Galatians 3 Study Notes
3:1 Paul’s preaching Christ . . . crucified to the Galatians was so clear that he asked who had hypnotized them, causing them to lose the certainty they once had about the source of their salvation.
3:2-3 Paul asked questions about: (1) a key aspect of becoming a Christian, and (2) living as a Christian. Paul knew the Galatians would have to admit that the presence of the Spirit in their lives began with their believing what they heard (Rm 10:17). His second question was whether the Holy Spirit or the flesh was God’s intended means of sanctification.
|Greek pronunciation||[NAH mahss]|
|Uses in Galatians||32|
|Uses in the NT||194|
|Focus passage||Galatians 3:2-26|
The Greek noun nomos means custom, ordinance, or law. In the Greek OT, nomos is used to translate the Hebrew term torah 247 times, where it normally refers to the law of Moses in general or to specific laws. Over half of its occurrences in the NT are in Paul’s writings.
In Romans and Galatians, Paul fought the battle over law and grace in relation to salvation. Paul’s phrase ‘‘the works of the law’’ (v. 2) refers to the idea of a salvation based on keeping the law. Paul denied that a law-based righteousness, which is dependent on human effort instead of God’s grace and faith in Christ’s work, can save or sustain anyone. The law brings the knowledge of sin and makes everyone accountable to God (Rm 3:19-20; Gl 3:15-22). By showing unbelievers their sinfulness, the law acts as their guardian until they trust in Christ through faith and become sons of God (Gl 3:23-26).
3:4 The only other direct reference to suffering (did you experience so much) in Galatians is “being persecuted for the cross of Christ” (6:12). Paul appealed to the fact that whatever suffering the Galatians had gone through for the gospel of grace was now wasted. But if in fact it was for nothing implies that Paul believed his readers would come to their senses.
3:7-9 Those who have faith are Abraham’s spiritual sons and daughters, whether they are Jewish or Gentile by bloodline. Paul tied the example of Abraham’s justification by faith to God’s covenant promise to Abraham in Gn 12:3: All the nations will be blessed through you. That blessing (being justified by faith) is available to all nations (see Mt 28:19) through the gospel of Jesus, which the promise to Abraham foretold.
3:10 Not only is it impossible to be justified by the “works of the law” (2:16), but such a perspective actually brings a curse on people. According to Dt 27:26, everyone who does not continue observing every detail of the law is cursed.
3:11-12 Paul added Hab 2:4 to the example of Abraham being declared righteous . . . by faith (see notes at v. 6; Rm 1:17). Negatively, he quoted Lv 18:5 to show that since Scripture says righteousness is by faith, it is impossible to be righteous by keeping the law.
3:13 Since Paul’s readers were trying to be justified by the “works of the law” (2:16), they were already under its curse (see note at 3:10). Fortunately, Christ had redeemed those under such a curse by his crucifixion. Paul quoted Dt 21:23 to show that, by his being hung on a tree (the cross), Jesus was cursed in our place.
3:15 Paul made his point by using an illustration of a human will. When executed legally, such a document cannot be changed.
3:16-17 The use of the singular seed (Gk sperma) is Paul’s biblical basis for saying that Christ is the one who fulfilled God’s promises . . . to Abraham. However, the Jews are still the physical seed of Abraham, and those in Christ are his spiritual seed (v. 29). Because of the nature of a covenant (v. 15), the Mosaic law—and “the works of the law” (2:16)—cannot override the role of Christ in fulfilling the Abrahamic covenant or Abraham’s example of justifying faith.
3:18 The exalted position of the law with the Jewish teachers who had come to the Galatians did not fit the biblical teaching. God’s earlier promise given to Abraham was the proper basis for their spiritual inheritance.
3:19-20 The divine purpose of the law was to clarify sin until Christ (the Seed; see note at vv. 16-17) came. Acts 7:38 says that an angel was involved as a mediator (a “go-between”), which was needed because the law was a two-party contract, with both God and Israel responsible for keeping it. The Abrahamic covenant was a one-party contract, as seen in the way the Lord ratified the covenant as the only active party (Abram was asleep) in Gn 15:9-12. Such a covenant is unconditional.
3:21-23 Paul clarified that the law was never in conflict with God’s promises to Abraham. The law played the necessary role of convicting people of sin during the almost 1,500 years between Mount Sinai and the gospel of justification by faith in Jesus Christ. The law is pictured here as a jail cell.
3:24-25 Here the law is portrayed as a guardian. A guardian (Gk paidagogos) was a slave who took a young pupil for instruction and protected him from harm until he came of age. When the gospel of Christ came on the scene, the guardian role of the law was no longer needed.
3:27 On baptized into Christ, see Rm 6:3-4. On clothed with Christ, see Eph 4:20-24; Col 3:9-10. Paul used the image of a person emerging from the water after being baptized and putting on new clothes.
3:28 The equality and unity spoken of here is of a spiritual nature—in Christ. Paul had just discussed at length that the Jew has no spiritual advantage over the Greek (Gentile), and now he says the same equality is true for social and gender distinctions. No people group or gender is to be exalted above others.