Has anyone received anything from the Holy Spirit by obedience to the Law? It is by faith in Christ’s finished work alone. Those who are of faith are the sons of Abraham. In the Old Testament, those who failed to obey the Law were automatically under the curse. Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us. The Law was merely given as a way to restrain transgression, and reveal man’s sinful nature until Christ came. Prior to faith, we were kept under guard by the Law. The Law was simply a tutor. Believers become sons of God through faith in Jesus Christ.
O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? (Galatians 3:1).
“Foolish Galatians”, instead of ‘brethren’, is written in both a sober and reprimanding tone. Their conduct was irrational and foolish. It is almost as though he is saying, “O foolish pagans” to convey his feelings on their defection. “Foolish” means that there was no spiritual discernment. “Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:17). They had arrived at this foolish state because they had taken their eyes off of Christ Jesus. Works were taking the place of grace. Various versions of the Bible translate the word “foolish” as ‘stupid, thoughtless, and senseless’. Though these capture something of what Paul is writing, I do not believe they fully express his feelings. The sense of the word, as used here and within the context of what he has already written, is more than merely a ridicule. It is more likely that Paul is saying, “Have you become so brainwashed that you are allowing others to do your thinking for you?” From a Biblical position, it is always utter foolishness for believers to follow the views of men above the Word of God. This is much the same as what Jesus said to His disciples because of their lack of faith. “Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?” (Luke 24:2526). The same thought is found in 1 Samuel 13:13 where the prophet Samuel rebukes Saul for disobeying the Lord’s command. “Thou hast done foolishly: thou hast not kept the commandment of the LORD thy God, which he commanded thee”. So, in reality, the church knew the truth, but thought it could add something to make them more spiritual. It is a little like those who promote the apocryphal books as works of wisdom that believers can learn from. Those erroneous documents have nothing to teach the Bible-believing, Spirit-led, child of God. If the Holy Spirit saw fit to keep the apocryphal books out of the canon of Scripture, we have business feeding ourselves on the contents of a rubbish bin.
“Bewitched” or ‘charmed into unbelief’. It was though they had been been hypnotised by the false teachers. The word implies that some had cast a spell on them, so they were totally under the power of Judaizers. Since the word ‘witch’ is contained in “bewitched”, we can see that the church was being influenced by evil people to behave wickedly against the Gospel. The Greek word for “bewitched” is ‘ebaskanen’ and literally means ‘to slander’. The idea here is that they were allowing the Cross to be slandered by the use of fake statements about grace and their position in Christ. The Weymouth New Testament reads, “Whose sophistry has bewitched you …?”, ‘sophistry’ being the use of clever but false arguments, especially with the intention of deceiving.
The word “who” lays the blame on false teachers, therefore they were Satan’s messengers. They were being controlled by demonic powers both to discredit the Cross, grace and the Gentiles’ relationship with Christ. “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils” (1 Timothy 4:1). Spirits which promote spiritual ignorance through rejection of the truth. Everything must be evaluated by the Word of God rather than the opinions of men. Just because some so-called Church Father or Reformer taught a particular doctrine, it does not automatically make it Biblical. Sadly, many are stuck in the theology of the Middle Ages, and they cannot see how God progressively brought the church into greater light as the years advanced. The theology of the Reformers was largely influenced by Augustine’s Catholicism, and unfortunately they did not do a clean sweep of the false doctrines of Rome, but instead maintained and supported heresies such as infant baptism and false views of the Lord’s Table. It is easy to allow man to rob you of the ability to be led by the Holy Spirit through the Word.
From the beginning it has been Satan’s scheme to encourage believers into not obeying the truth. “Obey” refers to the need of remaining constantly in Scripture. Failure to do so leads to religion and tradition, which in turn results in a total backslidden state. Religion, with its rituals and ceremonies, offers what is only a false sense of self-satisfaction. Again, this is exactly what King Saul fell into when he listened to the flesh rather than the Word of God. “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice”, but look at what Samuel said next, “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry” (1 Samuel 15:22-23). Saul was “bewitched” by religion. The Galatians were now fascinated by Jewish rituals, which is deemed to be foolish, futile, and evil.
What did they take their eyes off? The Cross. Unless ‘Christ and Him Crucified’ is the foundation of our lives, we will also miss the point of the Christian life and slide into religion. We live in an age where the world is trying its utmost to rid itself of Christianity, but instead of standing its ground in the Word of Truth, the church is adopting religion as its stronghold. Not only are we seeing more and more believers practicing Hebrew Roots theology, and others going over to the extremes of hyper-grace, but Protestant denominations and ministers are increasingly placing themselves under Rome’s wing. They may give lip service to it, but they do not truly believe according to Biblical standards. The message of grace is largely unknown in today’s church.
Notice, as with Galatians 2:20, “crucified” is in the perfect tense, and thus highlights the Finished Work of Christ on Cross. The teaching of the Cross was “evidently” made perfectly clear to them. It was patiently taught until they fully understood the message of the Cross, so they could not claim that they innocently fell into error, or that the false teachers merely tricked them. Instead they allowed themselves to come under the spell of the Judaizers, and little by little they were broken down until they submitted to the heresy. Paul had painted a perfect picture in words, therefore they were without excuse.
This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? (Galatians 3:2).
They now held beliefs contrary to what they had learned. Paul wanted them to answer a simple question. “This only” implies that a simple answer was required. Yes or no?. I am sure the Judaizers would have considered the question too simplistic, so their reply to Paul, if he had asked them, would likely be wrapped up with the tangled cords of rhetoric. As with the politicians of our day, they would never answer a question without using diversionary tactics.
No matter what position the differing parties came from, all pointed back to the father of faith, Abraham. Yet Abraham simply believed and was accepted. There was no ritual involved, and the Law was added 400 years later, so that did not come into play. In the like manner the Galatians believed and were saved. Abraham was in fact a Gentile from Ur of Chaldea before God called him, and he believed and was made righteous before he was circumcised. “And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness” (Genesis 15:6). Was father Abraham’s faith void because he neither followed the Law or was circumcised? This shows up the foolishness of the theology being taught and learned.
What was their argument against the Cross? Did they get saved by works or grace? If the Holy Spirit gave them eternal life upon the foundation of faith alone, was He the one in the wrong? The Holy Spirit only works within the Gospel, that is, salvation in Christ alone. “The focus of the Holy Spirit will always be on Christ. Whatever is not focused on Christ is not the work of the Holy Spirit” (A. W. Tozer). The “Spirit” is not the Baptism of the Spirit in this case, for Paul is discussing salvation and how it is received. Therefore he speaks of the New Birth in Christ. “Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:56). It is sinners becoming saints through faith in the shed Blood of Christ on the Cross. “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost” (Titus 3:5). We call this regeneration spiritual renewal and cleansing.
At the New Birth the old sinful nature is broken, and the Holy Spirit makes believers partakers of the divine nature. Paul questions if this is brought about by obedience to laws or by simply by faith in Christ. In a sense he answers his own question to reveal the illogical notions they were believing. Salvation is a result of the “hearing of faith”: believing God’s Word. Unless we are deaf, as the Judaizers were spiritually speaking, then we actually do nothing to hear sound. We do not work to hear, nor do we practice some intricate ritual. We do not chop off a piece of flesh to enable us to listen to someone preaching. But our ears respond to stimuli, that is the response of faith to the Word of God. “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). They heard about salvation in Christ, and their faith was accounted for righteousness, therefore on that basis they were saved.
Salvation is the work of the Holy Spirit the moment a person believes the Gospel. “But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed” (Romans 10:8-11). This is how both Jews and Gentiles get saved. “For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:12-13).
Faith is the only requirement on our part, which by no stretch of the imagination is a work of the flesh. Fleshly faith will gravitate to religion, good deeds and morality, but true faith is spiritual and is always in Christ. Those who maintain that faith is a work either do not understand the nature of faith, or worse, actively undermine the very foundation that God wants us to build on. “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6) … “And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge … “ (2 Peter 1:5). Salvation is by faith rather than the works of the flesh, the law or anything man can do.
If they had already received the Baptism of the Spirit, which is highly likely, then this deepens the confusion even further. How could the Spirit of God come and abide in an unholy vessel? If they refused to be circumcised, as the Judaizers implied the Holy Spirit required, then how could the Galatians claim to have received Him? They were grieving the Holy Spirit by going over to the false teachings brought from Jerusalem. The Spirit was not working in the Judaizers, just as He is not working in the false teachers of today. Why? They reject the Cross by either adding to it the requirements of the Law, or they subtract from it by saying that Christ’s work there was not sufficient for salvation. They may give lip service to the Cross, but it is obvious that they did not believe in it. In doing so they rejected Christ as the only way of salvation.
Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? (Galatians 3:3).
Paul presupposes the only possible answer to the question of verse 2. If we begin in faith, we must continue by faith, to stop anywhere along the way and resort to works, renders faith void and meaningless. Faith and works cannot connect, instead they are in conflict with each other.
He uses that politically incorrect term again for them. This time he is showing that they are not thinking straight. What they were believing was beyond (spiritual) reason. So if their answer was that they were being perfected through religious works, then they were utter fools.
In verse 2 it is the Holy Spirit and salvation, but in verse 3 it is the Holy Spirit and sanctification. So if someone suggested that the Spirit did indeed bring about their salvation, but now it is their duty to do works to be perfected (sanctified), they would still prove themselves to be against Christ and Him Crucified. It is the same Holy Spirit that brings us to salvation and sanctifies us. It is “who” not ‘what’ that brings us to Christian maturity. It is by faith not works. It is the Holy Spirit not the flesh. “But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14) … “And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11).
He that started the work by His Spirit is working in us to bring us to maturity in Christ. It must be totally His work alone, so to interfere by trying to do it ourselves, we frustrate the work of God. It is unwise to tell Him that He needs our help to get the job done. “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). Everything we do to accomplish our own sanctification is foolishness, and this pleases the devil immensely. That is why religion is deceptive and damnable. Religion emphasises the externals, and expects to be applauded for its achievements. The Holy Spirit changes our lives from within. He saved us He sanctifies us. That little chorus says it all … “I’ve got Jesus on the inside, and He’s working on the outside, bringing about a change in my life”.
“Made perfect” means to bring to completion and maturity. This is not socalled sinless perfection as taught by some of the holiness groups. We note that some of them become very legalistic in their Christian life, and they dictate what believers can wear, eat and listen to. The things they prohibit might indeed be wrong, but it is the Holy Spirit’s ministry to correct the saint, not a puritanical preacher or teacher with a holier than thou attitude. The Spirit will guide us to live a Christcentred life. All we need to do to be sanctified is submit to the Spirit. Does God really need our help? Those who reject or hold other views are not God’s people, or at least are greatly misled. “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his” (Romans 8:9).
The Spirit works within the scope of the Cross. Some say that the Holy Spirit’s ministry, both in salvation and sanctification, is limited to the revelation of the Cross. This is absolutely true. The Lord Jesus Christ made this crystal clear when He said, “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you” (John 16:13-14). Please note that this is precisely what Paul is asking in these opening verses of Galatians 3.
Man’s activity does not, in fact cannot, produce spiritual maturity. Is it not amusing to see how religious leaders love to add the title ‘holy’ to their names and the things they do. In doing so, they elevate self, and set themselves up as the standard of godly living. Of course, they will wash a few feet sometimes, but usually they are being carried on thrones. The Spirit’s way is by grace, which is never vainglorious, never flamboyant, never full of pride, instead He works quietly and effectively in the lives of the obedient. If the flesh, ability, could sanctify itself, then the work of the Holy Spirit is not required. If He is not needed, then there should be an observable success in our lives. We know that we continually fail, so let us not deceive ourselves here supposed piety.
Sanctification is both instant and a process. It is a position already granted to us in Christ at the New Birth. But it is also a process or work of the Spirit on a daily basis. Often we interfere by trying to do it ourselves, which is immaturity and impatience on our part. We interfere because the sin nature seeks to reestablish itself as the dominant factor in our lives. We see the error and set about trying to correct it through sheer willpower instead of relying on the Holy Spirit. Every true believer wants to be an overcomer, and the devil know this, so he encourages the use of religion, good works and ability to reach the state of holiness. He knows that we will fail and end up in condemnation, and even blaming God for not giving the power to aide the ability of the flesh. The truth is, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Romans 8:1). Faith accepts that God knows what He is doing and does not need our assistance to do it. “For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day” (2 Timothy 1:12).
We cannot, as a result of this, dismiss the need for the Law. Some, usually termed antinomians, do this by teaching that no laws apply to the Christian under covenant grace. The Law has an important role to play, for the Holy Spirit uses it to convict all of sin, be they the lost or the saved. “And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (John 16:8). He uses the Word to correct us, for who has not been convicted of a secret sin as the Spirit highlights a Bible text? “And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?” (Hebrews 12:5-7).
Those who love God automatically obey the Law, not out of duty or through willpower, but by the power of the Holy Spirit. He motivates us to do what is right and holy. “For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” (Romans 13:9-10). The less we love God, the more rules we follow to make ourselves feel and appear holy. Religious people love themselves, hence the display they put on for the benefit of others. “And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward” (Matthew 6:5) … “But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments” (Matthew 23:5).
It is impossible to displease God if we follow His Spirit. “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18).
Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain. He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? (Galatians 3:4-5).
They were abused for turning from paganism to Christianity. The Bible teaches that “all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12). For rejecting the false gods, idols and heathen religion, they would have been treated harshly by family, friends and other pagan worshippers. Since the various occupations were guilds connected to a particular deity, their livelihood would no doubt be affected. Yet, they willing suffered for Christ’s sake. Was it all meaningless, a foolish mistake? Was it all in vain – empty nothings valueless?
In verse 2, Paul asked about the Holy Spirit’s power in their salvation. In verse 3, he asked about the Holy Spirit’s work in their sanctification. Now he is asking if the many miracles they had experienced since coming to Christ were because of obedience to the Law or by faith. They had experienced great things as God’s Spirit moved among them. This reveals that the power of the Holy Spirit was not just for the Jews, but for the believing Gentiles too. The fact that they did not follow Judaic laws was no hindrance to God. So God had worked miracles prior to the Judaizers coming on the scene. Was the Spirit mistaken about their faith?
In actuality turning to the Law made their faith valueless. “Yet in vain”, that is, had they gone too far to recover? Paul is hopeful that they will come to their senses after considering the facts surrounding their salvation, sanctification and their experiencing the miracle-working power of the Holy Spirit. Their faith had been shaken by false teachers. They needed to return to Christ.
Since the Holy Spirit does not work with error, He was not mistaken about the message of the Cross and the effect it had on the believers. He worked miracles among them because they were true believers. I wonder how many miracles the Judaizers would testify of? The word “miracles” is actually ‘dunamis’ in the underlying Greek, which is usually used for ‘power’ in the New Testament. If the Spirit worked miracles among them, then He must have used members of the church to minister to them. Again, did any of their new teachers work miracles seeing that they obeyed the Law so closely? No works were required by God before He saved them, sanctified them, or worked wonders among them. Since self-effort cannot produce miracles, then it must have been the evident power of God. I bet the Judaizers condemned the miracles too.
Paul is really asking if the miracles came by obedience to the Law concerning circumcision? If that were the case, then every circumcised male should have been able to work miracles. Everyone who ate kosher food should have been raising the dead and healing the sick. The miracles were seen because of faith in Christ alone. They had faith, so God’s mighty power was evidenced in the church. “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). Since those who taught the Law had no trace of the power of God in them, the church ought to steer clear of Judaizers. “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away” (2 Timothy 3:5).
Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness (Galatians 3:6).
Paul proves that Scripture is on his side. Abraham is an example of salvation by faith. Notice that they already knew about Abraham. They knew about the Old Testament Scriptures. Christianity, in part, is based on Abraham’s life. More than an appeal to an historical character. He lived 400 years before Moses.
God made an everlasting covenant with him. He became known as ‘the Father of Faith’.
“And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness” (Genesis 15:6).
On the basis of faith in the Lord, Abraham was seen as righteous before Him. Read the story in Genesis and you will not find works, religion or morality, just faith. Righteousness is the state of having a right standing before God. It is impossible to be gained by works. Some will persist in trying to be righteous by works, but that is not the route that the Bible presents to us. Many people are hobbling along on the self-reliance road thinking they are truly something in God’s sight. He will never declare anyone righteous who does not come through faith. Faith is the only foundation on which we can have a right relationship with God. “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).
God accepted Abraham because he trusted in Him. In this sense righteousness equals justification. It was not Abraham’s righteousness, instead it was God’s righteousness imputed to him. Justification is the legal declaration from God, but if Jesus had not died on the Cross, no one could have been justified. “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). Abraham placed all his trust in God; he had faith in what God said, and so ought we. Did you notice the word “even” in our text? To be made righteous “even” Abraham, the father of the Jewish race, had to evidence faith, simple belief free of the trappings of ability. This proves that righteousness is not by works. “Even” also reveals we have to be justified the same way. The Judaizers should have searched the Scriptures before touting foolish doctrines. Maybe they could see the truth as presented by Abraham because Moses had put a blindfold on their eyes. “But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart” (2 Corinthians 3:15).
What exactly did Abraham believe? That God existed? That God promised him a son? This is what most Christians would assume his faith was based upon, but it had to be something higher and deeper than even this. Those who do not have a New Testament in their Bible will never know what Abraham’s faith was in. God revealed to Abraham that through him, the Messiah was going to be born into the world. By revelation he learned that this Saviour would be sacrificed for the sins of all humanity. Abraham had faith in Christ and what He would accomplish on the Cross. This alone was the foundation of his faith. “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad” (John 8:56). He saw and believed, simple as that, and as a result he was reckoned to be righteous by God. “For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness … Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness … And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform. And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness” (Romans 4:3,9, 2122). James, who had originally sent the Judaizers to Galatia, came to see that what Paul taught was indeed true. “And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God” (James 2:23).
“Counted”, or ‘accounted, reckoned, is business terminology. Abraham believed what the Lord revealed, and then God deposited righteousness into his account. Another application of this means that faith was transformed into righteousness. This is the eternal interest added to true faith. In and of himself Abraham did not deserve anything from God. So if righteousness was a reward for something he achieved, it would be works not faith. Faith put him in the right position to receive this gift of righteousness. Righteousness therefore is according to grace. Faith in God’s Word was all that was required.
The righteousness we speak of here is imputed righteousness rather than a personal attribute. It is God’s righteousness which He imputes to believers. The world sees righteousness as moral goodness. The Greeks saw it as personal honour merit. This is the religious understanding of righteousness. In Scripture righteousness is a state that God places us into the moment we believe in Christ. Righteousness is God’s nature and character in us. “And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Ephesians 4:24). God Himself is the standard of righteousness, anything below this standard is unacceptable.
We should thank God that we have been given the liberty to stand in His presence as righteous, guiltless and free of condemnation in Christ. It is a glorious position to be found in. “For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory” (2 Corinthians 3:9). Righteousness and justification are so similar it is easy to confuse the two, but it is best to see justification as the result of righteousness. Jesus did the work, we believe in it, He imputes righteousness on the basis of faith in His work on the Cross, therefore as a result of this we are acquitted. Jesus took our guilt and judgement. The Law can no longer condemn us. If we work for righteousness, salvation or sanctification then we become a law unto ourselves. There is no true righteousness through works or merit, for man cannot produce righteousness no matter how hard he tries. God became man to bring righteousness, and it is by faith in what Jesus did we receive it. This is the only righteousness God will ever accept.
Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham (Galatians 3:7).
Paul continues to press home his argument that if Abraham was accepted for his faith, so are we. And if this acceptance was prior to the Law, then works cannot make any believer a child of Abraham. The apostle only uses the word “faith” twenty times in this epistles, but on each occasion he shows that it is the foundation for Biblical belief.
“Know ye” – ‘you need to understand this’. It is another reminder of what they were taught by him, salvation is by faith alone. They needed to review the teaching that brought them to the knowledge of Christ and the Cross at the first. They became God’s children by faith and it had absolutely nothing to do with whether they were Jewish or not. “Children”: ethnicity does not make us the children of God, just as works do not make any Jew the children of Abraham. Both Jew and Gentile are equally the children of Abraham if they have faith in the finished work of Calvary. If God can turn cold, hard stone into the children of Abraham, then there is no hope for the work’s gospel promoters. “Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham” (Luke 3:8) … “They answered him, We be Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free? Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. I know that ye are Abraham’s seed; but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you. I speak that which I have seen with my Father: and ye do that which ye have seen with your father. They 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 8:33-39).
Hopefully the Galatians were coming to see that Abraham’s descendants are spiritual not physical. Circumcision of the flesh is a physical ritual that has no spiritual application for those in Christ. Circumcision of the heart is indeed required for New Testament believers. “For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh” (Philippians 3:3) … “In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ” (Colossians 2:11). “Children of Abraham” not in an ethnical sense. Jews are this according to the flesh alone. Christians are this by faith alone. We are accepted as the children of God through the same faith as Abraham had. Jews think it is by circumcision and works. Believers know it’s through Christ and Him Crucified.
Abraham is depicted as a man of faith, a faith we are to emulate. Everything he did after his initial faith in the Lord was according to this faith. “Abraham believed God” (Romans 4:3). Not believed in God, good as that is, but “believed God”. Religion believes in God, that is, in His existence, but that is not what faith is. “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble” (James 2:19). Many think they are saved because they believe the story of Jesus’ life. They may know a little about His death and resurrection, but this type of belief does not save. Abraham “Believed God” believed what God said and staked his entire life on it. Faith is believing that Jesus alone is sufficient. This was the same faith that Abraham had.
“Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification” (Romans 4:2325) … “He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son. And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son” (1 John 5:10-11).
And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham (Galatians 3:8-9).
“And 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). Paul says that this is part of the Gospel that was preached to Abraham. It an unescapable truth that the Gospel was known to Abraham nearly 2,000 years before Christ was born. The “Gospel” here cannot be merely defined as ‘good news’. Though gospel can mean this, as per its use in modern versions of the Bible, it slyly robs God’s Word of its central Message. “The Gospel”, in its proper sense, is the preaching of the Cross. The word Gospel is of course found in the titles of the four accounts of Jesus’ life, but we understand that these are biographical accounts that contain the Gospel of Christ. Paul speaks of the Gospel as being more than a story or good news, for to him it is the preaching and teaching the message of Christ and Him Crucified. Before we come to the point Paul is making, let us remind ourselves of the “Gospel” Abraham heard from God. It was that people would be justified through faith. Therefore what was revealed to him could not be brought about by the birth of Isaac, for no one is saved through him, it must be pointing to someone else, that is, Christ. Abraham saw this through the revelation of the Holy Spirit. He knew that the Messiah, one of his own descendants, would be born, die for the sins of mankind, and would be raised from the dead. Job, who lived at the same time as Abraham, whose faith predated the Laws of Moses too, knew exactly the same thing. “For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth” (Job 19:25). Abraham was able to peer through the future to see the coming of Christ. The word “before” indicates the Gospel preceded the Law. Nothing short of the Gospel of Christ was revealed to Abraham.
Here is an interesting statement that absolutely destroys the theology of the Judaizers. God was going to justify the “Heathen through faith”. The Heathen are those who do not follow Moses and who were not part of that covenant with Israel. They were included though in the Abrahamic Covenant. “All nations” would be blessed, not only in the Covenant God made with Abraham, but in the fulfilment of the revelation, the Covenant of the Cross. The word “foreseeing” renders the prophecy futuristic rather than immediate. “Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?” (Genesis 18:18). All nations included the Gentiles. The word for nations in Hebrew is ‘goyim’, and it is often used by Jews in a derogatory fashion. The Judaizer’s gospel was racially biased and sought to make Jews out of Gentiles. Scripture proves that this was never God’s intention. Sadly the Hebrew Roots teachers perpetuate the fallacy of the Judaizers.
How did “Scripture” foresee this? Scripture here refers to the promises God made to Abraham and to the prophecies regarding the Gentiles coming to Christ found in the rest of the Bible. The “promise” was justification by faith alone. Any repentant Gentile could avail themselves of this promise. “And he said, It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth … Thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I will lift up mine hand to the Gentiles, and set up my standard to the people: and they shall bring thy sons in their arms, and thy daughters shall be carried upon their shoulders. And kings shall be thy nursing fathers, and their queens thy nursing mothers: they shall bow down to thee with their face toward the earth, and lick up the dust of thy feet; and thou shalt know that I am the Lord for they shall not be ashamed that wait for me” (Isaiah 49:6, 22-23). If the Gentiles were to be saved without the Law, why try to convert them to Judaism or enforce Jewish practices?
The nations would be blessed with faithful Abraham the moment faith is exercised in Christ. Notice “in thee” and “with” in Galatians 3:8-9. It is in and with Abraham, not Moses. This simply refers to the fact that the blessing is according to the same faith Abraham had. “With” means ‘along with’. This blessing cannot come through works. “Faithful”, does not necessarily mean ‘full of faith’, though Abraham certainly was, instead it is added to indicate his lifestyle. This faithfulness came after he believed. Those who are blessed with him are of faith, the same faith Abraham exhibited.
For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them (Genesis 3:10).
The “for” here can just as well be “therefore” since it reveals the antithesis of faith. The Berean Study Bible translates this as, “All who rely on works of the Law are under a curse”, and the Weymouth New Testament reads, “All who are depending upon their own obedience to the Law are under a curse”. So with this in mind, Paul describes the exact opposite of faith and the automatic negative results of following the works gospel, not that there are any positives in doing so.
What happens when Christians adopt the Law? This is the question Paul is attempting to get the Gentiles to consider. His answer, not his exactly, but what the Word of God states, those who put themselves under the Law, and fail to live it out perfectly, bring a curse prescribed in it upon themselves. The curse is there because the Law demands perfection. “Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them. And all the people shall say, Amen” (Deuteronomy 27:26) … “And say thou unto them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel; Cursed be the man that obeyeth not the words of this covenant” (Jeremiah 11:3).
Maybe the Judaizers did not understand as much of the Law as they thought they did, otherwise they, like slick salesman, were hiding the full facts from the Gentiles. Then it is possible that the Gentiles, who would not have known the details of the Law, thought they could just live by certain aspects of it, such as the niceties of the feasts and other ceremonies, just as the Hebrew Roots folk do today. But the Law is not a picknmix, take it or leave it Covenant. Break one command and the whole is violated. If you break one link in a chain, the chain itself is broken. A chai is only as strong as its weakest link, and in this sense the weakest link is the flesh. “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all” (James 2:10). Theoretically a person could keep all the Law, but practically no one, except for Christ, ever has. The slightest failure, no matter how minute, brings the whole weight of the curse down upon those who break it. This is a universal truth, so the Gentiles could not hide behind the obvious fact that they were not Jews. If they take onboard Judaism, then they accept the entirety of it. Sin therefore is universal, for it is the breaking of the Law. “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law” (1 John 3:4).
The curse of the Law is judgement upon sin. It is part of God’s wrath on sinners. So the Law cannot save but only condemn. Its God-ordained ministry is to reveal to the sinner the desperate need of the Saviour. Works cannot reveal the need of the Saviour, but instead force people into believing that duty makes them righteous. The only possible remedy to the sin problem is Christ. “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth” (Romans 10:14).
Justification by works alienates man from God, and renders any attempt at self-betterment doomed to failure from the start. In reality, working for salvation or sanctification is a product of pride. Sin existed before the Law of Moses was introduced, therefore none of its commandments apply for permanently dealing with sin. Does it mean that God waited until Sinai before He offered blessed assurance to sinners who were eager to be free from problem of sin? The Law could not be broken before it was given to Moses. “Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression” (Romans 4:15). Sin was not a violation (transgression) of the Law, but it was still sin. The Law was set as a temporary measure that was meant only to continue from Moses until Christ. The Law is God’s “Keep Off” sign to trespassers. The Law tells us that we are not permitted to enter for any reason, but just as with any sign prohibiting access, someone will attempt to disobey the order. That is where religion steps in, for it claims to offer, like the ticket tout, special access that avoids the prohibition.
Only Christ can give us access to God through faith in His blood. “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). The Law cannot offer such access, therefore anyone who says it can is a liar. “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Romans 8:34). Some have suggested, just as with the Judaizers, that Paul was attacking the Law, but of course he was not, instead he was upholding the Law by revealing everything that it says. The Law did not have any small print, so it was the Judaizers were guilty of misrepresenting it. Paul was actually attacking a faulty understanding of the Law.
But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith (Galatians 3:11).
Since the Law condemns the sinner, it can never justify him in God’s sight. It is important to notice what is said here. Many think they are just, or righteous if you will, because they are good people, go to church and keep the golden rule. We may appear to be just in our own eyes, and possibly in the eyes of others, but not in the sight of God. “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity” (Habakkuk 1:13). Paul says that this is extremely clear (evident), so is beyond the need of questioning the fact. It is what God sees and thinks that matters.
The Law, as has been stated many times, points the sinner to the correct way of salvation. To prove this Paul quotes from the prophet Habakkuk. “But the just shall live by his faith” (Habakkuk 2:4). No doubt the Judaizer’s objection would be that the animal sacrifices of the Old Covenant did justify the sinner who offered them. This is a half truth, which hides an important detail. All those sacrifices only covered man’s sin, but never actually took them away. They were a temporary fix that enabled the repentant sinner to stand before God for a brief moment in time. Since there had to be continuous sacrifices, it shows that nobody’s sin was thoroughly washed away. It was like sweeping the dirt under the carpet. Out of sight, but not out of mind. Since they were temporary, all the sacrifices and feasts pointed to the reality that can only be found in Jesus. His sacrifice on the Cross offers us complete justification that frees us from condemnation.
Few are willing to believe this evident truth because they live by their feelings rather than what God says. If they feel that acts of righteousness justifies them before the Lord, then they will continue on that deceived path. For those who know what the Scriptures teach on this subject believe that “we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). Those who are justified in God’s eyes are in that position through faith in Christ. “For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17). This faith is full confidence in God. They not only have faith for salvation, but they continue to live by faith throughout their lives. “And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11).
What faith is it that justifies us other than that which is in what Jesus did on Calvary? His Blood cleansed us from all unrighteousness and thereby we are pronounced justified. This justification evidences itself in our daily lives. While we do not work to be saved, or for sanctification, faith does require us to live for the Lord. Faith works. “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:14-26). James is speaking of a life after salvation. The context proves this. Justification produces a changed in life. Faith is never dormant or sterile. Paul says that we need faith to be saved not works. James says that because we are saved, we work. Dead faith is of no use to God or man.
And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them (Galatians 3:12).
Paul is saying that the Law does not operate on the principle of faith, that is, Law ans Faith are opposed to each other. The Law requires dogged obedience to every statute it contains, so failure even at the least thing brings the whole weight of judgement upon the one trying to live by it. Can faith and the Law be mixed? Not according to Paul. The Law must be continuously observed every day. “Ye 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). There is the problem. No one can possibly live by the whole Law, because every day he will break some part of it. Therefore the only thing the Law can impute to the sinner is condemnation.
To recap what has already been written, the Law demands 100% obedience to gain justification. That justification is never in reaching distance, not because the Law is promising something elusive, instead it is because the flesh simply cannot live up to the high standards it requires. Since the Law’s ministration is to point to the Saviour, it is revealing man’s depravity and inability to reach the goal by mere obedience. Faith on the other hand firmly grasps what Jesus did on the Cross. From that position the Holy Spirit enables us to walk in holiness. Those who persist in trying hard at Lawkeeping are rejecting His sacrifice. Man tries to solve the sin problem himself, through religion, politics, morals, psychology, hypergrace. Religion just adds more rules to the burden … Fast, pray more, tithe, study more etc. Christ plus nothing is true Christianity.
Nothing good results from rulekeeping. How many have written books with titles such as, “Seven Steps to a Victorious Life” or “Ten Laws to Spiritual Success”? As night follows day, an another step will be added to the prescribed steps because the methodology is religion based. Why must it fail? Simply put, it is not of faith. Jesus made it very simple with three steps, which in fact are a bit of a trinity of phrases that are a single unite. “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 9:23). This is the answer to every sin. Trust in what Jesus did and can do. Then the Holy Spirit will enable us to walk in victory. “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2). The choice is ours: Faith or Law? not both! Everything must be centred on Christ; any other way robs Him of glory. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber” (John 10:1). Therefore, everyone whose theology differs from that of Paul’s is a thief and a robbers, and as such are under the curse.
Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree (Galatians 3:13).
If it is hopeless to rely on the Law to be made righteous in the sight of God, especially since it must curse those who transgress it, deliverance must be found elsewhere. Thankfully, God has not left us without hope, for in proclaiming the sin-sick condition in the Law, He prescribes the remedy in Christ. All that we need to do is avail ourselves of this remedy through faith. The answer cannot be found anywhere else, be it religion or philosophy, but in Jesus alone.
Paul uses the pronoun “us” to indicate that all are included under the curse of the Law, therefore, Jew or Gentile, no one is exempt. All, regardless if they believe in God or not, are in need of redemption and deliverance. But just as the Law places everyone under the curse, so Jesus died on the Cross to make it possible for all to be redeemed from that curse. “Redeemed” here means to be bought out of slavery. It is illustrative of a slave being purchased from the market. How did Christ buy us? We would naturally say that His death on Calvary, that is, by His Blood He paid the price for our sin. This is perfectly true, but Paul makes it clear that something else happened. In redeeming us, Jesus took our place on the slave trader’s block. He took the curse that we should have received. He placed Himself totally in the curse. The Law describes the condition of someone found guilty of breaking the Law. “His 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). The curse was being “accursed of God”. Isaiah’s prophecy regarding the suffering servant, reveals that not only would the Messiah be accursed of God, but that He would be punished by God for crimes He did not commit. “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:4-5).
Before we move on with our text, let us pause to briefly study the word “healed” in Isaiah 53:8. There is much to expound upon in Isaiah 53, and even the word “healed” has more than one meaning. In Matthew 8:17 it is used for physical healing, “That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses”. Peter agrees with Paul in seeing the spiritual aspect of the word. “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed” (1 Peter 2:24). It is very obvious that both spiritual and physical healing are in the atonement. This raises an interesting point. Calvinists, in trying to defend their theory of the so-called doctrine of Limited Atonement, the teaching that Jesus only died for a few elect rather than the whole world, remark that if Christ died for everyone, why is not everyone automatically saved? But, in light of how the Bible itself translates Isaiah 53:5, why does not every one get healed? The answer is simple. Not everyone believes in the provision supplied in the atonement. “And he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief” (Matthew 13:38). It was not that He was unable to do the works; but because of their unbelief that limited Him. If there is any truth in the Limited Atonement pillar of Calvinism, it is found in the fact that Christ’s atoning sacrifice on the Cross is not limited by anything, but the application of it is indeed limited (hindered) by a lack of faith. We believe that He is “able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 11:25).
Jesus took the curse of the Law in our place. He took the wrath we ought to have received. Though our minds cannot even scrape the surface when attempting to understand what Jesus suffered on the Cross, we catch a glimpse of it in Matthew 27:46, “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” This agonising separation from His Father is the curse fully applied. God the Father turned His face away from His only Begotten Son as He was perishing on the Cross. Was this cruel? Everything in us as Christians would want to avoid saying that it was not just cruel, but extremely so. Somehow we would want to make it appear like an act of mercy. If we try doing that, we surely do not understand the curse Jesus endured as our substitute. The wrath of God was poured out upon His Son, wrath we should have received, so that we could watch on as bystanders. Why did He turn His face away? “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). You see, the sinless Lamb of God took our sin that we might be made righteous. The sin of humanity, past, present and future, was upon Jesus, and it was an abomination in the sight of God. “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity” (Habakkuk 1:13). Jesus took our sin, and He gave us His righteousness. Does that seem fair to you? Philip Doddridge described this as “the great transaction’s done”, for the price of our deliverance was paid on the Cross.
The word “redeemed” has three Greek words associated with it in the Bible:
‘Agorazo’ meaning ‘to do business in a market place’. “For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:20). This refers to Jesus purchasing us Himself. “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers” (1 Peter 1:18).
‘Exagorazo’, that is, ‘to make the actual purchase’ in a marketplace. It is the price paid to save someone from the hands of another. A slave could never be resold once he or she was bought in this fashion. Satan owned us, but Jesus paid the price for us – never to be slaves to sin again.
‘Lutroo’ is the actual money for the ransom. Where we get our word ‘loot’. More precisely it is the actual release from slavery on receipt of the required price. Totally and forever liberated.
There are also three Hebrew words for “redeemed”:
‘Padah’, thee transfer of ownership to the one redeeming. “And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in the land of Egypt, and the LORD thy God redeemed thee: therefore I command thee this thing to day” (Deuteronomy 15:15). Used also in the Psalms as redemption from sin.
‘Gal’al’ refers to the Kinsman Redeemer in the Story of Ruth. Everything owned is transferred to the new owner. The emphasis is on relationship not slavery. A poor Israelite redeemed by a wealthy relative for instance. An act of love and mercy.
‘Koper’ to make a substitutionary payment, an atonement. “Every one that passeth among them that are numbered, from twenty years old and above, shall give an offering unto the Lord. The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less than half a shekel, when they give an offering unto the LORD, to make an atonement for your souls. And thou shalt take the atonement money of the children of Israel, and shalt appoint it for the service of the tabernacle of the congregation; that it may be a memorial unto the children of Israel before the LORD, to make an atonement for your souls” (Exodus 30:14-16). ‘Koper’ is not used in a spiritual way, but we can see how it impacts upon redemption nevertheless.
Redemption in the Old Testament meant deliverance from slavery and mortal danger. Israel’s deliverance from Egyptian bondage illustrates this. All Israel needed was faith in the promise God made regarding the lamb’s blood on the doorposts. Those who did this were saved from the angel of death, while, as is obvious, those who did not suffered the consequences. Everyone received the same promise of deliverance, but only those who accepted the offer were saved from God’s wrath. They were helpless without God, and He stepped into their needs to save them.
The New Testament makes use of Old Testament typography to explain redemption. Jesus’ blood is the redemption price. “Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28) … “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:1819). New Testament redemption is release from spiritual bondage to sin through, and only through, the Blood of the Redeemer. “Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us” (Hebrews 9:12).
It is great to know that we have been saved from sin, Satan and an eternity in Hell, but we have to take into account that we have not only been saved from sin, but God redeemed us for a purpose. The redeemed, who once were slaves of sin, now belong to God. Just because we are saved, does not mean we now own ourselves. We are cleansed from sin to serve God. “For they themselves shew of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God” (1 Thessalonians 1:9). We are no longer the slaves of sin, but are truly the servants of God. “For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death. But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life” (Romans 6:20-22). We see then that we are not our own masters, for we did not raise the purchase price to buy our own freedom from slavery. An eternity of obedience to the task master could never redeem. “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
We were locked into an empty life and destined to eternal wrath. Now we have abundant life, and have an eternal home with Christ. All that was required was faith in the promise. This happened on the Cross when Jesus cried, “It is finished!” (John 19:30). The power of the Law ended and grace was freely offered to all who will believe in Christ. “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). So He came into this world to fulfil this purpose. “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons” (Galatians 4:4-5). Now, instead of looking to Judaic laws and ceremonies, or religion of any kind, we are found “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).
That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith (Galatians 3:14).
This would have sounded strange to the Jews, since for them Abraham was only their father, or so they thought. The original blessing stated, “In thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 12:3). This cannot mean anything other than what God promised Abraham. Initially, in Abraham’s own lifetime and throughout the Old Testament, the promise could not reach the whole world, but was limited to his immediate descendants. Paul says that it is “through Jesus Christ” that the promise finds its completion. The Scriptures are clear that the promise could not be fulfilled earlier than the manifestation of Christ. “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions” (Joel 2:28).
The Cross places Jew and Gentile on same level since it is the same Holy Spirit that is given to both. Notice Paul writes “that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith”. “We” can only mean both Jews and Gentiles because he is including himself in it. Then we cannot fail to see that it is received by both through “faith” alone. So the promise, which has several levels of application, can only be received rather than earned, and it is faith that makes it a reality. It is not faith in good works or even in Moses, it is not faith in animal sacrifices or ceremonial laws, it is faith in Christ. This is where the Holy Spirit operates. The promise is “through” Jesus Christ and “through” faith, therefore the Holy Spirit can only be received by those who have faith in Christ, anything else is false. “Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you” (John 14:17).
“And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence” (Acts 1:45). The abiding presence of the Spirit could not be sent before Calvary. Even in the Jewish Feasts, which symbolise Christ in various ways, Passover always precedes Pentecost. “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 of promise” ((Ephesians 1:13). There is no outpouring of the Spirit where faith in Christ does not first exist. Where the Cross is not the way, the Spirit is never given. The promise must always be by faith without works. “And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49).
Paul’s repeated statements about the need of faith are to establish in every possible way that it is absolutely necessary. Not only this, but nothing can be added to faith. Faith is the key to living a Crosscentred life. It is a lack of faith that is the problem amongst believers. Selfeffort, works, and religion are relied upon as legitimate ways to please God and be victorious. Faith believes God’s Word. Faith accepts God’s way of doing things. It is according to this foundation alone that the Holy Spirit works in our lives. “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:2627) … “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17).
Brethren, I speak after the manner of men; Though it be but a man’s covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disannulleth, or addeth thereto. Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect. For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise (Galatians 3:15-18).
The word “brethren” changes the tone of the letter once again. This love for the saints in the Galatian Church is never far from Paul’s heart despite the sever reprimand. His aim was not to condemn, but to draw them closer to the Lord. If that meant hard words and a tough stand, so be it; as long as they were restored to Christ.
Human covenants, agreements, contracts and wills are legally binding, and once they are drawn up, no one can change the contents. From phone contracts, warranties for household goods, and insurances, we are inundated with wads of paperwork that few of us understand even if we attempt to read them. It does not matter if we cannot comprehend the jargon, once we sign on the dotted line, it becomes a legal document. This is Paul’s analogy. If man’s covenants are so binding, how much more so is God’s Covenant? He is speaking of course of the Abrahamic Covenant in this instance.
God is the sole signatory of the Covenant made with Abraham and his descendants. Abraham signed nothing and promised nothing, yet he was the beneficiary of the Covenant. The Lord made it in His own name without any human intervention, help or advice. There were no man made laws injected as clauses and sub-clauses. It was totally the work of God alone. “For when God made promise to Abraham, because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself, Saying, Surely blessing I will bless thee, and multiplying I will multiply thee. And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise” (Hebrews 6:1315). The Covenant was not of itself the promise, instead it provided the promise, which was a secure inheritance. It cannot be disannulled, that is, not a word can be removed or indeed added to.
Very specifically Paul writes “promises”. As we have already seen, it is a single promise, but it is given in several different ways. There is the promise of the blessing of the nations, of salvation, of the Holy Spirit and miracles, for instance. Notice the verses above speak of promises plural then promise singular. The whole Covenant is of promise, but it contains so many promises.
We see that the Abrahamic Covenant was not fulfilled by Moses but by Christ. Then the fulfilment of the promise was not the “seeds”, which refers Abraham’s descendants starting from Isaac. The blessings had to come through Christ. This means no one from Isaac to Christ could possibly be the promise, no, not even Moses. Then, and only then, could the true inheritance promised in the Covenant be distributed equally amongst Abraham’s descendants. “And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:29). The “seed” had to be Christ, and the promises were fulfilled at Calvary.
Thinking again of the Law of Moses, the Abrahamic Covenant was given 430 years before the Sinai. Therefore grace reigned from Abraham to Moses. The Law was introduced because man would not live according to grace. The Law was a temporary measure until grace was reintroduced at Calvary.
So how can the Law “disannul” the promise? First we need to clarify what the word “disannul” means. This has exactly the same meaning as annul and is defined as ‘to make void, to render invalid’. Notice the Abrahamic Covenant was in Christ, therefore nothing, and certainly not the Law, can revoke it. It was, is, and always will be, all about Jesus. “In Christ” literally mean ‘into Christ’. The Law was not part of the Abrahamic Covenant of Grace in Christ, and it is not part of the New (final) Covenant of Grace in Christ. The Law had no power before Abraham and it has no power after Christ. Note that God the Father “confirmed” the Covenant with Abraham “in” Christ. As stated previously, Abraham had revealed to him what Christ was going to do on the Cross. After Abraham set out the sacrifice as God requested, Scripture says, “And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and, lo, an horror of great darkness fell upon him” (Genesis 15:12). This is an odd piece of information that seems not to relate to anything in the passage, but once we learn from John 8:56 that “Abraham rejoiced to see my [Jesus’] day: and he saw it, and was glad”, it makes perfect sense. The word “horror” in Genesis 15:12 means ‘terrifying, frightening, dreadful’. The “darkness” cannot refer to the sun going down, but instead speaks of a supernatural darkness that was far from normal. As Jesus hung on the Cross “there was a darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour” (Luke 23:44). It is my belief that while the patriarch was in a “deep sleep”, he saw this event, but not being fully able to make sense of it, it was a horrific sight to him.
Paul says that God gave the Covenant to Abraham. While this indicates a free, unmerited gift, the word means something else too. Abraham was in a deep sleep when God “confirmed” (ratified) the Covenant. If you like, when the document was being signed Abraham was asleep. He had no part in it. The Covenant was between God the Father and God the Son. There was no human agency involved. There was an immediate blessing of the Covenant for Abraham, but the full force of it could not come into effect until the Cross. Abraham wanted assurance that the promise would be fulfilled, and he received this, but he also had revealed to Him the second part of the Covenant. One would have filled him with great delight, but with the other he was overwhelmed with great “horror”.
“If it is by works then it is no more of promise”. Paul is stating that trying to gain the free gift of grace through works nullifies the Covenant of Christ’s Blood. It is extremely interesting to note that the word “gave” (charizoma) – “God gave it to Abraham” is of the same root as “grace” (charisma). It is the “charity” (love) of 1 Corinthians 13, therefore an act of God’s love, for we cannot pay for salvation or sanctification. The Promise is given out of love. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator (Galatians 3:19).
What is the purpose of the Law if it is no longer the controlling factor of our lives now we are Christians? Why did God bother to implement the Law just to annul it at a later stage? Because of religion the answer to these questions are not easy to believe, but those who understand grace have no difficulty accepting them.
The word “serveth” speaks of the purpose, that is, what the Law ministers. Most modern versions of the Bible simply ask, “Why the Law?” or “Why was the Law given?” But such translations cannot fully answer the question raised. The word “serveth”, though not found in the corrupt Greek translations, supplies us with a way to understand the question more perfectly in the Textus Receptus (KJV). Paul is asking the question to lay out what exactly the Law’s ministry is, which is to make those who accept they are sinners realise the need of the Saviour, and to make each man conscious of his own sinful nature. That is why the Bible is the most hated book, for it describes the true condition of the person who is without Christ. Wherever people start reading the Scriptures, they will soon encounter the fact that they are sinners. At which point they will either agree with God, or dismiss the Bible as a book of condemnation. This is how the Holy Spirit used, and still uses the Law, meaning that He will convict the sinner of his sin nature. “And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (John 16:8).
Though the Law was only a temporary solution for sin, it is still in force until a person comes to Christ for salvation. Therefore it will convict the sinner of his transgressions. In this sense it is a straight rule, the measuring stick, of holiness. The Holy Spirit reveals the standard God expects, but almost instantly the sinner realises that it is not achievable, and therefore rejects the Bible as a fairy tale. This is the convicting power of the Holy Spirit at work. Sometimes, especially if dealing with a sinner who has a religious background, the same conviction is there, but the devil swoops in to convince the person that more obedience and determination is needed to overcome sin. Either way, the final verdict of the Law is the death penalty. It cannot do otherwise, for that is what it has to serve up to the sinner.
But throughout the Law, in fact the entirety of the Old Testament, it points to the need of the Cross. This is symbolised in the numerous animal sacrifices that had to be made, especially of the Passover lamb. These sacrifices covered sin for a season through the blood of the animal. Every transgression (missing the mark of God’s high standard) required a sacrifice. In the Abrahamic Covenant God offered grace through faith, but man continued to violate the Covenant by constant disobedience. Grace was rejected, so the Law was “added”. The word “added” reveals that it was a supplement, an addition to grace. It was added, but the Law remained subordinate to grace. Sadly, people turned the supplement into legalistic religion. They may have thought that grace was a licence to sin, since there was nothing but their consciences directing them. This may sound strange, but it was an issue in Paul’s day too, and it continues to be so today. “What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid” (Romans 6:15). Today we who are under grace, not only do we have our consciences, but the Holy Spirit supplies the power to obey the Lord. This was not available to those under the Abrahamic or the Mosaic Covenants, because “the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified” (John 7:39).
They violated grace, so the Law was added to convict their consciences, but Satan tricked the majority into thinking that the Law was God’s method of making sinners holy. We could say that they got hold of the wrong end of the stick. The Law’s purpose was for the exact opposite of attempting to make people feel better about themselves. Some did realise what the Law was all about, they understood what the sacrificial system symbolised, and so they lived according to faith. Romans 5:20 reveals the fact that the Law was given to make people see their depravity and sin nature, “Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound”. Grace can do what it is impossible for the Law to do.
The Law had a limited shelf life. Until the “seed” arrived, the Law was in complete control. The “seed” can only be referring to Christ, for who else came to fulfil the Law and all its demands? The seed was not Isaac, because he came before the Law. It was not be Moses, since he ministered the Law. John 1:17 tells us plainly who it is referring to, “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ”. The Law ruled until Christ died on the Cross. “Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross” (Colossians 2:14). “Took it out of the way”. Took what out of the way if it is not the Law which contained the “ordinances” that were “against” us. Though the Cross restores the grace covenant, religious people still put themselves under the temporary Law of Moses. “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ. Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, And not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God. Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, (Touch not; taste not; handle not; Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men? Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh” (Colossians 2:16-19).
The mediator of the Law was Moses. The Law was given through angels rather than directly by God. Both Paul, in Galatians 3:19, and Stephen in Acts 7:38 state the same thing, “This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us”. Just as with grace, people refused to obey the Law. “Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it” (Acts 7:53). If the Law, even though it was spoken through angels to Moses, is broken, the trespasser must be punished. “For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward” (Hebrews 2:2).
Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one (Galatians 3:20).
God needed no intermediate regarding grace, the Law is therefore inferior to grace.
Moses and Angels were mediators or dispensers of the Law. God had no gobetween with Abraham, for he was asleep, or with regards to Christ, since He is God Himself. Jesus is the Mediator of a superior Covenant to that of Moses. “But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises” (Hebrews 8:6). This is further established through Him being our Great High Priest. “Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus; Who was faithful to him that appointed him, as also Moses was faithful in all his house. For this man was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as he who hath builded the house hath more honour than the house” (Hebrews 3:1-3). We have no other mediator other than Christ. In dealing with Christ, we are dealing directly with God. It is not our ability, but His grace that makes the Covenant possible. “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time” (1 Timothy 2:56).
Moses hid behind a veil, which also serves as an analogy for the spiritual blindness experienced by those who place themselves under the Law. Jesus took away the veil so that the glorious grace of God could be seen. “Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech: And not as Moses, which put a vail over his face, that the children of Israel could not stedfastly look to the end of that which is abolished: But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ. But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart. Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away. Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:1218). At the very moment of Jesus’ death the veil that stopped anyone walking or even seeing into the Holy of Holies was torn apart. “And the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom” (Mark 15:38). Though we often say that we now have access to God, let us not fail to notice that God Himself tore the enormous thick and heavy curtain from the top to bottom. This is part of Him being the mediator.
Usually a mediator mediates between two people, Abraham received the promise directly without the need of a mediator. Israel received the Law secondhand. But God does not use intermediates with salvation. God (the Trinity) acted alone in Creation, and He acted alone in the New Creation. Faith is the grateful hand that receives grace from Him. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). This is the New Birth. Did we do anything to be born naturally? There was nothing we could have done to be born, but at the moment we entered the world, the first gasp of oxygen filled our lungs. Did we do anything to be born again? There was nothing we could possibly do to cleanse our souls from the filth of this fallen world. The New Birth is an act of God’s grace, and all we needed to do was accept it. He met us directly by the power of the Holy Spirit. Would we take that first breath that He breathed into our spirits? Thankfully we did and continue to grow thereby.
The word “Mediator” also implies a contract even though it is by grace. Remember that the Abrahamic version of this covenant was a contract too. The Law was a contract, but the blessings it contained were forfeited because of sin. The Law failed because of human weakness. But the New Covenant cannot fail, because it is not made with sinful man, instead it is made with our representative, the Lord Jesus Christ, the only one who is both God and Man. This is why Paul specifically wrote, “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus”. As God, He represents Himself, as Man, He represents us. This is why the doctrine of the Trinity is so vital in our understanding of Scripture, for without it, all this could not be made sense of. This application can also be seen in 1 John 5:7-8, “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one”. At the moment of faith in the finished work of Christ on the Cross, we are stating that we are in full agreement with the covenant of grace. It is then that the Holy Spirit places the assurance of eternal life, on the basis of the efficiency of the Blood, in our hearts, so that we can confidently say that we are truly born again. “If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son. He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son. And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God” (1 John 5:9-13).
Whose mediation guarantees salvation? Moses or Jesus? The contract was made at the Last Supper, though not enacted until the Cross. “And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it , and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you” (Luke 22:19-20). No one understood the contents of this covenant until Jesus arose, but more especially, when the Holy Spirit was sent on the Day of Pentecost. “And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day” (Luke 24:4446). The Law was fulfilled the moment Jesus cried, “It is finished” (John 19:30). This was the moment grace once again took over.
Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe (Galatians 21-22).
The Law could not promise grace, but could only point to where it could be found. The vast majority, even in our churches, think they have to work for salvation. Others who hold to salvation by grace alone, still believe that good hard work brings about sanctification. The Galatian Epistle is not primarily about salvation, for the members of the church were already saved, instead its main theme is seeking perfection or sanctification. Paul’s argument throughout has been that if either are by works, then there is no gift involved. The only wage people work for is death. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
Anyone fully obeying the Law would not be a sinner, and would not need a Saviour to Save them. But we are living proof of the impossibility of keeping the entirety of the Law. This is why God promised grace. This raised a question, maybe one posed by the Judaizers, is there not a conflict between the Law and Grace? We have already seen that while they are in full agreement with each other, they have different functions. The Law directs the sinner to his only hope of salvation, and grace provides the means for it. The Law teaches man about his sinful nature, but grace applies the solution to wash sin away. Only the “Promise” ministers salvation in Christ. Since no man is justified by obedience to the Law, it is logical that another means must be available.
The phrase “God forbid” is used as a sign of annoyance at the question. Are they really asking such foolish questions as this to justify the works gospel they had immersed themselves in? Paul finds the notion of justification by the Law highly objectionable, but endeavours to reveal, once again, the sphere the Law operates in. Does the Law deliver eternal life or righteousness? It is obvious that it does not. If it could, why did Jesus die on the Cross? Obedience to the Law does not make a person good. Do we always observe the 30mph speed limit? Even if we do, it does not automatically make us good drivers. Even the biggest rogue in the neighbourhood might never break the rules of the road. The Laws of the Road are there to warn us about the punishment if they are violated. They warn of dangers on the road, but they cannot take us to our desired destination. The law is a restraint on our desire to go faster than permitted, therefore limitations are set. The Law of Moses states the boundaries, but it cannot make anyone good or righteous.
In Christ we are obeying the Law. Let us continue with the motoring theme. If I am the worst driver on the road, it is almost certain that I would eventually be pulled over by the law and prosecuted. Now suppose that I was just the passenger in a car driven by the perfect motorist, the law has no cause against him, and since I am with him, it cannot condemn me either, despite the fact that I have been guilty of breaking the .aw in the past. As long as I let Jesus do the driving on the road of everlasting life, I am free from the Law. The Law places everyone in sin. Faith places us in Christ and Righteousness.
“Under sin”: we are all under something. Under the Law? Under the Blood? Those under the Law are condemned. “Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God” (Romans 3:19) … “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them” (Galatians 3:10). Those under the Blood are under grace. “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace” (Romans 6:14). The Law is the jailer locking everyone up, this is what the word “concluded” means. Jesus is the Promise that sets believers free. “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:36) … “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised” (Luke 4:18).
But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith (Galatians 3:23-24).
The faith here must refers to faith in the Cross of Christ since faith existed before the Law. It is faith in Christ as Saviour. It is this faith that is rejected today and is being replaced with religious experiences. It is the faith that Satan hates and seeks to corrupt with false doctrine. “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils” (1 Timothy 4:1). Is not this the type of faith Abraham had? People only think of faith in terms of denominational stances or of one of the world religions. Even believers think that faith consists of the credal belief system they have engaged with. Faith is not governed by the many doctrinal teachings the church holds as fundamental, instead it is solely centred in Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross. Think of the Cross being the central hub of a bicycle wheel, and the spokes being the Biblical doctrines we believe in. No matter how sound those doctrines are, our wheel is useless without the hub that holds it all together. A bicycle wheel can function without one or two spokes, but it cannot not do so without the hub. Therefore, the Cross is vital for bringing the doctrines together. Denominations argue about the strength of particular spokes, when we should be united in the hub (Cross).
“Before Faith” in Christ arrived everyone was under the control of the Law. It alone came between Abraham and Christ. This shows that something else must come. What came after the Law but grace? Until then man was “kept under”, held down, restricted, even imprisoned by the Law. It is as though it kept everyone in under lock and key. Its keeping power was not to comfort or protect, but to have man chained to its standards. There was no escape from its control. All were held as convicted criminals, condemned and on death row. We could not free ourselves and one could free others from the Law. The Law could not show mercy, for all were equally guilty and worthy of death.
Then faith came with the tool that could break the chain forever. It was the Key that opens every prison door. It was the pardon paper that set the captive free. The Law ruled “unto” (until) Jesus, when He came and died a substitutionary death on Calvary for everyone in the prison house. Some Old Testament saints knew that the Messiah was coming. Some of whom are mentioned in Hebrews 11. Their faith was in the promise originally given to Abraham, and they knew that the Law was temporary solution to the sin problem. Even so, though they had faith, until Christ came they were not actually in “the faith”. This is one of the reasons they went to Paradise at death instead of directly to Heaven. But at Christ’s resurrection they were permitted into their Eternal Home. “When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive” (Ephesians 4:8). The Law dominated for over 1,500 years. Every sacrifice, feast, ritual symbolised Christ. Every Law pointed to man’s sinfulness. Faith had to be in the blood sacrifices until the supreme sacrifice was offered for the sin of man.
Paul now uses another analogy to get his point across. The Law is like a schoolmaster, custodian, tutor. The Greek word here is ‘pedagogue’, a slave who looked after the children of the family. A childminder who taught basic education, but whom the child had to obey as though the person was his or her parent. Once the child came of age, he was no longer under the schoolmaster, but instead was able to be part of the ruling authority of the master. The schoolmaster then became a slave of the child he raised to maturity. Regardless of the authority that the schoolmaster held, he had no power or position to provide the inheritance. The Law can only bring people to Christ, it cannot give eternal life. It was a temporary arrangement until the Cross, and then it gave way to grace. Once Christ died on the Cross we were offered justification by faith. “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). Jesus brought to an end the Law’s dominion. “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth” (Romans 10:4). Before this man was only a minor needing supervision. Christ alone brings believers to maturity.
But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:25-26).
Here is the “before” and “after” photograph of the believer. The Law had no authority to justify anyone, but now we are justified by faith in Christ. Before we were slaves of a slave, but now we are the children of God. “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” (John 1:12). The Law was preparing man for the coming of Christ.
This faith is both believing and following Christ. “And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it. For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away? For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in his own glory, and in his Father’s, and of the holy angels” (Luke 9:23-26).
We love to hear John 3:16 … “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life”. But what about John 3:36? “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him”. The first believeth (pisteuōn) refers to faith. The second believeth (apeithōn) is obedience. Obedient faith is different from Law keeping, though the religious mind easily confuses them. Here is how the American Standard Version renders the verse: “He that believeth on the Son hath eternal life; but he that obeyeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him.”
After the Law came Faith. There is nothing else to come. Nowhere does Scripture state that after faith came works. We are in this faith now. Faith is from the heart, Law is out of duty. We are in the “after” and no longer in the “before”. The dispensation of the Law is over. It is no longer our guardian. We are now the children of God. We are working in our Father’s business. This is our relationship with and to God. We are no longer under the Law like immature children. This implies that those who place themselves under the Law through Hebrew Roots theology have decided to opt for a second childhood of servitude and immaturity. They think they are gaining their spiritual inheritance, but instead they become boastful children who are “Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:7).
Paul writes “Ye are all” in reference to both Jews and Gentiles. No difference both must be in Christ by faith. It is the same faith for all. Children under the Law are immature, but here the Greek word ‘Huies’ is used for children of full aged, mature. The Judaizers thought they knew everything, just like immature children always do. In fact the self-deluded think they know everything too. The mature know they do not know everything. But what true believers know is that they were alienated from God, and now they are God’s own children. Now they are jointheirs with Christ. “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him , that we may be also glorified together” (Romans 8:16-17).
For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise (Galatians 3:27-29).
No one is automatically a child of God. This is a basic, fundamental truth, yet there are those who think otherwise in our churches. This is especially true amongst the Calvinists and Reformed branches of the church. The teaching is that a child of an elect person is already saved. This error can continue for generations in families. How many wake up after death in Hell because of this unscriptural teaching? We only belong to God by faith in Christ, and we cannot be in Him other than by the New Birth. If people are automatically in Him because of natural birth, then the spiritual birth is valueless. “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13).
“Baptised into Christ” is not water baptism, but refers to immersion into Christ Himself, that is, identification with Him. A Baptist preacher I heard recently at a baptism service said that wherever the New Testament uses the word baptism, it is always means full immersion into water. This is true regarding believer’s baptism, but the word baptism or baptised does not always imply the use of water. “Baptised into Christ” is not believer’s baptism, instead it simply means being wholly placed into Christ Himself. In the New Testament we read of a baptism of fire (Matthew 3:11), baptism in the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5), and baptism of suffering (Matthew 20:22), none of which require full immersion into water. “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?” (Romans 6:3). This baptism takes place when faith is in Christ alone, then the Holy Spirit places us in Christ. Paul speaks of believers being immersed into one body, which happens at the New Birth rather than several months or even years later. “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:13). We can see that this baptism refers to being totally united with Christ.
In believer’s baptism you do not put on anything, you just get wet. At the New Birth we do put on Christ, that is, we are clothed in and united with Him for ever. “At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you” (John 14:20). This spiritual baptism is not the same as the physical baptism that all believers ought to observe. A person could be saved without water baptism, as with the thief on the cross, but no one can be saved without spiritual baptism. “But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof” (Romans 13:14) … “And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Ephesians 4:24).
In this baptism into Christ all barriers are broken down. “Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father” (Ephesians 2:1118). No one is considered outside of grace because of race, gender or status. This means that there are no inferiors amongst those who are saved. “But now are they many members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary” (1 Corinthians 12:20-22).
“All one in Christ” refers to the unity of believers, and that there are no special ones. We are all saved by the same Blood. True unity is amongst those who are “in Christ”, have “put on Christ”, and truly are descendants of Abraham according to faith. Being descendants of Adam cannot unite us in Christ. Being descendants of Moses will not do it either. But those who have the same faith that Abraham had will have no difficulty uniting with fellow believers in Christ. So it is not birth, religion, circumcision or laws. Salvation is dependant on faith. Abraham’s “seed” is Christ, and He is the only one we need to be baptised into. This makes us, because of the faith lineage, inheritors of the promise of grace, and establishes us as the citizens of Christ’s Kingdom.