Galatians was written by Paul. It was sent to the Galatians. They did not lose it. Paul had been there, during his first missionary journey, Acts 13,14. He went again, in Acts 16:6. This letter was sent to other churches. Many think it is the most important religious document of mankind. It was written about 50A.D. from Corinth.
He wrote it because of the threat from Jewish-Christian apostles. Those missionaries or apostles went down to Galatia from the Jerusalem church. It was James (the brother of Jesus) who sent them. These apostles taught wrong doctrine. It was Paul who had planted the gospel there. Afterwards false teachers, pupils of the Apostles, crept in. They tried to overthrow the righteousness of Christ alone. This was really resisting the Father and the Son and their work.
In Galatians 1:1 Paul immediately says of Jesus, “Who rose again”. Romans 4:25 reads “He rose again for our justification”, to make us righteous. He overcame law, sin, death, hell, Satan. Galatians 1:1 can only mean the same thing. Galatians reveals Paul himself, an example of the gospel of Christian freedom. He is a representative of the gospel. Paul’s purpose was to come against the legal spirit in Galatia.
Galatians 1:13,14 Believers who had come out of Judaism. They had a zeal for the law and wanted to preserve Judaism. They thought they were being defiled by Gentile lawlessness. Once, Paul had been a persecutor and destroyer of the Church of God. In 2:18 “building again the very things I demolished”, he said that he had left the law. He had pulled it down and trusted in Christ alone to justify him. If he went back to the law instead of fully trusting in Christ he would be building up the law again that he had pulled down. Reference is made to Peter and the Christian Jews who were not fellowshipping in eating with the Gentiles. The main point here is how to find acceptance with God. These false teachers said ceremonies were necessary to obtain righteousness before God.
Galatians 1:14-17. These verses are not actually about his conversion but his call by God to the Gentiles. His conversion was not to a new religion. It was the old Jewish religion brought to fulfilment in Christ. In these verses we see him as having left the Judaistic beliefs that he had followed since childhood regarding the relation of Israel to other nations. In Galatians we see him taught by the Lord Jesus Christ by the Spirit. He then accepts something that he had opposed. He was converted when he had suspicion of and hatred for non-Jews. When converted he became concerned for their conversion.
Verses 1-12 direct from God. His revelation of the gospel as we have it today came directly from God by the Spirit. At first Paul was not dependent on Jerusalem’s authority. He had no “covering”. He was led by the Spirit alone. He received it from Christ Himself. In 2:2-6 it shows the Jerusalem church backed him against “false brethren”.
Galatians 1:7; 5:2-12; 6:12,13 The Opponents. Those who were against him taught circumcision. These troublemakers were Jews. Their purpose was in their zeal, a. To shut the Gentiles out, 1:13,14; 4:17. b. To boast in their flesh (circumcision and following Jewish eating laws), 6:13. c. To give prominence to Law, 2:16; 3:23; 4:4,21;6:18. This was despite the fact they had become Christians, Acts 9:2;22:4;24:14,22.
They said salvation is not by faith in Christ alone. They said it is by faith in Christ and by obedience to the Law. They said it is not getting saved (born again, becoming believers) that counts but how the life is lived, especially for Gentile believers. These trouble-makers thought the gift of the Spirit had to be completed by following the Law, especially circumcision. They wished to shut out Gentiles and to let them in only if they followed Jewish practices. They wanted to boast in their flesh, 4:13,17.
They had come to improve or correct Paul’s gospel. They wanted to make Gentile believers fully heirs of Abraham, according to what they thought. This, they said, was through circumcision. They wanted to bring them under the Law, to keep festivals, 4:10. These were “Pentecostal” believers. Some Gentile believers in Galatia followed them. These false teachers questioned whether Paul was really an apostle because he had not seen the Lord as other apostles had. He had seen Jesus only in a vision. Also, he did not take financial support from churches often, as the other apostles did. As well they thought that Paul could only be an apostle if those in Jerusalem said he was.
They had been successful in Antioch in getting the believers to follow their Jewish (Old Testament) ways. It was from Antioch that Paul had set out on his missionary journey when He went to Galatia and other places and planted churches. They said that unless all believers, including Gentiles, were taught circumcision, it would be to go away from Israel’s covenant, 2:12; 6:12. Now they wanted the Galatian church to follow their false teachings.
There is an attack by Paul attack on Peter to his face, Galatians 2:11-14. This rebuke of Peter leads to the main points of Galatians, 2:15-21 3:3; 5:2,3,11,12; 6:12.
The whole letter emphasises the inclusion of Gentiles as members of the people of God. It deals with circumcision, especially food laws and days Jews were keeping. Paul answers the question, “Must Gentiles accept the mark of Jews, circumcision, to become children of Abraham?” Paul said these teachers were following “another gospel”.
The main points are Justification by Faith and Life in the Spirit. 5:13-15, 6:17. The purpose and meaning of the letter is in the first two chapters.
Paul knew that the death and resurrection and gift of the Spirit meant the end of the Law.
The two themes are – a. Justification by faith; but, b. Mainly Life in the Spirit.
“Spirit” is found 17 times. The Key is the Spirit, as in salvation, found in chapter 3:2-5; 4:6; 3:14. The solution to the “works of the flesh” in life is the Spirit, 5:16-25.
The remainder of this book is a verse by verse commentary on Galatians.
Galatians 1:1 Paul an apostle was distinct from the Jerusalem apostles. He was sent “not by men”. An “Apostle” is “One sent out to represent and with authorization”. The word for men, in Greek, as in verse 7 and all places elsewhere in the New Testament, refers to a human being without gender (neither male nor female).
There is no word for this “men” in Greek found in English. As in English there is child for boy or girl so “men” in Greek is for either sex. In English it may say “human beings”, “persons”, “people”. If translated “men” it is not correct. The Greek word translated “men” in the English New Testament means always “men and women”.
The source of his authority is Jesus Christ, put alongside God. He had “no covering” as spoken about so often in the West as a necessity. He contradicted what people said of his apostleship. They said it was “through men by men” and that he was under Antioch from leaders there, Acts 13:3. His gospel came through Jesus Christ and God the Father. It was shown to be true by the working of the Holy Spirit. The risen Christ appointed him, Acts 9:4,5; 26:15-18. This Father was Creator of all and Father of Israel, Deuteronomy 32:6; and in Isaiah 63:16, Father in salvation. Jesus Christ is mentioned before God, Who was the originator of his calling.
This shows without Christ as Mediator we cannot approach God. He is Father by raising Jesus from the dead, as Re-creator. The source of Jesus Christ’s authority in Paul’s apostleship was God’s action in raising Christ from the dead. He is the Father of those born of Him through belief in Jesus’ resurrection. As well, there is hope of a new age, i.e. recreated life beyond death, Daniel 12:2. “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake”.
Galatians 1:2 “Unto the churches”, “called out ones”. Better called “assemblies”, as in Deuteronomy 23:1,2. Now used of the Gentiles and Jews, not just Jews, Nehemiah 13:1. To Paul, “the assembly of the Lord” was one only in each place, Romans 16:1,4; 1 Corinthians 14:23 and as in Galatia.
Paul is opposing the Judaizing theory received from false apostles. False apostles are mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15:12. In Corinth, false apostles taught there was no resurrection of the dead. Are we to believe that all today who teach false doctrine (of which there are many) are false apostles and false teachers? Yes.
Paul was not alone. Others are with him. “Brothers”, as Isaiah 66:20 (kindred); Romans 16:3,6,7,12,15,17; Philippians 4:1,2; Colossians 4:15.
Galatians 1:3 Grace gives forgiveness of sins, peace, no guilt and the promised gift of Christ, John 14:27. “Peace” is the Hebrew “Shalom”. It means a sense of spiritual well being coming from right relationship with God; wholeness and prosperity, material and spiritual, brotherliness more than individual. Psalm 147:14; Zechariah 8:12. Sin is not forgiven by fulfilling law. That can never happen.
Forgiveness of sins is by grace, God’s unmerited favour. Grace is God’s attitude and activity in the Gospel. He reached out to us, redeeming a fallen humanity. It is not just God’s disposition but powerful, generous outpouring of His power to achieve the best for us.
“From God the Father and from our Lord Jesus Christ”. There is no way to God without Christ, John 14:6; Matthew 11:27, “No one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him”. Genesis 28:12 – Jacob’s ladder to heaven, with angels ascending and descending on Christ. 1 Timothy 2:5, shows there is no place for Mary!
Called “Lord Jesus”, because of His resurrection and exaltation. First baptismal formula is Romans 10:9; a Hymn is in Philippians 2:11; Psalm 110:1 was used widely. For the early reason for Christianity, Acts 2:34-6; Romans 8:34;1 Corinthians 15:25; Hebrews1:13; 1Peter 3:22.
Title “Lord” is used for the sacred name of God, in the Greek translation of the Old Testament. Some of these passages are used in the New Testament, Romans 10:13 (Joel 2:32); Isaiah 45:23 (Philippians 2:11). This verse is used in terms of dominating creation intended for Adam but now for Jesus, viz. 1 Corinthians 15:25, “For God has put all things in subjection under his feet.
There is no verse in the New Testament that gives dominion to believers. It has been given to Christ. The dominion in creation given to Adam, as in Genesis 1:26 is not over all but only over “fish, birds, cattle, wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth”. To relate this to a supposed dominion in this world now over worldly things as economics, banking, education, cities and countries is to totally misread what the verse says and it is amazing that it could be done.
First Corinthians chapter 15 is speaking about the resurrection of Christ as being the first fruits. It relates how that death came through a human being so the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being. It then mentions all dying in Adam and all in Christ being made alive. This is resurrection day. Verse 24 follows on by stating, “Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after he has destroyed every ruler and every authority and power”. This leaves the thought of believers being given dominion in this world and that now, as most irrelevant and indeed wrong. It would mean if they had it, such would have to be destroyed, according to this verse.
Jesus did say in Matthew 28:18 “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me”. We could never usurp that authority or dominion, even as believers going in His Name.
The title “Lord” is used with God the Father and it is not possible to make Jesus Saviour without at the same instant, making and calling Him “Lord”. Romans 15:6, “God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ”; 2 Corinthians 1:3 , “All those who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours”. Also, Colossians 1:3; 1 Corinthians 15:24-28; and in Philippians 2:11, Christ is very God, used here in conjunction with Isaiah 42:8 “I will not give My glory to another”.
Galatians 1:4 The Atonement – Fundamental beliefs of the gospel are the Resurrection of Jesus and His sacrificial death. It is called the atonement. This is the theme of the gospel, Ephesians 5:2,25; 1 Timothy 2:6; Titus 2:14. “He gave Himself for our sins”, Isaiah 53. Here is the first reference to the atonement in this epistle. The atonement of Jesus Christ on the cross for our sins is the centre of the gospel. The purpose “He gave Himself for our sins” was to rescue us from this present evil age. The evil is self-delusion (blindness), following the principles of the world, looking to self, lusts, seduction and corruptibility. In Christ, this power of sin is broken, as well as the power of death that results. There are those who call themselves Pentecostal who say “atonement” is not in the New Testament. These are the Faith churches. Copeland himself has said that any man could have died on that cross. In fact, only someone who was God and man could have died. That was the Lord Jesus Christ, God and man, who died an atoning death on the cross. No one else could have died such a death.
Death in His case took the wages of the sin of all ages. We do not need to die. “Who gave Himself for our sins (a priestly act)”, shows that He offered Himself willingly. 1 Timothy 2:6; Titus 1:14; Matthew 20:28; John 10:17. It was also a priestly act. This was His act as Priest. He was both Priest and Sacrifice.
Christ, the Wisdom of God came, 1 Corinthians 1:20-25. This age’s wisdom was useless. We are redeemed from such worldly wisdom as it comes to us through tradition, 1 Peter 1:18 “You were redeemed from the empty folly of your manner of life, received by tradition from your ancestors (fathers)”. Why hang on to traditions from such a source? Christ is Wisdom, Proverbs 8:22-36.
This present age, the world, is under the power of Satan. We have been transferred out of the “kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God and His Son”, Colossians 1:15. We still live in this world but enjoy the life of the world to come. We have “tasted the powers of the age to come”, Hebrews 6:5. We live both on earth and on heaven’s plane.
Salvation is in accordance with the will of our God and Father. God purposed this, Ephesians 1:5 “destined for adoption according to the good pleasure of His will”; verse 10 “destined according to the purpose of Him who accomplishes all things according to His counsel and will”. Romans 8:19-21 “Creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God… creation will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God”. This is the eternal purpose of God. 1 Corinthians 15:24-28; Philippians 2:11. The person believing is accepted in Christ. Renewal within is a ‘new spiritual life’, the renewing of our mind (spirit of), Romans 12:2. These are procured by death of Christ as well as pardon of guilt.
Galatians 1:5 Glory is the visible splendour, as of kings and honour and reverence due to them Psalm 29:12,2; 96:6,7. The Greek “Doxa”. “To the ages of the ages”, forever. “Amen”, meaning “agreement with conviction”. We are to say “Amen” in our meetings, 1 Corinthians 14:16.
NOTE: Galatians 1:6-9 is the subject of the letter.
Galatians 1:6. I am “astounded”, a strong word. It is surprise or wonder at some unexpected and amazing utterance, deed or miracle Matthew 8:27; 9:33; 15:31; John 6:21; Acts 2:7. “Carried away” means “You are turning away”. It is still happening in the Church of Jesus Christ. It is about a “turncoat who leaves one school of philosophy or ideas for another one”. They were harsh words. Exodus 32:8, Israelites left the Covenant when it was first made. “From the one who called you in the grace of Christ to another gospel”. With some of these Galatians, it was not so much that their doctrine had changed but that they left a personal God. Anyone who follows “another gospel”, i.e. one different from what Paul brought, has not only left the New Covenant but he has left a personal God in Christ.
“Called you”, it is decisive call, demanding a response. Their conversion was a compelling summons, Isaiah 41:8,9; 49:1; 51:2. God called “in grace”. Christ the Redeemer is equally with God the Father as the giver of grace and peace. “Of Christ” the grace of God was expressed in Christ, 1:1,4.
Those who were enforcing circumcision (or today, water baptism as a rite to obtaining salvation) should remember that Israel’s own election was in grace. Romans 9:7-11; 11:5,6; 9:24-26 it is for Gentiles also.
To another gospel. A false teacher always comes with truth mixed with error. Satan disguises and counterfeits in all his works and devices. He comes in the likeness of an angel, or of God Himself. Paul calls the doctrine of the false apostles, Satan’s ministers, with “another gospel”. Today, likewise it happens among Charismatics and Pentecostals.
See in Acts 15:5, re circumcision and law. “There were certain men who had belonged to the sect of the Pharisees but were now believers who came forward and said Gentiles must be circumcised”. It was another, different gospel these Pharisees had. Wicked spirits and false apostles, allow true doctrine at first but afterwards add further error and mysterious teachings using Scripture. Through some truth preached they deceive many.
Galatians 1:8,9. These Jewish believers thought they had the true gospel but it was distorted and should not have the name “gospel”. They were sent out as Christian missionaries but to Paul not Christian missionaries. They were troublemakers and leading the Galatians astray by “throwing them in mental confusion”.
Others claimed revelations from heaven. According to Paul his gospel was the one by which we judge which is right and which is wrong. It is not the person or the messenger that means the message is true. The nature of the message will show if the messenger is a true one. The Law was given through angels, Galatians 3:19. Perhaps the Jewish Christians were boasting of this, saying Paul was not sincere because he did not regard this Law. They opposed Paul’s preaching.
They thought it was all right to mix Law and the gospel. However, following Law takes away Christ and makes the gospel useless. Paul claimed he had received the gospel by revelation. He says if any messenger, Paul himself even or an angel from heaven, does not preach what he (Paul) has already preached he is anathema, meaning “under the curse”, “under the wrath of God”. Paul could be saying that “Satan disguises himself as an Angel of Light”, 2 Corinthians 11:14; and 11:3,4 “as the serpent deceived Eve by its cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.” Galatians, “For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different gospel from the one you accepted.”
They were preaching something that was a contrast of the gospel. It was not the gospel. We also must preach the true gospel and not a changed one, or mix law with it or other Satanic things.
Paul’s last visit to them, which had also been his first in Galatia, was just after he argued with Peter and they parted. They argued over what was required of Gentile Converts, Galatians 2:11-14,16. Thus he decided to warn all his converts in every place he could. Paul had opponents, Romans 3:8; 1 Corinthians 4:18; 15:12; 2 Corinthians 3:1; 10:2; Philippians 1:15.
How fickle Peter was. Also, all those Jewish Apostles who had been with Jesus did not still fully understand the Gospel of Grace. This was the same hardness of heart they had when listening to Jesus’ teaching. God especially called one like Paul. He received the revelation of the gospel. He left the ways of Jewish Law and preached only what God had revealed to Him. Each preacher, teacher or apostle must be tested by the true Gospel.
Galatians 1:11,12 Paul accepted Gentiles into the fold of the Jewish believers, i.e. into the covenant people of Israel. He taught the truth of the gospel as given by Christ. He did not ask them to observe the requirements of the Old Covenant, the works of the law particularly food laws, feasts or circumcision, Galatians 2:12;4:10;5:2. This being so, why are believers, including in the main, Pentecostals and Charismatics, often travelling to Israel at the time of the celebration of different Feasts?
The apostles who came in to preach were offended. They said that not to include the covenant obligations with the gospel, made the gospel not lawful. They said that Paul was even trying to persuade God this way. They said he was trying to please men. How strange that the very sins they were guilty of they incorrectly accused Paul of. It is impossible to please both God and men. Generally we have the choice, to please men or to please God, even in ministry.
Now he starts to set out his case. All his preaching until now had been according to the revelation from Christ. He was not converted through men and was not taught the gospel by men but through a revelation of Jesus Christ. It was something given from heaven, with heavenly authority.
He explains this in Ephesians 3:3,4 “how the mystery was made known to be my revelation, as I wrote, a reading of which will enable you to perceive my understanding of the mystery of Christ”. Paul did not receive it of man but from Christ, showing he knew the man Jesus was God of very God.
He said he did not receive it of man as a tradition in the way in which Jewish practices and beliefs were handed down. It was not learned by repeating it out loud. This was also against the baptismal instruction that is often given to those interested in Christianity. Paul received it through “the unveiling of Jesus Christ”. He was not educated into it. This is how all must find Christ. Matthew 16:17, Peter and all, 1 Corinthians 12:3 “No man can call Jesus ‘Lord’ but by the Holy Ghost”.
Psalm 138:2 “You have exalted your Word above your Name”. Name is the manifestation of His Person in and through His Name. As – “Elohim” Hebrew in the Old Testament is generally, “the One True God”, Genesis 2:4; 15:2, (the expression of His Being). “El Shaddai” is “the breasted One” (Shad = woman’s breast), shown in Genesis 14:19; 17:1; 28:3; 48:3, is “God Almighty”. He nourishes and feeds us.
Galatians 1:13,14. “For you have heard of my way of life previously in Judaism”. Before conversion, he was “in pious zeal, a persecutor of the church of God”, Philippians 3:6.
What he had persecuted so violently was the “assembly of God’s people”. He had been standing up for an “assembly of God’s people” he thought was national Israel. He was actually acting against God’s true people who now are Jew and Gentile, Galatians 1:22; 1Corinthians 1:1;10:32;11:16,22;15:9;2.
To oppose the “true church (assembly of God’s people)” (not man’s organization), is to go against Christ and thus to go against God.
He progressed in Judaism. He practised the ancestral traditions found in the law and in also the Mishnah, Gemara, both together forming the Talmud. The Talmud consisted of man-made regulations that the Pharisees (Paul was a Pharisee) taught from generation to generation. He was a zealot as was Simon the Zealot, Mark 3:18; Luke 6:15. This meant once he had been far ahead in learning and position, of the present Apostles now coming to Galatia. Some of them had been mere fishermen with little knowledge of the Law and Old Testament and Talmud.
Galatians 1:15-17. He was changed by the grace of God. It was the work of God. Psalm 44:3, “It was Your mighty power”; 68:16, “Why do you look jealously, you rugged mountains, at the mountain God has chosen for His throne”; 85:1, “You have brought back the captives from Babylon”; 147:11, “Yahweh is interested only in those who rely on His love”; 149:4, “Yahweh (He) gives victory to those who are weak”.
Paul was like Jeremiah, Jeremiah 1:5, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you and before you were born I consecrated you, I appointed you a prophet to the nations”. Of Paul “who set me apart from my mother’s womb to preach God’s Son among the nations”, Romans 1:1. He was separated as an apostle from the womb, not from when the teachers and church acted in Acts 13:2, “The Holy Ghost says, ‘Separate for me, Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them”. Paul was sent as a light to the nations, Isaiah 49:1,6; Acts 13:47; 26:25.
The Gospel is supernatural, not thought up by men. When Paul received its revelation he felt no need to talk it over with the Apostles at Jerusalem, or the Christians of Damascus. He was now an apostle by the will of God and the call of Christ. He went away into Arabia, perhaps to preach Christ there. 2 Corinthians 11:32,33, in Damascus he had danger but escaped, Acts 9:23-5.
Galatians 1:18-20 He has already shown his life as a zealous Pharisee, his call and his independence from Jerusalem. Now he shows his relationship with Jerusalem. His understanding of the gospel was firmly fixed before he went near Jerusalem and the apostles and church there. After three years he went to Jerusalem to become acquainted with Cephas, Peter, for a fortnight. He did not consult with other apostles, only seeing James. Seventeen years after his conversion he went to Jerusalem the second time. James, was leader there. He says, “Before God”, an oath.
Galatians 1:21-24 After another fourteen years he went up again and during that period his understanding and preaching of the gospel matured. This was without the Jerusalem leadership. The churches of Judea “in Christ” did not know his face. His gospel therefore did not come from them. They recognised him as an apostle because of his message. They heard he “preached the faith”. “Faith”, 142 times in Paul’s letters. It is the body of Truth and faith in Jesus Christ. They glorified God, reverence due to His Name and glory.
Galatians 2:1,2. His second visit to Jerusalem. The same as in Acts 15. This was with Barnabas who was a big landowner in Jerusalem. They went to give to the common fund for the poor and foodless, Acts 4:36,7. Barnabas was a native of Cyprus, Acts 4:36. His name means “Son of encouragement”, Acts 4:36. He was a Mediator, Acts 9:27;11:22-4. He settled in Antioch as a leader, Acts 13:1. He brought Paul from Tarsus to Antioch, Acts 11:25,6. He went on Paul’s “first missionary journey” Acts 13:1-3,4. He was an associate of Paul, Galatians 2:1,9,13. They had a quarrel, Acts 15:36-40, Galatians 2:13. It was mended, 1 Corinthians 9:6; Colossians 4:10.
Why did Paul go? “By revelation”. This was by the Spirit. It may have been a personal revelation or through prophecy in the assembly. This does not mean we today are to accept every prophecy we hear as from God. In those days, they really walked in the Holy Spirit. We are to judge prophecies, 1 Thessalonians 5:20,21; 1 Corinthians 14:29. He spoke privately to the leaders. “Ran in vain” has not to do with the possibility his gospel needed correction. Instead he feared there would be a split in the church, he on one side and the others against his gospel, which he knew was the true gospel. His gospel has not changed and will not change. We must follow all of Paul’s teaching exactly.
Galatians 2:3-6. Some pressed for Titus, a Greek, who was with him to be circumcised. This shows the issue for Galatians was circumcision. Circumcision had been commanded by God as a sign of the Abrahamic covenant between Yahweh (Jehovah, translated “Lord” throughout the Old Testament) and Abraham, Genesis 17:9-14. To them, only the circumcised belonged to the people of God. Tithing was never included in this covenant.
The Jerusalem apostles tried to get Paul to have Titus circumcised. He did not yield so they did not “compel” him. These apostles from the Jerusalem church were not Judaizers, just Orthodox Jews. Paul was neither. He understood the gospel. They did not fully understand.
As verses 4 and 5 show, there were false brothers smuggled in. Because of them and their views, the “pillars” of the church in Jerusalem wanted circumcision. These “false” brothers were brought in from Jerusalem as at Antioch (Acts 15:1) to put pressure to bear regarding the circumcision of Titus. Paul treats them as he did in Galatians 2:12; 2 Corinthians 11:13, as “false apostles”. Either they just did not understand “brothers” in the people of God or were deliberate counterfeits – as today in the church!
These “false” brothers were members of the Jerusalem church. No perfect church even then, let alone today! They remained Jewish in character and were suspicious of the Gentile converts. “Smuggled in” means “secretly brought in”. Perhaps even James with others sponsored them in! They would wish Gentiles to act as Jewish people of God. We must be true to the gospel.
How sad to think that the Jerusalem church never left its Judaism as Paul did, for the gospel of Christ.
Their motives: “To spy out”. In the Acts 15 council, they wanted to hear Paul’s account of his missionary work. They were suspicious and wanted to stop that work. They did not succeed as James finally showed he saw it was the work of God, Acts 15:13-21. Paul contrasted his preaching of this “freedom in Christ Jesus”, from the Law as they traditionally followed it. This was “slavery”. They depended on the law rather than on the Spirit of God. Paul does all this for all his Gentile converts, so that the gospel truth is theirs to enjoy. Judaizing is not another aspect of truth. It is a lie – as is all enslavement to following laws amongst the people of God, even today. It is found amongst Messianic Jews today. They are like those in Jerusalem and those who went to the Galatians.
In Verse 6, those other apostles had known the earthly Jesus Christ. They were with Him in His ministry for three years. To Paul, that meant little, compared to a spiritual knowledge of Christ, 2 Corinthians 5:16; Philippians 3:8,1. Two of the leading apostles were Peter and John with James. Their decision was important to him, Galatians 2:2. He appealed to it on account of others. It was clear he did not recognise that authority for himself.
Just because men esteem some men highly does not mean God does, even with Peter, John and James who were teaching false doctrine. Paul was disillusioned with them! 2 Peter 3:15,16 shows Peter did not have the full revelation Paul did.
Those key men had not taught anything to Paul. They had nothing to do with his gospel, revelation, experience, apostleship, or missionary work. In Acts 15:24-9 they acknowledged Paul’s “ways” and astonishingly said the Gentiles need not be circumcised or follow Jewish food-laws or feasts etc. In this manner the church was not divided at that time. True Christianity and Judaism parted much later on. The church then became divided as it is today into many parts. This has to be. Amos 3:3, “How can two walk together unless they be agreed?”
Galatians 2:7-9. The Galatians “saw” the signs of the Spirit’s Presence, 2:8,9; 3:2-5. However, there never was unbiblical “being slain”, “laughing”. They now acknowledged there was one gospel. They accepted his gospel. Thus they accepted his apostleship which had the seal of a harvest of Gentiles given him by God, Acts 15:3,4. We cannot close our eyes to spiritual evidence.
In a sense, Peter’s mantle had fallen on Paul, Acts 10 and 15:7. Thus “fellowship” meant sharing something, including the Holy Spirit, 2 Corinthians 13:13,14; Philippians 2:1; 3:10. “Pillars” in the church of God – We are His Temple, 1 Corinthians 3:16,17, “You are God’s temple and God’s Spirit has His permanent home in you?”; 2 Corinthians 6:16, “We are the temple of the living God”; Hebrews 3:6 “We are His house”; 1 Peter 2:5, “You as living stones are built into a spiritual House”. The other leaders were in natural Jerusalem. He himself was distant, among the Gentiles, in the true Jerusalem, the church of Jesus Christ.
Verse 10. “To remember the poor” was Jewish law and tradition, Deuteronomy 24:10-22; Psalm 10:2,9; 12:5; 14:6; Isaiah 3:14,15; 10:1,2; 58:6,7; Amos 8:4-6; Daniel 4:27. Paul was asked to give obedience to Jewish covenant piety through almsgiving. He did so eagerly, Acts 24:17; 2 Corinthians 8:4; 9:13. Even so, it was not Law obedience. It was a compromise to them.
Galatians 2:11-14. Paul has made his point. The gospel he preached did not come from the Jerusalem leadership and he did not owe its authority to them. Now there is a dispute at Antioch. Peter and the others did not follow the agreement in Jerusalem as stated in Acts 15. Paul was faithful and he wrote so to the Galatians. Paul also implies Peter was coming into his territory. He was trespassing. He denounced Peter.
Verse 12. Peter had fallen from the truth of the gospel. If Paul had not stood against him all the believing Gentiles would have had to be circumcised and follow the Law – and so “fall out of Christ”.
Peter refused to sit at the “Lord’s table” with fellow Gentile believers. Peter was afraid of the Judaizing extremists in Antioch. This is the same sin and weakness Peter showed at the crucifixion, fear of man, Luke 22:55-62. Peter “pretended”, erred in judgment and committed a great sin. He was deceitful, he “play-acted”, being a hypocrite, pretending and deceiving. He would have acted against his convictions. His action was not in accordance with the truth of the gospel.
To Jews, fellowship at table had a sacramental character. It began with the host speaking a blessing. Jewish eating was governed by the food laws and traditions, being laws of “unclean” foods, Leviticus 11 and laws of ritual slaughter, blood drained from body, Leviticus 17:1014; Deuteronomy 12:16,24. See Acts 15:20 for Gentile believers, us. We are not to eat food contaminated by idolatry or meat offered as sacrifice in pagan temples. Law re purity as to eating, Mark 7:2-4, Acts 10:14.
Peter feared if he ate with Gentiles his apostleship to the Jews would be in danger. He never did get the victory over the same sin and weakness he showed before and at the crucifixion; fear of man and being led astray by Satan into false doctrine, Mark 8:28-33; Mark 14:66-72. What of us?
Even Barnabas was carried away by it. Perhaps he said, “We must love them anyway” as is what is said in Charismatic circles today, despite error and sin. There should be no comprise where Truth is concerned. Also, we must be sure we do have the Truth and not our own ideas or wrong interpretation of Scripture. Paul condemned the compromise Barnabas made. We cannot forego the truth of the Word of God for the compromise of “love”. We must take our stand for truth. For the Galatians, it was not about truth but sin to wrongly refuse to “eat with them at the Lord’s Table”.
If we wrongfully refuse a believer the privilege of eating communion with us, say, over a matter of dress, or because she wears gold or has no veil, we a. Are saying he is not a Christian believer (even if he is not yet baptised in water); b. We are not seeing the Lord’s body (of Christ); c. We are acting outside of love. The attempt by Jewish believers to impose this limitation on eating with the Gentiles was against the gospel itself. So are a, b and c.
Galatians 2:13,14. The rest of the Jews “played the hypocrite” along with Peter. They did not act with the truth of the gospel. “Not walking straight towards the truth of the gospel”. The truth was freedom from the Law. Free from circumcision, free to participate in the blessing of Abraham without requiring Gentiles to act as the Judaizers did. “Judaize” means to “adopt a Jewish way of life”.
Paul rebuked Peter to his face. Did Peter accept the rebuke? Perhaps not and if not, the Galatians followed on to becoming Judaized. Perhaps that is why Paul shifted first to Corinth and then to Ephesus as his base, Acts 18:11; 19:10. A lesson for our churches! If Paul was defeated at Antioch – there were three quarrels. i. With Jerusalem; ii. With Barnabas, Acts 15:36-41; iii. With Antioch, Acts 18:22. Antioch he only visited once, perhaps having been reconciled, Acts 18:22.
Galatians 2:15-18. Paul’s Defence
An important part. Paul tries to undo the damage done.
Verses 15,16. These were the Jewish Christians, including Paul. The rest, were Gentile sinners of lawless conduct, outside the Covenant, Psalm 1:1,5; 37:34-6; 58:10; 9:17; Matthew 5:47. The Jews saw the rest of mankind as outside God’s covenant of righteousness and as sinful, Ephesians 2:12. Acceptance with God, Paul says, is not on the basis of works of the Law. That the Jewish believers believed in Christ really showed they realised the Old Covenant was not sufficient. They knew they were not justified by Law as that is why they believed in Christ. Christ came not for the righteous (even keepers of Law) but for sinners, Matthew 9:13. They just did not want to leave their Law keeping. This of course did not include animal sacrifices. However, in the book of Hebrews, when we look at the beginning of chapter 6, we see they did want to go back to Temple worship and the offering of sacrifices. This would mean they had deserted Christ and the gospel.
Paul shows that the two beliefs could not be held at the same time. There had to be either one or the other. A person is justified by faith in Jesus Christ, as Peter would agree. Peter was bringing the Galatians into the danger of acting like him. This would add to their original faith, “works of the law” Galatians 3:2-5. By works of law nobody will be justified. It is by faith alone. The Christian life is to be lived by faith alone. To become a Christian one must rely totally on the work and merits of Christ for us on the cross and in His resurrection as a means of living a holy and right life. In his living he must not go back to doing works, whether of the Law, of church rules or of legalism. All believers must be taught this continually.
Psalm 143:2, “no one living is righteous before you”, Job 9:2; Psalm 14:1-3; Isaiah 59:2 “your iniquities have separated you from your God”; Genesis 6:12; Isaiah 31:3 “the Egyptians are men and not God”; John 3:6 “flesh…to flesh”; Romans 8:3,8. Paul was telling Peter you must either be “of faith” or “of works of the law”. It is “by faith” Acts 3:16; Colossians 2:12; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; Philippians 3:8; Galatians 3:6; Romans 4:3; 3:22,30; Romans 10:14. Salvation is through faith – and in Christ. Then righteousness is imputed unto us. Psalm 32:1; Romans 4:7.
Galatians 2:17,18 Paul says, “If we see ourselves as justified and counted acceptable to God because we are ‘in Christ’ are we considered ‘sinners’ because we eat with the Gentiles? The Judaizers consider the Gentiles ‘sinners’ and will our eating with them make us ‘sinners’? We cannot be regarded in this way. If we are considered ‘sinners’ because we are ‘in Christ’ it would make Christ one who supported sin”.
These verses show that the Judaizers taught that believers, who depended only on the finished work of Christ, had an imperfect ground of acceptance needing something more. Therefore, according to the Judaizers, such believers could be regarded only as sinners. Paul said these Judaizers made Christ only what Moses had been, a minister of sin and condemnation. They really said that those who added something to the work of Christ, showed He was not a perfect Saviour. A perfect Saviour has finished the work. Nothing needs to be added. These Judaizers were teaching a false gospel. On the cross, He cried “It is finished (I have paid it to the full)”.
These Gentiles, outside of natural Israel, are not sinners as they used to be considered by Israel. They are “in Christ”. Paul says, “My gospel and my preaching pulled down the walls between us”, Ephesians 2:11-14. “This means Jew and Gentile are ‘one in Christ’ without any wall. If you or I refuse to eat with Gentile Christians you are building up these walls again. I myself would be doing wrong to do such things.” By adding works (legalism) they did not rest on the atonement as the only way of acceptance. God considers us as suffering what Christ suffered and doing what He did. Payment for our sin was made. We now do not add anything to make that payment. It has happened.
Galatians 2:19-21 Verse 19. To believe in Christ is “to die”. This is what the Bible calls “the carnal man” or “the old man”, the sinful nature, seated in the soul and the body. It was put to death with Christ, being in a legal way. The result is that the believer then has a different kind of living. “To live for God” includes the fact of life beyond death, not just a different kind of this life but a life that has experienced death and over which death has no more say, Romans 6:10,11. Also, Paul said we “died” to the Law and “were crucified with Christ”. In Greek, the perfect tense is used, meaning, “I have been nailed to the cross with Christ and am still hanging there with him” also Galatians 3:1; 6:14; Romans 6:5. It is as if we hung, co-crucified with Him, in Him. This action surely took place in our being represented by Christ.
God saw all His redeemed hanging on the cross with Christ. Christ was the Surety, Hebrews 7:22, “Christ has become the Surety or Guarantee of a better covenant”. God looked at what Jesus as our Surety did, as if we did it. Christ represented us. His substitution for us was vicarious and not mystical. Christ died ‘for’ us, in actuality. His death for us was a real death. We died ‘with’ Him in a legal manner.
This has nothing to do with water baptism and if so, we would have to be “in the water of baptism all the time, to be crucified all the time”. We did not die in any natural tank of water. Paul considered that he was hanging on the cross with Christ. Now, understanding this, see Romans 6:2-8; 7:6; Colossians 2:20; 3:3. It is not water baptism that effects this “dying” but believing in Christ. Baptism comes from “baptizo” = “the introduction or placing of a person or thing into a new environment or into union with something else so as to alter its condition or its relationship to its previous environment or condition”. This does has nothing to do with water baptism. It cannot be water baptism because when we come up out of the water, our environment is still the same and so is our condition. We still live in this world, in these bodies.
Therefore, the important thing that makes a person a believer is having died with Christ on the cross and having risen with Him we receive the resurrection life of Christ in actuality. Christ lives in us by His Spirit. His life is in us. What a tremendous actuality! Water baptism does not make this happen. It is added as a witness. (See my book on “Water Baptism”). Unless a person “believes in his heart that Jesus died on the cross for him (a sinner) and that He rose again” so that he is justified or made righteous, he cannot be saved, even if he has gone forward to “accept Christ” at some meeting where salvation was not actually preached. Romans 10:9, 4:25.
This is what it means here and in Romans 6:3,4. Literally, “If we have grown together with Him by means of the likeness of His death”. This baptism is into Jesus Christ, not into water. It is into His death and then into His resurrection. That makes us His property, He whose death, resurrection and ascension began a new age. Now it is the age of the Holy Spirit. In eternity, there will be age upon age forever. Christ must always be thought of in terms of crucifixion and resurrection. Baptism into Christ means baptism into Christ crucified. Baptism into His death. This is a spiritual fact. It is not water baptism. His death was a “baptism”, Mark 10:38,39; Luke 12:50. It is brought about by God’s act of baptizing the believing sinner into Christ so that the person shares His death on the Cross, crucified with Christ. This “Spirit-ual” identification of the believing sinner with Christ in His death, legally brought about the separation of that person from the sinful nature. In actuality, “Sin shall not have dominion over you”, Romans 6:14.
In the divine account it is as if we ourselves are crucified for sin. One with Christ as one with Adam, one in his sin. We were objectively crucified with Christ. On believing, the Spirit made us to know it. It refers to the act of God placing a believing sinner into vital union with Jesus Christ. This means that the believer has the power of his sinful nature broken. The divine nature actually implanted in His spirit through his identification with Christ, our substitute in His death, burial and resurrection. This divine nature is that part of God’s nature that is not its vital divinity. We become His sons, partakers of the divine nature. We never become “God”. We never have all knowledge, all power and omnipresence.
“Sons” here = huios, as in Galatians 4:5, is used of a mature child of God in a legal standing as against a child of God, teknon, meaning one in his minority Galatians 4:1-3. Why desire to become a natural (inferior) son of Abraham by circumcision as these Judaizers were, when they had been made spiritual sons of God?
This alters the condition and relationship of us as sinners with regard to our previous state and environment. We were in the kingdom of darkness, sin and death. We are brought into a new environment, the kingdom of God. God placed us in Christ when He died so that we might share His death. Then we receive the benefits of that identification with Him. We are separated from the power of the evil nature as part of the salvation He gives us when we believe. Our new environment is Christ. However, it is the power of the evil nature that is overcome. The evil nature still remains within every believer until he or she reaches heaven. The curse of the law was executed on Christ crucified.
Christ by His Spirit lives in me. The risen Lord and the Spirit are not the same. The Lord Jesus is one Person. The Holy Spirit is another Person. However, the Holy Spirit for us has His source in the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul tells us about Christ and His work, Therefore, he states “indwelling Christ”, not “indwelling Spirit”. Romans 8:9,10 If you do not have Spirit of Christ, you are none of His. Philemon 1:19,20 “fresh supply of Spirit of Christ Jesus”. N.B. Always in the New Testament this supply is connected with praying in other tongues. Salvation itself is not so connected.
Galatians 2:20. We now have righteousness and life. God the Holy Spirit, in order that we might share His resurrection and have divine life imparted in us, places us in Christ. We are in Christ and Christ is in us. This newness of life does not refer to a new quality of experience or conduct. It refers to a new quality of life given to the individual, 2 Corinthians 5:17, becoming a new creation. This is not the Christian’s experience or behaviour. It is an act of God in creation within. His experience increases in grace and his behaviour alters continually all his life as he or she lets this new creation be in control.
Again, this new creation with the newness of life is not referring to a new kind of life the believer is to live. It refers to a new source of spiritual energy imparted in him by God, by which he is enabled to live the new life of the new creation. We are to live in the resurrection life of Christ. It has nothing to do with acts, legalistic or otherwise, outward change of behaviour or habits or following laws and regulations. A new way of life and habit will come from this new life. Then the results are shown as our lives alter.
The old “I” died. Paul no longer boasted of his Jewish heritage. He no longer relied on the Old Covenant system to bring righteousness. He now speaks of a new life with Christ. The King James and Revised Versions have added the phrase, “nevertheless I live”, saying “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I but Christ liveth in me”. This is not a good alteration as it weakens the sense. The original Greek and the real meaning, are – “I have been nailed with Christ and am still hanging there with him and it is no longer I who live but it is Christ who lives in me”, Galatians 2:19b, 20.
Now Paul has a new “I”, not a changed (transformed) “I” but that Christ is in Him and lives out His life in him. Human nature can never be changed or transformed. Paul still lives his life “in the flesh”, in this world, subject to the old self’s weakness and animal appetites, Romans 7:5; 8:9. He now lives, not as he did before but by faith in the Son of God, who loved him and became a willing self-sacrifice. Paul is still a Jew! But he and we are “in Christ”, 2 Corinthians 13:5; Romans 8:9,10; Colossians 1:27; Ephesians 3:17. He no longer lives as a Jew.
“He (God) loved us first”, Romans 5:8, “His love, while we were yet sinners”; 1 John 4:19. “I live by faith in the Son of God”. We lived as sinners. Now we are to live a life of faith but it has Christ as its object. We have already been justified. This was the result of Christ’s death and resurrection for us. Because we believed, God justified us, “just as if I never sinned”. Now we live by faith in Him who loved us and redeemed us.
Galatians 2:21. The old way of life is gone. Satan was totally in control and sin and death ruled our beings. Now there is new life in Christ. Paul says, “I do not make ineffective, the grace of God”. To follow Judaism as Peter and the others did would make the gospel of no account. We cannot go back to our old way of life. We cannot go back to our old traditions. The covenant rested on grace. To follow Judaism meant that grace was overlooked and made useless. To follow Law and legalism means that same thing for us. Christ loved us first, Romans 5:8 Corinthians 2:2 “I know nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified”. We must love Him and not the old ways.
To seek righteousness with Christ through works, merits, trying to please Him, afflictions, fastings, prostrations or by the law, rejects the grace of God. It despises His death. Our old way of life is put to death with Christ and we now live a life. There are different aims, ways, attitudes, loves and beliefs. It is still in human flesh but directed by faith in God’s Son. Paul is saying that he does not “make the grace of Christ ineffective (nullify)” by going back into Judaism or a Jewish Christianity. This is what those false ones did, saying Jews and Gentiles should eat separately (We could write into it, “Different caste”. That would be just as wrong). To do as they were doing, makes the whole gospel of no effect. Also, following this kind of belief would mean the remnant could not come into the gospel truths, Romans 11:5,6. God in righteousness made a covenant with Israel, Exodus 9:27, restoring them, Psalms 31:1; 35:24. To do what they were doing, meant the grace of God from the beginning was set aside. Not to see the value of the cross was to lose all. Paul preached the atonement. We must preach the atonement. See also 5:11; 6:12. We are under the New Covenant (a re-made Old Covenant).
Galatians was not addressed to Christian Jews. It was sent to Gentile believers. They were not under any dispensation or covenant of Jewish Israel. In any case, we believers are not under Law, to receive any curse or any blessing by Law but under grace. We were never part of the nation of Israel that was given the curses and the blessings. We as believers are under grace. We are not under the Law that spoke of curses and blessings for Israel.
The blessing is “the promise of the Spirit through faith” and this is as opposed to Law. It is a spirit-ual thing that can bring material benefit in the way Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all things needful will be added unto you”. This blessing of the Spirit through Christ is that believers are under a New Covenant. They are not cast out, as was Israel with its curses. Rather, they are all brought back from being away from God and His covenant. They have been restored and reconciled as one, both Jew and Gentile, Ephesians 2:13-22. This is the blessing promised to Abraham, that his seed, Christ and all believers in Him, would be one family blessed under the Covenant.
The whole of Galatians 3 points out God’s covenant with Abraham. It was that he would have a worldwide family the entrance into it being by faith. Israel received the promises but the Law could only provide a curse for them. This was shown in their exile and lack of any prophets so as to hear from God for 400 years prior to Paul. Galatians 3 asks, “How can the promises to Abraham and the blessings, given to Israel, go to the whole world as covenanted with Abraham?” It would appear that the Law bringing only curse, could make those promises void. The family of Abraham would only expect failure.
Through the death of Christ, the curse-bearer, the promises and blessings of Abraham can come upon the Gentiles (and believing Jews) that we may receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. It is the Jews and never Gentiles who were under the Law and believing Gentiles today are not under the Law as in Deuteronomy 28 either in relation to its curses or its blessings.
The blessings of prosperity in Deuteronomy have their ultimate fulfilment in the new heaven and the new earth, that heavenly city Abraham looked for, Hebrews 11:10. This is the inheritance of earth and the prosperity promised to Abraham and his children, believers in Christ. Jesus said, “The meek shall inherit the earth”. The meek are those who humble themselves to realise their own helplessness and who rest on Christ. They will inherit the New Jerusalem that John saw coming down from heaven to earth.
The blessing of Abraham as it is outlined in Romans 4:13-25 does not concern any inheritance of this present world or any if its prosperity. It is to do with the imputation of righteousness and as in verses 24,25, also with reference to us. Our faith, too, will be regarded by God in the same light if we have “faith in him” who “was delivered up because of our offences and was raised to life for our acquittal”. It has to do with the Messianic hope and the Old Testament prophecies concerning the reign of the Messiah over the whole earth. He is to have dominion and we will reign with Him. However, it is over “new heavens and a new earth”, 2 Peter 3:13.
Abraham in Hebrews 11:10 “was waiting for God to bring him to that strong heavenly city”, which is God’s design, built by God Himself. That city is the Jerusalem John saw in his vision as it descended from heaven on to a renewed earth. Abraham was “heir of the world”. It did not mean anything to do with this world. His hope was in the city built by God, the world to come. That also brings for us, the promises referring to “all families of the earth” (not to national Israel or the Jews) in Genesis 12:3; 18:18; 22:18. The promises made to Abraham have a spiritual and permanent meaning as is stated in the New Testament. His inheritance was in actuality not confined by earthly borders. His seed was “the Christ” who came to bring salvation to people of all nations.
If we read Galatians 3:2-5 and then verses 6-12, it is easy to see that the blessing of Abraham to include Gentiles, is based on faith alone. The evidence is the gift of the Spirit who is the fulfilment of the promise made to Abraham. That was the purpose of Christ’s becoming a curse. The gift of the Spirit comes in salvation and in the baptism with the Holy Spirit.
It was in order i. that in Christ the “blessing of Abraham ” might be also for Gentiles and ii. that we by faith in Christ Jesus might receive the promise made to Abraham, which has been fulfilled by the Spirit’s presence. The resurrection signified God accepts the “outsider”, the cursed law-breaker now outside the covenant (Jew) and Gentile sinner.
We are under the grace of God. However, His grace is found within the Law itself. In Deuteronomy 30 are the usual patterns of Israel’s historic exile and restoration. Then (Judges, Isaiah – Zechariah); judgment came, followed by mercy. We see this throughout Judges, Isaiah through to Zechariah. The pattern of judgment and mercy ends with the renewal of the covenant by God’s circumcising the hearts of the remnant. Throughout the whole of this dispensation, from the Day of Pentecost until now, there has never been a pattern of judgment and mercy as before, on the Jews. He is not dealing with those of natural Israel as He did in the Old Testament.
This was not what happened in Leviticus. There it was repentance by sacrifice and atonement under the system of sacrifices shown. The emphasis in this passage of Deuteronomy is not on when a person sins but on when the nation as a whole fails to keep the Law in its entirety.
The death of Jesus, on a Roman cross, showed the continuing bondage of the people of God under the curse. His death brought deliverance from exile. This being the case, there can be no more place for a national Israel’s exile needing restoration. God is now dealing with the restoration that happened through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The exile ended, bringing restoration through salvation by the Cross. It means that the New Covenant is a Covenant redefined. It is for a new kind of Israel, viz. the saved Jewish remnant and the saved Gentiles who have been brought in. This fulfilled the promises given to Abraham in God’s covenant with him.
We approach God through His grace, as Abraham did, not by our own merits and not like the Judaizers did. Curse is mentioned in Deuteronomy 27:26; 28:58,61; 29:20,21,27; 30:10. It was God’s curse on the offender, particularly on the Jewish nation that broke the Covenant.
Paul said that for Jews to put too much emphasis on being distinct from Gentiles was not wise as they already are under the curse. Relationship with God is always dependent on faith. Covenant law is obedience that expresses such faith. Today if the Jews and believing Gentiles deny faith, Paul says, they are outside the covenant, under a curse. The Gentile converts had the Spirit through faith. It is enough to have faith.
The death of Christ means that now the blessing of Abraham can come upon the Gentiles and that “we” may receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. “We” includes the Jewish and Gentile Christians.
Paul was speaking to the false brethren and those who would follow them, those to whom the promises belonged. Also, he states who the children of Abraham really are. Paul argues from Old Testament scripture. He shows that the promises are found in them. The Scriptures are the foundations of the covenant.
Today, this circumcision is often replaced (and is also as wrong as the thinking re circumcision) by church membership and the physical act of water baptism in some believers’ eyes. In spiritual righteousness, we are to reject all laws and works and look only at the only promise and blessing. This is to look at Christ our only Saviour. It is not by law but by faith. Circumcision spiritually is the death of and to self on the Cross as we see ourselves in the circumcision of Christ, Colossians 2:11.
2 Peter 2:1,2, “False teachers, who will secretly bring in destructive opinions. They will even deny the Master who bought them – bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their licentious ways. 3, In their greed (for money, for numbers, for a following) they will exploit you with deceptive words. There condemnation pronounced against them long ago, has not been idle and their destruction is not asleep”.
The Gentiles are brought in, as promised in Genesis 12:3; 15:5 and 17:2,5. Abraham’s seed, Israel, had failed to be a light to the nations. Jesus Christ, as the Seed of Abraham, in whom the promises are fulfilled, is the means by which the Gentiles come in, Galatians 3:23-29. He is the Light to the nations.
At the resurrection, the New Covenant came into being. Jesus is the Surety of the covenant. Through faith in Him, we, Jew and Gentile, are in that covenant. Because He is our Surety, this New Covenant will never fail. In Hebrews 13:11-13 “burned outside the camp. Therefore Jesus also suffered outside the city gate in order to sanctify the people by his own blood. Let us then go to him outside the camp”. Jews are outside the Covenant of Abraham. It was broken. Acts 28:27,28; Revelation 3:9 – The Jews as a Nation is finished. God turned His back on it
The promises to Abraham are fulfilled only in Christ. The death of Christ made everything right. Only faith in Him will bring any Jew in, or Gentile. Genesis 22:18; 12:3; Galatians 3:16; 5:11; 6:12. Now the blessing of Abraham comes only to Jew and Gentile in Christ. Ephesians 3:15-22, “built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God”.
Salvation is not by law but by grace through faith. Paul speaks of “Grace, Promise, Faith”. Grace means God gave it. It is a free gift, a favour. Galatians 3:18; Romans 8:32; 1 Corinthians 2:12.
Now we see the promised Spirit. Acts 2:33,38,39 promises Him to all believers in a special way. We look at justification and the Baptism in the Spirit. The two can be almost simultaneous and the two should happen. Justification comes first, through the Spirit and the Blood, Romans 5:9 “we have been justified by his blood”, and “in the Spirit of our God”, 1 Corinthians 6:11. “We stand justified as the result of faith”. This means we are part of the New Covenant. The Spirit is the blessing of this covenant, as we see in Deuteronomy 30. The return from exile has occurred, Deuteronomy 30:20. As a spiritual nation, Israel has returned from exile. Galatians 6:16, “upon the (only one) Israel of God. All believers are in that Israel of God.
Justification by faith was the experience of Abraham, “reckoned as righteous by faith”, Romans 4:3,13. He who was not righteous, had righteousness put to his account. This is also for Abraham’s children, who become such through the one Seed, Christ Jesus, verses 15-18. They are to “received the promise of the Spirit by faith” which is in salvation that includes justification. Also there is to be more. There are to be rivers of living water flowing out from within through the baptism with the Holy Spirit. The promised inheritance, the gift of the Spirit in salvation and infilling is to be experienced by all Abraham’s children who are “by faith in Christ Jesus”. Sadly, most experience only the first part of the promised Spirit.
The blessing of Abraham is: i. Justification by faith, sonship through righteousness by faith. ii. Life by the Spirit. iii The promise of the Father, Acts 1:4, the infilling of the Holy Ghost, speaking in tongues. This is seen in Ezekiel 36:26; Jeremiah 31:3137:1-14; Joel 2:28,29. The time of Law and flesh is past. A new dispensation with a new covenant, has come. The promise of inheritance has been realised in part by the coming of the Spirit, as on the Day of Pentecost. The full inheritance is in heaven. Gentiles have joined Jews as Abraham’s heirs. The Spirit is freedom from the law, sin, death, the curse, hell, judgment and wrath of God. No such thing as not paying tithes brings curse. The curse has finished for believers in Christ.
The whole of Galatians 3 concerns the difference between the Spirit and the works of the law verse 2, 3. We are now under the Spirit and not under the works of the law. If we are under the Spirit, the blessings or curses of the Law are not for us.
Isaiah 53:6 shows “the chastisement of our peace was upon Him”. This suffering was the pains of hell, in their nature and being, that began when He was in the Garden of Gethsemane and continued on the Cross until His death. There was no experience of it in the Hell where the unsaved go. It was impossible that death could so take hold of He who was holy, that He would go into an actual Hell, Satan’s abode. Hebrews 9:14, “He offered Himself without spot to God” – not to Satan.
In Christ alone, can a man be “redeemed from the curse of the law” or “the curse pronounced in the Law”. The redemption of believers from the curse of the law does relate to the above chapters in Deuteronomy. This is about the fact that as sinners all are outside any covenant with God and are under His wrath and the curse. Romans 7:11 shows that the problem was sin within, as Tay translates it, “Sin fooled me by taking the good laws of God and using them to make me guilty of death”.
George Smeaton, said by some to have been Scotland’s greatest theologian, said that the first five verses about the preaching of the gospel of Christ also related to all the graces and gifts of the Holy Spirit that had been given to the church. These are taught clearly in 1 Corinthians 12, 13 and 14.
Verse 1 This points out the Galatians were going back to their own righteousness, through Law. Also, going back to a righteousness coming from “self”, from the carnal, depraved nature. This was not the Truth of the gospel. That was not to be in Christ. That was to be outside of Christ. That is the thinking of the carnal nature. We believers in Christ are to be different. We are to live by the Spirit. He will then keep those natural sinful and carnal tendencies within us from taking control. We should be led by the Spirit, not by our carnal, legalistic nature.
“Bewitched” means that when the Galatians changed their ideas from the gospel of the cross to listening to Judaism it was due to demonic power – 1 Timothy 4:1 “doctrines of demons”. How else can we explain it? They had experienced the Spirit richly, 3:2-5; 2 Corinthians 4:3,4. What of backslidden Pentecostals and Charismatics today? Many are receiving demonic ideas. They are always looking to find a supposed work of demons in believers and in geographical areas, as cities or countries. They call it “spiritual warfare”. It is not of God. Warfare occurs when Satan influences leaders and churches with false doctrine, heresy and when he uses unbelievers to bring persecution. That warfare is “not against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers”.
There is no Scriptural foundation for pulling down demonic powers over cities and areas. No one in the New Testament under the gospel ever did it and in fact, no human in the Old Testament ever did such a thing. Jesus bound Satan on the Cross so that his total hold over every nation was loosened. The gospel could thus be preached world-wide as believers are full of the Holy Ghost. It is the power of God unto salvation, despite the attacks of the Devil. “The gates of hell shall not prevail” against the true church of Jesus Christ.
Also, some are fearful of black magic supposedly placed upon them by relatives, friends or neighbours. The “Evil eye”! Do not believe their power`, see Numbers 23:23. Looking at the Cross of Jesus Christ in all its meaning will counter any demonic attacks in this way, which are forever coming against the Church of Jesus Christ. This comes as heresy and unscriptural experiences. These things are particularly prominent in the West.
1 Corinthians 1:23; 2:2, preaching of the gospel is the preaching of the Cross. They had heard the gospel so well that vividly it appeared as if Christ were crucified in front of them. On previous visits to Galatia, Acts 16:6; 18:23, Paul had preached the atonement on the Cross to them. Corrupt doctrines had been taught by others, viz. that they had to follow Jewish laws and rules to be accepted by God. We today often hear different errors. The atonement for sin by Christ on the Cross (not in the grave as taught by Copeland) is the only basis for our acceptance with God.
Today, many of the ways of the Charismatics and some Pentecostals in principle can be seen to be following what the Jews did. You must “get slain”, you “must shake”, you must have “demons cast out (really sins)”, you must “fight Satan often”, you must “have spiritual warfare”, you must “confess it over and over”, you must “give money, sowing a seed, to get back more money (prosperity doctrine)”, you “must not think, just accept it”, or “you must take off your gold”, “you must wear veils”, “you must repeat ‘Hallelujah’ over and over” and many other ways.
The coming of Christ has meant the end to following “law”. In these verses, Paul is showing that there is no room for the spirit of legalism. We should ask ourselves, “Am I legalistic? Is my church legalistic?” Such legalism is not part of the gospel of grace. The gift of righteousness rests on faith. Our experience is of the Spirit who lives within. Then we are to experience that Holy Spirit flowing from within as a river of living water. This begins in the baptism with the Holy Spirit, Acts 2:4; John 4:13,14; 7:38,39. The theme is righteousness by faith. The Spirit also, is given by faith, not by works of the Law, works of any kind. The promise was given before the Law. It is the “blessing of Abraham” promised long ago. This inheritance is by faith.
The righteousness that comes to us through the salvation in Christ Jesus is through faith. The promise of the Father, the outpouring of the Spirit, the first instalment of that which is to come in eternity, is by faith. Ephesians 1:14 “the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people”. The devil comes as an Angel of Light, 2 Corinthians 11:14. As in verse 1 of Galatians 3, some dreams and visions, revelations and doctrines show that people are “bewitched by the devil”. It is possible for other believers besides the Galatians to be bewitched by Satan. The whole world is totally “bewitched by the devil”, Ephesians 2:1,2.
Galatians 3:2 The Holy Ghost is not given by the law but faith as in Acts 2:4-20; See re Cornelius, Acts 10:44. Those Gentiles even although uncircumcised, received the baptism with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is a free Gift without any works of the flesh. He fills our spirits not our emotions or and does not give bodily and fleshy manifestations. It is an experience, that does touch emotions. It is rational. It is also ecstatic. Dramatic experiences are in Galatians 3:5; 1 Corinthians 1:5-7; Acts 8:17,19:6; Romans 8:2; 2 Corinthians 3:17. The Spirit received in this way by the Galatians meant that God had accepted them. It was not because of Law but faith. These Gentile Galatians had been placed by God in with His people, Isaiah 32:15; Ezekiel 37:4-14; Joel 2:28,29.
What made them to be recognised as God’s people was this reception of the Spirit, according to these verses. Nothing else. How did they get it? Not by observing Law but through the “hearing with faith”. There is an importance to hearing in the gospel, Romans 10:17, 1:5; 15:18. This experience of the Spirit shows people are believers, belonging to Christ. The opposers said the mark of identification was circumcision (or other modern legalistic acts, even water baptism). Ephesians 1:13,14 makes this clear. It is the mark placed upon believers. This mark is the baptism with the Holy Spirit that always involves speaking in other tongues. Acts 2:14.
Paul says the identification mark is the Spirit alone; He is the seal of divine ownership, Ephesians 1:13,14, “were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit”. The Spirit alone distinguishes God’s people under the New Covenant. However, we cannot shut out any who do not have this experience of the baptism in the Spirit if they rest on the cross. Nevertheless, according to these scriptures, without this experience in the baptism with the Holy Spirit, there is no mark on the life.
According to this verse in Galatians, it is obvious the Spirit was received in a dynamic away. There were visible evidences of the Spirit and Paul considered this was habitual – not like today. Quite often today there are supposed evidences of the Spirit’s working that are not really the Spirit. These kind come from the flesh, fanciful ideas, unscriptural signs, all being demonic. As Jesus said to Peter, “Whatsoever is of man is of Satan”. The experiences of the Spirit in Galatia, were visible. They were experiences with signs, giving some evidence of the presence of the Spirit of God.
It would have been said, “They speak with tongues”. The custom in the early Church was for all believers to experience this dynamic experience of the Spirit as in Acts 2:4. Notice they received by faith and the only sign was speaking in tongues. Speaking in tongues is the only Scriptural sign. Laughing, shaking or falling over are never a sign of the Spirit.
This is a contrast. It shows the Spirit as divine power but the flesh is weak, self-centred. It is carnal and ungodly. Verses 2,3 show “Spirit and faith” as against “Works of the Law and flesh”. The heathen tries to earn his salvation. The Jews were trying to earn their salvation. Those who fall back into Law, lose Christ and the Spirit. They end up in Law and are destroyed by it. There is no place for observance of the Law in the life of the believer. In Galatia they wanted faith and observance of the Law. The contrast there was not between faith and works of the Law; but between faith and works of the Law compared to justification by faith with life in the Spirit. Today, many try to follow faith as well as the ways of the Old Covenant. We are not under the Old. We are under the New Covenant.
Life we lived before we accept Christ and outside of Christ is described as “flesh”. It is lived according to this present age, the world, James 4:4; 1 John 2:15. This life has been condemned through the cross. The opposite is life according to the Spirit. This life in Christ is through faith in His death and resurrection. If we began in the life of Christ and then try to follow the works of the Law and of the Old Testament, we live again “in the flesh” and cannot please God, Romans 8:8. “For Christ is the end of the Law to them that believe”, Romans 10:4. Most believers do not understand this. Let us note that the end of the Law has come. Now instead of Law there is Christ. We are to walk in the Spirit, to be led by Him. To be led by the Spirit always will agree with the Word of God. We should never listen to any further so-called revelation of the Spirit that is not in the Word of God. If we want to please God, we should meditate on these truths and do them.
Galatians 3:4. He said they had “experienced” so much, the outpouring of the Spirit included and he emphasised – “Was it in vain?” “Have you had such wonderful experiences of the Spirit, in vain?” Jesus said, John 6:63 “It is the Spirit who gives life, the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life”. Let us realise the terrible condition of living according to the ways of the flesh. Only His Spirit gives life. We are to live in resurrection life in our spirits, here on earth. We are to “reign in life”, Romans 5:17, or “much more surely will those who receive the abundance of grace, the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life”.
Verse 5. God is the One who gives the Spirit. It is the Promise of the Father, Acts 1:4. “The Father will give you another Advocate, the Spirit of truth”, John 14:16,17; Acts 2:17 “God declares that I will pour out my Spirit”. Yet it is said “Jesus has received the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured out this”, Acts 2:33. God is the One who give the Spirit that we “minister”.
It can be said, ministers of Christ “minister” the Spirit, in the same way as is said that Jesus is the Healer, Matthew 8:17 but yet His ministers are to “heal the sick”, Luke 10:9. There is one God who “supplies” the Spirit again and again, 1 Thessalonians 4:8; Ephesians 4:16; Colossians 2:19. The Spirit is supplied, fresh each occasion and new miracles occur. It is a Divine impartation and reception by the believers.
The churches in Galatia and elsewhere, were full of charisma (gifts) and the Spirit – 1 Corinthians 12-14; 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22; 2 Thessalonians 2:2. The experience of the Spirit in the believer and in the church was central to church life. The gifts of the Spirit operated. The miraculous was there. This is on the basis of faith not works of the Law.
It would appear that their churches were different from most of ours – and we are supposed to be like them. Signs and wonders are to happen. These are speaking in other tongues, the greatest Bible given attraction for unbelievers – even greater than healing, miracles in the body and raising of the dead, 1 Corinthians 14:22, “Tongues then are a sign or miracle or token or wonder not for believers but for unbelievers”. Other translations say, “Tongues are to interest unbelievers” or “Strange tongues are meant to warn the unbeliever”.
We are heirs of Abraham and part of his covenant through faith in Christ Jesus. That covenant is fulfilled by the Spirit of God, verses 6-14. “Works miracles among you”. That is Divine energy manifested in powerful actions, Mark 6:2; Matthew 14:2; 1 Corinthians 12:10. The miracles happened as Gifts of the Spirit, 1 Corinthians 12:6,11; Hebrews 2:4; 6:4,5 (powers of the Age to come). God never changes. The church should not.
The whole of Galatians 3 should be seen as being connected to and following on from Genesis 15. It is about the Covenant God made with Abraham and his family, his “seed”. God made this Covenant with Abraham. It was to be fulfilled in his seed, which is Christ. It was not to be fulfilled in the nation of Israel. Paul in using “curse”, places the book of Galatians as being connected to covenant, as it is taken from Deuteronomy 27, 28. All are under the curse resulting from sin. All need deliverance and salvation from sin. This is shown even in the Old Covenant. All the promises and blessings outlined in those two chapters were under the Old Covenant. The Old Covenant held out blessing and curse. We are under the New Covenant. The blessings under this Covenant, are spiritual and flow out into the natural life. The curse of the Old Covenant, sin, was removed at the cross. Jesus Christ being the Mediator of the New Covenant has provided for us all the spiritual and material blessings laid up for us, through His death and resurrection. We have a foretaste of all these blessings here and now but the ultimate fulfilment is kept for heaven.
Moses stated that Israel would make the wrong choice and as a result, experience the curse of all curses, i.e., exile, Deuteronomy 28:5-29:29. Chapter 30 gives hope after they failed to keep the covenant. The hope is for renewal of covenant. It is about the regathering of the people after exile. After the children of Israel were taken the first time into captivity, for 70 years in Babylon, 2 Chronicles 36:20, a remnant of them did return to their own land, see 2 Chronicles 36:22, books of Ezra and Nehemiah.
Emphasis by Moses is on the circumcision of the heart. It was that the word was “near you”, “on your lips and in your heart”, Deuteronomy 30:1-14. Those chapters in Deuteronomy are about exile and restoration. They are about judgment because Israel broke that covenant. They show the covenant can be renewed. Because Paul quotes these phrases in Romans we can see the connection of return from exile or captivity, forever and of restoration to the coming of Christ with the gospel.
We as Gentile sinners, were outside of the covenant, away from God, under His wrath and lost in sin. We were under the curse also, Romans 1:18-32;2:14-16. Christ bore the judgment of God for the Jews and for the Gentiles. He became the curse for us. We were far from God. Christ as our representative bearing our sins, was forsaken by God. Restoration or reconciliation has come for those who believe in Christ who made reconciliation with God for us when He died on the cross and rose again.
It should be noted that Deuteronomy 29 and 30 are about a renewal of the covenant God made with Israel at Horeb. These two chapters do promise prosperity and “you will be the head and not the tail”. “We are the head and not the tail” was never spoken in relation to believers in Christ, as many today are declaring. The covenant with Israel has been done away with, Hebrews 8:1`3, “By calling this one ‘new’, He has made the first one obsolete”. It has been superseded by the New Covenant. Nowhere in the Bible is there any verse that includes being the “head and not the tail” in this New Covenant. The New Covenant is described in Jeremiah 31:31-33, c/f to Hebrews 10:16. It should be noted that it is an entirely different covenant, as verse 32 here promises, “It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers”. Hebrews 8, 9 and 10 show what the New Covenant is all about.
In Romans 10:26, Paul implies that the curse has been overcome and thus removed for believers only, by the return from exile (away from God), promised in Deuteronomy 30 through the cross, “Out of Zion will come the Deliverer; He will banish ungodliness from Jacob And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins”, Romans 11:26. Christ came under the Law, under the Old Covenant. He came from heaven to Zion, the Jews. After the Cross, He formed His church on the Day of Pentecost. This is called Zion, Hebrews 12:22. Now He comes out of Zion, His church. He came through the first preaching of the gospel by Peter in Acts 2. He is our Deliverer, He is “the stone in Zion that will make people stumble, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame”, Romans 9:33. He comes through the preaching of the gospel. He banishes ungodliness from those who believe, including Jews and Gentiles. He comes through the work of the Holy Spirit in hearts.
The curse of exile, being away from God, climaxed in the cross of Jesus. He was in exile, as it were. We in Him were in exile there. The judgment was on Him. It was dealt with once for all, so that the blessing of the covenant being renewed as the New Covenant, might flow out for the Jews, with the Gentiles being brought in under it.
Galatians 3:6-9. It is through faith alone. John 6:29, “This is the work of God that you believe on Him”. We were unable to help ourselves. We were “weak and undone”, as a hymn says. We depended on ourselves. We indeed were gods unto ourselves. We do not do any “work”. It is God who “works” in us. By faith we depend on God through Christ. We have righteousness apart from works, Romans 4:6 “David speaks of the blessedness of those to whom God reckons righteousness apart from works”. Abraham could do nothing himself. God had to do it. It was God who supernaturally gave Abraham the promised son. It had to be faith, for him and us. Because of his faith, he was justified, before circumcision. He is our father and because of our faith we are justified without circumcision and without religious works of any kind, Romans 4:16.
Any other way is that of pride and self-righteousness, as the Pharisee prayed, “I thank God I am not as others”, Luke 18:10. “The gospel was preached to Abraham”, Galatians 3:8, “All the Gentiles shall be blessed in you”. It was a seed form. Jesus said in John 8:56, “Abraham saw My day and was glad”. Those “of faith” are blessed. The blessing is the blessing of the gospel that Jesus announced and as revealed to Paul.
At the time of Christ, the exile was still in force for the Jews. The land was under the control of Rome. Israel was still under the curse of Deuteronomy 29 and as a people of Abraham’s natural descendants, still is today. In Galatians 1:4 Paul spoke of that time as being part of “this present evil age”.
Galatians 3:10-14 Curse and Promise
Verse 10 says that “Whoever does not keep the Law is under the curse”. It is not by works of Law, following from verse 9. a. All following works of Law are under a curse, needing to be redeemed from it. b. Scripture says, the righteous person shall live by faith, Romans 1:17; Hebrews 10:38; Habakkuk 2:4, the righteous live by their faith; Leviticus 18:5, “You shall keep my statutes, by doing so one shall live” but the Law is not of faith. c. Christ has delivered us from the curse of living by “works of Law”, because “cursed (also) is everyone who hangs on a tree”.
The curse came upon Israel as a result of their breaking the Law. In its full extent the curse was their being placed outside the Covenant of God. They became strangers to God and not partakers of His life and blessing. In the case of a hanging, they were placed outside of the land, Deuteronomy 21:23.
The curse of the Law does not mean temporal and civil punishments on Israel of old because they sinned against the judicial or ceremonial law. Such did happen in the Old Testament, as per Deuteronomy 28:15.
The term “curse” means the “penal sanction of the moral law”. This curse is on all mankind. “Sanction” is “to make binding” or “penalty for disobedience”. Christ “redeemed” us from that curse through His obedience unto death on the cross. This means He “bought us out from one condition and transferred us into another”. He bought us or ransomed us. Punishment was transferred from us to Christ. He exchanged places with Christ and us. He was made a curse. The Divine wrath was poured out on Him. We had to be redeemed from the penal sanction or penalty of the law. It has no connection with material blessings, in the way we hear “Prosperity Teachers” saying. That is to make a “false” gospel.
The gospel places Jesus Christ as being the centre of all things. It happened because of sin. There God dealt with sin, not sickness or poverty. The cross is the power and wisdom of God unto salvation for eternity. Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world”. However, as He is the “Heir of all things” and as we are “co-heirs with Him”, it affects the material in addition to its main import, the spiritual. As the last Adam, He has dominion over this creation. We therefore have a right to material blessings.
Christ became a “curse” for us. As in 2 Corinthians 5:21, there is an abstract noun in the Greek. This describes Christ as the sin-bearer in that verse and the curse-bearer in Galatians. This use of “curse” meant that a thing was done to the highest degree. It gives it more emphasis. Because Jesus became the curse-bearer, God is now able to give blessing. It is the “blessing of Abraham”, “the promise of the Spirit”. That is “spirit-ual” blessing!
Verse 11 quotes Habakkuk 2:4 that shows that those under the covenant have faith. This faith is always in connection with the Cross of Christ. No person can be righteous without the blood of Christ. The Old Testament slaying of millions of animals over the centuries shows that there has to be shedding of blood to atone for sin and that pointed to the sacrifice and shedding of the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. Every blessing under the New Covenant has its root in the Cross of Christ. It must be by faith, as in Galatians 3:6-9. Under the Law, they found it was “by doing”. It did not work on faith. It was added to the faith Abraham had. It was built upon God’s relationship with them based on and kept through faith Galatians 3:17. Nevertheless, the old covenant came through faith not law which was added to the promise received by faith.
Verse 12 reads “Whoever does the works of the law will live by them”. It means they will live “under” them or “give self wholly to them. This does not bring justification rather it brings the curse because no one can keep the Law. Living under the Law demands complete obedience which is impossible for man to do. Jesus Christ alone has perfectly kept the Law. The end is always “curse” and the truth is that Law does not rest on mercy, faith or grace.
The Law was the way they must live within the covenant. Law was not the foundation of the covenant. Habakkuk 2:4 shows as the people of God they had to live by faith. Leviticus 18:5, quoted in verse 12 of Galatians 3, shows how limited the law was.
Let us remember that in relation to Israel, God always has dealt with her in a peculiar manner in the Old Testament dispensation, Deuteronomy 28:15. Her disobedience and idolatry brought the curse upon her. It remains and will remain until the remnant are removed from under it by faith in Christ, 2 Corinthians 3:14-16. Israel as a nation will never come back and will never receive the blessings of God.
Law can never be the means of faith and thus bring life, Romans 10:5,6. “But the righteousness that comes from faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ (That is to bring Christ down)”. “Bringing Christ down from heaven” means to bring about the incarnation. This has already taken place; the Messiah has appeared.
The Jewish Galatians were condemned. The Galatian Gentiles were under the wrath and condemnation of God because of the disobedience in their hearts to the law written within. The Law of Moses showed that they did not even come close to being what God required.
Verse 13 Redeemed or ransomed from the curse of the Law meant Someone had the curse transferred to Him. This was Jesus Christ, by His death. He exchanged places with the sinners. His as a vicarious death as the Substitution. Also, He represents Israel and is able to take on himself Israel’s curse and remove it. Jesus died as King of the Jews at the hands of Romans. They oppressed Israel, still under the curse of exile, Mark 15:25,26.
Christ came to be where Israel was, under the curse 4:4. He was Israel’s representative and also Israel’s redeeming representative. The curse afflicted Israel in particular. Sin afflicts all. He took sin upon Himself. To the Gentiles, Paul said, 2 Corinthians 5:21, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (God did not make Him a sinner). He was “sin-bearer”.
The curse meant the wrath of God is on all. Punishment had to be given. The punishment was transferred to Him. He died bodily for us. He suffered for us, receiving the experience of Hell, which is separation from God and not descending into hell itself. This began in the Garden of Gethsemane. On the cross, He cried, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?” He experienced this for us. He hung upon the tree (cross) because of the curse on us, transferred to Him. It was not His being on the cross that was the curse. He was there because of the curse, Deuteronomy 21:22, which is a symbol or type in prophecy. See 1 Corinthians 1:21, 23; Isaiah 53.
2 Corinthians 5:21, “He became sin for us” uses an abstract noun in the Greek. It means He became the sin bearer, the curse, the curse bearer. It does not mean He became sin in actuality. He bore the guilt of our sin. He was forever, the spotless Lamb of God. On the cross, He was an offering for sin that went up to God as a sweet savour, Ephesians 5:2.
The death of Jesus is to be understood by thinking of renewing the covenant. It was also a Covenant curse, Israel’s curse. It was taken by Israel’s anointed representative. The king died, hanging on a tree in His own land. This polluted the land. If the land of Israel is polluted, how can God have a special plan for it today? Pollution was never removed.
Christ was made a curse for us who were burdened with sin and guilt. It becomes His own people in the sense it is as if He was the sinning people. Inwardly, He is innocent. Outwardly, He is guilty with our sin. “Redeemed” means “bought back”. This happened in atonement, 1 Peter 2:24,25 (Bore our sins on His own body on the tree); Acts 20:28; Isaiah 53:3. Deuteronomy 21:23 “A hanged man accursed”. He is hanged because he is cursed, not cursed because he hung on a cross. Jesus was cursed in our stead because he bore our sins and thus became guilty being regarded as a criminal in the judicial act of the Romans.
The whole life of Jesus on earth was one of curse-bearing. He knew sorrow and suffering. However, God never saw Jesus as a sinner. He never was. He was always His beloved Son. He was the Righteous Servant. In His life he knew the curse as given to Adam in Genesis 3, of toil, labour, thirst, hunger, sorrow and death. He was made in “the likeness of sinful flesh”, Hebrews 2. Because He was sinless, sickness personally could not come upon Him. He was cursed as our substitute. When He saw them weeping at the grave of Lazarus in John 11, “Jesus wept”. He was weeping because He saw the curse on mankind and being made like us, He felt and understood that curse. In that case, it was sickness and death. Because He bore the curse, it made the way open for blessing to come to believers.
The curse came upon Him as our Substitute. Personally, He never was cursed. He took the penalty we deserve. He was treated as guilty, accused and cursed in our place.
A man was cursed because he broke the law that brought both curse and punishment. A cursed person was outside the covenant; he was expelled, Deuteronomy 21:23; 27,28. Also, there was the withdrawal of covenant blessing, he was put outside promised land among Gentiles. Jesus was cursed by God, put outside the covenant, outside the people of God. He suffered “outside the city gate”, Hebrews 13:12. All Israelites, are outside any covenant, even today (unless accepting Christ). God has no covenant with them. In Revelation 3:9 the Spirit calls Jews “the synagogue of Satan”.
Galatians 3:14 The covenant promises were given to Abraham. Then Law was given. The promises still were there. The Law brings curse, not blessing, Romans 4:15 (wrath). It cannot of itself give the faith that is the true sign of the covenant people, Abraham’s family. How can the blessing of Abraham come on either Jew cursed by Law or Gentile?
The “blessing of Abraham” promised is not prosperity as it is taught. Because Deuteronomy lists blessings including prosperity for Israel if she kept the Law, current teaching says Christ redeemed us from the curse, i.e. sickness and poverty as well. According to that teaching, we should not have any sickness or any poverty. They say that if we do have, it is because of our lack of faith – a cruel thing to say to the sick and the deprived. Galatians 3 teaches something quite different. God’s concern as Lawgiver was an atonement that carried out the penalty of death originally pronounced against sin as in Genesis 3. Then in Genesis 3:15, (regarding Christ), He showed a way that would bring in a righteousness bringing justification. It would be through the “seed of the woman (Eve)” for mankind.
Galatians 3:15-18 The promises were made to Abraham and his seed. The law coming later could not change the conditions of salvation. We are to have faith in the promise that comes through grace. Under Law it was merit by receiving “wages”. Under the gospel, it is all grace. We think of the will as mentioned in Hebrews 9:15-21.
There is an agreement/covenant, Genesis 15:18; 17:2-8; v.4, Romans 4:17. In the latter verse, “The world” is not this world but spiritual seed with a heavenly inheritance, new heavens and new earth. The covenant with Abraham was not set aside by the covenant given at Sinai, Exodus 19:5; 24:7,8, Deuteronomy 4:13; 29:1,21. Christ is Abraham’s one true offspring.
The Jews clung to physical descent from Abraham, John 8:33,39-41 “Abraham is our father. You are of your father the Devil”. They had in their body the mark of the covenant, circumcision. No person without that mark would escape Gehenna, yet Luke 3:8 says, “Do not say, ‘We have Abraham as our father’; God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham”. God is raising up children to Abraham from Gentiles (heathen)! God promised Abraham a worldwide family, of “faith”.
The promises were given to Israel. The Law gave to this people, through whom the promise came, only curse. The argument of Paul’s continues. How could the promises to Abraham now reach the world? Promises of blessing to Abraham were still there but the Law stops those promises. The problem is dealt with because the old covenant finished in the death of the Messiah. God showed this by tearing the veil of the Temple in two when Christ died. A New Covenant came into being.
The promise to Abraham is the inheritance. This happened with the coming of the Spirit. This is the first instalment of what will be received in the eternal place. Righteousness is by faith. Gentiles come into the blessing of Abraham, the promise of God, The inheritance is two-fold of 3:26-29; 4:4-7. It is apart from Law. It is effected by Christ and comes about through the gift of the Spirit. Blessing to the nations is the theme of the Abrahamic covenant, Romans 9:4. This is through the gospel. Abraham believed in the “Seed”.
Let us look at the promise of the land of Canaan, Genesis 13:15,17; 15:18; 17:8; 24:7. The gospel was confusing to the Judaizers in Galatia. In their view, it concerned national Israel. Paul shows in Romans 4:13-17 the promise now to Abraham is to “inherit the world”. This is not just the land promised him, viz. Canaan promised for the nation of Israel in the book of Joshua. Abraham is the “father of many nations”.
Inheriting the land was spiritualised in Psalms 37:9 “those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land”/29 “the righteous shall inherit the land and live in it forever”/ 39 “The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord” all Psalms to day can not be in the natural. They are spiritualised, Psalms 23; 27:91. In the Psalms, natural Jerusalem is praised. Now, we do not have a natural Jerusalem but a New Jerusalem, even as Abraham looked for the eternal city, New Jerusalem, Hebrews 11:10 Ezekiel 34:25; 11-14; Isaiah 51:21. All are about the New Jerusalem, Paradise as in the Garden of Eden is restored and enlarged. See Ezekiel 28:13-19; John 6:45; Revelations 21:19,15; Isaiah 65:13-15. These are spiritualised by talking of eternal life. The Spirit is the beginning of the Christian inheritance, for believing Jew and Gentile. Galatians 4:7; 5:21;3:2-5,14. The book of Hebrews spiritualises the promise of the land – Hebrews 3,4; 6:12; 11:8-16. Prayer for Jerusalem in Psalms was only for the Old Testament.
We cannot today literally “chase a band of robbers” or “leap over a fence” as David in a Psalm 18:29. We should understand the Book of Psalms better. What of Isaiah 54:17? Are we to condemn? The New Testament says differently. Romans 12:19-21, “overcome evil with good”. “Bless them you curse you”, Luke 6:28. When the disciples wished ill on those who opposed Jesus, He said, “You do not know what spirit you are of”.
The thought also is that Abraham and his race would inherit the land. The Spirit is the beginning of the Christian inheritance, Galatians 4:7; 5:21; 3:2-5,14. The promise of the land is also spiritualised, Hebrews 3-4; 6:12; 11:8-16. We, the believers, both natural Jew and Gentile, now made one in Christ, will inherit the land, Romans 8:18-23; Psalm 8; Isaiah 11:5-9; 1 Corinthians 15:27,28; Acts 3:21 regeneration, restitution or restoration; 2 Peter 3:10-13; Revelation 21:1; Ephesians 1:10,14; Matthew 5:5. It is the “new heavens and the new earth”, “heaven”. Abraham is the ancestor of all who believe without being circumcised, Romans 4:11.
Galatians 3:19-21 Reason for Law.
In these verses is a contrast between the Law, given through angels and Moses and the covenant, given directly to Abraham by God, 3:17,18.
Verse 19 Justification by faith is to lead to holy living, not “do as you like”. Why was the Law given previously? It was added because of sins. It was for the time until the Seed (Christ) arrived. It was given through angels, by means of a mediator, Moses. The Law, Pentateuch, covers the first five books of the Bible. It includes the system of sacrifices whereby God dealt with sin. Sin was dealt with finally in the cross of Christ,
The Law was to bring the knowledge of the character and demands of God, giving a deeper consciousness of sin. The Jew had more understanding. “To him who is given much, much is required”, said Jesus. Luke 12:47 servants knew the will of their master, yet disobeyed; Matthew 13:12 “To him has, more is given, has not, what he has will be taken away”. Between God, who is One and us (Jew and Gentile), is enmity. With Gentiles, law was written on their hearts, Romans 2:9,13. God cannot revoke His law. The Mediator came, Jesus Christ and has reconciled us to God, Colossians 2:14 on the cross “He blotted out the handwriting of ordinances against us, nailing it to His cross”.
The Law is identified with angels. One translation is “It was set in order by means of angels by the hands of a mediator (who was Moses)”. The Law is as “elemental forces” of 4:3, “when we were minors we were enslaved to the elemental spirits of the world”; 9, “How can you turn back again to the weak and beggarly elemental spirits?”; 10, “You are observing special days and months and seasons and years,” i.e. submitting to Law’s demands is a kind of slavery to the “elemental forces” (demons). . Angels look at God’s redemption, where He reveals to them His wisdom, Ephesians 3:10, “in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places”; and 1 Peter 1:12.
See Colossians 2:20, “If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the universe, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world? Why do you submit to regulations, 21 ‘Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch’?” There is no need for Law in our Christians lives. To follow it is in reality slaves to elemental spirits of the universe and of this world.
Verse 20 One translation, Bas, says of Genesis 15:11 is not actually “covenant” but a contract, “undertaking”, “arrange to be done”, “conveyance of property”. That perhaps is the only way to explain this verse in Galatians as it says, “A mediator is not for one party only, yet God is One”. Hebrews 11:17 says “He who had received the promises”. This would include Isaac and Jacob as verse 9 is “fellow heirs of the same promise”.
Genesis 15:7-18, there was only one party, God, as Abraham fell under a “deep sleep”. The purpose was that of giving a promise, verse 7 and also Genesis 12:7. Being asleep, Abraham could never keep a covenant. Jeremiah 34:18 is regarding those who break a covenant, even when “they cut the calf and passed between its parts”. It could never be said Abraham did. A covenant always has two parties. It must have been as Bas above translates the Hebrew word. God undertook with Abram to fulfil His promises.
Verse 21 asks the question “Is the law then opposed to the promises of God?” that is answered in the following verses. Paul, in effect, was actually that the giving of the Law could not make the promises useless.
Galatians 3: 22-25. Law our Schoolmaster
Verse 22 The Law imprisoned Jew and Gentile the same. The reason was to make salvation for all. Righteous men have no claim on Christ, Matthew 9:12,13 “not call righteous but sinners to repentance”. All men are under the power of sin – Jew, Gentile, the whole world (this present evil age). Therefore Israel was not in a privileged position, said Paul. She was not protected by being under the law. All are under sin that is the master.
The power of the law was limited. God makes grace and the Spirit very important. This is promise and inheritance received through faith. Law is treated as a spiritual power, like sin, v.22, stated above. The Law thus was a kind of angelic being, as stated above. It was a “custodian”, protective, not the same as sin but against sin. It did give some protection from idolatry and the lower moral standards in the Gentile (heathen) world. Israel as a nation was better than any other.
The Law was broken. Therefore they were guilty. This made the promises useless. Then Christ destroyed sin and in so doing, disarmed the Satanic powers as in Colossians 2:14,15. This happened on the cross and certainly not in the grave or in Hell! This was openly displayed to the angels in the triumph of Christ on the cross. He took on Him personally, our guilt. The cross wiped out the bond, or list of commandments and the breaking of them. This was against us. Galatians 3:13, 1 Peter 2:24. 2 Corinthians 5:21, “made sin” or “bore our sin”. All was embodied in Him. The bond against us and its curse, was identified with Him. It was exchanged from us to Him. Our guilt was expiated before because our Surety took our place on the cross. On believing in Him, we are considered innocent and not guilty.
Galatians 3:23,24. “The Law was our disciplinarian (schoolmaster) until Christ came”. Many centuries ago, it was the special business of the teacher to train the youth to proper habits. He gave no more than the beginning of learning but he was to take the youth to those who were qualified to give it. The law did this for those under it. By means of its symbolical institutions and ordinances, it gave understanding, a measure of instruction. The Jews lived better lives than the heathen all around them did.
The Law was imperfect and pointed to something better. Those under Moses, when Christ came were to pass from this training under the shadows of good things, into the free use of those good things themselves. These would be under the grace of the gospel. They were supposed to understand. However, they generally did not. Hebrews 10:1 “The law has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the true form of these realities”.
Verse 25 Faith is to know one must depend on God. This is possible only to those who have heard and accepted the good news as it is in Christ. Under the Old Testament there were those who had some understanding. Without realising properly, there were some who were waiting the fulfilment of “the promise” to be given to “those who believe”. This is the gift of the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:1-11. The new covenant is a covenant of “Spirit” and not a covenant as before of the “letter”, 2 Corinthians 3. Once faith comes, there is no room for Law.
At the time of Christ there was no need for a schoolmaster. The Law had served its purpose. Law is not as powerful as sin and therefore has no real answer to the power of sin. Only the grace of the Divine promise, which is the Gospel, is able to break the power of sin. Only He can set the captives of this present evil age, free. So we can understand that all were shut up under sin. The promise given to Abraham was to bring about the Power that could break the rule of sin. It does not come by Law but by grace through faith.
Galatians 3:26-29. All One in Christ
Verse 26 The blessing promised to Abraham always had the Gentiles in mind. Israel was chosen and elected and was to receive the Law but it was as a temporary protection only for Israel. The more direct and wonderful revelation given in the promise to Abraham could be realised only through faith in Christ Jesus. This was for the world and not only for Israel. Faith in Christ brought such a vital relationship with Him that it meant they also became sons of Abraham and also sons of God.
Verse 27 “Baptized into Christ” has no reference to water baptism. To mean water baptism would be doing what the Jewish opponents were doing, wanting a physical rite for them of circumcision. In this sense water baptism would be merely a physical rite of no account. Paul was using metaphors, “baptized into Christ” and “put on Christ”, both of which are spiritual acts. This is through the Spirit. All are one; there is neither Jew, nor Gentile, male nor female, in Christ.
Verse 28 states there is “neither Jew nor Gentile”, being “one in Christ”. That being the case where is the scriptural basis for the land of Israel to be given to the “Jews”, when God has now considered there are no Jews – or Gentiles? There He mentions mankind as divided into two groups only – the redeemed (Jew and Gentile) and the unsaved.
Jewish traditions said “women are inferior to men” and in their prayers, a Jewish man gives thanks to God that he was not created a Gentile, a slave or a woman. It must not be the case in this country for believers. Before God she is not inferior and indeed in actuality she is not inferior – just that both male and female are different and fit in with each other. All are one in Christ Jesus. To believe “into Jesus Christ” is to be baptized into Christ. It is to become so identified with Christ as to share in His position before God. It is to share in the promise to Abraham through his Seed, who is Christ.
Abraham and his natural descendants were given the land as a type for Abraham and his spiritual descendants to inherit the “land” of the new heavens and the new earth, Hebrews 11:9,10. See Verse 18 above.
Galatians 4:1-3. Slaves
Verse 1 “Under the law” both the slave (Gentile) and the heir who was under age, the Jew, had no liberty. This was explained above. Israel’s redemption by Moses from Egypt under taskmasters is a type of the redemption effected by Christ, who is typified by Moses. The child under a “guardian” or “disciplinarian” was the caretaker of the estate. That was Israel under the law. “Under” means “dominated by”. It was the inferior status of a child. When the child comes of age, then he inherits. That happened in the “fullness of time”, when Christ came.
Verse 2 Life in Christ means both the slave and free man now have liberty. Old Testament believers had Christ in spirit. They believed in Him who would be revealed later. The outward law written in a book was the elements or rudiments of the world. The law is “the rudiments of the world” or “elemental spirits”. This cannot give divine, heavenly or things of life, only worldly things, Hebrews 10:1 “The law having a shadow of good things to come and not the very image of the things” – “having only a dim outline of the good things in the future and not their substance, can never by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year make perfect those who come”.
The law of Moses gives nothing but worldly things, . It does however, show in a spiritual way, the evils in the world. Hebrews 9:1 “The first covenant had its own ceremonial observances and its sanctuary of this world (belonging to this material world) – and the earthly holy place”.
Church laws forbidding marriage and meats, or gold, or demanding veils as part of Christianity, fastings, penances, prostrations,, are “the rudiments of the world”, Colossians 2:20. “If with Christ you died to the rudiments or the elemental spirits of this world, why do you live as if you belonged to the world”. See 1 Timothy 4:1,3,4 re teachings of demons. “They forbid marriage and refuse meat which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good and nothing is to be rejected provided it is received with thanksgiving.” See 2 Corinthians 3:6. Paul calls the law “the rudiments of the world (elemental spirits), weak and beggarly elements, the strength of sin, the letter that kills”.
verse 3, “Under the elemental spirits of the world” has a connection with Colossians 2:18,20. See Galatians 3:19-21. It means –
- “heavenly bodies, the stars”, thought to be divine powers influencing or determining human destiny. We see evidence of this in paganism today and in western astrology that is very common. It was in Paul’s day the way humans lived their lives, supposedly, under the influence or power of primal and cosmic forces. This does not give believers in Christ an excuse to go around “pulling down the demons over cities, places or nations”. No one in the New Testament did such a thing. They went into these places and just preached the full gospel of Christ with the signs and gifts of the Holy Spirit.
- Judaism also incorporated such beliefs, see Deuteronomy 4:19. Josephus, the Jewish historian at the time of Christ, describes the Pharisees and others as believers in “Fate, the mistress of all things”.
- Paul obviously understood that the Jews, as today, treated the law as ruling over Israel and distinguishing her from other nations. They thought this was showing God’s choice of Israel. They did not even keep the law. The law had become like one of the spirits that God caused to rule over the nations to lead them astray (an old Jewish writing), See Daniel 10:13.
The idea of the Galatians who had been pagans, putting themselves under the law, is the same as their going back to their previous pagan religions. In any church, Pentecostal or otherwise, if we put ourselves under laws and rules, we are in actuality going back to the rule of spirits as in paganism.
Galatians 4:4-6. Redeemed to Become Children
Verse 4 The Law for the Jews had failed. In the fullness of time” was at the height of Roman and Greek art, culture, education and civilization that was under God, a time suitable for the birth of Christ. He is “born of a woman” and has full humanity as well as deity. This is not referring directly to the virgin birth. It goes back to Genesis 3:15 “Seed of the woman who will crush the serpent’s head”. It also fulfils Isaiah 7:14 “A young woman or virgin shall conceive and bear a son and shall call His name Immanuel”, a prophecy of the birth of Christ.
He was “made of a woman”, with a body created from the substance of Mary. Jesus, our Kinsman-Redeemer, had true humanity from Adam. He had a natural and legal union through Mary, with us. This nature was not brought from heaven nor created specially. It came from a human mother as ours did. His real human but sinless body was not corruptible. Under the Law His obedience was active and suffering, Romans 5:19. He was under the Law only as a Surety for us.
Born as human He was willingly under conditions of law, a Jew. He was under conditions of law, God’s holy law. However, His holy nature had the obedience of such within Him. His human nature, also called the Son of God was under Law. This happened because, although He is God, He willingly became “born under the Law”.
His humanity was taken by Him into the Unity of His Person, Son of God and Son of Man. Under the law of Moses specifically, He fulfilled that law and kept it perfectly. As Son of God the Law had no power or authority over Him, He is Lord of all. Yet He was under the Law to do a work of obedience that He gave away to us who had only disobedience.
The law accused us, terrified us, made us subject to sin, death, the wrath of God and His condemnation (judgment), Ephesians 2:3 “we are all sinners and by nature the children of wrath”; but 1 Peter 2:22 “Christ did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth”. Yet that law was cruel against Him, the innocent, righteous, blessed Lamb of God as it was cruel against us cursed sinners. It oppressed Him in the Garden, condemned Him to death even the death of the Cross. Christ, for us, yielded Himself to the prison, rulership and bondage of the law.
Verse 5 It was to redeem us. He conquered the law. He did this:
- As the Son of God and Lord of the law;
- In our humanity, He was victor over the law, in our place. Christ came against the law. Ephesians 2:15 “He has abolished the Law with its commandments and ordinances”; “For in His flesh He destroyed the ground of our enmity, the law of enacted ordinances”; “By His sacrifice He removed the hostility of the Law with all its commandments and rules”; “through His human nature He has put a stop to the hostility between us, the law with its commands and decrees”.
iii. By His obedience to the law, He redeemed us who were slaves, Galatians 3:13, 19-21; 4:3,4, under the law. God humbled His Son under the law, so that He bore the curse and judgment of the law, sin and death. This Law condemned and killed Him in our place. The purpose of it was our redemption so that we might “receive adoption as children”. There could have been no death of atonement on the cross without His obedience. He was “obedient unto death, even the death of the cross”, Philippians 2:8. That portion again sets out the price of our redemption for Him, which was incarnation and obedience. See also Romans 5:19.
Galatians 4:6,7. Believers share in Christ’s sonship and also in sonship to Abraham, which is the lesser. Why should those Galatians leave being sons with Christ? Why should they follow circumcision that would show only that they were sons of Abraham? Christ became man so that we as ordinary humans can be adopted as God’s sons. It was God who sent His son. Salvation comes to us because God planned it. We did not plan it. It came to us because Christ through his death on the cross brought it to us. We received salvation by “receiving the Spirit”, Romans 5:1-5. This is the Spirit of Christ, Romans 8:9,10.
Because we have the Spirit, no one should go back to observing the law. Christ’s death has redeemed/freed us from it, We are now sons of God. We know this because the Spirit of the Son cries out from within the believer, the same thing that the Son says, “Father”. The Son has brought about the adoption of sons, placing us as believers in a relationship with God similar to His, Romans 8:14-17, joint-heirs. Now free, how can we go back to slavery? Having the Spirit of the Son proved the Galatians were sons, Romans 8:9; 1 Peter 1:11.
We cry Abba”, a cry of some intensity, of feeling. It is loud, inspired and ecstatic. It is from the heart. It is sincere. It means more than a brief “Abba” (“Father”). The Spirit causes it. Do we realise that God is “our Father”?
This cry is not supernaturally spoken but it is Spirit-inspired. It is an intimate kind of praying. “God, You are my Father!” The promise Jesus gave was that “We”, the Father and the Son, “will come and live in you”, John 14:23. Christ lives in our hearts by the Spirit, Ephesians 3:16,17. This cry of “Abba” makes us confess as required by Romans 10:9,10; 2 Corinthians 4:13 shows we have the “same spirit of faith” – ‘I believed and so I spoke’”. Matthew 10:32,33 reveals the importance of confessing. Otherwise we deny Christ.
This does not refer to their experience of receiving the Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit. It had nothing to do with emotional reactions to the preaching of the gospel. It was to impress on them and us, that we are not slaves to law or sin. Instead, we are sons. We are heirs of God. We know this by the Spirit and the Word.
We do not know this through affliction of bodies with watchings, penances, fastings, traditions of men, getting “slain”, becoming financially prosperous doctrine and shaking. Are these not all doctrines of devils? Anything that is not the Truth of the Word of God is a doctrine of devils.
Galatians 4:8-11. These believers in Galatia had been heathen. They had been “slaves to those which are ‘no gods’ (idols).” These Gentile believers had experienced the riches of His grace through Christ, Romans 10:12; 1 Corinthians 1:5; 2 Corinthians 9:14,15; Ephesians 2:4. Note especially, Colossians 2:13-19, “God has now made us to share in the very life of Christ! He has forgiven you all your sins. He has utterly wiped out the written evidence of broken commandments… by nailing it to the cross. Having drawn the sting of all the powers and authorities ranged against us, he exposed them, shattered, empty and defeated, in his own triumphant victory”.
Israel had been the only nation that had any knowledge of the true God. These Gentile Christians had come out of a pagan religion that was not Jewish. Now some were turning to the traditional Jewish understanding of the covenant shown by the law. They were turning away from the God of Israel’s covenant. The elemental, worldly, devilish forces of it are “weak” in contrast to the divine power of the Only True God. To live like that is to live by the power of demons coming from a false god. It gains its power by human ignorance, superstition and fear. An idol is a “nothing”. It has no power. Demons come to the worshippers of idols. Those elemental forces are weak – Romans 14:1,2; 1 Corinthians 8:7,9-12; 9:22. Romans 2:4; 9:25; 11:33; Philemon 4:19; Colossians 1:27,
The special days were the Sabbath, the Day of Atonement, the new-moon festival, as in Numbers 10:10; 28:11; 2 Kings 4:23; Psalms 81:3; Ezekiel 46:3,6; Colossians 2:16. Also “appointed feasts” as in 1 Chronicles 23:31; 2 Chronicles 2:4; 31:3; Nehemiah .10:33; Isaiah 1:13; Hosea 2:11; there were the three pilgrim festivals, the festal seasons, Exodus 13:10; 23:14,17; 34:23,24; Leviticus 23:4; Numbers 9:3. The Judaizers were getting the Gentile Christians to keep these special days.
“In view of these tremendous facts, don’t let anyone worry you by criticizing what you eat or drink, or what holy days you ought to keep or bothering you over new moons or Sabbaths. All these things are no more than foreshadowings; the reality belongs to Christ”, Colossians 2:16. As Paul told the church in Colosse, so the Galatians were not to follow the traditions of men.
The Old Testament things, like the Tabernacle, were only the foreshadowings. Putting emphasis on those things keeps people living in a way that is in the foreshadowings. Then they have less understanding and experience of the reality. Colossians 2:18, “There are self-appointed umpires around who delight in asceticism and in angel worship and who are always trying to penetrate further into their own world of fantasies. Their minds, dominated by a false idea of the importance of external things fill them with a senseless conceit. You must not let them disqualify you. They lose their grip on Him, who is the head”. We saw this in Indonesian Pentecostals. The main teaching is based on the Tabernacle. That is where the believers stayed, under legalism and not under grace or the Spirit.
Galatians 4:12-19 What bodily weakness did Paul suffer? Fever, malaria, blindness, infirmity; “temptation”, trial? Whatever it was it is the same as the “thorn in the flesh”, 2 Corinthians 12:7. Almost all who have engaged in missionary work have found they were subject to those things. Look at the graves scattered all over the world, of missionaries or their children! Pentecostals believe in divine healing, yet they all eventually get old, ill and die! Why not Paul?
2 Corinthians 12:9,10 reads “Most gladly I delight to boast of the weaknesses that humiliate me, That is why I can even enjoy weaknesses, suffering, privations, persecutions and difficulties for Christ’s sake. My very weakness makes me strong in Him”. Not much money or luxury for him. N.I.V. “I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake.”
Nevertheless, the Galatians treated Paul as an angel (meaning messenger) of God. He had been sent by the risen Christ with full authority to speak for Him. Paul goes on as follows. When they believed, they had received the blessing of Abraham. Where was it now? Had they left it? Also, with the new converts, there would come a fading of the first bit of enthusiasm. The Jewish zealot would “Shut them out” by not having fellowship with the Gentile believers in eating. This was Peter and others who did this. They would not eat with Gentiles. These false teachers, in showing that the covenant people were to follow works of the law hoped to stir these Gentiles to want to get under the Law. They wanted to convert them to Judaism.
Paul mentions zeal. There is nothing wrong with zeal but their zeal was in the wrong direction. Paul had zeal before he was converted. He murdered many Christians in his zeal. Now he has a different zeal, to preach the gospel, as in 22 Corinthians 11:2 “I am zealous over you with the zeal of God”. He warned the Galatians against the zeal of the other missionaries. He uses the image of parent and children with childbirth. It was laborious for him to get the Galatians established in Christ. 1 Corinthians 4:14,17; 2 Corinthians 6:13; 12:14; Philemon 2:22; 1 Thessalonians 2:11.
“Being saved” is a life-long process of “transformation”, Romans 12:2, “renewed”; 2 Corinthians 3:18 is to go “from glory to glory”; 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:5; Romans 8:23; 2 Corinthians 1:22, “His Spirit in our hearts as a first instalment”. It involves the Spirit of God and His purpose for eternity. It gives us the hope of redemption of the body and renewal of the whole person, Romans 8:11, “If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through His Spirit in you” and 23. These present mortal bodies of sin are given life to live holy now by the Spirit of Christ.
We are to be transformed to be like Christ. The restoration of the image of God in humans is for believers, including the resurrection body like His. Romans 8:29; 2 Corinthians 3:18-4:4; Colossians 3:10 shows they (we) “clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator”; 1 John 3:2; 1 Corinthians 15:45-9; Philippians 3:10,11 speaks of “the resurrection of the dead”, in 21 “He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of His glory”; Colossians 1:27 states “Christ in you the hope of glory”; 3:4 “you also will be revealed with Him in glory”.
Galatians 4:20. Paul was not sure how the people would react. Some say we should never be negative. He was! This can often happen in life’s situations. Negative things are in the Bible and in life. The positivity teaching we hear and in books, is not of God or of the Bible. We are required to have faith and to live by faith in God through Christ.
The Gentile Christians who believed in Christ and had the gift of the baptism with the Spirit now wished to join the Jewish people. They wanted to come under the law, as Abraham’s heirs of promise.
Galatians 4:21-29 says we must interpret the Old Testament correctly, verse 21. He mentions again, the theme of freedom, until verse 31. They have used the law to further their case, now Paul uses it to show they are wrong. Paul had taught them they could receive all the benefits promised in those scriptures without circumcision. He speaks differently from those other teachers who were teaching them to be circumcised.
Verse 22 He tells the Old Testament story. It is an allegory. There are two sons of Abraham – Isaac (those who are in Christ) and Ishmael (those following Judaism). The first is as a result of promise (in 3:14 shown as of the Spirit) and the other exists according to the flesh.
Verse 23 Paul uses the two mothers representing two covenants to show that result. Hagar is the covenant of Law on Sinai and Sarah is the new covenant effected through Christ and the Spirit. Hagar is the “slave woman” and Sarah, the “free woman”. This goes back to Galatians 4:1-7, that Christ has redeemed them. He had freed them from the slavery of the Law. The Spirit has brought sonship, freedom. They are no longer slaves but sons and heirs.
In this passage, the main theme is that Abraham, in his life, shows the only two possible attitudes towards God, faith and unbelief. There is also “natural and spiritual”, “earthly and heavenly”, “below and above”, “slavish and free”.
“Flesh” here is the human desire and ability. It is typified by Abraham and Hagar having Ishmael. This was wrong. Also those who rely on the flesh are wrong, Genesis 16:1-8. The seed (son) that came by Hagar, was not born as God had promised but of the flesh. It is no part of the true Church in either the Old Testament or New Testament periods. In the Old, it represented the carnal part, the unregenerate, idolatrous or self-righteous Israelites and nominal Christian believers now. They are without inheritance and blessing. Sarah was long past child bearing, Genesis 17:15-19; 18:11-13. So much so she laughed in scorn and unbelief. Genesis 17:16 shows Isaac was conceived by Divine intervention. See also 18:10,14: 21:1,2; Romans 4:17-21; 9:7-9; Genesis 16; 15:4,5. Re Ishmael, see Genesis 16:10; 17:20; 21:13.
Verse 24 Two covenants. God’s promise of a son did not come through the way of the flesh but through His supernatural act. God had made His covenant with Abraham through Isaac, His chosen. Then came another covenant of law on Sinai. Here in verses 21-29 the contrast is between the covenant of promise and covenant of law. There is only one covenant with importance here. It is the one with Abraham and his seed, promising blessing to the nations. Paul uses “two covenants” (the one with Abraham and the covenant on Mt. Sinai) to describe in actuality, one covenant purpose of God. It was through Abraham and his seed. This covenant is not to be regarded as a covenant in terms of law and flesh now. It is to be seen as a covenant of promise.
Galatians 4:25.26, “Jerusalem, which now is,” and “Jerusalem, which is above (heavenly)” means the Jerusalem on earth and the Jerusalem that is heavenly. The new Jerusalem, Zechariah 8:1-8; Ezekiel 48; Isaiah 62; Hebrews 12:22 “have come to Mt. Zion, heavenly Jerusalem”; Revelations 21:2 “I saw the heavenly Jerusalem”. She is the “mother of us all”.
The people in the church in Galatia who wanted the Gentile believers to come under Law observance regarding circumcision are “according to the flesh”. Also see Galatians 3:3. They “began by Spirit” at the start of their Christian life. They were trying to finish by “flesh”.
Verses 27,28 Isaac is the son born “according to the Spirit” and all who belong to Christ are “of the Spirit”. We are “born of the Spirit” in the new birth, being born again. Isaac’s birth was wholly supernatural. So is the new birth. John 1:13. In Genesis 21:9,10 Hagar mocked at Isaac. This is the actual attitude of Judaism to the Church, even to this day, being Anti-Christ. It is the attitude of all natural religion to the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit.
Galatians 4:29 The two sons oppose. Regarding “according to the flesh” for believers now, means “living according to the present age, its values and desires of life”. This present age is condemned through the Cross and is passing away. “According to the Spirit” means “living in keeping with the values of the coming age introduced through Christ by His death and resurrection”. In the allegory regarding Ishmael and Isaac there is a picture of national Israel and the church of believers in Christ. Under the Old Covenant, Israel worshipped according to the flesh. She inherited according to the flesh. She was disinherited. The inheritor then became the church, consisting of the remnant of Israel and believing Gentiles, Romans 9:7,8, “Neither because they are the seed of Abraham are they all children; but ‘in Isaac shall thy seed be called’. That is, they which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted for the seed”.
The remnant and Gentile believers are “the elect”, as taught in the doctrine of “election”, Romans 9:10-26. In chapter 11, verse 26, “a remnant shall be saved”.
Abraham’s son, Ishmael, speaks of natural Israel, “born after the flesh”. At first, Ishmael had the first-born’s son position in the household. Then the sole heir, was born after the promise. Ishmael, natural Israel, existed as the first-born from Sinai to Pentecost, the time of the Old Covenant. Then the sole heir, the church of Jesus Christ, came into being.
Even as Ishmael persecuted Isaac until Rebecca had him thrown out, so the Jews, natural Israel, persecuted the Christians, the church. This occurred from Pentecost until the destruction of Jerusalem in 70A.D. We look at Galatians 4:29 to see this and also 1 Thessalonians 2:15, ”the same things those churches suffered from the Jews, who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out”, says Paul. “They displease God and are hostile to all men in their effort to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. In this way they always heap up their sins to the limit. The wrath of God has come upon them to the uttermost (fully)”. This question must be asked, “How can anyone expect scripturally that a national Israel is to be restored for a millennium, in the face of the above?”
Galatians 4:30,31. Flesh and Spirit have no place together. Ishmael cannot inherit along with Isaac. Jew as such and Gentile cannot inherit together, Jew can only inherit in the same way as Isaac did as heirs of promise by the Spirit. These Gentile believers were sons of the promise, freeborn sons, in accordance with the Spirit, as also are believing Jews. Those still under the law, were still in a condition of slavery. Colossians 1:2; 2:13; Hebrews 11:11; Genesis 3:15; Galatians 3:16.
“For what says the Scripture? Cast out the bond woman and her son: for the son of the bond woman shall not be heir with the son of the free woman”. Natural, national Israel can never inherit anything any more. The heir is the church of Jesus Christ, according to Galatians 3:29, “And if you are Christ’s, then are you Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise”.
We see the contrast between Law and Gospel. The happenings in Genesis 21 are shadows of spiritual truth. They are types of the reality. The birth of Isaac, of the “free woman” came after the natural son, Ishmael, was cast out. He was the son of the “son of the bondmaid”. Law, working through faith, must give place to the Gospel of faith by the Spirit. The carnal seed, the fruit of law, is cast out. There must come a time for the reality, when this actually happens. It does, when the gospel and the new covenant come. The old covenant has finished.
God teaches man through a series of events over periods of time that sin must be eventually dealt with and that the Law must finish. It is the “schoolmaster” to bring us to Christ. Grace and faith in Abraham’s case had to lead to something far more glorious. It had to end in Christ and not in a nation of Israel.
GOD’S NAME: ABRAM TO ABRAHAM
He was known as “Jehovah” (“Yhwh”) in Genesis 2:4,5,7,8; 6:5,6; 12:1; 15:2, these latter two, to Abram. He gave a fuller revelation of Himself to Moses, as “Jehovah”, the closest translation in English to “Yhwh” and always translated “LORD” in the English Bible. This was in Exodus 3:14, when He said, “I Am that I Am”, the expression of His being. He is true being, the Self-existent One. Although He is love, He must be just and holy. Jeremiah 31:33,34 shows Him as One who makes the sinner righteous, after the Law given has condemned him.
Abram heard God’s Name of “El Elyon”, “Most High God” from Melchizedek in Genesis 14:19, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth”. Then he used it himself in verse 22, “I have raised my hand to the LORD, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth”. (Jehovah El Elyon).
Then followed “Adonai”. This word is first used by Abram in Genesis 15:2, “O Adonai the Lord,” or “O Sovereign God”. Adonai, plural, means “lord, master”, Isaiah 6:1; 2 Samuel 7:18-21; Psalm 8:1-9. See 1 Corinthians 9:7; Psalm 123:2, “The eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters”.
God’s revelation as “El Shaddai”, “the breasted One”, or “Pourer forth” came to Abram in Genesis 17:1. It is translated “Almighty”. He pours out blessings, temporal and spiritual. El Shaddai is the true giver of His own life. He first revealed Himself as the Lord, to Abram, in Genesis 12:220.127.116.11. Abram, obeyed what the Lord, told him, not yet knowing the power of this God.
“El Shaddai” is “God Almighty”. “El” means “might” or “power”, Genesis 31:29, Psalm 18.32. “Shaddai” means “breasted”, from “Shad”, “the breast. We who are “sons and daughters” as “says the Lord Almighty”, 2 Corinthians 6:17,18 also become “breasted” and “pourers forth”. This is the fulfilment of Isaiah 66:10,11, “Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad for her, all you who love her”. “For you will nurse and be satisfied at her comforting breasts; you will drink deeply and delight in her overflowing abundance”. We in the church are that heavenly Jerusalem. Praise God!
It was not until he was 99 years old, in Genesis 17:1 that he received the revelation of “El Shaddai”. “The Lord (Jehovah) appeared to him and said, ‘I am God Almighty (El Shaddai); walk before me and be blameless’.” His name was then changed to Abraham. God said, verse 6 “I will make you very fruitful, 7. I will establish my covenant as an everlasting (age) covenant”, etc. The “Pourer forth” Himself would do the work. It is His strength and not ours. It is by grace through faith.
In Genesis 17:1-5 God revealed Himself to Abram as El-Shaddai. This is the first revelation of that Name. It means, “The breasted One. He who pours out”.
Then He changed Abram’s name, inserting the Hebrew syllable for “H” making it Abraham. This “H” is the main part of God’s name, Yhwh (Jehovah). It is a sound spoken by breathing out. God gives Himself to Abram and Abram gives himself to God. God gives of Himself and of His breathing out or spirit to us also. Believers in Christ are given the Spirit and “overcomers” receive a new name, Revelation 2:17.
With it, God changed Abraham’s nature and one could say he became “partaker of the Divine nature” as in 2 Peter 1:4. This name of God is translated “Almighty God”. Only once does it occur in the New Testament outside of the book of Revelation. This is in 2 Corinthians 6:18. Significantly, God is speaking about a people for His name, just as He promised would happen to the spiritual descendants of Abraham. As in Genesis 17:5, the promise of a “multitude of nations” is really a promise of a “multitude of Abrahams”, with Abraham as the ancestor. They also are “made partakers of the Divine nature”.
“Almighty God” (El-Shaddai) is found scattered in the book of Revelation. The remarkable thing is that in chapter 1, verses 1,8 and 13 we see Jesus Christ as the Almighty. ” Christ stands as High Priest and is “girt about the paps with a golden girdle”, (“with a golden sash around his chest”, NIV). The Greek-Interlinear (English) translates it “breasts” as of a woman. In John 7:37, Jesus calls, “Come unto Me and drink”. This does not indicate a female God. He is our Father. Our mother is not God, she is as in verse 26 “But the other woman (Sarah) corresponds to the Jerusalem above, she is free; and she is our mother”.
He is clothed and has a “golden sash across his chest”. The correct translation is – “with a golden sash across His paps”. In the Greek, the word for a woman’s “breasts” is used. In fact, the Greek-English Interlinear New Testament translates the word with “breasts”. So there is Jesus Christ, the Almighty, the “breasted-One” showing Himself as “El-Shaddai”, the One who pours out blessings, mercies, grace, love, forgiveness, His Spirit – and judgment. Other references are found towards the end of the book, being “Almighty God”, 16:7; 19:6; 21:22, relating to the pouring out of judgment and love.
Before the time when Ishmael was cast out, God revealed Himself as “Elohim” meaning “One who stands in covenant relationship”, e.g. Genesis 6:13,18; 19:29; 26:24.
In Genesis 21 God for the first time, reveals Himself as “El Olam”. Abraham was the first to receive this truth. This shows a significant advance in the revelation of Himself and His plan of redemption. The name shows that God is One of whom it is declared in Hebrews 1:1, “Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets”.
The son of promise, Isaac, has been born. When he was weaned, probably around four years of age, Hagar and her child of the “carnal” and the “law” were cast out. Then Abraham made a covenant with a Gentile, Abimelech. He planted a tree in Beersheba and “called there on the name of the Lord,, the Everlasting God”, as in most translations. However, it was “El Olam”, meaning “a time hidden from man and indefinite”, “the Age-God” or “God of Ages”. Apart from Melchizedek, a Gentile, who was “Priest of the Most High God”, Scripture shows Abimelech was the first Gentile to receive the mercy, forgiveness and grace of God, as recorded in Genesis 20:17,18. God had promised Abraham he would be “the father of many nations”, Genesis 17:5. He was to be the spiritual father of the elect of many nations, Galatians 3:29 “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise”.
Now God reveals Himself to Abraham as he used His Name, “El Olam”, Genesis 21:33. Abraham would not have understood the full significance of that name. However, he would have realised it was an indefinite time the day of Christ he saw would appear. It was mentioned by Christ in John 8:56, “Your ancestor Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day; he saw it and was glad”. Perhaps, also, in the revelation of that Name, Abraham recognized that the “God of Ages” would in His own time, bring in the Gentiles and thus make him a father of many nations. He used the Name after the birth of Isaac of the “free woman” and the casting out of the son of the “bondwoman” in Genesis 21 c/f Galatians 3:22-27.
“Olam” is translated “for ever” in 1 Samuel 1:22,28; 1 Samuel 27:12; Exodus 40:15; 1 Chronicles 15:2; Exodus 12:14,17; Leviticus 6:18; Joshua 14:9; Genesis 13:15; Exodus 32:16; Deuteronomy 28:45,46; 23:6. These verses show the meaning of “olam” as being “time”, “a life-time” or “an age”. It is always of a passing period of time that finishes when God has finished with His dealings with man for that time.
“El Olam”, the name Abraham used and in the English NIV shown as “the Eternal God”, literally translated is “the Age-God” or “God of Ages”, He is pursues His will, never at one particular time but in successive periods of time and in different dispensations. This is seen in Psalm 90:2; Isaiah 40:28; 63:16; Jeremiah 10:10; Micah 5:2; Romans 16:36; 1 Timothy 1:17 etc. Dr. Robert Young in his later translation of the Bible, translates the word “Olam” as “age-during”, Genesis 21:33; Exodus 12:14,17; 40:14. This Name foretells what Paul says in Ephesians 3:10,11 “the purpose of the ages”, 1 Timothy 1:17, “the King of the ages”. Isaiah 9:6 translates into “Everlasting Father” that literally is “Father of the age”. The Septuagint reads it as “the Father of the world to come”.
Galatians 5:1-6 The Jews spoke of “taking the yoke of the law” upon oneself. If they are justified by the law, it means they are no longer in the kingdom of grace. Christ and the law cannot dwell together. Law is the yoke of a slave. In order that we could enjoy freedom, Christ set us free. Paul would have none of the nationalistic ideas of Judaism’s insistence on law and circumcision. The gospel is not about that but about freedom from such beliefs.
We see that observance of Sabbaths and festivals was bad enough, circumcision was worse. It meant no liberty in Christ. It also meant that Christ would be of no benefit to them at all. If they become circumcised Christ will not benefit them. Instead they will be in debt to the law and must live under the Law.
The Christian believer is to live a new way of life, in Christ. We are to live by the Spirit. We are to live with and from faith. There is a righteousness to come for eternity. Walking in the Spirit with faith was the basis of their hope of righteousness to come. We are to do the same. Faith by the Spirit is a faith that relies on Christ. “On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand” as the hymn says. This is the ground of our confident hope that we will be accepted by God. Being acceptable to God does not depend on circumcision – or water baptism, both of which are ritual acts.
Believers are in Christ Jesus. It is by faith working through love. They live now by faith in the power of the Spirit, free from all forms of religious rules and regulations. The presence of the Spirit does not free them from Christian behaviour. This behaviour is the work of the same Spirit whom we experience. This is the evidence that we are justified by faith, James 2:26. Righteousness, which means right standing with God, is on the work of Christ alone. That righteousness is seen in righteous behaviour that must accompany faith in Jesus Christ. It is not based on emotions but is based upon the promises of the Word of God. The Spirit is the one who acts to bring to pass this righteousness through the work of Christ.
In chapter 5:6 “the only thing that counts is faith working through love”. To place an emphasis on love and in particular love that exists regardless of anything else is to misunderstand the chapter. It is not a sentimental love. It is not a kind of love that sings, “I love you with the love of the Lord”. The whole chapter and indeed the whole book of Galatians indicates that it means much more than this. “Love rejoices in the truth” as the love chapter of 1 Corinthians 13 reads.
The love in this verse through which faith works is to be :-
- Love for Christ.
- Love for the Spirit and His teachings with His operations of holiness.
- Love for the truth as disclosed by Paul throughout the whole book. Love for his gospel. If we love another gospel it is not with that kind of love about which Paul is speaking.
- Love for the gospel as revealed to Paul.
- Love for each other in the Truth. We see this also in 2 John 1, “whom I love in the truth”. In Galatia, they were “biting and devouring each other”, as Paul shows in verse 15. Those who preached something other than the gospel were said to be in effect attacking and spoiling the others who followed the Truth of the gospel. This truth could not take on any other belief, even a belief of those things in the Old Testament that at the time had been good. They had to follow Paul’s gospel. There could not be anything that had come in under the Law. The verses of 4:21-31 have already shown us that Abraham had two sons, one of a slave woman and one of a free. The Galatians wanted to be under the law but that very law had a voice. They should have listened to the story of Abraham. So should we. What was written about Abraham was written under the law. Now that very law says we are not to follow anything that has come under that law. In effect as allegorised, it is all under the flesh and slavery. Despite these verses, believers and leaders of every age take the church back to it. We should listen to the message. It is that we are children of the free woman. We in Christ have been set free from what the law says, as in verse 21. In 5:1 this is confirmed, “For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery”. Sadly, many hanker after the bondage and allow it in their churches, particularly in Pentecostal and Charismatic ones. The others often had it there for centuries. We have all been guilty of it.
Galatians 5:7-12. The Christian way of life is a matter of faith from beginning to end, 1 Timothy 6:12. It is to run like an athlete, with effort and self-discipline. They Galatians had been cut off and hindered from obeying the truth. Paul’s teaching and their own experience of the Spirit in the Lord should have convinced them that the troublemakers were wrong. They had received God’s grace as He drew them and now they ignore it.
Yeast ferments and as in 1 Corinthians 5:6, some sin infests the whole. In Galatia, the yeast is that “teaching” that would corrupt the whole gospel. Circumcisions in God’s sight (and other rules and regulations) are valueless. They are as yeast.
Verses 13-15. Law failed to bring righteousness, both as right standing before God and in holy living. Law was not to be followed as the way for a godly life. We are born by the Spirit and our life is to be lived in the Spirit. Every day life must follow by this, “Walk in the Spirit and you shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh”.
Flesh and the Law belong to the old way of life. They belong to the world. The power of sin, the flesh, the world and the law have been broken. This happened at the death on the cross of Christ. The new way has come is that of the Spirit. The flesh is still in us. The Spirit lusts against the flesh but Christ’s death has brought about our death to law 2:19 and to the flesh, 5:24. We have been raised with Christ, Ephesians 2:6 “raised us up with him”; Colossians 3:1 “If you have been raised with Christ seek the things above:; 3 “you have died and your life is hidden with Christ”.
The law is fulfilled in love. It is by means of the Spirit. In the assembly, we are free but are to live that freedom by being slaves of love to one another, verse 13. The law could not stand against the flesh. The Spirit within us can. Spirit and flesh are opposite. Walking by the Spirit excludes the flesh working. “Flesh” as has been stated often here, is the human condition as it belongs to this world. It is the sinful nature. We are born with this natural sinfulness of the human nature. It has a tendency to what is weak and sinful. Flesh has sinful desires. Walking by the Spirit acts against that. The life by the Spirit is now set against “the flesh”.
Galatians 5:16-18. “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under Law”. Thus we are not under Law. Those who try to argue that we are and that the moral Law is still our obligation, do not understand either the gospel of grace or the book of Galatians! Freedom has been shown through love. This is by the Spirit and not by adhering to the Law of Moses. “Walk” is how we act, it is a way to be walked, Acts 9:2; 19:9,23:22:4. This walk is not by constant reference to laws but to the Spirit.
Paul says to continue as you have begun, 3:1-3, by the Spirit. This began when we were saved as the Spirit of Christ entered within. Added to the experience of salvation those Galatians had the baptism with the Holy Spirit, which always includes speaking in other tongues, even as George Smeaton, Scotland’s greatest theologian, states in his book on the Holy Spirit. Both these experiences are for those called today. Nowhere in the New Testament, is there any indication that there was any cessation after the Apostles all died.
Inwardly we are to know God’s will having a renewed mind from the new birth. We are to know by the Spirit, Romans 12:1,2, Jeremiah 31:33,34 “I will write My laws upon their hearts so that they shall want to honour me: They will have knowledge of Me”. I do think that the full and final experience of this last verse from Jeremiah will be in heaven when we have immortal bodies and are totally in the control of the Spirit.
This is not an “inner light” way as taught by New Agers. We are to “test or judge the spirits” in people, to discern the “manifestation of the Spirit”, 1 Corinthians 12:10; 14:29; 1 Thessalonians 5:21. It happens through the prompting of the Spirit within in accordance with the Word of God within through a renewed mind. Colossians 3:16, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly teach and train one another, giving thanks”; Ephesians 5:18, “Stop getting drunk on wine abut drink deep in the Spirit (seek to be filled with the Spirit of God)”.
Verse 16. “You will not fulfil”. The flesh desires. It has power from inborn sin. The flesh wants to obey its own lusts. The Jews saw circumcision as symbolizing “the cutting out of pleasure and all passions”. When we were born again, we were circumcised with Christ. This meant a “cutting of the flesh” nature. It died with Christ.
In these verses, we see that the life of the Spirit is no longer against law observance but against “the desire of the flesh”. “Life of the flesh” and “life by the Spirit” cannot be together, the same as “faith in Christ” and “the Law” cannot be together..
How are we too walk by the Spirit? The life by the Spirit is not passive in that we do nothing. We do act. The Spirit is to do a supernatural work in one’s life. It needs conscious effort so that the indwelling Spirit may work within. It is to be deliberate. Then comes supernatural help.
“Eating and devouring one another” meant they were really at war. That was to live according to “the works of the flesh”. Because we do not follow law does not mean we can do as we like in the flesh, as many Corinthians did. We are to be led by the Spirit. This is the way of faith and love. We are to follow where the Spirit leads in “the law of Christ”, after Christ Himself. Being led by the Spirit by Jesus, 4:6 is apart from being “under the Law”. It is different. The law is fulfilled in being “led by the Spirit”.
Verses 19-24. These verses give fifteen sinful and carnal acts – Illicit sex, 3; illicit worship, 2; breakdown in relationships, 8; excesses, It has nothing to do with the normal physical body activities or appetites. Rather, behaviour. Those who practise such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. The “works of the flesh” are not to be the behaviour of believers whereas they are the norm for unbelievers. Believers do sometimes indulge in these sins but those who make a practice such sins will not inherit with God’s people. Believers are not to live as others who will receive the wrath of God, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Ephesians 5:5.
Temple prostitution was practised in Asia Minor, as today in India. Idolatry and sexual licence related. Troublemakers were acting out of hostile feelings towards the Gentile believers. “Displays of anger” is passion uncontrolled.
The flesh demands, the Spirit produces – fruit. Fruits are character forming, whereas gifts (of 1 Corinthians 12) may not necessarily be, except for the audible gifts, e.g. prophecy. Love is the way the gifts are to work and re the fruits, faith works effectively through love. Love is not as thought to be in the West, good feelings toward someone, being identified with what I do or feel for another for the sake of my own fulfilment. That is self-ishness. The works of the flesh are self-centred. As fruit of the Spirit, not human love but Agape love, it ends the works of the flesh. It is Divine love.
Joy is living together in Christ, a life of the Spirit, of joy. Romans 15:7 accept one another; not looking down or judging (condemning harshly) or disdaining, 5:26-6:5. Philippians 3:3; 4:4 “rejoice in the Lord always”.
These fruits of the Spirit are not meant to make us look “inward” as is common in the West, particularly with the widespread teaching and imbibing of modern psychology, which is anti-Christ. These fruits are to be in place in our lives. Our concern is to be full of love and not looking inward to see what there may be of fears, insecurities, rejection, guilt, negativity, pride, unforgivenness etc.
Peace, is not only about that inward feeling but also in relation to living with each other in the church and home. Forbearance, long-suffering is of one to the other, even those who oppose. Kindness is God’s character or activity toward people, 1 Corinthians 13:4; Ephesians 2:7. Goodness is in character, Romans 15:14. Faith (fullness), Romans 3:3. Unfaithfulness of God’s people does not call into question God’s own faithfulness = one’s faithful living out one’s trust in God. Gentleness = meekness, as Christ, Matthew 11:25-30 it describes His character, 2 Corinthians 10:1, “meekness and gentleness of Christ”.
Self-control is an individual matter about sexual indulgences and excesses of different kinds. It includes self-discipline towards others. 1 Corinthians 10:31-33; Romans 14:1-23; Colossians 2:16=-23; 1 Timothy 4:1-5. We are not to have self-control just to be that way, or because it is a rule. Such a thing is “human traditions” Colossians 2:22, or the “teachings of demons”, 1 Timothy 4:1; such as – freely giving up of food (in fasting) or drink or whatever (e.g. gold, or sex in marriage) as a demand or virtue.
The work of Christ and the coming of the Spirit have totally removed law from God’s people as a rule of life. Law is because people are evil and when people have the fruits of the Spirit, evil is absent. Those who believe in Christ have also been crucified with Christ, hanging on the tree. Through association with Christ in His death they already have been crucified, 2:20; 6:14. Therefore they have thereby finished with their past way of life: they have nailed the flesh, with its passions and desires, to the cross. Paul says we “have nailed” them to the cross in our belief in Christ. He does not say we have to continually crucify the flesh.
Life in the flesh is due to passionate desire, controlled by evil appetites rather than by the renewed mind in Christ. Christ’s death has brought an end to the reign of Law and Flesh. The flesh, way of life, has already been put to death but at the same time the present life is to be empowered by the Spirit in obedience.
Galatians 5:25,26. Behaviour in keeping with the Spirit. He is the One who brings about the realities of v.24 (death to the flesh) and vv.22,23 (the fruit of the Spirit). The Spirit is God’s response to the flesh, whose reign was brought to an end through Christ and whose effect in the believer is brought down by the empowering Spirit. Those given gifts often act with importance and authority beyond what the Spirit has actually given.
Galatians 6:1-6. Believers are to care for one another, filling to the full the law of Christ. Perhaps someone falls into sin. This is from the flesh. Those who are “Spirit-ual” must deal with that one not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. A Spirit-ual person is not perfect. He is one who by the power of the Spirit lives in keeping with the life of the Spirit and produces fruit. They are always open to temptation. All should keep out of temptation’s way, as Joseph who ran away, Genesis 39:6-13.
Verses 1-5 Life in the Spirit is not a new kind of law that required obedience as the old law did.
Believers with experiences in the Spirit are not to delight in them. They should not feel important because of it. They are to have a sensible understanding of any abilities, gifts and responsibilities given by God. See what gifts are of real importance. They are not to be proud of this and are not to boast. 2 Corinthians 10:17 “He who boasts let him boast in the Lord”.
Financial support to those who minister to any is the responsibility of those receiving the ministry. They should give to the one ministering, whoever he or she is. According to Galatians 5:6 not to give is a work of the flesh.
Romans 15:24 “to be sent there with your support”; Philemon 1:5 “on account of your contribution unto the glad message”; 4:15 “at present am well supplied, having received the things from you, a fragrant aroma, a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God”.
The things to be given are financial or food or “boarding in a house”. They and we are to be hospitable, receiving people into our homes, particularly the servants of God, national or foreign. Hebrews 13:1,2 “Never cease to love your fellow Christians. Don’t neglect to welcome guest for by it some have had angels as their guests”
Paul was a “foreign” missionary. He was received in their homes. Jesus commanded support and help for all preachers, in Luke 10:7 “Stay at the same house for the labourer has a right to his maintenance”. 2 Corinthians 9:5,8 “Make ready your liberal gift… as a matter of generosity and not as a gift which a covetous spirit would withhold but gives grudgingly under pressure”. “God loves a cheerful, ready giver”.
1 Corinthians 9:13,14 “Are you ignorant of the fact that those who minister sacred things take part of the sacred food of the Temple for their own use and those who attend the altar have their share of what is placed on the altar: On the same principle the Lord has ordered that those who proclaim the gospel should receive their livelihood from those who accept the gospel”. (Those who are taught to those who teach).
Galatians 6:7-10. The final warning – not to follow “works of the flesh” as it reaps destruction. People of the Spirit are not under the Law. They are not to live lawlessly. They are to live by “the law of Christ”, which is love. These Galatians had been living out of flesh and not Spirit. They had sown to the flesh and not Spirit, lived in lusts of the flesh and not fruits of the Spirit.
The Spirit’s harvest is eternal life, which includes the resurrection of the body into a spiritual and immortal body. It includes an eternal dwelling, Romans 8:19,21-3 “To see the wonderful sight of the sons of God coming into their own; The whole of created life will be rescued from the tyranny of change and decay”; 1 Corinthians 15:42-50? So also is the resurrection of the dead. As you have the likeness of the man of dust so we shall wear the likeness of the heavenly man (so we shall some day have a body like Christ’s”;
2 Corinthians 4:16-5:5 “Outwardly we are wasting away yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. Visible things are temporary but things not seen are eternal. If the tent, which is that earthly body is destroyed, we have a permanent house that God has provided, a house not made by human hands, eternal and in heaven. Longing to be under cover of my heavenly dwelling since I am sure that once so covered I shall not be naked at the hour of death/ for if I do I shall never find myself disembodied/sure that when we have put it on we shall never be found discarnate (separated from the flesh).
While we are in this tent we sigh not because we want just to get rid of these “clothes” but because we want to know the full cover of the permanent house that will be ours so that all that is mortal may be absorbed in Life and have life swallow up our death.”
2 Corinthians 5:4, Car. “Yes, we, the ones to whom this tent serves as their dwelling place, utter groans and are heavy hearted, not for a wish to divest ourselves of what clothes us but for a wish to clothe ourselves further, so that the mortal part of us may become absorbed into life.” This happens at the death of the believer. He enters heaven with heavenly clothes.
Believers have the Spirit who gives life, in Whom we await heaven. Because of Him we shall enter into heaven. We have begun our heavenly life but also, on the either side of the coin, it is not yet. Sowing to the Spirit brings eternal life. There comes a long time between sowing and reaping and we are not to stop well-doing.
Verses 7-10 showing the need of giving to those who are ministering and to the poor teach us a few things. First of all, it does not include extravagant giving to any one minister and particularly to the wealthy T.V. Evangelists. In any case, those receiving can be consumed with lust and greed, “which is idolatry”. We are to do good and we are to give as led by the Spirit and not by the words of popular preachers. We must “sow to the Spirit” in this.
In these closing verses, Paul would be summing up all he has said in the previous chapters, about the true gospel, not to follow circumcision and feast days with Jewish customs, not to have the sins of the flesh predominating but the fruit of the Spirit, of faith in Christ, of love and the law of Christ. When he speaks of sowing to one’s own flesh, not only is he talking about giving but also about his preceding teaching.
A mention could be made of the prevalent teaching on giving that one reaps finance and success according to “giving”. The law of sowing is not about reaping wealth. That belief is an error and when put that way it is also erroneous to quote 3 John 2, “ I wish above all things that”, translated in the NRSV, “Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, just as it is well with your soul”. This is a salutation and not a basis for expecting total health with wealth! Oral Roberts’ teaching has done much injustice to millions of believers. I should say that while pastoring one church we used to show his campaign movies to different folk! He also sets great store by Luke 6:38, “Give and it will be given you … running over”. This verse is not about giving money. That is to take it out of context. The previous verses are about judging, condemning and forgiving. The giving mentioned by Jesus is what one does on the basis of those subjects. The following verse is about a blind leader leading the blind with both falling into a ditch Many people around the world have fallen into this ditch!
The idea of “seed faith” in order to obtain finances or material things is not to be found in the scriptures. Giving for the support of ministry is found there as is giving to the poor. It is stated in 2 Corinthians 8:12 in relation to giving to the poor, “For if the eagerness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has – not according to what one does not have”. 2 Corinthians 9:8-10 says this, “And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work, As it is written, ‘He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.’ He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity, which will produce thanksgiving to God for the rendering of this ministry not only supplies the needs of the saints but also overflows with many thanksgivings to God.”
The subject is not about seed faith. It is about giving to the poor saints. The point made was that they were not to be stingy in their giving. They were to give eagerly as they could afford. God would bless them abundantly in all things, spiritual and material. They need not worry about their own needs. The promise was that they would “increase the harvest of their righteousness” not the ”harvest of wealth”. Their God did bless them in every way for their needs and with something over to give to others. This grace of God was their portion. The unspeakable give He gave them was Christ – not material possessions.
There is no mention of faith or of planting a seed in faith, let alone with the expectancy of receiving back in material wealth. In the two chapters there, 8 and 9, one cannot find any mention of tithing as being relative to the giving. The aim of the giving is never to receive back in return from God. It is to be out of love and because of the gospel. Giving is necessary because of the grace of God given to us in that He gave Christ. The grace of the Lord Jesus enabled Him to leave heaven’s glory and come to earth as a man. He left heaven where He was rich and came down to earth, in poverty because He, who is Divine, had become a man.
Galatians 6:11-18. “Large letters” probably are used to emphasise the importance of what he wrote. It may have been only the postscript. “Persecuted for the cross of Christ” was the fear of losing the protection of the status of Judaism under the Roman Empire and thus escape the times of persecution from the Emperor. “Different gospel” was insisting on circumcision. It removed the common preaching of a crucified Messiah, which was an offence to most Jews. It would appear that this kind of preaching is missing in our day.
The cross was a sufficient basis for acceptance into the inheritance of Israel. Faith in the cross is able to remove sins. It makes ineffective the curse of the law so that the promise of Abraham can come to Gentiles as well. Seeing the law as an advantage over those who do not, was pride.
“Glory” of the gospel is in the cross as alone sufficient for acceptance by God and the gift of the Spirit, was the only thing to boast in. The death of Christ is the primary ground of boasting before God, Romans 5:11 By Whom we have now received the atonement; 15:27 To Him, to God who alone is wise, may glory be ascribed, through Jesus Christ, for ever and ever. Amen.
1 Corinthians 1:3-9, “It is by Him you have been made rich in every way”; Philippians 2:16, “Holding fast to the message which proclaims where life is to be found so that I may make my boast; Philippians 3:3 “We who make our boast in Christ Jesus, placing no confidence in the flesh” (outward ceremonies or even physical advantages)..
The world is all of the whole creation, human as well as non-human, in its distance from God and as yet unredeemed state:-
Romans 1:20, “They became fantastic in their notions and their senseless hearts grew benighted”; 1:24, “God has given them up in their hearts’ lust to sexual vice”; Romans 3:16, “Ruin and wretchedness mark their paths”, 19 “everyone in the world may realise his guilt before God”: Romans 5:12,13, “Through one man (Adam) sin entered into the world for no one was himself free from sin. Sin was in the world earlier than the Law.”
1 Corinthians 1:20,21, “Has not God shown that the wisdom of this world is utter folly For God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never find God by its wisdom”; 2:6-8 “not the wisdom of this world but we speak the wisdom of God which none of the princes (spiritual authorities)/rulers of this world (present age) knew”; 2:12 “We have not received the spirit of this world but the Spirit that comes from God”; 6:2 “It is God’s people who are to judge the world”; 7:31-4 “Those who are busy with worldly affairs must not be overly absorbed in them for this world as we see it is passing away”;
2 Corinthians 5:19, “God was in Christ making peace between the world and Himself”; 7:10, “The world’s remorse leads to death”; 2 Corinthians 4:4, “In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers”.
Dying with Christ includes a dying to the world. We do not belong to it. We have died to it. Why live according to it? The body of sin, the old man, is part of the world, Romans 6:6; Colossians 3:9, “You have put off the old self/man and all he did”; Ephesians 4:22, “What you learned was to strip off your original evil nature/your old self”. Paul’s heart was dead to the world, as one crucified with Christ. He was objectively crucified on the Cross to the world and his inner feelings were changed.
What counts is not circumcision (or water baptism) but a new creation. With Christ’s (and our) death the rule of sin and death is broken; With Christ’s (and our) resurrection the new age/creation has begun, Romans 6:9,10 Death has power over Him no longer For it was a death to sin once and for all. He now lives”.
“The true Israel of God” is Israel in relation to the promise to Abraham (and Jacob/Israel), which included blessings for the Gentiles. This Israel does not exclude Jews as a whole. It includes Gentile believers, Romans 9:6 “Not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel.” The New Testament church of the Lord Jesus Christ is the true Israel of God. It is not the nation of Israel.
Believers in Christ are this Israel of God. They became part of this Israel, Ephesians 3:6, “Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel” and their names were written down, as seen by Ezekiel 13:9, “enrolled in the register of Israel” c/f. Revelation 3:5, the name being in “the book of life”. There it is said Christ confesses their names before the Father and the angels, “I will confess your name before my Father and before His angels”; Luke 12:8, “And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before others, he Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God”; Luke 15:10, “There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repeats”.
The angels have that joy because Christ gives them the name of the one who confesses Him. Hebrews 1:14 shows us the duty of angels is, Are not all angels spirits in the divine service, sent to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?” Moreover, in the salvation experience and in prayer and worship we “have come to Mount Zion (the heavenly one) and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven and to God the judge of all and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect (believers who have died and who are in heaven)”. The Israel of God is not a national one but a heavenly Israel with its citizens on earth and the departed ones in heaven.
The true Israel of God is described in Romans 11:17-26 “Branches broken off, a wild olive grafted in and with them share the root. Because of lack of faith they were broken off and you only stand through your faith. Consider both the kindness and severity of God. Blindness has fallen upon a part of Israel until the great mass of the Gentiles has come in and so in that way all Israel will be saved;” 1 Corinthians 10:18 “Consider the case of Israel in the natural sense of the word.” The Israel of God is the seed of Abraham as understood in terms of the argument of chapters 3 and 4. The religion of Israel must end in faith in the Messiah Jesus.
Marks of Jesus. He uses His personal name, not any title, Lord or Christ. It refers to the death of the man, Jesus and Paul’s is identification with Jesus on the cross. The marks of his persecution are marks of that identification with Jesus’ sufferings and death. This should be proof of his genuine apostleship. “Be with your spirit” is the human spirit, Romans 8:16, they are bound together by the Spirit of God working in their spirit.