Wednesday, January 01, 2020

The Gospel in Paul's letter to the Galatians, part 3

* a continuation of my personal study in the letter to the Galatians

Galatians 3 Summary
Those who have faith in Christ Jesus, not the ones who subject themselves to the law and rely on observance of the law, are the children of Abraham, who are counted righteous by faith and are heirs according to the promise given him.

  • vv. 1-5. The key problem which Paul addresses in this letter seems to be the influence which some who might be called the circumcision group have exerted upon these Christians to go back to observance of the Law as a means of obtaining righteousness. The problems with this are many, as Paul notes by a series of questions:
    • Has someone cast a spell upon you to lead you astray so quickly? 
    • How did you receive the Spirit: by observing the law or by believing what you heard?
    • Having begun with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain eternal life by human effort?
    • Was your suffering for the sake of the gospel for nothing?
    • Did God work miracles among you and give you his Spirit because of your observance of the law or because of your faith in Jesus?
  • vv. 6-9. Abraham, the father of the nation of Israel, was not counted righteous because of his observance of the law but because of his faith in God (see Genesis 15). Spiritually speaking, those who believe the gospel are also Abraham's children, for the gospel was announced even in Abraham's day when God declared to him, "All nations will be blessed through you." (Genesis 12) Abraham was blessed and God will bless those who follow in Abraham's footsteps of faith.
  • vv. 10-14. The blessing of God—righteousness and justification—comes through faith, and the curse of God comes through the law for those who do not keep the law perfectly. **Think of the "curse" as the opposite of "blessing", not a magical incantation or spell. Most importantly, verse 13 reminds us, "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us." Another way of saying this is found in 2 Corinthians 5:21, "God made him who had no sin to be a sin offering for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." In doing this, we Gentiles receive the blessing of Abraham through faith in Jesus Christ.
  • vv. 15-18. The covenant which God made with Abraham and the promise which comes through that covenant was not replaced by the law. The law given to Moses does not set aside the previous covenant and promise.
  • vv. 19-25. What is the purpose of the law, then? 
    • The law was given "because of transgressions" (v. 19), which I take to mean that the law helped regulate the relationship between God and his people so that they might maintain practical holiness and adequately atone for their sins in order to continue drawing near to God in worship.
    • The law is not opposed to the promises of God because the law was never given as a means to impart life. The law recognizes that "the whole world is a prisoner of sin."
    • The law was "put in charge" until Christ came. Now that Christ has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law.
  • vv. 26-29. Those who have faith in Christ Jesus are sons of God, are baptized with Christ (identified with or belong to), and are Abraham's seed and heirs of the promise.

  • Since the law was given to mankind in recognition of our bondage and slavery to sin, we should recognize its limits (it cannot impart life) and seek to live by faith, giving thanks daily that Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law.
  • Man-centered religion seeks to obtain justification in the sight of God through self-effort and self-justification. This is a losing game! All efforts toward self-justification will ultimately fail.
  • Understanding the relationship, the covenant, and the promises between God and Abraham helps us who are Gentiles trusting in Christ by faith see where we too are his spiritual seed and recipients of the blessing given to him.
  • All who have placed saving faith in Jesus Christ are justified by him, baptized into him, clothed with him, and belong to him.

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