I am writing this blog as one person’s opinion as to what Paul is addressing in Galatians 3. I read and hear so much junk about Galatians. That is, people continually twist Paul’s words (2 Peter 3:16). I think that Galatians 3 is such a simple message of salvation that I really wanted to do a good breakdown of this chapter. My analysis of Galatians 3 will be broken down into 6 separate parts, in order to keep them short and sweet. Galatians 3:1-5 (part 1), Galatians 3:6-9 (part 2), Galatians 3:10-14 (part 3), Galatians 3:15-18 (part 4), Galatians 3:19-22 (part 5), and finally Galatians 3:23-29 (part 6). Since this is part 1, I feel the need to give a bit of a back drop on Galatians 3, as a whole.
The declaration being made, in Galatians 1,2, and the beginning of 3, is that man is no longer to stand between us and God and that the law cannot be our pathway to salvation. The offer to be in a one-on-one relationship with God that was extended to Israel in Exodus 19:5 is being fulfilled in Jesus, according Deuteronomy 18:15-19. Jesus through Paul is confirming to us that His position is now that of high priest and His faithful people are now His kingdom of priests (Ex. 19:5, Ex. 20:18-21, Det. 18:15-19, Acts 3:19-26, Ps 110, Is 9:1-7 among others) walking before Him. It is this change of the priesthood that is the basis of the New Covenant, not that the law has somehow been done away with or set aside (which is provably false). Most of the world still does not understand the message of the New Covenant. It is the true invitation, to us individually, that says God wants a unique, genuine, one-on-one relationship with us as His holy people, out from underneath the influence man.
To obtain such a relationship, we need faith. There is no other way. We listen and follow what or whom we have faith in, whether it be a church, man or God. It is by our faith that God draws us into a relationship with Him. There is no other reason for us to have faith in God if we are not interested in having a direct relationship with Him. Likewise if our faith pulls us underneath the words and dictates of men then our faith is in those men and our relationship is with those men. The Bible is chock full of examples of people following the dictates of men, thus by definition not following God, even though they are in their minds directing their worship towards God.
One of the most interesting stories of Israel following men is in Exodus 31:1-10. Here the people decide to make a golden calf because Moses has been too long on the mountain, they lacked faith in God. In Exodus 31:4-5, we see the lack of faith in God that manifested in their faith being directed to mortal men and their idol in an effort to appease their flesh (they were anxious because Moses had not returned) but this redirection of their faith is disguised as faith in God: “He took this from their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool and made it into a molten calf; and they said, ‘This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.’” Here we clearly see that they are assigning praise to their idol, the molten calf. In Exodus 31:5, the people somehow credited this worship of the molten calf to worshiping God Himself: “Now when Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made a proclamation and said, ‘Tomorrow shall be a feast to the LORD.’” The word that Aaron uses for “LORD” is the name of God Himself, YHWH. The Hebrews are following the dictates of men (worshiping the golden calf) but have somehow convinced themselves that they are worshiping God Himself.
If we take this wonderful book seriously we should use it to honestly evaluate our relationship with God. Is our’s a relationship that is overly controlled by men? Do we continually look to men, not just to compare notes, but to allow them to influence what His word wants to tell us? Do we follow the dictates of men by doing things like not reading and studying the Old Testament? Do we follow the traditions of men and then pretend like we are somehow worshiping God? It is this beginning of Galatians 3 that should allow us to take a careful look at who we view as our high priest by evaluating who controls what we believe.
This leads us to the need to understand Paul’s statement “works of law.” That is “the works of law” not the more common translation “works of the law.” There is no “the” in the original Greek. What is the “works of law?” It is walking under the dictates, traditions, or even just the supervision of men necessarily separating us from a unique, genuine, free, one-on-one relationship with God that can only come about when we walk with God according to our God given understanding, faith, and in the unhindered guidance of the Holy Spirit.
That should be enough to get us started. Let’s begin.
Galatians 3:1: You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified.
In Galatians 3:1, Paul is clearly upset calling the Galatians foolish. What has set him off? There are two things that we can point to. The first can be best explained in Galatians 1:10: “For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.” The second is best seen in Galatians 2:21: “I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.” It is on these two points that Galatians 3 is focused. However, both of these points are irrevocably interwoven.
Let me explain. The dictates and supervision of men will necessarily cause there to be “works of law.” In other words, works that men are dictating to us and supervising are the “works of law.” There cannot be “works of law” without men to dictate them to us and to supervise them. It is these men who have taken control of our relationship with God. Hebrews 7:11, tells us: “Now if perfection was through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the people received the Law), what further need was there for another priest to arise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be designated according to the order of Aaron?” That is, it was on the basis of the Levitcal priesthood that we received the law. It was the Levitcal priesthood that was put in place to supervise the people into the laws and ways of God.
Eventually, through corruption, the Levitical priesthood changed the law both adding and subtracting according to their own understandings and dictates. This is always the ways of men as a whole. As a group our leaders may start out with the best of intentions but will always turn and seek to dictate, supervise, and even control through their flesh, if given the opportunity. So the question is why would God put the Levitical priesthood in place knowing that eventually they would incline towards power, control, and corruption? It was for two main reasons: A.) because the people wanted to be ruled by men; and B.) they lacked the faith in God to follow His ways without the supervision of men.
As evidence of point A, in Exodus 19:5, God declares to Moses that He wants the people to be His kingdom of priests. In Exodus 20 God comes out and begins to speak to the people Himself explaining to them the covenant that would make them His. In Exodus 20:18-19, the people effectively decline the relationship with God almost demanding that God not speak to them anymore and asking that Moses be allowed to stand between them and God: “All the people perceived the thunder and the lightning flashes and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood at a distance. Then they said to Moses, ‘Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, or we will die.’” If we are allowing men to stand between us and God, effectively destroying a one-on-one relationship with God, then the answer to Paul’s question of “Who has bewitched you?,’’ is we have bewitched ourselves.
Why do we have an affinity of putting our relationships with God under the control of men? For the same reasons that the Isrealites did at the foot of Mount Sinai, because (as evidence of point B) they did not receive His instructions by faith. Hebrews 4:2, tells us: “For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard.” His word did not profit them because without faith it could not transform them. Since they did not have the necessary faith in His word to transform them, God had to provide them with the proper supervision that would compel them to follow His word, so they could be the force to spread His word to the world.
If they had received His word united with faith they would not have needed any supervision and therefore there would have been no need for the Levitical priesthood, as enforcers of His ways. The people would have looked directly to God and His word and as they grew in understanding and maturity they would have manifested His word as a reflection of the true faith that existed inside of them, thus becoming His priests. How do we know the effect of true faith on someone? We can see it throughout His word, most notably with Jesus Himself (Luke 2:41-52), our example of how we ourselves are to grow. In Luke 2 we get to witness in Jesus the trans-formative power of true faith increasing “in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.”
What Paul is telling us is that we cannot walk according to the dictates and understandings of others and then turn around and claim to have a unique, genuine, personal relationship with God, that would be delusional. This would be similar to the Israelites worshiping the golden calf and then claiming that they were worshiping God Himself. How can the Galatians and ourselves be so foolish to give up what God has done in establishing a direct one-on-one relationship with Him and to place ourselves back under the authority of men and their “works of law”, whatever they may be. If we allow the voice of men to override the word of God, both adding and taking away, then we will never have an accurate picture of how our faith should look and what exactly Jesus’ Crucifixion means and to understand how they work together. What should really excite people of faith is not some inane idea that His law has been done away with or set aside but that we have the freedom to walk out His word, outside of the control and supervision of men, according to the dictates of our own faith and God given understanding in a direct one-on-one relationship with God Himself.
3:2: I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard?
The first question that Paul asks in relation to the Spirit is; How did we receive His Spirit? In order to answer this I will first ask; Why did God send us His Holy Spirit? The answer is, for many reasons: to teach us and guide us in His word (John 13:16), to convict us concerning sin and righteousness (John 16:8-11), and as a down payment of our promised inheritance (Eph. 1:13-14, 2 Cor. 1:22), namely living in the presence of God Himself forevermore. God is undoubtedly about having a relationship with each and everyone of us. This is exactly why we are His betrothed waiting for His return so we can finally be His. That is, we must be about preparing ourselves for His return, when we will be united with Him forevermore. We can see the beautiful fulfillment of this promised relationship in Rev. 19:7: “Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.” It is for this reason that we were given the Holy Spirit.
So the question that Paul is asking, of course is, how did we receive the Holy Spirit? We receive the Holy Spirit, as we know, by faith and not by the “works of law.” This is significant, because it is only through this same faith that causes us to receive the Holy Spirit that the Holy Spirit is able to do inside of us what He was sent to do. That is, to teach us and guide us, and to convict us concerning sin and righteousness; in short, to prepare us to be His bride. In other words, the same faith that causes us to the receive the Holy Spirit is the same faith that allows the Holy Spirit to transform us; that is, a true faith in Him and His ways. We will look at that more later. For now it is important that we realize that this transformation, that must come about under the direction of the Holy Spirit, cannot come about under the dictates, control, and supervision of men. It is because of this true faith that His people are compelled to go where the Holy Spirit directs them, to learn what the Holy Spirit teaches them about His word, and allows the Holy Spirit to guide them to break the bondage of their flesh that re-makes them into His image. If it was possible that all this could be done under the guidance of men, then we would not have needed the Holy Spirit.
3:3: Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?
The second question that Paul asks about the Spirit is; How are we going to finish, by means of the Spirit or by means of the flesh? We all know the parable of the ten virgins found in Matthew 25:1-13 of which we are told that “five of them were foolish, and five were prudent.” The prudent, of course, were prepared for their bridegroom when He came. The foolish, of course, were not prepared when their bridegroom came. If it is the Holy Spirit that was sent to us to prepare us to stand before our bridegroom, then it is the foolish who are trying to prepare themselves for their expected bridegroom, under the dictates and supervision of men; that is according to the flesh.
As Paul is asking the Galatians, are we ourselves so foolish to not allow His word and only His word under the guidance of the Holy Spirit to direct us? The Holy Spirit was sent for those who want to know God, to understand God, to serve God, to obey God, and to glorify God (John 16:7-14) so their faith can be manifested according to the word and will of God. There was no other reason that He was sent to us. Again I will say, if we are going to turn from Him to the dictates and traditions of religion then the Holy Spirit is not needed, we need only our mortal flesh. The Holy Spirit is only for those, who by faith, want His word, under His guidance, to transform them into His image, so they can be prepared for their coming bridegroom. We can see for ourselves what 2 Corinthians 3:17-18, tells us: “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.”
3:4-5: Have you experienced so much in vain—if it really was in vain? So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard?
The third question that Paul asks is; How does God work in our lives, through His Holy Spirit, or under the dictates and supervision of men? Of course, by now we all can see that Paul is clearly against the “works of law” and against living under the dictates and the supervision of men, and that the opposite of this is having God working in us through His word directly under the guidance and direction of His Holy Spirit. Paul is clearly casting these two elements as in direct opposition to one another. As a matter of fact, he is basically saying that you can only have one or the other, but you cannot be under the direction and supervision of men and be under the direction and supervision of the Holy Spirit at the same time. This, of course, would seem natural when we look at them side-by-side. True faith in God is a requirement to receive the Holy Spirit and a lack of faith in God would necessarily place us under the dictates and supervision of men. True faith, in God, allows the Holy Spirit to guide us, as It did the prudent virgins on alert for their bridegroom, while a lack of faith in God and His ways, which necessarily causes us to look to men to guide us, will naturally produce foolish virgins unprepared for their bridegroom.
This is why Paul asks; “Have you experienced so much in vain?” This is because, in addition to everything else, being under the supervision, dictates, and, control of men will naturally stunt the growth of faith and an individual, unique, one-on-one relationship with God. For even if the men who are in control are perfectly correct in their understanding and have a genuine relationship with God that does not mean that the people under them have a genuine relationship with God. The faith that is required to receive the Holy Spirit and that is required to have a genuine unique relationship with God does not come about because we have some understanding that someone else gave us, but begins to grow when we trust Him to the point that we start personally seeking to understand Him and His ways on our own, because we want to verifiably know what is really true about Him and His ways through the only true source we have, His word guided by His Spirit. It is this true faith that the Holy Spirit can use to direct us and to teach us through His word. This is exactly why Paul is telling us, that it is through this same faith that brings in His Holy Spirit that allows God to work in our lives. The first step, of those who have the faith to seek Him out, is to kick out those men who would seek to dictate and control our relationship with God, so we can allow the Holy Spirit to lead us and guide us into our own unique, genuine, and individual relationship with Him.
We should be able to start to recognize, that the same thing that we see in Galatians is happening in many of our churches today. People are drawn into a potential relationship with God with a declaration of faith, i.e. the sinner’s prayer. It am not suggesting that a declaration of faith is akin to “works of law,” for its design is to introduce people to Him by planting a seed of faith. I would even suggest that it is okay for young believers to be under the dictates and supervision of men, up to a certain point, that is until their faith becomes strong enough that they start truly seeking out His truth for themselves and they need the Holy Spirit for guidance. In other words, men of faith should be encouraging young believers into the development of their own faith and an individual relationship with God. Once the Holy Spirit has come upon them, being under the dictates and supervision of men will become a stumbling block to the individual growth of that faith and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Some men will do things like directing young believers away from the study of the Old Testament or even parts of the New Testament, thus blocking the Holy Spirit’s ability to guide them where He wants them. Some will claim that Jesus somehow set aside God’s law (which is provably false) thus discouraging young people to seek out their own understanding and preventing them from taking control of their relationship with God. It has been my experience that men who see themselves as “religious leaders” often have little tolerance for different understandings or opinions. Another popular misunderstanding is to cloud the meaning of faith reducing it down to nothing more than a mental declaration that God exists, thus limiting the growth and expansion that will naturally come about with the proper understanding of true faith.
Many Christians (whom I call the Christianizers) have truly bewitched many people. By stepping between a new believer and God, Christianizers try to get people to focus on men as their guides and to serve according to their standards and understanding thus limiting development of their own faith and understanding, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. This is exactly why Paul was so enraged against the group that he called the Judaizers in Galatians. As people who love and trust God and want to see new believers growing in their own relationship with God, we need to be constantly pointing new believers back into His word, His whole word, so that the Holy Spirit can properly guide them and direct them. Of course, Paul is not the first to rail against men as overseers of people’s relationship with God, there is precedent.
Throughout His word God stands firmly against those in authority for many reasons: because of the corruption that creeps into men and effects those under them (Jer. 23, Ez. 8:6-16, Mal. 2), misunderstandings that cause many to follow wrong ideas (Jer. 23:16, Matt. 15:14), man made traditions that become a false worship of God (Ex. 32:1-5, Mark 7). The most important reason is because God wants to have a real, genuine, individual, authentic relationship with His people of faith, and that cannot happen when we allow men to stand between us and God. In Romans 12:9, we are told to “let [our] love be genuine….” That is how we want to be loved and it is how He wants to be loved. We can see the genuine love that David (the man after God’s own heart) had for God throughout His word like in Psalms 42:1: “As the deer pants for the water brooks, So my soul pants for You, O God.” We must free ourselves of the dictates and supervision of men and strive to know God personally and, therefore; to love God with uniqueness and, genuineness.