“ Paul’s Questions“
by Diane Barstow
Paul’s astonishment at their leaving the gospel for another ‘religious system’ reminds me of God’s rebuke of Israel in Jeremiah 2:13, “For my people have committed two evils: they have abandoned Me the fountain of living waters, to carve out for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that do not hold water.”
1) This is a vision issue, there are two references here that gentiles living in the roman world would easily grasp. 1st who bewitched you, was a reference to their ancient cultural fear of the evil eye. He might have asked, “Who has charmed your eyes away from Jesus who was graphically crucified before your eyes?” The phrase ‘publicly portrayed’ was an allusion to the Roman custom of placarding announcements in a public place for all to see. If there was a new law, pronouncement, or tax, it was displayed. If someone was to denounce their relative’s debt or disown a child, it was done by hanging a poster. His description of Jesus’ death and resurrection must have been so persuasive as to 1/ cause them to believe, 2/ engage their imagination so that they could ‘see’ it. Vision is the issue, Paul reinforces this in Hebrews 12:1-2, “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us,and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, has has sat down at the right hand of of the throne of God.”
2) He asks them ‘in what manner did you receive the Holy Spirit - by works or by hearing with faith? 1/ we know “Faith comes from hearing and hearing by the Word of God” Romans 10:17 and 2/ faith in the word must be added for it to be beneficial, (“For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it.” Heb 4::2) It was a HUGE deal to the Apostles and the early church that 1/ gentiles could be saved, 2/ that they would be filled with the same Holy Spirit as the Jewish believers. In Acts 10 the Lord begins to elaborate on His original plan to “bless all the families of the earth through Abraham” via a vision given to Peter in Acts 10. As he followed the Lord’s instruction to preach the gospel to Cornelius and company, an astonishing miracle occurred. “While Peter was still speaking these words (the gospel), the Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message. All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also.” Their immediate answer, if of course, by the Spirit. So he then asks, are you foolish enough to think that you can be complete in the flesh what has begun in/by the Spirit?? In Genesis 13, God promises Abraham that He would make him a great nation, He would bless him, make him a great name, that he (himself) would be a blessing, that God would bless or curse those who help or hinder him, and that ALL THE FAMILIES of the earth will be blessed. This is his first act of obedience - believing God for these promises. In Genesis 15, God reiterates and expands on His promise by saying that He Himself would be Abraham’s shield and great reward. He then promises that an heir will come from his own body, that his descendants will be as numerous as the stars in the sky, and (how is that possible unless gentiles are also his descendants?) Abraham believed what God said so it was reckoned to him as righteousness. Reckon is an accounting term used of placing something in someone’s account. Here God placed righteousness in Abraham’s account (which was empty). He was not made righteous, but considered righteous before God - from God’s perspective. APP) If this is true, then this is how we should reckon/account ourselves! This is our permanent standing before God, not temporary like when sacrifices were made for sin, in the loaned righteous standing of/in Jesus Christ. “For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable (the Law), and every transgression and disobedience received a just penalty, how will we escape if we neglect (undervalue) so great a salvation? After it was first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard.” Heb 2:2-3 BTW Jesus introduced this topic (God’s provision of righteousness for Gentiles) in Luke 4 & Matt 14. The people were so enraged by what He said that they tried to throw Him from a precipice!
4) So to what ‘suffering of many things’ is Paul referring in verse 4? Go back at home and read about Pau’s missionary journeys in Acts 13-20, and take note of the cities he visited and what happened there. The cities of Galatia that are mentioned are; Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe. So the inhabitants of these cities are the “Galatian brothers and sisters” to which the letter is addressed. Incensed Jews drove Paul from Iconium to Lystra. They then followed him to Lystra and incited the crowd to stone him, he was taken up dead, but God resurrected him, From there he went to Derbe - each of these cities is about 16 miles apart. Reading between the lines, it seems that his su ering was theirs too. He received persecution from both Jews and idolatrous gentiles. In the next chapter you’ll read how they received him while he was very ill and took care of him. (For more insight read 2nd Tim 3, and 2nd Corinthians 11)
5) In light of the previous 4 answers, does He (Who provides you with the Spirit, and works miracles among you) do it in response to your obedience to the Law or by hearing with faith?? The word provides (epichoregeo) means to supply, furnish, present - all in the present tense. Meaning He who provides still!! The word works (energeo) means to e ect - its a transitive verb does something to something, so here the Holy Spirit works a miracle, also in the present tense. In your experience, did the hearing (believing) the word by faith, then confirmed by the gifting of His Holy Spirit, did that happen while you were uncircumcised? If it did then why would anyone add circumcision to what was already done and finished? 6-14) Previously Paul’s Roman citizenship as a native of Tarsus gave him experiential insight into gentile thinking and behavior, now his religious education provides him with the tools to explain the concept of “righteousness by faith like Abraham” to both jew and gentile. I can almost hear him saying, “You know, righteous standing before God as a gift of grace was His plan all along! Look at Abraham!
6) This next section takes a close look at the installation of ‘righteousness by faith’. (Read Romans chapter 4 for more info) If they can grasp that the 1st covenant cannot be invalidated by the 2nd, and the purpose of the Law, then they’ll realize how ridiculous it is to try to add our own feeble e orts to the perfect imputed righteousness of Jesus. As Paul takes the Galatians (and also the Roman church) through the history of the 1st covenant, he makes sure to point out that all this occurred while 1) Abraham was uncircumcised Gentile, an idol worshiper (Romans 4:10-12, “How then was it credited? While he was circumcised or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised; but while uncircumcised; and he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while uncircumcised, so that he might be the father of all who believe without being circumcised, that righteousness might be credited to them, and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but also follow in the steps of faith of our father Abraham which he had while uncircumcised.” Did they see that all of this was 430 years prior to Moses, prior to the Law, prior to the priesthood?? Why was circumcision the sign and seal of RBF? The foreskin was removed to show that the work of belief was internal, of the heart, not external by works, obedience, hoop-jumping where is singular failure leads to complete condemnation. RBF is of the heart and in agreement, complementing grace, not wrath! “And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while uncircumcised, so that he might the father of all who believe, without being circumcised, that righteousness might be credited to them, and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who follow in the steps of the faith our father Abraham which he had while uncircumcised.” Romans 4:11-12.
7-8) Paul makes the same point twice in this chapter (7 & 29) those who believed God like Abraham did, and were accounted as righteous in the same fashion as Abraham - are then the true sons of Abraham! ‘Therefore be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham.’ And ‘And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.” (See page 11 for more about Abraham)
8) In Genesis 12, Paul says, God Himself preached the Gospel when He said to Abraham, “All the nations will be blessed in you.” God ratified the good news that they had believed to salvation WAY BACK before the law of Moses.
9) So, those who are of faith are ‘the blessed’ (mentioned in Gen 12:3) with Abraham. The verb blessed (eulogio) is the in the present tense (viewed as occurring in real time/now) and passive voice (meaning that you had nothing to do with it, just passively received)
10-14) Paul explains how 1/ the law brings with it a curse from imperfect compliance, and 2/ how Jesus became the curse in our place. “If a man has committed a sin worthy of death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his corpse shall not hang all night on the tree, but you shall surely bury him on the same day (for he who is hanged is accursed of God), so that you do not defile your land which the Lord your God gives you as an inheritance.” Deut 21:22-23 “Cursed is he who does not confirm the words of this lay by doing them. And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’” Deut 27:26
11) “The just shall live by faith” (not the Law of Moses). Hab 2:4 The Hebrew word just here (sadiq) means righteous in conduct and character towards God. The Hebrew reading says - the justified man, by his faith, shall live. Paul used this verse to show that the just live by faith, not the Law. Being under the Law isn’t the way to be found just before God, only living by faith is! If you are declared just, that is approved, accepted in the beloved (“To the praise of the glory of His grace, by which Me made us accepted in the Beloved.” Eph 1:6, before God, you have done it by a relationship of faith. If your life is about living under the Law, then God does not find you approved.
13-14) The gentile believers would be very familiar with the slave-market. It was Rome’s practice to parade those whom they conquered, then sell them in at the slave-market. As long as they were expanding the empire by war, there would always be a fresh supply of slaves. This would in turn make the citizens lazy, and free to spend their time pursuing fleshly passions. Jesus received the curse which we deserved and He did not, so that we could receive the ‘blessings of Abraham’ which He deserved and we did not. It would be enough (mercy) if Jesus JUST simply took away the curse we deserved, but He did far more than that - He also gave us (grace) a blessing that we didn’t deserve, nor could we ever!
13) Redeemed (exagorazo) means to be bought back (out of the marketplace) with a price (“For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body” 1 Cor 6:20), not just rescued out of the circumstance. Jesus paid the ransom for us in His own blood.
14) self-explanatory 15-18) Those living in the empire would have a grasp of Roman law, contract law specifically, so Paul asks if a previously ratified contract can be amended by one side? Of course not, they’d reply in their thoughts. If not, then why would God allow His 1st covenant to be nullified by the 2nd? He will abide by the initial contract with those who claim it! “You promised You would justify me if I would believe You in the same manner as Abraham.” Why would they go back and say, “Nevermind, vacate our 1st agreement, and apply this new and improved version - obedience to the law?”
18) 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. You see we inherit the promise He granted to Abraham. The word promise appears 5 times in the next 7 verses! What is granted versus what is earned is the point. Granted (charizomai) - to show one’s self gracious, kind, benevolent BY GRACE ((in the perfect tense (an action which is viewed as having been completed in the past, once for all, not needing to be repeated)) This is contrary to what is of the law, “Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor (grace = unmerited favor), but what is due.” Rom 4:4 Promise - (epangelia 1860) divine promises of blessing, especially the benefits of salvation by Christ. The promise is considered superior to the Law because 1/ it came first and 2/ is one sided; God initiated, God fulfilled- unilateral!
19-20) The law required a mediator (Paul says through the agency of angels), but the promise to Abraham was unilateral. God initiated it and He ratified it by walking in the midst of the sacrifices. There was no mediator between God and Abraham. This was God’s sovereign act.
19-25) Take note of the words ‘until the Seed’, until indicates its temporary nature. Why the law at all then? 1/ The purpose of the Law clearly revealed A/ God’s standard, and B/ how we all fall-short of it EQUALLY, and C/ grace is the plan He had in mind the whole time. The lawful use of the law is to reveal sin and cause men to see their need of a Savior. The unlawful use is to try to achieve salvation by the keeping of the law. Romans 3:19 says, “Now we know that whatever the law says, it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God; because by the works of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the law comes the knowledge of sin.”
21) The law cannot, nor was it ever intended, to give life. “Who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant; not of the letter, but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” 2 Cor 3:6 Here Paul uses an illustration that was familiar to all his readers, the child Guardian. In many Roman and Greek households, well educated slaves took the children to and from school and watched over them during the day. Sometimes they would teach the children, sometimes they would protect and prohibit, and sometimes they would even discipline. This is what Paul means by tutor or schoolmaster, this translation of the Greek would give us the word pedagogue, which literally means child conductor. Paul is explaining how the Jews were not born through the law, but would be brought up by the law. The pedagogue was not the child's father, he was the child's guardian and disciplinarian. So the law did not give life to Israel, it regulated it. But the second thing Paul says is even more important. The work of the Guardian was in preparation for the child's maturity. Once the child came of age, he no longer needed the Guardian. So the law was a preparation for the nation of Israel: until the coming of the promised Seed, Jesus Christ. The ultimate goal in God's program was Jesus’ coming. But before Faith came, the nation was imprisoned by the law. He’s trying to explain that the law is neither superior, nor contrary to grace and faith - but rather complimentary.
26-27) the important thing to understand from this verse is that we are designated ‘adult’ sons through faith in Jesus Christ, for we have clothed ourselves with Him through baptism. No longer children needing a pedagogue.
28) in the Greek/Roman world there were 3 standards of division: racial/religious (Jew & heathen), social/class bond & free, rulers/conquered), male/female. In this one verse Paul obliterates every false measure of separation - he says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek. There is neither slave nor free man. There is neither male nor female.” This is the work of the Gospel, this is the measure of the Power of Christ’s blood - unity and equality!
29) Now for the logical conclusion - “For you are all one in Christ Jesus.And if you belong to Christ, comma, then you are Abraham's descendants, heirs according to the promise.”
Application) Which righteousness are you trusting in? Your impossibly flawed version which comes from obedience to the Law, or God’s provision of His perfect righteousness. “For all of us have become like the one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; and all of us wither like a lean, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.” Isaiah 64:6. Regarding Abraham - the Jews claimed him as their ‘father’. In Matt 3:9, and Luke 3:8-9 JtheB addressed their pride by saying, “Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance; and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father’, for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham.” And to Jesus they said, “They answered Him, ‘We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been enslaved to anyone; how is it You say, You will become free’?” In Jesus’ mind Moses equaled the law and Abraham equaled grace. Jesus also dealt with the Pharisees’ claim on Abraham in John 8:33, “They answered Him, ‘We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been enslaved to anyone; how is it that You say, “You will become free.”’” And later they claimed (to the man who had been born blind and Jesus healed) to be Moses’ disciples, “They reviled him and said, ‘You are His disciple, but we disciples of Moses.’”
Paul’s Questions Galatians chapter 3
1. You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified?
2.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.Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?
4.Did you su er so many things in vain - if indeed it was in vain?
5.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?
6.Why the Law then?
7. Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God?
1-5 Paul’s astonished reaction to the Galatian believers’ adoption of another gospel, works- rather than grace- based righteousness.
6-14 As a former Pharisee, Paul is uniquely qualified to take them through the establishment of RBF as the 1st covenant between God and the Jews via the life of Abraham, the Jews’ father of the faith.
15-18 And as a Roman citizen, he is able to bring the understanding of a covenant to Gentiles who were familiar with contract law.
19-26 Paul explains why the Law came to be and its actual purpose, a hint, delivering righteousness was not its proper use.
27-29 Paul’s conclusion; that only those who receive RBF as Abraham did are truly his sons/daughters and heirs to The Promises! (Romans 2:29)