Paul reveals the foolishness of the Judaizers thinking they needed faith in Jesus to start, but then had to back that up with reliance on human works to advance in life, instead of continuing to trust in the power of the spirit. There is a sermon series I’ve been reading on Galatians by John Piper for further insight into this study, and he describes how he tries to live the Christian life simplified into an acronym: APTAT
- A– Acknowledge your inability to do good on your own
- P– Pray to the Lord for help
- T– Trust in God’s unchanging word for help and guidance
- A– Act in obedience to God’s word
- T– Thank God for whatever good comes
Each verse of 6-9 makes strong mention of the importance of belief in God/faith. The Jews were physical descendants of Abraham, but all of us who believe in God for salvation are spiritual descendants of Abraham and inherit his blessing. (Rom 9:6-8 shows the value of spiritual, not physical lineage). Abraham was called righteous due to his faith in God, not due to following the law… it didn’t exist! He trusted in the coming messiah as we are now required to trust in the past and eternal messiah. Faith is so strongly stated here that something it seems I need to do as a “Christianity check-up” is to regularly reflect on my beliefs and ensure that my life is being lived by faith in the son of God. It seems that being saved isn’t therefore a one-time commitment and a turning back to the world, but death to self and a life of Christ living in me with my constant reliance on Him.
Back in Gal 1:8-9 Paul mentioned those preaching a false gospel will be cursed, and here we see that those who rely on works are cursed. In contrast, those who live by faith in Jesus who took that curse for us are blessed by receiving the holy spirit. Through further study I found this: There are two kinds of ‘works’ at play – It seems that ‘works of the law’ (legalism) are self-reliant efforts intended to demonstrate your virtue are what cause you to be cursed. There are also the ‘good works’ that are done in reliance on the power of the Holy Spirit that God gets the glory for. In these we are blessed. It’s not so much ‘what you do’ but the ‘spirit in which you do it’.
Were the Judaizers to continue to follow the law as an act of love in faith to God, and not as a means to an end, they would be justified in it. The balance of works vs. faith seems to be a bit like a pendulum (Jam 2:14-26) Too much focus on works without reliance on God brings you into a state of legalism. On the other hand, life by faith alone with no good works does not offer the chance to rely on God and give Him the glory for those accomplishments.
I find it awesome to be able to see how God’s plan is playing out in v.17, it wasn’t until 430 years later that ‘step one’ led to ‘step two’ in the sense that we could see the big pieces of the puzzle start to fit together. God is timeless and eternal, and it gives us perspective on the bigger picture, which is still in the works today in our lives. I often pray and hope for instant remedies from God when I am in need of His help, this covenant is a good reminder that though God works for our good when we trust in Him, it will likely play out in a very unexpected way, at a time we didn’t plan for, because the only plan can be Gods plan when we give up control to Him.
The law taught us two things:
- How we are to behave in Christ’s image
- How impossible that is for anybody but Jesus
It’s interesting that the Jews were so faithful to the laws and God in one way, despite the fact that they were basically set up to fail under that structure. “Here are the rules, you break one and you’ve broken them all” is basically how it goes. That is such a hopeless and frustrating way to have to live! How could they not latch on to the escape and release Jesus provided?
There are two types of people in the world, and it is not “Jews” and “Gentiles” instead it is those saved in Christ, and those who aren’t. Those saved get the promise of justification by faith. We are part of a global club! I don’t have the opportunity to travel much, but the stories I’ve heard of being able to visit another country and just connect with other believers seems like something amazing that I would love to experience.
Fun resource: The Bible project has a great infographic for Galatians
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? 2 This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? 3 Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? 4 Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain. 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? 6 Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. 7 Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. 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. 9 So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful 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. 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. 12 And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them. 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: 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. 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. 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. 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. 18 For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise. 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. 20 Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one. 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. 22 But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. 23 But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. 24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25 But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. 26 For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 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. 29 And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.