This blog is one individual’s point of view to understand what Paul is talking about in Galatians 3. I read and hear so much junk about Galatians, that is people twist Paul’s words (2 Peter 3:16), and I think it is such a simple message of salvation that I wanted to do a good breakdown of this chapter. My analysis of Galatians 3 will be broken down into 6 separate parts, to try and stay on point. 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 Galatians 3:23-29 (Part 6). To begin, I will give a bit of a backdrop on Galatians.
The declaration being made, in Galatians 1,2, and the beginning of 3, is that we are no longer to allow men to stand between us and God. The offer to be in a one-on-one relationship with God that He extended to Israel in Exodus 19:5 is being realized in Jesus, affirming 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. The setting aside of the Levitical Priesthood is paramount to the New Covenant (Heb. 7:12-16). Jesus is now our chief priest, and it is in His instructions we are to walk, not that Jesus set aside the law, but that He is now the administrator of the law (Heb. 8:6). Many do not understand His message of the New Covenant. It is the genuine invitation, to each of us, that says God wants a unique, honest, one-on-one relationship with us as His holy people, out from underneath the influence of religion.
To be in a unique, genuine a relationship with God, 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 having a direct relationship with God does not interest us. If our faith pulls us underneath the words and dictates of men, then our faith is in 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. The Israelites, after rejecting an individual relationship with God, made for themselves a golden calf to worship because, they lacked trust in God. In Exodus 31:4-5, we see their lack of faith in God manifested in their faith being directed to mortal men and their idol to appease their flesh. Strangely this redirection of their faith they see 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 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. This is what happens when we follow the dictates and traditions of men.
We should use it to test our relationship with God. Is our relationship with God actually under the control of men? Are we looking to men, not just to compare notes, but to allow them to influence what His word wants to tell us? Do we listen when men tell us Old Testament is no longer applicable by not reading and studying the Old Testament? Do we follow the traditions of men and then pretend like we are 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.” The original Greek does not contain the word ‘the.’ What are the “works of law?” It is walking under the dictates, traditions, or even just being supervised by men that separates 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 understanding, faith, and in the unhindered guidance of the Holy Spirit.
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 railing against the Galatians, calling them foolish. What has set him off? Paul has two complaints that we can point to. The first one, he explains 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 focuses. However, both points are woven together.
Let me explain. The dictates and supervision of men cause the “works of law.” 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?” It was based on the Levitcal Priesthood that we received the law. God put the Levitcal Priesthood in place to supervise the Israelites so they would keep His laws and instructions.
Through corruption, the Levitical priesthood changed the law, both adding and subtracting according to their own understandings and dictates (Jer. 5:31). This is always the ways of men. 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 primary reasons: A.) because the people wanted men over them; and B.) they lacked the faith in God to follow His ways without men to supervise them.
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 speaks to the people Himself, explaining to them the covenant that would make them His. In Exodus 20:18-19, the people decline the invitation for a one-on-one relationship with God almost demanding that God not speak to them anymore and they request that Moses 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 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 Love Religion?
Why do we have an affinity of putting our relationships with God under the control of men? For the same reasons, the Israelites 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. They believed in God (Ex. 14:31) but that is not the same as having the required faith in Him and His ways so as to be transformed by His ways. Since they did not have the faith in His word to transform them, God had to provide them with the proper supervision to compel them to follow His instructions, 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 the enforcers of His ways. The people would have looked individually to God and His word and as they grew in understanding and maturity, they would have manifested His word in their actions reflecting 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, 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.”
Paul tells 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 like 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 only to place ourselves back under religion’s authority 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, what Jesus’ crucifixion should means for us, and to understand how they work together. What should excite people of faith is not some idea that Jesus set His law aside, but that we have the freedom to carry out His instructions, according to His perfect will, outside of the control and supervision of men.
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? 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) living in God’s presence forevermore. God is about having a relationship with each and everyone of us. As His betrothed we must be preparing ourselves for His return, when He will unite us with Him forevermore. We can see the beautiful fulfillment of His 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 He gave us His Holy Spirit.
So the question that Paul is asking 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 can operate inside of us. The Holy Spirit works within our faith to teach us and guide us, and to convict us concerning sin and righteousness; in short, to prepare us to be His bride. The same faith that causes us to the receive the Holy Spirit is the same faith that allows the Holy Spirit to transform us. A genuine faith in Him and His commandments. We will look at that more later. For now it is important that we realize that this transformation, that is being directed by the Holy Spirit, cannot come about under the dictates, control, and supervision of men. It is through a true faith that allows us to go where the Holy Spirit leads us, to learn what the Holy Spirit teaches us concerning His word, and with the Holy Spirit guiding us we are able to break the bondage of our flesh re-making us into His image. All of this is only possible with the Holy Spirit leading us.
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; “are you now trying to finish 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 prepared themselves for their bridegroom when He came. The foolish did not prepare themselves for when their bridegroom came. If it is the Holy Spirit that God 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 their flesh.
As Paul is asking the Galatians, are we ourselves so foolish to not allow His word and only His word to direct us with the Holy Spirit providing the guidance? God sent the Holy Spirit 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 will be in the word and will of God. There was no other reason that God sent Him to us. Again I will say, if we will turn from Him to the dictates and traditions of religion then the Holy Spirit will not be the one who guides us, we need only 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 prepare themselves 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? By now we all can see that Paul is against the “works of law” and against living under the dictates and with men controlling our relationships, and that the opposite of this is having God working in us through His word under the guidance and direction of His Holy Spirit. Paul is casting these two elements as in direct opposition to one another. We cannot be under the direction and supervision of men and under the direction and supervision of the Holy Spirit. One has to be the authority. If we compare them side-by-side, we see the problems. Genuine faith in God is a requirement to receive the Holy Spirit, and a lack of faith or understanding in God would 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 instructions, causes us to look to men to guide us, and will produce foolish virgins unprepared for their bridegroom.
Therefore Paul asks; “Have you experienced so much in vain?” This is because, besides everything else, being under the supervision, dictates, and control of men will stunt the growth of faith that is supposed to lead us to an individual, unique, one-on-one relationship with God. Even if the men in supervision are correct in their understanding and have a genuine relationship with God, we cannot allow them to stand between us and God. The faith required to receive the Holy Spirit, and the faith required to have a genuine unique relationship with God does not come about because we have some understanding that someone else gave us, but grows when we learn to trust Him and to seek Him on our own. It is this true faith that the Holy Spirit uses to direct us and to teach us through His word. Therefore Paul tells us that it is through the same faith that brings His Holy Spirit to us that allows God to work in our lives. The first step, of us 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.
The same religious control that happened to the Galatians is happening in many of our churches today. People are drawn into a potential relationship with God by reciting a declaration of faith, i.e. the sinner’s prayer. It am not suggesting that this declaration of faith is akin to “works of law,” for its design is to introduce people to God by planting a seed of faith. I would even suggest that it is great for young believers to be under the dictates and supervision of men until a certain point. That point should be until their faith becomes strong enough that they seek His truth for themselves and they need the Holy Spirit for guidance. Men of faith should encourage young believers to develop 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.
Some religious leaders will do things like direct 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 thus discouraging young people to seek their own understanding. This often prevents 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, as if, an original thought would equal a loss of their control.
Many Christians (whom I call the Christianizers) have 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 the development of their own faith and understanding, without the Holy Spirit to guide them. Paul railed against the group he called the Judaizers in Galatians because he saw the Galatians turning towards them as overseers. As people who love and trust God and want to see new believers growing in their own relationship with God, we need to be pointing new believers back into His word, His whole word, so that the Holy Spirit can guide them and direct them. God has stood against men as our supervisors for many reasons.
We see it, throughout His word: 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….” We want to be genuinely loved, and He wants to genuinely 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 and, therefore; to love God with uniqueness and, genuineness.
In my Next blog we will look at Part 2 of Galatians 3. Until then Shabbat Shalom!