Trust in Christ, Not the Law

You crazy Galatians! Did someone put a hex on you? Have you taken leave of your senses? Something crazy has happened, for it’s obvious that you no longer have the crucified Jesus in clear focus in your lives. His sacrifice on the cross was certainly set before you clearly enough.

2-4 Let me put this question to you: How did your new life begin? Was it by working your heads off to please God? Or was it by responding to God’s Message to you? Are you going to continue this craziness? For only crazy people would think they could complete by their own efforts what was begun by God. If you weren’t smart enough or strong enough to begin it, how do you suppose you could perfect it? Did you go through this whole painful learning process for nothing? It is not yet a total loss, but it certainly will be if you keep this up!

5-6 Answer this question: Does the God who lavishly provides you with his own presence, his Holy Spirit, working things in your lives you could never do for yourselves, does he do these things because of your strenuous moral striving or because you trust him to do them in you? Don’t these things happen among you just as they happened with Abraham? He believed God, and that act of belief was turned into a life that was right with God.

7-8 Is it not obvious to you that persons who put their trust in Christ (not persons who put their trust in the law!) are like Abraham: children of faith? It was all laid out beforehand in Scripture that God would set things right with non-Jews by faith. Scripture anticipated this in the promise to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed in you.”

9-10 So those now who live by faith are blessed along with Abraham, who lived by faith—this is no new doctrine! And that means that anyone who tries to live by his own effort, independent of God, is doomed to failure. Scripture backs this up: “Utterly cursed is every person who fails to carry out every detail written in the Book of the law.”

11-12 The obvious impossibility of carrying out such a moral program should make it plain that no one can sustain a relationship with God that way. The person who lives in right relationship with God does it by embracing what God arranges for him. Doing things for God is the opposite of entering into what God does for you. Habakkuk had it right: “The person who believes God, is set right by God—and that’s the real life.” Rule-keeping does not naturally evolve into living by faith, but only perpetuates itself in more and more rule-keeping, a fact observed in Scripture: “The one who does these things [rule-keeping] continues to live by them.”

13-14 Christ redeemed us from that self-defeating, cursed life by absorbing it completely into himself. Do you remember the Scripture that says, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”? That is what happened when Jesus was nailed to the cross: He became a curse, and at the same time dissolved the curse. And now, because of that, the air is cleared and we can see that Abraham’s blessing is present and available for non-Jews, too. We are all able to receive God’s life, his Spirit, in and with us by believing—just the way Abraham received it.

15-18 Friends, let me give you an example from everyday affairs of the free life I am talking about. Once a person’s will has been ratified, no one else can annul it or add to it. Now, the promises were made to Abraham and to his descendant. You will observe that Scripture, in the careful language of a legal document, does not say “to descendants,” referring to everybody in general, but “to your descendant” (the noun, note, is singular), referring to Christ. This is the way I interpret this: A will, earlier ratified by God, is not annulled by an addendum attached 430 years later, thereby negating the promise of the will. No, this addendum, with its instructions and regulations, has nothing to do with the promised inheritance in the will.

18-20 What is the point, then, of the law, the attached addendum? It was a thoughtful addition to the original covenant promises made to Abraham. The purpose of the law was to keep a sinful people in the way of salvation until Christ (the descendant) came, inheriting the promises and distributing them to us. Obviously this law was not a firsthand encounter with God. It was arranged by angelic messengers through a middleman, Moses. But if there is a middleman as there was at Sinai, then the people are not dealing directly with God, are they? But the original promise is the direct blessing of God, received by faith.

21-22 If such is the case, is the law, then, an anti-promise, a negation of God’s will for us? Not at all. Its purpose was to make obvious to everyone that we are, in ourselves, out of right relationship with God, and therefore to show us the futility of devising some religious system for getting by our own efforts what we can only get by waiting in faith for God to complete his promise. For if any kind of rule-keeping had power to create life in us, we would certainly have gotten it by this time.

23-24 Until the time when we were mature enough to respond freely in faith to the living God, we were carefully surrounded and protected by the Mosaic law. The law was like those Greek tutors, with which you are familiar, who escort children to school and protect them from danger or distraction, making sure the children will really get to the place they set out for.

25-27 But now you have arrived at your destination: By faith in Christ you are in direct relationship with God. Your baptism in Christ was not just washing you up for a fresh start. It also involved dressing you in an adult faith wardrobe—Christ’s life, the fulfillment of God’s original promise.

In Christ’s Family

28-29 In Christ’s family there can be no division into Jew and non-Jew, slave and free, male and female. Among us you are all equal. That is, we are all in a common relationship with Jesus Christ. Also, since you are Christ’s family, then you are Abraham’s famous “descendant,” heirs according to the covenant promises.

Faith or Works of the Law

You foolish(A) Galatians!(B) Who has bewitched you?(C) Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified.(D) I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit(E) by the works of the law,(F) or by believing what you heard?(G) Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?[a] Have you experienced[b] so much in vain—if it really was in vain? So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles(H) among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard?(I) So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”[c](J)

Understand, then, that those who have faith(K) are children of Abraham.(L) Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.”[d](M) So those who rely on faith(N) are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.(O)

10 For all who rely on the works of the law(P) are under a curse,(Q) as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.”[e](R) 11 Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God,(S) because “the righteous will live by faith.”[f](T) 12 The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, “The person who does these things will live by them.”[g](U) 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law(V) by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.”[h](W) 14 He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus,(X) so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.(Y)

The Law and the Promise

15 Brothers and sisters,(Z) let me take an example from everyday life. Just as no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case. 16 The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed.(AA) Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,”[i](AB) meaning one person, who is Christ. 17 What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years(AC) later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise. 18 For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on the promise;(AD) but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise.

19 Why, then, was the law given at all? It was added because of transgressions(AE) until the Seed(AF) to whom the promise referred had come. The law was given through angels(AG) and entrusted to a mediator.(AH) 20 A mediator,(AI) however, implies more than one party; but God is one.

21 Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not!(AJ) For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law.(AK) 22 But Scripture has locked up everything under the control of sin,(AL) so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.

Children of God

23 Before the coming of this faith,[j] we were held in custody(AM) under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed.(AN) 24 So the law was our guardian until Christ came(AO) that we might be justified by faith.(AP) 25 Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.(AQ)

26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God(AR) through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ(AS) have clothed yourselves with Christ.(AT) 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free,(AU) nor is there male and female,(AV) for you are all one in Christ Jesus.(AW) 29 If you belong to Christ,(AX) then you are Abraham’s seed,(AY) and heirs(AZ) according to the promise.(BA)

Footnotes

  1. Galatians 3:3 In contexts like this, the Greek word for flesh (sarx) refers to the sinful state of human beings, often presented as a power in opposition to the Spirit.
  2. Galatians 3:4 Or suffered
  3. Galatians 3:6 Gen. 15:6
  4. Galatians 3:8 Gen. 12:3; 18:18; 22:18
  5. Galatians 3:10 Deut. 27:26
  6. Galatians 3:11 Hab. 2:4
  7. Galatians 3:12 Lev. 18:5
  8. Galatians 3:13 Deut. 21:23
  9. Galatians 3:16 Gen. 12:7; 13:15; 24:7
  10. Galatians 3:23 Or through the faithfulness of Jesus … 23 Before faith came