GAL ATIA NS © 2014 COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL
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K nowing that a m an
is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus,
ÂŠ 2014 COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL that we might be justified by faith in Christ
and not by the works of the law;
for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.
G A L AT I A N S 2 :16
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Galatians BOOK INTRODUCTION
t would be difficult to imagine anyone ever making a change in life as dramatic, complete, and permanent as that of Saul of Tarsus. As an ambitious, driven young Pharisee, Saul was rapidly gaining prestige within Judaism. The synagogue leaders in his hometown of Tarsus must have seen something in the youth and convinced his parents that he should be schooled in Jerusalem. There, Saul studied under Gamaliel, the most highly regarded rabbi of that era (Acts 5:34; 22:3), where, in his own words, he “advanced in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries” (1:14). Paul had more reason to be confident in his standing as a Jew than anyone in his circle. He was born a Jew (not a convert) who was circumcised according to the law on the eighth day. He was of the tribe of Benjamin, on whose territorial border sat the City of God, Jerusalem. He was a “Hebrew of Hebrews” — the best Jew of all Jews. Regarding obedience to the law, he was a Pharisee of the strictest order who could claim that he had obeyed every jot and tittle of the moral and ceremonial law . . . and no one would argue with him for saying so (Phil. 3:4 – 6). When he was about 40, Saul decided he would not only teach his rigid brand of Judaism but would persecute and even kill people who believed in a heretical rabbi from Nazareth — Jesus (Acts 22:1 – 21; 26:1 – 23). With what he regarded as righteous fury, Saul tried to destroy this troubling new sect like a firefighter attacking small blazes in a forest. But as Saul’s zeal reached its zenith, his self-made religious world came crashing down: he met the true and living Jesus — and absolutely nothing would ever be the same for him again. Why is it important to consider the apostle Paul’s pre-Christian commitment before reading the Book of Galatians? Because in this letter to the believers in Galatia, we find his same zealous intensity — only in reverse. After his conversion, Paul was just as committed to the beauty and purity of Christianity as he had been to the strict legalism of his form of Judaism. Now he would battle heart and soul against any dilution or compromise in the gospel of Jesus Christ. There were many times he had to defend the gospel. During the early expansion of Christianity, the first Christians were almost all Jews. Consequently, many tended to think that Christianity simply
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G A LAT IANS
“added Jesus” to Judaism while retaining all the law’s requirements. Although Paul made it clear that Jewish heritage might still be valued, he was zealous to declare that righteousness is obtained through faith in Jesus Christ, not self-effort. Paul knew firsthand how difficult this transition could be — how radical it was to replace works with faith in Jesus, to rely on grace instead of merit. Scripture records that after his first missionary journey, the issue of Jewish influences on Gentile converts led to the first church conference in Jerusalem, which sorted out exactly what was and was not required as the spread of the faith produced burgeoning new Gentile congregations (Acts 15). Possibly between his missionary trip to Galatia and the Jerusalem conference (c. AD 48), Paul wrote this letter, confronting this thorny problem in some of the churches he had founded with Barnabas on their first missionary journey. How fitting that God called the Jew of the Jews to draw a line in the sand, step over it, and refuse to allow any to follow except those willing to live by faith in Christ alone. WHAT IT SAYS | From “Religion” to Relationship In the message of Galatians, we see that the problem of legalism, which plagues so many modern believers, is as old as the first-century church. This epistle gives a realistic picture of the challenges of transitioning from a religion based on rules to one based on a relationship; from a life based on merit to one birthed by grace; from a life empowered by human flesh to one experienced in the power of the Holy Spirit. Paul’s letter to the Galatians has three parts, in which Paul addresses related sets of issues. First, he validates his own authority and shows that the apostles in Jerusalem approved his gospel. This was necessary because the Judaizers were saying that Paul had diluted the gospel by removing the religious requirements of Judaism in order to attract Gentile converts (1 — 2). Second, because the heresy was coming from Jewish influencers, Paul explains how — in appealing to the experience of Abraham, the father of the Jews — the OT teaches the doctrine of justification by faith apart from the works of the law (3 — 4). Finally, Paul follows up by discussing the implications of sound doctrine for everyday life. He describes where freedom can be found (in Christ alone); how life can be lived in the power of the Spirit; and why circumcision of the flesh means nothing compared to being a new creation in Christ (5 — 6).
© 2014 COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL WHAT IT MEANS | Justified by Faith Themes in Galatians are drawn from the life and experience of Paul himself, as he recounts vignettes and hard-won truths from his early Christian life. • Paul: To defend the gospel he preached to the Galatians, Paul recounts his own calling by God, his confirmation by the apostles in Jerusalem, and an uncomfortable confrontation with the renowned apostle Peter over the purity of the faith (1 — 2). • The Law: Paul makes the point that trying to follow the law of Moses could never be a source of salvation for anyone, because no one has kept the law fully (3:10). • Faith: Although the concept of faith was not new to Judaism, Paul reminds the Galatians that Abraham, the father of the Jews, was himself justified (declared righteous) before God by faith, not by works. Paul builds his case for justification by faith by appealing to what the Judaizers held most sacred: the OT and its law (2:6 – 9). • Flesh versus Spirit: Human flesh can produce only imperfect deeds by its own efforts (5:19 – 21), but men and women who have God’s own indwelling Spirit can bear beautiful, fragrant fruit from the Life that flows through them (5:22, 23).
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WHAT IT MEANS FOR YOU | Freedom in Christ Alone Jesus plus or minus anything does not equal faith; it is a formula. Formulas do not free anyone. Instead, they compel us to create wearying lists of do’s and don’ts that confine us, rules that restrict us, and ultimately a false gospel that steals the joy of a relationship with the Lover of our souls. Only faith in Christ alone leads to freedom. And that freedom produces life-giving spiritual fruit in our lives by which we can bless others. The gospel is good news. When Jesus cried, “It is finished!” on the cross, all of our sins were forgiven. When we read that truth and then decide we must help Him out by adding or subtracting from His work, we are saying, “Lord, You weren’t enough.” Don’t take from the gospel; don’t add to it. Jesus is enough! Nothing more, nothing less. In Him alone is our salvation, our righteousness, our joy — both now and in eternity.
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© 2014 COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL G A L AT I A A N D S U R R O U N D I N G A R E A S Black Sea
ASIA PHRYGIA Antioch •
• Pessinus Lake Tatta Iconium •
LYCAONIA • Lystra
Attalia • • Perga
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• Tarsus Seleucia •
T H E E P I S T L E O F PAU L T O T H E
GALATIANS Greeting Paul, an apostle (not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead), 2 and all the brethren who are with me,
To the churches of Galatia: 3 Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to
A Gospel Summary • 1:4 In the first two chapters of this letter, the word gospel is found 10 times. Here the term indicates three important truths about Christ’s death. His death was:
• Voluntary—He laid down His life for us of His own free will; no one made Him do it. • Vicarious—He went to the cross, paying the penalty for our sins in our place. • Victorious—He rescued us from this present evil age.
the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. Only One Gospel 6 I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, 7 which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed. 10 For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ. Call to Apostleship 11 But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. 12For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ. 13 For you have heard of my former conduct in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it. 14 And I advanced in Judaism
© 2014 COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL Because Christ has done all this, we are wickedly presumptuous when we try to add our work to what He has already done.
1:1–4 | Paul begins his letter by establishing the true messenger (himself) and defining the true message (the gospel). The gospel is not a mixture of law and grace; it is the message of grace and grace alone. 1:1 | Although Paul was not one of the original Twelve, his call was as real as theirs—through the risen Christ and God the Father (1 Cor. 15:8, 9; Eph. 3:8; 1 Tim. 1:15, 16). This startling claim shapes the first two chapters of this epistle and affirms Paul’s message as authoritative and true. (For more on apostle, see notes on Matt. 10:2–4; Acts 2:21, 22; 1 Cor. 15:8, 9.) 1:3 | The order of the greeting is significant: once grace is experienced, peace follows. 1:4 | The present evil age in which the Galatians lived is the same as ours—a fallen world under the rule of Satan (4:1–11; Col. 1:13–16; Rom. 1:28–32). 1:6, 7 | The message being taught by Paul’s opponents was not just a variation of the true gospel but such an altogether different gospel that it was no gospel at all. Their version was based in works of the law, and it required Gentile believers to abide by Old Covenant standards and ceremonies (Acts 15:1; Phil. 3:1–6). 1:6 | Paul was astonished that the Galatians were so quickly turning away from God (the verb describes a military revolt). At this place in his other letters, Paul typically offers a prayer of thanksgiving for the believers to whom he is writing (Rom. 1:8–15; 1 Cor. 1:4–9; Phil 1:3–11; Col. 1:3–8; 1 Thess. 1:2–10; 2 Thess. 1:3–12; 2 Tim. 1:3–7; Philem. 4–7). Not so here—he jumps right into his concerns (1:6–8), accusing his readers of being “turncoats” to the gospel.
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1:7 | A gospel that mixes God’s grace and human effort is a mongrel gospel. To pervert the truth means to literally turn it from one direction to another, or to turn it into something else (5:10, 12; 2 Cor. 11:4). 1:8, 9 | Accursed translates the Greek word anathema, meaning “to be set aside to God for destruction.” When false messengers tamper with the eternal destiny of a soul by preaching a false gospel, they fall under God’s judgment (1 Cor. 16:22). 1:10 | Paul’s opponents accused him of making up a message of grace and freedom from the law in order to please the Gentiles. Paul insists that his desire is to please God only (1 Thess. 2:4), as his willingness to suffer as a bondservant of Christ testifies. (Note the contrast between 1:13, 14 and 5:11; 6:17.) 1:11, 12 | Unlike the representatives of the Jewish religious establishment, Paul preached a message that was not an invention of man, a tradition received from man, or an instruction taught by man. It was the gospel of God as revealed to Paul through . . . Jesus Christ (1:15; Rom. 1:1; 1 Cor. 15:1–8; Eph. 3:3–5). Paul defended his apostleship not out of personal pride but from a deep concern for the gospel. If the false teachers could discredit him, they would discredit the gospel as well. 1:13 | Prior to meeting the Lord on the Damascus road, Paul believed that killing Christians and destroying the church was a noble service to God (Acts 8:3, 9:1, 2; 22:4, 5, 22:20, 26:10, 11). Paul stresses his former passion for persecution to show that his conversion was not just a change of mood but a radical change of heart created by the radical message of the gospel. The emphasis on the church of God highlights the enormity of his sin.
beyond many of my contemporaries in my own nation, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers. 15 But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, 16 to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood, 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went to Arabia, and returned again to Damascus. Contacts at Jerusalem 18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, a and remained with him fifteen days. 19 But I saw none of the other apostles except James, the Lord’s brother. 20 (Now concerning the things which I write to you, indeed, before God, I do not lie.) 21 Afterward I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. 22 And I was unknown by face to the churches of Judea which were in Christ. 23 But they were hearing only, “He who formerly persecuted us now preaches the faith which he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they glorified God in me.
G AL ATIANS 2:4
The Judaizers • 2:4
The Judaizers (referred to here as “false brethren”) were Jewish converts to Christianity who insisted that Gentile believers must adopt Jewish customs and follow Jewish laws as a condition for salvation (Acts 15:1). Paul consistently opposed their teachings, insisting that only faith in Jesus Christ was necessary for salvation. Christ sets us free from the requirements of the Jewish law because He perfectly and completely fulfilled all its requirements during His time on earth and then died on our behalf.
Defending the Gospel Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and also took Titus with me. 2 And I went up by revelation, and communicated to them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to those who were of reputation, lest by any means I might run, or had run, in vain. 3 Yet not even Titus who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised. 4 And this occurred because of false brethren secretly brought in (who came in by stealth to spy out our
© 2014 COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL 1:14 | Paul emphasizes what a devout Jew he was—in practice as well as ancestry (Acts 22:1–3; 26:9; Phil. 3:5, 6)—so his conversion to Christianity would carry more weight with the Jewish Christians in Galatia. 1:15, 16 | Notice the change in Paul’s tone. Although the previous verses focus on Paul’s work, these focus on God’s work (Acts 9:15; 2 Cor. 4:5–7). The story of Paul’s conversion is so important that the NT records it five times (Acts 9; 22; 26; Phil. 3; 1 Tim. 1). 1:16 | Paul received the message he preached to the Galatians from the Lord, not from other people (flesh and blood). His calling to preach . . . among the Gentiles does not mean that his message was not also meant for the Jews. He viewed the two audiences as inextricably connected (Rom. 11:11–32). His point here is that the Gentiles need not observe the law to be saved. 1:17–19 | By emphasizing that he did not immediately sit under other apostles in Jerusalem after his conversion, but spent only fifteen days there with Peter and James long after his conversion, Paul again defends the divine origin of his message. In fact, he spent three years in other regions before visiting Jerusalem (Acts 9:26). 1:17 | How Paul spent his time in Arabia is not known for certain. Paul then likely proclaimed the gospel there as he had in Damascus (2 Cor. 11:32, 33). 1:21 | After leaving Jerusalem, Paul traveled to Syria and Cilicia and was out of the reach of the apostles’ ministries. This is most likely the same journey mentioned in Acts 9:30. 1:22–24 | Paul’s former zeal in persecuting believers was so wellknown that many had a difficult time trusting the genuineness of his conversion (Acts 8:3; 9:13, 14, 20, 21, 26). Their minds were changed by the grace of God on display in Paul’s life. The final proof of the divine origin of his message was the change it made in his own life. 1:24 | The work of the gospel in the lives of believers should cause onlookers to glorify God and motivate nonbelievers to come to Christ (1 Pet. 2:11, 12). 2:1–5 | Apparently the leaders in Jerusalem feared they were
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1:18 aNU-Text reads Cephas.
losing control because the gospel of grace was setting people free. Bondage can be precious to those in control, but Paul fought for the freedom of the Galatian believers despite the obstacles others put in front of him. 2:1–3 | Barnabas (originally named Joses) was “full of the Holy Spirit and of faith” (Acts 11:24). The apostles called him Barnabas, which means “son of encouragement” (Acts 4:36). Titus was Paul’s spiritual son and coworker (Titus 1:4, 5). As a Greek convert, he was a product of the very ministry that the Judaizers were attacking. If anyone were to say that a person had to be circumcised in order to be saved, he would have to talk Titus out of his salvation. 2:2 | Paul shared the content of his message with Peter, James, and John—those who were of reputation—so they would know that his gospel was the same as theirs. Paul did not need these leaders to endorse his message, but he needed them to repudiate those who were teaching salvation based on works (Rom. 10:8–13; Eph. 2:8, 9). 2:3 | Not even the highest level of authority in the church—the Jerusalem Council—required Titus to be circumcised (Acts 15:1–22). This overwhelming victory for the gospel of grace was proof that circumcision was not necessary for salvation (Acts 15:23–29). 2:4, 5 | Christians must resist those who might bring them into bondage through any means. The truth of the gospel—salvation by grace alone through faith alone—was Paul’s message, and it always brings freedom. It is by definition a work of the Spirit, not of man. 2:4 | The term false brethren could be translated “pseudoChristians” or “sham Christians.” Apparently spies had been planted (by stealth) to sabotage the gospel and bring Christians back under the bondage of the law (Acts 15:1, 24). Paul’s emotional response to these imposters was so intense that the grammatical structure of the Greek text is disrupted here. The suggestion that the law was necessary for salvation was dangerous enough that it merited the label “different gospel” (1:8, 9).
G AL ATI ANS 2: 5
liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage), 5 to whom we did not yield submission even for an hour, that the truth of the gospel might continue with you. 6 But from those who seemed to be something—whatever they were, it makes no difference to me; God shows personal favoritism to no man—for those who seemed to be something added nothing to me. 7But on the contrary, when they saw that the gospel for the uncircumcised had been committed to me, as the gospel for the circumcised was to Peter 8(for He who worked effectively in Peter for the apostleship to the circumcised also worked effectively in me toward the Gentiles), 9and when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that had been given to me, they gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. 10They desired only that we should remember the poor, the very thing which I also was eager to do.
was to be blamed; 12 for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. 13 And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, “If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you a compel Gentiles to live as Jews? b 15 We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, 16 knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified. 17 “But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is Christ therefore a minister of sin? Certainly not! 18 For if I build again those things which I destroyed, I make myself a
© 2014 COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL No Return to the Law 11 Now when Peter a had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he 2:5 | Paul would not yield to those opposed to the gospel (1:6; 2:14; 3:1). His courage reminds us of the many believers who have given their lives to preserve the truth of the gospel of Christ. 2:6 | Although Peter, James, and John had accompanied Christ during His earthly ministry, they added nothing to Paul’s gospel. Perhaps employing a hint of sarcasm, Paul honors these men but insists that they have no more standing before God than he does (2:9; 6:3; Acts 10:34; 2 Cor. 11:5; 12:11). 2:7 | God does not give two different gospels. The gospel Peter preached to the circumcised Jews (2:8) was the same one Paul preached to the uncircumcised Gentiles (3:26–28; Acts 9:15; 13:46; 22:21; Rom. 11:13; 1 Thess. 2:4). 2:9 | When the apostles in Jerusalem understood the grace that had been given to Paul, they offered him the right hand of fellowship—a solemn vow of friendship and a symbol of partnership. They also approved Paul and Barnabas’ ministry to the Gentiles. This act of unity thwarted the Judaizers and preserved the gospel. 2:10 | Throughout his ministry, Paul was eager to help the poor (Rom. 15:25–27; 1 Cor. 16:1–3; 2 Cor. 8—9). Even though many early believers lived in poverty, a key component of NT worship was that Christians would share with their spiritual brothers and sisters in need. 2:11–14 | Paul continues proving his authority as an apostle by documenting his public rebuke of the apostle Peter. Only through a divine commission would Paul be able to rebuke such a prominent figure in the church. 2:11–13 | Although he knew that his fellowship with the Gentiles pleased God, Peter succumbed to peer pressure, encouraging those Christians to follow Jewish dietary laws. In temporarily abandoning his freedom in Christ (Acts 10:12–16, 28), Peter made the Gentile Christians feel inferior to the Jews and caused division in the church. 2:11 | Paul would not tolerate any hypocrisy in the church, so when Peter came to Antioch, Paul withstood him to his face— publicly. This must have been a remarkable scene, considering the prominence of each of these men.
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2:12 | James, the half-brother of Jesus, was known as a strict keeper of the law, earning him the title “James the Just.” He became the leader of the church at Jerusalem, though he had been skeptical of Christ’s claims prior to His resurrection (John 7:1–5; Acts 1:14; 1 Cor. 15:7). 2:13 | Paul uses two different forms of the same word to get to the heart of the issue: hypocrisy. Peter’s actions caused many to stumble by sending a deadly message that other people’s opinions were more important than the truth of the gospel. 2:14 | Paul responded publicly to the actions of Peter and Barnabas because they had been public hypocrites (1 Tim. 5:20). But note: Paul did not backstab or oppose them underhandedly; he confronted them to their faces (Matt. 18:15–17). 2:15 | Paul distinguishes between those who observed OT laws (Jews by nature) and those who did not (sinners of the Gentiles). Observing OT laws could not justify a person; therefore, Gentile believers should not be required to keep such laws but should be taught to obey Jesus’ teachings instead (Acts 15). 2:16 | Paul repeats three times that we are justified by faith and not by works. See the article “Justified by Faith” on page 1625. “The most dangerous heresy on earth is the emphasis on what we do for God instead of what God does for us” (Charles R. Swindoll). 2:17 | Critics who have not experienced grace often attack it as a license for sin. Paul was horrified that some might think that faith in Christ somehow encouraged people to sin (Rom. 6:1, 2; 1 John 3:8). It is not only a person’s standing before God that changes when he or she is declared righteous; he or she radically changes! As new creations (2 Cor. 5:17) who are now indwelt by the Holy Spirit, Christians no longer think or act as they did prior to salvation. God gives the Christian a new desire for holiness. 2:18 | The things . . . destroyed refers to the OT law. The law can only bring us to the threshold of the gospel of grace; it cannot get us through the door. The law administers death, but in Christ we find life (Rom. 6:11, 14; 7:4; 8:2). The law commands us, saying, “Do! Try! Behave!” The gospel comforts us, declaring, “Done! Trust!
Justified by Faith Galatians 2:16
The story of Job, in some ways, is the story of the human race. For all of us, the difficulties of life and the imperfections of creation highlight the gulf that separates humankind from God and His perfection. Job’s quest to bridge that gulf was summarized poignantly when he asked: “How can a man be righteous before God?” (Job 9:2). There it is—the human dilemma: How can sinful human beings be accepted by a holy God? Our natural human response to suffering or to sin is to try to undo whatever wrong may have originally caused our trouble. If we have done something that made us unrighteous in God’s sight, then we think that doing the opposite should restore our righteousness. If we have done wrong, then certainly doing some good should make us right, shouldn’t it? Unfortunately, Scripture tells us that in God’s sight, committing one sin is equivalent to committing an infinite number of them (James 2:10). So our good works can never make up for even one transgression. Trying to undo sin by good works is a prescription for righteousness that leaves us falling hopelessly short. Of course, God knew that we could not be justified by our own efforts, so He arranged to remove our sin Himself. God gave to Israel (and to the world through Israel) access to a temporary state of reconciliation through ongoing sacrifices as outlined in His law. The law had two purposes. First, it perpetually reminded people of God’s standards and our inability to meet them—that is, our inability to make ourselves righteous before God. Second, “the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith” (3:24). As a tutor, or teacher, the law revealed humanity’s lack of righteousness so that when Jesus Christ came as the once-and-for-all, perfect sacrifice—our Justifier by faith—Israel and the world at large would be ready to embrace Him. This is a key part of Paul’s letter to the Jews and Gentiles in the region of Galatia. Although these men and women had embraced the gospel of faith in Christ, they were being persuaded that their faith alone was not enough, and so they needed to add certain works of the law in order to be saved—a step backwards in their spiritual growth. Paul even had to correct the apostle Peter (2:11–21; Matt. 26:69–75) and the stalwart Barnabas (2:13) on this topic. Paul was direct, even blunt: “I do not set aside the grace of God [as you, Peter, are doing]; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain” (2:21). Why would Christ need to die for our unrighteousness if we could earn our way back to God by our own efforts? That would make His coming unnecessary. To add human works to faith would be, as Paul said, to “set aside the grace of God.” There is no need for grace if our good deeds could be sufficient for righteousness. In his argument against Peter and the Galatian Judaizers, Paul concludes that being justified comes only through the work of Christ and not through any human effort: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (2:20). In his commentary The Message of Galatians, John R. W. Stott summarized justification by faith as “God’s act of unmerited favor by which He puts a sinner right with Himself, not only pardoning or acquitting him, but accepting him and treating him as righteous” (Acts 13:38, 39; Rom. 1:17). The only way we can be declared righteous is by putting our faith in God’s provision: “Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1).
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For Further Reading: John 3:16; 6:28, 29; Rom. 3:24; Eph. 1:13; Phil. 3:9; James 2:14, 20, 24
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transgressor. For I through the law died to the law that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.” 19
Justification by Faith O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, a before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you b as crucified? 2 This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? 4 Have you suffered so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? 5 Therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or
by the hearing of faith?— 6 just as Abraham “believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” a 7 Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham. 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, “In you all the nations shall be blessed.” a 9 So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham. The Law Brings a Curse 10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.” a 11 But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for “the just shall live by faith.” a 12 Yet the law is not of faith, but “the man who does them shall live by them.” a 13 Christ has redeemed us from the curse 3:1 aNU-Text omits that you should not obey the truth. bNU-Text omits among you. 3:6 aGenesis 15:6 3:8 aGenesis 12:3; 18:18; 22:18; 26:4; 28:14 3:10 aDeuteronomy 27:26 3:11 aHabakkuk 2:4 3:12 aLeviticus 18:5
© 2014 COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL Believe!” The law shows us that we cannot solve the problem of sin; the gospel of Christ provides the solution. 2:19, 20 | Being crucified with Christ has both a legal and relational component. Legally, God looks at us as if we had died with Christ; we are no longer condemned for our sins because that price has been paid. Relationally, we share in Christ’s sufferings and have died to our old way of living; He now indwells us through the Holy Spirit, empowering us to live a life of obedience (Rom. 6:6; 2 Cor. 5:15). 3:1–9 | The Galatian believers were spiritually dull, not understanding the impossibility of salvation based on works. Bewitched means “fascinated” or “hypnotized” and occurs only here in the NT. In secular writings, the word described sorcerers and people who cast spells on others. Portrayed refers to the ancient practice of posting public announcements on a placard in the town square. Paul had preached so vividly that the Galatians could almost see Jesus crucified for them on the cross (Acts 13:38, 39). If the Galatians had only kept their gaze fixed on Christ, they would have been immune to the malicious magic of the Judaizers. 3:1 | Foolish refers not to inadequate intelligence but a lack of wisdom. It is living by the world’s rules rather than according to God’s Word. 3:2–5 | Paul asks a series of rhetorical questions designed to cause the Galatian believers to return to the true foundation of their faith: Christ alone. Circumcision is not the mark of God’s people; the reception of the Spirit is the true mark. No other is needed! 3:2 | The Galatians had already received the Holy Spirit—He is every believer’s most unmistakable proof of salvation and greatest guarantee of eternal glory. The presence of the Holy Spirit comes at the moment of belief, not later, as a result of obedience. Any Christian who believes he or she does not have the Spirit is either untaught or unsaved (Rom. 8:9, 16; 1 Cor. 12:13; Eph. 1:13). 3:3 | Perfect here means mature, not sinless. Spiritual maturity has the same starting point as salvation: faith in Jesus Christ (4:9). Faith changes the motivation of our hearts from seeking to be acceptable to God through our own efforts to wanting to live for Him. 3:4 | When the Galatian believers broke away from the law, they
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suffered great persecution. To return to the law would make their suffering meaningless (4:29; Heb. 10:35). 3:5, 6 | The Judaizers were proud of being “Abraham’s seed.” Paul then asks: How was Abraham justified? The answer: Abraham was counted as righteous when he believed God’s promise to give him descendants as numerous as the stars (Gen. 15:5, 6; Rom. 4:3). 3:5 | The gift of the Holy Spirit—and His mighty power working in us—depends on faith. The Christian life is a supernatural one that exhibits the supernatural power of God. 3:6–9 | There was no stronger argument for a Jewish Christian at that time than that Abraham had been justified in exactly the way Paul was declaring. Faith is not a work that makes one righteous, but by faith we are united with Christ, who is our righteousness. Like Abraham, we are justified, or counted as righteous, by believing God. 3:8, 9 | In his exposition of Genesis 12:1–3, Paul states that Abraham was taught the good news that salvation is for people of all . . . nations, not just for the Jews (Gen. 18:18; 22:18; 26:4; 28:14). Therefore, Gentiles were not required to become Jews in order to be saved—that would be salvation by works, which Paul has already said is not the truth of the gospel. 3:10 | Under the curse is taken from Deuteronomy 27:26. Works of the law recalls the argument Paul made in 2:16. The Judaizers found themselves in an awful spot: they could not live up to God’s law, yet they would not submit to His grace. Our only hope is to receive God’s grace. 3:11 | The law is like a chain that moors a ship to a dock. Just as one broken link causes the entire chain to fail, so one transgression breaks the entire law. Since this is an all-or-nothing proposition, no amount of work can save us—only God can declare us just (James 2:10). Paul cites the words of Habakkuk 2:4 as proof of this truth. 3:12 | This quote from Leviticus 18:5 reminds us that in order to be considered a keeper of the law, one must obey the law perfectly and completely. Only Jesus Christ has ever accomplished such perfect obedience (Rom. 4:4, 5; 10:5). 3:13 | To be justified or declared righteous before God, we must place our faith in Jesus and His sinless perfection, letting Him bear our rightful curse and be our righteousness (Deut. 21:23; Rom. 8:3).
The OT Covenant • 3:17, 18 A covenant is usually made between two equal parties. If one person breaks the covenant, the other is no longer obligated to keep his or her part of the agreement. The OT covenant, however, was not between God and Abraham but between God and God—it was a covenant in which God did it all. He made the promise to redeem a people for Himself—and fulfilled it in Christ—even though He knew that the people He chose would not keep their end of the agreement to obey Him (Gen. 15; Rom. 4:13, 14; 8:17). Our God is faithful and true!
of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”a), 14 that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. The Changeless Promise 15 Brethren, I speak in the manner of men: Though it is only a man’s covenant, yet if it is confirmed, no one annuls or adds to it. 16Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as of many, but as of one, “And to your Seed,”a who is Christ. 17And this I say, that the law, which was four hundred and thirty years later, cannot annul the covenant that was
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confirmed before by God in Christ, a that it should make the promise of no effect. 18 For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no longer of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise. Purpose of the Law 19 What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator. 20 Now a mediator does not mediate for one only, but God is one. 21 Is the law then against the promises of God? Certainly not! For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law. 22 But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. 23But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. 24Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. Sons and Heirs 26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For as many of you
© 2014 COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL 3:14 | The Judaizers boasted of being sons of Abraham—direct descendants of the father of their faith and thus members of God’s chosen people. But now that Christ has come, all who put their faith in Jesus receive the promise of the Spirit and become spiritual sons and daughters of Abraham (3:7, 26; 49:6; Luke 2:32; Rom. 3:29, 30; 4:1–5, 9, 16). 3:15 | Covenant probably refers to a last will and testament. Because humans cannot add to or annul their covenants without voiding them, humans could not change the divine covenant between God and Abraham. 3:16 | When God made his covenant with Abraham, He also made it with his Seed (singular), not seeds (plural) (Gen. 12:1–3; 22:18). The Seed that came from Abraham was Jesus Christ. God wanted to reach the whole world, not through mere human descent but through the God-Man, Jesus (Gen. 3:15; 13:15; 21:12; 22:18; 24:7). 3:17 | The law was temporary, lasting from Moses until Christ. It was given not to annul God’s promise to Abraham but to show our need for a Savior. When believers recognize how far short they fall, they long for someone to help (Gen. 15:13; Ex. 12:40; Rom. 4:13). 3:18 | The Abrahamic Covenant was given before the law— therefore the inheritance comes by way of the promise made to Abraham, not through the law given to Moses. Paul is driving home to the Galatians that, because it is of the law, circumcision is not the road to the promise. 3:19–26 | Paul’s audience may have been confused about the law and its purpose. The Pharisees and other pious Jews were careful to do everything they thought the law required, believing that keeping the law as they interpreted it would earn them God’s favor. But Paul repeatedly opposed that idea (Rom. 3:20), declaring that the law’s purpose was to: demonstrate our weakness
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3:13 aDeuteronomy 21:23 3:16 aGenesis 12:7; 13:15; 24:7 3:17 aNU-Text omits in Christ.
(3:21), display our sinfulness (3:19, 22), and drive us to Christ (3:22–25). 3:19 | The law was given to define sin, not to defeat it. It is like a doctor who can diagnose a sickness but cannot cure it (4:4; Ex. 20:19; Deut. 5:5; John 15:22; Acts 7:53). Because of transgressions could mean that the law was added for any of several reasons: to provide a system to deal with sin on a temporary basis; to show people how to sin less; to define what sin is; or to reveal how sinful people are. The law serves all of these purposes but can never grant salvation. 3:21 | The law and the promises of God are not against one another. The problem is that the law, with its humanly impossible standards, does not save; it only condemns. In our failure to keep the law, we bring judgment upon ourselves (2:16, 21; 3:11; Acts 13:39; Rom. 8:3). 3:22 | The law does not make us sinners; it reveals that we already are sinners. Paul’s words illustrate that all humanity is trapped (confined) in sin (Rom. 3:20; 7:7, 9). 3:23–25 | In the Greco-Roman world, a guardian prepared a child for maturity. Once the youth came of age, he no longer needed the guardian nor had any responsibility to the guardian, although the two might remain friends. Similarly, the law prepared Israel for the coming of Jesus Christ—the ultimate fulfillment of the law. 3:24 | In light of the previous verses, Paul’s audience might ask: Does the law’s inability to bring life mean that the law was and is useless? Not at all. The law was put in charge as our tutor to lead us to Christ. In other words, the law is like a straight edge to show us how crooked we are—and to highlight our need for a Savior. 3:26–29 | Paul specifies the dimensions of the family of God: its height (3:26)—the family reaches up to the very throne of God in heaven; its depth (3:27)—the family reaches down into baptism
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as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. Now I say that the heir, as long as he is a child, does not differ at all from a slave, though he is master of all, 2 but is under guardians and stewards until the time appointed by the father. 3 Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world. 4 But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born a of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” 7 Therefore you
in Christ, forever loved and accepted in Him; its width (3:28)—the family is wide enough to bring natural enemies together (Col. 3:10); and its length (3:29)—the family is long enough to trace its ancestry back to Abraham. All who come to Christ by faith become members of this family. 3:26 | God now includes us all as sons and daughters. Everyone who believes in Jesus for salvation is part of God’s family: brothers and sisters to one another and co-heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17). 3:28 | In Christ, all racial barriers to salvation are abolished; there is neither Jew nor Greek. In Christ, all social barriers to salvation are abolished; there is neither slave nor free. In Christ, all gender barriers to salvation are abolished; there is neither male nor female (Col. 3:10, 11). Every believer has equal standing before God. 3:29 | Paul sums up all of chapter 3 by reiterating his thesis: the heirs of the promise of Abraham are all those who belong to Christ by faith—and faith alone. 4:1, 2 | In the context of the day, despite his position as an heir, a child was as a slave—with no rights in the household—until the father decided it was time for that child to enter into the rights of his inheritance. Likewise, the law functioned as a guardian for God’s people until the appointed time determined by God the Father. The coming of Christ freed believers to receive their spiritual inheritance and live as mature sons and daughters of God. 4:3 | The phrase elements of the world comes from a Greek word that signifies a row or list of items. The word was also used of the letters of the alphabet. The law treats people as infants, telling them what to eat, what to wear, and where to go. Such legalism produces spiritual immaturity and leaves God’s children in bondage (Col. 2:8). 4:4 | Figuratively speaking, God’s calendar had a day with a big star on it—when the time was right for Christ to be sent forth into this world (Isa. 7:14; Matt. 1:25; John 1:14; Rom. 1:3; Phil. 2:7). Jesus was born under the law so that He could fulfill every claim and demand of the law on our behalf (Matt. 5:17–19; Luke 2:21, 27). He fulfilled the moral law in His life and the ceremonial law in His death (Rom. 8:3, 4). 4:5 | In Paul’s day, some 60 million slaves lived in the Roman Empire. When someone bought a slave, the buyer could either own and use the slave or set the slave free. When God purchases or redeems people through Christ, He does so in order to set them free (3:13; Matt. 20:28). Because we are not natural children of God, we can become sons and daughters only by divine adoption (John 1:12; Eph. 1:5).
are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of a God through Christ. Fears for the Church 8 But then, indeed, when you did not know God, you served those which by nature are not gods. 9 But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage? 10 You observe days and months and seasons and years. 11 I am afraid for you, lest I have labored for you in vain. 12 Brethren, I urge you to become like me, for I became like you. You have not injured me at all. 13 You know that because of physical infirmity I preached the gospel to you at the first. 14 And my trial which was in my flesh you did not despise or reject, but you received me as an angel of God, even as 4:4 aOr made 4:7 aNU-Text reads through God and omits through Christ.
4:6, 7 | Although a human father cannot give his own nature to an adopted child, God can (Rom. 8:9, 14–16). The Holy Spirit, whom God places within us at the moment of salvation, confirms us as God’s children and stirs us to cry, Abba, Father! This term is found only two other times in the NT (Mark 14:36; Rom. 8:15) and means “dearest Father.” It is the Bible’s greatest argument against legalism. 4:6 | When we receive Christ, His Spirit takes up residence in the core of our being, giving us an internal power that we never had before and transforming our hearts from hateful and rebellious to loving and obedient. Our hearts control our words and actions (Prov. 4:23; Rom 5:5). 4:7 | When a person is saved, the law moves to the side and love moves to the center. The believer is no longer enslaved to the harsh master of sin (4:1) but becomes a mature son or daughter of God. This shift in a person’s essence from slave to son with full rights (heir of God) is immediate, although believers often do not understand it until later in their Christian experience (Matt. 22:37–40; Rom. 13:10; 1 Cor. 13:11; 2 Cor. 5:17). 4:8–11 | Paul is shocked that the Galatian believers would turn again to legalism (weak and beggarly elements), slipping back into the bondage from which Christ had freed them. Fearful that his ministry to them has been meaningless, Paul pleads with the Galatians to choose the liberty that is theirs in Christ (3:1–3; Rom. 14:5; Col. 2:16, 20; 1 Thess. 3:5; Heb. 7:18). 4:12 | Paul urges the Galatians to become like him (1 Cor. 11:1)—free from the rites, rituals, rules, and regulations of the law (2:19). Ironically, the Judaizers were trying to subject the Galatians to the very laws that Paul had abandoned (Phil. 3:7–9) in order to win the Galatians to Christ. Paul’s sense of urgency came from the fact that he knew the misery of being in bondage to Jewish legalism (5:1). 4:13 | Apparently, Paul had either become seriously ill while in Galatia or had gone there to recuperate. Still, he preached the gospel (1 Cor. 2:3; 2 Cor. 2:5; 2 Tim. 3:10). Some believe that he contracted malaria while traveling and therefore decided to go to the higher area of Galatia to recover. Others speculate that his problem was an eye disease that caused pus and drainage to disfigure his face (2 Cor. 12:7–9), which could be supported by 4:15 and 6:11. 4:14, 15 | Paul’s physical affliction was not only a trial to him but it repulsed others. Despite his unattractiveness, the Galatians received Paul as they would have received Christ—with great joy.
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Christ Jesus. What then was the blessing you enjoyed? For I bear you witness that, if possible, you would have plucked out your own eyes and given them to me. 16 Have I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth? 17 They zealously court you, but for no good; yes, they want to exclude you, that you may be zealous for them. 18 But it is good to be zealous in a good thing always, and not only when I am present with you. 19 My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you, 20 I would like to be present with you now and to change my tone; for I have doubts about you. 15
Two Covenants 21 Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law? 22For it is written that Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman, the other by a freewoman. 23But he who was of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and he of
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the freewoman through promise, 24 which things are symbolic. For these are the a two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar— 25 for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children— 26 but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all. 27 For it is written:
“Rejoice, O barren, You who do not bear! Break forth and shout, You who are not in labor! For the desolate has many more children Than she who has a husband.” a 28 Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise. 29But, as he who was born according to the flesh then persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, even 4:15 aNU-Text reads Where. 4:24 aNU-Text and M-Text omit the. 4:27 aIsaiah 54:1
© 2014 COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL 4:16 | Paul valued the friendship of the Galatians, but he would not compromise the truth just to keep them happy. The purity of the gospel was more important than their friendship. Paul loved the Galatians enough to tell them the truth (Prov. 27:6). 4:17 | One of the first signs of legalism is its attempt to separate its adherents from any past relationships. Through hypocrisy and deceit, the false teachers hoped to lure (zealously court) and isolate the Galatians from Paul’s influence (Matt. 23:15). Their real objective was to maintain control and keep the Galatian believers in bondage. 4:18 | Zeal is not wrong, but it must be directed toward a noble goal. Paul wanted the Galatians to be zealous for the gospel—not for him, and especially not for the Judaizers and their legalism. 4:19, 20 | In an epistle that begins without any affectionate greeting, Paul uses a term of particular fondness not found in his other epistles—my little children—to demonstrate the depth of his feeling for the Galatians. The parental image is repeated in the phrase for whom I labor in birth again as Paul transfers the sacrificial pain of delivering children to his relationship with the Galatians (1 Cor. 4:15). 4:19 | The Greek word for formed, morphoo means “essential form” rather than “outward shape.” Having Christ in us ought to change our inward essence, not merely our outward behaviors. If a religious system does not produce the image of Christ in the lives of its followers, it is not truly Christian (Rom. 13:14; Col. 2:6). 4:20 | Paul does not regret what he wrote but regrets the necessity of his harsh tone. The Galatians were in a fearful place, and Paul wrote severe words because they were in such peril. 4:21 | Many people find legalism satisfying; it gives them a sense of control and lets them feel superior to others. The irony is that they fail to hear the message of the law, even as they try to obey it. 4:22, 23 | When Abraham and Sarah failed to have a child, Sarah plotted to get a legal son by her servant Hagar. Ishmael was the product of that human effort (Gen. 16:15; 21:2). But God simply waited until the couple was so old that the miraculous nature of Isaac’s birth could not be questioned. 4:22 | Bondwoman refers to a female slave. Hagar was Sarah’s maidservant (Gen. 16:1, 2). In the days of the OT patriarchs, it was common for a barren woman to give her maidservant to her husband to produce an heir, though such a practice was never God’s intention.
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4:23–31 | The birth of Ishmael (he who was of the bondwoman) illustrates religious self-effort and works-righteousness. Sarah and Abraham feared that God was unable to keep His covenant, so they contrived a way to help fulfill the promise. This analogy was shocking—the Judaizers claimed to be sons of Isaac, but Paul’s point is clear: clinging to the law instead of inheritance through Christ demonstrates that they are not the true sons of promise. 4:23 | The birth of Isaac (he of the freewoman) illustrates the way of faith—God’s way as demonstrated by the Galatian converts. Ishmael’s birth was according to the flesh, but Isaac’s was through promise. The scheming to conceive was the real issue, not the differing social castes of Hagar and Sarah (Gen. 17:15–19; 18:10; 21:1; Rom. 4:19–22; 9:7, 8). 4:24, 25 | The three aspects of the covenant of the law referred to here represent the futile system of self-sufficiency and worksreligion. Hagar, as a slave, symbolizes the bondage that comes from the law. Mount Sinai represents the birthplace of the law, and the earthly Jerusalem is the home of those still under bondage. 4:26, 27 | The Jerusalem which now is refers to the place where Christ was crucified, but the Jerusalem above is the place where He reigns. The heavenly Jerusalem is the eternal center of freedom, and the destiny and hope of all who are saved. 4:27, 28 | The analogy continues: miraculous life has come where none was expected. The Gentile believers are the true children of the Lord, miraculously born from barrenness—children of promise like Isaac. 4:27 | These words from Isaiah 54:1, originally written to cheer the Jewish exiles in Babylon, testify that the Galatian converts are citizens of the “Jerusalem above” (4:26) and describe the joy Sarah felt when she gave birth to Isaac. 4:28 | Just as Isaac’s birth was a product of faith and not of works, so Christ is formed in our hearts the same way: by faith (3:29; Rom. 9:7, 8; Acts 3:25). Now Gentiles and Jews alike can be heirs of God and members of the household of Abraham (Rom. 4:16). 4:29 | Ishmael hated Isaac. Historically, Ishmael’s descendants (the Arabs) have hated Isaac’s descendants (the Jews). Religiously, the Jewish legalists (the symbolic descendants of Ishmael) persecuted Paul specifically and Christians generally (the symbolic descendants of Isaac, born according to the Spirit). Spiritually,
Freedom in Christ Galatians 5:1
When Jesus preached in a synagogue in His hometown of Nazareth, He identified Himself as the one in whom Isaiah’s words would be fulfilled: “The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, because He has anointed Me . . . to proclaim liberty to the captives . . . , to set at liberty those who are oppressed” (Isa. 61:1, 2; Luke 4:18). “Captives” implies incarceration, while “oppressed” suggests bondage to a cruel master. According to Jesus, anyone who sins is held captive by sin, and according to Paul, “all have sinned” (Rom. 3:23). Therefore, biblically speaking, all human beings are enslaved to sin—except those whom the Son of God has made free (John 8:32–36). In Galatians 5:1, Paul exhorts: “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled with a yoke of bondage.” There are only two ways to break the bonds of slavery to sin—and Christ has accomplished both. A captive or slave can find freedom through death or be purchased out of slavery by a new master. In Christ, both death to sin and life to a new Master are accomplished (Rom. 6:4). Those who have died to the old way of life are now the servants of the One who purchased us out of the marketplace of sin with the cost of His own life—and we have become His spiritual slaves as a result. Therefore, slavery is not the issue. Rather, the issue is to whom or what one is enslaved. Ironically, as Jesus Himself said, once we are set free by knowledge of the truth, we are free indeed, all the while being slaves to Christ. Being set free from slavery to sin is to be liberated from captivity and oppression into freedom in Christ. This is what enables His followers to obey Him. When Paul speaks of not being saddled with “a yoke of bondage” (5:1), he is using an agricultural metaphor that would have been familiar to his audience. “Yoke” reminds us of Jesus’ invitation in Matthew 11:28–30: “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden. . . . For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Jesus’ statement also draws attention to the fact that the people of God are no longer under the bondage of the law. Jesus’ hearers were burdened by the yoke of Jewish religious requirements: “burdens, hard to bear, [laid] on men’s shoulders” (Matt. 23:4). Oxen under the yoke and harness are not free. Neither are human beings who are bound by laws they cannot possibly keep by their own power. The law was a temporary “tutor” (attendant or guardian) to keep the immature in line until they encountered the life-giving Spirit of God in Jesus Christ (3:24). Once the Spirit enters in, the law is dismissed, and the Spirit takes over as Guide and Counselor, leading the Christian to “[do] the will of God from the heart” (Eph. 6:6). Those who walk freely in Christ live under the control of the Holy Spirit, who provides the very kind of life that the law pointed to but could never produce. By the Spirit, they also learn that liberty (freedom) is not license. We are not set free in order to have the prerogative to do whatever we want but the power to do what we ought. True spiritual freedom means that we submit our own desires to that which is best for others: “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify. Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being” (1 Cor. 10:23, 24). This is the way of liberty—the way of freedom in Christ.
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For Further Reading: 5:13; Ps. 146:5–7; Rom. 8:4; 1 Cor. 7:22; 9:19–21; 2 Cor. 3:17; Phil. 2:13; James 1:25.
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so it is now. Nevertheless what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.” a 31 So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free. 30
Christian Liberty Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, a and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. 2 Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. 3And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law. 4You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. 5For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. 6For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.
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not come from Him who calls you. 9 A little leaven leavens the whole lump. 10 I have confidence in you, in the Lord, that you will have no other mind; but he who troubles you shall bear his judgment, whoever he is. 11 And I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why do I still suffer persecution? Then the offense of the cross has ceased. 12 I could wish that those who trouble you would even cut themselves off! 13 For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” a 15 But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another! Walking in the Spirit 16 I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are
Love Fulfills the Law 7 You ran well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? 8 This persuasion does
4:30 aGenesis 21:10 5:1 aNU-Text reads For freedom Christ has made us free; stand fast therefore. 5:14 aLeviticus 19:18
Ishmael represents the flesh, which wars against our new nature (5:17; 2 Cor. 5:17; Eph. 6:10–13). 4:30 | God commanded Abraham to banish Hagar and Ishmael. That harsh reality symbolizes the truth that law and grace cannot be mixed in a believer’s life. Our salvation comes entirely by grace through faith, and those who teach justification by works should be cast out, just as Hagar and Ishmael were (Gen. 21:10; Rom. 8:5–8). 4:31 | As children of the freewoman—children of faith—we do not work for the blessing; we work from the blessing. We do not live righteous lives and serve God so that we might be blessed but because we have already been blessed. 5:1 | When the Galatians trusted Christ, they were freed from the law’s yoke of bondage—in which people try to gain God’s favor by carefully heeding His rules—and could accept Christ’s invitation to rest (Matt. 11:29, 30; Acts 15:10). It seems that our default position is to try to work our way to salvation, expecting reward for being good and doing good. But no matter how many laws we keep, we will still fall short (Rom. 3:23; James 2:10). In contrast, Christ’s message, which Paul restates here, is that salvation is a gift—by grace alone (Eph. 2:8, 9). We are saved by grace through faith, and we live the Christian life the same way. 5:2 | The sacrifice of Jesus was perfect and complete, but it cannot benefit (profit) a person who trusts in something else. “Christ will provide unlimited help to those who place their undivided trust in him, but no help at all to those who bypass his saving work” (F. F. Bruce). 5:3 | By turning to one element of the law (circumcision), the whole law had to be kept perfectly in order to merit salvation—and such perfection was impossible (3:11). 5:4 | Fallen from grace means “fallen out of the sphere of grace” or “to have lost one’s grasp of grace.” When we fall from grace, we do not lose our salvation; however, we do close the door to Christian growth and God’s blessing, becoming estranged from Him. 5:6 | Christianity is faith working through love, not the flesh working through self-effort. Paul’s letters often describe the correct relationship between faith and works: good works are the product of faith, not a substitute for it (5:14; Eph. 3:8; Titus 3:8).
5:7–11 | False teachers plagued the church in Paul’s day, and they will continue to multiply as we move toward the end times (1 Tim. 4:1, 2; 2 Pet. 2:1). Paul lists five things we should know about false teachers: (1) they contradict the truth (5:7); (2) they are contrary to God (5:8); (3) they contaminate the church (5:9); (4) their condemnation is certain (5:10); (5) they criticize teachers of the truth (5:11). 5:8 | The false teachers were misusing the OT to prove their arguments, but Paul is clear that the doctrine of legalism does not come from God or the OT. Every false teacher—even the devil himself—tries to use the Bible to support his or her heresy (Matt. 4:5, 6). 5:9 | Throughout the Bible leaven is often a symbol of corruption that spreads powerfully and secretly until it permeates everything (Matt. 16:6, 12). Paul cautions that false doctrine can enter a church and be absorbed into every area until it takes control of the entire body. 5:10 | After expressing confidence that the Galatians will ultimately choose the right path, Paul promises that those who had troubled them would face the judgment of God. False teachers incur stricter judgment because they lead people into sin (2 Pet. 2:1–3, 9). 5:13 | The phrase opportunity for the flesh comes from a word used to describe a base of operations for an attack upon the enemy. Paul’s imagery is vivid: we should never use our freedom as a beachhead or springboard to indulge the flesh and be lured into sin. Instead, our Redeemer frees us to serve one another. We are saved to serve! 5:14 | When he says the law is fulfilled, Paul is not attempting to trivialize the law but is making a statement about the power and significance of love. Love both summarizes and fulfills the entire moral law of God (Rom. 13:9, 10). 5:15 | The progression of the words here is significant: bite . . . devour . . . consumed. Instead of living in loving unity, the Galatian churches were moving from dissension to destruction. Left unchecked, selfish controversies and petty disagreements divide a church and harm its testimony. 5:16, 17 | The flesh and the Spirit are so contrary to one another
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Five Things to Know About False Teachers • 5:7–12 Paul speaks out against false teachers in the strongest of language. Here are five things we should know about people who try to subvert our faith: 1. They contradict the truth (5:7). False teachers plagued the church in Paul’s day, and they continue to multiply as we move toward the end times (1 Tim. 4:1, 2; 2 Peter 2:1). In order to protect ourselves and each other from error, we must know the truth and be able to discern falsehood. 2. They are contrary to God (5:8). The Galatians were not called by God to legalism and the law. False teachers used the OT in their attempt to undermine Paul’s teaching. Every cultist and false teacher tries to use the Bible to support his or her heresy. 3. They contaminate the church (5:9). Paul says that when false doctrine enters a church, it will begin permeating every area of the fellowship until it takes control of the entire body. This has been the experience of every church, college, and seminary that has ultimately strayed from the truth of God’s Word. 4. Their condemnation is certain (5:10). After expressing his confidence that the Galatians will ultimately choose the right path, Paul promises that those who have troubled them will face the judgment of God (2 Pet. 2:2, 3, 9). 5. They criticize teachers of truth (5:11). John R. W. Stott wrote in The Message of Galatians, “The gospel is grievously offensive to the pride of men. It tells them that they are . . . under the wrath and condemnation of God, that they can do nothing to save themselves or secure their salvation, and that only through Christ crucified can they be saved. If we preach this gospel, we shall arouse ridicule and opposition.” Keep this list close. As we approach the coming of Christ and the end of this age, we will need it.
contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, a fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, a drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time
past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, 23 faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. 24 And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
that walking in the Spirit automatically excludes walking in the flesh. Although believers still experience fleshly desires, they will battle those desires rather than repeatedly indulging them. Over time, a Christian should increasingly bear the fruit of the Spirit and be more successful in his or her battle against sin (Rom. 7:15–18). 5:16 | Walk is in the present tense, indicating a way of life. To walk in the Spirit is to have a daily habit of continual obedience. Paul challenges us to keep moving in the enabling power and work of the Holy Spirit. 5:17, 18 | Freedom is not unrestrained behavior. A life of doing whatever we want, whenever we want, is in reality a life of bondage rather than freedom. 5:18 | To be led by the Spirit implies that we are allowing ourselves to be led. As we invite the Holy Spirit to direct us, He enables us to defeat the power of the flesh more and more so we can walk in the way of freedom and righteousness (Rom. 8:14). 5:19–21 | The works of the flesh fall into three categories: (1) sensual sins (5:19), (2) spiritual sins (5:20a), and (3) social sins (5:20b, 21). These wicked deeds are clearly seen—evident to the eye and performed out in the open. 5:20, 21 | Notice that most works of the flesh are social sins. It is in our personal relationships that the flesh most often appears. 5:20 | Idolatry is the act of worshiping anything other than God. We are created to worship God, love people, and use things. Too often we use people, love self, and worship things.
5:21 | By adding the phrase those who practice such things, Paul wants readers to understand that this is merely a short catalogue of common sins, not an exhaustive list. Paul does not say that anyone who has ever done any of these things will be excluded from heaven. Rather, those who have a habit of sin are excluded from the kingdom of God because they were never really included— they were never truly saved (1 Cor. 6:9; Eph. 5:5; Rev. 22:14, 15). 5:22, 23 | Paul lists nine character traits that the Holy Spirit produces in a believer’s life. Jesus Christ is the supreme example of every spiritual quality, having embodied the fruit of the Spirit perfectly because each one is inextricably linked to who He is. The list of spiritual fruit falls into three categories: the upward qualities (love, joy, peace); the outward qualities (longsuffering, kindness, goodness); and the inward qualities (faithfulness, gentleness, self-control). See the article “The Gifts and Fruit of the Spirit” on page 1589. 5:22 | Calling these Spirit-produced characteristics fruit indicates beauty, spontaneity, quietness, and growth instead of effort, labor, strain, and toil. The use of the singular (fruit) indicates that there is a unity and coherence in the outworking of these virtues. 5:24, 25 | Victory comes through surrender to Christ, not selfeffort. Because our flesh has already been crucified and we have already received the Spirit, Paul urges us to live in our practice what we already are in principle (2:20; Rom. 6:13). 5:26 | Walking in the Spirit leads to helpfulness and service, not to provoking one another, pride, or conceit. Such characteristics are incompatible with the fruit of the Spirit (5:22, 23).
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5:19 aNU-Text omits adultery. 5:21 aNU-Text omits murders.
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THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT • 5:22, 23 Fruit
As modeled by or through Christ
The greatest of all virtues (1 Cor. 13:13), love is the power that moves us to respond to someone’s needs with no expectation of reward.
John 13:12–17, 34; 15:12; Rom. 5:8; Eph. 5:2
An inward hope and exuberance in spite of outward circumstances. Joy differs from happiness, which relies on favorable circumstances.
John 15:11; 16:20–22; Phil. 4:4
Both a supernatural calm amid chaos and the ability to bring harmony to divided factions.
John 14:27; Heb. 12:14
The quiet willingness to accept irritating or painful situations.
Luke 23:34; Col. 3:12
Generosity and consideration toward others.
Eph. 4:32; Titus 3:4
6:10; Acts 10:38
Enduring loyalty and trustworthiness (1 Thess. 5:24; Rev. 2:10).
The power to control your reactions to difficult people and situations (Titus 3:2). It should not be confused with weakness.
The ability to restrain inappropriate passions and appetites.
Matt. 26:53; 1 Cor. 9:25
Rom. 3:3, 4; 1 Cor. 1:9; 2 Cor.1:18
© 2014 6 COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL Bear and Share the Burdens Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. 5 For each one shall bear his own load.
Be Generous and Do Good 6 Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches. 7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. 8 For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. 9 And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all,
6:1 | The role of those who are spiritual is to serve in humility, not to correct in pride. 6:2 | Although ultimately God bears our burdens (Ps. 55:22; 1 Pet. 5:7), He does some of His best work through people. Typically, burdens are exceptionally heavy loads. When we bear . . . another’s burden, helping them shoulder the oppression of temptation or pride or spiritual failure, we are doing the work of God and fulfilling the “law of Christ” (5:14; John 13:34; 15:12). 6:3 | To pridefully think we are something—either too important to inconvenience ourselves or better than someone else—often keeps us from sacrificial service to one another (Rom. 12:3; Phil. 2:3–8). 6:5 | The word used here for bear describes a soldier’s backpack and refers to each believer’s personal responsibility. As we give help to and receive help from one another, we must not neglect our own responsibilities before God, because we will one day give account to God only for what we have done (Rom. 14:12). This is a warning against spiritual laziness and an exhortation toward personal responsibility. 6:6 | A pastor should not be expected to labor in the secular world while fulfilling the ministry of the Word. He should reap the financial support of his congregation as he sows the good seed of the gospel (1 Cor. 9:11; 1 Tim. 5:17, 18).
6:7 | The universal proverb here—“You reap what you sow!”—has four underlying principles: (1) The principle of investment: You reap if you sow. (2) The principle of identity: You reap what you sow. (3) The principle of increase: You reap more than you sow. (4) The principle of interval: You reap later than you sow. Although Satan is the ultimate deceiver, we can deceive ourselves and mock God when we knowingly sin and act as if there is no penalty to be paid (Jer. 17:9). Before God, there are no small sins. 6:8 | According to John Stott in The Message of Galatians, sowing to the flesh means “to pander to it, to cuddle and stroke it, instead of crucifying it. Every time we allow our mind to harbor a grudge, nurse a grievance, entertain an impure fantasy, or wallow in self-pity, we are sowing to the flesh. Every time we linger in bad company whose . . . influence we know we cannot resist, every time we lie in bed when we ought to be up and praying, every time we read pornographic literature, every time we take a risk which strains our self-control, we are sowing to the flesh. Some Christians sow to the flesh every day and wonder why they do not reap holiness. Holiness is a harvest; whether we reap it or not depends almost entirely on what and where we sow.” 6:9 | In difficult times we must concentrate on sowing the seed— doing good—even when no harvest seems imminent. We must
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Restoration • 6:1 In a single verse, Paul describes the act of restoration (6:1b), the aim of restoration (6:1c), and the attitude of restoration (6:1d). The fallen brother pictured here—the one who is “overtaken” in sin—is someone who was tripped up or surprised by transgression rather than being deliberately disobedient.
• The act of restoration. Although we are not to search for sin in the lives of fellow believers, we are to acknowledge it with humility when it becomes evident and reach out in love. Paul advises us to go to our fallen brother or sister and privately confront the fault with the goal of restoring him or her to wholeness (Matt. 18). The restorer must be “spiritual”—someone who walks according to the Spirit (5:16, 22–25) rather than functioning according to the flesh. • The aim of restoration. While the legalist seeks to exploit the fallen one, the loving brother is concerned for the fallen person’s good. “Restore” (from a Greek word used to describe the setting of a broken bone and the mending of broken nets) describes renewed harmony between quarreling factions. When confronting another believer who is in sin, we should aim for repentance from sin and restored relationships. • The attitude of restoration. The Spirit-led believer approaches restoration in a spirit of meekness and love. Martin Luther describes this attitude well: “Brethren . . . if any man be overtaken with a fault, do not aggravate his grief, do not scold him, do not condemn him, but lift him up and gently restore his faith. If you see a brother despondent over a sin he has committed, run up to him, reach out your hand to him, comfort him with the gospel and embrace him like a mother.” Finally, Paul urges the spiritual restorer to “consider yourself”—to be aware that we could just as easily fall into the same temptation ourselves (Prov. 16:18; 1 Cor. 10:12). The illustration reminds us that no one is free from the pitfalls of sin (James 3:2; 1 John 1:8, 10). Thankfully, because of Christ, no believer is beyond the possibility of restoration, either.
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Glory Only in the Cross 11 See with what large letters I have written to you with my own hand! 12 As many as desire to make a good showing in the flesh, these would compel you to be circumcised, only that they may not suffer persecution for the cross of Christ. 13 For not even those who are circumcised keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh. 14 But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom a the world
continue to sow and not lose heart because Almighty God has promised that in “due season we shall reap.” Our responsibility is to sow the seed, but the harvest belongs to God (Luke 18:1; 1 Cor. 15:58; 2 Thess. 3:13; Heb. 6:10; James 5:7). 6:10 | Even though doing good to unbelievers is important, the first test of our love for God is our love for our brothers and sisters in the household of faith (Matt. 5:16; 1 John 3:14; 4:20, 21). If we do not show love to the body of Christ, we do not truly have the love of God in our hearts. 6:11–18 | Paul provides five principles for presenting the truth: we must tell it convincingly (6:11), carefully (6:12–18), clearly (6:16), confidently (6:17), and conclusively (6:18). 6:11 | The large letters may have been due to failing eyesight (4:13–15), but more likely they were used to emphasize Paul’s concern and love for the Galatians. Some scholars believe that up to this point, Paul was dictating the letter but here took the pen himself to write his final personal greetings. 6:13 | Legalists boast about what they have done for God instead
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has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation. 15
Blessing and a Plea 16 And as many as walk according to this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God. 17 From now on let no one trouble me, for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus. 18 Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen. 6:14 aOr by which (the cross)
of what Christ has done for them. The Judaizers chose to obey the commandments about circumcision as proof of their holiness but did not keep other Jewish laws. 6:14 | To boast means “to glory in, trust in”—to live for. In Greek literature, characters “glory in” what gives them the most delight. Paul’s joy in the cross was so great that it excluded all other kinds of boasting (Rom. 6:2–6; 1 Cor. 1:23–25; Phil. 3:4–7). 6:16 | A personal experience with God is what makes one a true Israelite. Gentile converts had no need to be Jews in the flesh; they were already “Israelites” in the truest sense of that term because they were in Christ (Rom. 9:6; 1 Cor. 10:18). 6:17 | In contrast to the Judaizers (6:12), Paul believed and preached the gospel amid great suffering. If the physical scars he wore (the marks of the Lord Jesus) were not enough to recommend him, nothing ever could (2 Cor. 11:24, 25). 6:18 | The word brethren is found in no other benediction by Paul. It is a final reminder to the Galatians of Paul’s deep love for them.