GALATIANS: AN ALL-IMPORTANT QUESTION
Pastor Jonathan Falwell
1. An All-Important Question
Galatians 3:1-5 (NKJV) O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? 2 This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?—3 Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? 4 Have you suffered so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? 5 Therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?
F.F. Bruce says, “The gospel of Christ crucified, as Paul saw it, so completely ruled out the law as a means of getting right with God that it was scarcely credible that people who had once embraced such a gospel should ever turn to the law for salvation.”
2. The Answer from History
Gal. 3:6-9 just as Abraham “believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.”7 Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham. 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, “In you all the nations shall be blessed.” 9 So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham.
- God made a covenant with Abraham and this covenant was “one-sided”
- Genesis 15:4-6 And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “This one shall not be your heir, but one who will come from your own body shall be your heir.” 5 Then He brought him outside and said, “Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” 6 And he believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.
- This covenant was guaranteed not by Abraham and God together but by God alone (Gen. 15:9-21)
- A contract requires two people for ratification, and “consideration,” to be valid; yet, this contract was made and guaranteed by God alone and required no effort on the part of Abraham…except for faith.
Gal. 3:10-14 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.” 11 But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for “the just shall live by faith.” 12 Yet the law is not of faith, but “the man who does them shall live by them.” 13 Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”), 14 that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
- God made a covenant with Moses in the Law
- This covenant would be one which would always show mankind how bad they were and in need of a redeemer
- “Cursed” – epikataratos = accursed, condemned
- So how could something God commanded be a curse? Because it continually shows us we can never be good enough to be set free.
Gal. 3:15-29 Brethren, I speak in the manner of men: Though it is only a man’s covenant, yet if it is confirmed, no one annuls or adds to it. 16 Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as of many, but as of one, “And to your Seed,” who is Christ. 17 And this I say, that the law, which was four hundred and thirty years later, cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ, that it should make the promise of no effect. 18 For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no longer of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise. 19 What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator. 20 Now a mediator does not mediatefor one only, but God is one. 21 Is the law then against the promises of God? Certainly not! For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law. 22 But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. 23 But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. 24 Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25 But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. 26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
- God’s promise to Abraham was fulfilled in Abraham’s “seed” which is Jesus
- Vs 19 What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator.
- Vss 23-24 (NLT) Before the way of faith in Christ was available to us, we were placed under guard by the law. We were kept in protective custody, so to speak, until the way of faith was revealed. 24 Let me put it another way. The law was our guardian until Christ came; it protected us until we could be made right with God through faith.
Max Anders states, “Before faith in Christ came, people were held prisoners by the law. In a final image, Paul conveys the purpose of the law. In the kjv the second half of this verse states that the law was given as our tutor (nasb more literal than niv, “was put in charge”). A better translation is “custodian” or “strict nanny.” In the Jewish culture a slave was assigned to each child to escort them to school and to assist in their supervision. This nanny was not a thirteen-year-old, sweet, little baby-sitter. This supervising nanny was more like a stern sergeant who had the bark of a German shepherd and the bite of a Doberman.”
- Vs 26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.
- “sons” is used here not as a “male” term but rather as a status in connection to the status of an “heir” in the time of the Galatians
3. The Explanation for the Free
A. A Dad Taking Care of His Children
Gal. 4:1-7 Now I say that the heir, as long as he is a child, does not differ at all from a slave, though he is master of all, 2 but is under guardians and stewards until the time appointed by the father. 3 Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world. 4 But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” 7 Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.
- The law treated us all as heirs who had not yet reached the age of adulthood. We were under its control and not truly free.
- Christ changed our status when He redeemed us.
B. A Dad Trying to Control His Children
Gal. 4:8-10 But then, indeed, when you did not know God, you served those which by nature are not gods. 9 But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it thatyou turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage? 10 You observe days and months and seasons and years.
- Paul makes the point this idea of putting ourselves back under the law when it was only supposed to “guard” us until the time of Christ makes no sense.
- In a way, it is a denial of the sufficiency of Christ and His sacrifice.
2 Cor. 3:4-6 tells us, “And we have such trust through Christ toward God. 5 Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”
- Vs 17 They zealously court you, but for no good; yes, they want to exclude you, that you may be zealous for them.
Vs 17 (NLT) Those false teachers are so eager to win your favor, but their intentions are not good. They are trying to shut you off from me so that you will pay attention only to them.
- John Bunyan wrote “…you sir, a pretended minister of the word, so vilely to expose to public view, the rottenness of your heart in principles diametrically opposite to the simplicity of the Gospel of Christ.”
C. The Illustration of our Choice
Gal. 4:21-31 Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman, the other by a freewoman. 23 But he who was of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and he of the freewoman through promise, 24 which things are symbolic. For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar—25 for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children—26 but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all. 27 For it is written:
“Rejoice, O barren,
You who do not bear!
Break forth and shout,
You who are not in labor!
For the desolate has many more children
Than she who has a husband.”
28 Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise. 29 But, as he who was born according to the flesh then persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, even so it isnow. 30 Nevertheless what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the bondwoman and her son, forthe son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.” 31 So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free.
- Ishmael was man’s attempt to fulfill God’s promise
- Isaac was God’s way of fulfilling His promise
- The Law will always be man’s futile attempt to be good enough, Christ completes the Law by taking our place
Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.
 F. F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Galatians: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1982), 148.
 Bunyan, John. A Defence of the Doctrine of Justification by Faith in Jesus Christ. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2006.