Having set forth the doctrine that we are justified by faith in Jesus Christ rather than by the works of the Law, Paul draws from the personal experience of the Galatians as well as the Old Testament Scripture to support his argument. In comparing the law and faith, he explains the condemnatory and temporary nature of the law and the surpassing and enduring nature of God’s promise.
Did You Know...?
- The promise of the Spirit (3:14): This is the promised Holy Spirit foretold by the prophets (Eze 36:27; Joel 2:28) and the Lord Jesus (Jn 14:16-17; Acts 1:5). This promise came true when the disciples received the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4).
- Tutor (3:24): “The term is paidagogos, which means ‘a childcustodian’ or ‘child-attendant.’ The pedagogue was a slave employed by wealthy Greeks or Romans to have responsibility for one of the children of the family. He had charge of the child from about the years six to sixteen and was responsible for watching over his behavior wherever he went and for conducting him to and from school.”
What Old Testament figure does Paul repeatedly refer to? Why?Hide Answer
Paul frequently refers to Abraham because he was the key figure in God’s covenantal relationship with His people and because the Jews consider themselves the children of Abraham. By showing that even Abraham was justified by faith, not by works, Paul effectively points out the error of the legalists in trying to seek their own righteousness through the works of the law.
What contrasts does Paul make in this paragraph?Hide Answer
The works of the law versus the hearing of faith (2,5). Spirit versus flesh (3).
What point is Paul making by his series of questions? What was the basis of his argument?Hide Answer
Paul’s questions aimed to appeal to the personal experience of the Galatians. The fact that the Galatians received the Holy Spirit and experienced miracles through faith apart from the works of law is a solid proof that a believer is justified by faith.
How was the crucifixion of Jesus Christ clearly portrayed among the Galatians?
Why does Paul mention the portrayal of Christ’s crucifixion?Hide Answer
Paul marvels that the Galatians are forsaking their crucified Lord, whom they had once received with faith, and are now turning to the works of the law.
How have the Galatians begun in the Spirit?
What does it mean that they are now trying to be made perfect by the flesh?Hide Answer
They hope to “perfect” their salvation through the works of the law, as if faith in Christ is not sufficient for salvation.
Can we infer from this paragraph that receiving the Holy Spirit is an obvious experience that is accompanied by a clear external sign? Explain your answer.Hide Answer
Paul bases his argument here on the personal experience of the
Galatians, including receiving the Holy Spirit (3,5) and miracles (5). The
receiving of the Holy Spirit must be an experience that is as obvious as
the miracles that God has worked among the Galatians (cf. Acts 2:1-4;
8:18; 10:44-46; 19:1-7). If receiving the Holy Spirit is only a silent, inward,
event without any external signs, Paul’s argument would not work, since
the Galatians would not be able to recall any experience to realize that
they received the promised Spirit through faith rather than through
works. In fact, the legalists might even be able to argue that the
Galatians did not receive the Spirit at all just as they had not received
justification, and that in order to receive the Spirit, the Galatians must
fulfill the works of the law.
We know from Acts 10 that when the Gentiles received the Holy Spirit, it
was such an obvious experience which even Peter and the brethren with
him could witness (i.e. the Gentiles spoke in tongues just as the disciples
did on Pentecost). This obvious sign from God completely removed any
reservation on Peter’s part to baptize the Gentiles. By the same token, it
is with this strong evidence, which the Galatians had personally and
clearly experienced, that Paul now convinces these Gentile believers that
God had bestowed on them the Holy Spirit through their faith apart from
the works of the law
On what basis was Abraham justified?Hide Answer
Abraham was justified because he believed God (6).
According to Paul, how has God’s promise to Abraham, as quoted in verse 8, come true?Hide Answer
God’s promise to Abraham, “In you all the nations shall be blessed” has come true in that the believers of all races may become children of Abraham and receive the grace of salvation through faith in Christ.
What contrast is made in verses 12 and 13?Hide Answer
Whereas justification by faith is granted apart from man’s merit, the law requires that a man must “continue in all the things which are written in the book of the law, to do them” (10) in order to be righteous. In short, faith is not based on works, the law is.
How did Christ “become a curse for us”?
What does it mean that we have been redeemed from the curse of the law?Hide Answer
The word “redeem” means setting a person free by paying his owner a ransom. Under the curse of the law, a sinner is sold to sin to be its slave, and his wage is death. But our Lord Jesus Christ has purchased us with His blood, thereby setting us free from sin and death (
1Cor 6:20, 7:23; Heb 2:14-15; 1Pet 1:18-19).
According to verse 15, what characterizes a covenant?Hide Answer
Once a covenant is confirmed, it cannot be annulled or added to.
What point is Paul making concerning the law and the promise?Hide Answer
The law, which was added later, could not do away with God’s promise to Abraham that the nations would be blessed through his Seed. In other words, we are justified by faith in Jesus Christ based on God’s promise rather than on observing the law.
Read Genesis 22:18 on God’s promise to Abraham and his seed. What is Paul’s interpretation of this promise? What does this interpretation have to do with the argument that we are justified by faith?Hide Answer
Paul explains that God’s promise to Abraham concerning his seed actually refers to Christ because the word “seed” is singular. Since God has already foreordained salvation through Christ in His promise to Abraham, we must put our faith in Christ in order to be justified.
What does verse 18 say about the nature of a promise? What is Paul’s point?Hide Answer
A promise, by definition, is received freely and not earned by good works. Thus, God’s promise to believers, whether Jews or Gentiles, does not depend on the works of the law.
Record what the following verses say about the law. 19aHide Answer
It was added because of transgression till the Seed should come.
19b, 20Hide Answer
It was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator. Many interpretations have resulted from the obscured meaning of verse 21. The expositor needs to answer the question of why Paul adds the statement, “but God is one.” If this addition is to contrast the law and the promise, the verse may be interpreted as “whereas the law was mediated
by a human agent, i.e. Moses, the promise was given by God Himself without mediation.” But if the addition is to show the unique nature of the mediator of the law, then we may understand the verse to mean this: “whereas a human mediator mediates for parties other than himself, in the case of the law, God Himself mediates unilaterally.”
The law is not against the promise of God. The law cannot give life, or righteousness would have been by the law.
The Scripture has confined all under sin.
Before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law.
After faith came, we are no longer under a tutor, i.e. the law.
In sum, what purpose does the law serve in relation to faith in Christ?Hide Answer
The law makes us aware of our need for grace. By constantly reminding
the sinner of his transgressions and weaknesses, it drives him to the
throne of grace to receive justification through faith in Christ.