There is nothing more upsetting than to see a Christian who has departed from the faith. This is the case of one who has come to the Lord, who professes Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, but who then is ensnared by false teaching.

Many Christians come to Christ through faith, only to be ensnared by various systems of legalism. They get involved in external rituals of baptism or confirmation or mass. They begin to focus upon the observance of certain days or upon the wearing of certain types of clothes.

These Galatians were in danger of falling into a similar type of trap. They were in the process of substituting the living reality that they had in Christ for a shallow ritual. They did not actually was to reject Jesus. Rather they felt the need to add something of their own merit to the work of Christ. And in doing so, they were in danger of short-circuiting the grace of God.

The issue here is NOT the Moral Law. Paul was not telling the Galatians to live in adultery or to steal or to covet or to worship other gods. It is the ceremonial law that is at issue here.

Paul has just spent two chapters in defense of his apostolic authority. By so doing, he wants to show that the message that he preached was really authorized by God.

Galatians 1-2

Galatians 3-4

Primarily Historical

Primarily Doctrinal

Paul shows how the gospel that he preaches was not given by men or by man, but was granted through a revelation from God.

Paul establishes the doctrinal evidence for the truthfulness of the gospel that he preaches.

In the last chapter we saw Paul rebuking the error of Peter. Now we see him rebuking the same error in the Galatians.

Paul is full of emotion and passion. Twice within the first few verses he will refer to the foolishness of the Galatians. He is upset because this is no small doctrinal issue. This is a matter of spiritual life or death.


You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified?

This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?

Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?

Did you suffer so many things in vain -- if indeed it was in vain?

So then, does He who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? (Galatians 3:1-5).

Each of these first five verses contains a question. In each case, it is a rhetorical question. That is a question which requires no answer because the answer is obvious. It is a question for the sake of rhetoric -- a question for the sake of the argument being made.

Paul is not afraid of being emotional. We can hear the outburst of his cry drawn from the depths of his heart. He asks how the Galatians could possibly accept a salvation by works when they had already received a salvation that is through faith. When they were saved by faith, they got everything. What more were they looking for as they sought to go under the Law? Paul mentions four aspects of their Christian experience:

Verse 1

Verse 2

Verse 3

Verse 4

Verse 5

Who bewitched you from what you saw?

Did you receive the Spirit by Law or faith?

Beginning in Spirit, are you now perfected in faith?

Did you go through all this in vain?

Are you provided with the supernatural by Law or faith?

Their salvation in Christ

Their receiving of the Holy Spirit

Their persecution for the faith

The work of the Father






  1. A Question of Sight: You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? (3:1).

Paul's first question is directed to what the Galatians had seen. They had come to see the power of God and to partake of His gift on their behalf.

a. The Gullibility of the Galatians: You foolish Galatians (3:1).

This is a cry from Paul's heart. He calls them a bunch of fools. Charlie Brown would have said, "You blockheads!" There are two Greek words that Paul could have used here:

It is this second word that is used here. Paul accuses them of not thinking. It is not that they had no capacity to think for themselves. But they have not been utilizing that which God had given.

b. The Guile of the Judaizers: Who has bewitched you (3:1).

This is a rhetorical question. It does not really expect an answer. The answer is that they have been carried away by the false teachings of the Judaizers.

c. The Gospel Displayed: ...before whose eyes (3:1).

In what way had Christ been publicly portrayed as crucified before the eyes of the Galatians? It was by Paul's preaching of the gospel and then by their participation in the Lord's Supper. In this manner, they had seen through both physical eyes and spiritual eyes and had blinded themselves to both.

  1. A Question of the Spirit: This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? (3:2).
  2. Now Paul moves from their experience with Christ to their experience with the Holy Spirit. How did they receive the Spirit? Was it by works? No, it was by faith.

    The gift of the Holy Spirit is an evidence of salvation. Only those who are given the Spirit are saved. If you do not have the Spirit, then you do not have salvation. The Spirit is a guarantee of your salvation.

    In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation, having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise (Ephesians 1:13).

    Notice His title. He is called the Holy Spirit of promise. The Holy Spirit is the down-payment of your salvation. You don't have a glorified body. But you have an engagement ring from Christ. It guarantees that you shall be at the wedding feast of the Lamb. If God does not save one who has the Holy Spirit, then He is going against His own guarantee.

    Legalists tend to treat God as a formula instead of as a person. God doesn't fit into a legalistic box. He is a lot bigger than that. He doesn't give His Spirit on the basis of your keeping of certain rules. He gives His Spirit when HE desires. He gives the Spirit through faith.

  3. A Question of Sanctification: Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? (3:3).
  4. Both verse 2 and verse 3 speak of the Spirit. But there is a difference in the question that is asked.

    Verse 2

    Verse 3

    Asks about the initial entrance of the Spirit into the believer

    Asks about the continuing sanctifying work in the life of the believer.

    Your spiritual life started, not because you began to adhere to a code of conduct, but because the Spirit of God come into your life and brought life to you. Having begun by the power of the Spirit, how could you then do any better by trying to save yourself through your own efforts? What makes you think that you can finish something that you cannot even start? Do you really think that you can do more than God can do?

    This does not mean that there will not be works in the Christian life. James points out in his epistle that good works are another of the evidences of your salvation. You are saved to do good works (Ephesians 2:10). But those good works do not bring about your salvation.

  5. A Question of Suffering: Did you suffer so many things in vain -- if indeed it was in vain? (3:4).
  6. The Galatians had suffered for their faith. They had been persecuted. Who did this persecuting? It was not the Gentiles. The Roman persecution had not yet begun. They did not care about Christ or the cross as it posed no threat to them.

    All persecution thus far had come at the hands of the Jews. They did not persecute Christians because the Christians were trying to keep the law. They persecuted them because the Christians were being justified apart from the law and this made them angry.

    Here is the principle. Legalistic people will always try to get other people to be legalistic, too. And when they fail, it makes them angry.

  7. A Question of Salvation: So then, does He who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? (3:5).

This is similar to the question that was asked in verse 2. But there is an important difference.

Verse 2

Verse 5

Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?

Does He who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?

Past tense (Aorist)

Present tense

Looks at the time when the Galatians first believed

Looks at the ongoing spiritual life of the Galatians

From the Galatians' point of view

From God's point of view

God's miracles do not depend upon our rituals. They never did. God works when He wants to and He does it right well.



Even so Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.

Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham.

The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, "All the nations will be blessed in you."

So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer. (Galatians 3:6-9).

There was in the Jewish mind no one who was more revered than Abraham. He was the father of the nation and the Jews prided themselves on being sons of Abraham. It is for this reason that Paul turns to the example of Abraham to show that justification comes by faith and not on the basis of works.

The false teachers may have used Abraham as an example of why it was necessary for all Christians to undergo the rite of circumcision. After all, Abraham was circumcised. They reasoned that if you want to approach the God of Abraham, then you must be circumcised in the same way that Abraham was circumcised.

1. The Fact of Abraham's Faith: Abraham believed (3:6).

Paul wants to make the point that Abraham's circumcision did not save him. It is true that Abraham was circumcised. But he was saved through faith. He was saved when he believed the promises of God. To prove this, Paul quotes from Genesis 15:6.

This event took place before Abraham was ever circumcised. It took place before he offered up Isaac on the Altar. And it took place apart from any works that Abraham did.

2. The Fruit of Abraham's Faith: It was reckoned to him as righteousness (3:6).

The Greek word translated "reckoned" is the aorist form of logizomai ( µ ). It is used in the papyri writings of that day as an accounting term. It describes the crediting or putting to one's account of certain funds.

Whatever was reckoned to someone did not belong to them naturally. It was their by legal possession, but not by actual possession.

For example, if I use a credit card, I am not actually paying for the item that I am purchasing. I am merely charging it to my account and the payment will take place on a later date.

In the same way, our sins were put to Christ's account on the cross. He did not actually become a sinner, but my sin was credited to Him and therefore He was judged by God as though He were a guilty sinner.

This brings us to the point of our verse. In the same way that our sins were put to Christ's account, so also His righteousness was credited to us. It is on this basis that God is able to justify us -- to declare that we are righteous. It is because we have been credited with His perfect and infinite righteousness.

3. The Family of Abraham's Faith: Those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham (3:7).

What does this mean? It means that all who follow Abraham in faith have entered into a family. It is a spiritual family. It is the family of God. Abraham was a part of that family. When we believe in the same God in which Abraham believed, there is a sense in which he becomes our spiritual father.

When you became a Christian, you became a part of something that is very old. It did not start at Pentecost. It goes all the way back to Abraham and before.

This means that the Old Testament is no longer a closed book to you. You may have been taught that the Old Testament was written just for Israel and that it has no bearing for Christians today. Not true! If your are a Christian, then you have been adopted into the family of Abraham and grafted into the tree of the family of God. The promises of God's coming kingdom are promises that you can claim today.

4. The Foreshadowing of Abraham's Faith: "All the nations will be blessed in you." (3:8).

Notice what this passage does not say. It does not say that people had to become Jewish in order to be saved. To the contrary, it quotes a promise given to Abraham in Genesis 12:3 that through him blessings would come to all the nations.

Throughout the entire Old Testament era, the gospel was entrusted to one small group of people. They were the descendants of Abraham. They were the nation of Israel.

Old Testament

New Testament

Salvation focused primarily upon one nation

Salvation goes out to the world

Temple worship focused in Jerusalem

"Make disciples of the nations"

The redeemed gathered to Jerusalem to worship

The church sent to the uttermost parts of the earth.

Even when God first called Abraham, His plan was not merely to save Abraham and his physical descendants, but to bring salvation to all the nations. That was the promise that was given to Abraham when he was first called to follow the Lord. It was always the plan that in Abraham the Lord might bring salvation to the world.

5. The Fellowship of Abraham's Faith: Those… of faith are blessed with Abraham (3:9).

Paul's conclusion is this. When we believe in the same way that Abraham believed, we are blessed in the same way that Abraham was blessed. We become a part of God's forever family. And we become a blessing to the rest of the world.



For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them."

Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, "The righteous man shall live by faith."

However, the Law is not of faith; on the contrary, "He who practices them shall live by them." (Galatians 3:10-12).

Now Paul moves from the example of Abraham to look at the failure of the Law to provide salvation.

Galatians 3:6-9

Galatians 3:10-12

Lesson of Abraham: He was justified by faith and apart from circumcision.

Lesson from the Law: No one is justified by the Law before God.

Abraham and those who follow him are blessed and are a blessing to the world.

Those who attempt to be justified by keeping the law are under a curse.

Positive proof of Justification

Negative proof of Justification

In 1984 a passenger ship was on its way into the Port of Miami when a small fire broke out in the engine room. Instead of calling for the fire department, the engineer attempted to extinguish the fire with a garden hose. It didn't go out and the fire spread throughout a good portion of the ship. Ultimately the Miami Fire Department went aboard with their big hose lines and put out the fire, but not before two people had died. It is a tragic example of what happens when you try to use the wrong tool for the job.

The Judaizers were doing the same thing with equally tragic results. It was not that there was anything wrong with the Law. But it was not designed to do what the Judaizers wanted to make it do. They were trying to be justified by law-keeping and the law was never designed to accomplish this.

The Judaizers taught that the law was a means of justification. The way to be justified was to believe in Christ and keep the law. To disprove this teaching, Paul quotes Deuteronomy 27:26. It shows that the law is a means of condemnation to anyone who does not keep it. Notice the inclusiveness of that passage:

The truth that no one is justified by the law is seen in Habakkuk 2:4 which says, "The just shall live by faith." If it is true that the just shall live by faith, it must follow that the just does not live by law, since law by its very nature is the opposite of faith. This is seen in the next verse.

Law and faith are mutually exclusive. If you are attempting to be justified through your own keeping of the law, then you are not trusting in the finished work of Christ on your behalf.

We can summarize these three verses like this:

Anyone who keeps the Law must keep ALL of the Law (3:10)


No one has kept the entire Law - no one is Justified (3:11)


Keeping the Law and Trusting in Christ are mutually exclusive (3:12)



Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us -- for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree" -- 14 in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. (Galatians 3:13-14).

The word "redemption" is a term from the marketplace. It denotes buying and selling. We usually think in terms of buying and selling consumer goods, clothes, food, a car, a house. But in the ancient world, there was another commodity that was commonly bought and sold -- people. In an age where slavery was the norm, it was common to speak of buying and selling people.

The idea behind redemption points to the purchase of a slave within the marketplace. The basic Greek word for redeeming is . It comes from the root word agora, describing the marketplace. It describes the act of purchasing a slave in the marketplace. But in this verse there is a subtle difference. Here we find the word . The prefix that is attached takes in the idea, not only of buying the slave within the marketplace, but then taking him out of the marketplace.

The tense used to describe this action is very specific. The phrase having become a curse for us is a translation of the perfect tense. This tense describes an action which took place in the past and which has continuing results. Christ became a curse for us in the past with the result that we are no longer under that curse.

Christ not only purchased us from the curse of the Law, but He also then took us out from under that law. That is the point that is made here in this verse. We were bought and paid for by Christ's atoning death on the cross and because of that, we now serve a new master.

Our Old Master

Our New Master

The Law and its ordinances

Jesus Christ

Brought a curse upon all who did not obey

Became a curse for us so that we might receive the blessing promised to the children of Abraham

The specific curse is taken from the Greek Septuagint text of Deuteronomy 21:22-23. To be hung upon a tree was considered to be the act of greatest disrespect. In was done to one who was shown to be under a curse. In such a way, Christ became a curse for us.

What does it mean in verse 13 when we read that "Christ became a curse FOR us"? The Greek preposition used there is huper. When this is used with the genitive (as it is in this passage) it carries the idea of "for the sake of." Christ became a curse for our sake. We are the beneficiaries of his having been accursed on the cross.



Brethren, I speak in terms of human relations: even though it is only a man's covenant, yet when it has been ratified, no one sets it aside or adds conditions to it.

Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, "And to seeds," as referring to many, but rather to one, "And to your seed," that is, Christ.

What I am saying is this: the Law, which came four hundred and thirty years later, does not invalidate a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise.

For if the inheritance is based on law, it is no longer based on a promise; but God has granted it to Abraham by means of a promise. (Galatians 3:15-18).

What is a covenant? Humanly speaking, it is a contract, an agreement between two parties. It sets forth an agreement between those two parties with terms and conditions. Once it has been signed and ratified by both parties, then the contract becomes legally binding.

The Bible teaches that God entered into a covenant relationship with men. There were terms to this covenant agreement and both parties accepted those terms and it was ratified. The Lord even went through a very intricate process of sealing the covenant with the blood of a sacrificed animal.

Once you enter into a contract and sign on the dotted line, it takes effect and the terms and conditions begin to apply. Just because you later decide that you don't care for certain of the stipulations does not mean that you can arbitrarily go back and change them.

If this is true with normal contracts, how much more is it the case with God's holy covenant? The covenant that God made with Abraham continues to stand and is not changed by something that takes place at a later date.

Now you might be thinking, "That is all well and good. But what does the Abrahamic Covenant have to do with me? I was not there and I am not Jewish. Does it have any application with me today?" It really does. The reason that it does is because that covenant was Messianic in nature.

We tend to look at the promises given to Abraham and think in terms of a nation of Jews and a land in Palestine. But the promise to Abraham was to his seed. Paul makes a point that this seed is in the singular -- that it refers to ONE person. It is a Messianic promise. It is a promise that Abraham would have a descendant who would be a blessing to the world.

That is where we as Christians enter into the Abrahamic Covenant. We who believe in the same way that Abraham believed have been united with Christ. We have therefore become a part of the one seed of Abraham. And because of that union, we have a lasting promise.

The promise given to Abraham was passed on to Isaac and then to Jacob and then to the sons of Jacob. Four hundred and thirty years after it was ratified for this last time, the Law was given. But the coming of the Law did not invalidate the covenant that had been ratified 430 years earlier.

The Judaizers wished to make salvation dependent upon the keeping of the Mosaic Law. But if this is the case, then it no longer is based upon the promise that God make to Abraham so many hundreds of years earlier. The fact that God saved Abraham before the Law was ever given is evidence that salvation does not come through the keeping of the Law.

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