MBS126 THE BOOK OF GALATIANS
By Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum
Paul, an apostle (not from men, neither through man, but through Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead), and all the brethren that are with me, unto the churches of Galatia.Galatians 1:1–2
The Book of Galatians contains some important truths for the Church at large, but it has a number of things, which are peculiar in relationship to Jews and Messianic evangelism and discipleship. It is a good book to study, especially from a Jewish frame of reference.
Unlike other Epistles, Paul did not write the Book of Galatians to one particular church, but to several churches in the Province of Galatia, which contained the cities of Antioch, Pasidia, Iconium, Lystra, Derbe, and others. Paul helped found some of these churches on his first missionary journey (Acts 13:1–14:28). He went there again during his second missionary journey (Acts 15:36–18:22) and his third missionary journey (Acts 18:23–20:38).
The problem that Paul was dealing with in this particular book concerns a group that has come to be known as “the Judaizers.” These people felt that the Gentiles must obey the Law of Moses in order to be saved (Acts 15:1), and they continually followed Paul around. After Paul left a city, they would come in with their false teachings. They did not have the sanction of the Jerusalem Church, and the Jerusalem Council of Acts 15:12–21renounced their statements, beliefs, and teachings. Yet the Judaizers persisted in troubling Paul and they were troubling these Galatians.
Because of their teaching that one must obey the Law of Moses in order to be saved, the ultimate issue in the book is: What is the gospel? What is the content of the gospel? Or, what must I do to be saved?
Paul wrote this Epistle for three reasons: first, to defend his apostolic authority, because Paul’s claims to apostolic authority had been attacked by these Judaizers; secondly, to show that salvation is by grace through faith alone, which counteracts the teachings of the Judaizers; and thirdly, to strengthen the faith of the believers in Galatia.
I. THE GREETING—GALATIANS 1:1–5
Paul, an apostle (not from men, neither through man, but through Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead), and all the brethren that are with me, unto the churches of Galatia: Grace to you and peace from God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us out of this present evil world, according to the will of our God and Father: to whom be the glory for ever and ever. Amen.Galatians 1:1-5
Paul began the letter quite normally. The pattern for an ancient letter was: “From A,” “to B,” “Greeting.” He writes following that pattern, and here we have, “From” Paul to the churches of Galatia: Greeting.” The “from” is: Paul … and all the brethren who are with him in verses 1–2a. The aspect of “to” is in verse 2b: the churches of Galatia.
The Book of Galatians was an encyclical letter, meaning one to be circulated among the various churches in the Province of Galatia. In his extended greeting, Paul brought out the three issues he wanted to deal with.
A. Apostolic Authority
The first issue is the fact of his apostolic authority in verse 1: Paul, an apostle. Furthermore, his apostolic authority is not from men, [nor] through man. It is not from man in that his apostolic authority was not from human origin; nor is it through man, it did not come to him through any human instrumentality. His apostolic authority is of divine origin. It is through Jesus [the Messiah], and God the Father; through Yeshua (Jesus) the Messiah as the instrument and through God the Father as the source. So the ultimate source of Paul’s apostolic authority was God the Father, and his apostolic calling came by means of Yeshua the Messiah.
In the second issue, he points out that salvation is by grace through faith alone in verse 4a. He states that Jesus the Messiah gave himself for our sins. This is the gospel: that Yeshua died for our sins, and the essence of the gospel carries the concept of substitution. The acceptance of the Messiah’s substitutionary death is what saves, and that alone. The word grace is the key word throughout the letter and emphasizes that salvation is by grace through faith, plus nothing.
The third issue of this letter was to strengthen the faith of the Galatian believers by pointing out their sanctification in verses 4b–5: Jesus came to save them out of the world; that is, out of this present evil age. This is the by product of grace: to deliver us out of this present evil world, according to the will of our God and Father. The will of God is the source of grace, and the glory of God is the reason and the goal of grace. Having mentioned God, he concludes with the word, Amen.
II. THE PROBLEM—GALATIANS 1:6–10
A. The Perversion of the Gospel—Galatians 1:6–7
I marvel that ye are so quickly removing from him that called you in the grace of Christ unto a different gospel; which is not another gospel: only there are some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.Galatians 1:6–7
In verse 6, Paul begins by rebuking their fickleness and he marvels at how quickly they have removed themselves from the teachings of grace. He is also surprised at the content, because what they have been deceived by is another gospel.
There are two Greek words that mean “another.” One means “another of the same kind,” and the second term means “another of a different kind. The Greek word he used here means “another gospel of a different kind.” In other words, they were not receiving another gospel of the same kind, a similar gospel, but they were deceived by another gospel of a different kind, a gospel totally different from the one they had believed earlier. This is a different gospel than the gospel of grace.
This new gospel in verse 7: which is not another gospel, is a perversion of the true gospel. This is not even another gospel of the same kind, but it is another gospel of a different kind. The Greek word for “perversion” means, “to twist a thing around,” “to reverse it.” It means that they are not denying it, but they are destroying it by adding to it. They are taking true things and destroying them.
Throughout the letter, these perversions are seen in at least four areas. First, they believe in the perfection in the flesh (Gal. 3:3). Secondly, they believe in the obligatory observance of days, and months, and seasons, and years (Gal. 4:10). Thirdly, they believe in being justified by the Law (Gal. 5:4). And fourthly, they believe in mandatory circumcision (Gal. 5:2). So, by these things the gospel was being perverted.
B. The Rebuke of False Teachers—Galatians 1:8–9
But though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach unto you any gospel other than that which we preached unto you, let him be anathema. As we have said before, so say I now again, if any man preaches unto you any gospel other than that which ye received, let him be anathema.Galatians 1:8–9
In these verses, he pronounced the anathema, which is a rebuke against false teachers. Anyone who teaches a gospel that is different than the gospel they have received is to be anathema. Another gospel is any gospel other than the gospel of the grace of God. Any addition to the simple statement that salvation is by grace through faith is another gospel. Any addition to the gospel, be it baptism, tongues, ceremonies, church membership, repentance, perverts the gospel and is anathema.
The word anathema comes from the Hebrew concept of the harem, which means “something that is untouchable,” “something that is to be devoted to destruction.” Anyone teaching a different gospel is to be devoted to destruction.
C. The Position of Paul—Galatians 1:10
For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? or am I striving to please men? if I were still pleasing men, I should not be a servant of Christ.Galatians 1:10
Here, Paul responds to his critics who claim that he is out to get converts by any means: to win the Jews, he keeps the Law; to win the Gentiles, he sets the Law aside. While it is true that Paul did keep the Law, the thing he did not do was to make the keeping of the Law obligatory, neither for salvation nor for sanctification. The same is true when Jewish believers today keep aspects of the Law. This is not the same as the Galatian heresy, because Jewish believers who observe customs do it on the basis of voluntary observance, not on the basis of obligatory observance. As long as it is merely voluntary, it is not a false addition to the gospel. If it becomes obligatory, then we have gone beyond the Scriptures.
The problem faced by the churches of Galatia was that they had received the teaching of false teachers who said that merely believing on Yeshua the Messiah is not enough to be saved. There is more involved. The “more” was the keeping of the Law and the submission to the Law by means of circumcision.
III. THE MAJOR ARGUMENTS—GALATIANS 1:11–6:10
After stating the problem, Paul then proceeded to the major arguments of his book. There are three major arguments in the book, as he shows that salvation is by grace through faith plus nothing.
A. The Biographical Argument: An Independent Revelation—Galatians 1:11–2:21
The first major argument is called the biographical argument. The point he makes is that he received an independent revelation.
1. Independent of Human Teaching—Galatians 1:11–17
The first point of his biographical argument is that his revelation was independent of human teaching in verses 11–12: For I make known to you, brethren, as touching the gospel which was preached by me, that it is not after man. For neither did I receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came to me through revelation of Jesus Christ.
The gospel that Paul preached did not come from any human source. The Judaizers claimed that Paul actually received his teachings from the apostles, so how dare Paul challenge teachers like the Judaizers who werecoming from Jerusalem! Paul states that his teachings did not come after man in that no man could frame this gospel.
The gospel is that salvation is by grace through faith plus nothing. Every human religion teaches salvation by works. Faith might be involved, but there is always the addition of works as part of the salvation package. Every human, man made religion requires works for salvation. Even within Christendom, people have a hard time accepting the truth that salvation is by grace through faith plus nothing and begin to add things like baptism or church membership; they add elements and then claim that it is the “full gospel,” implying that grace through faith alone is only a “partial gospel.” The human tendency in formulating religion is that they want to add works to salvation.
Paul states that his teaching is not after man, for no man could frame this gospel. He goes on to say it is not from man as the source. No man taught these truths to Paul; he received them by divine revelation from Jesus the Messiah. The word revelation means “making truth known that was previously unknown.” Revelation is God’s self-disclosure, and Paul received the things he was teaching during his three years of personal training by Yeshua in Arabia.
Furthermore, he points out in verses 13–14 that nothing in his previous life predisposed him to the gospel: For ye have heard of my manner of life in time past in the Jews’ religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and made havoc of it: and I advanced in the Jews’ religion beyond many of mine own age among my countrymen, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers.
In fact, he was against grace in verse 13. He persecuted the church … and made havoc of it (Acts 8:1–3; 26:9–11). The Greek word for havoc means “to ravage” and “to devastate” a city. In other words, he had no leaning toward the gospel.
Furthermore, in verse 14 he was for the Law and made major advances in Judaism. The Greek work used here means “trailblazer.” He was a trailblazer in Judaism; he blazed new trails in Judaism. He was a member of the more extreme branch of the Pharisees, and he outstripped his peers in his zealousness for the traditions of [the] fathers. Nothing in his past predisposed him to the gospel.
He then explains how he received both the gospel and the apostleship in verses 15–17: But when it was the good pleasure of God, who separated me, even from my mother’s womb, and called me through his grace, to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the Gentiles; straightway I conferred not with flesh and blood: neither went I up to Jerusalem to them that were apostles before me: but I went away into Arabia; and again I returned unto Damascus.
In verse 15, Paul states that he was predestined for it: God … called me through his grace. His office of apostleship was already picked for him by God and, at a certain point in history; he received salvation when he was saved by grace. God then gave him his ministry to preach [the gospel] among the Gentiles. When he did so, he did not confer with any Jewish believers at that point according to verse 16. In verse 17, he states that, upon salvation, he did not go to Jerusalem to confer with the other apostles.
The fact that his gospel was the same as all the other apostles was evidence of its divine origin because both groups got it from God. He did not go to Jerusalem, but he went to Arabia and then returned unto Damascus. The point he makes, then, is that he did not get the gospel of grace from men, but from God.
2. Independent of the Judean Churches—Galatians 1:18–24
The second point of his biographical argument is that his teaching was independent of the Judean churches: Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas, and tarried with him fifteen days. But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord’s brother. Now touching the things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not. Then I came unto the regions of Syria and Cilicia. And I was still unknown by face unto the churches of Judaea which were in Christ: but they only heard say, He that once persecuted us now preaches the faith of which he once made havoc; and they glorified God in me. (Galatians 1:18–24)
In verse 18, he points out that he was already an apostle before he ever went to Jerusalem. He had been with the Lord in personal training for three years in Arabia before he ever returned to Jerusalem. When he finally did go to Jerusalem, he was there for fifteen days only, and he spent those fifteen days with the Apostle Peter. This shows two things. First, it was too short a time for him to have received all of his truths from Peter. Secondly, it was long enough to be exposed if his gospel was different than the gospel of the other apostles. The visit he made was purely for the purpose of getting acquainted.
Furthermore, in verse 19 he saw none of the other apostles at that point except James; not James the brother of John, but James the half-brother of Jesus.
In verse 20, Paul then reaffirmed the truth of what he is saying. After fifteen days he left Judea and traveled to the provinces of Syria and Cilicia in verse 21.
For the most part, he was totally unknown among the churches of Judea according to verses 22–24. He was mostly unknown to the church in Jerusalem and totally unknown to the other Judean churches. He did not get his gospel from the Jerusalem Church, nor did he get his gospel and his teachings from the other Judean churches. He was independent of them.
3. Independent of the Judaizers—Galatians 2:1–10
The third point in his biographical argument is that he was independent of the Judaizing brethren in verses 1–3: Then after the space of fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus also with me. And I went up by revelation; and I laid before them the gospel which I preach among the Gentiles but privately before them who were of repute, lest by any means I should be running, or had run, in vain. But not even Titus who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised.
In verse 1, he first states that he returned to Jerusalem only after fourteen years had transpired; between chapters 1 and 2, fourteen years had passed. The occasion for his return was the Jerusalem Council, spoken of in Acts 15:1–4.
Paul states that he brought Titus with him. Titus was a Gentile believer who would serve as a test case. Titus was a prize example of a Gentile who was saved apart from the Law and apart from circumcision. The very presence of Titus would be a challenge to the Judaizers. If Titus was required to be circumcised, then all the Gentiles would be obligated to be circumcised. The thing to note is that the issue here is not circumcision for Jewish believers, but circumcision for Gentile believers. The issue of circumcision for the Jewish believer is in a different category than what is happening right here.
In verses 2–3, Paul states that he had a private council with the key leaders of the Jerusalem Church. He first presented the gospel he was teaching to the leaders just in case he might have been running in the wrong race. He did this to see if the other apostles would authenticate his gospel.
The leaders of the Jerusalem Church did not require circumcision for Titus. This showed that they validated the gospel that Paul preached. Titus was not compelled to be circumcised by the leaders. Here again, the emphasis is upon his being a Gentile. Now Timothy, of course, was circumcised by Paul in Acts 16:1–3, but Timothy had Jewish origins, so the circumcision of Timothy was not being inconsistent on Paul’s part. The issue here is not Jewish circumcision, but Gentile circumcision.
After the private council, he had a public council in verses 4–5: and that because of the false brethren privily brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage: to whom we gave place in the way of subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.
Here is where the false brethren were brought in, the same ones who were mentioned in Acts 15:5. These were not true believers, but they claimed to be believers. Paul says they were privily brought in, meaning they were “planted” by someone from the outside to spy out [their] liberty. The Greek word means, “to make a treacherous investigation.” It is a metaphor of spies sneaking into the enemy camp, playing the part of friends when, in reality, they are enemies who have come to discover weak points.
The reason they were brought in was to bring us into bondage. The Greek word means “to enslave completely.” At that point, Jewish evangelism and discipleship was still within Judaism, and the Pharisees were there to attempt to retain the Law and so demand circumcision. Paul made no concessions to the Judaizers or to the Pharisees. He reminded them that he fought for Gentile liberty that … the gospel might continue; that salvation is by grace through faith plus nothing. Paul demonstrated that Gentiles were being saved apart from the Law and apart from circumcision (Acts 13:12).
Paul then gives the results of that conference in verses 6–10: But from those who were reputed to be somewhat (whatsoever they were, it makes no matter to me: God accepts not man’s person) they, I say, who were of repute imparted nothing to me: but contrariwise, when they saw that I had been intrusted with the gospel of the uncircumcision, even as Peter with the gospel of the circumcision (for he that wrought for Peter unto the apostleship of the circumcision wrought for me also unto the Gentiles); and when they perceived the grace that was given unto me, James and Cephas and John, they who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship, that we should go unto the Gentiles, and they unto the circumcision; only they would that we should remember the poor; which very thing I was also zealous to do.
First, Paul’s gospel was viewed as being a complete, full gospel in verse 6. Nothing new needed to be added. There was no fresh knowledge imparted to Paul, and they saw no defect in his preaching; he was treated as an equal.
Secondly, they laid down the principle of two missions in verses 7–8: Jewish missions and Gentile missions. The apostles did come out for Paul’s apostolic authority, and Paul and Peter were viewed as equals, though working in different areas. Peter was the apostle to the circumcision while Paul was the apostle to the uncircumcision.
Thirdly, in verses 9–10 Paul and Barnabas were given the right hands of fellowship, as we also see in Acts 15:22–29. The ministry of Paul was authenticated by the three pillars of the Jerusalem Church: James, Peter and John. They all treated him as an equal. In fact, in Acts 15:13–21 James was not only a defender of the Jewish believer’s position, but also of the Gentile believer’s position. The only admonition they gave to Paul was to remember the poor, the Jewish believers in Jerusalem who became poor because they carried the brunt of persecution, and this Paul was zealous to do anyway.
4. Independent of Apostolic Pressure—Galatians 2:11–18
In these verses, the fourth point of Paul’s biographical argument is that he was independent of even apostolic pressure.
a. The Hypocrisy of Peter
He begins with an account of Peter’s hypocrisy in verses 11–13 in light of the fact that Peter stood with Paul at the Jerusalem Council in verses 1–10: But when Cephas came to Antioch, I resisted him to the face, because he stood condemned. For before that certain came from James, he ate with the Gentiles; but when they came, he drew back and separated himself, fearing them that were of the circumcision. And the rest of the Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that even Barnabas was carried away with their dissimulation.
The very fact that Peter was hypocritical shows that not even the apostles were always inspired. They were inspired when they wrote Scripture; they were inspired when they were speaking in the name of the Lord; but they were not always inspired on a day-by-day, hour-by-hour, moment-by-moment basis.
After leaving Jerusalem, Peter came to the Church of Antioch where Paul was working. This church was a mixed church of Jewish and Gentile believers. When he first came, Peter had no problem eating with the Gentiles. After all, he had already come into the house of a Gentile in Acts 10. But when Jewish believers from Jerusalem came, Peter withdrew from the Gentiles although he sided with Paul in the Jerusalem Council. And the basis for his withdrawal was not conscience or conviction, but fear (Acts 15:7–11).
When Peter, the Apostle of the Circumcision, withdrew, the other Jewish believers of the Church of Antioch also withdrew from the Gentile believers, including Barnabas, who should have known better, so in verse 13, a split was developing. It created a separation from the Lord’s Supper and now there were two communions: a Jewish communion and a Gentile communion. The presumption was that the Jews had something that the Gentiles did not have.
b. The Rebuke of Paul
At that point, in verses 14–18 Paul, seeing clearly the hypocrisy of it all, defended the position that was already authenticated in Jerusalem. He first spelled out the issue before Peter in verse 14: But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Cephas before them all, If you, being a Jew, live as do the Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, how compel you the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?
He pointed out that Peter was guilty of not walking uprightly. The Greek word means, “to deviate from a straight course.” By his actions, Peter was showing that he expected Gentile believers to live as Jews. Before the people came from Jerusalem, he lived and ate with Gentiles, but now that they had come, he reverted back to living like a Pharisaic Jew.
The question is: should the Gentiles now live as Jews? What Paul was telling Peter is that he was asking the Gentiles to accept what Peter himself had already discarded.
c. The Defense of Paul’s Rebuke
After pointing out the issue of Peter’s hypocrisy, he then defends his rebuke of Peter in two ways.
(1) The Position of the Jewish Believer
His first defense spells out the Jewish believer’s position or situation in verses 15–16: We being Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, yet knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, even we believed on Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by the works of the law: because by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.
He points out that both he and Peter were Jews by birth. They were not even Gentile proselytes to Judaism; they were Jews by birth. They were not born as sinners among the Gentiles. Yet both Paul and Peter now realize that they could not be justified by the Law, and the very fact that they trusted Jesus for their salvation showed that there was something that was lacking in Judaism.
They realized that they had to be justified by faith, not by the works of the law. Paul tells Peter that even as Jews they saw the need for trusting on the Messiah to be saved, and they trusted Him to do for them what the Law failed to do. Faith was the means of justification, not the Law.
The conclusion is: “Peter, why ask Gentiles to accept what Jews themselves have now recognized as being unfulfilling?” Both Paul and Peter recognized this. His first defense is basically this: “We were born as Jews and yet as Jews we realized that we could not be justified by the works of the Law, but only justified by faith.”
(2) The Danger to Christology
His second defense is that there is a real danger to Christology in verses 17–18: But if, while we sought to be justified in Christ, we ourselves also were found sinners, is Christ a minister of sin? God forbid. For if I build up again those things which I destroyed, I prove myself a transgressor.
If they persist on moving in this way, there is danger in that they will make the Messiah a minister of sin. The Law was not a basis for justification according to verse 17. He again points out that, “though we as Jews seek to be justified, we have found that we are justified by faith through the Messiah. In order for us to be justified by faith through the Messiah, we must forsake our attempts to be justified by the works of the Law.” Now, if forsaking the Law is sin, then the Messiah is indeed a minister of sin. That is the danger to Christology. If it were true that we must turn away from seeking to be justified by the Law to turn in faith to the Messiah, and if the turning is sin, then the Messiah becomes a minister of sin.
According to verse 18, to go back to the Law after being justified by the Messiah actually means to go back to sin. It is as simple as that. A similar point is made in 1 Corinthians 7:18–34. In this action, Paul showed he was independent of even apostolic pressure and was willing to stand up to Peter.
5. Independent of Selfish Interest—Galatians 2:19–21
Paul’s next point in his biographical argument is that he was independent of any selfish interest: For I through the law died unto the law, that I might live unto God. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I that live, but Christ lives in me: and that life which I now live in the flesh I live in faith, the faith which is in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself up for me. I do not make void the grace of God: for if righteousness is through the law, then Christ died for nought.
He states that, upon salvation, he died through the Law in verse 19. He was dead through the Law, because the Law kills; through the Law, one is convicted; through the Law, one is punished. The Law reveals sins, the Law provokes sin, and the Law condemns. But now he is dead to the Law, because once one is killed through the law, he becomes dead to the Law; the Law no longer has any jurisdiction over him. Paul became dead to the Law that he might live in God. He was resurrected spiritually to a new law and a new life. The believer goes from one jurisdiction to another, from the Law to the Messiah; from the old jurisdiction to a new one.
Then in verse 20, Paul spelled out the manner in which one dies to the Law. The Messiah took our punishment on the cross and the believer positionally was crucified with the Messiah (Rom. 6:1–14). By being co-crucified with the Messiah, he died through the Law and is now dead to the Law. Once crucified, the Law no longer has any jurisdiction over him (Rom. 7:4–6). He now has a new life. He now lives under a new jurisdiction, under grace.
Finally, in verse 21 if a man can save himself by keeping the Law, then the death of the Messiah was useless, but grace is not annulled in this way. If the Law could make righteous, then the Messiah died for nothing. But the Law could not make anyone righteous.
B. The Theological Argument: The Failure of Legalism—Galatians 3:1–4:31
The second major argument is the theological argument, by which Paul shows the failure of legalism. In developing this argument, he makes seven points.
1. From Personal Experience—Galatians 3:1–5
Paul begins the theological argument by showing the failure of legalism from personal experience: foolish Galatians, who did bewitch you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was openly set forth crucified? This only would I learn from you. Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now perfected in the flesh? Did ye suffer so many things in vain? if it be indeed in vain. He therefore that supplied to you the Spirit, and worked miracles among you, does he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? (Galatians 3:1-5)
The point he makes is that the Galatians own personal experience should have taught them that God was working on the basis of faith, not on the basis of the works of the Law. He teaches this by asking six rhetorical questions, in which the answers are obvious. The first question is merely a question of surprise, while questions two through six are questions in which he spells out the norm of the spiritual life. By means of these rhetorical questions, he will force them to see the light from their own personal experience.
The first rhetorical question is in verse 1, “Are you so foolish?” The word Paul used is a word that denotes stupidity. “Are you really so stupid?” Then he asks, “Who bewitched you?” The Greek word for “bewitched” is used only here in the entire New Testament. It is a reference to the “evil eye,” “the mysterious power of evil.” Paul thus states that only witchcraft could have gotten them to think the way they are now thinking about the need to obey the Law. He points out that the Messiah had been publicly set forth, publicly posted before them as crucified. The death of Yeshua is all-sufficient; they do not need to add any works of the Law to the death of the Messiah.
The second rhetorical question is in verse 2: “On what basis did you receive the Holy Spirit? Did you receive it on the basis of the works of the law? No! on the basis of the hearing of faith? Yes!” There is a clear superiority of faith over works. Paul also makes this point in Romans 9:13–17.
The third rhetorical question is in verse 3a: “You are not stupid, are you?” Yet, the way they are headed, the implication is: “Yes, you are stupid about doing something this foolish.”
The fourth rhetorical question is in verse 3b: “Can you finish in the flesh what you have begun in the Spirit? Here the answer is obviously “no.” The fact that the sanctification process is begun by the Spirit and the fact that sanctification is completed by the Spirit shows that we are not sanctified by the works of the Law. Earlier he showed the superiority of faith over works. Now he shows the superiority of Spirit over flesh. The Judaizers were teaching that, yes, you are justified by faith, but you are sanctified by the Law. They did not discount the fact that one had to believe in Jesus, but added that one is sanctified by the works of the Law. That is exactly what this fourth question denies.
The fifth rhetorical question is in verse 4: “You suffered so much for your faith. Was it all for nothing since you cannot be saved until you are circumcised?” The thrust of the question is: “You did not suffer so many things for nothing, did you?” And if up to now they are still unsaved because they have not yet been circumcised, it means they have suffered all those persecutions as believers for nothing.
And the sixth rhetorical question is in verse 5: “On what basis did God give you the Spirit and the working of miracles? Was it on the basis of the Law? No! By the hearing of faith? Yes.”
The conclusion, then, is that their own personal experience should have told them that all they have received was on the basis of faith, not on the basis of works. Personal experience should have told them that in and of itself, and yet they were too stupid to learn from it.
2. From Old Testament Teaching—Galatians 3:6–14
The second point in the theological argument is the failure of legalism from Old Testament teaching.
a. Abraham’s Justification by Faith
He begins with the example of Abraham because Abraham operated in the spirit of faith, not in the spirit of the Law. Even as Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned unto him for righteousness. Know therefore that they that are of faith, the same are sons of Abraham. And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand unto Abraham, saying, In you shall all the nations be blessed. (Galatians 3:6)
In verse 6, Abraham was the father of the Jewish people and he was justified by faith according to Genesis 15:6. The content of his faith was that God would give him a son (Gen. 15:1–5). He believed the promises of God; the promises of God were the content of Abraham’s faith. That is why we call the period in which he lived the Dispensation of Promise: he had faith in the promises of God. That point is made again in Romans 4:18–22and Hebrews 11:8–12.
The spiritual experience of Abraham, which was on the basis of faith, is to become the pattern for the New Testament believer. In verse 7, the true sons of Abraham are those who exercise the same faith. Those who take their stand on the same principle are sons, eligible for the same blessing.
The word “sons” in Jewish thinking has the meaning of “followers.” The term sons of Abraham means “Abraham’s followers.” He is not teaching that Gentiles become “spiritual Jews.” Rather, those who follow the pattern of Abraham and exercise faith are the true children of Abraham.
By calling all believers the sons of Abraham, he does not call all believers “spiritual Jews.” Jewishness is not determined by Abraham alone, but by Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It is interesting that Gentile believers are never referred to as “the sons of Jacob,” only as the sons of Abraham. And by calling Gentile believers the sons of Abraham, he does not mean they are spiritual Jews, but rather they follow Abraham’s pattern in that they go on the basis of faith, not on the basis of works.
Those who are the sons of Abraham are not spiritual Jews, but simply followers of Abraham’s pattern, because that is what the phrase “sons of” generally means in Hebrew; that is, “a follower of.” Spiritual Jews are Jews who happen to believe and exercise faith. Gentiles who believe and exercise faith are spiritual Gentiles and are the spiritual seed of Abraham, but that does not make them biblically spiritual Jews.
In verse 8, Paul then points out that this Gentile blessing had been foretold because, all the way back in Abraham’s day, it was already prophesied that the Gentiles would be justified by faith. Abraham received the good news about Isaac and about the Messiah. The gospel of good news to Abraham was that he would have a son. Abraham exercised faith in the promise of that son, Isaac. The gospel to the Gentiles was faith in the promise of the Son, the Messiah. The simple good news was that Abraham would have a son, and because he believed that he was saved. As for the Gentiles, because they believed in the Son, the Son of God, the Messiah, they, too, are saved by faith. This is the way the Gentiles will be blessed.
Having used the example of Abraham, he draws his summary conclusion in verse 9: So then they that are of faith are blessed with the faithful Abraham.
Gentiles who take their stand on faith are candidates for the blessings of Abraham. The key blessing of Abraham was salvation by grace through faith, apart from works.
b. The Blessing of Justification
Next he points out that those who operate in the sphere of faith receive the blessing of justification: For as many as are of the works of the law are under a curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one who continues not in all things that are written in the book of the law, to do them. Now that no man is justified by the law before God, is evident: for, The righteous shall live by faith; and the law is not of faith; but, He that does them shall live in them. (Galatians 3:10)
In verse 10, he begins by declaring that those who are under the Law, those who operate in the sphere of the Law, are under a curse. This is the converse of those operating in the sphere of faith. He quotes Deuteronomy 21:23, which teaches that cursed is everyone that hangs on a tree. James 2:10 teaches that unless you keep the Law perfectly, unless you keep every single commandment, you are in violation of the whole Law. In fact, to break only one commandment is to incur the guilt of breaking the whole Law. There is a special curse on those who do not follow and obey every precept, yet no one has ever kept it perfectly. All are under its curse, and the curse of the Law meant physical death. Therefore, those who operate in the sphere of the Law are under a curse.
Furthermore, in verse 11, there is no justification by the law. The very fact that the Old Testament states that justification was by faith means that the Old Testament itself saw that there is no justification by the works of the Law. Obedience by itself cannot pay for sin. Then to prove that the Law does not justify, he quotes Habakkuk 2:4, which pointed out that, even in the Old Testament, one was justified by faith, not by the works of the Law.
Finally in verse 12: the law is not of faith, so those who operate in the sphere of the Law do not receive the blessings of faith (Lev. 18:5). Those who operate in the sphere of the Law are under a curse, but those who operate in the sphere of faith live under a blessing.
c. The Relationship of the Work of the Messiah to the Law
In verses 13–14, Paul then shows how the work of the Messiah is related to the Law: Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us; for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangs on a tree: that upon the Gentiles might come the blessing of Abraham in Christ Jesus; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. (Galatians 3:13-14)
In verse 13, the key is the fact that the Messiah became a curse for us. The pronoun us refers to Jewish believers, because it was Jews, not Gentiles who were under the Law. The Messiah became a curse for us Jewish believers; the word for in the Greek means “in our stead.” He became a curse in our stead; He was the “representative” in our place; He took the penalty of the Law and suffered a penal death. Gentiles who put themselves under the Law, as these Galatian Gentiles were thinking of doing, would, in turn, place themselves under a curse from which the Messiah had already delivered the Jews.
He then points out how the Messiah “became the curse.” According to Deuteronomy 21:22–23, everyone that hangs upon a tree is under a curse, and this is the kind of death that Yeshua died. The failure to keep the Law meant death. Upon death, there was the hanging upon the tree to show the point of the curse. Of course, the Messiah kept the Law perfectly and had every right to live. However, He did die under the Law, but His death was substitutionary and He took the curse by hanging upon a tree. The Jewish believers were redeemed from the curse of the law in that way.
In verse 14, the results of the Messiah’s taking the curse are twofold. First, Gentiles received the blessing of Abraham in the Messiah, which is justification by faith. And secondly, Jews received the promise of the Spirit [by] faith. They could not get it by Law, but they could get it by faith, which was the content of the promise.
3. Because of the Priority of Promise—Galatians 3:15–22
The third point of Paul’s theological argument is the failure of legalism because of the priority of promise in verses 15–16: Brethren, I speak after the manner of men: Though it be but a man’s covenant, yet when it had been confirmed, no one makes it void, or adds thereto. Now to Abraham were the promises spoken, and to his seed. He said not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to your seed, which is Christ.
In these verses he answers the question: “What is the relationship of the Law of Moses to the Abrahamic Covenant?” Paul begins with a human illustration in verse 15; once a contract has been signed, no changes can be made. While additions could be added to it, none of these additions in any way could make the original null and void because the original has priority over the addition.
Paul then applies the illustration in verse 16: the Abrahamic Covenant was the priority. The Abrahamic Covenant was a contract given to Abraham … and to [a specific] seed, not to Ishmael, but to Isaac. The point of that choice was to teach that it would not come through the works of the Law, but through the promise of faith, through Jesus the Messiah. The point is that the Abrahamic Covenant has priority over the Mosaic Covenant.
For that reason, in verses 17–18 the Abrahamic Covenant was never annulled, but is still very much in effect: Now this I say: A covenant confirmed beforehand by God, the law, which came four hundred and thirty years after, does not disannul, so as to make the promise of none effect. For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no more of promise: but God had granted it to Abraham by promise.
Verse 17 states that the Law of Moses was an addition because it came four hundred and thirty years after the Abrahamic Covenant was made, and the addition cannot in any way annul the promise of the original. The promise of the Abrahamic Covenant had priority over the Law and the promise was that justification would come by faith.
Furthermore, the Law was never intended to cancel out the sphere of faith, for the Spirit is given by faith, not by law. In no way did the Mosaic Law annul the promise of the Abrahamic Covenant. The result is in verse 18: the Law cannot render the promise null and void: For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no more of promise. But God had already decreed that the inheritance of salvation would be by means of a promise, not by means of a law. The “gift” is the great gift of salvation, based upon faith.
Having pointed out that the Law was an addition that can in no way render the original null and void, the purpose of the Law could not be to cancel out the fact that justification would come by faith. The question then is: “What was the purpose of the Law?” Paul proceeds to explain the purpose of the Law in verses 19–22: What then is the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise had been made; and it was ordained through angels by the hand of a mediator. Now a mediator is not a mediator of one; but God is one. Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could make alive, verily righteousness would have been of the law. But the scriptures shut up all things under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.
First, in verse 19a the Law was added. The Law was an addition to the Abrahamic Covenant and so had a definite beginning point; it was not always operative.
Second, Paul states: It was added because of transgressions. The giving of the Law had the specific purpose of showing sin for what sin is. This purpose of the Law is also given in Romans 3:20 and 5:20.
Third, Paul uses the word till. The very word till emphasizes the fact that the Mosaic Law was intended to be temporary. How temporary?
This is brought out by his fourth point, till the seed should come. It was temporary; it was in effect only until the seed comes. Once that seed came, it would no longer be in effect. The Law did come to an end with the coming of Yeshua the Messiah.
With the giving of the Law there was a difference of administration in verses. 19b–20. The Law needed a mediator. A mediator is one who goes back and forth, and the Law required two parties for it to work with two mediators. The two parties in this case were God and Israel, with the Law between them.
Then he points out that there were stages by which the Law was given. The Law went from God to angels, from angels to Moses, and from Moses to Israel. An angel served as mediator on behalf of God, whereas Moses served as a mediator on behalf of the people. God was twice removed from the recipients of the Law because angels and Moses were between God and Israel. The fact that angels were mediators in the giving of the Law is also brought out by Acts 7:53 and Hebrews 2:2.
However, faith came directly from God. This is taught in Genesis 15 by the fact that God alone walked between the pieces of the animals. The pattern in relationship to faith is from God to man and required only one mediator. Through the Messiah, God is still dealing directly with man. With the Law, God was twice removed from the recipients; but with faith, God is directly involved. Again it shows the superiority of operating in the sphere of faith as over against operating in the sphere of the Law.
Paul then concludes with the results of the annulment of the Law in verses 21–22. In verse 21, he first shows what the Law could not do. The Law could not bring justification. The Law was unable to produce faith. Law and faith are not contradictory, but simply have a different purpose; they operate in different spheres. What the Law could not do is produce faith. What the Law did do is shut up all things under sin in verse 22. The Law made sin so clear that all were seen to be in sin and so shut up in the prison-house of sin. The Law showed all men to be in sin. By using the term “together with,” he means they were “shut up on all sides by sin.” That is what happens to those operating in the sphere of the Law. Furthermore, the Law made clear that salvation was by grace through faith in the Messiah. That is the sphere of faith: the promise of salvation is granted to sinners who believe.
4. By the Superiority of Mature Faith—Galatians 3:23–4:7
In these verses, Paul emphasizes his fourth point of the theological argument: the failure of legalism by the superiority of mature faith. Basically, what he does is to show that a person trying to become righteous by works is spiritually immature and does not obtain spiritual adulthood through faith. He also points out that to go back to the Law is to go back to a state of immaturity.
To begin with, the Law’s intent was to bring us, not to itself, but to the Lord, to the Messiah in verses 23–26: But before faith came, we were kept in ward under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. So that the law is become our tutor to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith is come, we are no longer under a tutor. For ye are all sons of God, through faith, in Christ Jesus.
Paul pictures the Law as a jailer in verse 23. What did the Law do? It kept us in ward; it kept us in jail. The Greek word means that we were like a prisoner under a special military guard. The Law is bondage and this bondage is the same as the “shutting up” of verse 22. But now, he states: “faith has come.” He is using the word faith in a dispensational sense, meaning that the Dispensation of Law has ended and the Dispensation of Grace has now begun. Through the Messiah, we are free from the Law. The Law kept us imprisoned until faith came.
Not only is the Law a jailer, the Law is also a tutor in verse 24. The Greek word means “pedagogue,” and the ancient pedagogue was “a child-leader” and “a child-discipliner.” The pedagogue was the custodian or the guardian of the child’s education. He was to keep the child from evil by virtue of harsh disciplinary measures. The pedagogue’s authority existed until the child became of age and then his authority ended. As an adult, the child was now expected to do right voluntarily what he formerly did out of fear. If he does not follow what is right and do what is right as an adult, this is no longer an issue between the adult child and the pedagogue, but is now between the child and his father.
Likewise, the Law was a pedagogue to bring us to the Messiah. Again, the pronoun us refers to Jewish believers, for only the Jews were under the Law. The Law was to bring us Jews to the Messiah.
How would the Law lead us to the Messiah? It would lead us by commandments, ordinances, and laws. The “commandments” were God’s standard of righteousness and the Law showed man’s inability to obtain that righteousness. The only way out is to receive justification by some other way, and that is justification by faith. The “ordinances” were the ceremonial laws which showed that the person under the Law was unclean and to be cleansed required an atonement by blood. The word “laws” applies to judicial laws. That would show that the penalty for breaking the Law, the penalty for sin, was death.
In the end, what one would conclude under the Law is that there was no way we could possibly be justified by the Law. There simply had to be another way. In this way the Law would bring us to the Messiah. Through the Messiah we would be justified by faith.
Paul then shows the three results of justification in verses 25–26. First, faith has arrived; maturity has arrived. The Law has accomplished its purpose in that we have arrived to faith. The second result of justification is that we no longer need a tutor, as the Law of Moses no longer has any authority over us. Its authority has ceased; we are now living in a brand-new era. The third result of justification is that we are now the sons of God; we are the children of God. We are born again, and therefore share God’s nature because of our salvation. Being sons of God gives us a new legal status with certain rights and privileges; we attain to this sonship by means of faith, not by means of works. The content of our faith is Jesus the Messiah. In the Messiah we are sons and our sonship relationship with the Messiah is our position of being “in the Messiah.” The Law has led us to become the sons of God.
Paul then deals with the means by which we enter this new sphere of being in the Messiah in verses 27–29: For as many of you as were baptized into Christ did put on Christ. There can be neither Jew nor Greek, there can be neither bond nor free, there can be no male and female; for ye all are one man in Christ Jesus. And if ye are Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, heirs according to promise.
The means is by Spirit baptism in verse 27. This is in keeping with 1 Corinthians 12:13, that by one Spirit [are] we all baptized into one body. By Spirit baptism we are placed into the Messiah; by being placed into the Messiah, we have put on the Messiah. We are now adults. In the ancient Greek and Roman custom, when a child was declared an adult, he put on the adult toga. Now that we are mature in the Messiah, because we have exercised faith, we have put on the Messiah.
The subjects are both Jews and Gentiles in verse 28. He is not saying here that all the distinctions between Jews and Gentiles have been erased. All he is saying in this context is that, as far as how one is justified, one is justified by grace through faith whether he is Jew or Gentile, bond or free, male or female. In other areas, of course, distinctions still remain, but in matters of salvation, all are on the same plane, needing only to be justified by faith.
In the Mosaic Law, there was a distinction. For example: Gentiles had to adopt Judaism; Males, not females, had to offer sacrifices; free men, not slaves, had to offer sacrifices. In the sphere of Law there were distinctions in the realm of the works of the Law. In the sphere of faith there are no such distinctions: all are saved the same way. We all enter the Body in the same way, by means of Spirit baptism. Spiritual privileges come equally to all. However, unity does not mean uniformity. In position we are the same, though in practice there are differences. Distinctions between Jew and Gentile remain, but not in the area of justification.
Then finally, he concludes with a result in verse 29: those in faith are associated with Abraham. They are the sons of Abraham because they have been saved by faith. Believers are the Messiah’s and are Abraham’s seed, and they receive the promise of salvation by faith.
Paul then describes the state of immaturity in chapter 4:1–3: But I say that so long as the heir is a child, he differs nothing from a bondservant though he is lord of all; but is under guardians and stewards until the day appointed of the father. So we also, when we were children, were held in bondage under the rudiments of the world.
In verses 1–2, he begins with a human illustration that as long as the child is a minor, he is of no more status than the servant. Even though he is the heir to all authority, as a minor, he has no more authority than a servant. In fact, he is even under the servant, under the pedagogue. He has no more freedom than a servant, and in some situations even less. He is under others, like a servant is under others, and this status is continued until the father declares him to be a son and an heir. At that point he is declared to be mature.
Paul then makes the application of that human illustration in verse 3. “Under the Law” means that, as long as the Dispensation of Law existed, we were minors who were held in bondage. The bondage was the legal observances of the Law, the elementary teachings of a system of external observances and regulations. The bondage for the Gentiles had to do with pagan ritual. The word rudiments means the “ABC’s,” the simple things, the regulations of the Law which show immaturity. This was the point also made in Colossians 2:3–10 and Hebrews 5:11–14. During the Law, we were held under bondage, in subjection, and in that sense the Law kept us in a state of spiritual immaturity.
Having described the state of immaturity, he now describes the state of maturity in verses 4–7. He begins by showing the means to maturity in verses 4–5: but when the fulness of the time came, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, that he might redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.
In verse 4, Paul talks about the coming of the Messiah. He declares, then, that in the fullness of the time, at a certain, set time, meaning at the end of the Dispensation of Law and the beginning of the Dispensation of Grace, the Messiah came.
The kind of Redeemer that was necessary to rectify the situation under the Law was the Jewish God-Man. Note the three key statements made about the Son: first, God sent forth his Son, emphasizing the Messiah’s deity; secondly, He was born of a woman, emphasizing the Messiah’s humanity; and thirdly, He was born under the law, emphasizing the Messiah’s Jewishness. He was the Jewish God-Man and, at a certain, fixed point in time, God chose for Him to come.
In verse 5, the purpose for His coming was twofold. First, for the Jewish people, to redeem them [for the Jews were under the Law], that were under the law. Second, note the change of pronoun to we, that we [Jews and Gentiles together] might receive the adoption of sons. The means to maturity, then, was the coming of the Jewish God-Man, the Messiah.
Finally, Paul deals with the three results of this maturity in verses 6–7: And because ye are sons, God sent forth the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, Abba, Father. So that you are no longer a bondservant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.
In verse 6, the first result is that we have the Spirit of God. God sent forth the Spirit, and the very word sent emphasizes that He was sent for a specific mission. God sent forth the Spirit … into our hearts. This marks the locality, making us conscious of a new relationship. The same point is made in Romans 8:14–15 and 17. Our sonship with God means we can cry: Abba, Father. That is the extent of the Father son relationship. The word Abba does not simply mean “father,” it is a more intimate term that means “daddy.” It is the very way Yeshua addressed the Father in Mark 14:35–36. According to verse 6, the Spirit is living within our hearts, addressing the Father the same way Jesus did: Abba, Father.
Furthermore, Romans 8:15 points out that believers also have the right to address the Father as Abba, as “Daddy.” Because of our sonship relationship with God the Father, we can approach Him on the basis of Abba. Romans 8:26 explains more about this relationship. The Holy Spirit cries: Abba, Father, and He cries with groanings which cannot be uttered. The Greek word used in Romans 8:26 means “to croak like a raven.” Because he “croaks like a raven,” His words cannot be verbally uttered.
In verse 7a, the second result of maturity is that we are no longer in bondage, we are adult sons. We are not the servants of the Law, but servants of good works under the authority of God the Father. To go back under the Law would be a sign of immaturity.
In verse 7b, the third result of maturity is that we are heirs of salvation. That is our position now: heirs of salvation.
5. From the Danger of Reaction—Galatians 4:8–11
The fifth point in his theological argument is the danger of reaction. In the previous section, he taught that the Jews who were in bondage to the Law had now been freed in the Messiah. In this section, he teaches that the Gentiles were also in bondage but have also been freed in the Messiah. Paul begins by pointing out their changed status in verses 8–9: Howbeit at that time, not knowing God, ye were in bondage to them that by nature are no gods: but now that ye have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how turn ye back again to the weak and beggarly rudiments, whereunto ye desire to be in bondage over again?
In verse 8, their previous state was that they did not know God. They were in bondage to no gods and they were subjects to these no gods because of their many practices and rituals. However, in verse 9 they have come to know God in their new state. They have come to know Him by experience, which is the meaning of the Greek word for “knowing.” Furthermore, they are known by God also known by experience. They are known by God, they have come to know God, and so the truth has set them free. Yet they are now turning back to bondage by going back to a formal ritualism from which they were freed. These rituals were weak; they were impotent; they had no power to rescue them from condemnation. They are beggarly in that they bring neither spiritual riches nor spiritual blessing. To go back to ritualism is to go back to bondage.
Paul then enumerates some of the rituals they are going back to on the basis of the Law in verse 10: Ye observe days, and months, and seasons, and years.
They observe days, the Sabbath; months, the new moon festival; seasons, the Jewish festivals; years, the sabbatical year and the year of jubilee. There is nothing wrong with observing these on a voluntary basis, but they were making them mandatory, which would lead to bondage.
Paul labored to bring them out of bondage, but in verse 11, now he fears that, if they go back into bondage, he labored in vain. There is a real danger of reaction: I am afraid of you, lest by any means I have bestowed labor upon you in vain.
6. From the Contrast of Motives—Galatians 4:12–20
In these verses we come to the sixth point of Paul’s theological argument, in which he shows the failure of legalism as a contrast of motives.
a. The Motivation of Paul
Paul begins with his own previous personal experiences with them and his own motivation in verses 12–16: I beseech you, brethren, become as I am, for I also am become as ye are. Ye did me no wrong: but ye know that because of an infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you the first time: and that which was a temptation to you in my flesh ye despised not, nor rejected; but ye received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus. Where then is that gratulation of yourselves? for I bear you witness, that, if possible, ye would have plucked out your eyes and given them to me. So then am I become your enemy, by telling you the truth?
Paul makes an appeal in verse 12, “Be like me, be free!” The reason is that Paul once became like them. He identified with them in order to bring them to the Messiah. In verses 13–14, he reminds them of the circumstances that caused him to preach the gospel to them. It was illness, a physical infirmity, that forced him to stay in Galatia. While he was there he preached the gospel to them. Paul’s hideous look that this particular disease caused did not cause the Galatians to despise him. They received him as they would an angel. They received him with the same joy with which they would have received the Messiah Himself.
Now their attitude had changed in verse 15. “Where is now your joy?” he asks. They have grown cold toward him. At one time, they would have sacrificed anything for him, but not now. They would have given him their eyes, but not now. This very statement may indicate what the physical problem was. It was a problem in relationship to his eyesight; he hints at it again later in chapter 6:11.
In verse 16, he asks some rhetorical questions emphasizing why had they become cold to him. He asks, “I have not become your enemy, have I? If I have, was it because I told you the truth?” What he is saying is, “I have not become your enemy by telling you the truth, have I?” It is a rhetorical question which should require a “no” answer.
b. The Motivation of the Judaizers
Having spelled out his past experiences with them and the situation that caused him to preach the gospel, his own motive, he next describes the motive of the Judaizers in verses 17–18: They zealously seek you in no good way; nay, they desire to shut you out, that ye may seek them. But it is good to be zealously sought in a good matter at all times, and not only when I am present with you.
In verse 17, he accuses the Judaizers of being zealous in a bad way, “For they are courting you in order to separate you from us and they only do it so that you will court their favor. You will now end up going to them rather than going to the Messiah.” In verse 18, it is good to be zealously sought after, but it must be in a good way. The Judaizers are doing it for selfish motivation and selfish interests.
c. Paul’s Anguish
Paul next describes his anguish over them in verses 19–20: My little children, of whom I am again in travail until Christ be formed in you-but I could wish to be present with you now, and to change my tone; for I am perplexed about you
These verses clearly show his anguished attitude toward the Galatian believers. He calls them my little children, the only time that Paul uses this expression in all of his writings. It is more commonly used by the Apostle John. He refers to them as my little children because he led them to the Messiah; he is their spiritual father.
There is a Jewish saying that “if one teaches the son of his neighbor the Scriptures, it is reckoned as though he had begotten him.” They are his children because he led them to the Lord, not the Judaizers. He uses birth imagery to ask, “Must I go through the whole process all over again to get you to see the necessity of living by faith alone?” He desires to be with them so that he can change his tone, because he is completely perplexed with the actions that the Galatian believers are now taking.
7. From the Contrast of Bondage and Liberty—Galatians 4:21–31
Paul begins the seventh point of his theological argument with an allegory in verse 21: Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law?
Since they like rabbinic exegesis, he will give them some rabbinic exegesis. For those who desire to be under the Law, let us see if they really listen to the Law.
Paul then draws the contrast and begins by making a comparison in verses 22–23: For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, one by the handmaid, and one by the freewoman. Howbeit the son by the handmaid is born after the flesh; but the son by the freewoman is born through promise.
The comparison is between Abraham and the individual believer. Abraham received a promise of a son, the promise of a seed. The question now is: how to obtain that promise?
One option is to try to obtain it by works, which Abraham tried by Hagar: Hagar was the means; Ishmael was the product; the result was that they were both cast out, because the promise was not to be obtained by human effort. Abraham then tried to obtain the promise by faith. This time Sarah was the means; Isaac was the product; the result was that the promise was fulfilled.
Applying his comparison, the individual now has a promise of salvation. The question is: how to obtain it? One option is by means of works, which in this context would be the works of the Mosaic Law; but the product is going to be legalism and condemnation; and the result will be bondage. The second option is to obtain the promise by faith; and the means here is the Abrahamic Covenant as it is fulfilled by the New Covenant; the product will be justification; and the result will be salvation. Therefore, faith is the means.
After making this comparison, he draws the allegory with five sets of pairs in verses 24–27: Which things contain an allegory: for these women are two covenants; one from Mount Sinai, bearing children unto bondage, which is Hagar. Now this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and answers to the Jerusalem that now is: for she is in bondage with her children. But the Jerusalem that is above is free, which is our mother. For it is written, Rejoice, you barren that bears not; Break forth and cry, you that travails not: For more are the children of the desolate than of her that has the husband.
The five sets of pairs are: two women, Hagar and Sarah; two sons, Ishmael and Isaac; two covenants, Mosaic and Abrahamic; two mountains, Sinai and Calvary; and two cities, the Old Jerusalem and the New Jerusalem. In comparison, Hagar represents the Mosaic Covenant, Ishmael represents legalism, Mount Sinai represents the place where the people put themselves into bondage to the Law, the Old Jerusalem is the Jerusalem now in bondage, and the destiny is to be cast out. But Sarah represents the Abrahamic Covenant, Isaac represents justification, Mount Calvary is where freedom was purchased, the New Jerusalem is now free, and our destiny is to appear with the Son as a result. Those who accept the bondage of the Law are rightfully children of Hagar, but those who exercise faith are the true sons of Abraham.
Finally, Paul draws his conclusion, which is the result of liberty and bondage in verses 28–31: Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise. But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, so also it is now. Howbeit what says the scripture? Cast out the handmaid and her son: for the son of the handmaid shall not inherit with the son of the freewoman. Wherefore, brethren, we are not children of a handmaid, but of the freewoman.
In verse 28, the result of liberty are that we are now like Isaac; we are in the line of faith. He then shows the relationship between the bond and free in verse 29. Ishmael persecuted Isaac when Isaac was weaned. Now, those who are under the Law are persecuting those who are free. Non-believing Jewish people are persecuting Jewish believers. In the ultimate end of the conflict in verse 30, legalism as a way of salvation is to be cast out, for the sphere of the Law is bondage. But the sphere of faith is liberty. The application in verse 31 is that we are the children of the freewoman and, therefore, we should not go back into bondage. With this he concludes his second argument, the theological argument.
C. The Practical Argument: The Effects of Liberty—Galatians 5:1–6:10
Paul’s third major argument is the practical argument, in which he emphasizes the effects of liberty and makes five points.
1. The Introduction of the Argument—Galatians 5:1
For freedom did Christ set us free: stand fast therefore, and be not entangled again in a yoke of bondage.Galatians 5:1
This is a summary statement which declares that Jesus the Messiah has set us free. Therefore, do not fall again into a state of spiritual bondage. The Greek word for “falling into bondage” means “to be ensnared in such a way so that you can never get out.”
2. The Consequences of Liberty—Galatians 5:2–12
Having said that the Messiah has set us free and that we are not to fall into bondage again, Paul makes the second point under his practical argument in these verses: the consequences of liberty. He gives seven reasons for his summary statement that we should not be tied up into bondage again.
The first reason is given in verse 2: Behold, I Paul say unto you, that, if ye receive circumcision, Christ will profit you nothing.
In this verse, he states that if you receive circumcision with a view to justification, it means that Yeshua has “profited you nothing,” because circumcision, in view of justification by the works of the Law, will lead automatically to a rejection of justification by faith. After being justified by faith, if they now go back to the Law and are circumcised as an act of submission to the Law, they will then deprive themselves of the ministry of the Spirit, for the Spirit was not provided through the Law.
The act of circumcision will mean that they are trying to be saved by works and trying to be sanctified by works. Neither justification nor sanctification comes by means of works. While they will not lose their salvation, they will deprive themselves of the power available to them through the indwelling Spirit.
The second reason is given in verse 3: Yea, I testify again to every man that receives circumcision, that he is a debtor to do the whole law.
If they are circumcised, that will obligate them to do the whole law. Submission to the Law by circumcision obliges them to keep the whole Law. The believer is free from the Law in three respects. First, the believer is free from the condemnation of the Law to those who disobey (Gal. 3:10–13; Jas. 2:10). Secondly, the believer is free from the Law as a means of justification (Gal. 3:11–12). And thirdly, in this passage, the believer is free from any obligation to render obedience to the Law. They are not obligated to keep any part of the Law now that they have been justified by faith in the Messiah.
The third reason is that subjection to the Law will render their freedom in the Messiah inoperative in verse 4: Ye are severed from Christ, ye who would be justified by the law; ye are fallen away from grace.
If they go back to the Law, it means that they have been severed from the Messiah. The question here is not grace and Law, but grace or Law.
The Greek word translated as severed or “fallen away” is katargeo, which means “to render inoperative.” He is not saying that they lose their salvation. What he is saying is that seeking either justification or sanctification by means of the Law will render their relationship to the Messiah inoperative. This is the same Greek word that is used in Romans 7:2, and 6 in reference to the Mosaic Law; the Law has been rendered inoperative.
Because going back to the Law will render the relationship to the Messiah inoperative, they will not be able to rely on the Spirit to keep the righteousness of God. Instead, they are fallen … from grace. The word simply means “to fall short.” It is used the same way in Hebrews 12:15. Again, it is not a statement which means they lose their salvation, but rather they will deprive themselves of the ministry of the Spirit.
“Falling from grace” means they will fall from the power given to them for daily living because one can work either in the sphere of the Law or the sphere of the Spirit. It is not both the Law and the Spirit, rather it is either the Law or the Spirit. They will, by being circumcised, go from the sphere of faith to the sphere of the Law, and, in that sense, they will fall short of grace. But, again, this verse does not mean they will lose their salvation; it simply means that they will no longer be relying on the Spirit to live the spiritual life. One cannot operate in both spheres of faith and Law; it is one or the other.
In verse 5, the fourth reason is that righteousness comes by the Spirit and not by the Law. That is true both for justification and sanctification: For we through the Spirit by faith wait for the hope of righteousness.
In verse 6, the fifth reason is that in the Messiah, circumcision avails nothing: For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision avails anything, nor uncircumcision; but faith working through love.
No one is saved just because he is circumcised. No one is condemned just because he is not circumcised. What prevails is faith in the substitutionary death of the Messiah.
The sixth reason gives the source of this doctrine in verses 7–8: Ye were running well; who hindered you that ye should not obey the truth? This persuasion came not of him that called you.
The doctrine of justification either by Law or sanctification by Law is a doctrine that does not come from God. He reminds them that they started out well, and he reminds them about what he said in Galatians 3:1–5. They had started out well, but now they have been hindered in their spiritual development. The reason they have been hindered is that they have gone away from the sphere of faith into the sphere of Law.
And the seventh reason is based upon the principle given in verse 9: A little leaven leavens the whole lump.
If they pervert this aspect of salvation, they will eventually pervert the whole counsel of God.
After giving these seven reasons why they should not go back into bondage, he spells out his own position in verse 10: I have confidence to you-ward in the Lord, that ye will be none otherwise minded: but he that troubles you shall bear his judgment, whosoever he be.
He clearly states that he is confident that the Galatians will end up doing right, and furthermore, that the false teachers will receive their judgment because teachers will receive a heavier judgment according to James 3:1.
This section closes as Paul answers several accusations that were leveled against him in verses 11–12: But I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why am I still persecuted? then has the stumbling-block of the cross been done away. I would that they that unsettle you would even go beyond circumcision.
In verse 11a, the very fact that he was persecuted shows that he was not preaching circumcision. He was answering an accusation that he preaches circumcision to the Jews, but he does not preach circumcision to the Gentiles. The fact that he is being persecuted falsifies that claim. If that were true, then the cross, as a stumbling-block, becomes inoperative according to verse 11b.
According to 1 Corinthians 1:23, the cross is a stumbling-block to the Jewish people. It is a stumbling-block because it teaches freedom from the Law; if circumcision is preached, it is no longer a stumbling-block. Of course, Paul does not preach circumcision.
In verse 12, Paul declares that those who do circumcise should go ahead and cut everything off because it will do no more good than cutting off only the foreskin. He is getting a little earthy here, but he is very strong in this position that no amount of circumcision, whether a small cutting or a great cutting, will do anything for justification or sanctification.
3. A Definition of Freedom—Galatians 5:13–15
In the third point of his practical argument, Paul gives us a definition of freedom: For ye, brethren, were called for freedom; only use not your freedom for an occasion to the flesh, but through love be servants one to another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another. (Galatians 5:13-15)
In these verses, Paul answers the question: “If one is saved by grace, does that mean he can do anything he wants to do?” That same question is raised in Romans 6:1–2. If we are truly saved by grace through faith plus nothing, and if nothing can render our salvation null and void, can I now do anything I want to do?
Here in verse 13, Paul points out that “being free” means that we cannot use our freedom for the purpose of sinning, but we use our freedom as it is guided by love, especially the love of the brethren. Freedom is to be guided by love; freedom means service, not license; freedom, exercised by love, means to become servants one to another.
Paul then gives a summary of the Law in verse 14: The true fulfillment of the Law is to love your neighbor as yourself. That was stated by Jesus in Matthew 22:34–40. If you love your neighbor as yourself, this principle fulfills that which the Law requires on a human level. The Law did not provide, however, the capacity to love. But faith, through the power of the Spirit, does provide the capacity to love your neighbor; therefore, that is what we should be doing.
Finally, he points out that failure to act on the basis of love results in mutual destruction in verse 15: “You will bite and devour one another and you will be consumed one of another.” In order to avoid self-destruction, what we need to be doing is loving one another. The next two sections are applications of how our freedom is to be practiced.
4. Individual Practice—Galatians 5:16–24
In the fourth point of his practical argument, Paul deals with the individual practice in answering a question: “How do we live the victorious life?” He has already made it clear that you do not live it by going back to the Law. Instead, he gives five other answers.
The first answer concerns the believer’s daily walk in verse 16: But I say, Walk by the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.
The word spirit in the Greek text does not have the definite article, which means that it could be taken in one of two ways. It might be the Holy Spirit or it might be the newborn or regenerated human spirit. The latter is to be preferred, because the conflict between flesh and spirit is not between the flesh and the Holy Spirit. The conflict is between the flesh and the newborn human spirit. The conflict described here is the same conflict described in Romans 7:15–25, where it is clearly a conflict between the human flesh and the newborn or regenerated human spirit.
Furthermore, the Greek word for walk means “to accomplish one’s daily tasks.” The Greek tense emphasizes that one should be walking consistently on the basis of the newborn human spirit; one should live the spiritual life by reliance on the newborn spirit. One walks by reliance on the ability and the power of that newborn human spirit that has been born again by virtue of being regenerated by the Holy Spirit. And if we walk on the basis of our newborn human spirit, the result will be that we will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. Because the word walk has to do with daily tasks, it points to individual human practice.
The second answer concerns the two natures in verse 17: For the flesh lust against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are contrary the one to the other; that ye may not do the things that ye would.
This verse describes the two capacities within the believer and teaches one to be aware of the conflict within him. He still has the “old man,” the flesh, but he also has the newborn human spirit; and the two natures, the old nature and the new nature, are in conflict with one another.
The unsaved person only has one nature, only one capacity, and that is to serve and please himself. But the believer has two capacities. The believer has an option. He can walk either on the basis of the flesh, the old nature, or on the basis of the spirit, the new nature. The same person has a new capacity to serve God with righteousness.
The thing to remember is that the two capacities are at war, and because they are at war, the believer always acts either on the basis of one capacity or the other. Every act he does is either on the basis of the old nature or the new nature. It is this inner conflict that will keep one from ever obtaining perfection under the Law (Rom. 7:15–25), because the Law is the sin-nature’s base of operation. So one is to beware of the conflict that is within.
His third answer as to how to live the victorious life is given in verse 18: But if ye are led by the Spirit, ye are not under the law.
Believers are to remember their liberty: they are led by the Spirit. As a believer, if you are led by the spirit, you are not under the Law.
The fourth answer concerns the results of the two capacities, the results of the two natures in verses 19–23. He begins by giving the results of the works of the flesh in verses 19–21: Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these: fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousies, wraths, factions, divisions, parties, envyings, drunkenness, revellings, and such like; of which I forewarn you, even as I did forewarn you, that they who practise such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
All of these actions he lists are actions of the flesh and those who operate in the flesh will serve or reflect these very things. He categorizes these actions in four areas.
First, sensual results: fornication [prostitution], uncleanness [moral impurity], and lasciviousness [promiscuity; such as, pre-marital or extra-marital sexual relationships and things of that nature].
The second category of the results of the works of the flesh is false worship, and he mentions two: idolatry and sorcery [witchcraft].
The third category of the results of the works of the flesh are personal and social relations, and he mentions eight: enmities [personal animosities], strife [rivalry and discord], jealousies [of an unnatural kind], wraths [people being vengeful toward one another], factions, [divisions within the Body], divisions [among individuals and within married couples], parties [heresies], envyings [feelings of ill will]. These are personal and social results of working on the basis of the flesh.
The fourth category of results is intemperance, categorized by drunkenness and by revellings [orgies].
Having listed all these things, he points out that people who practise such things will not enter the Kingdom of God because these are works that are evidence of people who are unsaved. Unsaved people, of course, will not enter into the Kingdom.
Obviously, believers are sometimes guilty of these sins. The point he is making is that a true believer will not always be characterized by all of these things. He is dealing with that which is habitual practice as over against that which a believer simply falls into on an occasional basis. All of these actions are evidences of people in an unsaved state, and unsaved people will not enter the Kingdom. These works in believers do not mean that they will not enter the Kingdom, but it does mean that they are not walking on the basis of the newborn human spirit. Believers may indeed fall into these sins, but, if they are true believers, they will be dealt with by God in such a way that they will either repent or they will be taken by divine discipline to Heaven early. Those who practice these things in a habitual way are showing that they are in an unsaved state. Again, people in an unsaved state simply will never be able to enter into the Kingdom.
After listing these various results of working on the basis of the old nature, he then mentions the results of walking on the basis of the new nature, the newborn human spirit, in verses 22–23: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control; against such there is no law.
He mentions nine things which are usually referred to as the fruit of the Spirit. But again, these are not the fruit of the Holy Spirit, they are the fruit of the newborn human spirit. Of course, the newborn human spirit is newborn because it was regenerated by the Holy Spirit, so the Holy Spirit is ultimately responsible.
However, as far as a direct cause-and-effect relationship, here we are dealing with the newborn human spirit. These nine results are: love, joy, peace, long suffering [patience], kindness [emphasizing an attitude or spirit of kindness] goodness [good deeds], faithfulness, meekness, self-control. These are the nine results of the newborn human spirit, and they counteract the results of the old flesh mentioned in verses 19–21.
The fifth answer is given in verse 24: And they that are of Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with the passions and the lusts thereof.
The fifth answer as to how we live the spiritual life is to regard the flesh as once-and-for-all dead. Positionally speaking, on the basis of positional truth, we are to view the flesh as being dead. Positionally, the flesh is dead, but experientially there is a struggle between the two capacities, as he has pointed out in verse 17, and as he also points out in Romans 6:6. He details the struggle in Romans 7:15–25. Positionally, the flesh is dead, but experientially, there is a struggle between the two capacities.
Those who are in Yeshua the Messiah have crucified the flesh. Therefore, the believer, unlike the unbeliever, does have the power and the capacity to operate and to walk on the basis of the newborn human spirit. The unbeliever has no choice; only the believer does. Having such a choice, the admonition is: Let us walk on the basis of the newborn human spirit and let us produce the ninefold fruit of this newborn human spirit in our daily living.
5. Social Practice—Galatians 5:25–6:10
In the fifth point of his practical argument, he points out the social practice as he applies the principle of daily living to society rather than to individual practice, as he did earlier. He starts out with an exhortation in verse 25: If we live by the Spirit, by the Spirit let us also walk.
“Since, positionally, we are already living in the spirit, let us also walk in the spirit.” For the second time Paul tells us to walk by the spirit. The first time was in verse 16; he now tells us again in verse 25.
In the Greek there are two different words used. In verse 16, Paul used a Greek word that has to do with the physical act of walking; it has to do with daily walking, daily tasks, and daily activities. Therefore, in verses 15–24, he was dealing with individual practice.
The Greek word used in verse 25 is a military term for “keeping in step,” “keeping in step with other soldiers” because, if you do not keep in step when marching, you will begin tripping up the others. Here he deals with keeping in step with others; therefore, what he has to say in the following verses has to do with social practice rather than with personal, individual practice. Having given us the exhortation to keep in step with the spirit in all the details of our lives, to keep in step with the spirit and with others, he then goes on in chapter 5:26–6:10 to give seven ways of keeping in step.
The first way of keeping in step is given in verse 26: Let us not become vainglorious, provoking one another, envying one another.
We are exhorted not to seek worldly honor or vain bragging because that will result in keeping out of sync with others and causing provocations.
The second way has to do with the ministry of restoration in chapter 6, verse 1: Brethren, even if a man be overtaken in any trespass, ye who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; looking to yourself, lest you also be tempted.
This is a case of another believer who has fallen out of step because he has been overpowered by sin. This is not dealing with a deliberate sin, but falling because of weakness. If a believer has fallen into sin and falls out of step because of weakness, those who are spiritual are to do the ministry of restoration. It is not just any believer who should perform this ministry, but those who are spiritual.
According to Scripture there are three different types of men. First is the natural man, which is the unsaved man (1 Cor. 2:14). The second type of man is the carnal [man], who is “a babe in the Messiah” (1 Cor. 3:1–3; Eph. 4:14; Heb. 5:13). The third type of man is the spiritual [man], one who is a mature believer and who is walking regularly on the basis of his newborn human spirit in individual practice and also is walking and marching in step, in social practice (1 Cor. 2:15; 14:37–38; Heb. 5:14). It is this third type of individual, the spiritual one, who is responsible for restoring a believer who has fallen out of step. He is to use a spirit of gentleness, not a spirit of condemnation. At the same time he should always remain on spiritual guard of himself, lest he, too, should find himself falling out of step.
The third way of keeping in step is given in verse 2: Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.
This means: Bear … one another’s burdens. The Greek word for burden means “heavy weight.” It is a weight that is simply too heavy for one person to carry, as it will overwhelm the man if he is not helped.
The meaning of this is that we are to help one another when a believer is overpowered either by sin or by circumstances. The result is that, in this way, we shall be fulfilling the Law of the Messiah, because the believer, as has been pointed out many times in this book, is no longer under the Law of Moses. He is under the Law of the Messiah. This is the way we fulfill the Law of the Messiah, by fulfilling the commandments of the New Testament; such as, bearing one another’s burdens.
The fourth way of keeping in step is given in verses 3–5: For if a man thinks himself to be something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each man prove his own work, and then shall he have his glorying in regard of himself alone, and not of his neighbor. For each man shall bear his own burden.
This means: bear [one’s] own burden. In verse 3, Paul states that we are not to form an improper estimate of ourselves, but in verse 4, we are to lead such a life that it may be examined and it may be known exactly where we stand. In verse 5, the reason for this is that everyone will be responsible for carrying his own burden. This is not a contradiction of verse 2, which states that we must “carry one another’s burdens,” because two different Greek words are used. The word for burden in verse 2 is baros, and has to do with a very heavy weight that no individual can carry without help. The Greek word used in verse 5 is phortion, and means “a normal workload, which any man could carry.” It has to do with the normal load of one’s responsibility. Everyone is required to fulfill his own individual responsibility. Everybody, in this sense, must carry his own weight.
The fifth way of keeping in step is given in verse 6: But let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teaches in all good things.
The Bible student should share his material goods with the Bible teacher and this is another way of bearing one another’s burdens. The point is that if you are benefiting spiritually from any teacher, be he a pastor, your Sunday School teacher, an author, a tape teacher, or a radio teacher, if you are being blessed by these ministries, if you are learning Scripture from them, then you are obligated to share your material goods with the teacher. You should be financially supporting those from whom you are receiving spiritual benefits.
The sixth way of keeping in step is by proper sowing in verses 7–8: Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap. For he that sows unto his own flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that sows unto the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap eternal life.
If you sow to the flesh you will reap the results of the flesh, listed in chapter 5:19–21. But if you sow to the spirit you will reap the results of chapter 5:22–23, the fruit of the newborn human spirit.
The seventh way of keeping in step is to do good to all men in verses 9–10: And let us not be weary in well-doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. So then, as we have opportunity, let us work that which is good toward all men, and especially toward them that are of the household of the faith.
There should be a special emphasis to those who are also believers. We can give charity to all men but, if we have to make a choice, the choice should be to a Christian charity rather than to a secular charity.
IV. THE CONCLUSION—GALATIANS 6:11–18
As he draws his conclusions, he begins by spelling out the motive of liberty.
A. The Motive for Liberty—Galatians 6:11–16
As he starts to write, he states that he is now writing with his own hand in verse 11: See with how large letters I write unto you with mine own hand.
Paul often used a scribe to write a letter, but wrote the closing himself (Rom. 16:22; 1 Cor. 16:21; Col. 4:18; 2 Thes. 3:17). It would not be unusual that, after dictating this letter to a scribe, he now begins to write the closing himself, with [his] own hand.
However, the way it is worded it is not really clear that that is what he is saying. There are two possible options in the way this verse should be understood. The first option is that only now he begins to write the letter himself, having dictated the earlier portions of it. Or, secondly, he has written the whole letter with his own hand, but now draws attention to the large letters, which may again imply the problem with eyesight. In any case, he is emphasizing the fact that he wants to draw their attention to the conclusions that he is now going to make.
His conclusion first concerns circumcision in verses 12–15: As many as desire to make a fair show in the flesh, they compel you to be circumcised; only that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. For not even they who receive circumcision do themselves keep the law; but they desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh. But far be it from me to glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world had been crucified unto me, and I unto the world. For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.
Starting with the false motives of the Judaizers in verses 12–13, he states that three things motivate the Judaizers. First, they want to glory in your flesh; they want to be able to report how many Gentiles have been circumcised. The second motivation is to avoid the persecution of the cross. To preach that the cross is sufficient and that you do not need anything else but the cross results in persecution. To preach both Law and the cross brought almost no persecution because then they could remain merely a sect within Judaism. The third motive is that they themselves do not keep the Law. Even those in our day who insist that evangelical believers must keep the Law do not keep the Law. They always have to make all kinds of adjustments because no one keeps the whole law in its entirety or in the way it is written. There are great portions of the Law which everyone ignores no matter how ardent they are about keeping it. So the Judaizers are characterized by totally false motives.
The proper motive by which Paul operated was glorying in the cross alone in verse 14: “Through the cross, the world is crucified to us and we are crucified to the world.” He then draws his conclusion concerning circumcision and what the right criterion is in verse 15: “As a basis of salvation, circumcision means nothing and uncircumcision means nothing. What counts is being a new creation, being a new creature, which means being regenerated through the cross.”
Regeneration through the cross frees one from the Law because we are dead to the Law and no longer have any obligation to keep that Law. While circumcision is necessary for Jewish believers in keeping with the Abrahamic Covenant, it is necessary for obedience just as baptism is necessary for obedience. But neither circumcision nor baptism has anything to do with a requirement for salvation. Neither circumcision nor baptism will avail in the area of justification or sanctification.
Finally, Paul spells out the results for the two groups in verse 16: And as many as walk by this rule, peace be upon them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.
For those who follow the rule that “circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, but what matters is the cross of Jesus,” there is peace and mercy for two separate groups. First, upon them. Who are the them? The them are the Gentile believers to whom he has been writing. Secondly, upon the Israel of God. Who are the Israel of God? It is not the Church. The Israel of God refers to Jewish believers, the believing Remnant within and among the Jewish people.
So, there is peace and mercy upon two different groups of people who follow the rule that circumcision means nothing and uncircumcision means nothing, only a new creation is what counts. Peace and mercy upon the Gentile believers who follow this rule and upon the Jewish believers who follow this rule. Never make the mistake of identifying the Israel of God with the Church or with Gentile believers as being some kind of new “spiritual Jews.” This is nowhere taught in Scriptures. There are two different groups in this verse separated by the word and: first, them, who are the Gentile believers and secondly, the Israel of God, who are the Jewish believers.
B. The Price of Liberty—Galatians 6:17
Paul summarizes the persecution he has received for preaching the cross apart from the Law: Henceforth, let no man trouble me; for I bear branded on my body the marks of Jesus.
The kinds of persecutions that had marked his body are spelled out in detail in 2 Corinthians 11:22–28. There were also special marks that were given to four categories of people in those days.
Soldiers were marked and theirs was a mark of allegiance; they were marked with the name of their commander. Paul was a soldier of the cross, and he was marked with the name of his commander, Yeshua of Nazareth.
Second, slaves were marked and theirs was a mark of ownership; they had the name of the owner. Paul many times called himself a “bond-slave of the Messiah” and he was owned by his master, Jesus.
Third, criminals were marked and theirs was a mark of exposure; they had marked upon their body the name of the crime. Paul was treated and marked as a criminal for preaching Jesus.
The fourth group were the devotees to various gods and theirs was a mark of consecration; they were marked by the name of their particular god. Paul was a devotee to the Messiah and was marked with that name. So Paul had all four marks on his body and these marks were the result of the persecutions he had suffered.
C. The Benediction of Liberty—Galatians 6:18
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brethren. Amen.Galatians 6:18
With these words, the book closes. The grace is the means by which we are saved: by grace through faith. It is also the basis upon which we are to walk. It is this grace that has regenerated our newborn human spirit, and therefore we should walk by the spirit.
The Book of Galatians – MP3
A verse by verse exposition of The Book of Galatians.
Every chapter of the book has its own corresponding MP3 track 01-06, with introductory background material on track 00.
Print the exegetical outline and follow along with Dr. Fruchtenbaum as he teaches the Word of God.
DOWNLOAD FILE SIZE: 39MB, unzips to 07 TRACKS, 2.8 HOURS of MP3 AUDIO $5.00
The Book of Galatians – MP3
A verse by verse exposition of The Book of Galatians.
Every chapter of the book has its own corresponding MP3 track 01-06, with introductory background material on track 00.
Print the exegetical outline and follow along with Dr. Fruchtenbaum as he teaches the Word of God.
DOWNLOAD FILE SIZE: 39MB, unzips to 07 TRACKS, 2.8 HOURS of MP3 AUDIO $5.00