1You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified?
The Galatians knew the gospel message. There was no reason for them to repeat the mistake that Peter had once made and fall back into man-made “righteousness.” It is as if they had been charmed by some false teacher into thinking something blatantly wrong. They knew the gospel of Christ because Paul had publicly declared it to him. That Jesus died for their sins was understood. Why would they go back and try to put themselves under the Law when Christ had freed them from its condemnation?
2This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?
He asks them plain and simply if they received the Spirit of God by keeping the Law or by believing the Word of God which they had heard regarding the grace of God through Christ (cf. Romans 10:17).
3Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?
4Did you suffer so many things in vain--if indeed it was in vain?
The Galatians clearly had the intellectual understanding about the grace of God. Paul’s rebuke is directed at their lack of obedience which is the opposite of wisdom, namely foolishness. Their salvation was begun by the Spirit regenerating their hearts, and it is only the Spirit Who will finish the work started by Christ. Christ saves, sanctifies, and glorifies His people. Our works do not save us, and they cannot sanctify us unless they are by faith in Christ working in and through us. Any other work is of the flesh and powered by self. Self can’t make a person righteous, nor can it enable a person to continue in righteousness. God allows suffering into our lives to perfect us and strengthen our inner persons (James 1:2-4). Paul’s point is that we would have suffered pointlessly if we could perfect ourselves by self-effort and man-made works. Suffering is necessary as part of God’s gracious sanctifying work in our hearts and lives. Even suffering can be used by God to make us like Christ.
5So then, does He who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?
Paul explains that it is the Spirit who is responsible for any miracle that the early church witnessed. No miracle was the result of man-made effort or by keeping the Mosaic Law. The Holy Spirit was the One Who was establishing the church and working miracles through the apostles. Faith in the Spirit enabled the miracles to happen, not keeping the Law. Therefore, it makes no sense to act as if we are under the Law.
6Even so Abraham BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS.
7Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham.
We know that those who trust Christ by faith are those who are saved and are thus spiritual sons of Abraham. Abraham himself was justified by faith. It was the fact that he believed God that made him righteous, not the fact that he kept the Law, which didn’t even exist yet. God saved Abraham the same way He was saving the Gentiles in Paul’s time and in ours- by faith.
8The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, "ALL THE NATIONS WILL BE BLESSED IN YOU."
9So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer.
The Holy Spirit when authoring the Scripture through human instruments knew that God’s plan was the hardening of Israel and the taking of the gospel to the Gentiles. Thus, even back in Genesis 12:1-3, Abraham is promised that the whole world will be blessed through his descendants. Clearly, God’s plan was to take the gospel to the world, and all those who place their faith in Christ as Abraham did will be saved.
10For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, "CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO DOES NOT ABIDE BY ALL THINGS WRITTEN IN THE BOOK OF THE LAW, TO PERFORM THEM."
Borrowing from Deuteronomy 27:26, Paul says that those who are trusting in their own good deeds to save them as they seek to keep the Law are cursed. No man can be righteous based upon his own good deeds simply because he cannot keep the Law. As Romans 3:23 says, we all fall short of God’s glory. Thus, man’s own lack of keeping the Law is his curse.
11Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, "THE RIGHTEOUS MAN SHALL LIVE BY FAITH."
Habakkuk 2:4 teaches plainly that those who will be justified are those who live by faith. It wasn’t God’s plan before Christ for the Law to save a person. The Law was to show man his inability to save himself. The Old Testament sacrifices illustrated the need for atonement of sin, which Christ alone can provide as we put our faith in Him.
12However, the Law is not of faith; on the contrary, "HE WHO PRACTICES THEM SHALL LIVE BY THEM."
Leviticus 18:5 made it clear that those who lived by the Law had to keep the Law, an inherent and obvious impossibility when God’s standard is perfection. Relying on self-made righteousness for justification only leads to cursing rather than salvation.
13Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us--for it is written, "CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE"--
14in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
The glory of the gospel is that Jesus Christ Himself bore the curse of man’s sin. The Law condemned man, and Christ bore the condemnation when He died upon the tree. The Law itself says that anyone who hangs on a tree is accursed. Part of Christ’s fulfilling the Law was to take the curse upon Himself so that we might be redeemed, bought with the price of His blood and brought back to a righteous relationship with God. Christ fulfilled God’s promise to Abraham in Genesis 12, blessing the Gentiles through making it possible for them to have the Spirit of God indwell them by faith.
15Brethren, I speak in terms of human relations: even though it is only a man's covenant, yet when it has been ratified, no one sets it aside or adds conditions to it.
Even when fallible man makes a covenant and both sides agree to it, people take it seriously. A breach of one’s word leads to serious conflict. It is not to be added to or ignored, but it is to be taken as is.
16Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed He does not say, "And to seeds," as referring to many, but rather to one, "And to your seed," that is, Christ.
17What I am saying is this: the Law, which came four hundred and thirty years later, does not invalidate a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise.
Paul’s point is that the establishment of the Law 430 years after Abraham did not undermine the covenant that God made with Abraham. God promised Abraham that the whole world would be blessed through Him and through His seed, namely Christ. Since the covenant could only be fulfilled through Christ, obviously the covenant had to last through the establishment of the Law. Genesis 12:7 could not be construed to mean Abraham’s descendents prior to Moses and the Law. It must include Christ and even the Gentiles that would believe in His name. Thus, the covenant to Abraham is not undone by the Law.
18For if the inheritance is based on law, it is no longer based on a promise; but God has granted it to Abraham by means of a promise.
If our salvation and future inheritance in Christ were based upon what we could do to earn God’s favor by our own works of righteousness, then we are saying that we are making God’s promise to Abraham void. We are saying that we found eternal life without Christ Who is the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham. Thus, salvation must fulfill the promise to Abraham which means that salvation must come through Christ. If we say that we can be saved apart from faith, then we must also say that God’s promise to Abraham is void, which of course it is not.
19Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator, until the seed would come to whom the promise had been made.
The Law was a temporary means to deal with the hardness of man’s heart. For example, Moses gave the Israelites writs of divorce so that they could put away their wives (Deuteronomy 24:1). Jesus makes it clear that divorce was never His plan from the beginning (Matthew 19:6-8). The Law then came to deal with hard hearts and minimize the damages and carnage of sin. There was a better way, the way of faith. Faith would have obeyed God. Sin needed the Law to protect civilization and minimize the destabilization of the Jewish society. The Law never saved anybody, for even some of the Gentiles had the work of the Law (repentance unto faith) written on their hearts (Romans 2:15). God is concerned about the heart of man, which only faith in response to God’s revelation can solve.
Scripture says in Acts 7:53 and Hebrews 2:2 that angels were involved somehow in the establishment of the Law. There was also a mediator who acted on their behalf. This system of the Law showed man his sinfulness until the coming of Christ when He fulfilled the promise to Abraham.
20Now a mediator is not for one party only; whereas God is only one.
A mediator is someone who goes between two parties. When conflict arises or when a deal needs to be made, the mediator acts as the agent for both parties in the hope of bringing both sides to an agreement or reconciliation. Jesus was the mediator between man and God (1 Timothy 2:5, Hebrews 8:6, 9:15, 12:24) of the New Covenant, though ultimately, since He and the Father are One (John 14:9), God really reconciled man of His own accord through Christ. He didn’t really need a mediator, though Christ acted as One. Such is the nature of the Trinity. Was Jesus the mediator also in the case of the Law? I believe that Moses was the mediator of the old covenant (see Hebrews 9:18-20).
21Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God? May it never be! For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law.
Although the promise of God was in effect without the Law and though the Law was put in place due to sin and the hardness of man’s heart, the Law did not contradict the promises of God. If the purpose of the Law had been to give life and fulfill the promise, then it would have done that. But its purpose was not to bring righteousness. If its purpose was to bring righteousness, whatever law that was put in place would have done that.
22But the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.
The purpose of the Law was not to bring righteousness but to deal with the hardness of man’s heart, revealing to him the error of his ways and giving him no room for excuses. The Law clearly reveals God’s righteous standards and how far we fall short of them. The Law makes sin exceedingly sinful. As Romans 5:20 says, “The Law came in so that the transgression would increase.” It didn’t come to free us from our sin but to reveal our sin more clearly to us. Thus, man is without excuse over and abundantly. The grace of God through Christ then becomes a clear answer to the problem of sin. Those who believe are then offered cleansing from sin and freedom from its power.
23But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed.
Until a person places his faith in Christ, he is a prisoner of the law of sin and death (Romans 7:23), held captive by the devil to do his will (1 Timothy 2:26). When the Law does its work to show us our sin, and when we understand faith and repentance, we can then be no longer “shut up” but free.
24Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith.
The Greek word for tutor is referencing a slave whose duty it was to watch over a young child, guarding his behavior at home and being responsible for escorting him to school. The purpose of the Law is analogous in that it was to show us how our behavior didn’t measure up to God’s standards and to point us to the gospel of Christ. Justification only comes through faith.
25But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.
Once we put our faith in Christ to forgive us of our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness, we then are no longer under the tutelage of the Law. We don’t need to be shown our sin for the purpose of being directed to a Savior because we have already been saved and the Law has already done its work. We are free from slavery to the devil and the bondage of the Law.
26For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.
27For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
28There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
29And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's descendants, heirs according to promise.
Those who put their faith in Christ become children of God. Formerly, we were children of the devil (1 John 3:10), but upon receiving Christ by faith, we are His children (John 1:12). We are spiritually immersed into Christ and clothed with His righteousness. Like baptism washes away dirt and filth, repentance unto salvation removes the dirt of sin. In Christ, we are all one because we are all children of God, heirs according to the promise given to Abraham. We are Christ’s by identity, first and foremost. All Christians are thus brothers and sisters and part of the family of God. Thus, in God’s family, earthly means of division such as race, gender, or status are no longer important in terms of worth and value. That we are members of God’s family trumps all.