(29 verses, 3:50 to read)
What I am about to READ
- Galatians 3 is part of Paul’s longer argument, stretching out over the course of this letter, that righteousness comes to us by faith alone in Christ, not by works of the Law.
- vv. 1-5 are a harsh rebuke from St. Paul to the Galatian Christians.
- vv. 6-14 hold up Abraham is the example par excellence that one is justified by faith, not by works.
- vv.15-29 show the proper relationship between the Law the promises of God.
- First, it’s difficult to read this chapter in isolation from the rest of the epistle. Take 20-30 minutes and read it all through. This will help put this section of Paul’s argument against the Judiazers (those who wanted to see a partial return to the Mosiac Law) in perspective.
- Chapter 3 begins with a rebuke. St. Paul reminds the Galatians that Christ had been “publicly portrayed as crucified” before their very eyes. What does this mean? The Galatians had probably not witnessed Jesus’ crucifixion and death, but through the preaching of St. Paul, this is true (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:23). St. Paul and the other apostles went out teaching about Christ and His crucifixion and death since the day of Pentecost, bringing the message of repentance and faith in Christ’s name to everyone to whom they were sent. But certain teachers were worried that a whole-sale abandonment of the ceremonial laws was not in line with the Old Testament Scriptures. Even today, there are people in the so-called “Hebrew Roots Movement” who are seeking to return to the dietary laws and other restrictions of the ceremonial law. This St. Paul condemns, because righteousness cannot come through the Law, but through the promises of God.
- St. Paul points out (as he does in other places) that righteousness come by faith. If we chose the path of the Law, we must keep it perfectly, lest we incur the curses associated with it. Just as Abraham was justified by faith in God’s promises in Genesis 15 before circumcision and the rest of the Law was given, we are justified by faith in the one who has done the whole Law perfectly for us–Christ Jesus. He is now our intermediary between us and God. No longer are we separated from God by the veil in the temple, but we are reconciled to Him through the flesh and blood Christ, who is God in the flesh.
- So what is the purpose of the Law? Here, Paul shows us the true nature of the Law. It was added because of transgression. This serves as a curb on evil in the world and a check on our sinful flesh. The Law reveals sin for what it truly is–a violation of God’s revealed will. This means that the Law cannot possibly give us the eternal life that it holds out for us. It will always demand more than what we can do.
- The Law serves another purpose here: to point us to Christ. When we stand condemned by the Law, we quickly realize that we cannot do anything to pull ourselves from under the wrath of God. Christ Jesus is the only one who can save us from God’s wrath and bring us to eternal life. St. Paul uses the term pedagogue (ESV says guardian) to show us that the law leads us to Christ, just as a pedagogue would take the children under his charge to school. However, that role passes away once we are brought into the household of faith.
- By baptism, God adopts us into His family. No longer do we need to follow the old ceremonial laws. They served their purpose in leading God’s people of old to the Christ, who is the fulfillment of the entire law. Thus, we are considered sons of Abraham, not by our works, but by being incorporated into the life of Christ by baptism. He is the one who has fulfilled the entire law for us, thus making us heirs of the promises God gave to Abraham.
- Note: Galatians 3:28 is often used by the proponents of women’s ordination and homosexual ordination is a “proof text” that God does not desire an all-male pastorate. However, the context simply does not allow that interpretation to stand. Galatians 3 is clearly talking about how we are justified before God, and it is most certainly not talking about the pastoral office.
- Prayer: Heavenly Father, by our own grievous fault, we have gone against Your Word. We are unable to approach You on our own. Thank you for sending Your Son, Jesus Christ, to redeem us from the curse of the Law by becoming a curse for us, that we might attain that perfect righteousness by faith in Him; through that same Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
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-Rev. Jordan McKinley, pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church, Vallonia, IN
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