Following on from last week, Paul continues to address the ‘foolishness’ of the Galatians. Regarding them moving away from the true gospel. Paul is direct in his criticism to the Galatians; it was their choice to accept other teachings. Paul addresses the truth of how they are saved by faith in Christ alone and how their identity is firmly established in Christ. Paul roots it all back to Abraham, which shows the Gentiles are as a much a part of the family as the Jewish people are. There is no barrier for the Gentiles to come before God, when their faith is in Christ alone. For this blog we are going to look at three different themes which highlight what Paul is saying to the Galatians. The three themes are the law, faith, and identity. As always, I would recommend doing your own reading and exploration of the text. May we prayerfully and continuously study the Word of God.
So again I ask, does God give you His Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by believing what you have heard? (3v5)
Paul begins by questioning them on how they came to have their faith in the first place and to know the gospel in their own life. The miracles they saw and the Holy Spirit they have; did not come by them obeying the law, but it came by them believing in the gospel which was shared with them. In their faith, in Jesus Christ. Paul is questioning them on why they feel the need to do the works of the law if they know it is by faith they have been blessed to be in relationship with God.
Paul then goes onto speak about Abraham, who is the Patriarch of the Jewish people. Abraham is someone who is known for his faith as the law was not even around in his time.
So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” (Galatians 3v6)
Faith was around long before the law was. Abraham left all he knew behind and followed the Lord as the Lord directed. Due to Abraham’s faith, the Lord was able to accomplish so much.
Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham. “All nations will be blessed through you.” (3v8)
Faith is vital and it is what matters most between man and God. Paul stresses the point of how faith is what gives the Galatians their life and identity. They belong, as God had always intended to justify the Gentiles by faith; just as Abraham was justified by his faith.
So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith, (3v9)
Regarding the law.
For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the law,” (Galatians 3v10)
Paul does not sugar-coat anything but tells in brutal honesty, what it means if the Galatians are going to choose to start obeying the law. The Galatians cannot pick and choose what laws they want to follow, all of it needs to be obeyed. The Galatians in receiving the gospel had never been told they needed to obey the law. Paul goes onto say, how no one who relies on the law is justified before God.
Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith.” (v11)
Faith in all that has been accomplished by Jesus so that they could be free to have a close relationship with God. They are no longer trying to please God by following the laws and trusting their works will be enough. Which was never what the Galatians had been asked to do. The law could not save. Even in reading the gospel we are made aware that there were many people who followed the law, but their heart was far away from God. To follow the law was to adhere to it all and Christ came to set all people free from the curse; which was death due to our sin.
But Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law. When he was hung on a cross, he took upon himself the curse for our wrongdoing. For it is written in the Scriptures, “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” (NLT) (3v13)
What was the purpose of the law?
Why, then, was the law given? It was given alongside the promise to show people their sins. But the law was designed to last only until the coming of the child who was promised. God gave his law through angels to Moses, who was the mediator between God and people. (NLT) (3v19)
Is there conflict, then, between God’s law and God’s promises? Absolutely not! If the law could give us new life, we would be made right with God by obeying it. But the Scriptures declare that we are all prisoners of sin, so we receive God’s promise of freedom only by believing in Jesus Christ. (NLT) (3v21-22)
The law could never bring freedom, it would just become a barrier between the Galatians and God. As Paul writes what was begun by means of the Spirit; the Galatians were now trying to finish by means of the flesh.
The Galatians identity was already firmly established in Jesus. They did not need to become someone they were not by accepting the law, to be accepted by other people. In Jesus, all people are one.
So in Christ Jesus you are children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourself with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (3v26-28)
There is no division in the body of Christ, it is all people as one. It means that there are no obligations for certain people to fulfil in order to be accepted. You come as you are, and you are one in Christ. This is what Paul wants the Galatians to understand, they are no longer having to look to people or to do certain ceremonial things for their identity and purpose. Their identity and purpose are already firmly established in Jesus.
So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir. (4v7)
The issue Paul needs to address is the Galatians turning to other things and people to find their identity and purpose.
But now that you know God- or rather are known by God- how is it that you are turning back to weak and miserable forces? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? (4v9)
Instead of being free in Christ, they are now enslaving themselves to things of the flesh which the Lord had already set them free from. Paul uses the story of Hagar and Sarah to illustrate the two different identities that come from being under the law or from being under a promise, (4v21-31).
Now you, brothers and sisters, like Isaac, are children of promise. (4v28)
To firmly establish the truth in the hearts of the Galatians, Paul is hoping they will turn away from trying to live by the law; instead, know that all has already been accomplished through Jesus and their faith alone in Jesus is what truly matters. Their identity comes through Christ alone. The law does not give them their identity, it is Jesus who gives them their identity.
We will see in the last aspect of the letter how Paul wants the Galatians to know and firmly stand in the freedom which comes from Christ alone.
Regarding what we looked at in this portion of the blog. Paul is adamant on the Gentiles understanding what it truly means to follow the law. There are not just certain aspects which can be followed in order to please people. Instead, to follow the law means to abide by it all and it truly will not lead to any justification before God. Christ has set all people free from the curse of the law. It is only by Jesus; they can be justified before God.
In personal application from this study there are many aspects we can look at. In regard to the Galatians going to back to the things they had been set free from. Placing themselves again under the power of man and their rules. Those are issues many of us still deal with today.
What are the things we keep running back too, in order to give us purpose and identity?
What are the things we think must be obeyed to have faith in Jesus? Belonging to a certain church denomination, following rules on how you worship, etc.
Do we honestly believe our identity is firmly established in Jesus?
Those are questions I need to work through in my own faith. It is why it is vital to be prayerfully reading God’s word because it enables the Lord to speak to us and to help us to understand and work on things we are struggling with. All things will come together for the Lord’s glory. Similar to the Galatians we need to be made aware of what we are putting before God and what we are allowing to strip us of our freedom in Christ. It is only then we can begin to know grace, redemption, and freedom again. Salvation and redemption come through Christ alone, nothing else and no one else can save us.
We will finish the study of the letter to the Galatians in next week’s blog. As you read through the letter, take time to lift up in prayer what is being highlighted to you in the text. Allow yourself to grow in faith and relationship with Jesus. For there are no barriers before you and God, for Jesus is the intercessor for us all. (Hebrews 7:25)
God bless you, love Victoria. xx