The Judaizers that came in among the Galatian churches to pervert their understanding–whether they thought of it in these terms or not–believed in a simple principle: Do [this] and you will live.
However, that’s not the gospel and it wasn’t what Paul had taught them. He believed and taught: You live so do [this].
Eternal life required absolute perfection from the very beginning. In order for any one of us to obtain it, we must fulfill every commandment of God. If we break even one commandment, we have failed (James 2:10).
Frankly, we never stood a chance. We failed a long time ago when Adam sinned in the garden of Eden (Romans 5:12). Thankfully, Jesus Christ came to give us life through his atonement for our sins (Romans 5:15).
That’s the gospel. Christ gave us life. It’s not any more complicated than that and it should not be made so (2 Corinthians 11:3).
It’s a rather bizarre thing that Christians–that is, believers who profess we have fallen short of the glory of God and required Christ to come and give us life–would ever think that our actions (or works) might achieve, add to, or assist in obtaining eternal life and salvation. It’s like saying, “You live so do [this] so you might live.” Huh?
The reason we needed Christ is because we could not save ourselves since we could not reach perfection. So, Christ came and he saved. Does it make sense to teach we must do [this] in order to be saved while professing Jesus already saved?
It’s simply not logical. Maybe you don’t care about logic. Maybe you only care what the Bible teaches. Well, that’s great. But Paul’s arguments in Galatians 3 were meant to be logical. His point was that only the true gospel makes sense.
The gospel is logical (Galatians 3:1)
“O foolish Galatians…”
While Paul’s tone was one of frustration, this was not meant to be a mere insult. I believe there’s a sense of compassion in this letter. He felt sorry for them. To call them “foolish” was not to say they lacked intelligence. They just weren’t using their intelligence. When we are led away from the truth, well, stupid is as stupid does (1 Timothy 6:9).
Though we may think of Christianity as an emotional experience, we must rely heavily on knowledge. Emotions are too fleeting. They get us intro trouble. The Bible teaches knowledge is the way to avoid sin (Colossians 3:9-10). If we are ever led away from the true gospel of salvation by grace it will typically be, not by reason, but by emotional enticements.
“who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth…”
They were fascinated by the teachings of the Judaizers. Our nature loves doctrine that appeals, not only to our emotions, but our flesh (2 Timothy 4:2-4). The real problem with the Galatians was that they weren’t using their heads.
The gospel is logical according to our own experiences (Galatians 3:1-5)
“before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?”
Three times in the book of Acts, Christ was described as whom ye have crucified. Some, if not all, of the people being spoken to in those passages were not even there when Jesus was crucified. Yet, because of our sin, we have all crucified him. At the same time, we were also crucified with him (Galatians 2:20).
Have you ever heard a preacher describe in detail the pain and agony of Jesus on the cross? Have you ever heard the ringing of the hammers as they hit the nails that went into his hands? Have you heard his cries, sensed his tears, felt his pain, or perhaps seen the blood that dripped from his body? Those experiences prove the gospel is by grace through faith and not by works.
“Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?”
Our experience with both Christ and God the Father is made possible through the Spirit. The question Paul asked was, how did we receive the Spirit in the first place? His question was rhetorical and the correct answer is by the hearing of faith (Galatians 3:3).
As Paul would later write to the Ephesians, we begin dead in our sin (Ephesians 2:1). Therefore, if we are to experience Christ or believe in him we must first be brought to life by the Spirit (John 3:3,5). Can a dead man simply choose to live?
It is impossible to please God without faith (Hebrews 11:6). Faith is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). The Spirit must be with us in order to obtain its fruits. Therefore, we must first be brought to life and given faith by the Spirit before we can perform any good works that might please God. Of course, that would mean our own actions cannot begin this process (John 3:8).
“Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?”
Not only are our own works unable begin the process, we cannot complete it either. Even if we do walk worthy of our calling (Ephesians 4:1), it only because we were given faith by the grace of God. Furthermore, we believe it was Christ who saved.
The gospel is logical according to the scriptures (Galatians 3:6-14)
“Even as Abraham believed God…”
The Judaizers had likely used Abraham as an example for their case. They probably pointed out the fact that even Abraham, the forefather of Israel, was circumcised. It would stand to reason they must continue to be circumcised.
Paul turned the example of Abraham back around onto them. What happened before Abraham was circumcised? Well, he went where God told him to go. What happened before he went where God told him to go? He believed God. What happened before he believed God? Of course, God sovereignly chose him and called him.
The circumcision Abraham would later be commanded to do was meant to be an outward expression of his identity. The same could be said for many of the works the people of Israel were commanded to follow. Faith, on the other hand, is part of the inward identity which leads to believers doing the works which express the outward identity (Romans 2:28-29).
To put it another way, circumcision–which represents obedience and good works–came only after faith which came only after grace (Romans 4:8-11). It is not what we do that makes us righteous. It is God who makes us righteous (Luke 3:8).
In the example of Abraham, Paul told the Romans it was not his works which justified him before God (Romans 4:1-2). He was justified by his works in another sense (James 2:21-22), but not the kind of justification which saved him from his sins.
“Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham…
Just like Abraham, all who are born of the Spirit are heirs to the promise of the new covenant.
Paul answered the arguments before they were made (Galatians 3:15-22)
I love how Paul was able to anticipate arguments before anyone had the chance to make them. In this case, Paul knew someone would come along and say, “You might be right, Paul. Maybe Abraham was justified or saved by grace through faith, but that was only because he didn’t have the law of Moses yet. Once the law was given, we’re expected to follow it in order to be saved.”
Paul’s response is simple, if I may paraphrase: The gospel is superior to the law and always has been.
Though it be but a man’s covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disannulleth, or addeth thereto…
If two parties sign a contract with one another, is it legal to change or add to that contract after the fact? Of course not. That would defeat the purpose of the contract. The “new” covenant–or the gospel–is not really all that new. It was a promise God made long before even the law of Moses was given to Israel.
“the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ…”
When God first called Abraham away from his home, he not only made a temporal promise to him and his descendants, he also made a promise to bless all the families of the earth (Genesis 12:3). As Paul pointed out, God meant the gospel (Galatians 3:8).
In short, God made a promise to save by grace and supply his people faith long before the law was ever given.
“For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise…”
The law did not replace the gospel nor did the gospel replace the law. The law had another purpose. We were already sinners through Adam. There was no chance of us achieving perfection. Rather, the law was given because of our sin (Galatians 3:19). It was intended to restrain the people and their transgressions. It was never meant to give anyone life.
Paul made his argument personal (Galatians 3:23-29)
“Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ…”
Paul was no longer talking about Abraham or people who lived in the past. He began to speak directly to those in present. That law and those works they had been clinging to for the sake of eternal life was only intended to show us how wretched and sinful we truly are and how desperate we were for a Savior.
“But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster…”
We are ultimately justified by the blood of Christ (Romans 5:9). Christ shed his blood for those given to him by the Father (John 6:37). Those justified by blood will also be called the Spirit (Romans 8:30). That faith given to us by the Spirit will allow us to know the gospel, believe in it, and move into a life of discipleship (1 Corinthians 1:18). You live so do [this].