New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary



3:1- see on Rom. 1:18; Gal. 4:16.

O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?- Literally, 'cast the evil eye over you'. Paul didn't surely believe in such things, but like the Lord Jesus, he uses the language of the day without as it were footnoting the fact he doesn't literally believe in those things. Paul is writing to those who thought they were now going to be saved by obedience to the Jewish law. But Judaism taught that obedience to the Law shielded Judaists from the 'evil eye' and magic spells. Paul is saying that the opposite is, as it were, the case. They had been "bewitched" to return to the Law, and were thus under, as it were, the curse which comes to those who seek justification by it. He goes right on to talk about the "curse of the law" and how believers in Christ are saved from this (Gal. 3:10,13). His references to salvation from this "curse" must be read in the context of this opening play on the idea of being bewitched or under a curse.

It was before your own eyes that Jesus Christ was openly displayed as crucified- Gk. 'placarded' or 'written' (s.w. Rom. 15:4 "things writtten...", Eph. 3:3 "as I wrote..."). The word of the cross was made flesh in Paul. People don't read Bible text, initially- they meet us. And we are the word to them. When Paul preached to the Galatians, he placarded forth Jesus Christ crucified in front of them: his preaching of the Gospel involved a repeated and graphic portrayal of the crucified Jesus of Nazareth as a historical event, but witnessed in himself before their eyes (Gal. 3:1). We are “in Christ” to the extent that we are Christ to this world. In this sense He has in this world no arms or legs or face than us. Paul was a placarding of Christ crucified before the Galatians; to the Corinthians he was “the face of Christ” (2 Cor. 2:10 RSV). It was this marred visage of Paul which had impressed the Galatians with how much Paul was Christ-manifest: “You know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first. And my temptation which was in my flesh ye despised not, nor rejected; but received me as an angel of God, [even] as Christ Jesus” (Gal. 4). He could truly say in Gal 2:20: “I am crucified with Christ”, and that before their eyes “Jesus Christ has been evidently set forth [‘placarded’], crucified among you… for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus” (Gal. 3:1; 6:17). Thus to preach through cross carrying means sharing in the Lord’s sufferings. It may mean being crucified by our brethren for it as He was, physical hardship and pain…  but this is the ground of credibility for our witness.

Crucifixion with Christ is essentially a matter of the mind. Here we have continued the idea of Gal. 1:16, that it was 'Christ in me' which was then publically revealed in Paul's preaching to others. God chose to "reveal His Son in me, that I might preach him". Witness is essentially about revealing to others the Christ within us. If we don't have the Spirit of Christ within us, then we are merely teachers of theology and will not win anyone to Christ Himself.

It seems that Paul had gone through the process of crucifixion with them so realistically, that it was as if Christ had suffered before their eyes. If you have seen that, Paul says, and the vision remains with you, how can you turn away? And this is a powerful motivator for us too. The man who sees, really sees, something of the Lord's agony, simply won't turn away, doctrinally or practically. But if we turn away from the consideration, the motivation will not be there to keep on responding. In this sense the crucifixion record almost has a mystical power in it, if it is properly apprehended. Thus Paul could tell the Galatians that in him they had seen Jesus Christ placarded forth, crucified before their own eyes (3:1). Paul knew that when people looked at his life, they saw something of the crucifixion of the Lord. The Galatians therefore accepted him " even as Christ Jesus" (Gal. 4:14). He could describe his own preaching as “this Jesus, whom I preach unto you…” (Acts 17:3), as if Jesus was right there before their eyes, witnessed through Paul. As the Lord was Paul’s representative, so Paul was Christ’s. The idea of representation works both ways: we see in the Gospel records how the Lord experienced some things which only we have; and we show aspects of His character to the world which nobody else can manifest.

If we can rise up to all this, placarding forth the Lord's crucifixion sufferings in our lives, then there will be a power and credibility to our preaching which will be hard to resist. It was before the eyes of the Galatians that they saw in Paul, Jesus Christ crucified (Gal. 3:1). But the only other reference to the eyes of the Galatians is in Gal. 4:15- where we read that they had been so transfixed by Paul's preaching that they had been ready to pluck out their eyes. And where's the only other reference to plucking out eyes? It's in the Lord's teaching, where He says that if our eye offends us, we should pluck it out [Mt. 5:29- same Greek words used]. The connection is surely this: Paul's personal reflection of the crucified Jesus was so powerful, so compellingly real and credible, that it motivated his hearers to rise up to the spirit of the very hardest demands of the moral teaching of that same Jesus. Insofar as we genuinely live out the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus, our preaching of His radical moral demands will likewise be heeded. The crucified Christ that Paul placarded before their eyes was " the truth" (Gal. 3:1; 4:14-16); and the integrity and reality of that truth was confirmed by the congruence between the example of Paul, and the reality of the crucified Jesus whom he manifested to them. In Paul's body language, in his character, in his response to problems and frustrations great and small, in the way he coped with physical weakness, his audience somehow saw the crucified Christ. In the same letter, Paul reminds the Galatians how they had initially seen him preaching to them in a weak bodily state, and had seen Christ in him then (Gal. 4:13,14). He says in Gal. 3:1 that they saw Christ crucified in him. Perhaps the way Paul handled a sickness or bodily weakness which he then had, somehow reflected to his audience the spirit of Christ crucified.

The effort we should consciously make to allow the life of Christ to be lived in us, is a natural outflow of the basic doctrine: that Christ was our representative. If we love Him and the record of His life, we will see in Him and His living the essence of our own: the same betrayal, barriers with His family and all close relationships, the pouring out of the love of God to a world and people who misunderstood, who thought they understood but didn’t, who were blind, who thought they saw, who only broke from the petty materialism of their lives to listen to Him because they thought they might get some personal benefit…all the time, He poured out His grace and the Father’s love. And He kept on to the final unspeakable, unwriteable, unenterable agony at the end. And even there, we sense He was not gritting His teeth trying to be patient, trying not to sin…He was pulsating with a love for men, a care for Pilate (comforting him that another had a greater sin); concern for the women who wept crocodile tears, that they might really repent; praying for forgiveness for those who knew not [i.e., fully] what they did; preaching to the thieves in whispers, each word taking an agony of pain, heaving Himself up on the nails to get the air to speak it… To love one’s neighbour as oneself is to fulfil the law (Gal. 5:14; Rom. 13:10); and yet the Lord’s death was the supreme fulfilment of it (Mt. 5:18; Col. 2:14). Here was the definition of love for one’s neighbour. Not a passing politeness and occasional seasonal gift, whilst secretly and essentially living the life of self-love and self-care; but the love and the death of the cross, for His neighbours as for Himself; laying down His life “for himself that it might be for us” in the words of Bro. Roberts. In Him, in His time of dying, we see the definition of love, the fulfilment of the justice and unassuming kindness and thought for others which was taught in the Mosaic Law. And we through bearing one another’s burdens, through bearing with their moral and intellectual and spiritual failures, must likewise fulfil the law, in a voluntary laying down of our lives for each other (Gal. 6:2). And in this, as with the Lord, will be our personal salvation.


1 Cor. 11:26 AVmg. makes the act of breaking bread a command, an imperative to action: “As often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, shew ye the Lord’s death, till he come". If we are going to eat the emblems, it is axiomatic that we will commit ourselves to shewing forth His death to the world, like Paul placarding forth Christ crucified in our lives (Gal. 3:1 Gk.). The Passover likewise had been a ‘shewing’ to one’s family “that which the Lord did unto me" (Ex. 13:8), the redemption we have experienced.

3:2 Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by doing works of the law, or by hearing with faith?- This is not a reference to receipt of the miraculous Spirit gifts; for only some received these in the first century. 3:5 is clear about the difference: "He that supplies to you the Spirit and works miracles among you". Not all had the miraculous gifts, indeed Paul downplays their importance in 1 Corinthians. But all the Galatians are spoken of as having 'received the Spirit'. I suggest this refers to the gift of the Spirit which all believers in Christ receive at baptism (Acts 2:38)- the internal power towards holiness and spirituality, Christ in us, His mind / spirit within us. The same words are used in Jn. 7:39 of how the Spirit was to be received once Christ was glorified and had poured out this gift upon His people. This Spirit is received by the believers, not by the world, and is within us (Jn. 14:17). The receipt of this Spirit means that we in our hearts can cry "Abba, Father" (Rom. 8:15). Later in our chapter here, Paul speaks of receiving the Spirit as receiving the blessing of Abraham (Gal. 3:14)- the blessing which in Acts 3:26 is defined as the power to turn us away from sin. Paul's immediate point here is that the Spirit was received by them not because they obeyed law, but because they had believed and been baptized into Christ. Gal. 4:6 is quite clear that the Spirit received by all the Galatian converts was a gift of Divine relationship within their hearts: "And because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, Abba, Father".

Paul's whole argument from now on in Galatians is that they have been given the Spirit as a result of faith in Jesus as Christ. They would not have gotten this from obedience to the Mosaic law. So they should not seek to return to the law. In this context, he will expound the promise to Abraham. We are familiar with this promise as referring to an eternal inheritance of the land promised to Abraham, and it is clear from Hebrews 11 and Acts 7 that in a physical sense, Abraham and his seed didn't receive that promise in their lifetimes. They will be resurrected and receive it when the Lord returns to earth. But the promises to Abraham were not solely about that. They also involved the promise of Yahweh being their personal God, and Acts 3:26,27 interprets the promised blessings as involving the psychological turning of the seed away from sin. For the path to eternal inheritance of the earth involves personal transformation and forgiveness of sin, which we receive right now. All this was also implicit in the promises to Abraham. And so here Paul dwells more on this dimension of the promises. He will go on in chapter 4:6 to speak of God sending the Spirit of His Son into the hearts of the Galatians, so that they along with Jesus can address Yahweh as Abba, daddy. As He was the begotten Son of God, so believers can go beyond being merely adopted sons to being actual sons, in that they are "in" the Son of God, and all that is true of Him becomes true of them. The groundwork for that reasoning is here in Galatians 3- that all that is true of the singular seed of Abraham (who is Christ, :16) becomes true of us who are baptized into Him. And so the singular seed in this way becomes a plural seed, as many as the stars of the sky. As explained on :14, "the promise" to Abraham is specifically the promise of the Spirit, in this context. Galatians will go on to develop this theme; Christians are those who have been born after the Spirit (Gal. 4:29), allowing the Spirit to bring forth fruit in them (Gal. 5:5,16-18, 22,25) through sowing to the Spirit (Gal. 6:8). 

3:3 Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit- The reference is to having begun spiritual life at their baptisms by receiving the Spirit (see on :2).

Are you now perfected in the flesh?- The function of the Holy Spirit is to guide our spiritual development unto maturity or 'perfection'. Obedience to Law will not achieve this. The same word is used in describing how the Lord has "begun a good work [with]in you" and will perform or 'perfect' it until the day we meet the Lord (Phil. 1:6). This work is essentially within us. We are in a program of development, and attempting to justify ourselves by work will interrupt that program.

3:4 Did you suffer so many things in vain? If it be indeed in vain- The connection is with Paul's thought in Gal. 2:21 a few verses earlier- that if we are justified by works, then Christ has suffered in vain. And our sufferings, which are a sharing in His sufferings, will likewise be in vain. Paul several times uses this powerful idea of life "in vain". If we do not enter the Kingdom, if we refuse to be new wineskins, then the blood of the new covenant flows out wasted on the ground. All is vain, compared to salvation. This general attitude to life under the sun and all human endeavour is indeed powerful. However, we can also understand the Greek used here for 'suffering' as meaning 'experiencing'. So the sense then becomes "Did you experience so many things [i.e. the work of the Spirit] in vain?". The same word is used in Acts 28:5 "suffered no harm". There is no account in Acts of the Galatian churches 'suffering' persecution, but it is of course quite likely that they did.

3:5 Does he that supplies to you the Spirit- As noted on :2, this refers to the gift of the Spirit in the hearts of believers after baptism. The same word for "supplies" is used in Col. 2:19 of how the Lord Jesus as the head of the body supplies nourishment to every part. Because we are baptized by one Spirit into the one body, and are made to drink into that one Spirit. The Lord Jesus is indeed an active Lord. He ministers psychological, spiritual strengthening to all parts of His body, which is the church. The gift of the Spirit at baptism is as it were supplemented. We are 'filled up' with the Spirit, but that filling up needs to be continually experienced. The 'supply' of the Spirit is different to the 'working miracles among you' which is mentioned in the next clause. It is this non-miraculous supply of the Spirit which Paul has in view when he writes of "through your prayer and the supply of the spirit of Jesus Christ... my God shall supply all your need according to His riches" (Phil. 1:19; 4:19). And His enrichment is through the gifts of His Spirit (1 Cor. 1:5).

And works miracles
among you, do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?- See on :2 Did you receive the Spirit. Note the present tenses. Despite the apostasy in Galatia, the Lord Jesus still actively ministered His Spirit and enabled miracles to be done, just as God did to an apostate Israel in the wilderness. Even in the first century, the work of the Spirit was not just confined to the miraculous gifts; thus "He that supplies to you the Spirit and works miracles among you" suggests that there was a non-miraculous work of the Spirit then. It seems clear that the miraculous gifts of the Spirit were not possessed by all first century believers; and yet the epistles often imply that all believers had received the Spirit (e.g. 2 Cor. 1:22). The resolution of this is in the fact that all believers then and now receive the non-miraculous effect of the Spirit. Indeed, Jude 19 suggests that 'having the spirit' could just refer to someone who is not "sensual", i.e. of the flesh. John was "filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb... (going) in the Spirit and power of Elijah... waxed strong in spirit" (Lk. 1:15,17,80); but "John did no miracle " (Jn. 10:41). David associated having God's holy Spirit with having free fellowship with Him due to sins being forgiven, paralleling the holy Spirit with "a right spirit within me... a clean heart" (Ps. 51:10,12); and Paul spoke of God's willingness to forgive us as "the spirit of grace" (Heb. 10:29), i.e. His spiritual gift. Paul's reasoning in Gal. 3:5,6 is similar- the Spirit is ministered to us by faith, in the same way as Abraham's faith resulted in righteousness being imputed ('ministered') to him. Thus imputed righteousness is made parallel to the gift of the Spirit.

3:6- see on Phil. 3:6.

Even as Abraham believed God, and that faith was imputed to him for righteousness- His faith was weak, just as faith was weak in Galatia. See on Rom. 4:1-4,18,19. Paul's point in Rom. 4:3-5 is that Abraham was counted as righteous for his faith and not because of his works; the promises of the Kingdom salvation were made to him whilst he was uncircumcised.

3:7 Know that they that are of faith, the same are sons of Abraham- 'Of' in the sense of being the descendant of. Faith is the defining family characteristic of the Abraham family- and not race or physical descent. "The real descendants of Abraham are the people who have faith" (GNB).

3:8- see on Rom. 9:17.

And the scripture, foreseeing that God would make the Gentiles righteous by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham- Abraham was promised that "all the nations" [i.e. "the Gentiles"] would be blessed. Paul strains from this [so it could seem to those not used to rabbinic exegesis] that this blessing was not stated to be in response to any works- so it must therefore have been offered purely on the basis of faith. If they were to be given a blessing not on the basis of works, but on account of Abraham' singular seed, Jesus... then such blessing would involve them being counted righteous, i.e. worthy of blessing, just because they believed this promise.

When it says: In you shall all the nations be blessed- This was 'preached to Abraham'; and he chose to believe it. It was spoken to him before he had done any works of obedience or before he had believed anything. He was told, effectively, that he would be blessed / saved. And he believed it. The Gospel likewise comes to us out of left field, as it were. We are promised that we shall be saved- and if we believe it, we shall be.

So then, they that are of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham- "With" translates sun, the idea being that believers are blessed by association with Abraham. And :27-29 explain that this is through baptism into Christ, who is Abraham's specific seed.

Verses 10-13 are a parenthesis concerning the curse of the Law. If read without the parenthesis, the flow of thought goes straight on: "They which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham (v.9)... that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles" (v.14).

3:10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under a curse- See on 3:1 Bewitched you.

For it is written: Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do all things that are written in the book of the law- The quotation is from the LXX of Dt. 27:26. The Masoretic text is different: "Cursed is he who doesn’t confirm the words of this law to do them". This is an example of where so often the NT seems to prefer to quote the LXX over the MT. This has significant implications for any who insist upon the earth being 6000 years old as based upon the OT genealogies, for the figures are significantly different in the LXX.

3:11 Now it is evident that no one is justified by the law before God! For, The righteous shall live by faith- The thought is very similar to that in Romans. Rom. 2:13 uses the same phrase para Theos to reason that the doers of the law are justified before God; and nobody does the entire law. But here (as in Rom. 1:17) Paul uses a related but slightly different argument. He says that we are not justified by deeds "before God" because of the very existence of the concept of justification by faith; and he quotes Hab. 2:4 as an exemplification of this.

3:12 And the law is not of faith- Today likewise, legalism does not induce faith. It is our awareness of our disobedience and a deep sense of inability to be righteous which leads us to the faith which is a throwing of ourselves upon Divine grace and the Lord's cross.

But: He that does the commandments shall live in them- The 'living' in view, in the context, seems to be 'living eternally'; for Paul has just said that the righteous shall live [eternally] by faith (:11). He therefore understood Lev. 18:5 to mean that life eternal was possible through perfect obedience to the Mosaic law: "You shall therefore keep My statutes and My ordinances; which if a man does, he shall live in them". Notice that "in them" is added by the translators to make better sense of the simple statement that the obedient man "shall live". The truth of this interpretation is in the fact the Lord Jesus was indeed perfectly obedient to the Law and therefore lived for ever; He had to die for multiple reasons, but it was not possible that death should hold Him, seeing He had the right to eternal life through His perfect obedience; and therefore He was resurrected. An alternative understanding is that the person who thinks only in terms of obedience, will simply live a life of trying to obey laws. He will "live in them". It will be the atmosphere of his life and culture. But he will not thereby be saved.

3:13- see on Acts 5:30.

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us- See on 3:1 Bewitched you.

For it is written: Cursed is everyone that hangs on a tree- The idea is not that for some reason, being hung on a tree made a person "cursed". Those who had sinned unto death, according to the law of Moses, were "cursed" by that law; and those dead, legally cursed people were then hung on a tree. The point is that we have each become cursed by the Law of Moses through failing to completely obey it. And the perfect Lord Jesus was our representative; He there on the cross was and is everyman. It flows naturally from this that we would wish to immerse ourselves into His body there on the cross, identifying with Him, so that His resurrection can become ours. That is of course the meaning of baptism, but the spirit of that identification is to carry on through daily life and thought afterwards.

Note that Paul likens the Lord on the cross to the body of the criminal lifted up after death, not in order to lead to death (Gal. 3:13; Dt. 21:23)- as if he understood the Lord to have been effectively dead unto sin at the time the body was lifted up on the cross. It was as if the idea of the cross had been lived out throughout the Lord’s life; He was dead as He lived, and dead to sin at the point that His body was lifted up on the tree.

This was so that upon the Gentiles might come the blessing of Abraham in Christ Jesus, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith- The blessing promised to Abraham is here understood as the Spirit which has been promised. See on :2. The Holy Spirit gift is that promised in Acts 2:38,39: "repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ to the remission of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For to you is the promise, and to your children, and to all that are afar off". This gift was understood as "the promised Holy Spirit" which the Lord received to give to us at His ascension: "Therefore, being exalted by the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:33). This is the reference of Eph. 1:13: "In whom you also believed, having heard the word of the truth, the gospel of your salvation, and were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise", or, 'the promised Holy Spirit'. This sealing is within the human heart, as 2 Cor. 1:21,22 makes clear: "Now he that establishes us with you in Christ and anointed us is God, who also sealed us and gave us the down payment of the Spirit in our hearts". The Holy Spirit Comforter was clearly promised in the uppper room discourse of Jn. 14-16. The blessing to Abraham is defined in Acts 3:26 as being turned away from our inquities: "To you first, God, having raised up His servant, sent him to bless you, in turning every one of you away from your sins". The blessing was not only of eternal inheritance of the earth; it was the blessing of having God as our personal God, and of course the path to eternal inheritance is only through forgiveness and being changed into spiritual people. 

Paul was so positive about his Galatians, many of whom he says seemed to be departing from the Christian faith. He feared he may have “laboured in vain” for some of them (Gal. 4:11), but he writes of his expectations in a totally positive way: “Christ hath redeemed us… that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ: that we might receive the promise of the Spirit [i.e. salvation]” (Gal. 3:13,14). “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus; for as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ… then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3:27-29)- yet Paul could write this despite knowing his readers’ lack of faith in Christ (Gal. 1:6; 3:1,3-5; 4:9,11,19,21; 5:4,7).  “And because ye are sons… thou art no more a servant, but a son: and if a son, then an heir of God though Christ” (Gal. 4:6,7). “So then brethren we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free” (Gal. 4:31). If we believe that we ourselves will be there, we will spark off an upward spiral of positive thinking in the community of believers with whom we are associated. Think carefully on the Lord’s words to the Pharisees: “For ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in” (Mt. 23:13). If we don’t believe we will be there, we end up discouraging others.

3:15- see on 1 Cor. 15:57.

Brothers, I speak in human terms. Though it be but a man's covenant, yet when it has been confirmed, no one makes it void, or adds thereto- The confirmation of the covenant was 'previous' to the giving of the Law of Moses (:17). The confirmation was in the fact that God made an oath by Himself (Heb. 6:13-18); the promise itself, and then His word of oath, made two immutable things in which it was impossible for God to lie. The simple covenant of salvation was that anyone who believed the promises to Abraham and associated themselves with his seed will be eternally saved and blessed. Nothing has been added or subtracted from that ever since it was given. The Lord's death was yet another act of confirming that covenant, and appealing to men and women to believe it and participate in it; but His life and death did not of themselves add anything to the salvation covenant promise given to Abraham, and which forms the basis of the Gospel. And likewise, the law of Moses did not void nor add to that covenant.

Now to Abraham were the promises spoken, and to his seed. He did not say: And to seeds, in the plural, but in the singular: And to your seed, who is Christ!- A case can be made that the whole New Testament is a form of Midrash on the Old Testament, re-interpreting it in the light of Christ. In this case, Gen. 22:18. Paul so often employs the same literary devices found in the rabbinic Midrashim, e.g. al tiqra [read not thus, but thus- Gal. 3:16 is a classic example]. The promises were made to Abraham's future seed, the Lord Jesus. He did not personally pre-existed. But they are true for us if we are in Christ by baptism (:27-29). All that is true of the Lord personally becomes true for us. The promises were made to a singular seed, the Lord Jesus. But the promises themselves contain an ambiguity between singular and plural. That singular seed was to be as many as the stars of the sky. And this comes true through our becoming "in" Christ, the seed. Likewise the promises were "and to your seed [singular seed, so Paul says here] after you… and I will be their God" (Gen. 17:8).

3:17 This is what I mean; the law which came years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise of no effect- The confirmation of the covenant [s.w. :15 "confirmed"] was in that God swore it with an oath. The promise to save people who believed in His offer of blessing / salvation was absolutely certain. The logic of the argument here could suggest that actually, salvation was open to Gentiles in Old Testament times if they simply believed in the Abrahamic covenant. For it was not in any sense annulled; the Lord's death was simply an extra confirmation of it, and enabled believers to identify with the seed. We note that despite having confirmed the covenant of salvation with an oath at the time, it was also confirmed by the Lord's death. We remember this when we take the wine which represents the blood of the covenant. But just one word from God is enough. As the argument goes in Heb. 6:17,18, we have the word of promised salvation confirmed by God's oath- and also by the death of His Son. These are things in which it is impossible for God to lie, because God wished to "more abundantly shewunto the heirs of the promise the immutability of His counsel... that we might have a strong consolation". This should be an end of all strife, of all worry as to whether we shall really be saved. Likewise God commended His love to us, as if it needed any confirmation, in that Christ died for us whilst we were sinners.

Gal. 3:15-20 stresses how the Law came after the promises to Abraham, and cannot disannul them. Reasoning back from Paul's writing, we can arrive at some understanding of what the Judaists were saying. Their position was that baptism of Gentiles into the Abrahamic covenant was fine, but they must keep the Law for salvation. Paul is pointing out that the promises to Abraham offer eternal inheritance in the Kingdom on the basis of faith and grace, and neither the Law of Moses nor any other form of legalism can change that fundamental basis. An appreciation of the promises will therefore root us in the wonder of salvation by grace, to the point that we will reject all forms of legalism whenever they are proposed in the ecclesia, and whenever our own flesh seeks to justify itself by works achieved rather than by humbly accepting forgiveness of sins. That the Lord's death took away the Law can be assented to us and passed by. But the RV of Romans draws a difference between "the law" and "law" without the article, i.e. legality. Because we are saved by grace, no legal code, of Moses or anyone else, can save us. Therefore we are free- but that freedom is so wonderful that we are under “the law of Christ", the rigid principle of always seeking to act as this Man would do, who freed us from law. Otherwise, we end up replacing one form of legalism [under Moses] with another, a set of laws given by Jesus. He has saved us in prospect, outside of any law. And we are to rejoice in this and yet respond to it. Dostoevsky's epic The Brothers Karamazov is really a parable of the terrible burden of this freedom and the forgiveness of sins. In it, Jesus returns to earth. He is arrested, and the Inquisitor visits Him in the middle of the night. He tries to explain to Jesus that people do not want freedom. They want security. He argues with Jesus, that if one really loves people, then you make them happy- but not free. Freedom is dangerous. People want law, not responsibility; they want the neurotic comfort of rules, not the danger of decision making and the burdens it brings. Christ, says the Inquisitor, must not start up this business about freedom and grace and the commitment and responsibility it demands. Let things be; let the church have its laws. And will Jesus please go away. The life of grace to the extent that it must be lived is a radical confrontation- it creates the necessity of making pure freewill decisions to do and think acts of grace in response to God's grace. Grace has been presented as the easy way out. It isn't. It is far, far more demanding than legalism.

3:18 For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no more of promise- The inheritance of "the land of promise" was made possible before the Law of Moses was given. Israel were given Canaan on the basis of the promises to Abraham, and not the Law of Moses.

But God has granted it to Abraham by promise- Abraham was not given any set of laws he must obey. He was simply asked to believe, and go inherit the promised land. And the Gospel to us is really also that simple. Its very simplicity is why the demand for faith is so intense, and why people would prefer to slip back into some legal system, with a promised reward for obedience which can never be a certain hope because of our disobedience in some ways.

For what, then, was the law? It was added because of transgressions- The descendants of Jacob / Israel were not righteous, although they were God's people. The law of Moses was given to them "because of transgressions". And yet the very existence of the Mosaic Law generated sin, and thereby the experience of God's wrath upon His people (Rom. 4:15). So why were Israel given the Law? In some ways (and this isn't the only reason) to confirm them in their sinfulness. The original Mosaic Law was "holy, just and good" in itself (Rom. 7:12). But later, God gave Israel "laws that were not good" (referring to the Halachas of the Scribes?) so that they would go further away from Him (Ez. 20:25). He must have done this by inspiring men to say things which were genuinely communicated by God, but which were false.

Until the seed should come to whom the promise had been made. The law was given through angels by the hand of a mediator- The promise was made to the Lord Jesus, therefore, when as yet He did not exist. In this sense the promises were spoken to Christ, the seed of Abraham (:16). God's word of promise likewise spoke to us right back then in Abraham's time- even though we had not then associated with his seed. The word "until" clearly shows that the law of Moses was never intended to be eternal. It was given "until" a certain point.

3:20 Now an intermediary implies more than one party, but God is one- The oath of God to Abraham was a unilateral undertaking. He alone passed through the burning pieces. Likewise the mediation of the Angels implied two parties in a contract- but actually the covenant was unilateral, only God bound Himself by terms and conditions. He simply wanted to pass on the blessing to us. All we have to do is believe it and accept the covenant.

Reflect a moment upon the sheer power and import of the fact that the Father promised things to us, who are Abraham’s seed by faith and baptism. The Law of Moses was a conditional promise, because there were two parties; but the promises to us are in some sense unconditional, as God is the only “one” party (Gal. 3:19,20). And as if God’s own unconditional promise isn’t enough, He confirmed those promises to us with the blood of His very own son. Bearing this in mind, it's not surprising that Ps. 111:5 states that God "will ever be mindful of His covenant". This means that He's thinking about the covenant made with us all the time! And yet how often in daily life do we reflect upon the fact that we really are in covenant relationship with God... how often do we recollect the part we share in the promises to Abraham, how frequently do we feel that we really are in a personal covenant with God Almighty? In Genesis 15, He made a one-sided commitment to Abraham. The idea of the dead animals in the ceremony was to teach that 'So may I be dismembered and die if I fail to keep my promise'. Jer. 34:18 speaks of how Israelites must die, because they passed between the pieces of the dead animal sacrifices in making a covenant. But in Gen. 15, it is none less than the God who cannot die who is offering to do this, subjecting Himself to this potential curse! And He showed Himself for real in the death of His Son. That was His way of confirming the utter certainty of the promises to Abraham which are the basis of the new covenant which He has cut with us (Rom. 15:8; Gal. 3:17). Usually both parties passed between the dead animals- but only Yahweh does. It was a one-sided covenant from God to man, exemplifying His one-way grace. The Lord died, in the way that He did, to get through to us how true this all is- that God Almighty cut a sober, unilateral covenant with us personally, to give us the Kingdom. We simply can't be passive to such grace, we have no option but to reach out with grace to others in care and concern- and we have a unique motivation in doing this, which this unbelieving world can never equal. From one viewpoint, the only way we can not be saved is to wilfully refuse to participate in this covenant. The Lord laboured the point that the "unforgivable sin" was to "blaspheme the Holy Spirit" (Mk. 3:28-30; Mt. 12:31-37; Lk. 12:10). But it's been demonstrated that this is a reference to Jewish writings and traditions such as Jubilees 15:33 "where not circumcising one's child is unforgivable, because it is a declaration that one does not belong to the covenant people".

3:21 Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid! For if there had been a law given which could give life, truly righteousness would have been of the law- Under inspiration, Paul so often addresses the unspoken thoughts of his readers. If salvation was promised by faith alone under the Abrahamic covenant, then why ever introduce a law which was impossible to keep? This connects on the same large scale canvas with the question as to why God allowed sin, why there is even the concept of sin. And Paul speaks to these natural and obvious concerns. His answer is that we had to realize our desperation, our need, our hunger, our inability to achieve salvation by any other means- so that we would throw ourselves upon God's grace in Christ as it is presented in the Abrahamic covenant. Perhaps it was the lack of human interest in that wonderful covenant which led God to introduce the Mosaic Law- in order to thereby drive man to Christ. Likewise God uses human sin in order to bring us to Him. If there were no sin, no Law to place accent upon human desperation, then who would need Christ? How much less glory would be given to God and His grace if in fact there was no sin, if there had been no law... It was in this sense that the Law was a teacher / teaching slave to bring us to Christ. Not in that people understood the types and patterns as being Messianic; for here in Galatians 3, Paul says that mankind was "shut up" to all that; but rather in bringing us to know our desperation.

To be given life is paralleled with being given righteousness. Those without sin can live for ever; so the imputation of righteousness means eternal life.

3:22 But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin
, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe- See on :14. Sin occurs as a major them in Paul’s writings– not just in Romans, where he speaks so much about sin without hinting that a supernatural ‘Satan’ figure is involved with it. He sees sin as playing an almost positive, creative role in the formation of the true Christian, both individually and in terms of salvation history. He speaks of how the Mosaic law was given to as it were highlight the power of sin; but through this it lead us to Christ, through our desperation and failure to obey, “that (Gk. hina, a purpose clause) we might be righteoused by faith” (Gal. 3:24–26). The curses for disobedience were “in order that (Gk. hina) the blessing of Abraham would come upon the Gentiles” (Gal. 3:10–14); “the Scripture consigned all things to sin, in order that (Gk. hina) what was promised to faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who have faith” (Gal. 3:22). Note that it was the Law, “the Scripture”, which consigned things to sin– not a personal Satan. My point is that sin was used by God, hina, ‘in order that’, there would be an ultimately positive spiritual outcome. Indeed this appears to be the genius of God, to work through human failure to His glory. This view of sin, which any mature believer will surely concur with from his or her life experience, is impossible to square with the ideas of dualism, whereby God and ‘sin’ are radically opposed, fighting a pitched battle ranging between Heaven and earth, with no common ground. No – God is truly Almighty in every sense, and this includes His power over sin. The life, death and resurrection of His Son were His way of dealing with it – to His glory.

The promise by faith refers not only to the promise of future eternal inheritance of the land, as explained on :2. It is the promise of the Spirit (:14) which is in view. Paul is arguing here that this is the concrete evidence in their possession that faith in Jesus is valid, and they would not get that from returning to the law.

3:23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law- Paul sees the Law as a prison house, a law which held us captive in bonds. In the first century, a person was defined not so much by their unique personal character, credit was not given for who they had become or stopped being... but rather by the place in society into which they were born. And so these group-oriented people came to live out the expectations of society- and so the whole process rolled on through the generations. It was continuity rather than change, tradition rather than transformation, which was valued. Change was seen as some kind of deviancy- whereas the Christian gospel is all about change! The past was seen as more glorious than the present and the future, a pattern to be followed- whereas the Gospel of the future Kingdom of God on earth taught that the best time is ahead. And so often Paul compares the "past" of our lives with the much better "now" in Christ (Gal. 3:23-27; 4:8,9; Rom. 6:17-22; Eph. 2:11-22; 5:8).

until the coming faith would be revealed- On one level, the Mosaic Law was a set of such intricate regulations that was almost impossible to keep. And yet it led men to Christ as a gentle slave leading the children to the teacher. I don’t think that the Law of Moses led people to Christ in the sense that they cracked the various types and worked it all out. There’s not one example that I can think of where an Old Testament character did this. Indeed it could appear from Gal. 3:23 and other New Testament passages that until Christ actually came, the Old Testament believers were “shut up unto the faith which should afterward be revealed”. Therefore the types etc. of the Law of Moses couldn’t have been perceived by them in the same way as we understand them. Hence the Lord’s comment that many righteous men had longed to understand the things of Jesus which the disciples saw and heard in reality. “In other ages” those things of Christ were not made known to men as they were revealed in the New Testament by the preaching of the apostles and New Testament prophets (Eph. 3:5). The Old Testament prophets even seemed to understand that the things they saw and wrote were not so much for themselves as for us (1 Pet. 1:12). Or as Paul says here in Gal. 3:23: “Before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith [in Jesus] which should afterwards be revealed”. The Law was a shadow created as it were by the concrete reality of Christ. We can look back and see it all now, but I don’t think the types predicted anything to the people of the time. So how then did the Law lead people to Christ? Was it not that they were convicted of guilt, and cried out for a Saviour? “The law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: that… grace might reign… unto eternal life by Jesus” (Rom. 5:20,21). This was the purpose of the Law. And thus Paul quotes David’s rejoicing in the righteousness imputed to him when he had sinned and had no works left to do- and changes the pronoun from “he” to “they” (Rom. 4:6-8). David’s personal experience became typical of that of each of us. It was through the experience of that wretched and hopeless position that David and all believers come to know the true ‘blessedness’ of imputed righteousness and sin forgiven by grace. Perhaps Gal. 3:22 sums up what we have been saying: “The Scripture [in the context, this refers to the Mosaic Law] hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe”. And Paul goes on to say in this very context that the law brings us unto Christ (Gal. 3:24). It brings us- not those who lived under the law. How does it do that? By convicting us of sin, ‘concluding’ us as being under the control of sin.

3:24 S
o that the law became our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith - The ultimate teacher must be the Lord Himself, not the pastor or speaking brother. The Law was a paidogogos, a slave who lead the children to the school teacher. And the teacher, Paul says, is Christ (Gal. 3:23-25). He uses the whole body to make increase of itself in love- not just the elders. As explained under 3:21, the law's bringing men to Christ was not in that people understood the types and patterns as being Messianic; for here in Galatians 3, Paul says that mankind was "shut up" to all that; but rather in bringing us to know our desperation, to highlight our sin, our chronic lack of steel within the soul to bring ourselves to obedience.

3:25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor- The idea could be that the "tutor" was in fact a slave who lead the child to the teacher, and remained with them until the teacher came. The terms "Christ" and "faith" are thus put for the same thing- 'justification by faith in Christ'. "Faith" is put for the object of that faith, which is Christ.


3:26 For you are all sons of God , through faith in Christ Jesus- The "all" suggests that as Christ is the son of God, so are we. For by being baptized into Christ, all that is true of Him becomes true of us. Entering the body of Christ carries this implication. We must aspire to be united, with neither Jew nor Gentile, male nor female etc., because "ye are all one man in Christ" (Gal. 3:28 RV). We "are all sons of God" (3:26 RV) because of our baptism into the Son of God. And so Paul goes on to reason that just as Christ was "the heir" (cp. "this is the heir…"), who is "lord of all", "even so we…" were kept under the law for a time (Gal. 4:1-3). The basis of our unity is that there is only one Jesus, and by being in Him we are living lives committed to the imitation of that same man. It's painless enough to read Gal. 3:27-29- that all those baptized "in Christ" therefore are in a status where there is neither Jew nor Gentile, no human barriers between us. But this is actually something we have to live out in life in order for it to become reality. Paul will go on in 4:6 to explain that we become more than adopted children, but actual children of God, through the rebirth of the Spirit. And that is his context here. Faith in Christ gives the promise of the Spirit (:14). And this is why we should not return to the law, because that does not give the Spirit; see on :2.

3:27 For as many of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ- Elsewhere Paul urges already baptized believers to clothe themselves with Christ, to put on [s.w.] the new man etc. Baptism is a putting on of the Lord Jesus, a union with Him; but it is something essentially ongoing. The Lord Himself spoke of sharing His baptism as being the same as drinking His cup, sharing His cross (Mk. 10:39); which, again, is a process. Likewise Peter saw baptism as not only the one off act, but more importantly a pledge to live a life in good conscience with God (1 Pet. 3:21). 'Obeying the truth' is not only at baptism, but a lifelong pursuit (Gal. 5:7). The whole body of believers in Christ are being baptized into the body of the Lord Jesus in an ongoing sense (1 Cor. 12:13 Gk.), in that collectively and individually we are growing up into Him who is the Head (Eph. 4:15). See on Col. 2:6; 1 Pet. 1:23.

3:28 There can be neither Jew nor Gentile, there can be neither slave nor free, there can be no male and female- for you all are one in Christ Jesus- For Paul to calmly teach that baptism into Christ meant that there was now no longer differentiation between male and female, slave and free, Jew, Greek or any other ethnic group- this called into total question all the first century understandings of society. Indeed, the idea that Gentiles could become spiritual "Jews", and that the Jews weren't the real children of Abraham, was an intentional reversal of the categories around which society had been built. Much of the early 'geography' of the first century involved stereotypical descriptions of ethnic and geographical groups, usually ending up with praising the Greco-Roman peoples as being superior in every way to all others. Yet this worldview, which was accepted even by the despised ethnic groups about themselves, had to be ended for those in Christ. Being in Him was to be their defining feature. This was equally radical for the Jews, who held themselves above these stereotypes about themselves. Contrary to what is often claimed, Paul went out of his way to show that contemporary views of women were unacceptable for those in the Lord. His teaching here is that in Christ, there is neither Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, male or female, is surely conscious allusion to the Jewish traditional morning prayer for men: “My God, I thank thee that I was not born a Gentile but a Jew, not a slave but a free man, not a woman but a man”. He is surely saying that for those in Christ, the Jewish male world-view is unacceptable.

It was hard psychologically for Jews to convert to Christianity. There were elements of Christian teaching which were a direct affront to Judaism. Part of being a Christian was to expect to be treated by the Jews in just the same way as they had treated Jesus. The Sabbath was replaced with keeping the first day of the week for worship; the food laws were reduced by Paul’s inspired teaching to parts of “the weak and beggarly elements”. The Jewish hatred of the Christians is revealed by the riots that ensued when the Gospel was preached in the synagogues, and in the persecution of the Christians at the hands of the Jews in Jerusalem, Damascus and in the Asian cities (according to the letters in Rev. 2,3). The insistence that Jewish converts be baptized would have been hard of acceptance; for Gentiles took just such a ritual bath when they converted to Judaism.  For orthodox Jews to submit to baptism demanded a lot- for it implied they were not by birth part of the true Israel as they had once proudly thought. The Jews thought of Israel in the very terms which Paul applies to Jesus: "We Thy people whom Thou hast honoured and hast called the Firstborn and Only-Begotten, Near and Beloved One". The New Testament uses these titles to describe the Lord Jesus Christ- and we must be baptized into Him in order to be in His Name and titles. The Lord Jesus was thus portrayed as Israel idealized and personified, all that Israel the suffering servant should have been; thus only by baptism into Christ of Jew and Gentile could they become part of the true seed of Abraham, the Israel of God (Gal. 3:27-29). The act of baptism into Christ is no less radical for us in our contexts today than it was for first century Jews. All we once mentally held dear, we have to give up.

Gal. 3:27-29 explains that through baptism into the Abrahamic covenant, there is a special unity between all in that covenant. Slave and free, male and female, Jew and Gentile are all thereby united, as they were in the early church. David Bosch comments: "The revolutionary nature of the early Christian mission manifested itself, inter alia, in the new relationships that came into being in the community. Jew and Roman, Greek and barbarian, free and slave, rich and poor, woman and man, accepted one another as brothers and sisters. It was a movement without analogy, indeed a sociological impossibility". Likewise ecclesial life today can seem "a sociological impossibility", but through the power of the most basic facts of the Gospel preached to Abraham, this incredible unity is possible. As a nexus "without analogy", the true Christian community of itself ought to attract the attention of earnest men and women- just as the Lord predicted. Our unity should be the basis of our appeal to men. And yet our divided state is a tragic witness against us in this regard. Because there is neither Jew nor Gentile in Christ means that in practice, amongst those that "have put on the new man [a reference to baptism into Christ]… there cannot be Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bondman, freeman [clear allusion to Gal. 3:27-29]. But Christ is all, and in all. Put on therefore… a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; forbearing one another and forgiving one another" (Col. 3:10-13 RV). These things are what the promises to Abraham are all about in practice! Because we are all now united in Christ in our status as Abraham's seed, therefore we must see to it that through kindness, patience etc. there really is not Jew and Greek, or division of any kind, between us.

3:29- see on Mt. 25:34.

And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and the heirs according to the promise!- The promise was made to two people- Abraham and his seed, the Lord Jesus. By being in Christ, all that is true of the seed is true of us. And so the paradox is fulfilled- the singular seed (:16) is also as many as the stars of the sky.