Lord, keep me from erroneous assumptions.
Read GALATIANS 3:1–14
Faith or Works of the Law
3 You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. 2 I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? 3 Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?[a] 4 Have you experienced[b] so much in vain—if it really was in vain? 5 So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard? 6 So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”[c]
7 Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. 8 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] 9 So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.
10 For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.”[e] 11 Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith.”[f] 12 The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, “The person who does these things will live by them.”[g] 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.”[h] 14 He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.
a 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.
b Galatians 3:4 Or suffered
c Galatians 3:6 Gen. 15:6
d Galatians 3:8 Gen. 12:3; 18:18; 22:18
e Galatians 3:10 Deut. 27:26
f Galatians 3:11 Hab. 2:4
g Galatians 3:12 Lev. 18:5
h Galatians 3:13 Deut. 21:23
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8). What a liberating, glorious truth!
Having outlined the case for his letter in 2:15–21, Paul now provides arguments for its support. To him, the Galatians are not thinking straight, as if being under a spell. His first move is to remind them of their first experience in Christ (1–5). Paul reasons that if their Christian life, characterized by the gift of the Spirit, started with faith in Christ (rather than Law-keeping), it should continue by the same means—faith. By seeking to add Law-keeping to the Christian life, the Galatians risk losing everything. We would do well to remember that the Christian life is about faith from start to finish.
In verse 6, Paul presents Abraham as a test case to illustrate that walking with God has always been through faith (Gen. 15:6). When God promised a childless Abraham countless offspring, Abraham took God at his word, and God approved of his response. For Paul, the Gospel goes back to God’s promise to Abraham that he would bless the entire world through him (verse 8 quotes Gen. 12:3). Those who walk by faith, therefore, are the spiritual offspring of Abraham, the original man of faith, and consequently share in his blessing.
In verses 10–12, Paul contrasts the Law with faith as the sole means for justification. In quoting Habakkuk, “the righteous will live by their faithfulness” (Hab. 2:4). Paul shows that faith is the means of being right with God (11). The Law is not based on faith and cannot make a person right with God. On the contrary, reliance on the Law causes one to be cursed because no one can fulfill the demands of the Law (verse 10 quotes Deut. 27:26). Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the Law, so that by faith in him we might share in the Abrahamic blessing and receive the promise of the Spirit.
Relating to God has always been through faith. Human effort, even when driven by good intention, takes us further away from God. Consider how you can trust God more.
Lord, Your people are forever grateful for providing the promise of the Spirit through faith alone.
Click here to sign up to receive the EXTRAs via email each quarter.
© 2023 Scripture Union U.S.A. All rights reserved. Reproduction of the whole or any part of the contents without written permission is prohibited.
Encounter with God is published in the USA under license from Scripture Union England and Wales, Trinity House, Opal Court, Opal Drive, Fox Milne, Milton Keynes, MK15 0DF.