Galatians 3

Galatians 3  •  9 min. read  •  grade level: 8
AL 3:1{Vs. 1. The apostle has shown that, in turning back to the law, the Galatians were setting aside the work of Christ and belittling the glory of His Person as the Son of God. To act in such an unnatural manner it would seem as if they were bewitched, for they were practically denying the truth of the cross, the great central fact of the gospel that had been proclaimed to them, for the apostle had set before them Christ crucified.
Moreover, to turn back to the law not only set aside Christ, but ignored the presence of the Holy Spirit and revived the flesh. The devil is opposed to Christ; the world to the Father; and the flesh to the Spirit. Thus, in the chapters that follow, we constantly have the Spirit and the flesh in opposition (3:3; 4:29; 5:16-17; 6:8). To demonstrate the folly of ignoring the Spirit and reviving the flesh by turning back to the law, the apostle, in the remaining portion of the epistle, mainly dwells upon the blessings into which the Spirit leads us, and the solemn character of the flesh and the evils to which it exposes us. He opens this fresh theme by seeking to reach the conscience of these saints with four searching questions as to the Holy Spirit.
AL 3:2{Vs. 2. First, he inquires on what ground they had received this great gift of the Spirit. Was it “by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith”? He does not question the fact that they had received the Spirit, but he asks if the Spirit had been received because of anything they had done—their works, which would be legal works; or was it simply through faith in Christ, who had died and risen? Scripture plainly shows that it is the sinner who believes in Christ; and it is the believer who is sealed with the Spirit. Thus, in writing to the believers at Ephesus, the apostle can say when speaking of Christ, “In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit” (Eph. 1:1313In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, (Ephesians 1:13)).
AL 3:3{Vs. 3. Secondly, having begun their Christian life in the mighty power of the Holy Spirit, were they now going to turn back to the law, as if by their own efforts they could walk rightly as Christians? The law applies to man in the flesh, so in turning back to the law they were not only ignoring the Holy Spirit but reviving the flesh and seeking perfection in, and by, the flesh.
AL 3:4{Vs. 4. Thirdly, were the things they had suffered for the truth's sake in vain? The persecution they had endured had mainly come from the Jews who, in seeking to maintain the law, had crucified Christ and resisted the Spirit. If these Galatian saints turned back to the law, the Jews would have no quarrel with them; the persecution had been unnecessary and would surely cease.
AL 3:5{Vs. 5. Fourthly, there had been miracles of divine power amongst them. Were these manifestations of power the outcome of keeping the law or were they the result of faith in the power of God?
AL 3:6-9{Vs. 6-9. The answer to such questions was simple. All the blessings they had received, summed up in the crowning gift of the Holy Spirit, the sufferings they had endured, and the manifestation of divine power in their midst, were the outcome of receiving the gospel concerning Jesus by the hearing of faith.
A testimony from God, received by faith, has ever been the alone ground on which souls have come into blessing from God. Abraham is an outstanding example of one who, in Old Testament times, received blessing by faith. Moreover, the history of Abraham shows that before law was given, and therefore altogether apart from law, God was blessing man on the principle of faith. The case of Abraham is all the more convincing, as he is the one, above all others, who was highly esteemed by the Jews. The very one in whom these advocates for the law boasted as being their father (John 8:3939They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham. (John 8:39)) is the one who was blessed apart from law on the ground of faith. Abraham believed God, and was consequently reckoned to be in a righteous condition before God. It follows, therefore, that those alone, who are blessed on the principle of faith, are the true sons of Abraham. Such is the testimony of Scripture which, foreseeing that God would justify the nations on the principle of faith, anticipated the gospel when the word came to Abraham, “In thee shall all nations be blessed.” So, then, they which are on the principle of faith are blessed with believing Abraham.
AL 3:10{Vs. 10. We have seen in the history of Abraham that the Old Testament Scriptures anticipate the blessings coming to the Gentiles on the principle of faith. Now we are to learn that Scripture is equally definite as to the testimony that God rendered through Moses, which says, “Cursed is everyone that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them” (Deut. 27:2626Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them. And all the people shall say, Amen. (Deuteronomy 27:26)). It is evident that none has continued to do all things demanded by the law; the testimony of Moses can only lead to the conclusion that to go back to the law for blessing is to come under the curse. It has been said, “The law exacts; it requires men to keep it; it must have obedience: but it neither gives a nature that desires to keep it, nor strength to do it.”
AL 3:11-12{Vss. 11-12. Such is the testimony of Moses, the lawgiver. But what do the prophets say? Their witness is equally plain, for Habakkuk states, “The just shall live by [his] faith” (Hab. 2:44Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith. (Habakkuk 2:4)). Now it is evident that the law is not of faith, for it says, “The man that doeth them shall live in them” (Lev. 18:55Ye shall therefore keep my statutes, and my judgments: which if a man do, he shall live in them: I am the Lord. (Leviticus 18:5)).
AL 3:13-14{Vss. 13-14. Above all, Christ has redeemed us from the curse by being made a curse for us; for it is written, “Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree” (see Deut. 21:2323His body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt in any wise bury him that day; (for he that is hanged is accursed of God;) that thy land be not defiled, which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance. (Deuteronomy 21:23)). Christ bears our curse that we might receive blessing, and the promise of the Spirit, through faith in Christ.
To turn back to the law for blessing is to neglect the example that Scripture gives us in Abraham, to close our eyes to the testimony rendered by Moses the lawgiver, to ignore the witness of Habakkuk the prophet, and, most solemn of all, to put a slight upon Christ.
AL 3:15-16{Vss. 15-16. In the remaining portion of the chapter we learn the connection between law and promise, and the true service of the law. We are reminded that the promise was made to Abraham and his seed. The apostle quotes the words of the Lord to Abraham when he had offered up his son Isaac, and received him back in a figure from the dead. He is careful to show that the seed of which this Scripture speaks is Christ, of whom Isaac when offered up was a type (Gen. 22:17, 1817That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; 18And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice. (Genesis 22:17‑18)).
AL 22:17-18{Vss. 17-18. This promise was made four hundred and thirty years before the law was given. Whatever the purpose of the law, it cannot set aside the unconditional promise of God. But if the inheritance of blessing be by the law, it would make the promise of none effect. This is impossible, for God cannot go back on His word.
AL 3:19-20{Vss. 19-20. Seeing, then, that the blessing is secured by the sovereign grace of God who makes an unconditional promise, what purpose did the law serve? It came in because man is a sinner and it proves him to be such, and that God is a holy God who cannot pass over sins. The law proves that, if God bestows the blessing in sovereign grace, He does not do so at the expense of righteousness. Thus the law raises the question of righteousness, both the righteousness of man and the righteousness of God. It demands righteousness from man by telling him that his only course in relation to God and his fellow-men is to love God with all his heart and soul and spirit, and his neighbor as himself. But who has done this but our Lord Jesus Christ? Thus the law proves us to be sinners.
Having proved that we have no righteousness, the law goes on to prove that the soul that sinneth must die, and thus that the righteousness of God demands the judgment of the sinner. It was added to prove that we are transgressors. It was ordained by angels who, though making known His majesty, did not directly bring God into display in all the glory of His love and grace. Moreover, it was not, like the promise, directly dependent upon God who made the promise. It was given through a mediator. But this supposes two parties, and that the proposed blessing depends upon the faithfulness of both parties in carrying out the conditions. Moses, the mediator, made known the terms of the law under which blessing depended upon obedience. At once the people accepted the terms by saying, “All that the Lord hath spoken we will do.” But the promise to the Seed, Christ, depends entirely upon God who is One, and in carrying out His promise acts wholly from Himself. Let us remember that here it is no question of Christ the Mediator, who gave Himself a ransom for all; it is wholly a question of promise, and with that a mediator has nothing to say.
AL 3:21-22{Vss. 21-22. Is, then, the law against the promise of God? Far from it. The law demanded righteousness, but it gave no life. If it had given life, it would have been possible to obey the law, and righteousness would have been by the law, and the blessing would have been obtained apart from any promise. But the law convicts of sin and shows that man cannot obtain the blessing by his own efforts, and so proves the necessity of promise. Thus all are shut up under sin, that the promise of faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.
AL 3:23-26{Vss. 23-26. Before faith came—that is Christianity—the Jews, during the period of law, were kept apart from the nations, in view of being justified on the principle of faith. In this sense the law held them in tutelage to conduct them to Christ; but Christianity being come, they were brought into relationship with God by faith in Christ Jesus.
AL 3:27-29{Vss. 27-29. Moreover, by baptism they had part in the profession of Christianity. Whether true believers or not, they had in baptism given up the ground of being Jews or Gentiles, slaves or freemen, and had assumed the profession of Christianity, and were united together as Christians. If, then, they were Christ's, they were Abraham's seed and heirs according to promise. Here, be it noted, the word “seed” is used in allusion to Genesis 12:33And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. (Genesis 12:3), where the seed refers to all that believe.