2:3 “Yet not even Titus who was with me,
being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised” This first direct
reference to circumcision comes suddenly for no apparent reason except that it
is the real focus of Paul throughout the rest of Galatians. It is central
to the reason for this letter to the Galatians. The very next verse ties it
with men who wish to implement a change. The change Paul referred to in 1:6,
which certainly involved circumcision for the gentiles, and had evidently not
been of any concern in the original teaching prompting the Galatians to
believe in Messiah. The letter to the Galatians ultimately comes back to why circumcision
was not necessary.
2:6 “But from those who seemed to be
something--whatever they were, it makes no difference to me; God shows personal
favoritism to no man--for those who seemed to be something added nothing to me.”
Paul wasn’t overly impressed with the human leadership of the Jerusalem congregation.
He evidently didn’t sense that any particular person dominated. If one of the
Apostles was in charge it was not apparent after a lengthy visit. There was
more than one who ‘seemed to be something’. In any case, as Paul
explains in 1:12-17 & 2:1-2 the gospel he preached came by revelation from
the Savior Himself. He did not learn it from men, even the Apostles. In this
case he seems confident in his understanding of it.
2:7 “But on the contrary, when they saw that
the gospel for the uncircumcised had been committed to me, as the gospel for
the circumcised was to Peter” The leaders in Jerusalem evidently
quickly recognized the gospel Paul was preaching. They did not try to control
him, but agreed to continue what was already happening; Paul worked the
gentiles, Peter and the others, the ‘circumcision’. This would indicate Peter
was specifically directed to Jews, those of the southern kingdom. It is
interesting that I Peter seems to be written from Babylon (I Pet 5:3). There
were probably many more Jews in this area than in Judea. More stayed after the
Babylonian captivity than returned to Judea.
2:9 “and when James, Cephas, and John, who
seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that had been given to me, they gave
me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles
and they to the circumcised.” The leadership in Jerusalem was not
vested in one man. There were at least the three mentioned here. In any case,
no one felt they owned the truth. Paul and Barnabas were welcomed as equals.
They carved up the field by geography and/or ethnically and went about the
2:10 “They desired only that we should
remember the poor, the very thing which I also was eager to do.” The
condition of the poor was high in their minds.
2:11 “Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I
withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed” Antioch was in
southern Syria. The community was likely mostly Gentile. The congregation was
likely mixed. Evidently without careful thought Peter gravitated to the Jewish
custom of distancing themselves from Gentiles. Peter actually considered this
to be law (Acts 10:28, see also John 4:9).
2:12. “for before certain men came from
James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and
separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision.” We
could assume that these men were simply from Jerusalem and not James directly.
Earlier in the chapter Paul interacted with the leaders in Jerusalem. He did
not identify anyone as being in charge (Gal 2:6, 9). Yet Peter deferred to
these men from ‘James’. Consider that the Acts 15 council had not yet
occurred. Cornelius’ family likely had been accepted by this time, but they were
from Caesarea (Acts 10:1, 24) not Jerusalem where James likely was.
A while after Peter baptized Cornelius he went to
Jerusalem( Acts 11:1-2). Some there felt Peter had not acted correctly
regarding his contact with Cornelius family, so Peter explained what happened.
They seemed to be satisfied that Peter was right and recognized that God had
granted repentance to gentiles. These people are called ‘those of the
circumcision’ (Acts 11:2). Likely that is a name they acquired later since this
controversy was just developing. It was news that uncircumcised Gentiles might
be granted repentance, so it was highly unlikely that there were any
uncircumcised Gentiles in the Jerusalem congregation. Although the people were
initially satisfied they evidently had not been fully convinced that circumcision was
unnecessary for gentiles.
Out of habit and the absence of believing Gentiles there
was not likely any significant change in the relationship between Jews and
Gentiles in the believer community in Jerusalem. Since there were probably few
if any Gentiles in the Jerusalem congregation Jew-Gentile relations were not an
issue. Although Peter baptized Cornelius’ family, there is no indication the
leadership then went looking for more Gentiles. So those around Caesarea
(assuming there were believers there) evidently didn’t see a need to press the
issue. Those near James in Jerusalem may have felt the tug of the Law more
clearly. At least some were still advocating circumcision, but not necessarily
It seems apparent this event of Galatians 2:12 occurred
before the Jerusalem conference of Acts 15. Not only does the text indicate
some from ‘James’ were of the circumcision, but there is no mention of the Acts
15 decision even though circumcision is a significant matter in Galatians.
(Starting Gal 2:3 through 6:15) Peter explained what he did with Cornelius in the
Jerusalem conference, but evidently not everyone heard or some were slow to
grasp the significance (Acts 11:1-18). They may have grasped that Gentiles
could repent and be accepted, but evidently still thought they should be
circumcised, just like Peter assumed they should still be baptized (Acts 10:47).
Of course James in Acts 15 obviously concluded that circumcision was not
expected of the Gentiles.
2:13. “And the rest of the Jews also played
the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their
hypocrisy.” Peter set a bad example. The Jewish contingent of the
congregation, including Barnabas, evidently easily fell back into the habit of
separation from gentiles. Certainly as of Acts 10 Peter knew there was no difference
between them requiring a separation (Acts 10:34, 28).
2:14. ‘But when I saw that they were not
straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all,
"If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews,
why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews?’ The conduct in Galatians
2:12 evidenced an assumption of superiority or greater purity on the part of
the Jews. Peter and the others became respecters of persons not reflective of
how brothers should relate. Paul indicates this feeling of superiority was
typical of Gentiles, but should not have been the mentality of a Jew
circumcised in the heart. So even though acting like a Gentile, Peter was
trying to teach them to live like Jews. Oh really! Why not like Christians?
Simply because there was no great distinction in Paul’s mind that a Jew should
be conducting himself differently than a Christian. Christians were to be
living as a true Jew should. The habit of separating from Gentiles was not
what a true Jew should be doing.
Peter had to learn that lesson in a vision (Acts 10:28).
Although Peter was with Messiah for over three years, He had not clarified the
status of Gentiles. Peter was still locked into many Jewish traditions.
2:15 "We who are Jews by nature, and not
sinners of the Gentiles”. Peter, living as a sinner, lost the high
ground. High ground was to live as a Jew should, but with the fear of God, not
men or their traditions that cause division or ill will. Peter didn’t
advocate circumcision directly. Peter was bowing to the Jewish tradition of the time
(John 4:9, Acts 10:28). Even those of the circumcision were not advocating another
gospel (Gal 1:7) but a twisting of the truth.
Likely Paul is being somewhat tongue in cheek when
he distinguishes between sinner Gentiles and Jews. However, this distinction
of Gentiles as lost to God shows up repeatedly in the New Testament (I Thes 4:5,
Gal 4:8-9, I Cor 10:20). The
authors of the New Testament did not consider the Jews to be lost to or
ignorant of God.
2:16 "knowing that a man is not justified
by the works of the law but<3362> by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in
Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the
works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.”
Jews, knowing faith in Messiah will make them clean before their Savior, choose
that way. Works of the Law (Gr. ergon
nomou) do not justify. This is not to say keeping the Law will not justify
someone. “for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of
God, but the doers of the law will be justified.” (Rom_2:13)
However, as we will see if one chooses that option one must keep the whole law.
Greek 'eanme’ (Str. 3362) literally means ‘if not’ and
is most frequently translated ‘except’ in the KJV. It also carries the meaning of
‘unless’. This verse is not putting works of the Law in direct opposition to faith. Works
of the Law are not necessarily mutually exclusive with faith in Christ. Faith in
Christ and looking to Him enables one to discern how to handle things that aren’t
specifically addressed in the Law. Even works of the Law can contribute to
justification if they are done in accord with the spirit of Christ.
“Works of the Law” is not another way of saying
keeping the Law. There is no instruction in the Law regarding the need to
separate from Gentiles. Peter’s separating from Gentiles was not keeping the
Law, but bowing to Jewish tradition. This was a tradition that had come about over time
because of various religious leader’s ideas of how things ought to be done, not
what was intended by the Creator. Greek: 'ergon nomou' (Works of the Law) is a
religious technical term referring
to various traditions or decisions of Jewish leaders which intended to clarify
details not directly covered in the Law.
Confusion on this matter is also
eliminated by the Dead Sea scroll known as 4QMMT, which is the only
other document we have roughly contemporary with Paul that uses a phrase
similar to ‘works of the law’ (Gr. ergon nomou). Although 4QMMT is
written in Hebrew, (Paul remember was a Hebrew) it clearly indicates the phrase
refers to extra-scriptural customs practiced or encouraged probably by the
Qumran community. Actually their ‘miqsat ma'ase HaTorah’ 'works of the
Law', were intended to keep them in compliance with the covenant as they
understood it and separate from other Jews, probably especially the
Pharisees and Sadducees.
This document refers to
various subjects like the construction of pots and jugs, the handling of
liquids, treatment of bones, and unborn animals. It clearly says 'we think' such
and such and 'we consider' such and such and 'we say' such and such. It also
says "And you know that we have separated from the masses of the
people… and from mingling with them in these matters and from being in contact
with them in these matters." This indicates they have separated
themselves from other Jews, not in issues of the Ten Commandments, or even the
Law of Moses, but because of their own ideas on details of how to handle clean
and unclean things.
They call these matters of the
Law. "We have also written to you (sing.) concerning some of the
observances of the Law (miqsat ma'ase ha-torah), which we think are beneficial
to you and your people." (The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English,
p227 some reference markings not included) They are not appealing to the Law,
but expressing their opinion on peripheral issues. The equivalent Greek phrase
(ergon nomou) is used in other places in Galatians. As with the Hebrew, it
refers to traditions outside of scripture.
Referring back to verse 16: ‘Faith’ in the Jewish
mind is a living active thing. It is not just a perception of something, but assumes
the conduct that flows from the belief. I Peter 2:7 contrasts belief with
disobedience. Believing faith assumes obedience… not to our standard, but that
of the Creator.
Rom 3:20 Therefore by the
deeds (works) of the law (Gr. ergon nomou) no flesh will be justified in
His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. The works of the law do not
define sin, but the Law describes sin. These are two different things. The Jews
actually broke the law by their tradition. The Creator loves the stranger and
underprivileged (Deu 10:17-18). He provides for them and expected His people
to do the same (Ex 22:21, 23:9). This was not the mentality behind the tradition
of the Jews that legislated a separation from Gentiles.
2:17-18 "But if, while we seek to be
justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is Christ therefore a
minister of sin? Certainly not! 18 For if I build again those things which I
destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.” The Jewish tradition of
separation did not support what the Law expected (John 4:9, Acts 10:28). In fact, sin can come by doing the traditions/works
of the Law. Whether or not sin comes that way, going contrary to the way of
the Creator is sin. A master is responsible for the actions of His servant (Ex
21:4). If someone claims his Savior is Yeshua the Messiah he is claiming to
serve Him. Even if he thinks he’s doing right, if he is not, our
Savior doesn’t necessarily own or absorb that sin. The sinner has made himself a
transgressor. It taints the believer and potentially separates him from his Savior.
Messiah does not cohabit with darkness. He is not its servant and will not
own sinful practice. (See also 4:1, II Cor 6:14-7) True repentance goes a long
way with our Savior.
2:19 "For I through
the law died to the law that I might live to God.” Death satisfies the
law. Through symbolic death with Messiah we renounce our old ways in favor of
the ways of Messiah. Our debt to the law is paid, the slate wiped clean & we
move on to live to the Father’s higher standard. The law referred to in this
verse is really a second hand reference to the Law of Moses. The definite
article which indicates a specific law is not used in the original Greek text
of this verse. The point Paul is making is that we don’t live just to the
standard expected in any law, but that we live to the standard of the Creator.
2:20 “I have been
crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and
the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who
loved me and gave Himself for me.” The old man is dead or should be.
The typical pursuits of the flesh should have been rejected for the values of
Yeshua our Savior. We trust Him to provide our needs instead of providing for
ourselves, often at the expense of others.
Rom 6:6 “knowing this,
that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done
away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.”
Eph 4:22 “that you put off,
concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to
the deceitful lusts”.
1Pet 4:2 “that he no
longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but
for the will of God”.
Our focus on protecting, providing
for and caring for ourselves should fall to the ground. Our dependence is on
our Master. We live to His standard and the life in us represents His. (see
also: 1John 2:16, Gal 5:24, 2Co 6:18-7:1, Rom 13:14, Rom 8:13-14)
This doesn’t mean we quit our jobs and
wait around for someone to feed us. We need to provide for our self, but in complete
accord with the example and instruction of our Savior. Total honesty and transparency
2:21 "I do not set
aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ
died in vain." This approach is dependent on the graciousness of
God. Law here is a general reference, not specifically focused on the Law.
The definite article does not appear in the text. If laws could bring
righteousness Messiah’s death was unnecessary. However, legislation and laws
do not create righteousness. No matter how many laws are written men will find
the loopholes or just ignore the law when it suits their purpose. Christ’s death
was intended to inspire
people to seek what is right in all its facets and thus to promote
righteousness. The focus is not on compliance with a written standard, but
with what is right and good.
3:1 “O foolish
Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before
whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified?” The
Galatians were being deceived regarding the full understanding of the Gospel.
They were accepting something not in full accord with truth, but a twisted
version. The true gospel is to be followed completely; 'obey the truth'.
It is not just a
matter of perception, but of action. It must be obeyed. Messiah was
crucified. His death was independent of the Law.
3:2 “This only I want to
learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, (Gr.
ergon nomou) or by the hearing of faith?” They received
evidence of a living Messiah by receipt of the spirit of God, not by keeping
the traditions of men. How did they receive the spirit, seeing that Messiah
died? He was resurrected because of faith just like they received evidence of
His movement by their faith. He trusted His Father. We should release our
tight grasp on self-preservation and trust Him.
3:3 “Are you so foolish?
Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?”
Being introduced to the Gospel by a change and commitment of the mind, is
completion attained by a carving of the body in circumcision?
3:4 “Have you suffered
so many things in vain--if indeed it was in vain?” Evidently their
belief led to trials and/or persecution that would not have come had they fallen
in line with this warped gospel they were hearing. Hopefully those problems
were not wasted, but they will learn and continue in the faith of the Gospel.
3:5 “Therefore He who
supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the
works of the law (Gr. ergon nomou), or by the hearing of
faith? --” The spirit and miracles came from Messiah because they believed,
not because they improved their adherence to works of the Law. Note that the
Law itself is not mentioned here, but various traditions that surrounded it
(see 2:16 above).
3:6-7 “just as Abraham
"believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. 7 Therefore
know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham.” Abraham’s
belief was accounted as righteousness. Even so others who believe will be
accounted righteousness. This does not eliminate a need to obey. The Hebrew
mind did not separate belief from obedience. In fact, Genesis states that
Abraham received the promises “Because that Abraham
obeyed ... ” (Gen 26:5). This was an
ongoing reality with Abraham. He regularly demonstrated his loyalty to the
ways of God in his conduct.
If we go back to the source of
Paul’s quote we find it in Genesis 15:6. Abraham wondered how his children
could inherit anything since he had no children (vs.2-3). At that point the
Creator promised him as many children as there were stars in the sky. Abraham
believed (vs. 6). That was specifically what was accounted as righteousness.
At that point Abraham could do little else, but live with his wife.
Heb 4:2 For indeed the gospel was preached
to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not
being mixed with faith in those who heard it.
The Gospel was preached to Israel in the
wilderness. The fundamental message is the same. They didn’t get it. One can
hear the Gospel and even say they agree, but if they don’t evidence that belief
by their continual conduct it becomes evident they don’t really believe. Worse
still, if people hear an incorrect gospel, even if they walk in that way it is
unlikely to result in conduct representative of the Savior living in them. A wrong
gospel is unlikely to produce a right result.
Paul was making apparent with this example that the
mind must be fully convinced and respond. To be ones child was to conduct
themselves as that father (John 8:39). The handling of physical things is not
the gauge of righteousness.
3:8 ‘And the
Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached
the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, "In you all the nations shall be
blessed."’ Abraham’s consistent faithful conduct based on his
belief in the Creator would provide blessings for many others. Note though,
that all nations were to be included because of Abraham’s obedience. Paul’s
quote is from Genesis 22:18, "In your seed all the nations of the earth
shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice." Abraham’s faith,
trust and belief in the Creator enabled his obedience.
Fundamentally the Creator is interested in those
that emulate His own conduct and walk in His way. Gen 18:18 "since
Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of
the earth shall be blessed in him? 19 For I have known him, in order that he
may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way
of the LORD, to do righteousness and justice, that the LORD may bring to
Abraham what He has spoken to him."
The ways of the Creator are clarified in Deuteronomy
8:6 as keeping His commandments. Hebrews 3:10 & 12 refer to these same
ways, but bemoans that Israel didn’t get it and exhorts us all to not depart from
3:9 “So then those who are of faith are
blessed with believing Abraham.” So, those with solid faith will
respond appropriately. Those who trust the Creator to stand by His word will
be enabled to obey also. They will truly be the children of Abraham (John
8:39) and will be blessed with him.
3:10 ‘For as many as are of the works of the
law(Gr. ergon nomou)
are under the curse; for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who does not
continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them."’
Those who depend on the works of the law are under the curse of the law: "Cursed
is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book
of the law, to do them." (Deu 27:26) Note it is not those who do the
law that are under the curse of the law. It is those who don’t do ‘all
things’ in the Law. Those who depend on the works of the Law end up
breaking the Law. The curse comes on those that break the law, not those who
do it. In fact those who depended on the works of the law, broke it. They did
not love their neighbor, but separated from him (Gal 2:12).
Paul’s comments in chapter 2:12-16 regarding Peter
and those from Jerusalem illustrate this perfectly. Peter withdrew from
fellowship with the gentiles. This is not required by the Law. Peter wasn’t
keeping the Law. Withdrawing, as Peter did broke the law that does require “you
shall love your neighbor as yourself:” (Lev 19:18c). By respecting the
traditions of the Jews, the instruction of the Law was cast aside.
3:11 ‘But that no one is
justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for "the just shall
live by faith."’ It should be evident, law doesn’t justify anyone.
Paul is talking about any and all law since the definite article does not
precede law in this verse. Laws are typically made because people aren’t doing
what ought to be done. They are generally a minimum standard. The Hebrew
Scriptures state clearly that the just live by faith (Hab 2:4). Faith enables
the consistent obedient higher performance of the servants of the Eternal. In
fact, those who do the Law are justified (Rom 2:13). They can put themselves
at risk and consistently do what is right and more because they trust the
Savior to cover their back side.
Hopefully by now it is evident
that one must read Paul very slowly and very carefully. Indeed all scripture
needs to be read that way and considered as a whole. Traditional Christianity
has flourished by encouraging sloppy reading. Consequently it has missed the
point of the authors and created a lukewarm gospel. That gospel allows that if
one occasionally thinks good thoughts there is no need to maintain good
conduct. The purpose of faith is to enable consistently good conduct.
3:12 ‘Yet the law is not
of faith, but "the man who does them shall live by them."’ The
law was not created because of the faith of Israel nor to engender faith in
them. It was created to set a standard allowable for Israel to live and to enter into the
Promised Land (Deu 4:1). The Law was created for sinners and the ungodly (I
Tim 1:9). The notion that they would be a nation fully representative of the
Creator was abandoned after the episode of the golden calf. The alternative to
this compromise of His standard was death, since they had egregiously broken
His Covenant which He made with them (Ex 22:20, 32:7-10).
3:13 ‘Christ has
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")’. Without
faith it is unlikely anyone would fully live to even the standard of the Law. Consequently,
everyone falls under the curse of the Law. As our Creator, our Savior
can take responsibility for our failures and through His death, atone for
them. He endured the curse of disobedience for us (Deu 27:26, 21:23).
3:14 “that the blessing
of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive
the promise of the Spirit through faith.” Our Saviors death can atone
for the sins of all He created. As such the Gentiles can be included.
Consequently, the promises to Abraham and his ‘seed’ can be passed along to all
those the Savior judges fit. Those who trust, have faith in Him, are enabled
to live to His standard. Those who obey to His standard will be given His
spirit (Acts 5:32). Those who have His spirit will also be given real life
(Rom 8:11, 17).
3:15 “Brethren, I
speak in the manner of men: Though it is only a man’s covenant, yet if it is
confirmed, no one annuls or adds to it.” Blood covenants
are very serious matters (Jer 34:18-20). Abraham’s covenant was a blood covenant (Gen 15:9-18).
The default penalty for breaking them was death. So even covenants of men could
not be added to (amended) or annulled. How much more a covenant involving the
Creator? This is also reflected in the -at least three- opportunities Israel
had to discuss the terms of the Sinai Covenant (Ex 19:7-8, 24:3, 7).
The primary meaning of the Greek
behind ‘covenant’ i.e., ‘diatheke’, is actually testament, as in a will. Certainly,
once a will is confirmed by the death of the one who created it, there can be no
changes. However, Paul does not have a will in mind in his statement. The
translators correctly understood he was thinking of a covenant. The general
context refers to the promises to Abraham and that a later covenant cannot change
those promises. Clearly the promises came to Abraham by covenant in Genesis 15.
The Hebrew word for covenant there, ‘beriyth’, has no connection with a will or
Because the context of Gal 3:15
revolves around the covenant promises to Abraham, it is clear that Paul was not
thinking of a last will and testament, but rather a covenant. Clearly, Paul is
saying that even covenants of men don’t change. How much more unchangeable is a
covenant with the Creator?
Apparently, based on historical
Jewish understanding of ‘diatheke’, the New Testament writers frequently
associated a meaning of ‘covenant’ with the word ‘diatheke’ even though Greek
usage at the time overwhelmingly connected it with a will or testament. (see:
3:16 ‘Now to Abraham and
his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, "And to seeds," as
of many, but as of one, "And to your Seed," who is Christ.”’
The promises were confirmed to Abraham in a covenant in Genesis 15:7-18.
Even though ‘seed’ appears to refer
to more than one in many cases it is always singular in form in the Hebrew.
3:17 “And this I say,
that the law, which was four hundred and thirty years later, cannot annul the
covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ, that it should make the
promise of no effect.” Four hundred and thirty years to the day after
Abraham’s covenant was confirmed Israel walked out of Egypt. “And
it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years, even the
selfsame day it came to pass, that all the hosts of the LORD went out from
the land of Egypt.” (Ex
12:40) The Septuagint is somewhat different in that it places the starting
point in Canaan. “And the sojourning of the children of Israel, while they
sojourned in the land of Egypt and the land of Chanaan, was four hundred and
thirty years.” (Ex 12:40, LXX). The covenant at Sinai was confirmed less
than two months later. That would logically be “the law, which was four
hundred and thirty years later”, after the promises of Genesis 15.
Kohath, Moses grandfather was
with Levi when they moved to Egypt (Gen 46:8, 11). Kohath lived 133 years (Ex
6:18). Amram, Moses Father, the son of Kohath lived 137 years (Ex 6:20). Moses was
80 when he talked to Pharaoh (Ex 7:7). Reasonably it would be difficult for
Israel to have been in Egypt for more than about 300 years. Josephus
specifically indicates they were in Egypt 215 years and Abraham entered Canaan
430 years from when they left Egypt (Ant 2.15.2).
In any case, the law confirmed
shortly after Israel left Egypt doesn’t change what was promised to Abraham. That
promise came earlier through a covenant. Covenants are not changed or annulled
Many jump to the conclusion
that this verse fixes the start of what was commonly called ‘the Law’.
However, Paul is being specific in his wording. He is isolating the law
confirmed in Sinai from all other law. The designation “the
law, which was four hundred and thirty years later” distinguished the law of the Sinai covenant from the second
law (deutero nomos, Deuteronomy) that was added 39+ years later. "Take
this Book of the Law, and put it beside the ark of the covenant of the LORD
your God" (Deu 31:26ab).
When people talked about ‘The
Law’ the Sinai law was included, but what was generally understood as ‘the Law’
was given later. That Law was based on the Levitical priesthood (Heb 7:11),
which didn’t exist as of the giving of the covenant at Sinai. (See: The Law According to Hebrews)
3:18 “For if the
inheritance is of the law, it is no longer of promise; but God gave it to
Abraham by promise.” Again, the definite article is not included in the
original Greek text before ‘law’. This verse is not being specific and ‘any
law’ more accurately reflects the original text. If the inheritance is by law
it is not of promise, but Abraham received it by promise. This non-specific
meaning can be seen in the Twentieth Century New Testament, The
Emphasized Bible, and The Englishman’s Greek New Testament. So this
verse is using ‘law’ in a different way than the previous verse.
“What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of
transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it
was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator.” The
definite article is included before law here. So again ‘law’ is different than
that intended in the previous verse. If laws don’t change promises “What purpose then does the law serve?” This reference is specific and
reverts back to the standard definition of the day, i.e., the Pentateuch or Law
of Moses. “It was added because of transgressions”. And
indeed that is reflected in the historical account of Exodus, Leviticus,
Numbers, and Deuteronomy (Deu 31:24-26, 32:46, 29:1, 9-15). It was added over
39 years after the Sinai covenant and was confirmed almost 470 years after the
promises to Abraham (Deu 1:1-5, Ex 12:40). It added to Israel, the Levitical
priesthood, sacrifices that brought the promise of forgiveness, allowance for
divorce, centralized worship at the house of God and many other things
including national curses if their conduct deteriorated beyond what the Creator
timing cited in Galatians also reinforces the separateness of the Sinai covenant from
the Moab Covenant. It specifically identified the law that was made at Sinai,
430 years after the original promise to Abraham. That was a very important
law. However, what the New Testament Christians and Jews commonly called “The
Law” was based on and delivered to the Levites and became law at the
confirmation of the Moab covenant, almost 40 years after the Sinai covenant. (Heb
7:11, Deu 31:9, 1:1-5, 31:24-26, 32:46) That Law was added to deal with
There is no promise of forgiveness in the Sinai
covenant. Obedience was assumed. That covenant was not added because of
transgressions, but so all Israel would represent their Creator (Ex 19:5-6).
However, they didn’t obey. Indeed they deserved death. The Moab
covenant, the Law, was added to handle their past, present and future
transgressions. This reference (vs 19) is talking of the Law of Moses, the Moab
Covenant of Deuteronomy. Although there
are two distinct laws, typically the Jews did not distinguish since they were
expected to obey both (Deu 4:1-2, 26:16-17). Clearly the context within
and around the verse supports this.
Technically, the Law of Moses consisted
of the terms of the Moab/Deuteronomy covenant, roughly chapters 12-26 of Deuteronomy.
Paul probably intended ‘the Law’ in verse 19 to carry the meaning the Galatians
generally understood, i.e., the five books of Moses. However, Paul did not intend to
include the instruction of the Sinai Covenant with it. That instruction was not added
because of transgressions. The Sinai Covenant was given so the nation could properly
represent their Creator (Ex 19:5-6). It was not really added because it was really a
refreshing of the Creator’s covenant with Abraham (I Chron 16:15-18). Only the sign of
compliance changed from circumcision to keeping of the Sabbaths (Ex 31:13-18).
This inability to amend covenants
ought to make it clear the law was not a repeating or explaining of the
Sinai covenant, which was made 430 years after the promises. The law was added
39+ years later to include provisions for handling transgressions of the Sinai
covenant; transgressions that would have meant their death if handled strictly
according to the Sinai covenant's original terms. One does not add to a covenant, (vs. 15). Therefore this
new law had to
be made into a second covenant as described in Deuteronomy 29-31.
The covenant of the Law was authoritative,
“until the Seed would come to whom the promise was made”, i.e. until
the Messiah. The coming of the Prophet whom Israel was to heed (Deu 18:18-19) did
not void everything in their covenants. Neither does discontinuing the Law as
the binding covenant on believers mean that it is “done away” as assumed by
traditional Christianity. Within a few verses Paul will clarify the new
relationship a true Christian will have with the Law. It is not absolute
authority as it was before Messiah, but neither is it to be cast aside.
Covenants consisted of
sections which communicated various aspects of the agreement. The introduction
explained why a covenant was necessary. Roughly the first eleven chapters of
Deuteronomy are doing exactly that. The technical terms of the Deuteronomy covenant (Law of Moses)
probably consisted of the regulations of Deuteronomy 12-26:15. The sections
following that provide for the administration, promises (blessings-curses) and
continuance of the covenant. Within the terms of the Moab (Deuteronomy) covenant are
references to things explained elsewhere in Moses writings. For instance: in
order to know what the offerings made by fire were (Deu 18:1) one needs at
least Leviticus 1-7 and numbers 28-29. Over time, evidently especially after
the return from the Babylonian captivity, all Moses writings became known as
‘the Law’. Certainly Moses instruction in Deuteronomy assumed the existence of
these earlier books (Deu 1:3).
Traditional Christianity sees
Paul saying Messiah’s death voided the Law at least partly based on this
verse. However, this verse claims the change in law came with the arrival of
The Seed, “until the Seed would come”. At Messiah’s death
He was about to leave. In fact, the change in status of the Law occurred when
Messiah began His ministry. From the time He came His instruction was
authoritative over the Law. In a few cases He diminished the Law (Mat 19:8-9,
John 4:21-23), but the vast majority of the time He supported it. In many
cases He made it even more restrictive (Mat 5:21-48).
The Law “was appointed
through angels by the hand of a mediator.” A mediator is a neutral or
disinterested third party. Moses was a party to the covenant made at Sinai (Ex
34:27-28). He was bound by its terms like everyone else. However, he never
went to the High Priest to get resolution of a difficult dispute as is required
in the Law (Deu 17:8-10). He was not a party to the covenant of Deuteronomy
made in Moab. Once the covenant was confirmed he was removed from
responsibility. Soon he went up Mt. Nebo to die (Deu 32:48-50, 34:1-5).
The Greek word
for ‘angels’ simply indicates messengers. Messengers speak on
behalf of whoever they represent. The Sinai covenant appears to have been
transmitted to Moses by a single messenger. Moses acted as a scribe to record
and pass that message on to the people. The instruction that came to Moses
after the last straw of the golden calf was apparently given at multiple times
and in multiple places, i.e. on Mt. Sinai (Ex 34:32), in Moses tent far outside
the camp(Ex 33:7, 34:34, Lev 1:1): and likely some from the Tabernacle (Num
7:89). All the instruction appears to come from Yahweh, but that doesn’t mean
it was actually delivered personally by Him or only by a single messenger.
Evidently, a number of messengers were used.
3:20 “Now a
mediator does not mediate for one only, but God is one.” Mediators by
definition negotiate agreements between multiple parties. Moses may have
contributed to some terms of the agreement between the Creator and Israel. In
any case two parties are involved in this mediation.
Although the general
understanding is that Moses was the mediator here, consider that might not be
what Paul was thinking. “For there is one God and one Mediator between God
and men, the Man Christ Jesus” (1Tim 2:5). The Logos may be the mediator
of whom Paul is thinking.
Paul’s comment that ‘God is
one’ seems disconnected from the point if Moses is the mediator. If the Logos
were the mediator it highlights the fact that the one true God (John 17:3) is
unique. The Logos was distinct from Him and on a
different level. He wasn’t
mediating for Himself even though the Logos was in the form of God and looked
similar(Phil 2:6). It also conforms closely with I Tim 2:5. Both mention God
as ‘one’. The mediator with men is Messiah, earlier, He was the Logos. The
emergence of the New Covenant is attributed to the mediation of our Savior (Heb
8:6, 9:15, 12:24). Why not the Old Covenant too?
3:21 “Is the law then
against the promises of God? Certainly not! For if there had been a law given which could have given
life, truly righteousness would have been by the law.” Paul
already established that ‘the law which was 430 years later’ was not
against the promises (vs. 17-18). Now He is asking about 'the Law' that was
added, i.e. the Law of Moses, commonly known as ‘The Law’ in New Testament
times. He’s not asking this question again about the same law that he already
established was not contrary to the promises, but the same question of a
Of course the answer is an
emphatic ‘No!’ As in chapter 2:21 one cannot legislate righteousness. Law
tells us what we ought to do. It doesn’t guarantee that we will do it. Only a
selfless obedient mentality can do that. Also laws cannot foresee every
possible circumstance in which a law would need to be applied.
So, laws don’t guarantee
correct conduct. If they could Paul thinks that righteousness would have been
through such a law. The Creator wants to give eternal life to everyone. If
laws could guarantee obedience He would probably be perfectly happy to make it
a function of such a law. He wants people to embrace His ways and will likely
go with whatever accomplishes that. So far, it appears nothing has been as
successful as He would like.
3:22 “But the Scripture
has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be
given to those who believe." The Scripture witnesses to the
fact that all have sinned (Rom 3:23). Everyone is in need of redemption or they are
doomed. The wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23). However, those who truly
believe in God’s Messiah, recognize the faith He exercised and they respond
appropriately. They can be assured of similar redemption from death as Messiah
Translations differ somewhat
as to whose faith does what in this verse. ‘Jesus’ is in the Greek genitive
case, which would typically mean that it is His faith that is under
discussion. However, the ‘promise’ is really the subject. The ‘promise’ is
available because of the faith of Jesus Christ. The promise can be made available to
other believers as a result of Christ’s faith. Our Savior believed His Father
and completed successfully the task His Father asked of Him. The same promise
made to Messiah can therefore be made to those who believe Him and conduct
Belief is not just an
acknowledgment of the mind, but includes action and conduct that reflects the
understanding of the mind. Our Savior conducted Himself to the Father’s
standards and was willing to put His life on the line because He believed His
Father would support Him in His mission. The Father will also support others
who seeing the example of the Savior also live to His standards.
3:23 “before faith came,
we were kept under guard by the law, kept
for the faith which would afterward be revealed." As Paul said earlier (3:12), the Law was not built
on or expecting faith. Israel didn’t have the mentality to obey (Deu 5:29).
So the Law was implemented to keep them within a tolerable level of obedience
until the Savior’s example of faith would be seen and make its impression.
3:24 “Therefore the law
was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith."
The ‘tutor’ (Gr. Paidagogos) referred to here was a trusted slave that had care
of a wealthy family's child. His function was to teach proper judgment and
morals, not academics. This servant was responsible for preparing the child
for responsible adulthood. (see NT
Teaching Gal 3:24 for fuller
explanation, also 4:2)
3:25 “But after faith
has come, we are no longer under a tutor." When the parents deemed it
appropriate the slave was relieved of his charge. However, the slave and now
adult child typically had a good relationship and the child would consult with his
mentor slave in difficult matters just like an adult child today might consult
with parents. Similarly, a believer is not under the direct authority of the
Law, but might consult with it in difficult situations.
3:26 “For you are all
sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus." True sons conduct
themselves as the father does (John 8:39). Faith in Messiah enables us to live
to the Father’s standard. Seeing Messiah’s example enables us to conduct
ourselves accordingly. Believers trust the word of Messiah, so they can
conduct themselves to His standard.
3:27 “For as many of you
as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ." Believers that have
repented and committed themselves to the Savior have given up their will in order to
conform to His (Luke 9:24). Putting on Christ does not consist of thinking
positive thoughts, but conducting one’s self as the Savior did. Baptism
assumes repentance from former ways. Those old ways are replaced with the
mentality of our Savior. Fundamentally they are a new creation with a spiritually
oriented mentality rather than a human/fleshly mentality. Believers' conduct should
reflect that. They step into His shoes.
3:28 “There is neither
Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor
female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus." This doesn’t mean
that we don’t have our roles and responsibilities in life, but that ethnicity, sex
or station in
this life is of no consequence. Believers are a mutually supportive organism:
not focused on who’s in charge, but ‘how can I help?’ Rom 12:4 “For as we
have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same
function”. (See also Vs 5) The functions in the congregation are set in
place to educate and prepare the congregation to support one another and
witness to the outside world (I Cor 12:12-27, Eph 4:11-12). One believer is not set to
dominate over another.
3:29 “And if you are
Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise."
Verse 16 clarified who Abraham’s seed was. It is Messiah. As a member of His
body with Him living in the believer, doing what He would do, believers share
in His inheritance.
Believers are said to be slaves of
Messiah in I Cor 7:22b “…he who is called while free is Christ’s slave.” A slave
was an extension of the Master. As Messiah’s property, He may carry us into His
inheritance. Much can be learned by understanding the place of slaves in
4:1 “Now I say that the
heir, as long as he is a child, does not differ at all from a slave, though he
is master of all." A child is under the authority of the parents just like
a slave is responsible to his master. The expectation of the parents/master defines
what is expected. Any who falls short is liable for discipline from the
authority. Parents are responsible to correct their children and masters are
responsible for the actions of their slaves.
We don’t always consider that
in a similar way the actions of the child and/or slave reflect on the
parents/master. The authority can be held responsible by
the community if the child or slave does not live to the community standard.
This situation is connecting with Galatians 2:17.
4:2 “but is under
guardians and stewards until the time appointed by the father." This
refers back to the ‘paidagogos’ of 3:24-25 and by extension the greater
community. Wealthy people often chose to entrust a highly regarded slave with the
proper upbringing of their children. This generally ended at the discretion of
the parent when the child came of legal age.
4:3 “Even so we, when
we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world."
Though some try to exclusively connect 'elements of the world' with the Law, the Law is not
an element of the world under which all live. Paul uses this same phrase in
Colossians 2:8. He equates it to “philosophy and empty deceit, according to
the tradition of men”. The Law was not a tradition originated by men. The
traditions of the Jews attached to the Law could be considered ‘elements of
the world’. So for the Jews there is a connection between the Law and the
‘elements of the world’ under which they lived. Of course, the gentiles
also lived in societies which had their own standards and expectations of
Based on previous context ‘we’ seems
to include all believers,
the entire believing Galatian congregation (3:27-29), which included Gentiles
that were not typically raised under the Law. However, based on verse 5 he seems
to be limiting ‘we’ to Jews. The elements of those Jews in the
group likely included their traditions, but certainly the Law was not part of the Gentile
Even though this seems to be
talking of children, based on the context that follows it is using ‘children’
in the sense of all people. We were all children once. The intention is spiritual children or those not
fully understanding the ways of the Eternal. This applied to all before Christ
came to redeem us all and show the original intention of the Creator.
4:4 “But when the
fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born
under the law" When the time was right the Eternal sent His Anointed
One. He came at a time when the Law was the governing code where the Anointed
4:5 “to redeem those
who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons."
Our Savior came to redeem all who were under the authority of the Law to the
Creator so that they could be made His full sons. Specifically, He was
interested in those that were bound by the terms of the covenant of the Law
confirmed in Deuteronomy. That covenant set Israel apart as the Creators
special people (Deu 26:15-19, 27:9). It didn’t guarantee adoption to everyone
under the Law, but it made that possible. ‘We’ in this case likely is intending
only Jewish believers since they would be the ones typically under the Law.
as Sons of God, by James
Consider that Hebews 7:11 tells us that the
Law was enacted based on the Levitical priesthood (see NASB, NIV, Emphasized Bible,
EGNT). The Levitical Priesthood is not mentioned and didn’t exist as of Exodus 20-24.
The Law is not that covenant. The Levitical Priesthood did exist at the time of
the Deuteronomy covenant. That covenant was administered by the Levitical priesthood
(Deu 17:8-10, 18:1-2). The legal terms of the Law are the terms of the Deuteronomy
4:6 “And because you
are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying
out, "Abba, Father!" It is interesting that Paul changes
from ‘we’ to ‘you’ in addressing his audience. ‘You’ in contrast to ‘we’ would
likely mean Paul is not including himself, although he certainly must consider
himself a son too. Therefore he must have taken care of himself and the Jewish
believers in verse 5… “that we might receive the adoption as sons.” So
‘you’ would be directed at the Gentile believers. By seeking the God of Israel
and doing His will they would be considered His children too (vss 3:27-29). Once they see
the example of the Savior and catch His vision they seek the Father’s will
too. In order to be God’s sons it is expected they conduct themselves as
God’s would (John 8:39).
4:7 “Therefore you are
no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ."
The Gentiles are also no longer in bondage to the elements of the world. They
also have become heirs through the Savior.
4:8 “But then, indeed,
when you did not know God, you served those which by nature are not gods."
Even though the Jews had their problems it was the gentiles that were considered
ignorant of God or serving non-gods. (I Thes 4:5, Gal 2:15, Eph 2:11-12)
There is an understanding that after Jesus/Yeshua began to speak as Messiah it
became apparent that many Jews did not recognize Him. Consequently they didn’t
really know the Father either. (I Cor 1:21-24, II Thes 1:8, Tit 1:12-16, I John
3:1, 4:6, 8, 5:20) So it seems that the apostles recognized that ‘knowing the
Father’ changed or was brought more clearly into focus with Messiah. Since the
Apostles don’t really acknowledge that they didn’t know God before Yeshua, it
is unlikely they would say that others who followed Judaism at the same time
didn’t know God. Certainly they didn’t consider the Judaism of their day as
serving “those which by nature are not gods.” So it is clear that verse
8 is focused on the Gentile believers.
4:9 “But now after you
have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to
the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage?"
Again Israel was still considered to be the special people of God (Rom
11:1-5). He always knew them. The connection between the Creator and the
Gentiles was new. As of this writing they came to know Him and He them. Yet
some were turning away from His way to former customs and practice. The
Gentile Galatians history was not connected with Judaism, but with the customs
of the Greeks. Although the general context of Galatians deals with a
resurgence of Judaism and circumcision, there was evidently a resurgence of the
local Gentile customs too. The Hebrew Scriptures are quoted frequently as a source of
authority by Yeshua and the Apostles. Its instruction is not being called “weak
and beggarly elements”. This is a reference back to elements of the world
in verse 3 to which everyone was held.
4:10 “You observe days
and months and seasons and years." The festivals enjoined by the
Creator are not part of the history of Gentiles. They had their own festivals
which were part of the ‘elements’ of the Gentile world. Of course ancient
Greece was famous for its many gods. There were plenty of special occasions to
4:11 “I am afraid for
you, lest I have labored for you in vain.” Paul put out effort,
but he was afraid it was not going to turn the Galatians 100% to Christ. The
problem here was not a perverted gospel (Gal 1:7), but a tradition devoid of
any connection to Christ or the Creator. Paul is talking here of a return to
traditions before they knew God. This would not indicate any connection with
the Sabbaths the Creator instructed Israel to observe.
4:12 “Brethren, I urge
you to become like me, for I became like you. You have not injured me at all.”
In order to reach the Gentiles Paul evidently tried to minimize his nationality
(I Cor 9:21). He’s hoping they will respond in kind.
The audience shifts to the
entire congregation as Paul refers to ‘Brethren’. Likely the shift
happens in the middle of this verse rather than at the beginning. In the
Greek text ‘Brethren’
actually appears in the middle of our verse 12.
The Sinaiticus text, available at
codexsinaiticus.org, shows an additional different
intention from what is evident in most translations. There are
paragraph breaks in this roughly 350 CE/AD text. The Sinaiticus text actually
begins a new sentence/paragraph at 'Brethren'. The previous sentence/paragraph consists
only of the first part of verse 12, ‘Be as I am, for I also am as you.’
This is apparently still at least somewhat connected with the earlier subject. Verse 12b begins ‘Brethren, you have
not wronged me.’ and begins a new stream of thought which continues through
verse 14. The next break in this early text
begins with verse 15.
Although the common understanding
is that the verse breaks were placed in the text in roughly 1300 CE/AD, our
verse breaks conform closely to the breaks of the Sinaiticus text. There are just a few
breaks in the Sinaiticus
text that are not also a modern verse break in Galatians. There are more verse breaks in
modern Bibles than there are breaks in the Sinaiticus text.
4:13 “You know that
because of physical infirmity I preached the gospel to you at the first. 14 And
my trial which was in my flesh you did not despise or reject, but you received me
as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus. ”
It is not difficult to form
preconceived ideas regarding what someone sent by the Creator will look like.
John the Baptist evidently had a personality significantly different from that of
Yeshua/Jesus (Luke 7:33-34). Moses was eighty years old when He was pressed
into the Creator’s service (Ex 7:7). Jeremiah was fairly young (Jer 1:6).
One sent must be evaluated on his conduct and his message. They both must be
in accord with the Master’s word. Any assumptions people cling to will only get in the way of
a correct identification of one sent from the Father. The Father has His
reasons for choosing the one He does. Sometimes apparent weakness serves
His purpose (II Cor 12:9).
4:16 “Have I therefore become
your enemy because I tell you the truth? 17 They zealously court you, but
for no good; yes, they want to exclude you, that you may be zealous for them.”
Paul is getting back to the
original issues. He reminds the Galatians of their original enthusiasm.
That must have waned and been replaced with a feeling of disappointment or even
anger, possibly because as of this writing; in their estimation, Paul had neglected
to mention the need to be circumcised.
4:21 “Tell me, you who desire
to be under the law, do you not hear the law? 22 For it is written that
Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman, the other by a freewoman”
The technical terms of the Law
consist of only about a third of Deuteronomy, beginning with chapter 12.
Nevertheless, in common usage the Law was considered to include all five books
of Moses. The story of Hagar and Sarah and their children is only found in
Genesis, so Genesis is part of what was commonly considered the Law. It
provides background information valuable for understanding the Law. It is
hardly a book of rules and regulations.
4:23 “But he who was of the
bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and he of the freewoman through
promise, 24 which things are symbolic. For these are the two covenants: the
one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar—“
‘Symbolic’ is usually
translated ‘allegorical’ or some form of that word. The Greek word is actually
‘allegoreo’, which is obviously what engendered the English. It is a method of
teaching that relates unconnected people, things or events to try to make clear
a lesson. In this case Paul is relating Hagar to a covenant from Mt. Sinai and
the city of Jerusalem in their time (vs. 25). Sarah is being related to New
Jerusalem (vs. 26).
Typically it is overlooked that
there were two covenants that had their roots in Mt. Sinai. Paul’s subject is
the Law, which is also called the Law of Moses (John 7:19, Luke 24:44). The
Law of Moses is what Joshua wrote on the stones as Israel went into the
Promised Land (Josh 8:31-32). Moses command to Joshua was to write the Law of the
covenant that he spoke that day to Israel in Deuteronomy (Deu 27:1-2, 32:46,
29:1, 9, 12, 1:3, 5).
That Law was also a covenant, the great bulk of which was given at Mt. Sinai,
(Ex 34:32-34, Mal 4:4, Lev 26:46, Heb 7:19, 22),
but after the Covenant of Sinai was confirmed and then destroyed by Israel’s
conduct (Ex 32:7-10, Deu 9:12, 16-19, 24).
The Law is connected with
bondage. Paul does not say the Law was bondage, but that it engendered
bondage. It led to bondage in all the traditions of the Jews that sprang from it.
Jerusalem at that time was occupied by Rome. The
Law didn’t want this, but the lack of obedience moved the Creator to attempt to
humble the people so they would turn to Him. Their lack of obedience resulted
The Jews, represented by Jerusalem,
were living under the Law, the Deuteronomy covenant, during Paul’s time. They were
not under the covenant that we typically think of as the covenant at Sinai. The
terms of the Deuteronomy covenant were also given to Moses from Sinai (Ex 34:32-34),
but they were not confirmed as law until Deuteronomy was written and confirmed,
just before Israel went into the Promised Land.
In this account, Paul is going back
to his original subject of circumcision (Gal 5:2). The covenant in Exodus 20-24
does not require circumcision. In fact, Israel did not circumcise their sons
while wandering in the wilderness (Josh 5:5). However, circumcision was required
when Israel went into the Promised Land shortly after the Deuteronomy covenant was
confirmed (Josh 5:2).
Paul connects Mt. Sinai with the
bondage of the Jews because it is a convenient marker in opposition to the Jerusalem
above and because the covenant in force in Jerusalem at that time came to Moses from
that mountain and in that area. There is no connection between the Sinai covenant
and circumcision or the Law administered by the Levites.
4:28 ‘Now we, brethren, as
Isaac was, are children of promise. 29 But, as he who was born according to
the flesh then persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, even so it
is now. 30 Nevertheless what does the Scripture say? "Cast out the
bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the
son of the freewoman."’
Paul wants to encourage the
believers in Galatia that the Law does not hold the key to their relationship
with Messiah. It is the example and teaching of Messiah that is the standard
for believers. Consider that at
least part of Messiah’s purpose was to redeem those under the Law, the old
Covenant (Gal 4:4-5, Heb 9:15). They have great hope. Paul
is making a point that the Law, does not provide
salvation. The eternal inheritance is through Messiah (II Tim 2:10, Rom 2:6-7,
John 17:2). This is why a new covenant is required. They didn’t
change such a
covenant. The Law cannot be changed to include the promise of eternal
inheritance available through belief in Messiah.
4:31 “So then, brethren,
we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free. 5:1 Stand fast therefore
in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again
with a yoke of bondage. 2 Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become
circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. 3 And I testify again to every
man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law.”
As children ‘of the free’
believers conduct themselves as children of God. So they do what He and
Messiah would do. His ways are briefly described as the Ten Commandments (Deu
8:6, 5:4-21). They are independent of and predate the Law (Deu 31:24-26).
Paul had Timothy get
circumcised (Acts 16:3). It is highly unlikely that circumcision by itself
eliminates any profit from Messiah. It is circumcision with the expectation
that it is required for salvation, which was the perspective of some believers
(Acts 15:1, 5). Paul’s statements throughout Galatians, but especially
Galatians 5:2-4 must be understood in that context as is evident in the next
5:4 “You have become
estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen
Messiah provided a new
covenant that is based on His example and the Law of God (Mat 26:26-28, John
14:6, Heb 8:10, Isa 49:8). The Law (of Moses) is a different covenant. It shares many values, but
they are not the same covenant. Some stipulations in the Law are at cross
purposes with Messiah’s new covenant as well as with the covenant at Sinai.
The Levites administer the Law. Messiah
administers His new covenant. The Levites obtained forgiveness for the people
through animal sacrifice. Messiah accepts guilt for our past sins if we truly repent
of our error. He then continues His life and example in those who follow Him.
After offering an animal sacrifice people typically fell into sin again. Messiah lived His
example of sinless selflessness, so we could see and attain to His stature (Eph
4:13, John 15:12, Gal 2:17-18). We don’t earn salvation, but we must prove worthy
of our Saviors graciousness. Believers respond by conducting themselves
according to His standards. As Paul says later, God is not mocked. We can’t
accept His graciousness in covering our sordid past, but continue conducting
ourselves as we have in the past. Believers must live to His standard.
5:5 “For we through the
Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.”
With the spirit of God that is
given (John 14:15-16, Acts 5:32) to believers, comes the faith and trust that
our Creator will make His promises good. Believers respond appropriately and
righteously (I John 3:3) while they wait for their hope to be realized. The
hope of righteousness by faith, eternal life, was not available through the
5:6 “For in Christ Jesus
neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working
The Law of God does not
require circumcision. Abraham received the promises because He obeyed God’s
laws (Gen 26:5), but he was uncircumcised when he received the promises and his
covenant (Rom 4:9-13, Gen 15:7-8, 13-18, 17:24-25)). So circumcision is not
required by the law of God.
Israel did not circumcise
their children while wondering in the wilderness (Josh 5:4-5). There is no
condemnation indicated in Scripture because of this. The covenant they made at Sinai shortly
after leaving Egypt made no mention of circumcision. The sign of that covenant
was the keeping of the Sabbaths, not circumcision (Ex 31:13). Circumcision was
reimplemented with the Law of Moses (Lev 12:2-3) and Israel’s entry into the
Promised Land (Deu 11:31-12:1, Josh 5:4-5).
The mind, the mentality, is
important. The shape of the body is not. However, Israel needed all the help
they could get. Circumcision was a reminder that they were supposed to be
different; purged of arrogance and rebellion.
5:7 “You ran well. Who
hindered you from obeying the truth?”
The Galatians evidently had a
great start in their zeal for Messiah, but someone diverted them. They became
focused on something other than the pure truth of the Gospel. As a result they got
5:8 “This persuasion does
not come from Him who calls you.”
Messiah is the teacher (Mat
23:8). Generally He upheld the Law, but He also showed it to be insufficient
(Mat 5:21-39, 19:8, John 4:20-23). Worship depends on the state of the mind,
the spirit. We are controlled by our mind. We conduct ourselves based on our
thinking. If we are thinking correctly we will act correctly.
5:9 “A little leaven leavens
the whole lump.”
An imperfection in the
thinking will result in wrong action. In order to justify wrong action truth
is often compromised and the downhill spiral continues.
5:10 “I have confidence in
you, in the Lord, that you will have no other mind; but he who troubles you
shall bear his judgment, whoever he is.”
Although Paul earlier voiced
concern over at least some of the Galatians (4:11), certainly he didn’t want
to discourage them. He also knew that Messiah could make them stand (Rom
14:4). Those who think they know, but don’t and teach error will answer for
their error (Jas 3:1).
5:11 “And I, brethren, if I
still preach circumcision, why do I still suffer persecution? Then the offense
of the cross has ceased.”
Paul considered that the main
bone of contention with the Jews revolved around circumcision. If he would
teach the need for circumcision the persecution would cease. He is not
attempting to teach that the whole Law is to be ignored. Circumcision would be
a small matter if he were teaching against the Ten Commandments. Certainly
that was not his intention (I Cor 7:19, Mat 19:17).
5:13 “For you, brethren,
have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the
flesh, but through love serve one another.”
Liberty is not permission to
do whatever we feel like doing. It involves ignoring or rejecting the typical
desires of the flesh (vs. 5:24). It results in our release from all guilt and
the problems associated with error. It relies on the faithfulness of Messiah
to provide what we cannot unless we bend or break the standards of the Creator.
It requires faith on the part of the believer. They must trust Messiah to
provide rather than relying on their own cunning. It assumes one loves his
neighbor as himself.
5:14 ‘For all the law is fulfilled
in one word, even in this: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."’
The Creator designed this
universe assuming we would all work together in harmony. It was intended to be
a place of peace. When we protect ourselves we often violate that harmony
because we slight others. The more we do that the more likely is jealousy, contention
and violence to erupt. Those come from loving the self at the expense of our
Of course, the great
commandment of the Law is to love the Creator with all the heart, mind and
strength. Paul is not diminishing that, he is simply assuming everyone knows
that. Those who assume Paul is against the entire instruction of the Old
Testament evidently think he no longer sees it necessary to love the
5:15 “But if you bite and
devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another!”
The most is usually accomplished
when we work together. Those wanting to be in charge sometimes play politics to
attain supremacy. In the process some may be offended and cooperation suffers.
Ronald Reagan is quoted as saying, 'There is no limit to the
amount of good you can do if you don't care who gets the credit'.
True believers understand that the Creator knows what
we do. There is no great need to seek the praise or admiration of men. The
unbeliever who wants to make sure he is compensated will exhibit
contention, jealousy and lack of cooperation in the process. Progress is undermined
5:16 “I say then: Walk in
the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.”
If one is conducting himself
in order to please his Creator, one is not greatly concerned about the comforts
or glitz of this world. This world is passing. Many things that seem
important will soon be forgotten and/or deteriorate into dust. Rom 8:5 “For
those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the
flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.”
The mentality that is concerned about the improvement of conduct and pleasing
the Savior will not be subject to the temporary desires of his flesh.
5:17 “For the flesh lusts
against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to
one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.”
The mentality that is focused
on the spirit will not do what the flesh wishes to do. Rom 8:2 “For the law
of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and
death.” Normally the pulls of the flesh win, but if one walks in the spirit one will
not cave in to the lusts of the flesh that are at the root of sin. (See NIV, ESV,
NASB, RSV for improved translation of Gal 5:17)
5:18 “But if you are led
by the Spirit, you are not under the law.”
1Tim 1:9 “knowing this:
that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and
insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane,
..,” The person led by the spirit will be seeking and doing what is pleasing
to the Creator. He will be walking in the ways of the Creator, which is
evidence that His laws are etched into this person’s heart. The Law of Moses
is not the standard for this person, but ‘the measure of the stature of the
fullness of Christ’ (Eph 4:13c) is the standard.
Paul is not including the Covenant of the Lord, the Ten Commandments, in his
concept of ‘the law’. The covenant of the Lord, the Ten commandments were
intended to enable Israel to represent God to the world (Ex 19:5-6),
not because He considered them sinners at that time. However, Paul is
about the Law that was added because of transgressions (Gal 3:19). That
is the law confirmed with Deuteronomy (Deu 9:24).
5:19-21 “ Now the works of the
flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions,
jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and
the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past,
that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
are the works of the flesh that is contrary to being led by the spirit (vs 17). One led by
the spirit simply doesn’t participate in these things. Of course this is not a complete detailed
list, but hopefully we all get the point.
Selfishness and the baser conduct of humans is
5:22 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy,
peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23
gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.”
authority tries to prevent any of these actions. The spirit of God seeks to promote peace and
harmony (Rom 12:18).
those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and
desires. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also
walk in the Spirit.”
who truly believe ignore the glitz and glamour of the physical. Anyone who claims a relationship with Christ
will show evidence of that in his conduct.
It’s all part of wrapping ourselves up in Christ and valuing Him and His
us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”
pride and subtle digs against others simply have no place in a believer. They only cause contention. These feeling and actions only exist where
one does not recognize Christ as a righteous judge. Believers are content with His
judgments. He doesn’t judge on a
curve. Someone else’s success will not
diminish our reward.
6:1 “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any
trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness,
considering yourself lest you also be tempted.
Savior has been patient with us. We
ought to be patient with others. As
indicated in 5:26 there is no room to think ourselves somehow superior to
someone else. Nor is it appropriate to
harass, berate, belittle or inflame contention in any other manner.
him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches. 7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked;
for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. 8 For he who sows to his flesh will of
the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit
reap everlasting life.”
who does not share his physical goods with someone who teaches him the ways of
God has a warped sense of value. By
hanging on tightly to the physical it is evident to the Savior that those
things are more important to the individual than are His instructions. By giving he is building his faith and trust
in his Savior. By withholding he is
reinforcing his trust in himself and the mammon of this world. One reaps what he sows.
many as desire to make a good showing in the flesh, these would compel you to
be circumcised, only that they may not suffer persecution for the cross of
Christ. 13 For not even those who are circumcised
keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in
was the generally respected way of showing conversion to Judaism. Unfortunately, Judaism of that day left a lot to be
desired. They put much faith in the
physical reminders of the law, but fell short in the human relationship
categories. So, circumcising someone
allowed them to count a convert. It looked
good, but without correct teaching didn’t really profit anyone (Mat 23:15).
closing remarks reinforce again that circumcision is the primary subject of
this epistle. His purpose is not to ‘do
away with the law’ or the law would figure much more prominently in his
conclusion. His conclusion reflects his
introduction, which revolves around circumcision.
in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision
avails anything, but a new creation.”
existence or lack of the male foreskin does not say anything about the
mentality of the man. Believers reflect
the graciousness of their Savior. He is
of a different Spirit, the image of the Father (Col 1:15). Making humans that look like He does was a marvelous
undertaking. Making beings that think and
act like He does rises to a whole different level. That is what the Creator is about at this
time. We can be part of the solution or
part of the problem.