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Study Notes on Galatians 3

Galatians 3

Now Paul, having laid out with extreme clarity the facts of salvation and the obsolescence of the Law, proceeds into further detail and explanation. A lot of study could be dedicated to just this chapter.


1 O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?

He calls them foolish for even giving an ear to the judaizers who would seek to put them into bondage of the Law. Jesus' payment and His gospel were plainly set forth before the Galatians, and now they've been deceived into another so-called gospel.


"The doctrine of the Gospel had been so fully preached among these people that it might be said Jesus Christ had been crucified among them; so fully had his sufferings been detailed, and the design of them pointed out." - Adam Clarke


2 This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?

He demands an answer from them to show the folly of the judaizers. Did they receive the Holy Spirit by doing works or by faith in Christ? By faith of course.


There's no promise in the bible and no example at all of receiving the Holy Spirit by doing works.


Ephesians 1:13, In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise


3 Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?

Paul makes a great point here and refutes any heresy that claims our salvation must be somehow "maintained" by good works. We begun in the Spirit and it is the Spirit that will finish us, or make us complete.


Hebrews 12:2, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.


4 Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain.

Have you suffered so much at the hands of the Jews for nothing? Was it trust in your works that caused you to suffer? If so, it was pointless! However, suffering for the true gospel will yield eternal rewards. See 1 Peter 4:15-16.


5 He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?

Some see the "he" as in Paul who delivered the gospel to them, but I see it as God, who gave His Holy Spirit to the churches where miracles occurred by the faith of those that believed. The miracles were not the result of doing works of the law but by faith.


6 Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.

Romans 4:3 quotes this as well from Genesis 15:6 and it will be a big point Paul makes in this letter. Abraham was saved by faith before the law ever came. So now after the law served its purpose we are still saved by faith as it has always been.


7 Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.

We are all spiritually of the seed of Abraham if we have faith in the Lord.


It is not by following the Law of Moses, or by being a physical descendent of Abraham that counts, but having saving faith as he did. This is a strong refutation of the judaizing heresy that was infiltrating the churches of Galatia.


8 And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed.

Many times in the Old Testament we see that it was God's plan to bring the message of salvation to the whole world (Isaiah 49:6; Amos 9:12; Hosea 1:10, 2:23 etc).


This verse is specifically referencing the promises made to Abraham and showing that it was never intended to be a physical lineage (Genesis 12:3, 22:18). We see this applied in such a way in Romans 4:16 and in Acts 3:25.


Acts 3:25, Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed.


9 So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.

Those who believe share in the blessings made to Abraham.


10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.

All that seek justification via following the law are under a curse. If you want to keep the law you have to keep all of it, which is impossible.


James 2:10, For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.


11 But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.

Quoted from Habakkuk 2:4 and we see this two other times in the NT, Romans 1:17; Hebrews 10:38. We don't live by the law, we live by faith. The contrast is made plain. See this post for more on that.


12 And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them.

The law is not faith, the law demands obedience and Paul says here that if you are going to follow the law you need to follow it perfectly. But see the next verse....


Romans 10:5-6, For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which doeth those things shall live by them. But the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise, Say not in thine heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down from above:)


13 Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:

We are redeemed from the curse of the law! This is a beautiful statement that often gets ignored. The law was a curse because nobody could continue in it (v. 10). Christ took our place because of our failure. He is our substitutionary atonement.


1 Peter 2:24, Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.


14 That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

The blessings of Abraham including the forgiveness of sin, the access and peace with God, eternal glory, sonship, etc.


It is through faith and nothing else that we receive such blessings.


15 Brethren, I speak after the manner of men; Though it be but a man's covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disannulleth, or addeth thereto.

Paul will now give an example using human civil terminology of covenants.


"God cannot have two ways of justifying and saving people; and if he revealed a mode to Abraham, and that mode was by faith, then it could not be by the observance of the Law which was given so long after. The main design of the argument and the illustration here is to show that the promise made to Abraham was by no means made void by the giving of the Law. The Law had another design, which did not interfere with the promise made to Abraham." - Albert Barnes


"If a covenant made between men, or a man's will and testament, be confirmed, signed, sealed, and witnessed, in a proper manner, no other man can make them void, or take anything from them, or add anything to them, only the parties concerned by their own will and consent; and if this be the case among men, much less can the covenant of God, confirmed by two immutable things, his word and oath, or his will and testament, or any branch of it, be ever disannulled, or be capable of receiving any addition thereunto." - John Gill


16 Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.

The one seed which is Jesus and by extension those that believe in Him, in contrast to the physical seed - the descendants - of Abraham. This has a spiritual meaning rather than a carnal one and refers to the the promise to Abraham of salvation by faith. We know that Jesus did not need salvation so it is by Him that the promise is fulfilled.


17 And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect.

The promise of justification by faith came 430 years before the law (see Genesis 12:3, 15:6, 22:18 & Exodus 12:40-41). So the promise made to Abraham was 430 years before the law, and God's promises aren't disannulled by the giving of the Law.


Other bible versions take out 'Christ' from this verse although He is the central figure of who the promise was made to.


Acts 7:6 reads 400 years and this is simply a rounding of the number or referring to the time of Abraham's promise in Genesis 22 rather than Genesis 15. I don't take the time here to detail out the various computations.


18 For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise.

The law made people guilty before God and was conditional. In contrast, the justification by faith and eternal inheritance was given by promise. See Hebrews 6:13-20


Romans 4:13-14 elaborates on this, "13 For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.14 For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect:"


19 Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.

So Paul says the Law doesn't negate the faith. Instructions for the nation of Israel given for a specific duration don't overrule the promises of God. So why was the Law given?


It was added because of sin in order to highlight that sin. To show people how guilty we all are. We can look back to the law and see how far short of it we are and to show our need for a Savior. See Romans 4:15; Romans 5:20; Romans 7:7 etc.


This verse also answers the time period of the Law: it was given until the seed (Jesus) had come. The law was given till the the Messiah came. After that it was to cease. This was always the plan and intent of God.


Being ordained by angels seems to mean they had a part in announcing it. See Luke 2:9-14.


Hebrews 10:9-10, "Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all."


20 Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one.

Many commentators note that this is one of the most perplexing verses in Galatians or even in the whole NT. The sense seems to be that "Jesus Christ mediates between God who is holy and man who is unholy to bring them in harmony" (Garner-Howes), in contrast with the Law which was mediated by the sinner Moses.


21 Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law.

Matthew 26:39 "And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt."


It wasn't possible. There was no other way to reconcile God and man.


22 But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.

All are sinners. Everyone will be a sinner this side of heaven. The promise is received by faith because there's no way we could earn it.


23 But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.

Before the gospel was proclaimed we were under the law (see Galatians 4 which further elaborates). We were guided by the Law until Christ would come and His good news would be extended to all the earth.


Hebrews 12:2, "Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God."


24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.

The Law, by exposing us to our sinfulness, as well as restraining us, pointed to Christ. It was always meant to be a temporary signpost. Jews continue to follow their own version of the signpost but reject what the sign pointed to.


25 But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.

Are we under the law? Could this answer that question with any greater clarity? The object of our faith, Christ, has come. Therefore we are no longer under the Law.


26 For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.

Not by following the Law or anything else, but by faith only.


John 1:12, "But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:"


27 For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

By being baptized into Christ (notice water isn't mentioned) we have placed our faith in Jesus. To baptize means to immerse, and we have immersed ourselves in Christ which follows from the context of the preceding verse.


28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.

Great and relevant verse because the Judaizers trying to destroy the faith of the Galatians wanted to make a distinction in these things as far as salvation is concerned. That isn't true at all. Salvation is the same for everyone.


29 And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.

Beautiful verse. You are the spiritual seed of Abraham and a recipient of the promise of God by faith.


Judaizers were saying to the "Galatians that if they submitted to the law and became circumcised, they could enjoy the status of being Abraham’s seed. Paul points out that this status was already theirs through faith in Jesus." (David Guzik)



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