of his sins when he complies with the instructions of the Spirit just as Abraham was (focal point of this chapter).  All of these facts point toward fellowship with the Holy Spirit.  When one obeys the gospel, he comes into fellowship with the Father and Son through having his sins remitted.  If one is in fellowship with the Father and Son, through the message delivered by the Holy Spirit, he is in fellowship with the Holy Spirit as well as the Father and the Son.

To receive the Holy Spirit is to have His indwelling (Romans 8:9-14; 2 Timothy 1:13-14).  Note that the Holy Spirit is part of the godhead and is therefore God (see Acts 5:3-4; Matthew 12:28 compared to Luke 11:20).  The apostle John said, “Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God” (1 John 4:15).  Again, note that the only way that one can make such an affirmation is through the Holy Spirit delivered Word of God.  Paul said, “No man can say Jesus is Lord, but in the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3).  The thought is now clear.  To receive the Spirit is to have accepted the teachings of Jesus Christ and to be in fellowship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit through justification (the forgiveness of sins).  Such an event could only happen by the hearing of faith (the gospel that explains the process). The Galatians had done this and were abiding in the teachings of Christ, yet when the false teachers came along, they received their teachings as though they were divine.  Consequentially the Galatians’ fellowship with the Holy Spirit and their justification was ruined.

3 Are ye so foolish?  Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now perfected in the flesh?” (3:3).

A contrast is made between “Spirit” and “flesh” in relation to the method one is “perfected.” To be “perfected” (Greek epiteleisthe) means, “To end, finish, or complete” (Moulton 162).  Liddell and Scott add to this definition the word “accomplish” (LS 304).  Paul has associated the words, “perfect,” “receiving the Spirit,” “hearing of faith,” “Jesus Christ crucified,” “righteousness,” “grace,” and “justification” together.  Though all of these words have a different definition their meanings are equivalent.  To be perfect, therefore, is to be justified, righteous, and filled with God’s grace. Unfortunately many today do not understand God’s will for man’s perfection.  We hear people say, “Nobody is perfect” in a feeble attempt to justify their sinful behavior.  God demands our perfection and gives us his beloved son to attain this perfection (see Matthew 5:48).  Again, the obvious point of discussion is HOW the Galatians were justified from their sins, perfected, and made righteous. 

The scriptures promise the forgiveness of sins through the instructions of the Holy Spirit (see Acts 2:38).  The false teachers that were addressed at the Jerusalem conferences had conjured up a new plan for man’s redemption (i.e., obey Law of Moses and be circumcised in addition to keeping Law of Christ; see Acts 15).  Such human reason is considered “flesh” (Matthew 16:17).  Anything that contradicts justification through the gospel of Jesus Christ is to be rejected. 

Paul refers to the Galatians as “foolish” (without understanding) because they stopped following instructions that saved.  The foolish Galatians were now following fleshly ideas that condemned.  Rather than rejecting the error they received it.  All have the responsibility to understand truth, hold to truth, and test any doctrine that opposes truth (see 1 John 4:1-4; 2 John 9-11).

Interestingly, the contrast of flesh and spirit begins here at chapter 3.  Paul was explaining to the Galatians that there is a way to walk in Christ (by the Spirit) as opposed to walking after the flesh (doing things as one supposes to be right to do).  This idea is further developed in chapter 5 when we shall examine the works of the flesh as opposed to the fruit of the Spirit.

4 Did ye suffer so many things in vain?  If it be indeed in vain(3:4).

The Galatians were suffering the same persecutions that Paul underwent when preaching in the cities of Galatia (2 Timothy 3:11) (see Antioch [Acts 13:50]; Iconium [Acts 14:2, 5]; and Lystra [Acts 14:19]). Jesus said that those who are persecuted for the cause of Christ are blessed and ought to rejoice (see Matthew 5:10-12).  The Galatians had gone through these sufferings at one point for nothing because that which they once stood for has been cast off.  You suffered for true justification and now you have thrown it away.  Oh foolish Galatians.

5 He therefore that supplies to you the Spirit, and works miracles among you, does he do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” (3:5).

The question of verse two is resumed.  The Galatians had received the Spirit by the hearing of faith and thereby received the remission of their sins.  God supplied the Holy Spirit to them for this purpose.  Due to their acceptance of the truth they were persecuted.

A third issue is the working of miracles in their sight that confirmed the word to them (Acts 14:8-11; Mark 16:20).  Those who taught the Galatians a syncretistic gospel message brought no powerful miracles yet Paul brought faith confirming miracles with his message.  The gospel message, the apostle’s witness of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ and miracles was to be sufficient to produce justifying faith.  It worked among the Galatians; however, false teachers had deluded and clouded their convictions.

Paul turned to the Faith of Abraham to Convict the Galatians of their Error (3:6-9)

6 Even as Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned unto him for righteousness(3:6).

The word “even” connects this thought with the preceding thoughts.  The Galatians were justified of their sins through the instructions of the Holy Spirit and the message they heard was confirmed as truth by miracles.  The process of their justification is equated to Abraham’s.  Many of the Jews considered their relationship to Abraham an established standard by which they would be saved (see Matthew 3:9).  Paul turned to this issue to illustrate that not even Abraham was justified by law keeping.  The passage above is a quote from Genesis 15:6.  At this point in the life of Abraham, he had not received the covenant of circumcision (occurs at Genesis 17) yet Moses recorded that Abraham was justified.  Note, too, that Abraham was justified far before the Mosaic Law came into existence.  How was Abraham justified?  He was justified by faithful obedience to God’s commands.  That’s not to say that he did not sin from time to time, because he did.  The point Paul was making was that Abraham continued to give efforts to obey God (see James 2:23ff; Hebrews 5:9).  The Galatians were justified in the same manner Abraham was.

Abraham’s faith was put to his account for (eis) righteousness.  The same Greek word is used at Acts 2:38 and Matthew 26:26 regarding repentance and baptism for the purpose of the remission of sins.  Purpose is what Abraham had.  What these things tell us is that God is looking for our efforts of obedience (see John 3:36).  The Judaizing Christians were obviously using their kinship to Abraham as persuasive means to gain Galatian converts.  Paul destroys this side of their argument.  Continue to take note of all the associated or equivalent terms compiled beginning at Galatians 2:16 to the current verse.  Here are the words:  Justification, grace, righteousness, Christ, receiving the Spirit, perfection, and the hearing of faith.

7 Know therefore that they that are of faith, the same are sons of Abraham” (3:7).

To understand that Abraham was justified by faith is to understand how I am to be justified.  Abraham was “of faith” and likewise all others who are “of faith” are justified and known as a “son of Abraham.”  The question to answer then is, “What does ‘of faith’ mean?”  Those “of faith” are those who are made righteous, justified, and perfected.  This occurs by grace and hearing of faith (see Galatians 2:16-3:7).  When we determine how Abraham came to be recognized as “of faith” then we will see how we are to be “of faith” and consequentially justified, righteous, and perfected.

8 And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed(3:8).

The scripture” saw that God would justify Gentiles by the same faith of Abraham “beforehand” (i.e., before the “law“) (see Ephesians 1:3-6 and 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14).  The Lord “preached the gospel” to Abraham at Genesis 12:1-4.  Both Jew and Gentile (all nations) have always had the hope of eternal salvation when they are justified by the faith of Abraham.  The gospel is that vehicle of instructions that informs mankind of their duty to have the faith of Abraham for justification (see Galatians 3:1-2, 5, and 8).  No man has the right to change that which God preached by the scriptures “beforehand.”

An important concept in relation to our salvation is revealed.  Man is not saved by keeping the Mosaic Law, but rather he is saved when he lives as did Abraham (this is why Paul can say that the gospel message of salvation was preached way back in Genesis 12).  No, Abraham was not told to hear the gospel (Romans 10:17), repent of sins (Acts 17:30), confess that Jesus was the Christ (Romans 10:9-10), be baptized for the forgiveness of his sins (Acts 2:38), and live faithful all the days of his life (Revelation 2:10).  The founding principles of the gospel regarding justification and righteousness, however, were preached to Abraham.  That founding principle is that justification is achieved by the faith of Abraham (Genesis 15:6).  The text demands that we search out Abraham’s faith.  Abraham’s faith is the standard or example by which all men receive God’s gracious offer to justify us of our sins and make us righteous and perfect.

9 So then they that are of faith are blessed with the faithful Abraham(3:9).

Abraham was “blessed” when his faith was reckoned unto him for righteousness (Genesis 15:6 and Galatians 3:6).  Likewise, those who emulate the “faith” of Abraham are also blessed with justification, righteousness, and perfection (see also Romans 3:28 – chapter 4).  To understand the “faith” of Abraham is to be instructed by the gospel.  Now we get to the apex of our matter under discussion.  How was Abraham’s faith reckoned unto him for righteousness (Genesis 15:6 and Galatians 3:6)?  James tells us that the Genesis 15:6 passage was fulfilled by Abraham when he obeyed the commandment of God to sacrifice Isaac.  James writes, “Was not Abraham our father justified by works, in that he offered up Isaac his son upon the altar?  Thou seest that faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect; and the scripture was fulfilled which saith, And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned unto him for righteousness; and he was called the friend of God” (see James 2:21-24 compared to Genesis 18:19; 22:1-18 and 26:4-5).  Abraham’s obedience to God’s commandments is how he was justified by faith.  Abraham, in fact, lived a “faithful” life (see Hebrews 11:8-19).

Paul explains to the Galatians that all who exercise the faithful obedience of Abraham are likewise justified.  To be justified is to be acquitted of sins (see Acts 2:38; Romans 5:1-2; Ephesians 1:7 and 3:7). To be blessed of God is to be a recipient of His promise to forgive man of their sins (see Isaiah 61:6-9).  Sarah was “blessed” when she received the son of promise (see Genesis 17:16).  When we receive God’s promise of forgiveness we too are blessed (Acts 2:38-39; 3:25-26; Galatians 3:14).  Abraham was blessed (forgiven) as he exercised an obedient faith and likewise we shall be blessed of God when we too exercise an obedient faith.  Paul will name the act of obedience that puts one in a state of justification at Galatians 3:27.

A Contrast of Law and Faith (3:10-14)

10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under a curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one who continues not in all things that are written in the book of the law, to do them(3:10).

Paul revealed the end of the Galatians’ present course who had allowed the persuasive words and persecution of the Judaizers to turn them away from truth.  One who seeks to be justified by Mosaic Law is “under a curse.”  Nothing good can come of one who would try to be justified by perfect law keeping because there will inevitably be a time in which the follower will make a mistake and sin against the law (see Romans 3:23).  When that mistake is made, he has lost out on justification and has no more hope of obtaining it (i.e., cursed).  How do we know this?  Paul quoted from Deuteronomy 27:26.  Those who did not keep the Mosaic Law perfectly, and no one did (not even Moses), were cursed.  Herein was the “weakness and un-profitableness of the law” (see Hebrews 7:18).  The law could make nothing perfect through the forgiveness of sins (see Hebrews 10:1-4).  The blood of bulls and goats could not forgive one sin, however, the blood of Jesus Christ can forgive any sin that man repents of (see Acts 8:22; 1 John 1:7-10).

At this point of our study we have not been introduced to the specific syncretistic teaching brought by the Judaizing Christians, however, we have been given strong hints.  The Galatians had been persuaded to follow a different gospel and in a deluded state they followed it (Galatians 1:6, 3:1).  This different gospel clearly had something to do with following the Mosaic Law and had Abraham as its persuasive tool.  Obedience to Mosaic Law will save no one.  Obedience to Law of Christ (i.e., living by the faith of Abraham) will provide justification.  The continued theme is that the Christian is to conduct himself according to divine revelation (Spirit) as opposed to the flesh.

No confusion should exist between Paul’s statement at Galatians 3:10 and James’ statement at James 2:21-24.  The “works” of the Mosaic Law offered no forgiveness.  The “works” of obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ demands perfection as well, however, there is the blood of Christ to forgive the sinner.  The Mosaic Law offered no provisions for forgiveness.  The gospel of Jesus Christ offers forgiveness through the blood of Christ (see 1 John 2:1-2).  The honest Bible student who desires truth and justification ought to be on the edge of his seat, at this point of the study, desiring to know what act of obedient faith he must do to receive justification by the blood of Jesus Christ.  Paul gives the answer at Galatians 3:26-28.

11 Now that no man is justified by the law before God, is evident: for, the righteous shall live by faith(3:11).

Paul equates “justification” with “righteousness” here as well as previously at Galatians 2:16, 21 and 3:6-8.  Paul explains to the Romans that all who walk obediently, as did Abraham, are considered justified and righteous (see Romans 4:1-12).  To be justification by faith is to walk in obedience to the standards set by God (see Galatians 5:16-24).  Abraham’s obedient life stands as a great example for God to show man how he has always planned to justify us.  The scriptures have always taught that man is justified by an obedient faith (Genesis 15:6).  The Law of Moses actually places any and every individual under a curse who do not obey it perfectly (Deuteronomy 27:26).  The Law of Moses leaves man cursed and the law of faith leaves man justified.

Those who are confused over God’s demand to keep the Mosaic Law perfectly and the Law of Christ perfectly ought to be granted understanding here.  The modern day Calvinist would say that we can’t have it both ways.  They believe that the problem with “law” is that it demands perfection which no man may achieve (Romans 3:23).  Their faulty conclusion is that God’s grace covers all sins in a man’s life and thereby once you’re saved your always saved and it is impossible to fall from grace (or imputation of righteousness).  Paul destroys such faulty reasoning at Galatians 5:4 by saying that the Galatians had “fallen from grace.”  Man has the God ordained responsibility to live by an obedient faith as did Abraham (please note the equivalence made by Paul himself between “justification” (forgiveness), “righteousness,” and “faith” above).  God justifies the man who attempts to live perfectly as Abraham did.  The law of faith provides the remedy of the blood of Christ (forgiveness) to the one whom fails to keep the Law of Christ perfectly (see 1 John 1:8-2:2).  God does not justify the man who attempts to live perfectly through the Mosaic Law because the moment such a one sins there is no forgiveness (mercy or grace of God).  To live perfectly, in accordance to the Mosaic Law, would be to gain salvation of your own means and thereby you would be owed salvation (yet no man can do this; Romans 3:23).  The man who lives by faith tries his hardest not to sin (see Philippians 3:12).  When this man sins he humbly, with a spirit of meekness, asks the Lord to forgiven him (see 1 John 1:8-9).

The Christian is therefore one who keeps the gospel law to the best of his abilities, and when he falls, Jesus rescues him from the state of sin (Hebrews 2:18) through the sinner’s humble confession and repentance of sins (Acts 8:22).  Those who live like Abraham are those who not only hate sin (see Romans 12:9) but they do all within their power not to sin (see Romans 6:1-2).

Paul quotes from the prophet Habakkuk who stated, “The righteous shall live by faith” (Habakkuk 2:4).  “Righteousness” is God’s divine standard for man to follow and is defined by the everlasting covenant of man’s justification (see Isaiah 28:17; Titus 2:11-12).  God has determined a right and wrong way of man’s life.  Those who choose to let the Spirit direct their paths shall be justified in their obedience.  Those who walk by their own standards and way of life shall be cursed (see Isaiah 55:6-9; Jeremiah 10:23).  The “faith” under consideration is the obedient life that is guided by the Holy Spirit’s divinely revealed gospel message (see Galatians 5:17).

The evidence to the honest Jew is overwhelming.  The sacred OT scriptures tell them that all were under a curse because they could not keep the law perfectly.  They were not without hope, however, because the faithful ones understood that true justification came by living by faith as did Abraham and longing to see the seed promise fulfilled.

12 And the law is not of faith; but, He that doeth them shall live in them(3:12).

The Law of Moses is the “law” under consideration (see Galatians 3:17).  This law continues to be in contrast to the “law of faith” (see Romans 3:27).  To seek one’s justification through the Mosaic Law is to attempt to live perfectly with no remedy to a failure of sin.  To be justified through belief in Christ is to attempt to live in perfection; however, when we fail (and all do) we have the blood of Christ to forgive us (this is the system “of faith“).  No man sins on purpose knowing that they can be forgiven but rather the justified man crucifies the flesh and it is Christ that lives within (see Hebrews 10:26-30; Galatians 2:20).

The law “is not of faith” because it gives no remedies for sin.  The OT worthies understood this at some degree and thereby had hope in a future Messiah (1 Peter 1:10).  If the Galatians were going to be persuaded to keep one part of the law they were obligated to keep the whole law (see Galatians 5:3).  When they failed at any point of the Mosaic Law there would be no remedy for that sin.  They were left in a state of hopelessness.  This is why Paul is completely amazed that they have taken this rout in search of justification (see Galatians 1:6).  They were destined to fail.

13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us; for it is written, cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:” (3:13).

The word “redeemed” (exagorazo) means “to buy up” (LS 268).  Moulton defines the word as, “To buy out of the hands of a person; to redeem, or set free” (Moulton 143).  The dictionary defines the word “redeemed” as, “To recover ownership of by paying a specified sum.  To pay off, as a promissory note.  To set free; rescue or ransom (the release of a person or property in return for payment of a demanded price)” (AHD 1027).  The word redemption simply means that one has purchased another’s freedom and thereby has rescued, saved, or set the individual free from the state of bondage that he was in.  The word “redemption” is now added to our terms of equivalence.  We have noted how that Paul has equated justification, righteousness, God’s grace, Jesus Christ, the hearing of faith (gospel), man’s perfection, and the blessings of Abraham all together as one topic.  Paul now adds “redemption” to this list.  One verse that may sum up the gospel message better than any other is found at Ephesians 1:7.  The Apostle Paul writes of Christ saying, “In whom we have our redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.”  All the bolded words are associated with the study of Galatians 3.  Man’s justification, righteousness, and perfection are all about obtaining forgiveness of sins.

Again, let us remember what the curse of the law is:  Anyone who did not keep the law perfectly was cursed because there was no remedy for the sin committed (Deuteronomy 27:26).  The guilty one was often “hung on a tree” and killed for a penalty of breaking the law.  They died without mercy (see Hebrews 10:28).  Paul tells us that Christ redeemed mankind from the curse of the law.  Jesus “became a curse for us; for it is written, cursed is every one that hangs on a tree.”  The doctrine of Jesus becoming a curse “for” (Greek huper) us is important to note.  The Greek word huper means “in behalf of” (Moulton 414).  Instead of man being cursed Jesus was cursed on our behalf.  He took upon Himself the curse that was due sinful man (see Isaiah 53:8).

Consider the OT passage that Paul quoted from:  “And if a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree; his body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt surely bury him the same day; for he that is hanged is accursed of God; that thou defile not thy land which Jehovah thy God giveth thee for an inheritance” (Deuteronomy 21:22-23).  The foolish Galatians needed to see that there was no justification to be had in following a syncretistic doctrine that mixed the Mosaic Law with the Law of Christ.  The Law of Moses served its purpose; however, it must be put behind the Christian rather than adhered to.

14 that upon the Gentiles might come the blessing of Abraham in Christ Jesus; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith(3:14).

The word “that” helps us understand that Paul was summarizing why Jesus redeemed man from the consequences of sin by hanging upon the cross himself.  God had always promised justification (forgiveness and or righteousness) to mankind through the seed of Abraham (Galatians 3:8).  The Gentiles, therefore, were capable of receiving the forgiveness of their sins through Christ just as the Jews, and the redemptive process is now referred to as “the promise of the Spirit through faith.”  Paul’s frequent use of the term “faith,” in relation to one’s justification process, hammers home the idea of man’s responsibility to live in obedience (please read John 3:36 and Acts 14:1-2 for examples of the use of the term belief as it relates to obedience).

God’s promise was that mankind had the opportunity of receiving salvation, the forgiveness of sins, through the redemptive work of Christ.  This is the promise that Luke spoke of at Acts 2:39 (the forgiveness of sins and eternal salvation).  The “promise of the Spirit” is equated to justification, righteousness, God’s grace, perfection, the gospel message, the blessings of Abraham, and the forgiveness of sins.

The “blessings of Abraham” can only be obtained, “in Christ Jesus.”  We must not miss this most important point of the text.  Not only is man justified by and obedient faith but that faith must be “in Christ Jesus.”  The point being is that the gospel of Jesus Christ alone saves man.  There is no other doctrine that man is to be obedient to (see Galatians 3:1, 8 and here at 3:14).  The next few verses shall prove the authority of God and man’s prohibition to altar or change the terms of justification by the faith of Abraham.  Far before the false doctrines of circumcision, sinner’s prayer, the doctrine of “accept Jesus into your heart and be saved,” Calvinism, Mormonism, Catholicism, and so forth was the one doctrine of Jesus Christ (see 2 John 9-11).

The Purpose of the Mosaic Law (3:15-22)

15 Brethren, I speak after the manner of men: though it be but a man’s covenant, yet when it hath been confirmed, no one maketh it void, or addeth thereto(3:15).

Paul makes a comparison between human covenants and the covenant God made with Abraham.  Even human covenants are not made void or altered once agreed upon unless the two parties make an agreement.  Why would anyone think that a law that God made (his covenant) may be voided or added to?

The erring doctrines brought to the Galatians bound certain acts (i.e., circumcision) upon man as though necessary for salvation simply because the practice was a part of the Mosaic Law.  This “different doctrine” did not belong attached to the law of faith whereby man is justified from his sins.  This is the way covenants work.  Once a covenant is “confirmed” (menen) it cannot be lawfully changed.  The Greek word menen means “authority, confirmation, to confirm, or ratify” (Moulton 244).  The confirmation of a covenant is its sealed authority.  To attempt to add or take away from is to do that which God says, “no one” is to do.  The law of faith (Romans 3:27) or as Paul refers to it here in Galatians 6:2, “the Law of Christ,” is not to be tampered with by someone trying to append circumcision, “say the sinner’s prayer,” or “accept Jesus into your heart and you will be saved and forgiven of sins.  This is exactly the erring work of the Judaizing teachers (see Acts 15:5).  It is Jehovah God who sets standards for man to follow not man (see Jeremiah 10:23).  When man tries to make laws that God did not command he sets himself up as a god (see 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4).  Throughout the scriptures we find warnings not to add or take away from revelation (see Deuteronomy 4:2; Galatians 1:6-9; Revelation 22:17-21).  Why do people tamper with the gospel of Jesus Christ?  They do so because they are rebellious to the one truth, faith, and God (see Ephesians 4:1-4).

16 Now to Abraham were the promises spoken, and to his seed.  He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as one, And to thy seed, which is Christ(3:16).

What “promises” are under consideration?  The context before us precisely identifies the “promises” to Abraham to be man’s justification, righteousness, and perfection through the blood of Christ.  The life of Abraham is studied through the Bible books of Genesis, Galatians, Romans, Hebrews, and James and the same conclusions are drawn.  There were others, such as Ishmael, who was born unto Abraham that could have been the seed promise, yet God in His sovereignty choose Isaac (see Romans 9:6-8).  Isaac represented faithfulness and spirituality whereas Ishmael represented fleshly or worldly living apart from God (see also Galatians 4:21-31).

Paul has already addressed this subject earlier in this chapter.  Abraham’s faithful obedience is examined at Galatians 3:6-9.  Through Abraham’s faithful obedience to God’s commandments he was recognized as “perfect” (Galatians 3:3), “righteous” (Galatians 3:6), and “justified” (Galatians 3:8).  All of mankind would have an equal opportunity to be perfected, righteous, and justified through the seed of Abraham (see Genesis 12:3 and Galatians 3:8).  This “promise” was made before the Mosaic Law existed.  Man was justified from sins and made perfect and righteous before and after the Mosaic Law.  The Mosaic Law made no one perfect, justified, or Righteous (Hebrews 10:1-4).

Finally, note that Paul makes a play on words regarding “one” as opposed to “many.”  There is but one Christ whereby man is saved (see Acts 4:10-12).  One Christ means one truth or Gospel (see Ephesians 4:1-4).  The name of Christ is so closely related to the gospel that he is actually made equivalent to it at Colossians 1:24-2:2.  The teaching of no man having the right to change the one promise or gospel of Jesus Christ continues. 

17 Now this I say: A covenant confirmed beforehand by God, the law, which came four hundred and thirty years after, doth not disannul, so as to make the promise of none effect(3:17).

The “promise” is man’s perfection, justification, and righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ.  The Mosaic Law came 430 years after this promise was made to Abraham and the whole world.  The Galatians had been persuaded that they needed to obey the Mosaic Law and be circumcised in order to be saved (Acts 15:5).  Justification, however, was allotted to Abraham 430 years before the Mosaic Law came into existence.  This being the case, why were there some who were saying that we must keep the Mosaic Law to be saved when God made the way of salvation known 430 years before the Mosaic Law even came out?  If man was justified before any of the Mosaic Law was delivered then what was there about this law that needs to be adhered to now for justification?  Paul is effectively dismantling the Judiazing Christians argument that Mosaic Law must be kept for one to be justified.

The Mosaic Law does not therefore “disannul, so as to make the promise of none effect.”  When something is “disannul-ed” it is cancelled or rescinded.  God’s covenant to bless all nations with perfection, justification, and righteousness through the seed of Abraham was not cancelled or rescinded by the Mosaic Law.   The promise of justification could not have the Law of Moses attached to it because of the confirmation of God toward his covenant with Abraham to justify man by faith (Genesis 15:6).  To add to God’s covenant with Abraham was sinful and not authorized by God (see above statements at Galatians 3:15).

18 For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no more of promise: but God hath granted it to Abraham by promise(3:18).

The “inheritance” is now connected to God’s “promise” to man through the seed of Abraham (man’s justification, righteousness, and perfection).  Throughout the New Testament the term “inheritance” is associated with the “remission of sins” and “sanctification by faith” at Acts 26:18.  Paul associates one’s inheritance to “redemption” at Ephesians 1:14 and eternal heavenly glory at Ephesians 1:18; Colossians 1:12; 3:24; Hebrews 9:15 and 1 Peter 1:4.  The complete picture is that man’s heavenly eternal abode (the inheritance) is associated to God’s promise to forgive sins, justify, redeem, perfect, make righteous, and sanctify man.  Notice that the “inheritance” of heaven is man’s complete disassociation from sin.

Justification through Christ by promise to Abraham (inheritance) cannot be defined by the Law of Moses that came 430 years afterwards; else “it is no more of promise.”  Nothing changed in the covenant of promise that God made to Abraham just because the Mosaic Law was introduced to man.  Many of the Jews incorrectly took the Mosaic Law as a replacement of the Abrahamic covenant.  The law of justification, acquitting one of sin, was confirmed in Abraham 430 years before the Mosaic Law came about.  Hundreds of years before Christ would even come into the world God had already laid the founding principles of justification by faith through the obedient life of Abraham.

19 What then is the law?  It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise hath been made; and it was ordained through angels by the hand of a mediator(3:19).

The terms of justification, righteousness, and perfection had been confirmed and no man had the right to add or subtract from that covenant.  This being the case, one may naturally asks, “What then is the law?”  Paul is telling the Galatians that the Law of Moses cannot save you and is not to be obeyed as if it could save you.  If the law of justification had already been outlined through the life of Abraham what purpose did God serve by bringing about the Mosaic Law?  This would be a natural question to the confused Jew at this point.

The purpose of the Mosaic Law was to help man identify sin (see Romans 3:20; 5:20; 7:7; Galatians 3:19).  The promise to Abraham was that man would receive the forgiveness of sins through Christ and the purpose of the Mosaic Law was to identify those things that are not acceptable to God (sin).  Remember, the “inheritance” of the saints is a complete disassociation with sin.  The Law of Moses was thereby “added” to the promise given to Abraham.  Not in so much as it was another stipulation of the covenant God had made with Abraham but rather another step for man to achieve eternal justification by identifying sin and learning to loathe it as does God.  It was another covenant, separate, yet not disconnected from the covenant made with Abraham.  We have to open our eyes wide and see what Paul is saying here.  Too many people do not believe their sin puts them in a dangerous situation with God due to grace.  Such conclusions are ignoring the obvious.  Though justification had been taught and received before the Mosaic Law sin continued to have power over the man who permitted it in their lives.  Sin in the lives of man has never been acceptable by God (see Romans 6:1-16).  The natural inference is that God demands our obedience to his standard of righteousness and justice and any other actions on our part is termed sin (see 1 John 3:4).  God was so concerned about man sinning that he gave the Mosaic Law.

The Mosaic Law was inferior to the promise God made with Abraham in that “it was ordained through angels by the hand of a mediator” as opposed to God’s direct communication to Abraham.  God spoke to angels, angels spoke to Moses, and finally Moses spoke to the people (see Deuteronomy 33:2; Acts 7:38, 53; Hebrews 2:1-4).  The inferiority of the Mosaic Law is found in the fact that it could not make a man perfect in respect to his sin (i.e., justify and make a man righteous or perfect) (see Hebrews 7:18-19).  Note also the temporary nature of the Mosaic Law.  Paul said it was added to the covenant promise to Abraham and was only to last “till the seed should come.”  When Christ came, the Mosaic Law was nailed to the cross and thereby abrogated (Colossians 2:14).

20 Now a mediator is not a mediator of one; but God is one (3:20).

A mediator is one who goes between two in a conflict.  God, however, is one in that He spoke directly to Abraham as opposed to using a mediator (i.e., Moses).  The superiority of the covenant God made with Abraham is the objective in these verses.  God spoke directly to Abraham, whereas the Mosaic Law was administered by angels from God to Moses and then to man.  Secondly, it is superior because it offers justification.  Thirdly, it is superior to the Mosaic Law because it is eternal whereas the Mosaic Law had a beginning and end.

21 Is the law then against the promises of God?  God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could make alive, verily righteousness would have been of the law(3:21).

The “promises” of God is man’s justification, righteousness, perfection, redemption, forgiveness of sins, and inheritance of heaven through the seed of Abraham (i.e., Christ).  The state of being “alive” is equated to being “justified, righteous, redeemed, forgiven of sins, perfected, and etc.  Interestingly, Paul uses the same term under the same circumstances at Ephesians 2:1ff.  Paul writes, “And you did he make alive, when ye were dead through your trespasses and sins…” (Ephesians 2:1).  Those “alive” have been forgiven, justified, and made righteous and perfected by exercising the same faithfulness to God’s commands as Abraham.

Paul answers another question regarding the view people were to take of the Mosaic Law.  If the Mosaic Law could not remove sins and is inferior to the covenant God made with Abraham does it consequentially militate against the promises of God?  Paul answered, “God forbid.”  Remember, the law served the purpose of helping man identify sin and helped one to understand what unacceptable behavior in the eyes of God is.  From this standpoint, the law is not against the promises God made to Abraham.  The law actually helps people see God’s view of sin so that we too may develop a God like attitude toward sin (Romans 12:9).  Sin is unacceptable in the eyes of God and thereby it must be in ours.  Abraham’s life of faith proves this point.

At the same time, however, Paul made it clear that the Mosaic Law plays no role in man’s justification other than the identification of sin.  If it did provide justification, then there would certainly be no need for Christ coming into the world and making a sacrifice upon the cross (Hebrews 8:6-8).  The Mosaic Law seems to bridge the gap between Abraham and Christ.  The promises made to Abraham were fulfilled in Jesus Christ and the Law of Moses helped all see their need for Christ.

No law, in fact, could justify a person from their sins.  The fact that law exists confirms that sin exists (see Romans 4:15).  Law only identifies and condemns sin as lawlessness (see 1 John 3:4).  Remember, God’s promises involve all things disassociated with sin (see above).  The fact of the matter is that no man can live their lives without violating law (sinning) at some point (Romans 3:23).  The function of law is not to save but to identify sin and cause one not to want to sin.  Unfortunately, from time to time you and I sin in some form or fashion.  The law does not remove that sin.  The law only identified your actions as sinful.  It is only through the blood of Christ that a man can be forgiven of a sin.

22 But the scripture shut up all things under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe(3:22).

The relationship between sin and law is identified.  To be “shut up” is to be imprisoned.  The law made a prisoner of its adherent because it did not offer any remedy for sin.  Once one violated the law there was absolutely no hope because the only thing the law did was identify the sin.   The eternal sentence of jailed doom is pronounced upon the violator of this law.  No chance for pardon and no chance for parole.

When man becomes aware of such a doomed state he is motivated to seek out a remedy for his sinful condition.  No man in his right mind wants to stay imprisoned for ever.  Those who would learn of Christ and the promises through Abraham, in relationship to the Lord, found that justification was obtainable.  The point being that the Law identified sin to man, helped him to recognize his doomed state, and motivated him to seek out Christ.

The “promise” is again mentioned (i.e., justification, perfection, righteousness, reconciliation to God, redemption through the blood of Christ, the inheritance of God etc…).  This promise is obtained by those who “believe.”  Paul has already proved this by the life of Abraham.  Abraham’s faith in God is what brought him to a righteous state and a recipient of God’s promise (see Galatians 3:6).  Abraham’s “belief” or faith was not a simple statement but rather a life of obedience to God that made manifest his true belief in God (see Genesis 18:19; 22:18; 26:1-5; Romans 4; James 2:18-26).

The Purpose of the Law is to Bring one to See his Need for Christ (3:23-29)

23 But before faith came, we were kept in ward under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed(3:23).

The “promise by faith in Jesus Christ” (Galatians 3:22) is elaborated on.  The “faith” under consideration is the gospel that Abraham obeyed and came to be identified as justified, righteous, perfected, forgiven, and redeemed before God.  All who have the faith of Abraham are justified from their sins too.  This faith is produced by the gospel of Jesus Christ (see Galatians 3:8 and Romans 10:17; Jude 3).  Before this faith, however, man is in prison to sin.

Before the gospel message of eternal salvation came, men were kept in “ward” under the law.  The word “ward (Greek phroureo) means “to keep watch or guard… to be watched or guarded” (LS 873).  The context suggests that man is held in bondage to sin and “watched or guarded” by the law to see that they were kept in this condition.  This state of bondage would continue until the gospel message (“the faith“) was revealed.  The inference is clear.  The gospel message would free men from the bondage of sin that the law kept them in “ward” to.

24 So that the law is become our tutor to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith(3:24).

Here is a verse that can be easily misconstrued if the context of this chapter has not been followed.  One may say that the purpose of law is to reveal Jesus and my objective is to believe in Jesus and when this occurs so does justification.  Such a line of thought, however, negates the previous context.

Let us review how Abraham was justified and consequentially how we are justified:

  1. a. Abraham’s faith was reckoned unto him for righteousness (Genesis 15:6 and Galatians 3:6).  Abraham’s righteousness is equated to his justification (see Romans 4:3-5).  Those who are justified are recognized as the “sons of Abraham” (Galatians 3:7).  It would be through Abraham’s seed (Christ) that all nations would be justified (acquitted of sins) (Galatians 3:8).  Those justified, as Abraham, would be termed “righteous” that “live by faith” (Galatians 3:11).  Said individuals receive the “promise of the Spirit through faith” (Galatians 3:14).
  2. b. Over and over we find the connection between living by faith and justification.  One does not receive justification without living by faith.  The question is, does this faith mean a subjective faith in Jesus (i.e., a simple belief that He is) or does it include following a set of instructions?  Again, let us allow the context of Galatians three to answer this question.  The Galatians had received the Holy Spirit (salvation or justification) by the hearing of faith (Galatians 3:2, 5).  Paul then connected Abraham to the idea of hearing of faith at Galatians 3:6 when he said, “Even as Abraham believed God…”  What did God tell Abraham that produced faith?  It was the gospel message (Galatians 3:8).  When Abraham heard this message he believed it and obeyed the voice of God (Genesis 18:19).  It was not until Abraham obeyed God’s message that God said that such faith was reckoned unto him for righteousness (see Genesis 15:6).  The Christian today is therefore one who hears, believes, and obeys!  Our faithful obedience evidences our subjective faith in Christ (see Hebrews chapter 11 and James 2:21-24).

The “law” of Galatians 3:24 is the Law of Moses that came 430 years after the promises that God made to Abraham.  This law was to serve as a “tutor” (paidagogos).  This Greek word means, “The slave who went with a boy from home to school and back again… a kind of tutor” (LS 584).  The Law was like a slave responsible for seeing to it that those under its control made it to Christ that they may receive the justification of sins committed.  How?  The Law revealed sin (Romans 7:7).  The Law also demanded perfection with no remedy for mistakes (Deuteronomy 27:26; Galatians 3:10).  An understanding that sin separates one from God leaves the believer in a hopeless state without Christ.  God promised justification of sins, through the seed of Abraham, and thereby men longed to see the day of Jesus because the Mosaic Law left them in sin with no remedy (1 Peter 1:10).

Question:  How can one be justified from sin and continue in sin (see Romans 6:1-2)?  Though many teach, “Once saved Always saved” or the “impossibility of apostasy” such doctrines do not measure up to the standard of truth.  The Mosaic Law identified sin and the eternal inheritance of the saints is a realm completely disassociated with sin.  How then can any man think he can continue to live in sin and have a part of God’s promises?

25 But now that faith is come, we are no longer under a tutor(3:25).

Let’s keep the context.  What is “faith?”  When “faith” comes man no longer needs the “tutor” (i.e., the Mosaic Law that brings them to understand the unacceptable nature of sin).  Faith is the gospel of Jesus Christ made manifest in a man’s life by his acts of obedience to God’s commandments.

The distinction between the Law of Moses and the Law of Christ is identified.  The New Covenant under Jesus Christ (see Matthew 5:48; 1 Peter 1:15-17; 1 John 4:17) and the Mosaic Law (see Deuteronomy 27:26; Galatians 3:10) both demanded perfection.  The Law of Christ offers a remedy for the one who violates its principles whereas the Law of Moses did not (Hebrews 7:18-19).  This principle is vital for people to understand their responsibity today to be obedient to God’s ways of righteousness and justice (see Titus 2:11-12).

26 For ye are all sons of God, through faith, in Jesus Christ(3:26).

Those who have been freed from the bondage of law and sin through faith in Jesus Christ are now termed “sons of God.”  Being recognized as a “son of God” occurs through “faith in Jesus Christ.”  Note that Paul had earlier said, “Know therefore that they that are of faith are the sons of Abraham” (Galatians 3:7).  To be a “son of Abraham” is equivalent to being a “son of God.”

Those who are justified of sins, recipients of God’s promises, and the inheritance of God are those who are “of faith” (Galatians 3:9).  Faith is again the key to understanding the whole of Galatians 3.  The Galatians had gone after another doctrine that produced another faith in them and caused them to leave off following the teachings of Christ (Galatians 1:6).  They had added to that which God had confirmed and were thereby in error.

Paul’s point was that it is through adherence to the doctrine of Christ alone that man will receive justification of sins.  REMEMBER!  Abraham was justified by faith when he adhered to God’s commandments (see Genesis 18:19; 22:1-18; 26:4-5; John 8:39-41; Hebrews 11:8-19).

Luke identified the connection between faith and obedience by using the words interchangeably at Acts 14:1-2.  Jesus addressed this idea in John 3:36 saying, “He that believes on the Son hath eternal life; but he that obeys not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”  Many Bible versions miss the mark when they translate “obeys not” as “believes not.”  There is a big difference.  One could claim that belief in Jesus alone is the one condition for salvation and that is what is brought out in Galatians 3 along with passages such as John 3:16, 36.  Faith alone, however, is not the consideration of Galatians three or of John 3.  Consider the Greek word used at John 3:26 for “obeys not” (apeitheo).  Liddell and Scott define the word as “to be disobedient, refuse compliance, to disobey” (LS 90).  The ASV has rightly translated apeitheo as “obeys not.”  Jesus teaches that when one believes he obeys.  Here is clear evidence that the Christian is to keep only the doctrine of Christ as opposed to a mish mash of religious doctrines.

Man is recognized as a “son of God” when he has complied with the teachings of Jesus Christ.  The teachings of Christ (gospel) reveal what one must do to receive justification of sins.  Compliance with these regulations justifies one just as Abraham was justified (Genesis 18:19).  Abraham’s faith was an obedient faith (James 2:21-24).

27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ did put on Christ(3:27).

The Apostle Paul now connects “baptism” to man’s “faith” and the “promises” of God to justify, perfect, make righteous, redeem, forgive of sins, sanctify, and have an eternal glorious inheritance in heaven.  Abraham’s faith was an obedient faith and this is how he came to be reckoned as righteous.  Today, if I am to be recognized as a son of Abraham or God I too must have an obedient faith.  Paul finally gives us the details of being justified by the faith of Abraham.  The command to be baptized is a law that must be complied with to illustrate my faith in Jesus (see Acts 2:38; 22:16).  Again, it is not law alone that saves but man’s obedience to law conjoined with faith (see James 2:20-22).  To deny that baptism is necessary for the forgiveness of one’s sins is to deny the confirmed law of Christ, to loose out on justification, and to be kept in “ward” or prison to sin.  If God’s covenant with man demands baptism who are we to change that (see Galatians 3:15)?  Baptism is how one comes in contact with the blood of Jesus Christ (please compare the following passages – Acts 2:38; Ephesians 1:7; Hebrews 9:14 and 1 Peter 3:21).

Note secondly that to “put on Christ” is equated to being baptized (i.e., forgiveness and justification).  To “put on” is to cloth oneself with Christ.  The clothing of one with another is a figurative way of saying that everything Christ is, I so purpose to be (see Romans 8:29-30; Colossians 3:12).  I am to emulate the Lord’s character, sinless life, love, method of teaching and preaching, humility, and so forth (see 1 Peter 2:21ff).  Christ was obedient to the point of death (Philippians 2:8).  If I am baptized I too illustrate a character of obedience and subjection to God’s will unto death (see Romans 6:17; 2 Corinthians 2:9).

28 There can be neither Jew nor Greek, there can be neither bond nor free, there can be no male and female; for ye all are one man in Christ Jesus(3:28).

The faithful obedient individual (whether Jew, Greek, bond, free, male, or female) that is baptized into Christ for the remission of sins is justified and recognized as “one man in Christ Jesus.”  The relationship between Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians was apparently strained due to the erroneous Judiazing doctrines.  While the Jew taught that they continued to hold a different place in the heart of God Paul condemns such error.

All stand on equal ground when baptized for the remission of sins.  Such an act puts one “in Christ Jesus” which is another way of saying that fellowship is now enjoyed with Christ.  The apostle John said, “But whoso keeps his word, in him verily hath the love of God been perfected.  Hereby we know that we are in him: he that saith he abideth in him ought himself also to walk even as he walked” (1 John 2:5-6).  This is further proof that an obedient faith is under consideration.  When one is baptized they emulate the obedient faith of Abraham.  When one obeys the doctrine of Christ they manifest their faith in God.  True Christians are not people who say they believe in Christ and then live sinful lives.  True Christians, sons of God, are those who profess their faith in Christ and manifest that faith in their daily lives of obedience to his divine will.

29 And if ye are Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, heirs according to promise(3:29).

Herein is the conclusion to the chapter on receiving justification by faith and not perfect Mosaic Law keeping.  Those who are baptized into Christ are justified of sins because they obey God’s instructions just as Abraham did (see James 2:21-24).  The Judaizing teachers were claiming that in order for one to be saved they needed to obey the Mosaic Law and be circumcised (Acts 15:5).  Paul now clearly showed that one is saved from the consequences of his sins by faithful living as did Abraham.  The Mosaic Law had nothing to do with Abraham’s or anyone else’s justification.  When one is baptized, he is placed “in Christ” and furthermore is depicted as “Abraham’s seed” because he seeks his justification in the same manner that Abraham did apart from the Mosaic Law.  While Abraham was not baptized for the forgiveness of his sins he nonetheless is connected to Christ through the subject of justification and obedience.  Baptism in the name of Jesus Christ would not be a law until Christ sent forth the law from Jerusalem (see Isaiah 2:2-4 and Acts 2:38-41).

The Jews looked to their physical relationship with Abraham for salvation and Paul taught that salvation comes to all nations who seek justification in the manner that Abraham did (by faithful obedience to God’s instructions).  When one so lives by God’s instructions, he is termed a “son of Abraham” (Galatians 3:7) which is equivalent to being a “son of God” (Galatians 3:26).


Galatians chapter 3 answers the most important question a man may ask.  That question is, “How am I saved from the consequences of my sins?”  The answer has remained the same for hundreds of years.  When those on the day of Pentecost asked the same question at Acts 2:37 Peter answered saying, “Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).  No man has the authority to change this divine teaching.