Galatians 3:1-14

By Faith, or by Works of the Law?

1 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? 1It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly 2portrayed as crucified.
2 Let me ask you only this: 3Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by 4hearing with faith?
3 Are you so foolish? 5Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by[a] the flesh?
4 6Did you suffer[b] so many things in vain--if indeed it was in vain?
5 Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and 7works miracles among you do so 8by works of the law, or by hearing with faith--
6 just as 9Abraham "believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness"?
7 Know then that it is 10those of faith who are 11the sons of Abraham.
8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that 12God would justify[c] the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, 13"In you shall all the nations be blessed."
9 So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

The Righteous Shall Live by Faith

10 For all who rely on works of the law are 14under a curse; for it is written, 15"Cursed be everyone who does not 16abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them."
11 Now it is evident that 17no one is justified before God by the law, for 18"The righteous shall live by faith."[d]
12 But the law is not of faith, rather 19"The one who does them shall live by them."
13 Christ 20redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us--for it is written, 21"Cursed is everyone who is hanged 22on a tree"--
14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might 23come to the Gentiles, so that 24we might receive 25the promised Spirit[e] through faith.

Galatians 3:1-14 Meaning and Commentary


In this chapter the apostle reproves the Galatians for their disobedience to the Gospel, and departure from it; confirms the doctrine of justification by faith, by various arguments; shows the use of the law, and the abrogation of it, and makes mention of several privileges which belong to believers in Christ. He begins with a sharp reproof of the Galatians, and represents them as foolish and bewitched, and charges them with disobedience to the truth of the Gospel, which is aggravated by the clearness of the Gospel ministry, in which a crucified Christ, and justification by him, had been so evidently set before them, Ga 3:1, and by the fruit and effect of it, they having received the Spirit by it, and not by the preaching of the law of works, Ga 3:2 and it still increased their folly, that whereas they had begun with the Spirit of God, and set out in a dependence on him and his grace, they seemed now as if they would end in a carnal and legal way, Ga 3:3. To which is added, the consideration of their having suffered many things for the sake of the Gospel, which must be suffered in vain should they relinquish the Gospel, though the apostle hoped otherwise of them, Ga 3:4, nay, they had not only received through the preaching of the Gospel the Spirit, and his graces, but even extraordinary gifts attended it, for the confirmation of it, Ga 3:5, so that this case of theirs was a very aggravated one, and they were guilty of great folly and madness: from hence the apostle passes to the main thing in dispute, the great truth of justification by faith in the righteousness of Christ, which these persons were departing from, and which he establishes by several arguments; and first from the instance and example of Abraham, who was justified by faith, as appears from that which he believed, being imputed to him as his justifying righteousness, Ga 3:6, and as many as are believers in Christ are his spiritual children, and so undoubtedly are justified the same way their father was, Ga 3:7, and particularly that the Gentiles are justified by faith is clear from the preaching of the Gospel to Abraham, and the promise made unto him, that in his seed all nations should be blessed; that is, with the blessing of justification, Ga 3:8. The conclusion of which instance and example is, that as faithful Abraham was blessed with a justifying righteousness through faith, so all that believe are blessed along with him with the same blessing, Ga 3:9, and that no man can be justified by the works of the law is certain, since the law is so far from justifying any on account of obedience to it, that it pronounces a curse upon all that do not perfectly and constantly fulfil it, Ga 3:10. And this is still further evident from a passage in the prophecy of Hab 2:4 which declares, that the just live by faith, or that those who are truly righteous are such who are justified by it, Ga 3:11. And this is illustrated by the law and faith being contrary; for if a just man lives by faith, then not by the law, for the law does not direct a man to believe, but to work, and to live by his works, Ga 3:12. And the apostle having spoken of the law as a cursing law, takes the opportunity of showing how believers are delivered from the curse of it, which is done by Christ's being made a curse for them; and that he was, appears from his being crucified and hanged on a tree; the ends of which were, that the same blessing of justification Abraham had, might come upon the Gentiles through Christ, and that they might by faith receive the promise of the Spirit, Ga 3:13,14 so that it is clear from hence, that the blessing of justification is through Christ's being made a curse, and is received by faith, and is not by the works of the law. The apostle next argues from the inheritance being by covenant, testament, or promise, and therefore not by the law: he observes, that a man's covenant or testament, when confirmed, can neither be disannulled, nor have anything added to it, and much less can the covenant or testament of God, confirmed of him in Christ, be disannulled by the law, or the promise in it be made of none effect by that which was several hundred years after a declaration of it to Abraham, to whom, and to whose seed, the promises were made; so that it unavoidably follows, that since the inheritance or blessing of life is by promise, as is clear from its being given to Abraham by promise, then it is not of the law, Ga 3:15-18. And whereas an objection might arise, if this be the case, of what use and service can the law be? to what purpose, or for what end, was that given? The apostle answers, that it was added because of transgressions; and that it was to endure until Christ should come, to whom the promise was made; and accordingly it was published in a very grand and solemn manner by angels, and was put into the hands of a mediator, Moses, who stood between God as one party, and the people of Israel as another, Ga 3:19,20. Moreover, as it might be further objected, that, according to this way of reasoning, the law is against the promises; the apostle replies in a way of detestation and abhorrence of any such thing, and by an argument from the insufficiency of the law to justify, since it cannot give life, Ga 3:21. And then proceeds to point out another use of the law, which is to conclude men under sin, or convince men of it, that they, seeing their need of righteousness and life by Christ might receive the promise of it through faith in him Ga 3:22, and so far were men from being justified by the law under the former dispensation, that they were kept under it as in a garrison, and shut up in it as in a prison, until Christ, the object of faith, was revealed, and released them, Ga 3:23, and was moreover as a rigid and severe schoolmaster; and so it continued until the times of Christ; and these therefore being the uses of the law, it is a clear case that justification is by faith, and not by that, Ga 3:24. Besides, Christ being now come, the Jews themselves are no more under this law as a schoolmaster; it is now abolished, and therefore there is no justification by it, Ga 3:25. And that this is the case of true believers in Christ is evident, because such are the children of God, and are taught and led by the Spirit of God, and are free, and not under the law as a schoolmaster, Ga 3:26. Besides, as they are baptized into Christ, they have put him on, as the Lord their righteousness, and so profess to be justified by him, and him only, Ga 3:27, and these, let them be of what nation, sex, state, and condition soever, are all one in Christ, and are all justified in one and the same way; and being Christ's they are Abraham's spiritual seed, and so heirs of the same promise of righteousness and life as he, Ga 3:28,29.

Cross References 25

  • 1. [Numbers 21:9]
  • 2. [1 Corinthians 1:23]
  • 3. ver. 14; Ephesians 1:13; Hebrews 6:4; See Acts 15:8
  • 4. Romans 10:17
  • 5. Philippians 1:6; [Galatians 4:9]
  • 6. 1 Corinthians 15:2; [Hebrews 10:35; 2 John 8]
  • 7. [1 Corinthians 12:10]
  • 8. ver. 2
  • 9. Cited from Genesis 15:6; [Rom. 4:9, 21, 22]; See Romans 4:3
  • 10. ver. 9
  • 11. See Luke 19:9
  • 12. See Romans 3:30
  • 13. Cited from Genesis 12:3
  • 14. [Galatians 5:4]; See Romans 4:15
  • 15. Cited from Deuteronomy 27:26; [Jeremiah 11:3; Ezekiel 18:4]
  • 16. [Matthew 5:19]
  • 17. See Galatians 2:16
  • 18. Romans 1:17; Hebrews 10:38; Cited from Habakkuk 2:4
  • 19. Cited from Leviticus 18:5; See Romans 10:5
  • 20. Galatians 4:5; [Revelation 22:3]; See 2 Peter 2:1
  • 21. Cited from Deuteronomy 21:23
  • 22. See Acts 5:30
  • 23. Romans 4:9, 16; [ver. 28]
  • 24. ver. 2
  • 25. Acts 2:33; [Isaiah 32:15; Isaiah 44:3; Joel 2:28; John 7:39; Ephesians 1:13]

Footnotes 5

  • [a]. Or now ending with
  • [b]. Or experience
  • [c]. Or count righteous; also verses 11, 24
  • [d]. Or The one who by faith is righteous will live
  • [e]. Greek receive the promise of the Spirit
The English Standard Version is published with the permission of Good News Publishers.