Galatians 3 Commentary



Abraham believed God (Gal 3:6,16, Ge 15:5,6+)

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Charts from Jensen's Survey of the NT - used by permission
Another Overview Chart - Galatians - Charles Swindoll

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Gospel of Grace
Gospel of Grace
Gospel of Grace
Defense of the
Gal 1:1-2:21
from Legalism
Gal 3:1-4:31
to Love and to Serve
Gal 5:1-6:18
Labor Liberty Life
Not Opinion
Not Bondage
Not Flesh
Paul the

(Gal 1:1-24)

(Gal 2:1-21)
Justified by Faith not Works
(Gal 3:1-9)
Justified by Faith not the Law
(Gal 3:10-4:20)
Grace and Law Cannot Co-Exist
(Gal 4:21-31)
Position and Practice of Liberty
(Gal 5:1-15)
Power of Liberty

(Gal 5:16-26)
Performance in Liberty

(Gal 6:1-18)
Vindication Exposition Application
Testimonial and
Doctrinal and
Practical and
of Liberty
for Liberty
of Liberty

Style or Tone: Vigorous, blunt, aggressive, direct, corrective, urgent, brief, righteous anger, strong words

Theme: Justification by Faith and not by Works of the Law

Author: Paul in large letters (Gal 6:11)

Recipients: Churches in Galatia (Gal 1:2) (Most likely the Southern Region)

Christ in Galatians: Jesus is the Source and Power for the believer's New Life. (Gal 2:20, 5:16)


The law prohibits Grace invites and gives
The law condemns the sinner Grace redeems the sinner.
The law says DO Grace says IT IS DONE.
The law says, Continue to be holy Grace says, It is finished.
The law curses Grace blesses
The law slays the sinner Grace makes the sinner alive.
The law shuts every mouth before God Grace opens the mouth to praise God.
The law condemns the best man Grace saves the worst man.
The law says, pay what you owe Grace says, I freely forgive you all.
The law says “the wages of sin is death” Grace says, “the gift of God is eternal life.”
The law says, “the soul that sins shall die” Grace says, Believe and live.
The law reveals sin Grace atones for sin.
By the law is the knowledge of sin By grace is redemption from sin.
The law was given by Moses Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.
The law demands obedience Grace bestows and gives power to obey.
The law was written on stone Grace is written on the tables of the heart.
The law was done away in Christ Grace abides forever.
The law puts us under bondage Grace sets us in the liberty of the sons of God.


(From Irving Jensen & Merrill Unger)




Lost in Adam all die
Physically in Adam
Another Gospel (false)
Man's Reasoning
Saved in Christ all live
Spiritually in Christ
The Genuine Gospel
God's Revelation


Law Works curse of death
Condemnation by Works
Servants in Bondage (Defeat)
Old Covenant
(Symbolized by Hagar)
Grace Faith blessing of life
Justification by Faith
Sons in Freedom (Victory)
New Covenant
(Symbolized by Sarah)


Living in the Flesh
Works of the Flesh
Falling from grace
World or self object
of glorying
Walking by the Spirit
Fruit of the Spirit
Standing Firm in Grace
The Cross the sole object
of glorying

An Outline of Galatians - D Edmond Hiebert
         1. The elaboration of the doctrine of justification (Galatians 3:1-4:7) 
             a. The nature of justification as by faith, not law (3:1-14) 
                  i. The inconsistency of their conduct (Galatians 3:1-5) 
                      a. The question about their turning from the crucified Christ (Galatians 3:1) 
                      b. The question about the beginning of their Christian life (Galatians 3:2) 
                      c. The question about their method of perfection (Galatians 3:3) 
                      d. The question about their sufferings as believers (Galatians 3:4) 
                      e. The question about the basis of God's work among them (Galatians 3:5) 
                  ii. The example of Abraham's justification (Galatians 3:6-9) 
                      a. The means of Abraham's justification (Galatians 3:6) 
                      b. The identity of the sons of Abraham (Galatians 3:7) 
                      c. The announcement to Abraham concerning Gentile justification by faith (Galatians 3:8) 
                      d. The sharers in the blessings of Abraham (Galatians 3:9) 
                  iii. The deliverance from law-works through Christ (Galatians 3:10-14) 
                      a. The curse upon those under law-works (Galatians 3:10) 
                      b. The inability of law-works to justify (Galatians 3:11-12) 
                      c. The deliverance from the curse through Christ (Galatians 3:13-14) 
                           1. The fact of our deliverance through Christ (Galatians 3:13a) 
                           2. The means of our deliverance from the curse (Galatians 3:13b) 
                           3. The purpose in our deliverance from the curse (Galatians 3:14) 
             b. The limitations of the law and its relations to faith (3:15-4:7) 
                  i. The covenant with Abraham unaltered by the law (3:15-18) 
                      a. The illustration of a man's covenant as binding (Galatians 3:15) 
                      b. The fact illustrated is the divine promise to Abraham (Gal 3:16) 
                     c. The application of the principle of an unalterable covenant (Gal 3:17-18) 
                           1. The law did not alter the promise (Galatians 3:17) 
                           2. The inheritance is not through law but promise (Galatians 3:18) 
                  ii. The true place and purpose of the law (3:19-29) 
                      a. The temporary nature of the law (Galatians 3:19-20) 
                           1. The reason for the adding of the law (Galatians 3:19a) 
                           2. The time limit for the law (Galatians 3:19b) 
                           3. The manner of the establishment of the law (Galatians 3:19c-20) 
                      b. The inability of the law to produce life (Galatians 3:21-22) 
                           1. The law not contrary to the promise (Galatians 3:21a) 
                           2. The law unable to produce life (Galatians 3:21b) 
                           3. The Scripture shut up all to faith in Christ (Galatians 3:22) 
                      c. The law as a child-leader to Christ with His blessings (Galatians 3:23-29) 
                           1. The old position under law (Galatians 3:23-24) 
                               a. The position of confinement under law (Galatians 3:23) 
                               b. The function of the law as child-leader to Christ (Galatians 3:24) 
                           2. The new position in Christ (Galatians 3:25-29) 
                               a. The nature of the new position (Galatians 3:25-26) 
                               b. The entry into the new life (Galatians 3:27) 
                               c. The effect of the new life (Galatians 3:28) 
                               d. The fulfillment of the promise to Abraham (Galatians 3:29) 

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Source: Ryrie Study Bible Notes

Galatians 3:1  You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified?

Greek - o anoetoi Galatai tis humas ebaskanen (3SAAI) ois kat opthalmous Iesous Christos proegrae (3SAPI) estauromenos  (RPP)

Amplified: O you poor and silly and thoughtless and unreflecting and senseless Galatians! Who has fascinated or bewitched or cast a spell over you, unto whom—right before your very eyes—Jesus Christ (the Messiah) was openly and graphically set forth and portrayed as crucified? 

Barclay  O senseless Galatians, who has put the evil eye on you—you before whose very eyes Jesus Christ was placarded upon his cross? 

ESV  O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified.

KJV  O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?

NET  You foolish Galatians! Who has cast a spell on you? Before your eyes Jesus Christ was vividly portrayed as crucified!

NLT  Oh, foolish Galatians! Who has cast an evil spell on you? For the meaning of Jesus Christ's death was made as clear to you as if you had seen a picture of his death on the cross.

Phillips O you dear idiots of Galatia, who saw Jesus Christ the crucified so plainly, who has been casting a spell over you?

Wuest O, unreflecting Galatians, who bewitched you,12 before whose eyes Jesus Christ was placarded publicly as the Crucified One?

YLT  O thoughtless Galatians, who did bewitch you, not to obey the truth -- before whose eyes Jesus Christ was described before among you crucified?


O (5599) (o) is an interjection used as a marker of personal address and in some context (as Gal 3:1) to express emotion at the beginning of a clause. " In context the following section is highly charged emotionally." (NET Note) "O" is used in a similar sense in a gentle rebuke by Jesus in Luke 24:25. 

BDAG 1. marker of personal address O, O … ! (often before the voc., in accord with the Koine and with Semitic usage, but never used when calling upon God. a. mostly expressing emotion (at the beginning of a clause; b. without emotion (in accord w. Attic usage, (Acts 1:1) 2. an exclamatory utterance, O, Oh, How … ! etc. (in this use it can also be written w;). In modern versions the term is frequently rendered in some functional equivalent, e.g. ‘I stand amazed at’ (so Phillips: Ro 11:33, or w. the punctuation mark (!) serving as a semantic component.

O - 20x in 20v - O and Oh.

Matthew 15:28 Then Jesus said to her, "O woman, your faith is great; it shall be done for you as you wish." And her daughter was healed at once.
Matthew 17:17 And Jesus answered and said, "You unbelieving and perverted generation (ESV = O faithless and twisted generation), how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring him here to Me."
Mark 9:19 And He answered them and said, "O unbelieving generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring him to Me!"
Luke 9:41 And Jesus answered and said, "You unbelieving and perverted generation (ESV = O faithless and twisted generation), how long shall I be with you and put up with you? Bring your son here."
Luke 24:25 And He said to them, "O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!
Acts 1:1  The first account I composed, Theophilus (ESV = O Theophilus), about all that Jesus began to do and teach,
Acts 13:10 and said, "You who are full of all deceit and fraud (KJV = O full of all subtilty and all mischief), you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease to make crooked the straight ways of the Lord?
Acts 18:14 But when Paul was about to open his mouth, Gallio said to the Jews, "If it were a matter of wrong or of vicious crime, O Jews, it would be reasonable for me to put up with you;
Acts 27:21  When they had gone a long time without food, then Paul stood up in their midst and said, "Men, you ought to have followed my advice (YLT = "O men -- having hearkened to me") and not to have set sail from Crete and incurred this damage and loss.
Romans 2:1  Therefore you have no excuse (ESV =  O man), everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things.
 3 But do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment on those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God?
Romans 9:20 On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, "Why did you make me like this," will it?
Romans 11:33  Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!
Galatians 3:1  (ESV = O foolish Galatians!) You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified?
1 Timothy 6:11  But flee from these things, you man of God (ESV =  O man of God), and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.
 20  O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called "knowledge "--
James 2:20 But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow (KJV = O vain man), that faith without works is useless?
Revelation 1:8  "I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, "who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty."
Revelation 21:6 Then He said to me, "It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost.
Revelation 22:13 "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end."

O is used about 37x in the Septuagint often for "Alas" (0162) - Gen. 27:20; Num. 24:23; 2 Ki. 3:10; 6:5, 15; 20:3; Job 19:21; Ps. 116:4, 16; 118:25; Prov. 2:13; 6:6; 8:4; Isa. 6:5; Jer. 1:6; 4:10; 6:6; 14:13; 22:13, 18; 23:1; 32:17; 34:5; 50:24; Ezek. 22:3; 24:6; 30:2; 34:2; Dan. 5:16; 6:20; Jon. 4:2; Nah. 3:1; Hab. 2:9, 15; Zeph. 3:1; Zech. 2:6; 11:17. My favorite use is in Jeremiah 32:17-note 'Ah (Lxx = O!) Lord GOD! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for You,

In using the term "foolish Galatians" Paul is not saying that the Galatians were naturally stupid, senseless, but that they had not used their mind (nous), for if they had they would never have allowed themselves to be led away from the truth of the Gospel. "The tone is certainly not that of contempt, nor is it so much that of indignation as of reproach, as in the Lord's words on the way to Emmaus, Luke 24:25." (W E Vine)

Vine gives us a preview of coming attractions (so to speak) - Up to this point the apostle had dealt only indirectly with the difficulty in the Galatian churches. Now he begins to reason with them directly, first from their own experience, Gal 3:1–5, and then from Scripture, Gal 3:6-29, 4:17, then from their experience, Gal 4:8–20, and from Scripture again, Gal 4:21–31, concerning their defection, threatened or actual, from the true Gospel.

Bob DeWaay - In calling the Galatians foolish or stupid, Paul was not casting aspersions on their intelligence. No one can read the Letter to the Galatians without realizing that Paul presupposed a high level of intellectual ability on the part of his readers. The Galatians were not lacking in IQ but in spiritual discernment. 

The Judaizers had infiltrated the church and were undermining the very core of Christianity, namely, justification by faith alone in Christ alone. They were teaching that to be Christians, Gentiles had to become Jewish proselytes and obey the Mosaic Law including circumcision. Appalled that the Galatians would tolerate, much less embrace, such heresy, Paul called them anoetos or people without understanding, reason, and thought, people who had abandoned the very truth they had been taught.  The believers in Galatia were not stupid but had simply failed to use their spiritual intelligence when faced by the unscriptural, Gospel-destroying teaching of the Judaizers. In a word they had failed to use their heads!

The Amplified version gives us a sense of Paul's feeling toward the Galatians - "O you poor and silly and thoughtless and unreflecting and senseless Galatians!"

Hendriksen asks rhetorically "is not everyone foolish who barters the truth of God for the lie of Satan, peace for unrest, assurance for doubt, joy for fear, and freedom for bondage?… Paul was probably not thinking about the sorcerer who had brought the Galatians under the baleful influence of his evil eye, but rather of the Judaizer who had cast a spell upon them not by means of his eyes but by means of his words, his teaching; specifically, by telling them that faith in Christ must be supplemented by Mosaic ritualism. And the Galatians, by yielding to this influence, had failed to understand that a Christ supplemented is a Christ supplanted (New Testament Commentary)

Wuest - Paul says, O foolish Galatians. It is an expression of surprise mingled with indignation. The situation in Galatia will help us understand this outcry. There was on the one hand, the native and national spirit joined to the power of the priesthood and the temples, the spirit of Orientalism, that of stagnation, ignorance and superstition. On the other hand, there was the desire for education, the recognition that Greece and Rome stood on a higher intellectual level than was afforded by the native religions and customs, and in addition to that, a revolt against the ignorant and enslaving native superstitions. The people of the province of Galatia are those who have shaken off the benumbing and degrading influence of the native magic and superstition. They are those who judge for themselves as to the real values in life, and lay claim to insight and wisdom. Paul accuses them with failing to use that insight and wisdom, that appreciation of the better things, when he uses the Greek word translated foolish. The word is anoetos. It denotes the stupidity that arises from deadness and impotence of intellect. It means “lacking in the power of perception, unwise.” It refers to one who does not reflect. The word speaks of failure to use one’s powers of perception. The Galatians, Paul says, were certainly not using their heads. The word is used with an ethical reference as the faculty of moral judgment. Thus the word indicates a failure to use one’s powers of perception, that failure being due to a moral defect. It is always true, as it was with the Galatians, that the act of a Christian who embraces false doctrine, is due to sin in his life. The Galatian defection was not due to any fickleness of the Gauls. They are not prominent in the picture. Paul sends this stinging rebuke therefore, “O Galatians, who fail in the first characteristic of the Galatians, namely, the ability to use their heads and to appreciate the finer values of life.” (Galatians Commentary - Verse by Verse online)

Spurgeon - With very great enthusiasm the Galatians received the gospel when Paul preached it to them. They seem to have been a very warm-hearted but fickle people, and Paul found, to his great grief, that while he was away from them certain false teachers came in and turned them aside from the gospel that he had delivered to them. Paul does not compliment them on being a very “thoughtful,” “educated,” “cultured” people; he does not care an atom about that matter. Because they had forsaken the simple truth of the gospel, he says, “O foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you?” Those are hard words, Paul! Why did he not say, “Who has led you forward into more advanced views?” No, he calls it witchery, the work of the devil, and it is nothing better. The wisdom of it is no better than the trickery of some old witch. If you take your eyes off Christ, it must be witchcraft that makes you do it. There is such glory, such beauty, such perfection, such wisdom, such divinity in Christ crucified that, if you turn from that sight to anything else—no matter how scientific and learned it may be—you are “foolish” indeed, and somebody has “bewitched you.”

Foolish (453) (anoetos from a = alpha-negative = makes following word exact opposite + noéo = comprehend from nous = mind, intellect, understanding, thought) means literally “not having a mind” or not thought of (not within the province of thought) and thus describes a person without understanding,  dull-witted. Anoetos describes one with a unwillingness to use one's mental faculties to understand. It is not a lack of intelligence as much as it is a mental laziness and carelessness.  Trench adds that "in the anoetos there is always a moral fault lying behind the intellectual; the νοῦς, the highest knowing power in man, the organ by which divine things are apprehended and known, being the ultimate seat of the error (Luke 24:25, Gal. 3:1, 3; 1 Tim. 6:9; Titus 3:3)." Anoetos speaks of someone who is lacking in discernment. The Galatians had been taught the truth of the Gospel and Jesus, but they failed to examine the teachings of the Judaizers in the light of this truth with the result that the Judaizers led them out of truth and into bondage. 

The believers in Galatia (cp Jesus use of anoetos in Lk 24:25) were not stupid but had simply failed to use their spiritual intelligence when faced by the unscriptural, gospel-destroying teaching of the Judaizers. They were not using their heads!

Vincent Nous is used by Paul mainly with an ethical reference, as the faculty of moral judgment. See on Rom. 7:23. Anoetos therefore indicates a folly which is the outgrowth of a moral defect.

It describes acting in a spirit which manifests the absence of wisdom (Eadie).

Bartlett - In giving head to false teachers, the Galatians had, indeed, shown the grossest stupidity. 

Henry Morris - Unlike most of his other epistles, Galatians includes no prayer requests from Paul, nor any commendations of the church and its ministry. Paul had preached the doctrines of salvation by grace and Christian liberty so clearly and effectively when he had first established these churches that it was hard for him to understand how they could so quickly and easily be led into false doctrine. This is a problem today as well. Professing Christians are being "tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine" (Ephesians 4:14), not only with legalism but also with evolutionism, emotionalism, libertinism, and many other unscriptural heresies. Many, like the Galatians, have been "bewitched" by clever persuasion into such deceptions. The Greek word for "bewitched" is used only this once in the New Testament, and does not necessarily refer to witchcraft. The connotation is "fascinated" or "deceived."

Ryrie - Gal 3:1-2  To return to law and negate the necessity of the death of Christ (Gal 2:21) was to act as if bewitched. Works of the law did not give them the Holy Spirit. 

Wuest - Paul’s metaphor is derived from the popular superstition of the evil eye. The word denoted either the fascination of an evil eye or some malignant influence akin to it. The infatuation of the Galatians is attributed to the baneful effect of some mysterious power of evil. (Galatians Commentary - Verse by Verse online)

MacDonald has an interesting thought on who has bewitched you noting that the pronoun "who is singular (Gk., tis), not plural, perhaps suggesting that the devil was the author of this false teaching."

Bartlett -  "Who hath bewitched you with his evil eye of sorcery to exchange the priceless Gospel of grace for a worthless gospel of works? Many unstable folk are fairly begging for a ride in every newfangled substitute for the Gospel that comes along. Almost every day we hear that gullible victims are being swindled out of funds by smooth-spoken crooks who induce them to invest in worthless enterprises. Put no trust in anyone who seeks to lure you away from a simple reliance upon your all-sufficient SAVIOUR. It cannot be insisted upon too strongly that subjection to works is rejection of grace. Self-righteousness is spiritually fatal. He who turns his back upon CHRIST as his one and only Mediator with GOD loses everything."

Their new behavior was so strange that it appeared as if someone had put a spell on them (Bruce).

Spurgeon - The Galatians wanted to go back to circumcision and to the old sacrifices of the law. Paul calls it witchery, for in his day it was believed that men could cast an evil eye upon one another and thus work evil upon their fellow men. It seemed to Paul to be something like that—as if the devil himself were in it and came and turned men away from Christ Jesus, to go back to trusting in the law and its obsolete ceremonies. These Galatians thought that they had been led by reason and guided by the learning of their teachers, but Paul calls it witchery. “Who has bewitched you?” he asks, as if anything that led a man to trust in his own works should be as much abhorred as the incantations of a witch. “Who has bewitched you?” It is a dangerous state, it is a devilish snare to be brought into—to be led to trust to frames, and feelings, and experiences, and doings, and prayings, or to anything else but Christ. It is a strange thing that those who have seen Christ should ever go back to these things.....Even those that are converted, or appear to be so, can become suddenly bewitched with error of one kind or another, just as in families children are suddenly taken ill with certain complaints that seem incidental to childhood. If parents had never heard of such things before, they would be astonished. They would suppose that they must lose their children when such unaccountable diseases suddenly appeared in them, and yet they survive. In the family of Christ, certain epidemics break out at times. We cannot tell why they should come just then. At first, perhaps, we are puzzled and perplexed to think that such diseases should come at all. But they do come, and hence it is well to be on our guard against them.

Bewitched meant to bring evil on a person by false praise or to mislead by an "evil eye" and so to charm or "bewitch” (Webster = to charm, to fascinate, to cast a spell over, to attract as if by the power of the "evil eye") and in the present context to lead into the evil doctrine of "faith plus something else" (works of the law, circumcision, etc). Remember that believers are set free from the law (read Ro 6:14-note, Ro 7:4, 5, 6-note, Ro 8:1-note, Ro 8:2, 3-note, Ro 8:4-note) Paul was saying that the Galatian believers had yielded to these “magicians” and had come under the power of untruth (the law is bondage, the Spirit of Christ is freedom, liberty, Jn 8:36).

Bewitched (940) (baskaino) originally meant "slander, speak ill of one," to cause harm with unfavorable words. In the NT it came to mean to subject a person to an occult influence, to "blight by the evil eye," or "cast the evil eye"(see Wikipedia). The thought was to put a spell on someone. Baskaino means to charm or fascinate in a misleading way, as by flattery, false promises, or occultic power, and clearly suggests the use of feeling over fact, emotion over clear understanding of truth. “Who tickled your fancy?” Paul asked rhetorically, fully aware of the answer. “Who could have dragged you away from the solid foundation of the truth of the Gospel in which you have been so well taught?” "How often we feel that way today about vacillating Christians or prospects who suddenly turn away! The only adequate explanation seems to be the influence of some satanic power that diverts them from God.

BDAG on baskaino - (1) to exert an evil influence through the eye, bewitch, as with the ‘evil eye’ tina, someone...(in secular literature it was said) one can ward off baskani,a by spitting 3 times. (2) . to be resentful of something enjoyed by another, envy (Dt 28:54, 56)

NIDNTT adds - The effect of the spell, if the evil eye is detected at the time, could be averted by spitting, and some hold that this was in Paul’s mind in his use of ekptuo (literally = to spit out) in Gal. 4:14 (NAS “loathe”).

Barclay - The Greeks had a great fear of a spell cast by the evil eye. Time and again, private letters end with a sentence such as this: ‘Above all I pray that you may be in health unharmed by the evil eye and faring prosperously’ (G. Milligan, Selections from the Greek Papyri, No. 14).

Thayer on baskaino -  1. to speak ill of one, to slander, traduce him (Demosthenes 8, 19 (94, 19); Aelian v. h. 2, 13, etc.).  2. to bring evil on one by feigned praise or an evil eye, to charm, bewitch one (Aristotle, probl. 20, 34 (p. 926{b}, 24); Theocritus, 6, 39; Aelian nat. an. 1, 35); hence, of those who lead away others into error by wicked arts 

Baskaino is used elsewhere only 2 times in the Septuagint - Deuteronomy 28:54(in the context of the Curses specifically when they are besieged and starved as occurred in 586BC and 70AD) =  The man among you who is by nature tender and sensitive will turn against (Lxx - baskaino - shall look with an evil eye upon) his brother, his beloved wife, and his remaining children." The second use in Dt 28:56 is in a similar context where "the refined and delicate woman....shall be hostile toward (Lxx = baskaino - shall look with an evil eye upon) the husband she cherishes and toward her son and daughter."

Baskaino "comes from an early superstition based on “the evil eye”: a person might be enticed to stare at someone who could bewitch him or cast a spell on him through the magic arts and then would do things totally foreign to his natural behavior. Bruce suggests the translation, “Who has hypnotized you?” Paul’s use of this word does not imply he believed in such a thing; he was using the word’s association with ignorant superstition to shame them." (Kenneth Boles - College Press NIV Commentary)

Although bewitched can carry the idea of sorcery, that is not the idea in Galatians 3:1. The Galatians were not victims of a magical spell or incantation, but were misled pupils of teachings they should have instantly recognized as false. They were willing victims who succumbed to the flesh-pleasing works righteousness of the Judaizers (cp Paul's clear teacing - Gal 2:16). They had fall under the spell of those who had distorted (transformed it into something of opposite character) "the Gospel of Christ." (Gal 1:7-note)

Paul had just stated that "if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly" which of course He did not, but that was the effect of this faith + works heresy which was a Gospel "contrary to that which we have preached." Gal 1:8-note, see Gal 1:6, 7, 9, 11). There  "different Gospel" (Gal 1:6-note) was a belief in Christ plus human works and as William Hendricksen said “A supplemented Christ is a supplanted Christ.”

Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified - "Jesus Christ (the Messiah) was openly and graphically set forth and portrayed as crucified" (Amp)

Spurgeon - When the apostle says that he set Christ forth, he means that he had done it with great plainness. The Greek word has to do with a program or a proclamation. It is as good as to say, “I have set Christ before you as plainly as if I had printed a great notice and stuck it up before your eyes. I have put the letters down in capitals.” Paul says, “As a king, when he makes a proclamation, puts it on the walls and calls attention to it, so I have set forth Christ before you. I have not talked of Him in a mystical way, so that you did not know what I meant, but I have set Him forth. I have said of Him that He suffered in our stead and was made a curse for us, as it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.’ ”

Bartlett - Paul reminds his readers that the message of the Cross was set forth in their midst so vividly and clearly that those who reject its saving truth are left without excuse. Never let it be forgotten that it was through His death on Calvary that JESUS has become our living LORD. Regardless of how many fulsome tributes of praise we bestow on CHRIST as the matchless Teacher, Leader and moral Example for men to follow, we dishonor Him if we refuse to acknowledge Him as the Son of GOD who died for sinners. The CHRIST glorified is the CHRIST crucified. The One to be lifted up by us must be the One lifted up for us and for all who will put their trust in Him as the atoning Sacrifice:

Publicly portrayed - Like a message that is written on a Billboard, so that it is easily seen, clearly displayed and fully understood! The International Children's Bible echoes this thought "You people in Galatia were told very clearly about the death of Jesus Christ on the cross." This vision of the Cross, the finished work, the centrality of this truth had become fuzzy - false teacher were throwing "smoke screens" over the truth. Instead of Jesus only the message was Jesus PLUS. Plus works of the Law, especially circumcision. So this is why Paul begins his argument with the OT example of Abraham - it was FAITH plus nothing that resulted in his justification. The circumcision that was commanded in Genesis 17:9,10, 11 was not until at least 13 years later (Ge 16:16 = 86yo, Ge 17:1 = 90yo).

Lightfoot says prographo "is the common word to describe all public notices or proclamations....This placard ought to have kept their eyes from wandering, and so to have acted as a charm against all Judaic sorceries."

Marvin Vincent paraphrases Paul - "Who could have succeeded in bringing you under the spell of an evil eye, when directly before your own eyes stood revealed the crucified Christ?"

Ralph Earle writes that "The homiletical hint here is obvious. We need to warn people to keep their eyes on Jesus in order that they may not become "fascinated" (Latin for casting a spell) by the worldly allurements around. When our eyes are filled with the bright shining of the Light of the World, we shall not be captivated by the dazzling neon signs of the world's pleasures. When we are following the Light, other little flashes may annoy us, but they will not divert us from the narrow way that leads to life and light eternal." (Word Meanings in the New Testament)

Spurgeon - When we see Jesus clearly before us ("Publicly portrayed"), we won’t be deceived. “If anything contrary to this comes before Him, He does not timidly say, ‘Everybody has a right to his opinion’; but He says, ‘Yes, they may have a right to their opinion, and so have I to Mine; and My opinion is that any opinion which takes away from the glory of Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice is a detestable opinion.’ Get the real atonement of Christ thoroughly into your soul, and you will not be bewitched.”

What made the yielding of the Galatians to the Judaizers inexcusable? They had been clearly taught Christ crucified (1Cor 1:23, 1Cor 2:2) - they understood the meaning of the Cross. The official notice of His death had been posted (prographo) for all to clearly see.

Publicly portrayed (written before) (4270)(prographo from pró = before, openly, plainly + grapho = write) means literally to write for public reading, publicly portrayed, announced on a poster. To write previously or before. Figuratively prographo means to announce or prescribe. The word was used to describe all public notices or proclamations and indicates a public announcement in which the validity of a particular fact or condition is proclaimed. Prographo is used of posting important official notices on a placard in the marketplace or other public location for citizens to read. Those who were summoned before courts of justice were said to be progegramménoi, posted up ahead of time, because they were cited by posting up their names in some public place. Even in our day the cases to be heard by a judge are written beforehand and appended in a public place in the courthouse. The word is found in early secular documents where a father posted a proclamation that he would no longer be responsible for his son’s debts (In contrast our Father has posted a proclamation called the Gospel promising to remit our debts completely based on the work of His Son!). It is also used for putting up the announcement of an auction sale. Paul uses prographo to refer to what was written before in the Old Testament (Ro 15:4 cp. "ungodly creepers" in Jude 1:4-note "beforehand marked out").

In Galatians 3:1 Paul reminds them that Christ had been proclaimed or placarded, much as a magistrate proclaimed the fact that an execution had been carried out placarding his proclamation in a public place. Indeed, an "execution has been carried out" in the Crucifixion of Christ but when died, He declared "It is finished" (See  tetelestai in John 19:30) The redemption price was "paid in full" and needed nothing to be added [works of the Law, etc] to be efficacious for salvation! 

Vine - The apostle (in his words "publicly displayed") carries on his metaphor of the evil eye (baskaino); as a preventative of such mischief it was common to post up charms on the walls of houses, a glance at which was supposed to counteract any evil influence to which a person may have been subjected. Notwithstanding, he says in effect, that the fact that Christ had been crucified was placarded before your very eyes in our preaching, you have allowed yourselves to be overlooked, you have been fascinated by the enemies of the Cross of Christ, when you had only to look at Him to escape their malignant influence; cp. the interesting and instructive parallel in Nu 21:9 = "And Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on the standard; and it came about, that if a serpent bit any man, when he looked to the bronze serpent, he lived." (Collected writings of W.E. Vine)

Wuest notes that Paul's use of prographo "does not here speak of the act of painting the crucified Christ on a placard for public notice, but of posting a public announcement to the effect that He was crucified. This Paul did in his preaching among the Galatians (cp 1 Cor 1:23, 2:2). This placarded notice of the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus should have been enough to keep the eyes of the Galatians from wandering to the enticements of the Judaizers. The word crucified is in the perfect tense. This speaks of the fact that the apostle is not speaking of the figure of a dead Christ on a crucifix, but of the risen, ascended Christ who had been crucified, who was alive, whose glorified body still bore the marks of the nails and the scars of the crown of thorns, and who is the living Saviour by virtue of His atoning work on the Cross. (Galatians Commentary - Verse by Verse online)

Spurgeon - They had heard the plainest possible preaching from Paul and his companions. Jesus Christ had been so clearly set forth before them that they might, as it were, see Him as He hung upon the cross of Calvary. Yet, under some unhallowed spell, they turned aside from the faith of Christ.

Guzik - Paul didn’t mean that they literally saw the crucifixion of Jesus or even that they had a spiritual vision of it. He meant that the truth of Jesus and Him crucified and the greatness of His work for them was clearly laid out for them so clearly that they could see it. Actually watching the death of Jesus on the cross might mean nothing. Hundreds, if not thousands, saw Jesus dying on the cross and most of them only mocked Him.

Crucified (4717) (stauroo from stauros = cross, in turn from histemi = to stand) means literally to nail or fasten to a cross and so to crucify -- literal death by nailing to and hanging from a cross (a stake). Latter in this same letter, in Gal 5:24, Paul uses stauroo in a metaphorical sense to refer to crucifixion of the flesh (as a result of the literal crucifixion), of a believer's renouncing his old sinful way of living.  Toward the end of this letter Paul again uses stauroo  declaring "may it never be that I should boast, except in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." (Gal 6:14-note)

Stauroo - 46x in 42v - 

Matt. 20:19; 23:34; 26:2; 27:22f, 26, 31, 35, 38; 28:5; Mk. 15:13ff, 20, 24f, 27; 16:6; Lk. 23:21, 23, 33; 24:7, 20; Jn. 19:6, 10, 15f, 18, 20, 23, 41; Acts 2:36; 4:10; 1 Co. 1:13, 23; 2:2, 8; 2 Co. 13:4; Gal. 3:1; 5:24; Gal 6:14; Rev. 11:8

Matthew Henry summary (Gal 3:1-5) - Several things made the folly of the Galatian Christians worse. They had the doctrine of the cross preached, and the Lord's supper administered among them, in both which Christ crucified, and the nature of his sufferings, had been fully and clearly set forth. Had they been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, by the ministration of the law, or on account of any works done by them in obedience thereto? Was it not by their hearing and embracing the doctrine of faith in Christ alone for justification? Which of these had God owned with tokens of his favour and acceptance? It was not by the first, but the last. And those must be very unwise, who suffer themselves to be turned away from the ministry and doctrine which have been blessed to their spiritual advantage. Alas, that men should turn from the all-important doctrine of Christ crucified, to listen to useless distinctions, mere moral preaching, or wild fancies! The god of this world, by various men and means, has blinded men's eyes, lest they should learn to trust in a crucified Saviour. We may boldly demand where the fruits of the Holy Spirit are most evidently brought forth? whether among those who preach justification by the works of the law, or those who preach the doctrine of faith? Assuredly among the latter. 

Bob DeWaay comments on what he interprets as a modern day repetition of the Galatian problem - "I have personally seen chronically troubled saints pouring over the book (Neil Anderson's "The Bondage Breaker"), for years, hoping to find relief from such things as promised on the cover: "negative thoughts, irrational feelings, and habitual sins." This is abusive to these dear saints who are blessed in Christ but are told that their symptoms prove they have more to do. They must do a veritable survey of the flesh to find the walk of the Spirit. Thus the Galatian error is repeated. In regard to Galatians 3:1-3, the Holy Spirit does not bring past sins to our minds. The accuser of the brethren (Revelation 12:10) keeps busy with that task. Colossians 2:13, 14 tells us that the debt is cancelled, the decrees against us nullified, and our sins forgiven. The work of the Holy Spirit is to remind us of what Christ has done, once for all, through the cross and point us to our future hope. Yet Anderson tells his readers to ask the Holy Spirit to bring to mind past sins: "If something comes to mind and you are not sure what to do about it, trust that the Spirit of God is answering the prayer you just prayed, and go ahead and renounce it"(Anderson: Bondage, 202). The reader is directed to a long checklist (there are others in the book) and told to pray a prescribed prayer of renunciation of things that "the Holy Spirit has prompted you to renounce." The checklist has nearly 60 items (and whatever might be associated with them) plus whatever else comes to mind. What are they? They are religions, magic, spells, curses, astrology, superstitions, and anything else that pagans typically get involved with. The last box to be checked is telling: "Movies, TV shows, music, books, magazines, or comics that the Lord is bringing to your mind." (Anderson: 204). Having gone through the checklist and listened for special prompting from God, the reader is to repeat prescribed prayers of confession and renunciation "out loud." There is a checklist for bad motives and sins of the heart (Anderson: Anderson: 230). The confessions and renunciations have no logical end. Thus, Galatians 3:1-3 is violated, abrogated, and transgressed, all in the name of recognizing the reality of the stoicheia as demonic and not just the ABC's of religion." (You may or may not agree with DeWaay but if you would like more of his discussion see Galatians 3:13-14 Cursed by Works or Blessed by Faith)

Here is a summary of the "arguments" (truth) Paul uses to refute the Galatian heresies (error)…

(1) The Galatian believers' own experience with the Holy Spirit (Gal 3:1,2,3,4)

(2) The example of Abraham's faith and the blessing given to the Gentiles (Gal 3:5, 6, 7, 8, 9, Ge 15:6, 12:3)

(3) The curse of the Law (Gal 3:10, 11, 12, 13, 14, Dt 27:26, Hab 2:4, Lev 18:5, Dt 21:25)

(4) The example of a human covenant ("will") (Gal 3:15, 16, 17, 18).

(5) The purpose of the Law (Gal 3:19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25)

(6) The blessing to children of God (Gal 3:26, 27, 28, 29)

So this is why Paul argues from the OT example of Abraham (Gal 3:6, 7, 8, 9) - it was FAITH plus nothing that resulted in his justification. The circumcision that was commanded by God in Ge 17:9,10, 11 was not until at least 14 years later (Ge 16:16 = 86yo, Ge 17:1 = 90yo). God had never intended for the physical act of circumcision to be an "end" in itself, but this is exactly what the Jews did with this command. They made it a "prerequisite" for salvation. They did what so many have done with God's Word over the years, focusing on the "letter" of the Law and missing the "spirit" of the law. God is primarily concerned about what men are like on the inside not the outside. He has always desired internal (heart) change over external (works). A good outward act is validated before God only when it honestly represents what is on the inside. (Cp Jer 17:10, Rev 2:23). Right external behavior only pleases Him when it corresponds to right internal attitudes and motives (cp 1 Co 4:4,5).


Based on works
Gal 3:10
Based on faith
Gal 3:11,12
Works put us under curse
Gal 3:10
Justifies us by faith
Gal 3:3, 24
Our Guardian
Gal 3:23, 4:2
Centered in Christ
Gal 3:24
Keeps us for Faith
Gal 3:23
Christ lives in us
Gal 2:20
Our Tutor
Gal 3:24
Our Certificate of Freedom
Gal 4:30, 31
Brings us to Christ
Gal 3:24
Adopts us as sons and heirs
Gal 4:7

The Law functions to:

  1. Declare our guilt
  2. Drive us to Christ
  3. Direct us in a life of obedience

But is powerless to save

**Source: Believer's Study Bible - W A Criswell

Vance Havner - Paul asked the Galatians, who hath bewitched you (Gal. 3:1).

This is a day of sorcery, demonic deception in the end of time. The world is tricked, fascinated, under the spell of a thousand evil eyes. The weird, the uncanny, the occult, psychedelic drugs, hallucinations with these humanity is being swept into an orgy of induced insanity. The church is attacked, and Satan would deceive the very elect. Good men are led astray by the liberal gospel, the secular gospel, the social gospel. Jannes and Jambres imitate Moses. The Great Deceiver as an angel of light imitates every work of God, and thousands of poor souls cannot distinguish wheat from tares. Fortune-tellers, necromancers, magicians, are small fry compared to the new witchery let loose upon the world. Men we never dreamed would weaken are giving way, and Satan has so cleverly maneuvered his strategy that it appears un-Christian to lift a voice against his wiles and devices. This procedure is so skillfully executed, that many are afraid to express even doubt of it-much less opposition. We had better take some special courses in Ephesians Six, and learn the true nature of spiritual conflict. We have been provided full equipment for this warfare, and we had better learn how to evaluate both our adversaries and our allies.

Galatians 3:2  This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?

Greek - touto monon thelo (1SPAI) mathein (AAN) a humon ex ergon nomou to pneuma elabete (2PAAI)e ex akoes pisteos

Amplified: Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the [Holy] Spirit as the result of obeying the Law and doing its works, or was it by hearing [the message of the Gospel] and believing [it]? [Was it from observing a law of rituals or from a message of faith?] 

Barclay Tell me this one thing—did you receive the Spirit by doing the works the law lays down, or because you listened and believed?

ESV  Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?

KJV  This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?

NET  The only thing I want to learn from you is this: Did you receive the Spirit by doing the works of the law or by believing what you heard?

NLT  Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the Holy Spirit by obeying the law of Moses? Of course not! You received the Spirit because you believed the message you heard about Christ.

Phillips  I will ask you one simple question: did you receive the Spirit of God by trying to keep the Law or by believing the message of the Gospel? 

Wuest This only am I desiring to learn from you. By means of law works did you receive the Spirit or by means of the message which proclaims faith?

YLT this only do I wish to learn from you -- by works of law the Spirit did ye receive, or by the hearing of faith?


THIS IS THE ONLY THING I WANT TO FIND OUT FROM YOU: "Let me ask you this one question" (Amplified); "I will ask you one simple question" (Phillips) Vine observes that this is "a crucial question, the answer to which would settle the whole matter in dispute. There is, perhaps, a tinge of irony in the query, consistent with the word “foolish” which he applies to them. If they were sagacious enough to revise the gospel by which they had been saved, surely they had not allowed such an evident consideration as this to escape them."

Note Paul's emphasis on the Holy Spirit in these first 5 verses (Gal 3:2, 3, 5), which are the first time the Spirit is mentioned in this letter.

Want (Wish) (2309)(thelo see study of derivative thelema; see synonyms boule and boulomai) is a very common NT verb (208x) which primarily refers to exercising of one's will with the underlying sense of to be willing, to desire, to want or to wish (in Jn 15:7 in context of prayer). 

Find out (learn) (3129) (manthano related to the noun mathetes = disciple, literally a learner! The shut mind is the end of discipleship!) has the basic meaning of directing one’s mind to something and producing an external effect.

Bartlett - This query ushers in a series of questions skillfully designed, by the honest answers evoked, to build up an indisputable argument from Christian experience in support of the thesis that men are justified by faith alone. The question immediately before us in verse 2 points to the manner in which the Galatian believers had become children of GOD through the miracle of the new birth and the reception of the Holy Spirit. "If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his" (Romans 8:9). If, then, regeneration was wrought in their hearts through the mighty work of GOD in response to their simple faith in JESUS as Savior, how can there possibly be any place for works, either alone or in addition to faith, so far as the obtaining of salvation is concerned?

Spurgeon - They had gone off into legality; they were trying to be saved by ceremonies and by works of their own. “Well,” asks Paul, “how did you receive the Spirit—the Spirit by which miracles were wrought among you, the Spirit by which you spoke with unknown tongues, the Spirit that changed and renewed your hearts? If you did indeed receive Him, did you receive Him by the works of the law or by the hearing of faith?” There was only one reply to the question: The Spirit came to them as the result of faith.

DID YOU RECEIVE THE SPIRIT BY THE WORKS OF THE LAW: Did you receive the Holy Spirit by keeping the law? Of course not! And when did they receive the Spirit? When the first placed their trust in Jesus and His death, burial and resurrection on their behalf. Stated another way the Holy Spirit came to indwell them only after they believed the message they heard about Christ.

The first of these questions is answered in Acts 5:32 - "“And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him.” Don't be confused by "obey" as it is used as a synonym of believe for if we truly believe we will obey Him because now we have a supernatural power that overcomes (as we make the daily choice) our natural flesh which continually cries "Disobey Christ!" In John 3:36 we see the parallel use of believe and obey - "He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”

Earle on Spirit - The Greek word is pneuma, from which we get "pneumonia," "pneumatic," etc. It originally meant "a movement of air, wind, breath." But when a person's breath leaves his body, he is dead; that is, his spirit is gone. So the word for "breath" was also used for "spirit."

In a parallel passage Paul writes "And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”" (Galatians 4:6)

Vine - This is the first mention of the Holy Spirit in the Epistle; henceforth His part in the salvation of the believer is referred to frequently.

Holy Spirit (pneuma) in Galatians (based on the NAS translation as some uses in KJV are not capitalized) - 16x in 13 verses - Gal 3:2,3 , 5, 14; Gal 4:6, 29; Gal 5:5, 16, Gal 5:17 (twice) Gal 5:18, 22, Gal 5:25 (twice); Gal 6:8 (twice). The two uses of pneuma which refer to the human spirit and not the Holy Spirit are Gal 6:1, 6:18. 

Works of the Law - 8x in 6v - Rom. 3:20, 28; Gal. 2:16; 3:2, 5, 10

Spurgeon on works of the Law - We Christians are sound enough on this point as a matter of theory, but we are all of us very heretical and unsound as a matter of practice. You will not find a Christian who does not have to mourn over his self-righteous tendencies. You will not discover a believer who has not, at certain periods in his life, had to groan because the spirit of self-confidence has risen in his heart and prevented him from feeling the absolute necessity of the Holy Spirit.

OR BY HEARING WITH FAITH (Ro 1:17 Ro 10:16,17) - Wuest says "hearing refers either to the act of hearing a message, or to the message that is heard. The second meaning agrees more with the context since Paul is contrasting his message of grace with the preachments of the Judaizers."

Romans 10:17 says "faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ." And so clearly the "correct answer" to Paul's question is "by hearing with faith" and no by adding obedience to the law which demands but has nothing to give, least of all God's gift of His Spirit!

Vine on hearing - akoē is used by the apostle in three ways, a, by metonymy, for the organ of hearing, the ear, 1 Corinthians 12:17; 2 Timothy 4:3, 4; b, for the receiving of a message, Romans 10:17; c, for the message itself, Romans 10:16; 1 Thessalonians 2:13, cp. Hebrews 4:2. While something may be said in favor of c here, on the whole it seems better to understand the word in sense b.

Wuest on with (of) faith - The phrase of faith defines or describes the message. It is a message that announces faith as the means whereby one receives salvation. The only answer the Galatians could give to this question was that they received the Spirit, not by obedience to the law, but through their faith in Paul’s message of grace.

MacDonald - One question should be sufficient to settle the whole matter. Let them go back to the time of their conversion—the time when the Holy Spirit came to dwell in their bodies. How did they receive the Spirit? By doing, or by believing? Obviously it was by believing. No one ever received the Spirit by keeping the law.


Faith is clearly a key word in Galatians 3 where it is mentioned in 50% of the passages - 14x in 13 verses. The related word believe, believer or believed is used 3x in 3 verses. Notice that the contrasting word Law is also a key word in Galatains 3 - 15x in 12 verses.

Faith (4102) (pistis) means trust or confidence and in the active sense equates with belief. As pistis relates to God, it is the conviction that God exists and is the Creator and Ruler of all things well as the Provider and Bestower of eternal salvation through Christ. As faith relates to Christ it represents a strong and welcome conviction or belief that Jesus is the Messiah, through Whom we obtain eternal salvation and entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven. Stated another way, eternal salvation comes only through belief in Jesus Christ and no other way.

Donald Macleod - The Law and the Gift of the Spirit - There is one thing further: we do not depend on the law for our experience of Spirit baptism or for the gift of the Holy Spirit. Again, this has become a serious issue. The Charismatic Movement proposes a view of our experience of the Holy Spirit which is essentially legalistic. Its preachers and teachers tell us that the church is in a dreadful spiritual state and the answer to the problem is Holy Spirit baptism, which can be ‘got’ by going through various steps such as believing in Christ, renouncing all known sin, thirsting for God, praying expectantly and so on. There are variations on this theme but the core technology remains: there are things we have to do. Furthermore, if the poor believer comes back and says he has been through all these steps but nothing has happened, he is then asked, ‘But have you really gone through all these steps? Have you really renounced all sin? Have you made a surrender of your will to God—an absolute surrender? Have you really, really thirsted?’ Of course, the poor Christian says, ‘Well, maybe not!’ But this is pure legalism: the gift of the Spirit depending upon our personally attaining some kind of higher life. Paul deals with the problem directly and specifically in Galatians 3. ‘Did you,’ he asks, ‘receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard?’ (verse 2). The gift of the Spirit is as much a matter of sola fide (by faith alone) as is justification. The New Testament preaches a glorious gospel. But when we tamper with it and add bits to it in the interests of moralism we create all kinds of problems. If our receiving the gift of the Spirit depended on our doing something, on the quality of our believing or on the strength of our religious desires, we would never have the Spirit. (A Faith to Live By - Understanding Christian Doctrine)

Adrian Rogers - No one can believe God unless God enables him to believe. And how does God enable you to believe? He gives you a word. As the verse said that we referenced yesterday, "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Ro 10:17NKJV). Therefore, contrary to the popular belief of some in the Christian community, you don't just "name it and claim it." Rather, you listen for God to speak, then you "believe it and receive it." Faith is not an achievement we earn for ourselves; it's an endowment that is given to us by God.

Galatians 3:3  Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?

Greek houtos anoetoi este (2PAAI) enarchamenoi (AMPMPN) pneumati nun sarki epiteleisthe  (2PPMI)

Amplified Are you so foolish and so senseless and so silly? Having begun [your new life spiritually] with the [Holy] Spirit, are you now reaching perfection [by dependence] on the flesh? 

Barclay  Are you so senseless? After beginning your experience of God in the Spirit, are you now going to try to complete it by making it dependent upon what human nature can do? 

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

KJV  Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?

NET Are you so foolish? Although you began with the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by human effort?

NLT How foolish can you be? After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort?

Phillips  Surely you can't be so idiotic as to think that a man begins his spiritual life in the Spirit and then completes it by reverting to outward observances? 

Wuest Are you so unreflecting? Having begun by means of the Spirit, now are you being brought to maturity by the flesh?

YLT  so thoughtless are ye! having begun in the Spirit, now in the flesh do ye end?


Paul’s argument is powerful: If a person has received salvation thru trust in the crucified Christ, received the fullness of the Spirit the moment he believed and has the Father’s Spirit-endowed power working within, why would he now seek fleshly efforts (works, circumcision) in an attempt to please God or to merit His favor?

ARE YOU SO FOOLISH?  Have you lost your senses? Paul used the Greek anoetos to convey the idea of those who could think but who had failed to use their power of perception. "The principles Paul referred to are things the Galatians knew, things they had been taught. The knowledge and understanding were there, but they were not using them." (Guzik) I am a bit convicted here -- it is one thing to possess spiritual knowledge but is a problem if we don't allow the knowledge to "possess us!" Woe!

Guzik on this foolishness - This deception was cultivated by Satan to set our Christian life off-track. If he cannot stop us from being saved by faith, then he will attempt to hinder our blessing and growth and maturity by faith.

Bartlett - Sanctification, no less than regeneration, is the work of the HOLY SPIRIT,  conditioned by faith on the part of the Christians. This is a further reason why all forms of legalism should be cast out root and branch. Is it reasonable, Paul asks in effect that you can by conforming to rites and ceremonies bring to fruition that which the HOLY SPIRIT alone could initiate in your souls? Merely to ask such a question is to answer it in the negative. What has been inplanted by the SPIRIT must be unfolded in the SPIRIT. What He begins He will complete (read Php 1:6-note)

Vincent - Has your folly reached such a pitch as to reverse the true order of things? 

Vine paraphrases Paul are you "so reluctant to exercise your senses that you have not seen an inconsistency so glaring as this."

Spurgeon - The first thing that God the Holy Spirit does in the soul is to regenerate it. The next thing is to teach the soul that it is utterly incapable of saving itself. The Holy Spirit next applies the blood of Jesus to the soul, gives the soul the grace of faith whereby it lays hold of Jesus, and gives it an anointing of holy consolation and unction of assurance—whereby, casting itself wholly on the blood and righteousness of Jesus, it receives joy, knows itself to be saved, and rejoices in pardon. When the sinner has thus believed, then the Holy Spirit brings all the precious things to him: the blood of Jesus, the righteousness of Jesus, the covenant of adoption. But I cannot rejoice in my adoption until I receive the spirit of adoption, whereby I may be able to cry, “Abba, Father.” So you see, every point that is brought out in the experience of the newborn Christian—every point in that part of salvation that we may call its beginning in the soul—has to do with God the Holy Spirit.

HAVING BEGUN BY THE SPIRIT: "Having commenced your Christian life." This speaks of the New Birth (cp John 3:3-8), the regeneration wrought by the Spirit (Titus 3:5-6-note) when by grace we exercised our will in faith in the Gospel.

Vincent on the Spirit - The Holy Spirit, as the inspirer and regulator of the life.


Having begun (1728)(enarchomai from en = in + árchomai = begin) means to make a beginning, to commence. This was the normal Greek word for beginning a sacrifice. In other words this was the word for scattering the grains of barley on and around the victim which was the first act of a sacrifice. 

The aorist tense refers back to past completed action, that specific moment when they trusted the Gospel for their justification. 

There are only 2 uses in the NT, here and Php 1:6 where Paul encouraged the saints at Philippi writing "I am confident of this very thing, that He who began (aorist tense) a good work in you will perfect (same word as here in Gal 3:3 = "perfect") it until the day of Christ Jesus." The derivative word  proenarchomai is used in 2Co 8:6 referring to the contribution by the Corinthians that was earmarked to support the poor saints in Jerusalem (where "complete in you" is also epiteleo - see below). 

Enarchomai - 8x in the Septuagint - Ex. 12:18 (to describe the first month, the "beginning" month); Nu 9:5; 16:47 (to describe beginning of the plague); Dt. 2:24, 31 (to begin to possess their possession - the promised land), Dt 2:25; Joshua 10:24; Pr. 13:12; 

A W Tozer - The problem is not to persuade God to fill us, but to want God sufficiently to permit Him to do so. The average Christian is so cold and so contented with his wretched condition that there is no vacuum of desire into which the blessed Spirit can rush in satisfying fullness.


ARE YOU NOW BEING PERFECTED BY THE FLESH (Php 1:6-note, cp Php 3:12-note): Why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort? That is when you were saved by faith you began by the Holy Spirit. Do you think that once you are saved (justified) you can grow spiritually by depending on the works of the flesh? Of course not. But how many Christians today have missed this connection -- they agree that one is saved by grace through faith by the Spirit's regeneration, but then they begin to live as if there spiritual growth depends on what they do. Beloved, many in the evangelical church in America fall into this subtle trap of legalism because they do not fully comprehend the potential of the power of the Spirit of God Who indwells them and desires to energize them for a supernatural walk of faith. 

Barclay paraphrases it "are you now going to try to complete it by making it dependent upon what human nature can do? "

Spurgeon - Surely the way in which the Christian life begins is the method in which it is to be sustained. “As you have received Christ Jesus, the Lord,” the apostle says in another place, “so walk in him” (Col 2:6). If you have begun in the flesh, go on in the flesh; but if you really know that your beginning was in the Spirit, then do not go back to the flesh.

Being perfected  (2005) (epiteleo from epí = intensifies meaning, in the sense of meaning "fully" + teleo = to complete, bring not just to the end but to the destined goal from télos = end, goal) conveys the intensified meaning to fully complete or to fully reach the intended goal in the sense of successfully completing what has been begun (Gal 3:3, Ro 15:28-note, Php 1:6-note). Epiteleo means to bring something to the place where it is complete. Epiteleo is used in the Septuagint of Lev 6:22 where it describes the offering as that which is to be "entirely offered."

Vine interprets the voice as middle voice (lends a reflexive sense to the action) rather than passive voice and if "the middle voice is to be understood = “are ye now perfecting yourselves?”

Frederic Rendall adds that "having begun… being perfected" are used to "express the beginning and consummation of works of mercy and sanctification." (He adds that) "The middle voice of epiteleo (epiteleisthe) is used here because the spiritual process is to be wrought by them upon themselves." (Ed: And yet we now that such would not be possible with out divine enablement of the Spirit!) (The Expositor's Greek Testament)

Flesh (4561)(sarx) has a variety of meanings but in the present context "refers to all that a person is as the product of natural generation apart from the morally transforming power of the Holy Spirit in regeneration. The word speaks of the unsaved man, body, soul, and spirit, controlled by his totally depraved nature, together with all his human accomplishments, positions, capabilities, and philosophies. See the following scriptures as illustrations of this use: Jn 3:6; Php 3:3, 4; Ro 6:19, 7:5, 18, 25, 8:3; 2 Cor 1:17." (Wuest)

Wuest - The Judaizers in preaching a message of law obedience to the Galatian Christians, caused these latter to abandon the position of grace and put themselves in the sphere of law, both that of the Judaizers’ system of legalism, and that of the Old Testament economy. Because there was no provision in the Mosaic economy for an indwelling Spirit who would sanctify the believer as that believer trusted Him for that work, the Galatians were turning away from the teaching and the reality of the ministry of the Spirit in the life of the believer in this dispensation of grace, and were starting to depend upon self effort in an attempt to obey an outward legalistic system of works. Thus these Christians who had begun their Christian lives in dependence upon the Holy Spirit, now were depending upon self effort to continue in them the work of sanctification which the Holy Spirit had begun. The present tense of the verb ("now being perfected") here indicates that the Galatians had already begun this attempt. Paul says in effect, “How foolish to think that you can bring yourselves to a state of spiritual maturity in your Christian lives. That is the work of the Spirit. Only He can do that for you.”

See articles relating to the vital role of the Holy Spirit in our life of progressive sanctification:

The Judaizers promoted the false tenet that sanctification was attained by works of the flesh...

Galatians 4:10 You observe days and months and seasons and years.

Galatians 5:2 Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you.

Galatians 6:13 For those who are circumcised do not even keep the Law themselves, but they desire to have you circumcised, that they may boast in your flesh. 

Barclay makes an interesting point noting that "Paul talks about beginning their experience in the Spirit and ending it in the flesh. The words he uses are the normal Greek words for beginning and completing a sacrifice. The first one (enarchesthai) is the word for scattering the grains of barley on and around the victim, which was the first act of a sacrifice; and the second one (epiteleisthai) is the word used for fully completing the ritual of any sacrifice. By using these two words, Paul shows that he looks on the Christian life as a sacrifice to God." (Ed: cp Ro 12:1-note, 2 Ti 4:6-note)

Going to church to worship God sincerely with fellow believers is pleasing to Him, whereas going to the same church service and being with the same fellow believers is not acceptable to Him if done in a self-righteous, self-serving, legalistic spirit.

Guzik observes in this section Paul "lays out one of the fundamental differences between the principle of law and the principle of grace. Under law, we are blessed and grow spiritually by earning and deserving (Ed: This of course is what the Judaizers would have taught but it is not the way of blessing!). Under grace, we are blessed and grow spiritually by believing and receiving. God deals with you under the covenant of grace; we should not respond on the principle of law.

Even the best and most acceptable works do not increase our standing before God or elevate us to a higher spiritual status. How would it be possible to be more than a child of God and fellow heir with Jesus Christ, who is the Heir of all things (Ro 8:17; Heb. 1:2; cf. Gal 4:7; 1 Pet 3:7)?

There is a place for good works, but they must be "God works!" In other words the validity of good works in God’s sight depends on whose power they are done in and for whose glory. When they are done in the power of His Spirit and for His glory, they are beautiful and acceptable to Him. When they are done in the power of the flesh and for the sake of personal recognition or merit, they are rejected by Him. 

See related study of Good Deeds

  Religion by
Reliance on Human Effort
Relationship by
Reliance on the Spirit


Seeking to please God
by our own works in our natural strength


Trusting in Christ and living enabled by His Spirit to bear much fruit
(Jn 15:5, 8)



Practicing diligent service, rigid discipline, and obeying rules in hope of meriting a reward


Daily surrendering to and being filled with His Spirit
(Eph 5:18+)



Self Effort
Walking in my power


Spirit  Enablement
Walking in the Spirit
(Gal 5:16+)





Christ living in me;
I living in faith
(Gal 2:20+, cf Php 2:13NLT+)


Guilt, apathy, depression,
futility, failure,
desire for approval

Power over lusts
Fruit of Spirit
Gratitude, guidance
(Ga 5:16, 18+, Ga 5:22-23+)

Spurgeon applies truth about works of the Law - I pray that everyone may examine himself to see whether he is of the works of the law. Are we legal in our feelings? Are we relying upon the self and its doings? Does anyone among us feel that there is not a more deserving person than himself? Because he is a good churchgoer, does he think himself accepted by the Lord? Because of confirmation or baptism or attendance at the sacrament, does he hope to be saved? Because of his decent and respectable life, does he reckon himself just? If such is your hope, you are “of the works of the law,” and it is not my word, but the word of the Lord, that you are under the curse. Think of this, you who are so very good, so free from fault! There is nothing else for you but the curse. You are not the same as those men who are mentioned in the Scriptures as justified. They lived by faith, and you hope to live by works. As you are not the same, you will not come to the same end. It is a thought that vexes you, and possibly even makes you angry, that you should be under the curse—but it will be well for you to know the truth, however black it looks. Nothing remains but a fearful looking forward to judgment. For where there is even now a curse, what else can there be but fiery indignation at the last? Unfortunately, I cannot bring this most searching truth home to the conscience. It requires a miracle of grace to get this truth into the heart of man and to make him feel the full terror of it. It is so repugnant to our proud human nature that we incline to any error that will obscure it. Come, Holy Spirit, with your divine light, and flash this truth upon the sinner’s eyes in such a way that he must see it!

Spurgeon on seeking to be perfected by the flesh - I fear that some of my brothers and sisters try to grow in spiritual life by adopting methods that are not of faith. Some think that they will set themselves rules of self-denial or extra devotion—these plans are lawful, but they are not in themselves effective. Vows may be observed mechanically, and rules obeyed formally, and yet the heart may be drifting away yet further from the Lord. Indeed, these vows and rules may be a means of deluding us into the vain belief that all is well, whereas we are nearing to spiritual shipwreck. I have found in my own spiritual life that the more rules I lay down for myself, the more sins I commit. The habit of regular morning and evening prayer is one that is indispensable to a believer’s life, but the prescribing of the length of prayer, and the constrained remembrance of so many persons and subjects, may lead to bondage and strangle prayer rather than assist it. To say I will humble myself at such a time, and rejoice at another season, is nearly as much an affectation as when the preacher writes in the margin of his sermon, “Cry here,” “Smile here.” If the man preached his sermon rightly, he would be sure to cry in the right place and to smile at a suitable moment. When the spiritual life is sound, it produces prayer at the right time, and humiliation of soul and sacred joy spring forth spontaneously apart from rules and vows. The kind of religion that makes itself to order by the almanac and turns out its emotions like bricks from a machine—weeping on Good Friday and rejoicing two days afterwards, measuring its motions by the moon—is too artificial to be worthy of your imitation. The liberty of the spiritual life is a grand thing. And where that liberty is maintained constantly and the energy is kept up, you will need much faith, for the fading of faith will be the withering of devotion. Faith enriches the soil of the heart. Faith fills our treasuries with the choicest gold and loads our tables with the daintiest food for our souls. Faith in Jesus, the Savior, faith in the heavenly Father, faith in the Holy Spirit—this we must have, or we perish like foam upon the waters.
As the other side of all this, some Christians appear to try to live by experience. If they feel happy today, they say they are saved; but if they feel unhappy tomorrow, they conclude that they are lost. If they feel at one moment a deep and profound calm spreading over their spirits, then they are greatly elevated. But if the winds blow and the waves beat high, then they suppose that they are not the Lord’s people. Ah, miserable state of suspense! To live by feeling is a dying life. You do not know where you are or what you are if your feelings are to be the barometer of your spiritual condition. A simple faith in Christ will enable you to remain calm even when your feelings are the reverse of happy, to remain confident when your emotions are far from ecstatic. If, indeed, we are saved by Jesus Christ, then the foundation of our salvation does not lie within us, but in that crucified Man who now reigns in glory. When He changes, then what changes must happen to us! But since He is the same yesterday, today, and forever, why do we need to be so soon removed from our steadfastness? Believe in Jesus when you cannot find a spark of grace within yourself. Cast yourself as a sinner into the Savior’s arms when you cannot think a good thought or uplift a good desire. Have confident faith in Jesus at all times, for if you believe in Him you are saved and cannot be condemned. However good or bad your state, this shall not affect the question. You believe; therefore, you will be saved.

ILLUSTRATION - If you have ever had the opportunity of teaching water-skiing at camp, you find that one of the biggest problems with the beginning water-skier is that they pull back on the rope because they want to help the boat get them up. There is all the power in the world in the boat to get them out of the water, and yet, they insist on helping instead of depending on the boat to do what it is supposed to do. It is only when the skier learns to be totally dependent upon the boat to do for them what they are not able to do themselves that they begin to experience some success in the art of waterskiing.  Boy that'll preach!!!

TRUE FREEDOM - Devotional from Our Daily Bread

Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? (Galatians 3:3).

An article in our local newspaper told about an inmate in a penitenti­ary who had lived all but sixteen months of his thirty-nine years in various penal institutions. Born in a women's reformatory of a convict mother, he spent the first fourteen years of his life in prison as a ward of the court. When he was released, he committed a succession of crimes. He explained his behavior by saying,

"I don't know how to live on the outside. My home is inside, and I want to stay here for the rest of my life."

This unfortunate man found security in his bondage.

Likewise, adhering to external religious restraints can be easier than serving God in the liberty of the Spirit. This is why some first-century believers in Galatia wanted to live under the Mosaic law, even though in Christ they were no longer bound by it. Apparently they discovered that "freedom" can be frightening.

Many Christians follow a similar pattern. They look for security by placing themselves under a legalistic system that calls for no more than good external behavior. In many instances, the do's and don'ts are merely cultural, not biblical. Although their outward conduct may be honorable, they are actually escaping into a subtle kind of bondage. Obedience to accepted standards has value only when our actions reflect a changed heart and express gratitude to God for His salvation.

We must not hide behind the walls of legalism to avoid the freedom of life on the outside. —M. R. De Haan II (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

Only those who are bound to Christ are truly free.

Galatians 3:4  Did you suffer so many things in vain--if indeed it was in vain?

Greek - tosauta epathete (2PAAI) eike ei ge kai eike  

Amplified: Have you suffered so many things and experienced so much all for nothing (to no purpose)—if it really is to no purpose and in vain? 

Barclay Is the tremendous experience you had all for nothing—if indeed you are going to let it go for nothing? 

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

KJV Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain.

NET  Have you suffered so many things for nothing?– if indeed it was for nothing.

NLT  Have you experienced so much for nothing? Surely it was not in vain, was it?

Wuest  So many things did you suffer in vain? If indeed they really were in vain?

Phillips  Has all your painful experience brought you nowhere? I simply cannot believe it of you! 

YLT so many things did ye suffer in vain! if, indeed, even in vain.

This is Paul's third question which refers to the persecution the new believers had received because of their belief in Jesus.

Wuest comments that here Paul "speaks of the sufferings which the Galatian saints went through as a result of having received the Lord Jesus as Saviour. The only record of any persecutions in the Galatian cities is in Acts 14:2, 5, 19, 22. We are left somewhat in the dark regarding these sufferings, their nature and extent. Paul appeals to the Galatians not to let these sufferings be in vain by turning their backs on grace and putting themselves under the legalistic system of the Judaizers. The construction in the Greek text gives the idea, “If it really be in vain.” It leaves a loophole for doubt in the apostle’s mind that the Galatians really were swinging away from grace to law. It implies an unwillingness on his part to believe this."

Spurgeon on did you suffer so many things - You had to struggle and endure much contention within your own spirit to get upon the ground of faith at all. Are you going to throw all that away? Is all the experience of your past life to go for nothing, and are you now going to begin on a lower and baser platform?

Bartlett - It will minister richly to our stability and fortitude in Christian living if we get the real force of this appeal to the Galatians. In common with many other followers of CHRIST in that first century, the Galatian converts had undoubtedly been called upon to endure persecution of greater or lesser intensity in defense of their new-found faith. But, if Paul contends, addressing the Galatian Christians, this salvation could have become yours through conformity to Judaistic practices, and not by faith entirely apart from works, then you have needlessly gone through great sufferings. Again, granted that you were right and the Judaizers wrong, then, in following their counsel in substituting a gospel of works for the Gospel of grace, all the rewards you have been laying up for yourselves through your sufferings and sacrifices for the SAVIOUR (As described in Mt 5:12-note = "your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you." Ro 8:17-note = "heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him.") will have been forfeited. Pertinent applications to our own experience are not far to seek. Whenever we avoid bearing the cross of ridicule, reproach and persecution for JESUS' sake through temporizing and conformity to popular forms of works-righteousness, we neutralize our past witness and limit our future rewards. Why sell cheap what has cost us dear in the  way of reproach for the name of CHRIST? Furthermore, GOD may even be using the fires of present affliction for the SAVIOUR for the forging of stronger anchors of conviction in days to come. The more we suffer for our faith, the more precious does it become to us, and the less likely shall we be, under future pressure from legalistic quarters to exchange our faith in Christ for any form of works-righteousness.

Suffer (3958)(pascho) describes essentially what happens to a person experience. It means to undergo something; to experience a sensation, to experience an impression from an outside source, to undergo an experience (usually difficult) and normally with the implication of physical or psychological suffering, experiencing something trying, distressing or painful.

Webster (1828) says that to suffer is "To feel or bear what is painful, disagree able or distressing, either to the body or mind. We suffer pain of body; we suffer grief of mind. The criminal suffers punishment; the sinner suffers the pangs of conscience in this life, and is condemned to suffer the wrath of an offended God. We often suffer wrong; we suffer abuse; we suffer injustice… To feel or undergo pain of body or mind; to bear what is inconvenient. We suffer with pain, sickness or sorrow. We suffer with anxiety. We suffer by evils past and by anticipating others to come. We suffer from fear and from disappointed, hopes."

Vain (1500)(eike) means without a cause or legitimate reason, for no purpose, and being without any result.

Vine - through all his argument and expostulation the apostle assumes the genuineness of the Galatians’ faith. So here in this word, spoken aside as it were, he shows that he is unwilling to believe that they had actually turned away, that he hopes they will yet shake themselves free from the trammels of this false teaching,

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

Greek -  o oun epichoregon (PAPMSN) humin to pneuma kai energon (PAPMSN) dunameis en humin ex ergon nomou e' ex akoes pisteos  

Amplified: Then does He Who supplies you with His marvelous [Holy] Spirit and works powerfully and miraculously among you do so on [the grounds of your doing] what the Law demands, or because of your believing in and adhering to and trusting in and relying on the message that you heard? 

Barclay Did He who generously gave you the Spirit, and Who wrought mighty things among you, do so because you produced the deeds the law lays down, or because you heard and believed? 

ESV Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith--

KJV He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?

NET Does God then give you the Spirit and work miracles among you by your doing the works of the law or by your believing what you heard?

NLT I ask you again, does God give you the Holy Spirit and work miracles among you because you obey the law? Of course not! It is because you believe the message you heard about Christ.

Phillips  Does God, who gives you his Spirit and works miracles among you, do these things because you have obeyed the Law or because you have believed the Gospel? Ask yourselves that.

Wuest  Therefore, the One who is constantly supplying the Spirit to you in bountiful measure, and constantly working miracles among you, by means of law works is He doing these things, or by means of the message which proclaims faith?

YLT He, therefore, who is supplying to you the Spirit, and working mighty acts among you -- by works of law or by the hearing of faith is it?

SO THEN (or "therefore") - Paul is continuing the thought from Gal 3:2-3. Wuest explains " In Gal 3:2, Paul is speaking of the initial entrance of the Spirit into the hearts al the Galatians at the moment they placed their faith in the Lord Jesus. In Gal 3:3, he refers to the sanctifying work of the Spirit in the believer’s life. In this verse, the subject of the charismatic manifestations of the Spirit is introduced, namely, the act of the Holy Spirit in enduing certain members of the Galatian churches with special gifts of the Spirit. All these Paul brings to bear upon his contention that the grace way of salvation must be God’s way since it is accompanied by the supernatural ministry of the Holy Spirit."


Provides (supplies) (2023)(epichoregeo from epi = upon + choregeo = supply) means to furnish upon and conveys the picture  of a generous and lavish provision. Epichoregeo means “to defray the expense of providing a chorus at the public feast” while the preposition (epi-) expresses strongly the idea, “to supply abundantly." The present tense indicates that this "lavish supply" of the Holy Spirit (cp Titus 3:6, cp "lavished upon us" in Eph 1:8-note) is a the believer's blessed continual provision. If we refuse to accept this provision, that is our choice. But the only alternative for living the spiritual life is our empty, weak fleshly works, of which Jesus said would amount to absolutely nothing apart from Him (we are "connected" to Him by complete dependence on the supernatural "sap" of the Spirit to bear any fruit of eternal value. Jn 15:5)!

Wuest adds that epichoregeo was "derived from chorus, a chorus, such as was employed in the representation of Greek tragedies. The verb originally meant ‘to bear the expense of a chorus,’ which was done by a person selected by the state, who was obliged to defray all the expense of training and maintenance.” Strachan adds, “It was a duty that prompted to lavishness in execution. Hence choregeo came to mean ‘supplying costs for any purpose,’ a public duty or religious service, with a tending, as here, towards the meaning, ‘providing more than is barely demanded.’ ” Thus, the word means “to supply in copious measure, to provide beyond the need, to supply more than generously.” (Galatians Commentary - Verse by Verse - online)

Even as this picturesque verb meant to richly supply everything an ancient chorus needed so that it might be a grand production, so believers are richly supplied with the Holy Spirit so that our life might be a "grand production" that brings glory to our Father (Mt 5:16).

Who works miracles among you - see some of these miracles in Galatia Acts 14:3, 8–11

Wuest explains why Paul described the Spirit as the one Who works miracles - "The word miracles is from dunamis (word study), used in 1 Cor 12:10 and in 2 Cor 12:12.  In each place, the reference is to the Holy Spirit conferring miracle-working power upon certain members of the early Church. In the view of Paul, it was the same Spirit Who was performing His work of sanctification in the lives of the Galatian saints, who was also bestowing miraculous powers upon them." (Galatians Commentary - Verse by Verse - online)

What were these "miracles"? We cannot know for certain, but we can know He is still at work performing these supernatural acts. Take for example the situation when a wife genuinely, from the heart grants her unfaithful but repentant husband forgiveness. That is a miracle!


Works (1754) (energeo from en = in + érgon = work. ~ "energetic") means to work effectively to cause something to happen. To energize. It is used only of superhuman power. The present tense pictures the "energizing" supernatural work of the Spirit in believers as an ongoing, continual process. In Php 2:13NLT-note Paul writes that "God is working (energeo which is in the present tense = continuously working) in you (Who is this, but the indwelling Spirit, the Gift of God, His "Chief Operating Officer" if  you will!), giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him."

Wuest comments on Paul's use of the present tense - The present tense of the participles (epichoregeo and energeo) informs us that the work of the Holy Spirit in both respects was continually going on in the Galatian churches, even at the time of the inroad of the Judaizers, although His work was being hindered by the act of the Galatians slowly turning away from His ministrations and depending instead upon self effort. The point however is that these Galatians still had the attesting power of the miracles among them, proving that grace and not works was the way of salvation. Yet in spite of all this irrefutable proof, they were forsaking the place of grace to take their stand under law. Over against all this, the Judaizers had nothing as an evidence that their message was from God. (Galatians Commentary - Verse by Verse - online)

Ralph Earle adds that "While there is a crisis moment in which the Holy Spirit comes into the believer's heart, yet there is also a sense in which the Spirit is being supplied richly to us as we walk in the light." (Word Meanings in the NT)

DO IT BY THE WORKS OF THE LAW, OR BY HEARING WITH FAITH? In other words Paul wants to know whether God has given they the Spirit and and the miracles because they had "earned" this by their obedience to the Law or because they had believed the Gospel?

HEARING WITH FAITH: Campbell has "from the hearing that leads to faith." MacArthur has "through saving faith granted when hearing the Gospel." Amplified has "because of your believing in and adhering to and trusting in and relying on the message that you heard?" What had they heard from Paul? The truth of the Gospel of grace.

The point of this question would be "How then, can you be duped by the Judaizers into thinking that He came to you, or will eventually come to you, by works of the Law?” Like the Judaizers, many groups and movements today want to introduce special conditions or requirements that supposedly add blessings to the finished and perfect work of Christ-such as a greater fullness of the Spirit, speaking in tongues, or a more complete salvation. But all such things are forms of works righteousness, adding things that men can do to what Christ has already done and that only He could have done." (MacArthur)


Greek -  kathos Abraam episteusen (3SAAI) to theo kai elogisthe (3SAPI) auto eis dikaiosunen  

Amplified:  Thus Abraham believed in and adhered to and trusted in and relied on God, and it was reckoned and placed to his account and credited as righteousness (as conformity to the divine will in purpose, thought, and action). 

Barclay Was it not with you exactly as it was with Abraham? Abraham trusted God, and it was that which was credited to him as righteousness.

ESV  just as Abraham "believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness"?

KJV  Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.

NET  Just as Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,

NLT  In the same way, "Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith."

Phillips You can go right back to Abraham to see the principle of faith in God. He, we are told, 'believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.' 

Wuest  Just as Abraham believed God, and his act of faith was credited to him, resulting in his righteousness.

YLT according as Abraham did believe God, and it was reckoned to him -- to righteousness;

Abraham's Chronology for Background:

  • Age 75 (Ge 12:4) (Sarai = 65).God told him He would make Abe a father of many nations. 
  • Age 86 (Ge 16:16) Abe went into Hagar producing Ishmael, 
  • Age 99 (Ge 17:1, 17:17) In Ge 12:3 God preached the gospel to Abraham (Gal 3:8), and not only would the Jews find salvation but so would the Gentiles. The seed that God promised was in fact Jesus Christ, [Gal 3:16] 


Note that from Galatians 3:6 to the end of Galatians 4 Paul resorts to the Old Testament to refute the false teaching of the need to keep the works of the law in order to be saved. Paul begins by addressing the question of how was Abraham justified or declared righteous. 

Paul had just stated that God gave them the Holy Spirit because they heard the Gospel and believed the Gospel. The gift from God was the result not of their works but of their faith in the Gospel. In light of the role of faith, Paul immediately illustrates his point with a discussion of Abraham. In so doing he turns to the very Scriptures which the false teachers were using to show the necessity of circumcision! What did the OT really say? Paul quotes from Ge 15:6 putting forth the example of Abraham as proof that the only way of salvation in the Old or New Testament is by grace through faith. Paul will go on in Galatians 3:6-9 to explain that the true children of Abraham are justified in the same way as Abraham was justified, by faith, not works.

Phil Newton - It is a historical fact that some of the biggest battles fought by the church of Jesus Christ were not against the non-religious world, but against those who professed to have a belief in the Lord God, yet denied that salvation comes only through faith.  Augustine fought this battle in the 4th century, as did John Wycliffe in the 14th century.  Luther, Calvin, Tyndale, Latimer all fought against the prevailing and popular belief that God would accept the works of man for righteousness.  A man need not abandon himself to Christ alone.  He could continue to find acceptance with God on the basis of his religious practice, his good works, his participation in the sacraments, his acts of service, his giving.  Just as the Judaizers in Galatia appealed to the Old Testament examples, so have many through the centuries, appealing to the skewed interpretation that God accepts us on the basis of our works.  To this, the Apostle rose in defiance.  He begins his argument that shows "faith has always been the God-required response that brings salvation (Eph. 2:8-9)" [John MacArthur, MacArthur New Testament Commentary, 72].....Paul appealed to Scripture as the foundation of the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.  He wanted the Galatians to understand that his message of faith alone in Christ alone was not some new twist, but rather that it was anchored in the timelessness of the Word of God.  Even the patriarch Abraham was saved by faith! The troubling reality of our own day is that multitudes are abandoning the clear teaching of Scripture concerning the way of salvation.  They embrace the notion that God accepts something other than faith alone in Christ alone. The Scripture still stands with the timeless message of faith in Jesus Christ alone as the way to be justified.  Are your eternal hopes resting in anything other than Jesus Christ and Him crucified?  Then you need to hear the biblical truth of justification through faith in Christ alone. (Galatians 3:6-9 Abraham's True Children)

MacDonald - Paul had demonstrated that God’s dealings with the Galatians were entirely on the basis of faith. Now he shows that men were saved in the same way even in OT times. The question in verse 5 was: “Does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” The answer was: “By the hearing of faith.” With that answer in mind, verse 6 opens, just as Abraham.… He was justified in the same way—by the hearing of faith.

At age 86 Abe went into Hagar producing Ishmael, the product of the flesh not of the promise--and the flesh can never please God!!! So God appears to Abe whose body was as good as dead and He tells Abe that He is Abe's El Shaddai and ''I will establish My covenant. I am your all sufficient One. Quit seeking other ways. Rest in Me. Trust Me.'' Where do you run when you need help? You run to the rock that is higher than you and you find your strength in El Shaddai.

Note that Paul quotes the Septuagint (rather than the Hebrew) version of Genesis 15:6. It is also notable that this verse represents the first Biblical uses of 3 important words - believe, reckon and righteousness. 

As Paul repeatedly stresses, the doctrine of justification by faith in Christ, accompanied by the corollary truth of having Christ's perfect righteousness (1 Co 1:30, Ro 3:21, 2 Co 5:21 Php 3:9) imputed to us while He is made sin for us and bears our penalty, is not merely a divine afterthought following the failure of Israel under the law. It was the very means by which Abraham, the patriarchal father of Israel, was saved and which continues to apply today, the New Covenant in His blood being in essence an extension on one hand & a fulfillment on the other of the Abrahamic Covenant.

Wuest explains that "The occasion for his argument is found in the fact that the Judaizers taught that the natural descendants of Abraham were his children, and thus accepted with God. All of which meant that only the circumcised could be saved. Thus, circumcision was a prerequisite of salvation. This teaching was based on a misapprehension of Genesis 12 and 17. They argued that no one could participate in the blessings of God’s covenant with Abraham, and so in the Messianic salvation which was inseparably connected with it, unless he was circumcised. The mistake they made was in failing to distinguish between the purely Jewish and national covenant God made with Abraham, which had to do with the earthly ministry and destiny of the Chosen People as a channel which God would use in bringing salvation to the earth, and that salvation which came through a descendant of Abraham, the Messiah. Circumcision was God’s mark of separation upon the Jew, isolating him in the midst of the Gentile nations, in order that He might use the nation Israel for His own purposes. It had nothing to do with the acceptance of salvation by the Jew. Over against this contention, Paul argues that Abraham was justified by faith, not by circumcision. In Romans 4:9, 10, he proves his case conclusively when he shows that Abraham was declared righteous before he was circumcised, which demonstrates that his circumcision had nothing to do with his acceptance of salvation." (Galatians Commentary - Verse by Verse - online)

Vine on Abraham believed God - he accounted that God was able to fulfill His promise, and this he did, not ignoring the natural impossibility, but looking it squarely in the face; see Romans 4:19.

Bartlett - "Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." (Read Genesis 12:1-3; 13:14-18; 15:1-21; cf. Genesis 15:6 with Romans 4:3; Galatians 3:6; James 2:23. Memorize Galatians 3:6). When it is said that Abraham believed GOD, what is meant is his personal trust in GOD, his acceptance of God’s Word absolutely, simply because it was His Word. This famous verse (3:6) was first recorded in the chapter which tells of God’s covenant with Abraham. The patriarch believed that GOD would give him the promised son, through whom the nation should come which would give to the world the promised Redeemer. Such belief implied confidence in the faithfulness and ability of GOD to keep His promises, and so it was faith in the fullest sense. It is to be noted, however, that faith is the condition, not the ground, of acceptance with GOD. It is simply the hand that seizes the life preserver thrown to a drowning man. It is the channel through which flows the grace that transforms deserts into gardens. It is reckoned as righteousness because it alone makes a man the recipient of the one and only kind of righteousness that GOD can value as such. In no other way than through faith in JESUS is it possible for the sinner to acquire the righteousness that GOD requires. Many a man is destined to be cruelly and eternally disillusioned when he  appears at the judgment bar of GOD laden with the worthless stock of his own self-righteousness.

Newton points out what was most likely the erroneous reasoning of the Judaizers in trying to convince others that salvation was attained by faith plus works. Newton suggests (and I agree) that the Judaizers "spoke of the 'righteous Abraham' and made the deduction that he became righteous due to his circumcision and his strict observance to the Law.  With convincing argument they applied this to the modern need for "works" in order to be justified. But they neglected making a right interpretation.  For Abraham was declared righteous because of his faith in the promise of God ten years before God commanded him to be circumcised!  And his obedience to God came about without a codified Law which did not come until over 400 years later! Paul gives his argument for justification through faith by looking at the Galatian believer's experience in Galatians 3:1-5.  Now he draws a conclusion in Gal 3:6: "Even so Abraham BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS."  Paul is drawing a conclusion between Abraham's justification and those in the present when he uses the phrase "even so" (Greek kathos).  It is often translated "just as," so that the inference he implies is that there was no difference in how Abraham was justified and how you are justified.  He appeals to Genesis 15:6, quoting the text to show that before Abraham's circumcision (Gen. 17:9-14), Abraham's faith in the promise of God to him was accounted to him as righteousness.  God did not accept Abraham because of anything which he did or any work that he attempted.  He simply believed God and God accounted him as righteous before Him. (Galatians 3:6-9 Abraham's True Children)

Abraham believed God - The NT quotes Ge 15:6 three times - Gal 3:6, Romans and James. This is one of the clearest statements in all Scripture about justification (cp Ro 3:24). Abraham "trusted" God, and this, rather than his works, was the ground upon which he was accorded "righteousness."  The Hebrew word translated believed means “to say amen.” God gave a promise, and Abraham responded with “Amen!” It was this faith that was counted for righteousness. Like Paul, who wrote this epistle to Rome, Abraham was sovereignly and directly chosen by God. Neither Abraham nor Paul was searching for God when they were divinely called and commissioned. Abraham had probably never heard of the true God, whereas Paul knew a great deal about Him. Abraham was seemingly content with his idolatrous paganism, and Paul was content with his traditional, but false, Judaism. When God called Abraham, or Abram, which was his original name, He gave no reason for selecting that pagan from the millions of others in the world. Nowhere in Scripture is the reason given. God chose Abraham because that was His divine will, which needs no justification or explanation. Abraham was a man of faith (Ro 1:16 4:18-21 Ga 3:6, 7, 9 Heb 11:8-10). But faith is not a meritorious work. It is never the ground of justification—it is simply the channel through which it is received and it, too, is a gift (Ep 2:8 2 Pe1:1). The one “work” that “earned” Abraham being declared righteous by God was not a work at all, but the non-act (the heart attitude) of trusting God. Wuest adds: "It was the act of Abraham placing himself in such an attitude of trust in and acceptance of God’s blessings that made it possible for God to bestow righteousness upon him. It is like the proffered hand of a drowning man that makes it possible for the life guard to save him. There is nothing meritorious in the act of a drowning man in stretching out his hand in order to be saved. It is the efficient medium through which he is saved. Thus, the act of faith on the sinner’s part is not meritorious but only the efficient medium through which God is able save him. The “it” therefore refers to the outstretched hand of faith of a sinner reaching out for salvation that God grasps in His own to lift him out of the mire of sin and place him upon the Rock, Christ Jesus."

In Romans Paul appeals to the Scriptures  just as in Gal 3:6 -

"For what does the Scripture say? "AND ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS." (Ro 4:3-note,)

Comment: The Scripture is virtually personified (Ro 9:17 Jn 19:37 Jas 4:5) by Paul who puts much validity in what the Scripture says as he knows the Jews prided themselves on having the Scriptures (Ro 2:17-19, 20) It is not important what man says about "the way" but only what God the Author and Perfector of our faith says (see esp Isa 8:20) For the apostle and his readers the Scripture was the final and infallible court of appeal. Rabbis appealed to biblical citations, sometimes prefacing them with, “What does Scripture say?” Jewish teachers often commented on Abraham’s faith as reflected in Ge15:6, which they read as “faithfulness,” one of his works. 

And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “AND ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS,” and he was called the friend of God. (Jas 2:23-note)


As alluded to above, when Abraham believed God it was as it he had said "Amen!" The Hebrew word for Amen (0543) is derived from the verb aman which means to be firm, dependable, durable, steady, stable, sure, established, trustworthy. Aman was used to acknowledge and emphasize what was valid, sure and true, or important and significant and this was the word Moses used (the first use of aman in all of Scripture) when he wrote that Abraham "believed (Hebrew = aman; Lxx = pisteuo) God." (Ge 15:6) By the way, if you have not yet memorized this verse take a moment to jot it down on a card and spend time the next few days memorizing and meditating on the great truths in this passage.

John MacArthur points out that "It was not the greatness of Abraham’s faith that saved him but the greatness of the gracious Lord in whom he placed his faith. Faith is never the basis or the reason for justification, but only the channel through which God works His redeeming grace. Faith is simply a convicted heart reaching out to receive God’s free and unmerited gift of salvation."

Believed (4100)(pisteuo) means to consider something (or Someone = God) to be true and therefore worthy of our total trust. And remember that the Greek verb pisteuo in the context of salvation means more than simple intellectual assent. The respected Greek lexicon author W E Vine defines belief as consisting of

(1) a firm conviction which produces full acknowledgment of God's revelation of Truth - (2Thes 2:11 -"in order that they all may be judged who did not believe [pisteuo] the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.")

(2) a personal surrender to the Truth (Jn 1:12 "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe [pisteuo] in His name") and

(3) a conduct inspired by and consistent with that surrender.

Newton on faith - We must understand that the idea of faith or believing is not simply acknowledging historical facts.  Certainly we must do that.  Primarily it involves the matter of trust or clinging to or depending upon the revelation of God in Christ. What did Abraham believe?  He did not have the full revelation which is ours; nor did he even have an Old Testament canon.  He simply had the promises of God.  "Abraham's faith is seen as a 'readiness to surrender unreservedly to the word of the Lord, regardless of how incredible it seemed'" [Curtis Vaughan quoting Ridderbos, Galatians: A Study Guide Commentary, 62].  With the barest understanding, Abraham heard the word of the Lord related to him personally and to his posterity.  Though he had been reared in a pagan, idolatrous land, he laid aside his idolatrous lifestyle, turning his back upon his pagan heritage (Ed: compare repentance by pagans in 1 Th 1:9-10-note), and trusted in the Lord God Who called him out (Acts 7:2, 3, 4).  When his wife was barren and beyond childbearing age (cp Ge 17:19), he trusted in the promise of God that he would be the father of many nations and that through his seed, all the families of the world would be blessed (Ge 12:3, 18:18, 22:18, 26:4).  Genesis 15:6 expresses the doctrine of justification by faith in its embryonic form:  "Then he believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteous."  Abraham's faith was placed on his account before God as righteousness.  It was not his works but his faith that God accepted.  With the eyes of faith, Abraham rested in the Lord and his promise, so that our Lord could say, "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad" (John 8:56). (Galatians 3:6-9 Abraham's True Children)

While we do not know exactly what Abraham knew when he believed God in Genesis 15:6, we do now that the Gospel had been preached to him (Gal 3:8), so presumably he had some inkling of the Messiah, the Redeemer, the only One Who could save men from their sins. We will have to wait until we meet him face to face in the future to ask him "Abraham, how much of the Messiah and His death, burial and resurrection did you know?"

AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS (Ge 15:6 Ro 4:3,5, 9, 22 James 2:23): Reckoned is a bookkeeping term which means to credit to someone's account. What is "It?" As Vine says "It" refers to "the fact that he believed God; faith, which, though it is not specifically mentioned here, is mentioned at Romans 4:9 ("Is this blessing then upon the circumcised, or upon the uncircumcised also? For we say, “FAITH WAS RECKONED TO ABRAHAM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS.”).

Vine states that "whatever is 'reckoned' to a person cannot have been his originally and naturally."

Newton explains that "Abraham was credited before God as being just or righteous before Him.  Was it because of his circumcision or his works?  The text is clear: that which was not his originally or naturally was credited to him through to faith alone." (Galatians 3:6-9 Abraham's True Children)

As sinners, we have NO righteousness that would be acceptable to God. But God has given His Word of promise. When we respond to Him in faith, against our name in His "account book" He makes an entry that says in effect, ’This person is righteous in My sight!’ Our faith has been credited to us as righteousness. Some might complain that this concept of salvation is too crude. But that same person, if he went to his bank and found that someone had credited his account with the gift of $10 million, wouldn’t complain about “crude.” He’d more likely shout for joy!  In Christ God has credited to us something far more precious than worldly wealth. Our response should be "Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!" (2 Cor 9:15)

Reckoned (3049)(logizomai from lógos = reason, word, account) means to reckon and refers to a process of careful study which results in the arriving at a conclusion. In the present context the sense is to charge or credit to Abraham's spiritual account the righteousness of Christ. Paul speaks extensively about reckoning righteousness to Abraham in Romans 4, especially in Ro 4:3, Ro 4:5, Ro 4:6, Ro 4:9, Ro 4:10, 11, Ro 4:22, 23, 24) 

Wuest on logizomai - The word is used in the papyri as a business term: for instance, “put to one’s account; let my revenues be placed on deposit at the storehouse; reckoning the wine to him at 16 drachmae the monochore; a single artabae being reckoned at 180 myriads of denari; I now give orders generally with regard to all payments actually made or credited to the government.  Thus Abraham believed God, and his act of faith was placed to his account in value as righteousness. He believed God and his act of faith was credited to him for righteousness. He believed God and his act of faith was placed on deposit for him and evaluated as righteousness. He believed God and his act of faith was computed as to its value, and there was placed to his account, righteousness. He believed God, and his act of faith was credited to his account for righteousness. Finally, he believed God, and his act of faith was credited to him, resulting in righteousness. All this does not mean, however, that Abraham’s act of faith was looked upon as a meritorious action deserving of reward. It was not viewed as a good work by God and rewarded by the bestowal of righteousness. That would be salvation by works. But the fact that Abraham cast off all dependence upon good works as a means of finding acceptance with God, and accepted God’s way of bestowing salvation, was answered by God in giving him that salvation. Abraham simply put himself in the place where a righteous God could offer him salvation upon the basis of justice satisfied, and in pure grace. God therefore put righteousness to his account. He evaluated Abraham’s act of faith as that which made it possible for Him to give him salvation.

Newton - The concept of 'reckoning' is known as imputation.  If we can think of this for a moment in terms of a legal accounting term, it may help us grasp its significance in our justification.  Suppose you owed someone $100 trillion.  I think it is safe to assume that none of us can even begin to think in those terms.  Such a debt would be staggering!  It would be impossible for us to pay.  So we must face the consequences of our failure to satisfy this debt.  We could plead with the creditor that we are good people, that we do kind acts of service for others, that we even try to balance our books monthly!  The fact is, we also have another side to us.  We actually hate the creditor and refuse to have any kind of relationship to him.  Still we make our pleas, but the creditor cannot legally accept any of our pleas or actions.  The only thing acceptable would be the satisfaction of the debt:  $100 trillion. But we do not have the resources to pay such a debt.  Nor would the combined efforts of our friends be enough to pay such a debt.  It is a debt which we cannot pay.  But suppose that the creditor,  who had absolutely no obligation to us, pursued a course to satisfy this debt.  He did this without any help on our part.  He did this because of his own great love and purpose.  At an immense cost to himself, he paid our debt!  Out of his own desire, he took his own resources and applied them to our account.  The $100 trillion was not ours, but he treated it as ours.  He credited his resources to our account, so that our debt might be completely satisfied.  That which seemed to be unspeakable and impossible, he did; and we believed him. This illustration does not do justice to all the work of Christ, but hopefully it serves to demonstrateimputation.  That which is not ours, that which did not originate with us, that which is even impossible with us is credited as ours before God's judicial demands, through faith in Jesus Christ.  We are accounted before God as righteous or justified.  The merits of Jesus Christ in His righteous fulfillment of the Law and His vicarious death are applied to our account before God.  Of this Martin Luther could exclaim, "This unspeakable gift therefore excelleth all reason, that God doth account and acknowledge him for righteous, without works, which embraceth His Son by faith alone, who was sent into the world, was born, suffered, and was crucified for us" [Commentary on Galatians, 131]. (Galatians 3:6-9 Abraham's True Children)

Spurgeon - Abraham He was the father of the faithful—that is, of the believing—not of those who trust in their own works. These are only like Ishmael, who must be cast out of the chosen family. But the true children, the real Isaacs, are those who are born according to the promise of grace. (He believed God) That is the old way, the way of faith. It is not here recorded that Abraham did anything, though he did much, but the one thing that was “accounted to him for righteousness” was this: that he “believed God.”He was not saved by his works, but by his faith. His faith was the means of the imputation to him of the righteousness of the Savior who was yet to come. That is the scriptural doctrine: Faith is counted or imputed for righteousness. God counts them righteous who believe in Jesus. He not only absolves you from sin, but He justifies you, accounts you as having kept the law.

Righteousness (1343)(dikaiosune from dikaios = being proper or right in the sense of being fully justified being or in accordance with what God requires) is the quality of being upright. In its simplest sense dikaiosune conveys the idea of conformity to a standard or norm and in Biblical terms the "standard" is God and His perfect, holy character. Dikaiosune is rightness of character before God and rightness of actions before men. Righteousness of God could be succinctly stated as all that God is, all that He commands, all that He demands, all that He approves, all that He provides through Christ (Click here to read Pastor Ray Pritchard's interesting analysis of righteousness in the Gospel of Matthew).

Wuest Justification is the act of God removing from the sinner his guilt and the penalty incurred by that guilt, and bestowing a positive righteousness, Christ Jesus Himself in whom the believer stands, not only innocent and uncondemned, but actually righteous in point of law for time and for eternity. This is what God did for Abraham when he believed Him. This is what the Judaizers were attempting to merit for themselves by their own good works.  (Galatians Commentary - Verse by Verse )

TODAY IN THE WORD Galatians 3:6-9 
The Book of Virtues, William Bennett's best-seller, kicked off a national trend linking stories and values--or rather, a recognition of the already-existing link between what we value and the stories we tell. The idea is that the best stories show characters and actions that we will want to imitate or ideas that we will want to incorporate in our lives. A story, then--from history, literature or other sources--can act as a moral teacher. 
Mark Twain's story of Huckleberry Finn, for example, forces us to evaluate the morality of Huck's actions as he befriends an escaped slave and helps him--an action his society condemns but which readers have many reasons to find admirable. In the novel, we witness Huck's inner moral wrestlings and choices. The way we understand and respond to Huck's struggles tells a lot about our own moral character and choices.

In his attempt to prove the doctrine of justification by faith, Paul appealed to the story of Abraham. Jews or Judaizers would have had high regard for Abraham. In fact, the Judaizers were urging the Galatians to be circumcised as Abraham had been. Paul appealed to them on the basis of the fact that the children of Abraham were not under law but under promise. 

Abraham's faith (v. 6) was anchored in the person of God and His promises. Abraham committed himself totally and unreservedly to his God. Righteousness was not inherently his but was given to him by God on the basis of faith; works were not involved in obtaining justification. This lesson would not have been lost on the Galatian Judaizers. 

APPLY THE WORDSince Paul uses Abraham to illustrate his points both here and later in Galatians 3, this might be a good time for you to refresh yourself or your family on the history of Abraham and Sarah.

Galatians 3:6-14. THE ROYAL AIR John Henry Jowett

EMERSON says somewhere that he has noticed that men whose duties are performed beneath great domes acquire a stately and appropriate manner. The vergers in our great cathedrals have a dignified stride. It is not otherwise with men who consciously live under the power of vast relationships. Princes of royal blood have a certain great “air” about them. The consciousness of noble kinships has an expansive influence upon the soul. The Jews felt its influence when they called to mind “our Father Abraham.”

So is it with men and women of glorious kinships in the realm of faith. Their souls expand in the vast and exalted relations. “The children of faith” have vital communion with all the spiritual princes and princesses of countless years. They have blood-relationship with the patriarchs, and psalmists, and prophets, and they dwell “in heavenly places” with Paul, and Augustine, and Luther, and Wesley.

Surely, such exalted kinship should influence our very stride, and set its mark upon our “daily walk and conversation.” It ought to make us so big that we can never speak a mean word, or do a petty and peevish thing.

Galatians 3:7  Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham.

Greek -    Ginoskete (2PAI) ara hoti oi ek pisteos outoi huioi eisin (3PPAI) Abraam  

Amplified:  Know and understand that it is [really] the people [who live] by faith who are [the true] sons of Abraham. 

Barclay So you must realize that it is those who make the venture of faith who are the sons of Abraham. 

ESV  Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham.

KJV  Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.

NET  so then, understand that those who believe are the sons of Abraham.

NLT  The real children of Abraham, then, are those who put their faith in God.

Phillips Can you not see, then, that all those who "believe God" are the real "sons of Abraham"? 

Wuest  You perceive, therefore, that those who are of faith, these are sons of Abraham.

YLT  know ye, then, that those of faith -- these are sons of Abraham,

THEREFORE - term of conclusion - Based on what he has just quoted from Genesis 15:6 (that Abraham in essence was justified by faith), the conclusion is that those who believe are spiritual children of Abraham the father of faith so to speak. Wuest adds "The argument is, “Since faith was the way Abraham was justified, it follows that those who exercise like faith, are his true followers.”"

Be sure (1097)(ginosko) means to acquire information through some modality, as through sense perception (e.g., reading Paul's words in this epistle!). In addition ginosko involves experiential knowledge, not merely the accumulation of known facts.

Note some interpret be sure as in the imperative mood, a command to know or realize. And so Vine explains that the Judaizers "had been persuading the Galatians that only by circumcision could they become “sons of Abraham”; but now the apostle shows that because of his faith, not because he had been circumcised, Abraham was accepted by God, entered into covenant relation with Him and received all his privileges and blessings, and this he impresses upon them by the imperative “know ye.”"

THOSE WHO ARE OF FAITH - This is a description of those who had believed unto salvation, whether Jew or Gentile.

Campbell - Striking a tremendous blow at the Judaizers, Paul linked the past with the present and declared that just as Abraham was saved by faith so were those who now claimed to be his children (huioi; lit., “sons”). Abraham and his spiritual descendants, both Jews and Gentiles, have all been declared righteous by faith. (Bible Knowledge Commentary)

Those...of faith (ek pisteos) is literally "out of faith."  The pronoun "those" is emphatic (as in Ro 8:14 = "these are...") Vine says "those, be they Jews or Gentiles, who seek justification not by works but by faith, those whose spiritual life is derived from, and whose spiritual character is formed by, faith. Such, of course, acknowledge that they are without resources in themselves, and that they depend solely upon God. To them faith is not a merit by which they might be commended to God, it is the expression of realized need, and of submission to, and dependence upon, God for its supply. "

Spurgeon on those who are of faith - Those who are justified by faith in Jesus, those whose faith is counted for righteousness, they are the children of believing Abraham—not those who are under the law of Moses, not those who trust in works and boasters in circumcision. These, even among the Jews, are but His children by the power of nature, to whom no more belongs than to Ishmael. Abraham was the father of the faithful, or believing. In his grandest aspect he is not the sire of a rebellious nation, but of the believing seed. Abraham is the father of the believers, and believers are all the children of Abraham.

Faith (4102) (pistis) means trust or confidence and in the active sense equates with belief. As pistis relates to God, it is the conviction that God exists and is the Creator and Ruler of all things well as the Provider and Bestower of eternal salvation through Christ. As faith relates to Christ it represents a strong and welcome conviction or belief that Jesus is the Messiah, through Whom we obtain eternal salvation and entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven. Stated another way, eternal salvation comes only through belief in Jesus Christ and no other way.

Wuest points out that "The phrase “sons of Abraham,” is not to be understood in a genealogical sense but rather in the ethical sense of the term. Abraham was accepted by God on the basis of faith, and God deals with all men on the same moral basis. God is no respecter of persons. Thus the faith exercised by Abraham is declared to be the fundamental condition of acceptance with God. 

Spurgeon on sons of Abraham - Race has nothing to do with this matter; an end has been put to all that. God is not the God of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles. Here is a new race whose distinction is not that they were born of blood, or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man, but by the will of God. This is the token by which they are known: They believe God, and it is accounted to them for righteousness—even as it was accounted to Abraham.

ARE SONS OF ABRAHAM: Abraham's true children in the spiritual sphere are not those who are his natural offspring (by blood) or those who assiduously adhered to the law but are those who simply believe. Paul sounded a similar warning to "religious" Jews declaring...

For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly; neither is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God. (Ro 2:28, 29-note).

The Jews thought they were children of Abraham but Jesus gave them a rude awakening in John 8:38-47):

“I speak the things which I have seen with My Father; therefore you also do the things which you heard from your father.” 39 They answered and said to Him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus *said to them, “If you are Abraham’s children, do the deeds of Abraham (Comment - He is not telling them that deeds save, but is saying that if they obeyed God as Abraham did, their obedience would show they had believed like Abraham. The one thing Abraham did was to believe God! The fruit was personal righteousness before God and performance of righteous deeds. W E Vine adds "The words of the Lord recorded in John 6:29 are also to the point here; the only “work” that God recognizes is a right attitude of heart toward His Son, and whatever proceeds therefrom."). 40 “But as it is, you are seeking to kill Me, a man who has told you the truth, which I heard from God; this Abraham did not do. 41 “You are doing the deeds of your father.” They said to Him, “We were not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God.” 42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me; for I proceeded forth and have come from God, for I have not even come on My own initiative, but He sent Me. 43 “Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear My word. 44 “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father (Comment: The "fruit" of your life points to the "root!"). He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature; for he is a liar, and the father of lies. 45 “But because I speak the truth, you do not believe Me (Comment: A striking contrast with Abraham). 46 “Which one of you convicts Me of sin? If I speak truth, why do you not believe Me? 47“He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God.”  (Comment: You are not God's children!)

As an aside another truth illustrated by this exchange between Jesus and the Jews is that when you are deceived, you don't know it!

Galatians 3:8  The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, "ALL THE NATIONS WILL BE BLESSED IN YOU."

Greek - proidousa de e grae hoti ek pisteos dikaioi (3SPAI) ta ethne o theos proeueggelisato (3SAMI)  to Abraam hoti eneulogethesontai (3PFPI) en soi panta ta ethne  

Amplified:  And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify (declare righteous, put in right standing with Himself) the Gentiles in consequence of faith, proclaimed the Gospel [foretelling the glad tidings of a Savior long beforehand] to Abraham in the promise, saying, In you shall all the nations [of the earth] be blessed. 

Barclay Scripture foresaw that it would be by faith that God would bring the Gentiles into a right relationship with himself, and told the good news to Abraham before it happened—in you shall all nations be blessed. 

ESV And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, "In you shall all the nations be blessed."

KJV  And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed.

NET  And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, proclaimed the gospel to Abraham ahead of time, saying, "All the nations will be blessed in you."

NLT  What's more, the Scriptures looked forward to this time when God would declare the Gentiles to be righteous because of their faith. God proclaimed this good news to Abraham long ago when he said, "All nations will be blessed through you."

Phillips The scripture foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles "by faith", really proclaimed the Gospel centuries ago in the words spoken to Abraham, 'In you all the nations shall be blessed.' 

Wuest  And the scripture, forseeing that on a basis of faith God justifies the Gentiles, announced the good news beforehand to Abraham, namely, All the Gentiles shall be blessed in you.

YLT  and the Writing having foreseen that by faith God doth declare righteous the nations did proclaim before the good news to Abraham --


Wuest - This verse contains Paul’s answer to the false assumption of the Judaizers that inasmuch as it is in Abraham that all nations were to be blessed, they would have to be incorporated in his descendants by the rite of circumcision. By the use of the word and, from de (1161), Paul asserts that the blessing of Abraham, namely, the one he received from God, justification, was received by him through faith, and that it is through the exercise of a like faith that the Gentiles become his spiritual children, and not through submission to circumcision.  (Galatians Commentary - Verse by Verse )

AND THE SCRIPTURE (Gal 3:22 4:30 Jn 7:38,42 19:37 Ro 1:2 4:3 9:17 10:11 11:12 1 Ti 5:18): The Scripture is personified (personification is a figure of speech in which inanimate things are credited with the qualities and powers of human beings) is as a preacher (in Ro 4:3-note as a witness taking the stand). This is a figure of speech expressing the thought that God’s divine foresight is expressed in the Scriptures. The Jews had the formula, “What did the Scripture foresee?” Personifying the Scriptures was a common Jewish figure of speech. Because Scripture is God’s Word, when it speaks, God speaks. This should cause us all to fall on our face in wonder and awe and thanksgiving -- what a privilege we have to hear directly from the Living God through His living Word! Then why do we see such a proliferation of Christian books, especially fiction and pop psychology? Where are the biographies of the great men and women of faith who make up a modern day "great cloud of witnesses"?

The Scripture (1124)(graphe from grapho = to write; English = graphite - the lead in a pencil!) means first a writing or thing written, a document. The majority of the NT uses refer to the Old Testament writings, in a general sense of the whole collection when the plural is used (= Scriptures - Mt. 21:42; 22:29; 26:54; Mk. 12:24; 14:49; Lk. 24:27, 32, 45; Jn. 5:39; Acts 17:2, 11; 18:24, 28; Ro 15:4; 2Pe 3:16). Here in Gal 3:8 graphe is in the singular which always refers to a particular passage and is used in such a way that quoting Scripture is understood to be the same as quoting God! So here "The Scripture" is Paul's appeal to the Word of God and ultimately the God of that Word!

Campbell observes that "It should not be overlooked that Paul referred to Scripture speaking as though God were speaking, so it can rightly be affirmed that what the Bible says, God says. This and similar verses (e.g., John 10:35b; 2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20–21) provide important support for believing in the absolute and total inspiration and authority of Scripture." (Ibid)

Vine on personification of Scripture - The New Testament writers, like the Jews generally, John 7:42, not infrequently personify the Scriptures, representing them as saying the things recorded in them; see John 19:37; Romans 4:3; James 4:5, e.g., and cp. Romans 9:17, where the message sent by God to Pharaoh through Moses, and recorded by him in Exodus 9:16, is quoted as what “the Scripture saith unto Pharaoh.” In the present passage Scripture is credited with more pronouncedly sentient qualities, “foreseeing,” and with active powers, “preached.” Cp. also Gal 3:22, “The Scripture hath shut up all things under sin.” “In such cases hē graphe stands obviously for the Author of the Scriptures—God, by Whose inspiration they were written” (Ellicott). That this is the case is plain from the obvious fact that the book of Genesis, in which “the Scripture” referred to is found, was written by Moses more than four centuries after the words were spoken. Cp. Mt 11:13, “the law prophesied”.


FORESEEING THAT GOD WOULD JUSTIFY THE GENTILES BY FAITH: The Gentiles were justified the same way as Abraham, by faith.

Wuest - Paul attributes foresight to scripture. This is a figure of speech expressing the thought that God’s divine foresight is expressed in the scriptures. The Jews had the formula, “What did the scripture foresee?”

The Scriptures referred to is Genesis 12:3  and Genesis 18:18 (compare also Ge 22:18):

And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” 

since Abraham will surely become a great and mighty nation, and in him all the nations of the earth will be blessed?

Foreseeing (4275) (proeido from pró = before + eído = to see, perceive, know) means to  see ahead of oneself, see afar off as in Lxx us Ge 37:18 ("When they saw him from a distance and before he came close to them") In the NT the idea is to foresee or to know beforehand.

The only other NT use is by Luke in Acts 2:31 of David's Spirit inspired prophetic vision of Christ as recorded in Psalm 16 - "he (David) looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that HE WAS NEITHER ABANDONED TO HADES, NOR DID His flesh SUFFER DECAY."

Proeido is also used 3 times in the Septuagint - Gen 37:18, Ps 16:8,  Ps 139:3 

Vine comments that "“What does the Scripture see?” seems to have been a common formula among the rabbis."

Would justify  (1344)(dikaioo) means that the Gentile believers are viewed in Christ as righteous, and is treated as such by God. The present tense could be paraphrased "forseeing that God is justifying the Gentiles." Vine explains that the "present tense is used because this is the sole ground upon which God accepts any person at any time, and hence when He came to deal with the Gentiles for their salvation He would take no other."


PREACHED THE GOSPEL BEFOREHAND TO ABRAHAM (“announced good news beforehand”) [Heb 4:2,6]: This verse contains Paul’s answer to the false assumption of the Judaizers that inasmuch as it is in Abraham that all nations were to be blessed, they would have to be incorporated in his descendants by the rite of circumcision. The good news announced to Abraham was that some day the Saviour would arise out of his Seed (Gal 3:16) and that the Gentiles ("all nations") would be saved by faith through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, even as was Abraham. Thus, Abraham rejoiced to see the coming of that day (Jn 8:56). 

Spurgeon - The apostle tells us that the gospel was preached to Abraham. The true gospel is no new thing; it is as old as the hills. It was heard in Eden before man was driven from the garden, and it has since been repeated in sundry ways and in diverse places, even to this day. Oh, that its very antiquity would lead men to venerate it, and then to listen to its voice! It is “gospel,” or good news—the best of news for fallen men. Oh, that they would receive it with gladness!

Wuest - The good news announced to Abraham was that some day the Saviour would arise out of his nation Israel, and that the Gentiles would be saved through Him as Abraham was saved. Thus, Abraham rejoiced to see the coming of that day (John 8:56). Abraham was therefore to become the pattern to all who would follow, of how a sinner, Jew or Gentile, must appropriate salvation.  (Galatians Commentary - Verse by Verse )

Preached the Gospel beforehand (4283) (proeuaggelizomai from pro = before +  euaggelizo/euangelizo = preach the Gospel) proclaim the gospel before is a verb found only in Gal 3:8. The aorist tense indicates that a point in time in the past God preached the Gospel to Abraham and the middle voice signifies "He Himself preached it."

It is interesting that Genesis 3:15-note is often referred by a related term protevangelium which  Derek Kidner describes as "the first glimmer of the gospel." Several of the early Church fathers, such as Justin Martyr (160 AD) and Irenaeus (180 AD) regarded Genesis 3:15 "as the Protoevangelium, the first Messianic prophecy in the Old Testament."

SAYING ALL THE NATIONS SHALL BE BLESSED IN YOU (Gal 3:16 Ge 12:3 18:18 22:18 26:4 28:14 49:10 Ps 72:7 Isa 65:9 Rev 11:15): Paul combines 2 OT passages from the Septuagint, putting "all the nations" (panta ta ethne) in (Ge 18:18)  for "all the tribes" (pasai hai phulai) in Genesis 12:3. Through the exercise of a like faith (cp faith of the Jew Peter in 2 Pe 1:1-note) the Gentiles become Abraham's spiritual children, and not  by submitting to circumcision of the flesh but by surrendering to "circumcision of the heart" (See excursus).

Lxx of Ge 12:3: eneulogethesontai (3PFPI) en soi pasai ai phulai tes ges 

Lxx of Ge 18:18  kai eneulogethesontai (3SFPI) en auto panta ta ethne tes ges

Putting Ge 12:3-note and Ge 17:10 together, the Judaizers argued, “Isn’t it obvious that if the rest of the world, that is, Gentiles, are to share in the promised blessings to Abraham, they must first take on the sign that marks God’s people, the sign of circumcision? If all the nations of the earth will be blessed in Abraham, they will have to become like Abraham and be circumcised.”    

Spurgeon on in you - That is, “In you, because you are the father of believers. You are a sort of head and prototype of men who believe in me. So, ‘In you all the nations will be blessed.’ And in your seed, too, as you will be the father of the Christ, all nations will be blessed.”


W E Vine explains that "When this declaration of the purpose of God to bless mankind was first made in the form of a promise to Abraham the human race had but recently begun to be divided into separate groups, tribal and national, and the nation Israel had as yet no existence. The developments among men described in Genesis 11:1–9 were part of the purpose of God, see Deuteronomy 32:8; along these lines He had designed that the world should be prepared for the coming of His Son, and for its own salvation. To Abraham God imparted a knowledge of His purpose, and, indeed, of the Agent in its accomplishment, John 8:56. When, at length, the nation Israel was brought into being, it became possible for Him to reveal His mind to them with increasing definiteness. To Israel were the promises given, and to them were committed “the oracles of God,” in which the promises were enshrined, Romans 3:2. But that “all nations,” and not Israel only, were in the mind of God for salvation is plain from each section of the Scriptures, the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms, as Paul shows in the epistle to the Romans; see Ro 9:25–27; 10:18–21; 15:9–12." (Collected Writings)

Blessed  - How? Spurgeon answers "Just as Abraham was blessed, so are the nations to be blessed, that is, by faith. By faith, they become his spiritual seed; by faith, they enter into his covenant; by faith, they receive the blessings of grace."

Blessed in (1757)(eneulogeo from en = in + eulogeo = to bless) means to bless in or through someone. This verb is used in Acts 3:25 but not in most accurate texts so that Gal 3:8 is the only definite NT use. There are seven uses of eneulogeo in the Septuagint - Gen. 12:3; 18:18; 22:18; 26:4; 28:14; 1 Sam. 2:29; Ps. 10:3; Acts 3:25; Gal. 3:8

In C.I. Scofield's study notes he makes a statement that by itself might leave one with the impression that OT saints were saved by keeping the law. Here is his note on Luke 2:25

The righteous or just man is so called because he is right with God; and he is right with God BECAUSE he has observed "all the Lord's commandments and regulations blamelessly" (Luke 1:6; cp. Ro 10:5; Phil 3:6). (Ed comment - That statement is very misleading and might suggest salvation in the OT is works based. The following context helps clarify and this is why he IS RIGHT WITH GOD, NOT BECAUSE he observed all the commandments, etc. In Luke 1:6 they were "right" because of justification by faith and thus they were able to walk blamelessly. Their blameless walking did not make them righteous!). The O.T. righteous man was not sinless (Eccl 7:20) but one who, for his sins, trusted the coming Messiah and offered in faith the required sacrifice (e.g. Lev 4:27-35).

Scofield’s best-known student was Lewis Sperry Chafer, co-founder of Dallas Theological Seminary. Chafer, a prolific author, wrote dispensationalism’s first unabridged systematic theology. Chafer’s system became the standard for several generations of dispensationalists trained at Dallas. Yet Chafer wrote a misleading editorial entitled "Justification" in the April, 1946 (Volume 103) issue of Bibliotheca Sacra which is quoted in part: 

"A distinction must be observed between JUST men of the Old Testament and the JUSTIFIED according to the New Testament. According to the Old Testament, men were JUST because they were true and faithful in keeping the Mosaic law. Micah defines such a life after this manner: "He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?" (Micah 6:8). Men were therefore just because of their own works for God, whereas New Testament justification is God's work for man in answer to faith (Ro 5:1)"

Can you see how this statement by one of evangelicalism's leading voices in the first half of the 20th century might lead to some confustion and suggest God saved men in the OT by a different mode than He saved men in the NT? In fairness to Dr. Chafer I do not believe from the remainder of this editorial or his other writings that he really believed a man was truly justified except by faith apart from works for he goes on to say "JUSTIFICATION is the declaration by God respecting the Christian that he has been made forever right and acceptable to God….A RIGHTEOUSNESS from God is received and possessed on a FAITH principle in answer to FAITH in Christ Jesus, and it reaches unto and comes down upon all who BELIEVE. "Being justified freely"-NOT HOPING TO BE JUSTIFIED BY REASON OF A GOOD MANNER OF LIFE." 

My intent is not to be critical of Dr. Chafer but simply to illustrate how such a statement as quoted could possibly be misinterpreted, especially if it were lifted out of context. 

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

Greek - hoste oi ek pisteos eulogountai (3PPMI) sun to pisto Abraam  

Amplified:  So then, those who are people of faith are blessed and made happy and favored by God [as partners in fellowship] with the believing and trusting Abraham. 

Barclay So, then, it is those who make that same venture of faith who are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

ESV  So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

KJV  So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.

NET  So then those who believe are blessed along with Abraham the believer.

NLT So all who put their faith in Christ share the same blessing Abraham received because of his faith.

Phillips All men of faith share the blessing of Abraham who "believed God".

Wuest  So that those who are believing ones are being blessed in company with believing Abraham.

YLT  'Blessed in thee shall be all the nations;' so that those of faith are blessed with the faithful Abraham,

SO THEN - Paul is drawing a conclusion. See discussion of the value of learning pause and ponder by interrogating with the 5W/H questions the terms of conclusion such as therefore, consequently, so then

Campbell - The apostle concluded this phase of his argument by stating that though provision was made for “all nations” (Gal 3:8), only those who have faith receive the blessing of justification. Thus Paul drew a distinction between God’s provision and human appropriation.

Wuest - This is a definite statement of the proposition which Paul wishes to prove. The emphasis is upon the fact that the believing ones       are blessed with salvation, rather than those who depend upon good works as the Judaizers did.  (Galatians Commentary - Verse by Verse )

Who are of the faith - This emphasizes that the way of salvation for Jews and Gentiles is the same way it was for Abraham, by faith not by works of the law (or circumcision). Paul made this same point in Romans 4:11 writing that Abraham "received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all who believe (cp all who are of the faith, Gal 3:9) without being circumcised, that righteousness might be reckoned to them." In other words, the order was (1) salvation by faith (2) receipt of the sign of circumcision.

Are blessed (2127)(eulogeo from eu = good + lógos = word; see cognates eulogetos and eulogia) means speak good or well. When eulogeo is used by men toward men it means to speak well of with praise and thanksgiving (English "Eulogy" = an address in praise for one deceased ). To say good or positive things. Eulogeo can be from men to God, from men to men, and from God to men. When God blesses men He grants them favor and confers happiness upon them.

Eulogeo is in the present tense (continually blessed) and the passive voice (the active blessing comes from an external source, i.e., God = so-called "divine passive").  In Greek, the divine passive occurs when an action is done by an unmentioned force, but in context is clearly God as in the present passage.

Phil Newton - In verse nine we again see one of the Apostle's conclusions of his argument from Scripture concerning justification by faith alone....What does it mean to be "blessed with Abraham, the believer"?  Paul is using this to address one subject.  He is not speaking of all the tangible, material blessings which belonged to Abraham.  Certainly, God blessed him enormously with great wealth, power, and prominence.  But that is not the issue of this text nor its Old Testament context.  Here the whole matter is righteousness before God, which means to be justified before God.  For justification is the legal declaration of righteousness for the sinner.  To be blessed with Abraham is synonymous with being justified or declared righteous with him before God. The great concern of the Apostle was how a sinner might be declared righteous before a thrice holy God.  Everything else is non-essential in comparison to our need for righteousness before God.  All eternity is at stake with this matter.  Our whole existence hangs in the balance over the subject of justification.  By the conclusive phrase, "So then," Paul is reminding us that there is no doubt that only those who are of faith are justified even as Abraham was justified.  (Galatians 3:6-9 Abraham's True Children)

Abraham, the believer - Literally "the believer Abraham." Other versions translate it "Abraham, the man of faith." 

The believer (the faithful)(4103)(pistos from peitho = to persuade - induce one by words to believe, have confidence) is someone who is worthy of faith or keeps promises and is applied to God, humans, His Word, etc Pistos means dependable (worthy of reliance or trust), trustworthy, steadfast, unswerving.  

Webster says that "Faithful" means firm in adherence to whatever one owes allegiance and implies unswerving adherence to a person or thing or to the oath or promise by which a tie was contracted.

Vincent summarizes of the meaning of pistos

(1), of one who shows Himself faithful in the discharge of a duty or the administration of a trust (Mt 24:45). Hence, trustworthy (2Ti 2:2). Of things that can be relied upon (2Ti 2:11). 

(2), Confiding; trusting; a believer (Gal 3:9; Acts16:1; 2Cor 6:15; 1Ti 5:16)" (Word Studies in the New Testament) In Gal 3:9 refers to "Abraham, the believer" the faithful one. 

Galatians 3:10  For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, "CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO DOES NOT ABIDE BY ALL THINGS WRITTEN IN THE BOOK OF THE LAW, TO PERFORM THEM."

Greek - hosoi gar ex ergon nomou eisin (3PPAI) hupo kataran eisin gegraptai (3SRPI) gar hoti epikataratos pas os ouk emmenei (3SPAI) pasin tois gegrammenois (RPP) en to biblio tou nomou tou poiesai (AAN) auta  

Amplified: And all who depend on the Law [who are seeking to be justified by obedience to the Law of rituals] are under a curse and doomed to disappointment and destruction, for it is written in the Scriptures, Cursed (accursed, devoted to destruction, doomed to eternal punishment) be everyone who does not continue to abide (live and remain) by all the precepts and commands written in the Book of the Law and to practice them. 

ESV For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, "Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them."

KJV  For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.

NET For all who rely on doing the works of the law are under a curse, because it is written, "Cursed is everyone who does not keep on doing everything written in the book of the law."

NLT  But those who depend on the law to make them right with God are under his curse, for the Scriptures say, "Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all the commands that are written in God's Book of the Law."

Phillips Everyone, however, who is involved in trying to keep the Law's demands falls under a 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.' 

Wuest  For as many as are of the works of the law are under curse, for it stands written, Cursed is every one who is not remaining constantly in all things which stand written in the book of the law in order to do them.

YLT  for as many as are of works of law are under a curse, for it hath been written, 'Cursed is every one who is not remaining in all things that have been written in the Book of the Law -- to do them,'

Wuest summarizes Paul's argument in Galatians 3:10-14 - The Judaizers taught that the law was a means of justification. But Paul shows that the law is a means of condemnation, and that it is the Lord Jesus Who rescues us from its condemnation through the blood of His Cross.  (Galatians Commentary - Verse by Verse )

FOR AS MANY AS ARE OF THE WORKS OF THE LAW: Having shattered the Jews' confidence in their physical relation to Abraham, Paul now shows that the law brings a curse quoting from the Lxx of [Dt 27:26] arguing that man cannot possibly keep all the laws, hence his bondage (Ja 2:10). 

ARE UNDER A CURSE: The Greek pictures someone "under" a load, a load they cannot carry, a load (of sin) which will eventually kill them and carry them to eternal separation from God!

Failure to perfectly keep the law brings divine judgment and condemnation. One violation of the law deserves the curse of God. Cf. Dt 27:1-26, 28. If you want to live under the law, then you are under the consequences of breaking the law. The consequence of breaking the law is to be cursed (Ga 3:13). If you don't abide by all the law written in the book, as James (Jas 2:10) says…if you keep the whole law and break it in one point, then you're guilty of all. If you're guilty of all, you're under the curse. The wages of sin is death (Ro 6:23). When you break God's commandments, you have to die (Ge 2:17, 3:3). He's saying here that if you're under the law, then there's a curse on you, because you've got to keep the whole law. You're not going to be able to do it, because you're a sinner.

Deuteronomy 27:26 ‘Cursed is he who does not confirm the words of this law by doing them.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’

Deuteronomy 11:26-28“See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: 27 the blessing, if you listen to the commandments of the LORD your God, which I am commanding you today; 28 and the curse, if you do not listen to the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn aside from the way which I am commanding you today, by following other gods which you have not known. 

Deuteronomy 29:20 “The LORD shall never be willing to forgive him, but rather the anger of the LORD and His jealousy will burn against that man, and every curse which is written in this book will rest on him, and the LORD will blot out his name from under heaven.

Spurgeon - All that the law can do for sinners is judge them, condemn them, and curse them. All the people in the world who think themselves good, all the mere moralists, all those who, however amiable they may be, however excellent and religious they may be, are trusting to be saved by good works, are all under the curse, as surely as the drunkard, or the liar, or the swearer is under the curse. That is all that Moses (the Law) can say to you, and all that the Old Testament can reveal to you. Apart from faith in Christ, all its rites and ceremonies, all its laws and precepts, if you are resting in them, can only land you under the curse, because you cannot continue in all things that are written in the book of the law to do them. You have not so continued thus far, you will not so continue, and nothing but an absolutely perfect obedience to the law could save a man by the way of works. As that obedience is not possible, we come under the curse if we come under the law. Do not look to Moses to bring you into Canaan; that can only be done by “Joshua,” Jesus.

FOR - Always pause and ponder (interrogate with the 5W/H questions) this term of explanation asking the Spirit to open the words to your understanding. 

Written (1125) (grapho) in the perfect tense indicates the permanence of this writing. The Word has been written at some point of time in the past and STANDS written! And so you can stand firm on the written Word! 

EVERYONE WHO DOES NOT ABIDE BY ALL THINGS WRITTEN IN THE BOOK OF THE LAW TO PERFORM THEM: No one can keep all the commands of the law—not even strict Pharisees like Saul of Tarsus (Ro 7:7-12). That's why Jesus said “For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven." (Mt 5:20-note) Jesus is not implying that someone would be able to surpass the Scribes and Pharisees. As James explains "For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all." Everyone stumbles in at least one point! The scribes and Pharisees were unable to keep the whole law! Thus they too were under the curse of the Law and destined to go to hell when they died.

As Spurgeon says "You may have kept the law in many points, but if you have broken it in one, you are under its curse. If you want to send a message by the telegraphic wire, it may be perfectly sound for one hundred miles, but if it is only broken in one inch—not only that, but if it is simply cut across—you cannot send the message by it. The law roars like a lion upon us in this sentence. If there is in any one of us a solitary violation of the command of God, we are cursed by Him. If we have at any time throughout life, in any measure or degree—in deed, word, or thought, by omission or commission—diverged from absolute perfection, we are cursed. Such is the statement of God Himself, by the mouth of His servant Moses, in Deut 27:26. There is no exception; all sins are included in it, and we are all of us included. God will not take part payment. Holiness is a very different thing from that morality which some men boast of....If we had accomplished obedience for twenty years, yet still, if in the next year we broke the law, we would come under its curse. A thief is not excused because he was honest beforehand, nor a murderer because previously he had not shed blood. A Methuselah would be under the law in his nine hundredth year. The curse still might fall on him, even though up till then he had stood firm.

NOTES ON 7TH DAY ADVENTISM (see also What is Seventh Day Adventism?)

Our concern is to be sure that individual Adventists are confronted with the one true gospel. If an Adventist will admit that Mrs. White was fallible, that no record in heaven could possibly bring a believer into condemnation, and that the works of the Law such as Sab-bath- keeping are not necessary conditions of salvation, then other things being equal, he should be acknowledged as an evangelical . On the other hand, if the Adventist persists in defending Mrs. White’s infallibility, the Investigative Judgment and the Old Testament dietary laws, he chooses for himself the Galatian heresy and places himself under the curse of the Law (Ga 3:10) and of preaching another gospel (Ga1:8-9). In response, to those who believe faith must be demonstrated by obedience to God’s commandments:

1. Stress the biblical teaching that a man is justified by faith in Jesus Christ apart from the deeds of the Law (Ro 3:28; 4:6; Ga 2:16; 3:10-14) .

2. Point out that the Law of Moses [the ceremonial and moral aspects] has been fulfilled in Jesus Christ. By His perfect life He met all the requirements of the moral aspect of the Law; by His death He fulfilled all the ceremonial ordinances which prefigured His incarna-tion and sacrifice (Ro 5:10; Col 2:16-17) .

3. The law or commandment which Christians are called upon to follow is the law of love (e.g. Mt 22:37-40; Ro 13:8-10). To those who believe the Sabbath is binding on the believer, you might point out that:

1. Constantine did not, as Adventists claim, change the day of worship from Saturday to Sunday. He enacted that the first day of the week should be a public holiday, but centuries before Constantine, Christians gathered together for worship on the first day of the week.

a. Reference to worship on the first day of the week can be found in Scripture. See Acts 2:41 20:6-7 1 Co 16:2 Rev 1:10 (Note: both the Didache and Ignatius refer to Sunday as the “Lord’s Day” [“Kuriake”]) . 

b. In addition, references to worship on the first day of the week can be found in the writings of the early church fathers—Ignatius (110 AD); Justin Martyr (100-165 AD); Barnabas (120-150 AD); Irenaeus (178 AD); Bardaisan (154 AD); Tertullian (200 AD); Origen (225 AD); Cyprian (200-258 AD); Peter of Alexandria (300 AD) and Eusebius (315 AD).

2. There is no indication in the New Testament that the observance of the Sabbath was binding on Gentile believers. On the contrary we find such words as these: One man regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Let each man be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord (Ro14:5-6). Therefore let no one act as your judge in regard to . . . a Sabbath day (Col 2:16)

Galatians 3:11  Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, "THE RIGHTEOUS MAN SHALL LIVE BY FAITH."

Greek -  hoti de en nomo oudeis dikaioutai (3SPPI) para to theo delon hoti o dikaios ek pisteos zesetai  (3SFMI)

Amplified:  Now it is evident that no person is justified (declared righteous and brought into right standing with God) through the Law, for the Scripture says, The man in right standing with God [the just, the righteous] shall live by and out of faith and he who through and by faith is declared righteous and in right standing with God shall live. 

KJV  But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.

NET  Now it is clear no one is justified before God by the law, because the righteous one will live by faith.

NLT  So it is clear that no one can be made right with God by trying to keep the law. For the Scriptures say, "It is through faith that a righteous person has life."

Phillips It is made still plainer that no one is justified in God's sight by obeying the Law, for: 'The just shall live by faith.' 

Wuest  But that in a sphere of law no one is being justified in the sight of God is clear, because, The righteous man shall live by means of faith.

YLT  and that in law no one is declared righteous with God, is evident, because 'The righteous by faith shall live;'


Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident - (Gal 2:16 1 Ki 8:46 Job 42:6 Ps 19:12 130:3,4 143:2 Ec 7:20 Isa 6:5 53:6 64:6 Ja 3:2 1 Jn 1:8,10): 

No one (oudeis) is a strong negation meaning not even one, not the least!

Justified (declared righteous before God) (1344)(dikaioo from dike = right, expected behavior or conformity, not according to one’s own standard, but according to an imposed standard with prescribed punishment for nonconformity) (Click for more discussion of dikaioo) primarily means to deem to be right. Dikaioo describes the act by which a man is brought into a right state of relationship to God. Dikaioo is a legal term having to do with the law and the the courtroom, where it represented the legally binding verdict of the judge. This is the sense in which Paul uses dikaioo in this section in Romans (Ro 3:21-5:11) in which he unfolds the doctrine of justification.

Evident (delos) means clear to the understanding, plain, clearly visible. 

For THE RIGHTEOUS MAN SHALL LIVE BY FAITH: The point is that NO ONE except Jesus Christ Himself has lived his entire life by faith...all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Paul’s earlier OT quote (Gal 3:10 Dt 27:26) showed that justification does not come from keeping the law. This quote from Hab 2:4 shows that justification is by faith alone.

Habakkuk 2:4-note   “Behold, as for the proud one, His soul is not right within him; But the righteous will live by his faith. 

Romans 1:17-note  For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.”


Righteous (1342)(dikaios) simply describes being in accordance with what God requires. The righteous man does what he ought. He is the person who conforms to the standard, will or character of God. It is interesting that dikaios was applied to model citizens in the Graeco-Roman world, but even they fell far short of God's standard, because He demands perfect obedience to the Law, something only achieved by Christ and something reckoned to those who put their faith in Him. So when God the Father looks on our account ledger, He sees we are no longer spiritual debtors because His Son has paid the price in full for our sin debts. 

Spurgeon on SHALL LIVE BY FAITH - The apostle quotes from the Old Testament, from Hab 2:4, and thus confirms one inspired statement by another. Even the just are not justified by their own righteousness, but live by faith. It follows then most conclusively that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God. If the best of men find no justification coming to them through their personal virtues, but stand accepted only by faith, how much more such imperfect beings, such frequent sinners as ourselves?

Cross References on Righteous Man - Ge 15:6 Hab 2:4 Ge 6:9 2 Sa 4:11 Ps 5:12 64:10 92:12 Pr 9:9 Pr 12:10 Pr 13:5 Pr 20:7 Pr 24:16 Pr 25:26 Eccl 3:17,  7:15,  7:20 Isa 57:1 Ezek 3:20, 21 18:24, 26 33:12 Mt 1:19, 10:41, Mt 27:19 Luke 23:50 Ro 1:17, 5:7 Gal 3:11 1 Ti 1:9 James 5:6,16 2 Pe 2:8

Genesis 15:6-note  Then he (Abram) believed in the LORD; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness

Genesis 6:9 These are the records of the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time; Noah walked with God.

How was Noah "righteous"? There is only one way -- by faith in God's promises just Abram (ultimately in His promised Seed, the Deliverer, Christ Jesus). While we do not fully understand all of the specifics, Paul tells us that even in the OT, the Gospel was preached to Abraham (Gal 3:8-note). And in Genesis 3:15-note we have the so-called the first form of the Gospel. So even before the flood, there was good news available to sinners for Peter describes "Noah, a preacher of righteousness." (2 Peter 2:5-note).

2 Peter 2:8-note  (for by what he (NOAH) saw and heard that righteous man, while living among them, felt his righteous soul tormented day after day by their lawless deeds),

Galatians 3:12  However, the Law is not of faith; on the contrary, "HE WHO PRACTICES THEM SHALL LIVE BY THEM."

Greek - o de nomos ouk estin (3SPAI) ek pisteos all o poiesas  (AAPMSN) auta zesetai (3SFMI) en autois

Amplified: But the Law does not rest on faith [does not require faith, has nothing to do with faith], for it itself says, He who does them [the things prescribed by the Law] shall live by them [not by faith]. 

ESV But the law is not of faith, rather "The one who does them shall live by them."

KJV  And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them.

NET  But the law is not based on faith, but the one who does the works of the law will live by them.

NLT  This way of faith is very different from the way of law, which says, "It is through obeying the law that a person has life."

Phillips  And the Law is not a matter of faith at all but of doing, as, for example, in the scripture: 'The man who does them shall live by them.'

Wuest   And the law is not of faith; but the one who has done them shall live in them.

YLT  and the law is not by faith, but -- 'The man who did them shall live in them.'

However, the Law is not of faith - The Amplified Version (Click for a helpful explanation which will enrich your use of this version) is very helpful (I often use it as in this passage as a "mini-commentary") - So here in Galatians 3:12 the Amplified translation reads

"But the Law does not rest on faith [does not require faith, has nothing to do with faith]," where the bracketed notes are just that -- notes but not translation per se (Click here for the distinction between words and phrase in brackets [ ], parentheses ( ) and italics in the Amplified Version).

Wuest - The statement, “The law is not of faith” means that the two principles of law and of faith as a means of justification are mutually exclusive of one another. They are diametrically opposed to each other. Then Paul quotes Leviticus 18:5, “The man that doeth them shall live in them.” Light is thrown upon this statement by the apostle in Romans 10:5 where he quotes this same passage from Leviticus, when he says, “Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law.” That means that there is a righteousness that a human being could accrue to himself by a perfect obedience to the law, a thing which a fallen sinful human being cannot do, but which a perfect sinless being could do. But that righteousness would be different from the righteousness which God imputes to the believing sinner. The former would be obtained by works, and would be a human righteousness. The latter is obtained by faith and is a divine righteousness. Under the legal enactments of the Mosaic law, this could be the futile attempt of a sinner to work out under law a righteousness which God could approve. Under grace, it is the act of a believing sinner accepting as a gift, a righteousness which God has approved, even the Lord Jesus Himself.  (Galatians Commentary - Verse by Verse )

Spurgeon explains the Law is not of faith - The very spirit of law is the spirit of works. And as life only comes by faith, it cannot come by the works of the law, for they are not of faith. The law says nothing about faith; it speaks only about doing: “You must carry out my regulations, and you must observe my statutes by following them; I am Yahweh your God. And you shall observe my statutes and my regulations by which the person doing them shall live; I am Yahweh” (Lev 18:4–5). The law demands doing; the gospel enjoins believing. The believing man comes in as an heir of the blessing, but the man who trusts to his own doing is an heir of the curse. We cannot be saved partly by faith and partly by works. The roads are distinct. We must keep the whole law if we would be saved by it. Our only hope is in the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ received by faith.

On the contrary, "HE WHO PRACTICES THEM SHALL LIVE BY THEM." (Quoting Lev 18:5-note): The point is that if you want to be justified before God by the Law then you must live your whole life perfectly...not even one ''oops''! Not one false step! LIVE BY THE LAW...just try to make it through even one day (one hour, one minute!) without an evil thought or motive or desire! Good luck!

Spurgeon on live by them - So that the justified man is not justified by the law, but by faith. He stands before God not in what he does, not even in what the Spirit enables him to do. His own prayers and tears and communings with Christ, his own labors, his earnest and indefatigable attempts to extend the kingdom of Christ—all tell for nothing in the matter of his justification. He hangs them all upon the cross of Christ and relies only upon the cross, looking in no manner whatever to anything that comes of himself.

Note that Paul is quoting the Septuagint (Lxx) translation of Leviticus 18:5 (note) (As an aside you can always discern direct OT quotes in the NAS version because they are placed in ALL CAPITAL letters. The ESV does not have this useful feature).

‘So you shall keep My statutes and My judgments, by which a man may live if he does them; I am the LORD. 

Galatians 3:13  Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us--for it is written, "CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE"--

Greek -  Christos hemas exegorasen  (3SAAI) ek tes kataras tou nomou genomenos (AMPMSN) huper hemon katara hoti gegraptai (3SRPI) epikataratospas o kremamenos (AMPMSN) epi xulou  

Amplified:  Christ purchased our freedom [redeeming us] from the curse (doom) of the Law [and its condemnation] by [Himself] becoming a curse for us, for it is written [in the Scriptures], Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree (is crucified); 

ESV  Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us--for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree"--

KJV Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:

NET  Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us (because it is written, "Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree")

NLT  But Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law. When he was hung on the cross, he took upon himself the curse for our wrongdoing. For it is written in the Scriptures, "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree."

Phillips Now Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the Law's condemnation, by himself becoming a curse for us when he was crucified. For the scripture is plain: 'Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.' 

Wuest   Christ delivered us by the payment of ransom from the curse of the law by becoming a curse in behalf of us, because it stands written, Accursed is everyone who is suspended upon a tree,

YLT  Christ did redeem us from the curse of the law, having become for us a curse, for it hath been written, 'Cursed is every one who is hanging on a tree,'


Christ redeemed us (Ga 4:5): He bought us of (Greek = ek = out) of the slave block (our masters were SIN and SATAN and FEAR OF DEATH Heb 2:14,15)  anf has given us freedom. 
Redeemed  (1805)(exagorazo from ek = out or from. If something is in something else, then ek describes separating it in respect to place, time, source or origin + agorazo = buy, acquire possessions or services in exchange for money with the result that whatever has been bought is the buyer's by right of possession <> from agora = market place where things were exposed for sale, a forum, a place in which the people assemble and where public trials were held) means literally to buy out of (the preposition "ek" = out of) the market place. The idea is not just to redeem but to completely redeem.

Exagorazo - 4x in 4v - Gal. 3:13; Gal. 4:5; Eph. 5:16; Col. 4:5

The Welsh translation of Galatians 3:13 says that “Christ hath wholly purchased us from the curse of the law.” The Galatians imagined that Christ only half purchased them, and that they had to purchase the rest by their submission to circumcision and other Jewish rites and ceremonies. Hence their readiness to be led away by false teachers and to mix up Christianity and Judaism. Paul says in essence "No, you have been wholly purchased from the curse".

Redeemed often spoke of buying a slave’s or debtor’s freedom. Christ’s death, because it was a death of substitution for sin, satisfied God’s justice and exhausted His wrath toward His elect, so that Christ actually purchased believers from slavery to sin and from the sentence of eternal death (Gal 4:5; Titus 2:14 1 Pe 1:18 cf. Ro 3:24; 1 Co 1:30; Ep 1:7; Col 1:14; Heb 9:12). Thus God could be both Just and Justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. If one dies outside of Christ God can only be Just to that person, not their Justifier!

Spurgeon on Christ redeemed us - The atonement is a ransom—that is to say, a price paid. In the present case, the original word is more than usually expressive; it is a payment for, a price instead of. Jesus in His sufferings performed what may be forcibly and fitly described as the payment of a ransom, the giving to justice a quid pro quo for what was due on our behalf for our sins. Christ in His person suffered what we ought to have suffered in our persons.

Wuest - There are three Greek words translated by the words bought or redeemed. These three tell the story of redemption. The first is agorazo (1 Cor. 6:20), which means to buy in the slave market. We are slaves of sin. Our ransom price was paid by the Lord Jesus, His precious blood. Peter in his first epistle (1 Pe 1:18) says that we were not redeemed with little silver and gold coins used to buy a slave out of slavery, but with precious blood, highly honored, as of a lamb without spot or blemish, the blood of Christ. Thus, believers become bondslaves of the Lord Jesus by right of purchase. The word doulos (δουλος), bondslave, translated servants in Romans 6:18, refers to one born in slavery. The second word is the one Paul uses in the verse we are studying, exagorazo, to buy a slave out of the market-place. The bondslave of the Lord Jesus is bought not only to be His bondslave, but he is bought out of the slave market, never to be put up for sale in any slave market. He becomes the bondslave of the Lord Jesus for time and for eternity. The third word is lutroo (1 Peter 1:18; Titus 2:14). The noun having the same root means “ransom money used to liberate a slave.” The verb means “to set free by the payment of a ransom.” The bondslave of the Lord Jesus is set free from his former slavery to sin, to realize in his life that for which God created him, to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.  (Galatians Commentary - Verse by Verse )

Redeemed, how I love to proclaim it!
Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb;
Redeemed through His infinite mercy,
His child and forever I am.

Redeemed, redeemed,
Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb;
Redeemed, redeemed,
His child and forever I am.

Redeemed, and so happy in Jesus,
No language my rapture can tell;
I know that the light of His presence
With me doth continually dwell.


I think of my blessèd Redeemer,
I think of Him all the day long:
I sing, for I cannot be silent;
His love is the theme of my song.


From the curse of the Law (Dt 27:26): Why is the Law which is good, actually a source of "curse" to mankind? (Ga 3:10). The curse of the law is death—the penalty for breaking its commandments. The curse of the Law was the punishment demanded because no man could keep from violating its demands. Christ has delivered those under law from paying the penalty of death demanded by the law. Christ did not redeem men from the curse of the law by keeping the Ten Commandments perfectly during His lifetime. Scripture does not teach that His perfect obedience to the law is reckoned to us. Rather He delivered men from the law by bearing its dreadful curse in death.

Deuteronomy 27:26  ‘Cursed is he who does not confirm the words of this law by doing them.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’

As alluded to above -- The Galatians imagined that Christ only half purchased them, and that they had to purchase the rest by their submission to circumcision and other Jewish rites and ceremonies. Hence their readiness to be led away by false teachers and to mix up Christianity and Judaism. Paul says here: (according to the Welsh translation) “Christ hath wholly purchased us from the curse of the law.”

Swindoll those who attempt to be saved—or, really, to save themselves—by any means other than by grace through faith fool themselves. Instead of receiving a blessing as a result of their efforts to obey the Law, they fall under a curse. So how does faith remove us from this curse of the Law? Paul tells us that Christ, who did live a perfect, righteous life without even the slightest sin, nevertheless suffered the curse of the Law (Gal. 3:13). By suffering death "on a tree," that is, a cross of wood, Jesus Christ experienced the kind of death the Law reserves for one who is cursed. To validate this point, Paul alludes to a principle found in Deuteronomy 21:22-23 (Swindoll's Living Insights New Testament Commentary – Galatians)

Spurgeon on curse of the law - In all the pages of revelation you will find no blessings that the law ever gave to one who had offended it. There were blessings for those who kept it completely—though none ever did—but no blessing is ever written for one offender. Blessings we find in the gospel; curses we find in the law.


Having become a curse for us:  By bearing God’s wrath for believers’ sins on the cross, Christ took upon Himself the curse pronounced on those who violated the law (see Gal 3:10).

2 Corinthians 5:21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Hebrews 9:28 so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.

1 Peter 2:24 and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.

1 Peter 3:18 For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit;


Spurgeon on becoming a curse - Christ was no curse in Himself. In His person He was spotlessly innocent, and nothing of sin could belong personally to Him. In Him was no sin. “God made him to be sin for us,” the apostle adds elsewhere, “who knew no sin” (2 Cor 5:21). There must never be supposed to be any degree of blameworthiness or censure in the person or character of Christ as He stands as an individual. He is in that respect without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing—the immaculate Lamb of God’s Passover. Nor was Christ made a curse of necessity. His own intrinsic holiness kept Him from sin, and that same holiness kept Him from the curse. He was made sin for us not on His own account, not with any view to Himself, but wholly because He loved us and chose to put Himself in the place we ought to have occupied.

Wuest - The curse here is that which the legalistic passages of the Mosaic law pronounced upon those who did not perfectly obey its demands. The law pronounced a blessing and a curse. But the blessing proved barren, for the law made no allowance for human sin and frailty. The curse, which involved the wrath of a righteous God, brought condemnation upon the offender. From this hopeless state of condemnation in which the sinner was not only helpless to redeem himself, but helpless to satisfy the just demands of the law and thus find acceptance with God, Christ redeemed us by satisfying the just demands of the law which we broke, paying the penalty in our stead, leaving a holy God free to bestow mercy on the basis of justice satisfied. A vivid picture of it all is given us in the three expressions, under the curse (Gal 3:10), made a curse for (above) us (Gal 3:13), and redeemed us out from under the curse (Gal 3:13). Sinners were under the curse. Christ came above us, thus between us and the curse. He took the blow of the Damascus blade that hung over us, and took us out from under the curse, having become a curse for us. The word above is the root meaning of huper, the preposition of substitution, used already in this epistle by Paul to speak of the substitutionary character of our Lord’s death....The words becoming are from genomenos which means “to become.” It is a participle of means, expressing the method by which Christ redeemed us from the curse. In the words “Cursed is everyone that hangeth on a tree,” Paul is quoting from Deuteronomy 21:23. They are introduced by Paul to support his statement to the effect that Christ became a curse. The Deuteronomy passage has reference to the dead body of a criminal who had been put to death by stoning, and which was hung upon a tree. There is no reference here to Roman crucifixion, which was unknown at the time of Moses. Paul quotes from the LXX and omits the words of God after cursed, since our Lord was in no sense accursed by God in His crucifixion. It was the curse of the Mosaic law that descended on Christ, subjecting Him to the death of a malefactor. The law satisfied its demands upon the Lord Jesus, and thus thrust Him out of the pale of its legal jurisdiction. Believers, being identified with Him in His death in which He paid our penalty, are likewise cast out with Him, and are therefore no longer under curse.  (Galatians Commentary - Verse by Verse )

Curse (accursed) (2671)(katara from katá = down, against [intensifies meaning of following verb] + ara = a curse, Araoriginally = wish,” “petition,” but came to be used for curse from the time of Homer's, in the NT found only in Ro 3:14) means a malediction (literally to speak evil), imprecation (uttering evil) on these men. Katara can be used in the sense of a legal action, of a curse by God because of sin (Gal 3.10+). Katara can describe human utterance which desires evil on someone (imprecation) (Jas 3.10). Finally katara can represent the object of a curse, in other words the thing accursed as it does here in Gal 3.13. 

For us (huper hemon) could be paraphrased "on behalf of" or "in our place" and speaks of substitution or substitutionary atonement. (What is the substitutionary atonement?)

MacArthur - Christ’s death, because it was a death of substitution for sin, satisfied God’s justice and exhausted His wrath toward His elect, so that Christ actually purchased believers from slavery to sin and from the sentence of eternal death (4:5; Titus 2:14; 1Pe 1:18; cf. Ro 3:24; 1Co 1:30; Eph 1:7; Col 1:14; Heb 9:12).

Spurgeon on the profound little phrase for us - Here is substitution. What else can the words mean? Christ hung on a tree for us, bearing our curse, in our room and place and stead. We were all under the curse of the law, but Christ voluntarily took our place and was made a curse for us, so that the blessing might be ours. He fulfilled the law’s demands by His perfect obedience, and He suffered the law’s utmost penalty by His death upon the cross. Now all those who believe in Him are forever justified because of what He did for them. We have heard some preach a gospel something after this order: that, though God is angry with sinners, yet, out of His great mercy, for the sake of something that Christ has done, He does not punish them, but remits the penalty. This is not God’s gospel, for it is neither just to God nor safe for man. We believe that God never remitted the penalty. He did not forgive the sin without punishing it, but He exacted the full penalty without the abatement of a solitary jot or tittle. Jesus Christ, our Savior, drank the veritable cup of our redemption to its very dregs. He suffered beneath the crushing wheels of divine vengeance the same pains and sufferings that we ought to have endured. He bore our sins that He might bear them away by the fact of bearing them Himself. This is the central doctrine of the gospel.

How were the children of Israel healed from physical death when the fiery serpents bit them in Nu 21:5-9)?(See Spurgeon's sermon on The Bronze Serpent)? They were healed by faith. They looked at a bronze serpent on a pole,and they didn't die. They did exactly what God said. They took Him at His word, and they didn't die. Their act of looking per se was not what saved them. Their belief in God's promise that they would not die if they looked was what saved them. There was also a deeper (Messianic prophecy) significance to Israel's looking on the bronze serpent. That bronze serpent on the pole was a picture of Jesus for as Jesus taught "“As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up." (Jn 3:14) The bronze serpent was a symbol of Jesus being made sin for us as taught by Paul "He (God) made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." (2Co 5:21). Jesus took the punishment (the curse if you will) for my sins, in my place. He paid for my sins in full (See John 19:30-note = Tetelestai means "Paid in full!). Jesus took a curse He did not deserve that I may receive a blessing I did not earn. And what do sinful men have to do who have been bitten by the deadly fangs of sin and are doomed to die eternally (Ro 5:12)? They are to look to Jesus (believe on Him) hanging on the tree to be saved from eternal death, even as Israel had to look on the bronze serpent and be healed. 

Martin Luther on the bronze serpent - The bronze snake....was a figure of Christ. Moses commanded the Jews who were bitten by snakes in the desert to do nothing but gaze at the bronze snake, and not to turn away their eyes. Those who so gazed were healed merely by that steadfast look (Numbers 21:6–9). But those who did not obey Moses’ command, but looked at their wounds and not at the snake, died. Thus, if I want comfort when my conscience is afflicted or when I am at the point of death, I must do nothing but lay hold of Christ by faith and say, “I believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who suffered, was crucified, and died for me, in whose wounds and in whose death I see my sin, and in whose resurrection is victory over sin, death, and the devil, and also righteousness and eternal life. Besides him I see nothing, hear nothing.” This is true faith concerning Christ and in Christ, by which we are made members of his body, and in whom we live and move and have our being (Ephesians 5:30; Acts 17:28). Christ and our faith must be firmly joined together. We must be in heaven, and Christ must live and work in us. He lives and works in us not by speculation and head knowledge, but in actual fact and by a true and substantive presence.

For it is written: This is a common NT way (61x) of introducing Old Testament quotes (cf. Ro 1:17; 2:24; 3:4; Mt 4:4, 6, 7, 10). 

Written (1125) (grapho) in the perfect tense indicates the permanence of this writing (cf Lk 21:33+, Mk 13:31). The Word was written down by Spirit inspired men (2 Pe 1:21+) at some point of time in the past and STANDS written for "The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever." (Isaiah 40:8) ! And so we can stand firm on the written Word!  

Jesus willingly, out of love for us, went to that cross, which was to Him a tree of death, in order that He might make it for you and me a tree of life! (Rev 2:7-note, Rev 22:2-note, Rev 22:14-note, Rev 22:19-note)

CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE: In the NAS passages in ALL CAPS are direct quotes from the OT. Paul does not use the more common NT word for "cross" which is stauros, but instead uses xulon which would be more familiar to the Jews who knew the , for the same word for "cross" ("tree") was used in Septuagint (Lxx) translation of the passage quoted by Paul from Deuteronomy,. 

If a man has committed a sin worthy of death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree (Lxx = xulon)  his corpse shall not hang all night on the tree (Lxx = xulon), but you shall surely bury him on the same day (for he who is hanged is accursed of God), (Lxx = "every one that is hanged on a tree is cursed of God") so that you do not defile your land which the LORD your God gives you as an inheritance.(Deut. 21:22,23)

Tree (3586)(xulon from xuo = to scrape) is literally wood and refers to anything made of wood, including a tree or other wooden article or substance. In Ac 5:30, 10:39, 13:29, 1Pe 2:24+ and Gal 3:13 xulon refers to the old rugged Cross.

In ancient Judaism a criminal who was executed, usually by stoning, was then tied to a post, a type of tree, where his body would hang until sunset as a visible representation of rejection by God. It was not that a person became cursed by being hanged on a tree but that he was hanged on a tree because he was cursed. Jesus did not become a curse because He was crucified but was crucified because he was cursed in taking the full sin of the world upon Himself. “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed” (1Pe 2:24-note; cf. Acts 5:30). That truth was extremely hard for most Jews to accept, because they could not imagine the Messiah’s being cursed by God and having to hang on a tree. 1 Co 12:23 suggests that “Jesus is accursed” was a common, demon-inspired saying among unbelieving Jews of that day. To them, Jesus’ crucifixion was final and absolute proof that He was not the promised Messiah. But for those who trust in Him, the two words for us become the two most beautiful words in all of Scripture. Because God sent His Son to bear the penalty for man’s sin, every person who puts his trust in the crucified Savior has had the curse borne for him.

L E Maxwell - Born Crucified - THE ROMAN ORATOR, Cicero, summarized the attitude of the ancient world to the cross when he said: "Not only let the cross be absent from the person of Roman citizens, but its very name from their thoughts, eyes and ears." Two thousand years age we find no halo of glory, no beautiful associations of history, no nobility, and no thought of heroic sacrifice attached to the cross. How cluttered up is the cross at the present time! Even the unbelieving world now says: "The Cross stands for all that is noblest in manhood". But it was not so in the beginning. It is not so today. As soon as the Cross ceases to be to us, first of all, the place of utmost shame and contempt, we make the Cross of Christ of none effect. In Christ's day the disciples must often have beheld the procession of criminals, murderers, and rebels carrying their crosses on their way to an ignominious departure--a death of such infamy and shame and execration that we have no word that is significant of the deep and universal detestation that belonged to the cross in early times. Add to all this the scriptural anathema and capstone: "He that is hanged is accursed of God," and we begin to understand the offense (literally, the scandal) of the Cross. (Born Crucified - 81 page booklet)

Related Resources:

There is an old legend that during a plague an angel showed to Charlemagne the root of the carline thistle as a cure for the plague. Thistles are a fruit of the curse. We do not much believe the legend that the root of that which represents a curse should cure the curse of a plague, but we do know and believe that the Christ who was "made a curse for us" is an infallible remedy for the curse of sin (Gal. 3:13).

The Curse of the Law - Ian Paisley - A Text A Day Keeps the Devil Away

  • "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree." Galatians 3:13

The nature of the law is holy but we are sold under sin. As a result we are under its curse.

The Education—"the Curse of the Law"
This curse is universal, we are all under it. It is total, every part of us is cursed. It is final. The sentence has been judicially passed. The law is our schoolmaster.

The Exclamation—"Christ Hath Redeemed Us From the Curse of the Law"
This redemption is instantaneous, inclusive, and irreversible.

The Explanation—"Being Made a Curse for Us"
There has been no abatement of that curse in dilution, and no mitigation. In all its eternal fury it fell upon the Lord Jesus as the Surety and Substitute of His people. Sin was punished on Christ and I the sinner am pardoned and free.

The Explanation—"for It Is Written Cursed Is Everyone That Hangeth On a Tree"
This is God's written authority.

A Common Mistake

Read: Galatians 3:1-14 | Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us. —Galatians 3:13

An elderly woman told me that she loves Jesus, prays regularly, reads the Bible daily, and confesses her sins every evening. But she’s afraid to die. She’s not sure God will accept her. She also said that she was so eager to earn God’s favor that she gave a large sum of money to her church without her husband’s knowledge. She knew this was wrong, but she said, “I did it for my salvation.”

This woman has failed to understand Paul’s words, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Eph. 2:8-9). She still believes that she must gain God’s approval by her good works.

This is a common mistake among professing Christians. The apostle Paul had to correct some believers in Galatia who had the same idea. They talked about the need to keep many of the regulations of the Old Testament law system. Paul declared that Jesus Christ, by dying on the cross, redeemed us from the curse of the law (Gal. 3:13).

Do you believe this? Have you received Christ as your Savior? If so, rest on His finished work on the cross for you, and rejoice and give thanks. Don’t make the common mistake of thinking that you can earn His favor. - Herbert VanderLugt 

It's not works, it's not prayer,
It's not tears that save the soul;
God is now His grace displaying—
Jesus died to make us whole. —Anon.

Salvation is an unearned blessing given to an unworthy sinner.

Galatians 3:14  in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

Greek - hina eis ta ethne e eulogia tou Abraam genetai (3SAMS) en Christo Iesou hina ten epaggelian tou pneumatos labomen (1PAAS) dia tes pisteos  

Amplified:  To the end that through [their receiving] Christ Jesus, the blessing [promised] to Abraham might come upon the Gentiles, so that we through faith might [all] receive [the realization of] the promise of the [Holy] Spirit. 

ESV so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.

KJV That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

NET in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham would come to the Gentiles, so that we could receive the promise of the Spirit by faith.

NLT Through Christ Jesus, God has blessed the Gentiles with the same blessing he promised to Abraham, so that we who are believers might receive the promised Holy Spirit through faith.

Phillips God's purpose is therefore plain: that the blessing promised to Abraham might reach the Gentiles through Jesus Christ, and the Spirit might become available to us all by faith.

Wuest   in order that to the Gentiles the blessing of Abraham might come in Jesus Christ, to the end that the promise of the Spirit we [Jew and Gentile] might receive through faith.

YLT that to the nations the blessing of Abraham may come in Christ Jesus, that the promise of the Spirit we may receive through the faith.

In order that (hina...hina) - Paul uses two terms of purpose. These phrases should always arrest our attention, causing us to pause and ponder "What is the purpose? (et al questions)"

In order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles - The blessing of Abraham refers to Ge 12:3-note  ''And in you all the families of the earth (Jews and Gentiles) shall be blessed." The blessing of Genesis 12:3 is the SALVATION that would come through THE SEED, the MESSIAH (Ge 22:17,  22:18, cp Gal 3:16-note). 

Gentiles (nations) (1484)(ethnos gives us our word "ethnic") in general refers to a multitude (especially persons) associated with one another, living together, united in kinship, culture or traditions and summed up by the words nation, Gentiles (especially when ethnos is plural), people (much like "people groups" in our modern missionary vernacular).

A T Robertson - So in Christ we all (Gentile and Jew) obtain the promise of blessing made to Abraham, through faith.

Wuest - There are two purpose clauses in this verse, each introduced by the word that (hina). These are coordinate, depending upon the statement in verse 13 to the effect that Christ became a curse for us in order that the blessing of Abraham, justification by faith, and also the Holy Spirit, might be given to both Jew and Gentile (Joel 2:28). The law which was the barrier that separated Jew and Gentile, is done away in Christ. By its removal, the Gentiles are put on a common level with the Jew, and thus united, both Jew and Gentile are recipients of the Holy Spirit through faith.  (Galatians Commentary - Verse by Verse )

Vincent on we would receive  - The second so that is parallel with the first (in order that). The deliverance from the curse results not only in extending to the Gentiles the blessing promised to Abraham, but in the impartation of the Spirit to both Jews and Gentiles through faith. The εὐλογία blessing is not God’s gift of justification as the opposite of the curse; for in vv. 10, 11, justification is not represented as the opposite of the curse, but as that by which the curse is removed and the blessing realised. The content of the curse is death, ver. 13. The opposite of the curse is life. The subject of the promise is the life which comes through the Spirit. See J. 7:39; Acts 2:17, 38, 39; 10:45, 47; 15:7, 8; Rom. 5:5; 8:2, 4, 6, 11; Eph. 1:13.

God’s covenant promise to Abraham was first that Abraham would be blessed, and then that he would be a blessing to “all the families of the earth.” This distribution of blessing has always been God’s intention (Gal 3:8). The Jewish nation often misunderstood God’s missionary purpose for them, mistaking His favor for favoritism. Israel sought to “hoard” instead of “herald” the blessing. Paul here emphasizes that God intends that ALL the families of the earth might experience the blessing promised to Abraham. 

Receive (2983)(lambano) means to take or grasp. It can indicate both benevolent and hostile actions, and have as object either people or things; e.g. take a wife, collect taxes, accept a verdict, take a road, and figuratively take courage.

Spurgeon on the blessing of Abraham - Christ was made a curse for us that the blessing might come upon us. He took our curse that we might take the blessing from His own dear hands and might possess it evermore.

So that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith: So we receive the PROMISED SPIRIT Not by KEEPING the LAW but by BELIEVING in the One Who kept the Law perfectly. All who believe in Jesus receive the Spirit immediately when they are born again (Ro 8:9, cf 1 Cor 12:13). 

Promise (1860)(epaggelia/epangelia from epí = intensifies verbal meaning + aggéllo = to tell, declare) literally means to "tell at or upon" and originally referred to an announcement or declaration (especially of a favorable message) (see Acts 23:21). In other words the first sense of epaggelia is that of a . declaration to do something which came to be associated with the implication of obligation to carry out what is stated and thus the meaning of a promise, pledge or offer. In Scripture, epaggelia refers primarily to God's pronouncements that provide assurance of what He intends to do.

Epaggelia - 7x in Galatians 3 - Gal. 3:14; Gal. 3:16; Gal. 3:17; Gal. 3:18; Gal. 3:21; Gal. 3:22; Gal. 3:29

Through faith - Literally "through the faith." This important phrase occurs 16x in 16v in the NAS 

Rom. 3:22; Rom. 3:25; Rom. 3:30; Rom. 3:31; Gal. 2:16; Gal. 3:14; Gal. 3:26; Eph. 2:8; Eph. 3:12; Eph. 3:17; Phil. 3:9; Col. 2:12; 2 Tim. 3:15; Heb. 6:12; Heb. 11:4; 1 Pet. 1:5

John Stott writes that "Faith is laying hold of Jesus Christ personally. There is no merit in it. It is not another ‘work’. Its value is not in itself, but entirely in its object, Jesus Christ. As Luther put it, ‘faith … apprehendeth nothing else but that precious jewel Christ Jesus.’ Christ is the Bread of life; faith feeds upon Him. Christ was lifted up on the cross; faith gazes at Him there." (Message of Galatians)

Spurgeon on through faith - Dear friends, are you living by faith upon the Son of God? Are you trusting in God? Are you believing His promises? Some think that this is a very little thing, but God does not think so. Faith is a better index of character than anything else. The man who trusts his God and believes His promises is honoring God far more than is the man who supposes that by any of his own doings he can merit divine approval and favor....I never had a better idea of believing in Jesus than I once had from a poor countryman. Speaking about faith, he said, “The old enemy has been troubling me very much lately, but I told him that he must not say anything to me about my sins. He must go to my Master, for I had transferred the whole concern to Him, bad debts and all.” That is believing in Jesus. Believing is giving up all we have to Christ and taking all that Christ has to ourselves.

Faith (4102)(pistis) is synonymous with trust or belief and is the conviction of the truth of anything, but in Scripture usually speaks of belief respecting man's relationship to God and divine things, generally with the included idea of trust and holy fervor born of faith and joined with it. 

True faith that saves one's soul includes at least three main elements (1) firm persuasion or firm conviction, (2) a surrender to that truth and (3) a conduct emanating from that surrender. In sum, faith shows itself genuine by a changed life. (Click here for W E Vine's similar definition of faith)


The Spirit was prophetically promised to Israel in the OT in the New Covenant:

Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 “I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes (How? The Spirit in us will give us the desire and the power to keep God's law - see this vitally important truth taught by Paul in Php 2:13NLT-note), and you will be careful to observe My ordinances. (Ezek 36:26-27-note)

Comment: Note that this passage shows God's provision ("My Spirit") and man's responsibility ("to observe"). It is not as is sometimes falsely taught "Let go and let God." It is more accurately stated "Let God and let's go!" 

Isaiah 32:15; Until the Spirit is poured out upon us from on high, And the wilderness becomes a fertile field, And the fertile field is considered as a forest. 

Isaiah  44:3 ‘For I will pour out water on the thirsty land And streams on the dry ground; I will pour out My Spirit on your offspring And My blessing on your descendants; 

Isaiah 59:19-21 So they will fear the name of the LORD from the west And His glory from the rising of the sun, For He will come like a rushing stream Which the wind of the LORD drives.  20“A Redeemer will come to Zion, And to those who turn from transgression in Jacob,” declares the LORD.  21“As for Me, this is My covenant with them,” says the LORD: “My Spirit which is upon you, and My words which I have put in your mouth shall not depart from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your offspring, nor from the mouth of your offspring’s offspring,” says the LORD, “from now and forever.”

Jesus also foretold of the promise of the Spirit

John 7:39-note  But this (Jn 7:37, 38) He spoke of the Spirit, Whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

Luke 11:13 “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”

Luke 24:49 (note) “And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

The giving of the promise of the Spirit was partially fulfilled to Israel at the feast of Pentecost (Acts 2:2-4,18) but will be completely fulfilled at the end of Daniel's Seventieth Week when God pours out His Spirit of grace (salvation is always by God's grace) and supplication

I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn. (Zec 12:10)

Paul also alludes to the final and complete fulfillment of this promise of the Holy Spirit (New Covenant) in Romans 11 writing

and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, “THE DELIVERER WILL COME FROM ZION, HE WILL REMOVE UNGODLINESS FROM JACOB.”  27 “THIS IS MY COVENANT WITH THEM, WHEN I TAKE AWAY THEIR SINS.”  (Romans 11:26, 27-note)

Warren Wiersbe has an interesting note on Genesis 12 that relates to Galatians 3:14 - Notice the contrast between Genesis 11:1–9 and Gen 12:1–3-note. At Babel, men said, “Let us!” but to Abraham, God said, “I will.” At Babel, men wanted to make a name for themselves; but it was God who made Abraham’s name great. At Babel, the workers tried to unite men, only to divide them; but through Abraham, a whole world has been blessed, and all believers are united in Jesus Christ. Of course, Pentecost (Acts 2:1-47) is the “reversal” of Babel; but Pentecost could not have occurred apart from God’s covenant with Abraham (Gal. 3:14).

Spurgeon on the promise of the Spirit - Wherever the Spirit of God dwells, the covenant is fulfilled. You have in the Spirit the foretaste of the promised rest (See Rest in the Bible); you have the initial stages of the promised perfection; you have the dawn of the promised glory. The Spirit is the earnest of the inheritance till the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.

F B Meyer -Our Daily Homily)That we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. Galatians 3:14

“The promise of the Spirit” is the invariable term for the special Pentecostal gift; and this is to be equally received by faith as the forgiveness of sins and eternal life. To me this text once came as a perfect revelation. It was the clue to unravel perplexity, the point around which truth held long in solution suddenly crystallised. Before this verse spoke to my heart it had been my constant endeavor to feel the Spirit’s presence as the sign of my having received; but now it became clear that one might receive by simple faith God’s very richest communications, even though the emotion tarried long. The stages have been thus specified:—

There is such a blessing. — Yes; there can be no doubt of this; for it pleased the Father that the fulness of the Holy Spirit should dwell in Jesus, that He might communicate Him to each member of his Church.

It is for me. — At Pentecost Peter said, This promise is for as many as the Lord our God shall call.

I have not received. — It is very important to realize what your standing is. Paul’s first inquiry of the Ephesians was to ascertain this.

I would give anything if it might be mine. — Because of the life, and love, and power it would bring into your life, and the immense increase of power over others, there is no sacrifice you should be unwilling to make.

I do now in humble faith receive. — There may be no coronet of flame, nor rush of wind, nor flash of joy; but if we have put ourselves in the right attitude towards God, and opened our hearts to receive — He who taught us to hunger and thirst must have bestowed. 

Galatians 3:15  Brethren, I speak in terms of human relations: even though it is only a man's covenant, yet when it has been ratified, no one sets it aside or adds conditions to it.

Greek - Adelphoi kata anthropon lego (1SPAI) homos anthropou kekuromenen (RPPFSA)  diatheken oudeis athetei e' epidiatassetai  (3SPPI)

Amplified:  To speak in terms of human relations, brethren, [if] even a man makes a last will and testament (a merely human covenant), no one sets it aside or makes it void or adds to it when once it has been drawn up and signed (ratified, confirmed). 

ESV  To give a human example, brothers: even with a man-made covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been ratified.

KJV Brethren, I speak after the manner of men; Though it be but a man's covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disannulleth, or addeth thereto.

NET Brothers and sisters, I offer an example from everyday life: When a covenant has been ratified, even though it is only a human contract, no one can set it aside or add anything to it.

NLT  Dear brothers and sisters, here's an example from everyday life. Just as no one can set aside or amend an irrevocable agreement, so it is in this case.

Phillips Let me give you an everyday illustration, my brothers. Once a contract has been properly drawn up and signed, it is honoured by both parties, and can neither be disregarded nor modified by a third party.

Wuest  Brethren, what I have to say is in accordance with common human practice. Even though it be a man’s covenant, when it has finally been ratified, no man annuls it nor adds stipulations to it.

YLT Brethren, as a man I say it, even of man a confirmed covenant no one doth make void or doth add to,

Brethren, I speak in terms of human relations: even though it is only a man's covenant -  "To speak in terms of human relations, brethren, [if] even a man makes a last will and testament (a merely human covenant)" (Amplified)

Covenant (1242) (diatheke from diatithemi = set out in order, dispose in a certain order <> from dia = two + tithemi = to place pictures that which is placed between two Thus, a covenant is something placed between two = thus an arrangement between two parties) literally conveys the idea of a testament, as in one's last will and testament.

Yet when it has been ratified, no one sets it aside or adds conditions to it -  Paul uses the truths that all men knew regarding covenants that men made with other men. And here Paul makes the crucial statement - don't miss it -- no one adds conditions to human covenants! 

Wuest - Paul now presents an argument to show that the covenant God made with Abraham was still in force, basing it upon the priority of the covenant and its irrevocable character. He asserts that it is common knowledge that when men make contract, and that contract is once agreed upon, it cannot be modified or changed except by the mutual consent of both parties to the contract. Paul applies this to God’s covenant with Abraham, contending that the law cannot modify it since it was given centuries later.
Paul addresses them as brethren here. In the preceding section he was not so much addressing the Galatians as he was speaking of the Judaizers. Here he is directly addressing the former. It was an expression of loving urgency, and conciliatory in tone. How different is this from the apostle’s abrupt “Paul.… to the churches of Galatia” (Gal 1:1, 2).
The words, “I speak after the manner of men” have in them the idea of, “I speak from a human point of view,” or, “I speak as men do concerning their affairs.” Paul is not apologizing for the illustration he is using, but is desirous of accommodating himself to the ordinary way in which the average man thinks, so as to be perfectly intelligible to his readers.
The word translated covenant, deserves careful treatment. It is the word diatheke which in its verb form means “to place between two.” It refers to the act of one of two individuals placing between them something to which he obligates himself. It is an engagement on the part of one in the sense that he enters into an agreement with another to do thus and so. The word here must not be understood as meaning a testament, namely, the testamentary disposition of goods. It is used only once in the New Testament in that way (Heb. 9:15–17). It refers to an agreement in which God enters into covenant relations with Abraham, and in which He promises to justify him on the basis of his faith in the atonement which He Himself would some day offer. That covenant or agreement was made by God. God also gave the law centuries later, and the God who made a covenant with Abraham would not invalidate that covenant by adding another specification to it, namely, obedience to law coupled with faith as the two prerequisites to salvation.
The word confirmed is from kuroo which means “to confirm solemnly or publicly, to ratify.” It is in the perfect tense, which indicates that the ratification is a past matter, and that at present the matter is closed and established. Therefore, just as in human relations, an agreement solemnly ratified cannot be changed unless by mutual consent of the parties involved, so in this divine relationship. “No man disannuleth or addeth thereto.” Disannuleth is from atheteo which means “to render without place or standing, to abrogate, to annul.” Addeth thereto is from diatasso, which means, “to make additional prescriptions.” Two distinct methods of invalidating a contract are, first, to annul it directly, and second, to impose new conditions which are diametrically opposed to its spirit or purpose. The doctrine of the Judaizers at first glance appeared only to add some harm less new conditions to the covenant of grace. But the character of these new conditions virtually annulled it. Works added to faith would annul the entire covenant since any dependence upon works means that it is necessary to abandon faith. That means that any sinner who claims to be saved on the basis of works plus faith is still a lost sinner. One cannot carry water on two shoulders. Neither can one depend upon self effort to save one, and at the same time put faith in the Lord Jesus for salvation. Here is the terrible tragedy of those systems which teach that works are needed for salvation in addition to faith in the atoning sacrifice of the Lord Jesus. They are sending millions to the Lake of Fire by their heretical teaching.  (Galatians Commentary - Verse by Verse )

Galatians 3:15-18 TODAY IN THE WORD
God in his grace gave [the inheritance] to Abraham through a promise. - Galatians 3:18
Whenever a lawyer builds a defense case, he prepares arguments and counterarguments. He needs to be able to take different vantage points, to anticipate questions and formulate answers even before those questions are asked. And that’s what Paul has been doing throughout his letter, preparing a very thorough defense of his apostleship and of the gospel. The argument goes in two directions. Paul’s ultimate aim is to dissuade the Galatians from believing they must be circumcised. His arguments are rooted in the Old Testament because it is from the Old Testament that the false teachers have twisted their faulty logic. There has been a fundamental misunderstanding of the promises made to Abraham and the purpose of the law. The Gentile converts in Galatia, now doubting their identity as Abraham’s children and heirs of the divine promises, wanted to become circumcised to guarantee their status as members of God’s family.

The first direction of this argument is from an example in everyday life. Paul asks them to consider human covenants, or contracts. Can they be dissolved or annulled? When two parties mutually agree, when the covenant is confirmed by shaking hands or signing a piece of paper, it cannot be reversed without compromising the integrity of one of the parties.

Now consider the covenant that God made with Abraham. God cannot compromise His character. What He has promised, He will do. His contract with Abraham is irreversible. Moreover, what He’s promised to Abraham will come through his “seed” or offspring (cf. Gen. 12:7). Galatians clarifies that the seed to which God refers in Genesis is not in fact the children of Abraham (who are many) but Christ (who is One). Christ becomes the true heir of all the divine promises made to Abraham.

The second direction argues from the timeline. The promises were made to Abraham more than four centuries before the law was ever given to Moses. Could the law really supersede the promises if the promises were given first?

APPLY THE WORD - Our trust that God is faithful to His promises is critical to our faith. Write down the promises you find in the pages of Scriptures as you read, and prayerfully reflect on those promises. Ask God to help you believe in His faithfulness. If you’re afraid, remember that He’s promised to be with you. If you’re uncertain, remember that He’s promised wisdom. If you’re broken over sin in your life, remember He’s promised forgiveness.

Galatians 3:15-18 TODAY IN THE WORD
One stormy and extremely cold Sunday morning, a minister was on his way to church. On the road he met one of his neighbors, who, shivering miserably, said to him, ""It's very chilly, sir."" 
""Oh,"" replied the minister. ""God is as good as His word.""

The other, not comprehending, asked what he meant. The minister answered: ""God promised about three thousand years ago, and He still makes it good today, that 'as long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat...will never cease.'""

The minister's reply was meant as a joke, but his point is true: God always keeps His covenants and promises. 

In today's reading Paul observes that when a human covenant is ratified, no one sets it aside or amends it, neither the author nor a second party (v. 15). Of course the implication is that if that is true with people, it is even more true with God. A second covenant, the law, could not set aside the promise made to Abraham (v. 17).

The Abrahamic covenant could only be fulfilled by Christ (v. 16). Only in the infinite Son of God could all the families of the earth be blessed. But Christ is viewed in this chapter as also being the head of a new family; all who receive Him by faith become sons of Abraham in a spiritual sense (Gal. 3:28-29).

A most startling and amazing truth becomes clear. The age of law was merely a parenthesis between the age of promise and the age of grace (v. 18). All of the legalistic teaching the church has endured for nearly two thousand years is entirely incompatible with the teachings of grace and the spirit of promise.

APPLY THE WORD - Two days ago, we suggested that you review the biblical narrative of Abraham and Sarah. If you did so, you probably found yourself held spellbound by a story filled with impossible promises, difficult journeys, angelic visitors, and obedient faith.

Galatians 3:16  Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, "And to seeds," as referring to many, but rather to one, "And to your seed," that is, Christ.

Greek -  to de Abraam errethesan (3PAPI) ai epaggeliai kai to spermati autou ou legei (3SPAI) kai tois spermasin os epi pollon all os e enos Kai to spermati sou os estin (3SPAI) Christos  

Amplified:  Now the promises (covenants, agreements) were decreed and made to Abraham and his Seed (his Offspring, his Heir). He [God] does not say, And to seeds (descendants, heirs), as if referring to many persons, but, And to your Seed (your Descendant, your Heir), obviously referring to one individual, Who is [none other than] Christ (the Messiah). 

ESV Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, "And to offsprings," referring to many, but referring to one, "And to your offspring," who is Christ.

KJV Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.

NET  Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his descendant. Scripture does not say, "and to the descendants," referring to many, but "and to your descendant," referring to one, who is Christ.

NLT  God gave the promises to Abraham and his child. And notice that the Scripture doesn't say "to his children, " as if it meant many descendants. Rather, it says "to his child"-- and that, of course, means Christ.

Phillips Now a promise was made to Abraham and to his seed. (Note in passing that the scripture says not "and to seeds" but uses the singular 'and to your seed', meaning Christ.) 

Wuest  Now to Abraham were made the promises, and to his seed. He does not say, And to the seeds, as in respect to many (seeds), but in respect to one (seed), and to your seed who is Christ.

YLT  and to Abraham were the promises spoken, and to his seed; He doth not say, 'And to seeds,' as of many, but as of one, 'And to thy seed,' which is Christ;


Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his Seed (see Scriptures below): When God made a covenant with Abraham, He promised him a SEED the MESSIAH (Ge 22:17 22:18 Acts 3:25) and said that through THAT SEED all the nations of the world would be blessed. So the promise that God made to Abraham was actually the PROMISE OF SALVATION which would be made available to all the world. And Abraham entered that COVENANT by FAITH. It was an unconditional covenant that man had nothing to do with.

 Gal 3:8  And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, "All the nations shall be blessed in you." 
Gen 12:3  And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed." 
Gen 12:7  And the LORD appeared to Abram and said, "To your descendants I will give this land." So he built an altar there to the LORD who had appeared to him. 
Gen 13:15  for all the land which you see, I will give it to you and to your descendants forever. 
Gen 13:16  "And I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth; so that if anyone can number the dust of the earth, then your descendants can also be numbered. 
Gen 15:5  And He took him outside and said, "Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them." And He said to him, "So shall your descendants be." 
Gen 17:7  "And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you. 
Gen 17:8  "And I will give to you and to your descendants after you, the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God." 
Gen 21:12  But God said to Abraham, "Do not be distressed because of the lad and your maid; whatever Sarah tells you, listen to her, for through Isaac your descendants shall be named. 
Gen 22:17  indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens, and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies. 
Gen 22:18  "And in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice." 
Gen 26:3  "Sojourn in this land and I will be with you and bless you, for to you and to your descendants I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath which I swore to your father Abraham. 
Gen 26:4  "And I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven, and will give your descendants all these lands; and by your descendants all the nations of the earth shall be blessed; 
Gen 28:13  And behold, the LORD stood above it and said, "I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie, I will give it to you and to your descendants. 
Gen 28:14  "Your descendants shall also be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread out to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and in you and in your descendants shall all the families of the earth be blessed. 
Gen 49:10  "The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes, And to him shall be the obedience of the peoples. 

Earlier Paul spoken of this promise writing that "The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “ALL THE NATIONS WILL BE BLESSED IN YOU.” (Gal 3:8)

Wuest - The promises were made to Abraham and to his Seed, Christ. But when Christ is seen as seed of Abraham here, all those saved by Him are included. The word seed when used in the singular number in the Old Testament means progeny. Thus to Abraham personally and to all those who by faith in Christ are brought into salvation, were the promises made. The fact that the promises were made to Abraham and to all believers all down the ages who follow Abraham in his act of faith, indicates that the faith way of salvation existed before the law was given, continued through the time the law was in force, and still is in effect after the abrogation of the law at the Cross. Thus the entrance of the law did not affect the covenant at all.  (Galatians Commentary - Verse by Verse )

Promises (1860)(epaggelia/epangelia from epí = intensifies verbal meaning + aggéllo = to tell, declare) literally means to "tell at or upon" and originally referred to an announcement or declaration (especially of a favorable message) (see Acts 23:21). In other words, the first sense of epaggelia is that of a . declaration to do something which came to be associated with the implication of obligation to carry out what is stated and thus the meaning of a promise, pledge or offer. In Scripture, epaggelia refers primarily to God's pronouncements that provide assurance of what He intends to do.

Spurgeon on does not say -  Quoting from the Old Testament, we may believe in the absolute plenary inspiration of that sacred book, because the apostle founds an argument upon the singular of a noun having been used rather than the plural. Notice how important a single letter of the Scriptures may be. A vital doctrine may depend upon the use of a singular or plural noun. Therefore, let us jealously guard the smallest jot or tittle of the inspired word of God.

And to your seed that is Christ:

Indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies. In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.”(Ge 22:17,18)

Seed in the Hebrew text (02233 - Zera) and the Septuagint translation (sperma) is singular. Paul's theological argument concerning the Abrahamic covenant, almost unconsciously makes an exceedingly strong affirmation of the verbal inspiration of the OT Scriptures, basing his argument not just on one word, but one letter, "seed" instead of "seeds." Thus the promised "Seed" was not the nation Israel, but the one Person Who alone could fulfill the great promises made to Abraham, namely, Christ 

Christ (5547)(Christos from chrio = to rub or anoint, consecrate to an office) means one who has been anointed, symbolizing appointment to a task. The majority of the NT uses refer to Jesus.

  • See discussion of related word - messias

Spurgeon on and to your seed  - This is sound reasoning. God made a covenant with Abraham and said that in him and in his seed all nations should be blessed. All believers are in Christ, who is here called Abraham’s seed, and therefore they must be blessed. Whatever the law may say or may not say, it was not given until 430 years after the covenant was made with Abraham and therefore cannot affect it in any way.

John MacArthur: Second, Paul argues from the lesser figure of Gal 3:15 to the greater figure of Gal 3:16, that the covenant of promise was superior to the covenant of law because it was Christ-centered. The immutability of the covenant involving faith directly relates to God’s last and final covenant established through His Son, Jesus Christ. The covenant of law could not possibly have interrupted or modified the previous covenant of promise, because the first one not only was inviolable and permanent in itself but was inseparable from God’s supreme covenant, the New Covenant in the Messiah, the Christ.
    Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, who inspired the writing of both Genesis and Galatians, Paul exegetes the quoted Genesis passage. The term seed, he declares, is singular in Ge 22:18. It was therefore not referring to many, but rather to one, “And to your seed.”
    Both the Greek term sperma (seed) and the corresponding Hebrew term (zera) are like the English seed in that they can be either singular or plural. Apart from inspiration by the Holy Spirit, Paul could not have established such a crucial interpretation on the basis of grammar alone. Hebrew grammar, like Greek and English, allows, but does not necessitate, the singular.
    In numerous Old Testament passages the term obviously applies to but one person. In Ge 4:25 (“offspring”) it refers to Seth alone, in Ge 21:13 (“descendant”) to Ishmael (see Ge 16:11) alone, in 1 Sa 1:11 (“son”) to Samuel alone, and in 2Sa 7:12 (“descendant”) to Solomon (see 2 Sa 12:24) alone. On the basis only of grammar and context, the meaning of seed in Ge 22:18 could be either singular or plural. But in interpreting His own Word through the apostle, the Holy Spirit makes clear it is singular, referring … to one.
    In an even earlier promise, a clearly singular use of seed also refers to Christ. To the serpent in the Garden of Eden, God said, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He [singular, referring to “her seed”] shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel” (Ge 3:15-note). The one and only heir of every promise of God is Christ. Every promise given in the covenant with Abraham was fulfilled in Jesus Christ and only Jesus Christ. Therefore the only way a person can participate in the promised blessings to Abraham is to be a fellow heir with Christ through faith in Him.  Whether before or after Christ came to earth, salvation has always been provided only through the perfect offering of Christ on the cross. Believers who lived before the cross and never knew any specifics about Jesus were nevertheless forgiven and made right with God by faith in anticipation of Christ’s sacrifice (Ed: We don't know how much they knew but they did have Messianic Prophecies that would have given them some insights into the work of Christ which is clearly revealed in the NT.), whereas believers who live after the cross are saved in looking back to it. When Christ shed His blood, it covered sins on both sides of the cross. The Old Covenant goes to the cross; the New Covenant comes from it. On the one hand faith pointed forward, whereas on the other it points back. There has never been nor can there ever be salvation apart from the finished work of Christ. The covenant with Abraham was fulfilled in the covenant of Jesus Christ, and therefore the covenant of law, whatever its character and purpose, did not abrogate or modify those two covenants, which really merged into one.

See related resources:

IVP BACKGROUND COMMENTARY NT explains that "Paul means that Christ is the ultimate Seed of the promise through whom the nations will be blessed; this thesis makes good sense of the promise motif in Israel’s history. But he argues his case the way the rabbis often did: by attention to a grammatical peculiarity that was not actually peculiar. (As in English, the Hebrew term for “seed” could convey either the singular or the plural [a collective], which Paul well knew—Gal 3:29. But rabbis argued in this manner, too; “sons of Israel” meant either “sons and daughters” or only the men, depending on what the rabbis needed it to mean in a given text. Paul’s opponents no doubt read Scripture this way, and Paul responds in kind; he takes “seed” as singular, a sense that the term can have in general but that does not seem to fit any of the Genesis texts to which he may refer [Ge 13:15,16; 17:8; 24:7], because he already knows, on other grounds, that Christ is the epitome of Abraham’s line. When later rabbis applied “Abraham’s seed” to one person, it was naturally to Abraham’s son Isaac.) Judaism nearly always took “Abraham’s seed” as Israel, which Paul would agree is usually what it means (Ro 9:7, 29; 11:1). But his argument in [Ga 3:6-9] permits him to apply this expression to Gentile Christians who are in Christ, hence in Abraham."

People's NT: "Many have thought that Paul made a grammatical mistake. Even Luther says: “My dear brother Paul, this argument won’t stick.” The criticism is that sperma, the Greek word rendered “seed,” is a collective noun and may include all Abraham’s descendants. Paul elsewhere shows that he knew just the meaning of sperma (Ro 4:18; 9:7), but the question here is not one of grammar, but of spiritual meaning. Paul does not mean that sperma (seed) excludes plurality, but that it implies unity. Note the word “children” or “descendants” is used. This would embrace the children of Ishmael, of Esau, and of Keturah. But there is a seed to whom the promise is given; a seed that embraces many, but is one. That seed is Christ the head, and all in Christ. The whole spiritual seed of Abraham concentrates in Christ. The promise is to Christ and all in Christ. Paul understood Greek as well as his critics, and also knew what he meant.

Paul Henebury notes that in Galatians 3 Paul is "speaking about justification by faith (e.g. Gal. 3:2, 5, 9 etc.). He cites Ge 15:6 in Gal 3:6. Then, in Gal 3:8 he quotes Ge 22:18. Genesis 22:18 does not contain all the promises housed within the Abraham Covenant; only that which deals with the nations. Now, what does Paul do with it? Does he teach the other promises of land, king, priesthood, fecundity etc. for Israel are past? Not at all. He's not dealing with those things so he doesn't speak of them. Galatians 3:16 causes a lot of trouble. What are the "promises" he refers to in that passage? Well, the promises to the Gentiles he has been speaking about! How are they realized? Through the "Seed" (singular) of Gen. 22:18 (which he has just quoted) who is Christ. Thus, Gentile believers are of like faith with Abraham and are considered his spiritual sons or seed (Gal. 3:26, 29). All this is quite true and to be expected from what the OT teaches. But it does not mean Abraham's physical seed (Israel) do not have covenant promises awaiting them too! They do. But they must believe (e.g. Deut. 30:6; Isa. 45:17, 19, 25; 46:12-13, etc.). (The Church and the Abrahamic Covenant)

Galatians 3:17  What I am saying is this: the Law, which came four hundred and thirty years later, does not invalidate a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise.

Greek -  touto de lego (1SPAI) diatheken prokekuromenen (RPPFSA)  hupo tou theou o meta tetrakosia kai triakonta ete gegonos (RAPMSN)  nomos ouk akuroi eis to katargesai (AAN) ten epaggelian  

Amplified: This is my argument: The Law, which began 430 years after the covenant [concerning the coming Messiah], does not and cannot annul the covenant previously established (ratified) by God, so as to abolish the promise and make it void. 

ESV  This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void.

KJV  And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect.

NET  What I am saying is this: The law that came four hundred thirty years later does not cancel a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to invalidate the promise.

NLT  This is what I am trying to say: The agreement God made with Abraham could not be canceled 430 years later when God gave the law to Moses. God would be breaking his promise.

Phillips I say then that the Law, which came into existence four hundred and thirty years later, cannot render null and void the original "contract" which God had made, and thus rob the promise of its value. 

Wuest  This now is what I mean. A covenant previously established by God,18 the law, which came after four hundred and thirty years, does not render void, with the result that the promise becomes inoperative.

YLT  and this I say, A covenant confirmed before by God to Christ, the law, that came four hundred and thirty years after, doth not set aside, to make void the promise,

What I am saying is this: "The words “And this I say,” take up for the purpose of further argument or explanation a thought which has already been expressed."  In verse 16, Paul has by inference hinted at what he states plainly in this verse. The figure of 430 years, Paul probably took from Exodus 12:40. The statement of the length of time that elapsed between the giving of the covenant to Abraham and the giving of the law to Moses, implies that the law was something new and different which could not therefore be an element forming part of the promise. The longer the covenant was in force as the alone method upon which God operated in the saving of sinners, the more impressive is Paul’s statement. God was saving men on the basis of faith without works since the time of Adam, or 2,500 years before the law was given. The law was in force from Moses to Christ, or for a period of 1500 years. At the Cross it was abrogated. The Judaizers not only attempted to retain the Mosaic institutions for the Jews, but tried to impose them upon the Gentiles, to whom that law was never given. This was what Paul was fighting. Paul’s argument therefore is as follows. If a covenant once in force cannot be changed or rendered void by any subsequent action, God’s covenant with Abraham cannot be changed or rendered void by the subsequent law. If this principle holds good in a human covenant, much more is it true when God makes the covenant, since God is more certainly true to His promise than man. (Wuest - Galatians Commentary - Verse by Verse)

The Law, which came four hundred and thirty years later does not invalidate a covenant previously ratified by God  (God walked thru the pieces in Ge 15:17-18-note): Paul has just said that in human covenants men do not add conditions to their covenants. By the same token the coming of the Law does not add conditions to the Abrahamic Covenant. You are not now saved by believing plus keeping the Law.  

WHY THE LAW then? The law reveals man’s utter sinfulness, inability to save himself, and desperate need of a Savior—it was never intended to be the way of salvation (cf. Ro 3:20 7:5, 7-11, 12). 

So as to nullify the promise: so as to abolish the promise and make it void. 

Nullify (void, cancel) (2673)(katargeo from kata = intensifies meaning + argeo = to be idle or inactive from argos = ineffective, idle, inactive from a = without + érgon = work) literally means to reduce to inactivity. The idea is to make the power or force of something ineffective and so to render powerless, reduce to inactivity. 

430 years later: The 430 years from the Abrahamic promise until the giving of the law to Moses and the 430 years of Israel's extended stay in Egypt parallel each other, provided that the reference to "the covenant" here in Ga 3:17 refers to the final ratification of this covenant, as confirmed to Jacob just as he and his family were leaving Canaan for Egypt (Ge 46:1-4). This seems quite reasonable in the current context of Paul's argument; The 430 years may be the total number of years spent in bondage in Egypt, thus approximately equivalent to the 400 years of Ge 15:13 and Acts 7:6. Or it may be that the years of bondage were 400 and the 430-year figure, used in Ex 12:40 and here in Ga 3:17, refers to the time between the last confirmation of the Abrahamic covenant and the giving of the Mosaic Law. (Acts 13:19, where 450 years is the approximate time from the beginning of Egyptian bondage until after the conquest of Palestine, including the 40 years of wilderness wandering.) 

Spurgeon on a covenant previously ratified by God, - Is that not a splendid argument? The covenant was made with Abraham that God would bless him and his seed. Well, 430 years after, the law was given on Sinai, but that could not affect a covenant made 430 years before. The argument goes to prove that the covenant of grace is not affected by any law of rites and ceremonies—no, not even by the moral law itself. The covenant made with Abraham and his seed must stand. The seed signifies those who believe; therefore, the covenant stands fast with Abraham and all other believers.

MacArthur says:  From Israel’s sojourn in Egypt (Ex12:40) to the giving of the law at Sinai (1445 bc) The law actually came 645 years after the initial promise to Abraham (ca. 2090 b.c.; cf. Ge12:4  21:5 25:26; 47:9), but the promise was repeated to Isaac (Ge26:24) and later to Jacob (1928 bc Ge28:15). The last known reaffirmation of the Abrahamic Covenant to Jacob occurred in Ge46:2-4 (1875 bc) just before he went to Egypt—430 yrs before the Mosaic law was given.

Covenant (1242)(diatheke from diatithemi = set out in order, dispose in a certain order <> from dia = two + tithemi = to place pictures that which is placed between two Thus, a covenant is something placed between two = thus an arrangement between two parties) literally conveys the idea of a testament, as in one's last will and testament.

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

Greek - ei gar ek nomou e kleronomia ouketi ex epaggelias to de Abraam di epaggelias kecharistai (3SRPI) o theos  

Amplified:  For if the inheritance [of the promise depends on observing] the Law [as these false teachers would like you to believe], it no longer [depends] on the promise; however, God gave it to Abraham [as a free gift solely] by virtue of His promise. 

ESV  For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.

KJV  For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise.

NET  For if the inheritance is based on the law, it is no longer based on the promise, but God graciously gave it to Abraham through the promise.

NLT  For if the inheritance could be received by keeping the law, then it would not be the result of accepting God's promise. But God graciously gave it to Abraham as a promise.

Phillips For if the receiving of the promised blessing were now made to depend on the Law, that would amount to a cancellation of the original "contract" which God made with Abraham as a promise.

Wuest  For if the inheritance is from law (as a method of divine dealing), no longer is it from promise (as a method of divine dealing). But to Abraham through the intermediate instrumentality of promise God has in grace freely bestowed it.

YLT for if by law be the inheritance, it is no more by promise, but to Abraham through promise did God grant it.

Wuest - Paul’s argument in this verse is, that if the law affects the promise at all, it renders it null and void. It cannot be added to it without destroying it. Salvation must rest either upon the promise or upon the law. The Judaizers claimed that it rested upon the promise and the law. But Paul has shown that the law did not abrogate the promise, and thus it had no effect upon it. Thus, if as the Judaizers say, the inheritance is on the basis of law obedience, then it is not on the basis of promise. But, Paul adds, God gave it to Abraham on the basis of promise. That settled the matter. The words, law and promise are without the definite article, indicating that Paul is speaking of them here in their character of two opposing principles.  (Galatians Commentary - Verse by Verse )

For if the inheritance is based on law: WHAT IS THE INHERITANCE? In one sense...Ro 4:13  For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he would be heir of the world... But in a far more fulfilling and exciting sense...Col 2:3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Christ Himself is our greatest inheritance!

Inheritance (2817)(kleronomia from kleros = lot + némo = give or distribute) is literally that which is distributed by lot and so refers to a portion which one receives by lot in a general distribution and then, in a more general sense means to possess oneself of, to receive as one's own, to obtain. In other words it can refer to a property already received as well as one that is expected. Although kleronomia is an inheritance which one receives by lot, in the NT the idea of chance associated with the lot is not found.

It is no longer based on a promise

Spurgeon on from the promise - All through the book of Genesis, it is promise, promise, promise. Isaac was an heir of the promise, and Jacob was an heir of the promise. In fact, Isaac was born by promise and Ishmael, the elder brother, did not inherit the blessing because he was born after the flesh. Those who believe in Christ are heirs according to the promise. Now a promise takes us out of the region of law. God gave it to Abraham by promise. It was a free gift; He did not bestow it upon the condition of merit on Abraham’s part. Isaac was born not according to the power of the flesh, but according to promise, and the whole covenant is according to free grace and divine promise. So then we know it is by promise, and God must keep His promise, and we must believe it. It must be true. And if we do believe it, we shall prove it to be true, and it will be fulfilled in every jot and tittle to every believing soul.

But God has granted it to Abraham by means of a promise: The first use of this word in NT refers to the PROMISE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. But the promise here of course is God's immutable unchangeable covenant with Abraham which is the predecessor of the New Covenant which in the NT is associated with the giving of the Holy Spirit. 

Grant (5483)(charizomai from charis = grace, undeserved merit or favor) has the basic meaning of to give, to grant as a favor or to give gratuitously, generously, graciously and in kindness. It means to bestow as a gift out of grace.

Wuest on grant (charizomai) - This is a specialized word. It denotes not merely a gift, but a gift which is given out of the spontaneous generosity of the giver’s heart, with no strings tied to it. The Greek word grace (charis) has the same root and the same meaning. Thus the word refers, not to an undertaking based upon terms of mutual agreement, but upon the free act of one who gives something, expecting no pay for it. This at once shows the difference between law and grace. If salvation were by obedience to the law, that would mean that it would be based upon a mutual agreement between God and the sinner whereby God would obligate Himself to give salvation to any sinner who would earn it by obedience to the law. But the very genius of the word charizomai (χαριζομαι) militates against the teaching of the Judaizers, namely, that salvation is by works. There is a Greek word huposchesis (ὑποσχεσις) which is used of an offer based upon the terms of a mutual agreement. But it is not used here. Furthermore, the verb gave is in the perfect tense here, which tense speaks of a past completed act having present results. The past act of God giving the inheritance on the basis of a promise, has present results, present to the writer. God gave the inheritance to Abraham by promise 2000 B.C. The results of this act were still in existence in the century when Paul wrote. The law was given 1500 B.C., and the promise still held good after the law came and had been set aside. (Galatians Commentary - Verse by Verse )

Galatians 3:19  Why the Law then? It was added because of (for the sake of defining) transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator, until the seed would come to whom the promise had been made.

Greek -   Ti oun o nomos ton parabaseon charin prosetethe (3SAPI) charis ou elthe (3SAAS) to sperma o epeggeltai diatageis (APPMSN) di aggelon en cheiri mesitou  

Amplified:  What then was the purpose of the Law? It was added [later on, after the promise, to disclose and expose to men their guilt] because of transgressions and [to make men more conscious of the sinfulness] of sin; and it was intended to be in effect until the Seed (the Descendant, the Heir) should come, to and concerning Whom the promise had been made. And it [the Law] was arranged and ordained and appointed through the instrumentality of angels [and was given] by the hand (in the person) of a go-between [Moses, an intermediary person between God and man]. 

Amplified (2015) Why, then, the Law [what was its purpose]? It was added [after the promise to Abraham, to reveal to people their guilt] because of transgressions [that is, to make people conscious of the sinfulness of sin], and [the Law] was ordained through angels and delivered to Israel by the hand of a mediator [Moses, the mediator between God and Israel, to be in effect] until the Seed would come to whom the promise had been made.

ESV  Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary.

KJV Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.

NET Why then was the law given? It was added because of transgressions, until the arrival of the descendant to whom the promise had been made. It was administered through angels by an intermediary.

NLT  Why, then, was the law given? It was given alongside (Ed: This is not accurate -- the promise preceded the Law by 430 years) the promise to show people their sins. But the law was designed to last only until the coming of the child who was promised. God gave his law through angels to Moses, who was the mediator between God and the people.

Phillips Where then lies the point of the Law? It was an addition made to underline the existence and extent of sin until the arrival of the "seed" to whom the promise referred. The Law was inaugurated in the presence of angels and by the hand of a human intermediary. 

Wuest  What is then the significance of the law? For the sake of transgressions it was added, until there should come the Seed to whom the promise was made, having been promulgated by angels through the instrumentality of the hand of a mediator.

YLT Why, then, the law? on account of the transgressions it was added, till the seed might come to which the promise hath been made, having been set in order through messengers in the hand of a mediator --


Why the Law then?: In other words Paul is simply asking "What then was the purpose of the Law?" (Amplified) If salvation was through faith even for Abraham, why did God bring in the Law 430 years later? What was the purpose of the Law?

It was added because of transgressions - Paul answers his own question about "What is the purpose of the Law?" Note that the word "added" clearly implies that something preceded the Law. To what was the Law added? In context, the Law was added to the Promise of God (given to Abraham). The Amplified Version (combining classic and revised versions) says the LAW "was added [later on, after the promise to Abraham, to disclose and expose to men their guilt, to reveal to people their guilt] because of transgressions and of sin [that is, to make people conscious of the sinfulness of sin]." So the LAW came in a sense to enable sinners to see they were in fact committing sins. The Law was like a mirror sinful men could hold up and see themselves for what they really were in the eyes of the Holy God -- rank (see adjective) sinners!

A sight of misery must go before a sense of mercy.
Lex, lux, “the law is a light”
and shows us our need of a mediator.

In the passage below James explains that unsaved men's basic problem is that each one thinks that they are intrinsically "a good person" (How many times have you heard people say this and you just want to say to them "But I know you! I know some of the vile things you have said and done! You are so deceived to call yourself a "good person"!). James says in essence the LAW is for everyone who thinks "I am a good person." (which describes all of us before we came to faith in Christ!)....

If anyone is a hearer of the word (THE LAW) and not a doer (OBEYS THE LAW ONLY WHICH IS ONLY POSSIBLE BY DEPENDING ON THE INDWELLING SPIRIT), he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror (WHICH CLEARLY SHOWS HE IS A "BAD" PERSON WHEN COMPARED TO THE GOOD GOD!); 24 for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was (HE FORGETS THAT HE IS NOT A "GOOD PERSON" BUT IS A WRETCHED SINNER BEFORE THE HOLY GOD). 25 But one who looks intently at THE PERFECT LAW, the law of liberty (OF FREEDOM BECAUSE THE LAW LEADS US TO SEE OUR TRUE NATURE AND OUR GREAT NEED FOR A SAVIOR), and abides by it (POSSIBLE ONLY FOR BELIEVERS WHO ARE ENABLED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT), not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer (HE OBEYS THE LAW BECAUSE HE HAS THE SUPERNATURAL POWER FROM THE SPIRIT TO OBEY), this man will be blessed in what he does (SPIRIT ENABLED OBEDIENCE ALWAYS BRINGS SPIRITUAL BLESSING!). (James 1:23-25NAS-note)

Read it again in a different version - If anyone only listens to the word ["and is not a doer"] without obeying it, he is like a man who looks very carefully at his natural face in a mirror; 24 for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he immediately forgets ["what sort of person he was"] what he looked like. 25 But he who looks carefully into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and faithfully abides by it, not having become a [careless] listener who forgets but ["a doer of work"] an active doer [who obeys], he will be blessed and favored by God in what he does [in his life of obedience]. (James 1:23-25 Amplified 2015)

And so James would say the purpose of the LAW is to function like a MIRROR OF OUR SOUL, a mirror which a man or woman looks at and clearly sees their reflection (their soul, who they really are inside, how unholy they are compared to a Holy God). That reflection does not show a good, kind, sinless person who loves God, but a selfish, self-centered, sinner who hates God and has been in continual rebellion against him from the day of his or her birth (cp Ps 51:5-note)! That is the picture that the "MIRROR" OF THE LAW gives of EVERY PERSON ever born, the exception of course being our sinless Savior, Messiah Jesus.

And so the LAW was added to the promise given to Abraham to show sin to be exceedingly sinful, that is, to make sin come alive to sinners! In a parallel passage in Romans Paul gives a similar explanation regarding the purpose of the LAW 

What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, if it had not been for the Law, I would not have recognized sin (Ed: Or understood what it really was in God's eyes). For I would not have known [for example] about coveting [what belongs to another, and would have had no sense of guilt {Ed: I would have had no consciousness that I was guilty and deserving of death before the Holy God}] if the Law had not [repeatedly] said, “You shall not covet (Ed: See English definition of covet).” 8 But sin (Ed: "The Sin" principle inherited from Adam - Ro 5:12-note), finding an opportunity (Ed: A "beachhead" so to speak - See Greek definiton) through the commandment [to express itself] produced in me every kind of coveting and selfish desire. For without the Law sin is dead [the recognition of sin is inactive]. 9 I was once alive without [knowledge of] the Law; but when the commandment came [and I understood its meaning], sin became alive and I died [since the Law sentenced me to death].10 And the very commandment which was intended to bring life, actually proved to bring death for me. 11 For sin, seizing its opportunity through the commandment, beguiled and completely deceived me, and [Lit through it killed me.] using it as a weapon killed me [separating me from God]. 12 So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. (Ro 7:7-12-note Amplified 2015). (Note: My additions are identified with "Ed:")

So dearly beloved, may the Spirit of God grant us all grace to "nail this truth down," to understand beyond a shadow of a doubt that one of the main purposes of God's Law is to show sinners that they are in fact sinners! By way of application, if you understand this truth, you can also see how foolish and futile it is to try to please God or merit His favor by attempting to keep the LAW in your own fleshly power rather then relying wholly on the Holy Spirit and His dispensing of grace (cp Gal 3:3-note). Law and grace are polar opposites, just as are works and faith. The writer of Hebrews is quite clear that "without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a Rewarder of those who seek Him." (Hebrews 11:6) So let us clearly understand Paul's simple purpose of the Law in this passage - to show us that we are lawless. When we grasp this truth of who we were in Adam, we begin to grasp the "amazing" in God's amazing grace. And it makes us want to worship Him! Hallelujah!

John Stott wrote "The function of the law was not to bestow salvation, however, but to convince men of their need of it. To quote Andrew Jukes, ‘Satan would have us to prove ourselves holy by the law, which God gave to prove us sinners.’....He elaborates this in his Epistle to the Romans: ‘through the law comes knowledge of sin’ (Ro 3:20); ‘where there is no law there is no transgression’ (Ro 4:15); and ‘if it had not been for the law, I should not have known sin’ (Ro 7:7). So the law’s main work was to expose sin. It is the law which turns ‘sin’ into ‘transgression’, showing it up for what it is, a breach of the holy law of God. ‘It was added to make wrongdoing a legal offence’ (verse 19, NEB). It was intended to make plain the sinfulness of sin as a revolt against the will and authority of God. And it was added till the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made (verse 19). Thus, the law looked on to Christ, Abraham’s seed, as the Person through whom transgression would be forgiven.

Spurgeon on Why then the law - The apostle, by a highly ingenious and powerful argument, had proved that the law was never intended by God for the justification and salvation of man. Some might argue that since the law cannot justify, it is useless. The apostle might have replied to his opponent with a sneer. He must have said to him, “Is a thing utterly useless because it is not intended for every purpose in the world? Will you say that, because iron cannot be eaten, therefore iron is not useful? And because gold cannot be food, will you cast it away and call it worthless? You foolishly suppose God’s LAW is good for nothing and can be of no value.” On the contrary, it serves a very definite purpose, as Paul goes on to show. The LAW was given to discover and lay bare our sin to us. Under the hand of the Holy Spirit, it makes us see the evil of sin (Jn 16:7-9). We might not have perceived sin to be sin if it had not been for the command of God not to commit it. But when the commandment comes, then we recognize sin and the evil of it. A sight of misery must go before a sense of mercy. Lex, lux, “the law is a light,” and shows us our need of a mediator.

Spurgeon adds "The law had its uses, blessed uses. The law should be used for its own purposes, and then it is admirable, it is divine. Take it out of its own proper use, make it a master instead of being a servant, and it is something like fire, which in your grate will comfort you, but if it masters you, it burns your house and destroys you."

W H Griffith-Thomas comments that the "LAW came in as a sort of parenthesis, not as the original, or final purpose of God. It came in alongside of sin, between that and grace; to convince of sin and at the same time as a consequence, that transgressions might be multiplied (Gal. 3:19). Yet God, Who is the Author of law, is not responsible for the increase of sin. The law does not compel, but only impels to sin; it does not create, it only calls it forth (See Ro 7:5)....Sin lies dormant in the heart until LAW comes, and then SIN is seen in actual transgression. The LAW by prescribing what is required gives rise to great occasions of offense on the part of sinful man." (Romans - A Devotional Commentary)

MacArthur: The New English Bible, which very often has good translations (not always, but often), says this, "To make wrongdoing a legal offense." The law was given to make wrongdoing a legal offense. Was there sin before the law was given? Of course; there has always been sin. But listen. "The law was not to show man that he was a sinner, he knew that. The law was to show man that he was not just a sinner, but he was willfully breaking the standards of Almighty God and that sin was rebellion against the holiness of God." See the difference? He knew he was a sinner. What would tell him that? Conscience. What he needed to know was that such sinning was in absolute violation of the very law of Almighty God. In other words, he needed to see himself, not just as a bad guy, but as someone who was standing before the bar of a holy God as guilty for his sin and doomed to judgment. That's why the law was given - because of the transgression. It let man know that he was crossing over, transgressing. He was violating God's laws; he was disobedient to the standards. The law was given, then, to bring about in my heart and the hearts of all men, an awakened sense of guilt before God as judge. You know, if you'll look at the law, you'll see this. The prohibitions, for example, of the Ten Commandments reveal their own purpose. They were given by God in order that men might know that these things violated God, and that men might know that God was a judge, and if they violated God, they would sit under judgment. God gave the Ten Commandments in order to repress the worship of false gods, to repress idolatry, blasphemy, Sabbath-breaking, disobedience to parents, murder, theft, adultery, false witnessing, covetousness. God gave the Ten Commandments to suppress those things. How? By showing men that when they did those things, they were putting themselves under the judgment of a holy God. Romans 3:20. "Therefore, by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight. For by the law is the knowledge of sin." The law came to reveal to man that he lived in violation of God's standards. Romans 5:20. "Moreover, the law entered that the offense might abound." In other words, that sin might become all the more sinful to men when they saw that it was in violation of an absolutely holy God who was judge. (God's Promise: Why the Law?)

Hendriksen: "If the law given at Sinai was unable to impart righteousness, then what possible good could it do? Of what use was it? ... it was given to man in addition to the promise in order to bring about within his heart and mind an awakened sense of guilt. A vague awareness of the fact that all is not right with him will not drive him to the Savior. Only when he realizes that his sins are transgressions of the law of that God who is also his Judge and whose holiness cannot brook such digressions, such constant stepping aside from the appointed path, will he, when this knowledge is applied to his heart by the Holy Spirit, cry out for deliverance."

Transgressions (3847)(parabasis from para = beyond, aside + baino = step) means to step on one side and thus is primarily a going aside, a stepping across a line, an overstepping or stepping over and always implies a breach of law and especially of the Law of Moses. It refers to the act of a person stepping beyond a fixed limit into forbidden territory. The point is that the law draws the line that should not be crossed or "stepped over". Where there is no law, people do not deliberately disobey God but they disobey in ignorance.

Having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator: The Law "was ordained through angels and delivered to Israel by the hand of a mediator [Moses, the mediator between God and Israel, to be in effect]" (Amplified) Moses describes himself as a mediator in Deuteronomy declaring

“The LORD spoke to you (ISRAEL) face to face at the mountain from the midst of the fire, while I was standing between the LORD and you (ISRAEL) at that time, to declare to you the word of the LORD; for you were afraid because of the fire and did not go up the mountain. (Deuteronomy 5:4-5)

So in some way God's angels were involved in the giving of the Law. Since several Old Testament passages alluded to the angelic role in giving the Law, this passage would speak especially to those who had a Jewish background (and were more likely to be trying to perfect their flesh by keeping the Law rather than by faith and the Spirit - Gal 3:2-3).

Acts 7:53  you who received the law as ordained by angels, and yet did not keep it.

Hebrews 2:2-note For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just penalty,

Gene Getz - Informed Jews knew that thousands upon thousands of angels accompanied the Lord in revealing the old covenant at Mount Sinai (Dt 33:2; Ps 68:17; cp. Gal  3:19). To complicate the theological situation, Jewish scribes added substantially to what the Holy Spirit had revealed about angels in the Old Testament. Consequently, the author of Hebrews addressed an audience that had an Old Testament perspective distorted by false teaching. In response, the author skillfully wove together seven Old Testament references to demonstrate that Jesus Christ is far superior to angels—in fact, He is God’s Son and angels worship Him. Though many Jews struggled with this truth, in light of the complete New Testament revelation we know the great reality that Jesus Christ is the eternal God (Heb 1:8; Jn 1:5-14). (Life Essentials)

Psalms 68:17  The chariots of God are myriads, thousands upon thousands; The Lord is among them as at Sinai, in holiness. 

Herbert Lockyer - Great numbers of angels attended the divine Majesty on Mount Sinai in the giving forth of His law (Deuteronomy 32:2; Psalm 68:17).  (All the Angels of the Bible)

Dt 33:2 He said, “The LORD came from Sinai, And dawned on them from Seir; He shone forth from Mount Paran, And He came from the midst of ten thousand holy ones (Septuagint - Lxx translates "holy ones" as "aggelos" in the plural = angels); At His right hand there was flashing lightning for them.

MacArthur on holy ones  - Probably a reference to the angels who assisted God when the law was mediated to Moses at Mt. Sinai (see Ac 7:53; Gal 3:19; Heb 2:2). (MacArthur Study Bible)

Henry Morris - The "holy ones" with God at Mount Sinai were holy angels, all intensely interested in the developing plan of God, especially at this critical point in redemptive history. Note 1 Peter 1:12; Exodus 19:19; Psalm 68:17. (Defender's Study Bible)

Henry Morris has an interesting comment: 'The account of the giving of the law through Moses on Mt Sinai (Ex 19:9-25) makes no mention of angels, although it does record the prolonged sounding of a trumpet. Apparently a mighty host of angels was present. [Dt 33:2] mentions "ten thousands of saints" as "the LORD came from Sinai" (Ps 68:17 Acts 7:53).'' 

Ordained (1299)(diatasso from dia = through  + tasso = order) means literally to arrange thoroughly, to arrange in its proper order, to issue orderly and detailed instructions as to what must be done. To institute, prescribe, to appoint,  to set in order (Titus 1:5-note), ordain (1 Cor 7:17 regarding marital conditions); to give directions (Acts 7:44-God directed Moses to make the Tabernacle according to pattern), to command (with the implication of setting in order) as did Emperor Claudius’ “commanding” that Jews must leave Rome (Acts 18:2, cp Lk 3:13). Moulton and Milligan add that diatasso was a technical term used in connection with wills, as well as a general word for commanding. 

Until = an expression of time = UNTIL means happening or done up to a particular point in time, and then stopping. Stated another way the conjunction UNTIL  Indicates that a change would take place. The Seed refers to Christ.

The Seed would come to Whom the promise had been made: The "Seed" refers to the Messiah, Jesus. When He came, He fulfilled the Law. Why go back up under the Law? The Law was intended to be in effect UNTIL the Seed (the Descendant, the Heir) should come, to and concerning Whom the promise had been made.

At Mt Sinai, the LAW was given through two intermediaries, the angels and Moses. The people stood afar off. Grace says, “Come nigh,” LAW says, “Stand off.” The object of showing how the LAW was given, was to indicate the inferior and subordinate position of the LAW in comparison to the superior position held by grace. The promise was given directly to Abraham, but the LAW through two intermediaries, angels and Moses. Paul shows that the LAW does not, as the Judaizers claim, have as direct and positive a relation to the divine plan of salvation as does the PROMISE. He also shows that it is only of transitory significance, whereas the PROMISE has an eternal value and meaning.

Paul Apple - The Law was Necessary but clearly Inferior to the Promises

1. (Gal 3:19a) The Law was Necessary Because of Sin "It was added because of transgressions" Again, the emphasis on the law having been "added" after the Promises.

2. (Gal 3:19b-20) The Law was Clearly Inferior to God's Promises -

a. Proven by the nature of mediation - "having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator" mediated through angels and Moses rather than directly given by God as the promises were to Abraham

b. Proven by the intended duration -- Only Temporary "until the seed should come to whom the promise had been made"

c. Proven by the need for a mediator -  "Now a mediator is not for one party only; whereas God is only one." (Gal 3:20) (Galatians Commentary)

Gromacki offers another thought regarding the addition of the LAW - "The reason for the addition of the law was 'because of transgression.' It was designed to restrain fallen human nature. If no restrictions were ever placed on unregenerate wills, then sinners would manifest their position in every conceivable evil practice. The intent of the law, therefore, was to reduce the amount of sin that could be committed. In a sense, sinful man is not as bad as he could be (his practice), although he is as bad off as he can be (his position). Moral anarchy could not be tolerated by either God or man. The aim of the law was to give to sin the character of transgression and to create within the sinner a consciousness of guilt. It removed the excuse of an innate human weakness caused by evolutionary heredity or a hostile environment. It showed to man that he had willfully violated the decree of the personal, sovereign God of the universe."

Scofield - The answer to this question "Why the Law then?" (This list includes the reasons Paul mentions in the following verses) 

(1) The law was added because of transgressions, i.e. to give to sin the character of transgression = to make sins known and to restrain them. 

(a) Men had been sinning before Moses but, in the absence of law, their sins were not put to their account (Ro 5:13); the law gave to sin the character of transgression, i.e. of personal guilt. 

(b) Furthermore, since men not only continued to sin after the law was given, but were provoked to transgress by the very law which forbade it (Ro 7:8), the law conclusively proved the inveterate sinfulness of man's nature (Ro 7:11-13). 

(2) The law, therefore, "declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin" (cp. Ro 3:19,20,23). 

(3) The law was an <ad interim> dealing, "until the Seed . . . had come" (Gal 3:19). 

(4) The law shut sinful man up to faith as the only avenue of escape (Gal 3:23). 

(5) The law was to the Jews what the child discipliner (paidagogos) was in a Greek household, a custodian of children in their minority, and it had this character to or "until" Christ (Gal 3:23-25; 4:1-2). 

(6) Christ having come, the believer is no longer under the child-discipliner (i.e. the law, v25), but has become a disciple (i.e. learner) of Christ Himself (Mt 11:29; Lu 10:39; Jn 17:6-8; Titus 2:11-13).


  • Therefore, the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ (Galatians 3:24).

The law has never saved anyone, and it never will. God did not give it to redeem us from sin but to show us our need of salvation. That's why the apostle Paul called it "our tutor."  In an unforgettable sermon, evangelist Fred Brown used three im­ages to describe the purpose of the law.

First, he likened it to the small mirror dentists use. With the mirror they can detect cavities. But they can't drill with it or use it to pull teeth. The mirror reveals the decayed area or other abnormality, but it can't fix the problem. Brown then drew another analogy. He said that the law is also like a flashlight. If the lights go out at night, you use it to guide you down the darkened basement stairs to the electrical box. When you point it toward the fuses, it helps you see the one that is burned out. But after you've removed the bad fuse, you don't insert the flashlight in its place. You put in a new fuse to restore the electricity. In his third image, Brown likened the law to a plumbline. Builders check their work by using a weighted string. If this plumbline reveals that the work is not true to the vertical, the plumbline cannot correct it. The builder must get out a hammer and saw.

Like the mirror, flashlight, and plumbline, the law points out the problem—sin, but it doesn't provide a solution. The only way to salvation is through Jesus Christ, who fulfilled the law. Only He can save. —D. C. Egner (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

The law shows us a need that only grace can fill. 

Haddon Robinson uses the same illustration of the 3 symbols and then adds this comment:

The apostle Paul said, “We know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully” (1 Tim. 1:8). The law of God reveals the problem of sin, but it doesn’t provide a solution. The answer is found in Jesus Christ. He bore our guilt on the cross and now offers us new life. When we put our faith in Him as our personal Savior, He forgives us and enables us to live by His strength in ways that please Him. What the law can’t do, Christ can. Have you asked Him to be your Savior?

For Further Study

  1. What does Galatians 3 say about our relationship to the law? (Gal 3:11-14,24-25).
  2. What can we learn about the law in Romans 8:1-4?

God's law pinpoints our problem
God's grace provides the solution.

In Galveston, Texas, a hotel on the shore of the Gulf of Mexico put this notice in each room

"No Fishing From the Balcony"

Yet every day, hotel guests threw in their lines to the waters below.

Then the management decided to take down the signs--and the fishing stopped! 

The Law shows sin and stimulates sin!

Did the Prohibition Act stop drinking? No, in many ways it made drinking more attractive to people. Once God draws a boundary for us, we are immediately enticed to cross that boundary - which is no fault of God or His boundary, but of our sinful hearts.

Galatians 3:19-22 TODAY IN THE WORD
In 1838 the British government sent word to Jamaica that slavery was at an end and that therefore those who were slaves were now free. On that night of emancipation, a mahogany coffin was made. Former slaves filled the coffin with whips, branding irons, coarse clothing, handcuffs, and other tools and symbols used during their years of bondage.
The coffin lid was bolted shut and at midnight the coffin was lowered into a grave, dug especially for the occasion. Then the thousands gathered celebrated their new freedom by singing the doxology!

Once released, people who have known slavery would never willingly surrender their freedom. Instead, they move forward joyfully to a new way of life. This is the very point Paul is trying to make to the Galatians. ""You have been set free from the law's condemnation,"" he tells them, ""so start acting like it!""

If the law is not in force for the believer now that Christ has come, what good was it? What function did it serve? The answer is that the law was given until the Seed should come and that it was therefore only preparatory, ending with the coming of Christ (v. 19). 

If law is inferior to promise, is there opposition between these two divine arrangements? Paul says, ""Perish the thought."" The law is all right as far as it goes, but it really could not compete with the promise because it could not give life. 

The function of the law was to convict transgressors. The picture in verse 22 is variously painted by translators as ""shut up like a fish enclosed in a net,"" ""enclosed entirely by barriers,"" and ""shut up on every side as in a prison."" Everything pertaining to men--thoughts, words, and deeds--is all locked up and thus doomed under sin.

APPLY THE WORD We've nearly reached the halfway point of our study of Galatians. We hope you are enjoying and learning from this meaty book!
We suggest today that you sit back and reorient yourself to the ""big picture"" of Paul's epistle. (If you're working today on the tax forms that are due tomorrow, you could do one of these activities as a break!)

Don Fortner on Galatians 3:19 - The law of God is holy and just and good. But it becomes a very great evil when it is perverted and used for something other than its divine purpose. Now Paul tells us what the design and purpose of God’s law is. It was never intended by God to be a means of justification or sanctification, a motive for Christian service, a rule of life for believers, or a code of moral ethics. The law of God has but one singular purpose. It exposes man’s guilt and sin before God, shutting him up to faith in Christ alone for salvation. ‘It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made.’ ‘The law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.’ (Gal 3:24) To use the law for any other purpose is to pervert and abuse the law. Once a man comes to Christ by faith, the law has no more claim upon him and no longer has dominion over him. The law was not made for a righteous man. The language of Holy Scripture in this matter could not be clearer or more emphatic. ‘After that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.’ ‘We are not under the law, but under grace.’ (Ro 6:14) ‘Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.’ (Ro 10:4KJV) ‘Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.’ (Ro 7:4KJV) We who are free dare not entangle ourselves again with the yoke of bondage. (Gal 5:1) Our freedom has been purchased at too high a price, the precious blood of Christ. We have a higher, better, more effectual motive for our obedience, service and devotion than the law given by Moses. ‘The love of Christ constraineth us!’ (2 Cor 5:14KJV) When true love reigns in the heart there is no need for law. Love for Christ causes us to love one another. This love makes God’s elect patient, kind, honest, generous and faithful. And this love is the fulfillment of the law. (Gal 5:14)

Our Daily Bread - In his Confessions, Augustine (354-430), the well-known theologian, reflected on this attraction to the forbidden. He wrote, "There was a pear tree near our vineyard, laden with fruit. One stormy night we rascally youths set out to rob it … We took off a huge load of pears--not to feast upon ourselves, but to throw them to the pigs, though we ate just enough to have the pleasure of the forbidden fruit. They were nice pears, but it was not the pears that my wretched soul coveted, for I had plenty better at home. I picked them simply to become a thief… The desire to steal was awakened simply by the prohibition of stealing." Romans 7 sets forth the truth illustrated by Augustine's experience: Human nature is inherently rebellious. Give us a law and we will see it as a challenge to break it. Jesus, however, forgives our lawbreaking and gives us the Holy Spirit. He imparts a new desire and ability so that our greatest pleasure becomes bringing pleasure to God. --H W Robinson (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

Why do we keep on trying
The fare of this world's sin
When God has set before us
The joy of Christ within? --JDB

Forbidden fruit tastes sweet but has bitter consequences

Today in the Word - What, then, was the purpose of the Law? - Galatians 3:19
Using the illustration of  the willfulness of toddlers, someone might ask, “Why go through all the trouble of giving them instructions if they are just going to do what they want?” This question misses the true point of the instruction. We want to protect children from things that will harm them, but we also want to train them so that they can make wise, healthy choices when they are mature enough to choose for themselves.

  • See the "Toddler's Creed" below

THE TODDLER'S CREED - Elisa Morgan, president of MOPS International (Mothers Of Pre-Schoolers), shared this insight into a child's view of the world:

Toddler's Creed

If I want it, it's mine.
If I give it to you and change my mind later, it's mine.
If I can take it away from you, it's mine.
If I had it a little while ago, it's mine.
If it's mine, it will never belong to anyone else, no matter what.
If we are building something together, all the pieces are mine.
If it looks just like mine, it is mine.

Anyone who has ever known a toddler knows the truth of that creed. We expect to see this trait in toddlers, but we despise it in adults. It is called covetousness. The apostle Paul, who had led an outwardly religious life before he became a follower of Jesus, wrestled with that sin (Ro 7:7). After carefully studying the law, he recognized covetousness for what it was. But God in His grace changed Paul. Instead of being a coveting, grasping man, he became a truly generous person (Acts 20:33-35). Generosity may be the acid test of whether or not we are still spiritual toddlers. Have you allowed Jesus Christ to create in you a new, giving heart? Or are you still following the "Toddler's Creed"? - H W Robinson (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

Gratefulness wrought by the Spirit
Overcomes selfishness wrought by the Flesh

Galatians 3:20  Now a mediator is not for one party only; whereas God is only one.

Greek -  o de mesites enos ouk estin (3SPAI) o de theos eis estin  (3SPAI)

Amplified:  Now a go-between (intermediary) has to do with and implies more than one party [there can be no mediator with just one person]. Yet God is [only] one Person [and He was the sole party in giving that promise to Abraham. But the Law was a contract between two, God and Israel; its validity was dependent on both]. 

Amplified (2015) Now the mediator or go-between [in a transaction] is not [needed] for just one party; whereas God is only one [and was the only One giving the promise to Abraham, but the Law was a contract between two, God and Israel; its validity depended on both].

ESV  Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one.

ICB But a mediator is not needed when there is only one side. And God is only one.

KJV Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one.

NET  Now an intermediary is not for one party alone, but God is one.

NLT  Now a mediator is helpful if more than one party must reach an agreement. But God, who is one, did not use a mediator when he gave his promise to Abraham.

Paraphrase  Now a mediator is helpful if more than one party must reach an agreement. But God, who is one, did not use a mediator when he gave his promise to Abraham. (Cornerstone Biblical Commentary)

Phillips  The very fact that there was an intermediary is enough to show that this was not the fulfilling of the promise. For the promise of God needs neither angelic witness nor human intermediary but depends on him alone.

Wuest  Now, the mediator is not (a go-between representing the interests) of one (individual), but God is one (individual).

YLT  and the mediator is not of one, and God is one --

Please note that someone has noted that over 400 interpretations of this verse have been offered!  The NET Note says it succinctly! = "The meaning of this verse is disputed."

Now a mediator is not for one party only whereas God is only one - Paul’s point is apparently that a “mediator” is required when more than one party is involved, but God alone ratified the covenant with Abraham. A mediator implies a covenant between two parties both of whom have responsibilities, facts true of the Mosaic Covenant. On the other hand God is One, that is, the “promise” (v. 19) was unilateral and was given to man directly without a mediator, God alone having responsibility for fulfilling it. The Amplified version is a helpful translation of this passage

Now a go-between (intermediary) has to do with and implies more than one party [there can be no mediator with just one person]. Yet God is [only] one Person [and He was the sole party in giving that promise to Abraham. But the Law was a contract between two, God and Israel; its validity was dependent on both]. 

MacArthur: "Paul seems to be pointing out that a mediator (literally one who stands between two parties) is needed only when more than one party is involved. God gave the covenant directly to Abraham without a mediator because He was the only one involved in making the covenant. Abraham was a witness to the covenant and was a beneficiary, but he was not a party to it. Abraham had no part in establishing or keeping the covenant. That responsibility was God's alone. The covenant of law, however, not only involved mediators (angels and Moses) but mutual obligations on the two parties (God and Israel)."

John Stott - The rest of verse 19 and verse 20 are acknowledged to be difficult. They have been variously interpreted. The apostle is probably emphasizing the inferiority of the law to the gospel

Wuest - In this verse Paul shows that the promise is superior to the law, for the former was given directly from God to Abraham, whereas the latter was given to Israel by God through a mediator. We will examine the statement, “A mediator is not of one.” The word mediator is from mesites (μεσιτες), which in turn comes from mesos which means middle, the midst. Thus a mediator is one who intervenes between two, either to make or restore peace and friendship, to form a compact, or ratify a covenant. The word in the Greek text is preceded by the definite article, making the word generic in character. That is, Paul is not referring here to any particular mediator as Moses, but to the office of a mediator, and to mediators in general looked upon as a class of individuals. However, this generic statement is intended to be applied to Moses, the mediator referred to in verse 19. The word one is masculine in gender, and therefore is personal, referring to a person. That is, a mediator does not act simply in behalf of one person. The very genius of the word implies that the mediator stands “in the midst” of two or more persons, thus acts as a go-between. It is not that the mediator acts in behalf of a plurality of persons that constitute one party, but that there is a plurality of parties between which he acts. Thus the law is a contract between two parties. God gives the law through a mediator Moses, and man is obligated to obey it. God will bless man if he obeys, and will punish man if he disobeys. But the promise of free grace is not in the nature of a contract between two parties. God acts alone and directly when He promises salvation to anyone who will receive it by the out-stretched hand of faith. There are no good works to be done by the sinner in order that he might merit that salvation. Grace is unconditional. There are no strings tied to it. God is One, that is, He acts alone without a mediator in respect to the promise of grace. Therefore grace is superior to law. In the case of the former, God spoke directly to Abraham. In the case of the latter, He spoke to Israel through a mediator, Moses. The dignity of the law is thus seen to be inferior to that of the promise. (Galatians Commentary - Verse by Verse)

Galatians 3:21  Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God? May it never be! For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law.

Greek -   o oun nomoskata ton epaggelion Îtou theou. me genoito (3SAMO) ei gar edothe (3SAPI) nomoso dunamenos (PPPMSN) zoopoiesai (AAN) ontos ek nomou an en (3SIAI) e dikaiosune  

Amplified:  Is the Law then contrary and opposed to the promises of God? Of course not! For if a Law had been given which could confer [spiritual] life, then righteousness and right standing with God would certainly have come by Law. 

Amplified (2015)  Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a system of law had been given which could impart life, then righteousness (right standing with God) would actually have been based on law

ESV  Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law.

ICB   Does this mean that the law is against God's promises? Never! If there were a law that could give men life, then we could be made right by following that law.

KJV  Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law.

NET  Is the law therefore opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that was able to give life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law.

NLT  Is there a conflict, then, between God's law and God's promises? Absolutely not! If the law could give us new life, we could be made right with God by obeying it.

Phillips  Is the Law then to be looked upon as a contradiction of the promise? Certainly not, for if there could have been a law which gave men spiritual life then law would have produced righteousness (which would have been, of course, in full harmony with the purpose of the promise). 

Wuest  Is therefore the law against the promises of God? God forbid. For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, righteousness in that case would have been from the law.

YLT  the law, then, is against the promises of God? -- let it not be! for if a law was given that was able to make alive, truly by law there would have been the righteousness,


Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God?  This is straightforward. "God gave both the Law and promises, but for different purposes. And it was not the purpose of the Law to give life." (Donald Campbell)

Spurgeon - The law is not the opponent of the promise, but an agent for putting men where they feel themselves to be in need of mercy and therefore accept salvation by grace.

May it never be! God forbid. Perish the thought Literally "may it never come into existence" or "may it not be thought of."  Paul invokes the strongest way in the Greek to disavow the statement that the Law was contrary to the promises of God. (Gal 2:17 3:21 Ro 6:1,2, 7:13) God's Law is Not an Enemy to God's Promises! 

For if a law had been given which was able to impart life then righteousness would indeed have been based on law: "For if a Law had been given which could confer [spiritual] life, then righteousness and right standing with God would certainly have come by Law." (Amplified) God's Law Can Never Provide Justification!

John Stott - This second question is different from the first in that it seems to be addressed not to Paul by the Judaizers, but to the Judaizers by Paul. He is accusing them of doing just this, of making the law contradict the gospel, the promises of God. Their teaching was: ‘keep the law and you will gain life.’ And they thought they were being practical! Paul denies it. Their position was purely hypothetical: if a law had been given which could make alive, then righteousness would indeed be by the law (verse 21). But no such law has been given. Turning from hypothesis to reality, the fact is that nobody has ever kept the law of God. Instead, we sinners break it every day. Therefore, the law cannot justify us.

In Romans Paul clearly establishes that righteousness is never based on LAW but obtained only BY FAITH. 

Romans 3:20-22 (Amplified 2015)   For no person will be justified [freed of guilt and declared righteous] in His sight by [trying to do] the works of the Law. For through the Law we become conscious of sin(Cp Gal 3:19-note) [and the recognition of sin directs us toward repentance, but provides no remedy for sin]. 21 But now the righteousness of God has been clearly revealed [independently and completely] apart from the Law, though it is [actually] confirmed by the Law and the [words and writings of the] Prophets. 22 This righteousness of God comes through faith in Jesus Christ for all those [Jew or Gentile] who believe [and trust in Him and acknowledge Him as God’s Son]. There is no distinction, 

Romans 3:28  (Amplified 2015) For we maintain that an individual is justified by faith distinctly apart from works of the Law [the observance of which has nothing to do with justification, that is, being declared free of the guilt of sin and made acceptable to God].

Wuest addresses Paul's question about whether God's Law and God's promises are in conflict - The answer is that the law and the promises are not in conflict because each has a distinct function.

  • The LAW is a ministry of condemnation. The PROMISES are a ministry of salvation.
  • The LAW judges a person on the basis of obedience or disobedience. The PROMISES judge man on a basis of faith.
  • The LAW , whose ministry is one of condemnation, was not intended to express God’s attitude towards man. God’s attitude towards man is one of grace.
  • The LAW is not the basis of God’s judgment of man. A sinner who rejects Christ, goes to the Lake of Fire for all eternity, not because he has broken God’s laws, for his sin is paid for. He goes to a lost eternity, because he rejects God’s grace in the Lord Jesus.
  • The LAW is a revelation of the sinner’s legal standing, and as such condemns him. It cannot therefore justify him, as the Judaizers claim.

LAW and grace are not in conflict,
since they operate in different spheres.

For instance, here is a father who has discovered that his son has disobeyed his commands. He calls the son’s attention to the law which he broke, and pronounces him guilty. He uses this very sentence of guilty to bring the boy to see his misdemeanor in its true light. The son becomes repentant, and the father assures him of his forgiveness. The father is not in conflict with himself when using law to bring his son to a realization of the true nature of his disobedience, in order that he might repent and thus put himself in a position where the father can forgive him.

God is not in conflict with Himself when He gives the LAW that man might come to see his sin as a transgression or violation of His holy will, which is the first step in his act of repentance and faith, and which latter is answered by God with the gift of eternal life. Furthermore, no LAW could give eternal life. The wages of sin is death (Ro 6:23). The LAW demands of the sinner the death penalty, spiritual and physical death. The LAW will not accept the good works of a sinner in lieu of the death penalty. Only the precious blood of Jesus could satisfy the righteous demands of the broken LAW . Salvation therefore is by grace, since God the Son took the sinner’s place on the Cross and offers salvation to the one who believes on Him. (Galatians Commentary - Verse by Verse)

Galatians 3:22  But the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.

Greek - alla sunekleisen (3SAAI) e graphe ta panta hupo hamartian, hina e epaggelia ek pisteos Iesou Christou dothe (3SAPS) tois pisteuousin (PAPMPD)

Amplified:  But the Scriptures [picture all mankind as sinners] shut up and imprisoned by sin, so that [the inheritance, blessing] which was promised through faith in Jesus Christ (the Messiah) might be given (released, delivered, and committed) to [all] those who believe [who adhere to and trust in and rely on Him]. 

ESV  But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.

KJV  But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.

NET  But the scripture imprisoned everything and everyone under sin so that the promise could be given– because of the faithfulness of Jesus Christ– to those who believe.

NLT But the Scriptures declare that we are all prisoners of sin, so we receive God's promise of freedom only by believing in Jesus Christ.

Phillips  But, as things are, the scripture has all men "imprisoned", because they are found guilty by the Law, that to men in such condition might come to release all who believe in Jesus Christ.

Wuest  But the scripture shut up all under sin, in order that the promise on the ground of faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.

YLT  but the Writing did shut up the whole under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ may be given to those believing.

Donald Campbell - But if the Law is not opposed to the promises, if there is no conflict between them (Gal 3:21), how can their harmony be demonstrated? By recognizing that while the Law could not justify or give life, it did prepare the way for the gospel. What part then did Law play in this respect? It declared the whole world … a prisoner of sin. 

Wuest - Scripture in its divine utterances regarding the universality of sin, is spoken of as a jailer who shuts all up in sin as in a prison. The function of the law was therefore to convict of sin that men might turn to the Lord Jesus for salvation.  (Galatians Commentary - Verse by Verse )


But the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin: We're trapped like a rat! Like the "sinful rats" we are! Paul switches from Law to the Scripture but the sense is not changed. In his last recorded words Paul wrote that "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness."  (2 Ti 3:16) In that passage the Scripture refers especially to the Old Testament, since the New Testament had not yet been finalized. And so we see that the OT (see some representative passages below) makes it very clear that we are under (hupo) the heavy burden of SIN, so that mankind is hopelessly (Ro 5:6, Ep 2:12) enclosed on all sides, the picture of a school of fish caught in a fisher's net. (exact word in Lu 5:6 "they enclosed a great quantity of fish"!)

Spurgeon on the Scripture - The jailer is the Scripture—a lawful authority, for the Scripture is not the word of man, but of the Spirit of God. If the Scriptures shut you up in sin, you are shut up by a lawful authority, against which you cannot rebel (Ed: Oh, you can try to rebel, but you will not succeed!). God has done it; God’s own voice has declared you to be a prisoner under sin. No authority is more powerful than that of Scripture, for it is not only true, but it has force to support it.

Gromacki explains that "The LAW (Ed: In this verse synonymous with "the Scripture") was given to create within man a consciousness that he was completely enveloped in sin with no ability to rescue himself from his spiritual dilemma." (Stand Fast in Liberty: An Exposition of Galatians).

John MacArthur adds "I was once alive apart from the Law,” Paul said; “but when the commandment came, sin became alive, and I died” (Ro 7:9-note), because the covenant with Moses brought “the law of sin and of death” (Ro 8:2-note). Not until a person smashes himself against the demands of the law and the accusations of conscience does he recognize his helplessness and see his need for a Savior. Not until the law has arrested and imprisoned him and sentenced him to death will he be driven to despair in himself and turn to Jesus Christ. The ultimate purpose of shutting up men under sin and death was that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. The law was given to bring men under sin to the point of saying, “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?” (Ro 7:24-note). Grace is given to enable those who believe to say, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Ro 7:25-note). God’s saving purpose is the climax (cf. Luke 19:10; 1 Tim. 1:15)." (Galatians: The MacArthur NT Commentary)

Spurgeon on has shut everyone under sin - The law (Ed: here "the Scripture") has come and proved us all guilty and shut us all up as in a great prison from which we cannot escape by any power of our own. There was nothing about the Mosaic economy to say to man, “You are good, or you can be good, and you can save yourself.” Everywhere the declaration was, “You have rebelled and have not served the Lord; you cannot come near to Him until you are purged by the blood of the great sacrifice. God cannot accept you as you are; you are polluted and defiled.” The sinfulness of all men is abundantly taught in Scripture. Indeed, it is to be found on every page of it. The Scripture shuts you all up as in a dungeon, that by the one and only door of faith in Christ you might come out into a glorious liberty.

G. G. Findlay on has shut everyone under sin - The law was all the while standing guard over its subjects, watching and checking every attempt to escape, but intending to hand them over in due time to the charge of faith. The law posts its ordinances, like so many sentinels, round the prisoner's cell. The cordon is complete. He tries again and again to break out; the iron circle will not yield. The deliverance will yet be his. The day of faith approaches. It dawned long ago in Abraham's promise. Even now its light shines into his dungeon, and he hears the word of Jesus, "Thy sins are forgiven thee; go in peace." (cp Mk 5:34) Law, the stern jailer, has after all been a good friend, if it has reserved him for this. It prevents the sinner escaping to a futile and illusive freedom. (Expositor's Bible Commentary - Galatians 3:19-24 The Design of the Law

Beloved, do you remember that sense of "no escape" you felt when the Spirit of God convicted you of sin, righteousness and the judgment to come? (Jn 16:8) This is why the good news must be preceded with the bad news when we present the Gospel. If men do not see that they are trapped, enclosed on all sides by the Law and under the dominion of sin, they will not appreciate the good news of the Gospel.

The Romans Road is one of the most concise and Scripturally accurate presentations of the Gospel. Do you know the Roman Road? Click for an expanded explanation of the "Romans Road" and the associated "Bridge Illustration" which in picture form demonstrates that anyone who has never believed in Messiah is only a step (breath) away from eternal separation from God. See (1) The Dreadful Dilemma (2) The Deadly Deception (3) The Dependable Deliverer. Let me encourage you to memorize several key passages in Romans which will equip you to walk someone else down the Romans Road whenever God gives us an opportunity. You could also draw out (if you at a restaurant just grab a napkin) the bridge diagram to graphically demonstrate the impossible gap separating Sinful Man and Holy God. Then you can write down the Scripture references in the appropriate places on the diagram as you present the Gospel.  I usually begin with Romans 1:16-note, followed by Romans 3:10-note and Romans 3:23-note, which clearly shows that all mankind is "trapped like dying fish in a net"! You can follow up (trusting in the intrinsic power of the Gospel, the dunamis in Ro 1:16-note and not your clever or convincing presentation) and the convicting ministry of the Spirit, their heart should begin to be conscious of the bad news and prepared to hear the good news beginning in Romans 5:8-note, followed by Romans 6:23-note (bad news then good news) and finally by Romans 10:9,10-note. They may desire to confess Jesus as Lord at that moment. If so you can show them 2 Cor 5:17-note which summarizes the "before" and "after" effect of the Gospel on their soul.  So there you have the so-called Romans Road -- just 6 verses to memorize that could change of eternal destiny of a human being. Is that not motivation enough to memorize these verses? Will you write these verses down, begin to commit them to heart, and ask God, Who desires "for all to come to repentance" (2 Pe 3:9-note),  to give you an open door (Rev 3:8-note) of opportunity to share the Gospel today?

Notice the table The "Romans Road at the bottom of the page - Paul introduces the Gospel in Romans 1:16-17-note but the remainder of the text from Romans 1:18-note to Romans 3:20-note is also a vital component of the Gospel for in this section Paul clearly and convincingly lays out the truth that there is none righteous, that all are sinners and thus all are in need of the good news that he begins to describe in Romans 3:21-note.

Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God; 20 because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin. (Romans 3:19-20-note)

Shut up (4788)(sugkleio from sun/syn = together + kleio = to shut up, enclose) means literally to shut up or enclose together on all sides (there is "no escape"). The idea is to shut up with as fish enclosed in a net (in Lk 5:6 = "they enclosed a great quantity of fish"), i.e., completely and without the possibility of escape. Here of course sunkleio refers to the Scripture (and especially the Law because that is the Scripture he has been speaking of in context). In the other NT use in Ro 11:32 the enclosing is done by God, "For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all." The Septuagint (Lxx) uses sunkleio several times for shutting a woman's womb. In secular use it was used in a military context the meaning to “close up” the ranks. It is similarly used in Polybius to indicate the imprisonment or the “locking up” of people. 

Here in Gal 3:22 the present tense could be rendered "continually holding in confinement." It is clear that there is no escape from this entrapment short of a Gospel rescue!

Here are the 4 NT uses of sugkleio:

Luke 5:6  When they had done this, they enclosed a great quantity of fish, and their nets began to break;

Romans 11:32  For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all.

Galatians 3:22  But the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.

Galatians 3:23  But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed.

Liddell-Scott - to shut or coop up, hem in, enclose, shut off and intercepted them, Id.:-Pass., muffled 2. to set together to fight as in the lists II. to shut close, to close, shut the doors, Ar. III. to lock their shields, to close up the ranks of an army, the part that was not closed up, of a gap in the line, Id. 2. Pass. to be well linked


1. synkleíō has such senses as “to close up together,” “to close,” “to enclose,” “to imprison,” “to envelop,” “to drive into a corner,” “to compel,” “to press,” “to run out,” “to form a circle.”
2. In the LXX it represents various Hebrew words and is used for the surrounding desert, enclosed cities, delivering up prisoners etc., hemming in, harassing, and periphrastically “hewing down.”
3. The Hebrew verb sgr, one of the originals, occurs in the Dead Sea Scrolls for delivering up, closing (e.g., the jaws of lions or the gates of hell), closing in (i.e., punishing) offenders, and closing the door (i.e., excommunicating).
4. In later Judaism other verbs carry such varied senses as ruling, stopping, enclosing, shutting in, wrapping around, and shaping.
5. In the NT the fish are enclosed in the net in Lk. 5:6. In Gal. 3:22–23 Paul says that Scripture shuts up all under sin so that the promise might be given to those who have faith in Christ. Prior to faith there is custody under the law (v. 23). A teleology of history comes to light here. Scripture manifests shutting up under sin, and the law effects this. The eschatological dimension emerges in Rom. 11:32: God has shut up all under disobedience so as to have mercy on all. The figure of the prison is in the background, with the law as its keeper. But protective custody might be the point in view of the positive purpose. God by the law protects the race against self-destruction until faith is revealed (cf. Gal. 3:24). It is unlikely that Paul has in mind the Gnostic conception of the earthly world as a prison from which the redeemer rescues souls by his descent.
6. In Gnostic thinking the earth is the domain of evil and the descent of the redeemer has the force of a descent into the underworld to open the closed gates of the prison. The idea of the enclosing of the soul in matter occurs in Gnostic works; the female soul is enclosed in matter in which moisture and cold predominate in the composition of the elements. Mandaean works refer to a surrounding ring, an enclosing wall, covered radiance, etc. (TDNT)

Sugkleio - 44x in 43v -  Gen. 16:2; 20:18 ("the LORD had closed fast all the wombs of the household of Abimelech"); Exod. 14:3 ("the wilderness has shut them in"); Jos. 6:1 ("Jericho was tightly shut because of the sons of Israel"); 1 Sam. 1:6 ("the LORD had closed her womb."); 1 Ki. 6:20; 7:49; 10:21; 11:27; 12:24; 2 Ki. 24:14,16; Job 3:10,23; Ps. 17:10; 31:8; 35:3; 78:50,62; Prov. 4:12; Isa. 45:1; Jer. 13:19; 21:4,9; Ezek. 4:3; Amos 1:6,9; Obad. 1:14; Mal. 1:10; Lk. 5:6; Rom. 11:32; Gal. 3:22f

Septuagint uses of sunkleio:

  • אָלַם ’ālam (0487), Niphal: be speechless (Ezek 33:22—Codex Alexandrinus only).
  • מַסְגֵּר mas̱gēr (04674), Smith (2 Kgs 24:14,16).
  • סָגַר s̱āghar (05646), Qal: shut in, shut (Ex 14:3, Jb 3:10, Mal 1:10); niphal: be shut (Isa 45:1); pual: be shut up (Jer 13:19); hiphil: deliver, hand over (Jos 20:5, Ps 31:8 [30:8], Ob 14).
  • סָכַךְ s̱ākhakh (05718), Hiphil: hedge in (Jb 3:23).
  • עָצַר ‘ātsar (06352), Prevent (Gn 16:2).
  • פָּצַח pātsach (06723), Piel: break (Mic 3:3).
  • צוּר tsûr (06961), Besiege (Jer 21:9, Ezek 4:3).
  • צָרַר tsārar (07173), Be hampered (Prov 4:12).

Gilbrant comments on uses in the Septuagint where sunkleiō is usually found translating the Hebrew verb s̱āghar (05646), “to encircle, enclose, imprison” (1 Ki 11:27; 1 Sa 1:6). In certain cases the verb has the idea of “deliver up” (as for imprisonment or capture) as in Joshua 20:5 where provisions for the cities of refuge are discussed: “If the avenger of blood pursues him, they shall not give up the slayer into his hand” (RSV) (cf. also Ps 31:8). This is most clearly seen in Ps 78:61,62 where sunkleiō is used in parallel with paradidomi, “to turn over or deliver”: He “gave up (paredōken) his power to captivity . . .He also delivered His people (sunekleisen) to the sword” (Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary)

All (pas/panta) means all without exception are "caught" in the net of sin! This truth is repeatedly taught in both testaments to make sure that it is clearly understood. So many sinners say "I'm a good person," but they are arguing with God's holy Word which indicts all mankind!

1 Kings 8:46  “When they sin against You (for there is no man who does not sin) and You are angry with them and deliver them to an enemy, so that they take them away captive to the land of the enemy, far off or near;

Psalms 14:3 They have all turned aside, together they have become corrupt; There is no one who does good, not even one.  (Ro 3:10)

Psalm 143:2  And do not enter into judgment with Your servant, For in Your sight no man living is righteous

Proverbs 20:9  Who can say, “I have cleansed my heart, I am pure from my sin”? (Rhetorical Question expects the answer "NO ONE!")

Isaiah 53:6 All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him. 

Romans 3:23  for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

Romans 11:32   For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all. 

One would think that any rational soul would be thoroughly convinced of his great sin and thus come to see his great need for the promised Savior.

I love the title of Spurgeon's sermon on Galatians 3:22 "The Great Jail, and How to Get Out of It."  


The phrase under sin gives us a clear and striking picture of the deadly predicament of every person outside of Christ. What is the striking picture? Under is the Greek preposition hupo which (with the accusative - sin = hamartia in the accusative) is a marker of a controlling power so the idea is that all sinners are under the control of and under obligation to sin. Sinners think they are free to do as they please. They are deceived and in their spiritual blindness are in total bondage to sin (hamartia) which constrains them to continually "miss the mark" as far as God's will for their life is concerned. This horrid picture of men enslaved to their harsh taskmaster "Sin" is repeatedly emphasized by Paul...

Romans 3:9   What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin (hupo hamartia)

Titus 3:3 For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved (in bondage) to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another.

Romans 6:17  But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you (by grace through faith and reception of a new heart and the Holy Spirit) became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed,

Romans 6:22 But now having been freed from sin (Implying we were enslaved to sin) and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life.

As discussed above, the LAW "was added because of transgressions" (Ga 3:19-note) to make it clear what sin is--a transgression of the holy character of God and His perfect will. When people understand the nature of sin, it soon becomes clear that all people are under sin (Ro 3:9) and all are sinners by birth (inherent sin) and by imputation of Adam's sin to their account (imputed sin) (Ro 3:10, 12, 23 5:12,19) and that because of this SIN nature they commit personal sins against the will of God. It follows logically that all need to come to Christ to receive redemption, justification, reconciliation and  regeneration by the Holy Spirit (salvation).The Law was intended not only to lead us to Christ ( Gal 3:24), but also to convict us of our sins so that we might look to the promise of God for His "MUCH MORE" (Ro 5:9,10) salvation. Our attempts to keep the Law only show that we are incapable of keeping it perfectly, as the Law itself demands (Jas 2:10 Eccl 7:20 Ro 3:10). 


So that - purpose clause - The purpose of the Law shutting every human being under the power of sin is so that we might hear, receive and believe the Gospel ("The promise by faith in Jesus Christ").  And so we see that the Law is not opposed to the Promises of God, because the Law works like God's "sheep dog" to herd us toward the promises. As Donald Campbell says "When people recognize this and give up attempts to please God by their own works, the way is prepared for them to receive the promise of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ."

G. G. Findlay - Where Law has done its work well, it produces, as in the Apostle’s earlier experience, a profound sense of personal demerit, a tenderness of conscience, a contrition of heart which makes one ready thankfully to receive “the righteousness which is of God by faith.” In every age and condition of life a like effect is wrought upon men who honestly strive to live up to an exacting moral standard. They confess their failure. They lose self-conceit. They grow “poor in spirit,” willing to accept “the abundance of the gift of righteousness” in Jesus Christ. (Expositor's Bible Commentary - Galatians 3:19-24 The Design of the Law

Martin Luther writes that Paul had just stated that "the Scripture has shut up all under sin."  Forever? No, only until the promise should be fulfilled. The promise, you will recall, is the inheritance itself or the blessing promised to Abraham, deliverance from the Law, sin, death, and the devil, and the free gift of grace, righteousness, salvation, and eternal life. This promise, says Paul, is not obtained by any merit, by any law, or by any work. This promise is given. To whom? To those who believe. In whom? In Jesus Christ.

The promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe: The promise is that through the Seed of Abraham, the Messiah, Christ Jesus, all the nations would be blessed, the ultimate blessing being eternal life in Christ which is realized only in those men and women, boys and girls, who express genuine belief in Christ. 

Spurgeon on faith in Jesus Christ - Paul constantly comes back to this point: that salvation is all of grace, through faith in Jesus Christ.

MacDonald points out that "The key words in Gal 3:22 are faith, given, and believe. There is no mention of "doing" or "law-keeping." (Believer's Bible Commentary)

Promise (1860)(epaggelia/epangelia) describes what God Himself commits to do for us (and to refrain from doing) in the future. This word refers to the content of what God promised, new life in Christ and reckoning of His righteousness to our spiritual bank account just as occurred in the case of our spiritual father Abraham when he believed God in Genesis 15:6-note. The English dictionary says a promise is a verbal commitment by one person to another agreeing to do (or not to do) something in the future. 

Promise is clearly a key word (see importance of recognizing and interrogating key words) in Galatians especially in chapter 3 where it occurs 7 times - Gal. 3:14; Gal. 3:16; Gal. 3:17; Gal. 3:18; Gal. 3:21; Gal. 3:22; Gal. 3:29. It is used again Gal. 4:23; Gal. 4:28. In the parallel discussion of Abraham in Romans 4 the word promise occurs 4 times - Rom. 4:13; Rom. 4:14; Rom. 4:16; Rom. 4:20. 

W E Vine has a good discussion of epaggelia as it relates to Galatians 3 -

Epaggelia is primarily a law term, denoting a summons (epi, upon, aggellō, to proclaim, announce), also meant an undertaking to do or give something, a promise. Except in Acts 23:21 it is used only of the promises of God. It frequently stands for the thing promised, and so signifies a gift graciously bestowed, not a pledge secured by negotiation/ Thus, in Gal. 3:14, “the promise of the Spirit” denotes ‘the promised Spirit:’ (cp. Luke 24:49; Acts 2:33, Eph. 1:13) And in Heb. 9:15, “the promise of the eternal inheritance” is ‘the promised eternal inheritance.’...In Gal. 3:16, the plural “promises” is used because the one promise to Abraham was variously repeated (Ge 12:1-3; 13:14-17; 15:18; 17:1-14; 22:15-18), and because it contained the germ of all subsequent promises; Ro. 9:4; Heb. 6:12; 7:6; 8:6; 11:17. Galatians 3 is occupied with showing that the promise was conditional upon faith and not upon the fulfilment of the Law. The Law was later than, and inferior to, the promise, and did not annul it, Gal. 21; cp. Gal 4:23, 28. Again, in Eph. 2:12, “the covenants of the promise” does not indicate different covenants, but a covenant often renewed, all centring in Christ as the promised Messiah–Redeemer, and comprising the blessings to be bestowed through Him.

Gerald Borchert sums up verse 22 and this section on the law - "While law and promise may at first glance appear to be at odds, they are actually partners in providing a solution to the human problem. In summary, the law was a temporary parenthesis to the basic promise that was given to Abraham; the law functioned to identify human sin and to prepare people for God’s solution of faith in Christ Jesus. The law could never replace the expected promise; it did not enable direct communication with God, and it never had the power to give life. Rather, the law judged humanity by showing the divine standard. It pointed beyond itself to the coming promise of life through faith in Christ. This way of faith in the living Christ is the only way that leads to life." (Cornerstone Biblical Commentary – Volume 14: Romans and Galatians)

John Stott asks "How, then, is it possible to create a harmony between the law and the promise? Only by seeing that men inherit the promise because they cannot keep the law, and that their inability to keep the law makes the promise all the more desirable, indeed indispensable. Verse 22: The scripture consigned all things to sin, for the Old Testament plainly declares the universality of human sin, e.g. ‘there is none that does good, no, not one’ (Ps. 14:3). And Scripture holds every sinner in prison for his sins, in order that what was promised to faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. Luther expresses the matter with his usual forcefulness: ‘The principal point … of the law … is to make men not better but worse; that is to say, it sheweth unto them their sin, that by the knowledge thereof they may be humbled, terrified, bruised and broken, and by this means may be driven to seek grace, and so to come to that blessed Seed (sc. Christ).’

Turnaround Expert

Read: Galatians 3:22-4:7 | When the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law. —Galatians 4:4

Members of The Turnaround Management Association are rarely asked to join successful companies. Instead, these skilled professionals are called into ailing businesses to help get them back on their feet.

The same need for dramatic change exists throughout society. People who can reverse the downward spiral in an individual’s life, a relationship, or a team are constantly in demand.

But what about changing the world? Many people would say that only God can do that. And that’s exactly what He sent His Son to do. The Bible describes humanity’s downward spiral by saying that the entire world was imprisoned by sin and “in bondage” (Galatians 3:22; 4:3).

Into that hopeless situation Jesus came “to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons” (4:5). The personal turnaround for us begins when we accept God’s offer of eternal life in Christ and receive His Spirit into our hearts (v.6). Rather than simply being given a new set of rules and sent off on our own, we are adopted into God’s family.

Jesus Christ is the ultimate turnaround expert. He specializes in impossible cases. Will you invite Him into your life today? -- David McCasland 

The Lord will turn your life around
If you'll invite Him in;
Then you'll at once be heaven-bound,
No longer chained by sin. —Hess

When we choose to follow Jesus,
our whole life changes direction.

Galatians 3:23  But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed.

Greek - Pro tou de elthein (AAN) ten pistin hupo nomon ephrouroumetha (1PIPI) sugkleiomenoi (PPPMPN) eis ten mellousan (PAPFSA) pistin apokaluthenai  (APN)

Amplified: Now before the faith came, we were perpetually guarded under the Law, kept in custody in preparation for the faith that was destined to be revealed (unveiled, disclosed), 

ESV Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed.

KJV But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.

NET Now before faith came we were held in custody under the law, being kept as prisoners until the coming faith would be revealed.

NLT Before the way of faith in Christ was available to us, we were placed under guard by the law. We were kept in protective custody, so to speak, until the way of faith was revealed.

Phillips Before the coming of faith we were all imprisoned under the power of the Law, with our only hope of deliverance the faith that was to be shown to us. 

Wuest  But before the aforementioned faith came, under law we were constantly being guarded, being shut up with a view to the faith about to be revealed.

YLT  And before the coming of the faith, under law we were being kept, shut up to the faith about to be revealed,


But before faith came (Gal 4:4): Before faith came is where all men were as Paul describes for example in Romans 1:18-21.

John Stott explains "What We Were Under the Law (Gal 3:23, 24) In a word, we were in bondage. The apostle uses two vivid similes in verses 23 and 24, in which the law is likened first to a prison, in which we were held captive, and then to a tutor, whose discipline was harsh and severe."

Martin Luther comments on before faith came - The Apostle proceeds to explain the service which the Law is to render. Previously Paul had said that the Law was given to reveal the wrath and death of God upon all sinners. Although the Law kills, God brings good out of evil. He uses the Law to bring life. God saw that the universal illusion of self-righteousness could not be put down in any other way but by the Law. The Law dispels all self-illusions. It puts the fear of God in a man. Without this fear there can be no thirst for God's mercy. God accordingly uses the Law for a hammer to break up the illusion of self- righteousness, that we should despair of our own strength and efforts at self-justification.

Faith (pistis)(Literally = "the faith") in this context refers to the faith just mentioned in Gal 3:22-note. Faith in Christ alone releases people from bondage to law, whether the Mosaic law (which speaks to the Jews), or the law written on the hearts of Gentiles as Paul described in Romans 2:

For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, 15 in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, 16 on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus. (Ro 2:14-16-note)

Wuest explains "The correct understanding of the expression, “Before faith came” is found in the fact that the definite article (Greek = ten pistin where "ten" is translated "the" which is the definite article) is used before the word faith, namely, “before the faith came.” The article here identifies the faith mentioned in this verse with the faith spoken of in Gal 3:22-note, personal faith in Jesus Christ as Saviour, exercised in this Age of Grace. That faith is fundamentally alike so far as its character goes, to the faith Abraham exercised (Ge 15:6-note), but different in that it looks back to an accomplished salvation at the Cross, whereas the faith of Abraham looked forward to the accomplishment of that salvation at Calvary. The former is faith in an historic Christ, whereas the latter was faith in a prophetic Christ. Faith has been the appointed means of obtaining the salvation of God since Adam’s time. Faith itself did not begin to be exercised on the occasion of the Cross. Faith as such did not come then. But the particular faith in Jesus Christ as exercised in this Age of Grace came at the beginning of the age (Ed: As did the Gospel of Grace - cp Ge 3:15-note, Gal 3:8-note)." (Galatians Commentary - Verse by Verse)

Spurgeon on before faith came -  Here we have a condensed history of the world before the gospel was fully revealed by the coming of our Lord Jesus. Before the clear and plain revelation of the way of salvation, the Hebrew nation was put under the tutorship and governance of the Mosaic law. So far as salvation was to be obtained by it, that law was a total failure. It did not make the Jews a holy people. Whenever they reached any point of excellence, they soon went back from it, for they were bent on backsliding. Whatever the influence of that blessed law might be supposed to be, the actual net result was very poor indeed. When Christ came to the chosen people, they were in a most miserable condition, and there was no hope for them at all apart from the promised Messiah. They were shut up to the alternative of receiving Him, or else being put away as a nation for a long time of banishment and exile. This, indeed, they have actually endured through their rejection of the one and only Savior.

MacArthur - Whether through the written law of Scripture (Ed: Jews) or the inward law of conscience (Ed: Gentiles), until a person acknowledges his basic sinfulness and inability to perfectly fulfill the demands of God’s law, he will not come repentantly to seek salvation. Until he despairs of himself and his own sinfulness, he will not come in humble faith to be filled with Christ’s righteousness. A person who says he wants salvation but refuses to recognize and repent of his sin deceives himself. Salvation is deliverance from sin, and a person cannot: want to keep his sin and at the same time want be free from it. He cannot truly want the new Christ-life of righteousness without renouncing the old self-life of sin. (Ibid)

We were kept in custody under the law  - Kept secure and under watch. As noted below the verb phroureo is a military term -- the Jews were kept from being contaminated by the pagan culture and the Law also kept them from getting in trouble.

John Stott - He gave the law in His grace in order to make the promise more desirable....Both verses (Galatians 3:22 and Galatians 3:23-24) tell us that the oppressive work of the law was temporary, and that it was ultimately intended not to hurt but to bless. Its purpose was to shut us up in prison until Christ should set us free, or to put us under tutors until Christ should make us sons. Only Christ can deliver us from the prison to which the curse of the law has brought us, because He was made a curse for us. Only Christ can deliver us from the law’s harsh discipline, because He makes us sons who obey from love for their Father and are no longer naughty children needing tutors to punish them. (Ibid)

MacArthur notes that "After using the third person for most of the chapter (Gal 3:6–22), Paul reverts to the first person (we). In using we, he first of all identifies himself with the Jewish people, to whom both covenants were given. But in a broader and more comprehensive sense he is also identifying himself with all of mankind, Jew and Gentile. Even the most pagan Gentile who has never heard of the true God is under obligation to keep His moral and spiritual standards and, if he disregards those standards, to face the judgment of God.Paul uses two figures to represent God’s law and its effect on unbelievers, first that of a prison and then that of a guardian....The believer who looks back realizes that being under the law had a good effect, because it showed him his guilty helplessness, his moral and spiritual degeneracy, his fearful danger, and his need of a deliverer. The impossible demands of the law are not designed to save but to condemn sinners and drive them toward the Savior." As a college football player, I wrenched my knee during practice but was determined to play in the next game. I went to a doctor and was given some cortisone shots and a bottle of ethyl chloride to deaden the pain by temporarily “freezing” the tissue around the knee. I played the entire game without mishap, periodically applying the ethyl chloride to eliminate the recurring pain. But the result of covering up the pain was a permanently damaged knee with more severe ligament injuries that still affect my mobility. By rejecting pain, the body’s warning system, I paid serious consequences. The purpose of pain is to warn and protect. When that warning is ignored or covered up, the results are always bad. So it is with guilt. It is the divine warning system telling man he is destroying his soul. It ignored, the results are eternally bad. (Ibid)

Martin Luther - The Law is a prison to those who have not as yet obtained grace. No prisoner enjoys the confinement. He hates it. If he could he would smash the prison and find his freedom at all cost. As long as he stays in prison he refrains from evil deeds. Not because he wants to, but because he has to. The bars and the chains restrain him. He does not regret the crime that put him in jail. On the contrary, he is mighty sore that he cannot rob and kill as before. If he could escape he would go right back to robbing and killing. The Law enforces good behavior, at least outwardly. We obey the Law because if we don't we will be punished. Our obedience is inspired by fear. We obey under duress and we do it resentfully. Now what kind of righteousness is this when we refrain from evil out of fear of punishment? Hence, the righteousness of the Law is at bottom nothing but love of sin and hatred of righteousness. All the same, the Law accomplishes this much, that it will outwardly at least and to a certain extent repress vice and crime. But the Law is also a spiritual prison, a veritable hell. When the Law begins to threaten a person with death and the eternal wrath of God, a man just cannot find any comfort at all. He cannot shake off at will the nightmare of terror which the Law stirs up in his conscience. Of this terror of the Law the Psalms furnish many glimpses. The Law is a civil and a spiritual prison. And such it should be. For that the Law is intended. Only the confinement in the prison of the Law must not be unduly prolonged. It must come to an end. The freedom of faith must succeed the imprisonment of the Law. Happy the person who knows how to utilize the Law so that it serves the purposes of grace and of faith. Unbelievers are ignorant of this happy knowledge. When Cain was first shut up in the prison of the Law he felt no pang at the fratricide he had committed. (Genesis 4:8-12) He thought he could pass it off as an incident with a shrug of the shoulder. "Am I my brother's keeper?" he answered God flippantly. (Ge 4:9b) But when he heard the ominous words, "What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground," (Ge 4:10) Cain began to feel his imprisonment. Did he know how to get out of prison? No. He failed to call the Gospel to his aid. (cp It was available! see Ge 3:15-note) He said: "My punishment is greater than I can bear." (Genesis 4:13)  He could only think of the prison. He forgot that he was brought face to face with his crime so that he should hurry to God for mercy and for pardon. Cain remained in the prison of the Law and despaired. As a stone prison proves a physical handicap, so the spiritual prison of the Law proves a chamber of torture. But this it should only be until faith be revealed. The silly conscience must be educated to this. Talk to your conscience. Say: "Sister, you are now in jail all right. But you don't have to stay there forever. It is written that we are 'shut up unto faith which should afterwards be revealed.' Christ will lead you to freedom. Do not despair like Cain, Saul, or Judas. They might have gone free if they had called Christ to their aid. Just take it easy, Sister Conscience. It's good for you to be locked up for a while. It will teach you to appreciate Christ." How anybody can say that he by nature loves the Law is beyond me. The Law is a prison to be feared and hated. Any unconverted person who says he loves the Law is a liar. He does not know what he is talking about. We love the Law about as well as a murderer loves his gloomy cell, his straight-jacket, and the iron bars in front of him. How then can the Law justify us? (Galatians 3 Commentary)

POSB - Very simply, the law shuts man up under sin; it imprisons and holds man in bondage to sin. How?

  1. The law shows man exactly where he fails—exactly where he comes short. There is no question about it: the law said to do this, but the man did that. He did not do this. The failure is clearly spelled out, just as clearly as a speed limit sign spells out the violation of the speeder.
  2. The law accuses and condemns man. As soon as a person violates the law, the law charges him. The law is in black and white, written down, so there is no question about it having been broken. Therefore, it preys upon his mind, cuts and convicts his heart. Guilt and conviction take over and the man is troubled and vexed to varying degrees, all dependent on the seriousness of the violation.
  3. The law has no life and no power to deliver man from the punishment due him for his violation. This is the whole point: the law reveals the violation and condemns man; it imprisons him. The law does not deliver man; it condemns man to bondage. It continues and continues to point out man’s sins and failures. And the case of the law is endless: its finger of accusation points out the man’s failure every time he violates it. The bondage to the law is perpetual. The only hope for man is for someone to appear on the scene with the power to release him. That someone has appeared: Jesus Christ has come to set us free. But note: as prisoners we have to accept His deliverance. The choice is ours. We can believe and trust His power to deliver us or not. (Galatians-Colossians - KJV - POSB - Leadership Ministries Worldwide)

Were kept in custody (5432)(phroureo from phrouros = a sentinel in turn derived from pro = before, toward + horao = take special notice of) means to pay attention to something, thus giving us a clear picture of the action involved in guarding or protecting. To keep by guarding. Phroureo is a military metaphor speaking of a fortress with strong walls being guarded by a battalion of soldiers.

Paul says "we were guarded or protected by the Law".  An interesting figurative use of this verb (phroureo) which is elsewhere used of a literal guarding of "the city of the Damascenes" in order to seize Paul when he tried to escape. This gives us quite a strong picture that this "guarding" is not a casual one, but it was used both of keeping the enemy out and of keeping the inhabitants in, lest they should flee or desert.. So in sum, the Law functions like a prison guard which keeps one under protection until faith opens the floodgates of heaven's grace to salvation by faith. But the other side of the Law is that it functions like a medieval jailer who keeps a man's dead spirit in a "dark dungeon" from which he will never be freed because he loves his sin and is unwilling to come to Jesus that he might be saved. 

Vine adds that phroureo means "to keep by guarding, to keep under guard, as with a garrison (phrouros, a guard, or garrison), is used, (a) of blocking up every way of escape, as in a siege; (b) of providing protection against the enemy, as a garrison does (2 Cor. 11.32, “guarding the city," as “with a garrison.”)  It is used of the security of the Christian until the end, 1 Pet. 1:5 and of the sense of that security that is his when he puts all his matters into the hand of God, Phil. 4:7.  In these passages the idea is not merely that of protection, but of inward garrisoning as by the Holy Spirit. In Galatians 3:23 it means rather a benevolent custody and watchful guardianship in view of worldwide idolatry (cp God's watchcare of Israel in Isaiah 5:2-note). 

Wuest adds that in Galatians 3:23 phroureo "means “to keep inward under lock and key.” The law was a jailer who held in custody those who were subjected to sin, in order that they should not escape the consciousness of their sins and their liability to punishment."

Here are the 4 uses of phroureo...

2 Corinthians 11:32  In Damascus the ethnarch under Aretas the king was guarding the city of the Damascenes in order to seize me,

Galatians 3:23  But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed.

Philippians 4:7-note  And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

1 Peter 1:5-note  who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

Comment: This term in this context also implies that those who have been born again are in a holy war and are under constant enemy attack from a host of unholy enemies = the world, the flesh and the devil  (cp similar military metaphor in 1Pe 2:11-note)

Under the Law - The phrase under the Law (or "under law") is used several times by Paul (Galatians 4:4,5,21 5:18 Ro 3:19 6:14,15 1 Co 9:20,21). As noted above the preposition hupo means under and here with Law (in the accusative case) conveys the sense of under the control of the Law. 

Gromacki All unregenerate men are under the curse (Gal 3:10), under sin (Gal 3:22), and "under the law" (Gal 3:23). Although these relationships have some distinctiveness, Kent remarked that "these are not totally different, for the law contained the standards which had been transgressed and thus was the proof that sin had been committed." All unsaved men are under sin regardless of whether they have had personal contact with the Mosaic law. The isolated heathen has rejected the revelation of God in nature and thereby demonstrated his slavery to sin (Ro 1:18-32). As a legalistic Jew, Paul then inserted himself into the argument (note the usage of "we" and "our"). In their unsaved lives, both the Galatians and the apostle "were kept under the law." They were literally under constant surveillance. They were in the prison house of sin with no way of escape. The law was like a jailor or a sentry, watching every act of moral disobedience. They were being guarded at all times. (Ibid)

Spurgeon on under the law - When the Spirit of God begins to deal with us, we find that we are always within the sphere of law; we cannot get out of it. We wake in the morning, and there is the law right in front of us. All during the day, there is the law right before our eyes. If we go to sleep at night, there is the law. We are everywhere under the law. When once we recognize God and realize the fact that we are His creatures, there comes into our startled conscience the remembrance of the universality of law. It was said of the old Roman Empire that, under the rule of Caesar, if a man once broke the law of Rome, he was in prison everywhere. The whole world was one vast prison to him, for he could not get out of the reach of the imperial power.

John MacArthur comments on under the Law - The purpose of the law is to reveal and convict men of sin. “I would not have come to know sin except through the Law,” Paul declared; “for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, ‘You shall not covet.’ … I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive, and I died” (Rom. 7:7, 9). Forgiveness means nothing to a person who is either unaware he has done anything wrong or is unconvinced the wrong he knows he has done produces any serious consequences to him. Grace means nothing to a person who does not know he is sinful and that such sinfulness means he is separated from God and damned. It is therefore pointless to preach grace until the impossible demands of the law and the reality of guilt before God are preached. In the opening chapter of his classic allegory Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan writes:   As I walked through the wilderness of this world, I lighted on a certain place where was a den, and laid me down in that place to sleep; and, as I slept, I dreamed a dream. I dreamed, and behold, I saw a man clothed with rags, standing in a certain place, with his face from his own house, a book in his hand, and a great burden upon his back. I looked, and saw him open the book, and read therein; and as he read, he wept and trembled; and, not being able longer to contain, he brake out with a lamentable cry, saying, “What shall I do?” (Click link if you have never read Pilgrim's Progress) A short while later the man encountered Evangelist, who asked, “Wherefore dost thou cry?” Pilgrim answered, “Sir, I perceive by the book in my hand that I am condemned to die, and after that to come to judgment.” Evangelist then pointed the pilgrim toward a gate in the distance and to a light beyond it and a hill. With the great burden on his back and the book in his hand, Pilgrim started off toward the hill, crying out, “Life! Life! Eternal life!” The burden on Pilgrim’s back was his sin, the hook in his hand was the Bible, and the hill toward which he journeyed was Calvary. It was in reading God’s Word that he learned God’s law condemned him to death and hell because of his sin, and it was that knowledge of sin and judgment that drove Him to the cross of Christ, where the penalty for his sin was paid in full and complete forgiveness offered. (Ibid) (See also his sermon)


Being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed (unveiled) - "Kept in custody in preparation for the faith that was destined to be revealed (unveiled, disclosed)" (Amplified) "We were kept in protective custody, so to speak, until the way of faith was revealed." (NLT) God's Law hemmed in all men, in a sense keeping all men in prison with no way of escape, keeping all of us effectively "on death row" waiting to receive our just punishment of death, for the wages of sin is death (Ro 6:23). Like a modern day criminal on death row, we were in desperate need of a pardon from the "Governor" (so to speak, the Governor of course being God). God the Spirit convicted us of our sin (using the Law), the Father offered a pardon (giving us grace), and Christ effected the pardon so to speak. Our part was simply to accept the pardon, the redemption provided by the precious blood of Jesus (1 Peter 1:18, 19), Who Alone could set us free from "death row!" As Phillip Bliss wrote "Hallelujah! What a Savior!

“Man of Sorrows!” what a name
For the Son of God, who came
Ruined sinners to reclaim.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
In my place condemned He stood;
Sealed my pardon with His blood.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Guilty, vile, and helpless we;
Spotless Lamb of God was He;
“Full atonement!” can it be?
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Lifted up was He to die;
“It is finished!” was His cry;
Now in Heav’n exalted high.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

When He comes, our glorious King,
All His ransomed home to bring,
Then anew His song we’ll sing:
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Spurgeon on being shut up and faith...revealed - Well do I remember when I was “imprisoned” in this fashion. I struggled and strove with might and main to get out, but I found no way of escape. I was “imprisoned” until faith came, and opened the door, and brought me out into “the glorious freedom of the children of God” (Ro 8:21). The only thing that could bring us out of prison was faith. Our duty is to show men how the way of human merit is closed. We must shut them up to simple faith only, and show them that the way of faith is available.

J J Findlay on faith - Faith is trebly honored here. It is the condition of the gift, the characteristic of its recipient (Gal 3:22 = "might be given to those who believe", Gal 3:24 = "so that we may be justified by faith."), and the end for which he was put under the charge of Law (Gal 3:23). “To them that believe” is “given,” as it was in foretaste to Abraham (Gal 3:6-note), a righteousness unearned, and bestowed on Christ’s account (Gal 3:13-note; Ro 5:17, 18-note); which brings with it the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, reserved in its conscious possession for Abraham’s children in the faith of Christ (Gal 3:14-note; Gal 4:4). These blessings form the commencement of that true life, whose root is a spiritual union with Christ, and which reaches on to eternity (Gal 2:20-note; Ro 5:21-note; Ro 6:23-note). Of such life the Law could impart nothing; but it taught men their need of it, and disposed them to accept it. This was the purpose of its institution. It was the forerunner, not the finisher, of Faith.  (Expositor's Bible Commentary - Galatians 3:19-24 The Design of the Law

Wuest on to the faith which was later to be revealed - The word unto (KJV = "unto the faith") is from eis, and is not temporal in its significance, having the idea of until, but means here “with a view to.” That is, sinners were kept guarded under the law with a view to their exercising faith in Christ. The law shut them up to one avenue of escape, namely, faith in Christ, for during the 1500 years in which the law was in force, it was the means of convicting sinners of their sins and of causing them to look ahead in faith to the atonement God would some day offer which would pay for their sins. These sinners were saved by the blood of Christ just as surely and just as eternally as believing sinners since the Cross.

Martin Luther feels (and I generally agree with his interesting application) that there are two aspects to the faith which was later to be revealed - (1) We know that Paul has reference to the time of Christ's coming. It was then that faith and the object of faith were fully revealed. (2) But we may apply the historical fact to our inner life. When Christ came He abolished the Law and brought liberty and life to light (cp 2 Ti 1:10 - Christ did this the first time when we initially believed on Him = "past tense salvation" - see Three Tenses of Salvation). This He continues to do in the hearts of the believers. (Ed: Now Luther is speaking about how faith is revealed in our day to day life as believers, in our progressive sanctification or "present tense salvation")  The Christian has a body in whose members, as Paul says, sin dwells and wars. I take sin to mean not only the deed but root, tree, fruit, and all. A Christian may perhaps not fall into the gross sins of murder, adultery, theft, but he is not free from impatience, complaints, hatreds, and blasphemy of God. As carnal lust is strong in a young man, in a man of full age the desire for glory, and in an old man covetousness, so impatience, doubt, and hatred of God often prevail in the hearts of sincere Christians. Examples of these sins may be garnered from the Psalms, Job, Jeremiah, and all the Sacred Scriptures. Accordingly each Christian continues to experience in his heart times of the Law and times of the Gospel. The times of the Law are discernible by heaviness of heart, by a lively sense of sin, and a feeling of despair brought on by the Law. These periods of the Law will come again and again as long as we live. To mention my own case. There are many times when I find fault with God and am impatient with Him. The wrath and the judgment of God displease me, my wrath and impatience displease Him. Then is the season of the Law, when "the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh." (Gal 5:17-note) The time of grace returns when the heart is enlivened by the promise of God's mercy (Ed: I would add that when we are filled with Christ's Spirit [Eph 5:18-note] and enabled thereby to walk by His Spirit [Gal 5:16-note], it is then that we will be empowered to not fulfill the desire of the flesh! Memorize these passages and study the notes on these vitally important Scriptures, if you want to minimize those times when there is as Luther calls it a "season of the Law"! See also notes on "Make Disciples"). It soliloquizes: "Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? (Ps 42:5) Can you see nothing but law, sin, death, and hell? Is there no grace, no forgiveness, no joy, peace, life, heaven, no Christ and God? Trouble me no more, my soul. Hope in God who has not spared His own dear Son but has given Him into death for thy sins." When the Law carries things too far, say: "Mister Law, you are not the whole show. There are other and better things than you. They tell me to trust in the Lord." There is a time for the Law and a time for grace. Let us study to be good timekeepers. It is not easy. Law and grace may be miles apart in essence, but in the heart, they are pretty close together. In the heart fear and trust, sin and grace, Law and Gospel cross paths continually. Whether reason hears that justification before God is obtained by grace alone, it draws the inference that the Law is without value. The doctrine of the Law must therefore be studied carefully lest we either reject the Law altogether, or are tempted to attribute to the Law a capacity to save. There are three ways in which the Law may be abused. First, by the self-righteous hypocrites who fancy that they can be justified by the Law. Secondly, by those who claim that Christian liberty exempts a Christian from the observance of the Law. "These," says Peter, "use their liberty for a cloak of maliciousness," (1 Peter 2:16KJV-note) and bring the name and the Gospel of Christ into ill repute. Thirdly, the Law is abused by those who do not understand that the Law is meant to drive us to Christ. When the Law is properly used its value cannot be too highly appraised. It will take me to Christ every time. (Galatians 3 Commentary)

James Montgomery Boice - The second half of the verse reminds us that there is indeed a Savior and that it had always been God’s purpose to save a great company through faith in him. Seen from this angle, even the law flowed from God’s grace, because it prepared men and women to receive the Lord Jesus Christ when he came. In the last phrase, “faith,” the sole means of grace, is again prominent. (Expositor's Bible Commentary)

Ryken - The law is a guardian, refusing to let go until it hands us directly over to Christ.

W E Vine on be revealed notes that "until the revelation was made there was no way of escape from the strict surveillance and the unrelenting condemnation of the law. But when Christ came He led out from that fold all who heard His voice and followed Him, and to them He gave eternal life, John 10:28, as a free, unearned gift."

Revealed (601)(apokalupto from apó = from + kalúpto = cover, conceal, English = apocalypse - see apokalupsis) literally means to remove the cover from and so the idea is to remove that which conceals something. Almost all of the NT uses have a figurative sense referring to some aspect of spiritual truth that was heretofore hidden but now has had the "lid removed" so that it can be seen (understood). Here the secret so to speak was "faith" (pistis)

Revealed is in the passive voice (be revealed) and in this context would be the "divine passive" for only the Spirit of God could remove our spiritual blindness and give us eyes of faith to see that belief in the Messiah was the "key" to our release from the dark dungeon in which we were shut up by the Law (Gal 3:23) and Sin (Gal 3:22).

The fourth stanza of Charles Wesley's classic aptly describes our release from imprisonment by the Law and Sin...Play Steve Green's vocal version of And Can It Be?

Long my imprisoned spirit lay, 
fast bound in sin and nature's night; 
thine eye diffused a quickening ray; 
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light; 
my chains fell off, my heart was free, 
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee. 
My chains fell off, my heart was free, 
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee. 

No condemnation now I dread; 
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine; 
alive in Him, my living Head, 
and clothed in righteousness divine, 
bold I approach th' eternal throne, 
and claim the crown, through Christ my own. 
Bold I approach th' eternal throne, 
and claim the crown, through Christ my own. 

Galatians 3:23-25  TODAY IN THE WORD
A good teacher is like a guide, not only knowing but also showing the way. A teacher's life-experience can be a valuable part of a student's learning experience.
With these axioms in mind, in 1986 evangelist Leighton Ford began a ministry to find and develop young evangelical leaders. In 1992, he started the Arrow Leadership Program, a focused, group-oriented, two-year training program emphasizing evangelism and leadership skills. 

Ford told Christianity Today: ""I sensed a desire among the younger generation of emerging leaders for a highly personalized leadership development program. They hungered for mentoring relationships with older leaders and affirmation between peers--and above all, a program that stressed character development alongside skills for growing ministries.""

As Paul explains in today's reading, the law was God's ""development program"" for the Jews, teaching and guiding them. First, yesterday's main idea continues: that the law led to the fulfillment of the promise. The verb in verse 23 often has the connotation of protecting rather than imprisonment for punishment, and probably should be so understood here. God protected His children from the excesses of the heathen nations through the controls of the law. The purpose of this protective function of the law was to urge or push people to faith.

In verse 24 the law as a teacher leads men to faith. In Greek the law is called ""paidagogos,"" not a ""didaskalos."" In other words, the law was an inferior slave or servant (""paidagogos"") committed with the task of bringing the master's son to school or to the schoolmaster (""didaskalos""). The ""pedagogue"" was charged with disciplining the child and giving him moral training, by protecting him and regulating his outward habits. That was all the law could do; but when it led the son to Christ, its work was finished. Christ was the schoolmaster (""didaskalos""), a point of Paul's illustration which would have been clear to the Romans of that day.

APPLY THE WORD Salvation is one of the most precious gifts God has given us. As we've been studying Galatians, our hope is that you are gaining a greater appreciation for God's grace and our redemption in Christ.

Galatians 3:24  Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith.

Greek - hoste o nomos paidagogos hemon gegonen (3SRAI) eis Christon hina ek pisteos dikaiothomen  (1SAPS)

Amplified:   So that the Law served [to us Jews] as our trainer [our guardian, our guide to Christ, to lead us] until Christ [came], that we might be justified (declared righteous, put in right standing with God) by and through faith. 

Amplified (2015) With the result that the Law has become our tutor and our disciplinarian to guide us to Christ, so that we may be [a]justified [that is, declared free of the guilt of sin and its penalty, and placed in right standing with God] by faith.

ESV So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith.

KJV  Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.

NET Thus the law had become our guardian until Christ, so that we could be declared righteous by faith.

NLT  Let me put it another way. The law was our guardian until Christ came; it protected us until we could be made right with God through faith.

Phillips  Or, to change the metaphor, the Law was like a strict governess in charge of us until we went to the school of Christ and learned to be justified by faith in him. 

Wuest  So that the law became our guardian until Christ, in order that on the grounds of faith we might be justified.

YLT  so that the law became our child-conductor -- to Christ, that by faith we may be declared righteous,


This Paul's final answer to his question in Gal 3:19-note "Why the Law then?"

Martin Luther - Here again the law and the Gospel are combined. The law is not put in charge forever, but only until it has led us to Christ (see also Gal 3:19, 23). The law does not justify hypocrites, for they remain without Christ in their presumption and complacency; conversely, it does not leave the contrite in death and damnation but drives them to Christ. Those who remain in their wickedness and do not lay hold on Christ by faith eventually fall into despair. But those who are troubled and oppressed by the law know that these terrors and troubles will not continue forever, but that they are prepared in this way to come to Christ and to receive the freedom of the spirit.

Therefore the Law - Paul does not mean just the "Do's and Don't's" aspects of the Law but also the Ceremonial Aspects of the Law for they both are of value to lead one to Christ. For example, the ceremonial law taught Israel about the need for a blood sacrifice to cover (but not take away sins because the blood of bulls and goats could never take away sins Heb 10:4-note).  

As Spurgeon says "Neither the Jewish law of ten commands nor its law of ceremonies was ever intended to save anybody. It was not the intent of the ceremonial law in itself to effect the redemption of the soul. By a set of pictures it set forth the way of salvation, but it was not itself the way. It was a map, not a country—a model of the road, not the road itself. The blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of a heifer, could not really take away sin. These sacrifices and offerings were but types of the great sacrifice that in due time was presented by the true priest.

As Robert Morgan says the Old Testament Tabernacle "is packed with pictures and prophecies about the Lord Jesus Christ. We primarily see this in three ways: First, the sacrifices on the Tabernacle altars speak of Christ. Second, the office and duties of the priests speaks of Christ. And third, the feasts and festivals of ancient Israel teach us various aspects of our Lord’s person and work." (Leviticus 11-15 The Divine Dermatologist)

Has become our tutor to lead us to Christ: The "tutor" was a person (often a slave) employed by Greek/Roman higher class and delegated as tutor and guardian for young boys until they came of age (usually from about age 6 -18 yr). This position was a temporary and not very prestigious, position. These slaves were strict disciplinarians causing those under their care to yearn for the day when they would be free from their tutor’s custody.  Beloved, does this sound like what the "Law" does to us when are under its heavy yoke?  These individuals were charged with guarding the children from the evils of society and giving them moral training. The pedagogue watched they young boy's behavior at home and attended him when he went away from home to school. When the son entered on all the privileges of adult sonship, the schoolmaster's responsibilities were fulfilled. 

And so by way of analogy Paul says the Law as pedagogue kept watch over us and by showing us our sins, and in the ideal situation by finally escorting us to Christ. Seeing in the law the perfection of God and the imperfection of man, one realizes how far short they fall of God's holiness. Even as the paidagogos was to see that the child back and forth to school safely, the Law supervised God's people until the coming of Christ (Mt 5:17,18). 

As John Stott has written “We cannot come to Christ to be justified until we have first been to Moses to be condemned. But once we have gone to Moses, and acknowledged our sin, guilt and condemnation, we must not stay there. We must let Moses send us to Christ”

Spurgeon on tutor - The pedagogue was a slave who was employed by the father of a family to take his boy to school and bring him home again. He often also was permitted to whip the boy if he did not learn his lessons well. The law whipped us to Christ and taught us that we could not be saved except by Christ. The law acts as a pedagogue by teaching us our obligations to God, by showing us our sinfulness, by sweeping away all our excuses. Did you ever know a boy without an excuse? I never did. I think I never knew a girl either. We all make excuses readily enough. But those rough, surly pedagogues always answered the boy’s idle apologies by giving the offender an extra stroke of the whip for daring to impose upon his guardian. That is what the law does with us. We say to it, “We have not done exactly as we ought, but then think of poor human nature!” The law says, “This is what God commands, and if you do not obey, you will have to be cast away forever from His presence.” A man will say, “Well, I know I got drunk, but that is merely gratifying an instinct of human nature.” Suppose that this drunk when he gets sober falls into the hands of a thief. Will he not hand the rogue over to a policeman? But what if the thief claims it was human nature that committed the robbery? Would the drunk say, “I will get human nature locked up for twelve months if I can”? He does not recognize soft speeches about human nature when anyone does wrong to him, and he knows in his own soul that there is no valid defense in such a plea when he does wrong to God. Many transgressors also argue, “Well, I have not done worse than other people.” To which the law replies, “What do you have to do with other people? Each individual must stand or fall on his own account before the law. The law is to you. If another has broken it, he shall be punished even as you will, inasmuch as you have broken it.” Then the man cries, “But I have been better than others!” But the law says, “If you have not perfectly walked in all the ways of the Lord your God to do them, I have nothing to do with comparing you with others.” When the law comes, it sweeps all excuses away and makes us see how hollow, false, and even wicked they are.

Tutor (child conductor, guardian or guide)(3807)(paidagogos from  país = a child + agōgós =a leader from ágō  = to lead) literally means a child leader.

Vine notes that in Gal. 3:24, 25A.V., “schoolmaster” (R.V., “tutor,”), but here the idea of instruction is absent. “In this and allied words the idea is that of training, discipline, not of impartation of knowledge. The paidagōgos was not the instructor of the child; he exercised a general supervision over him and was responsible for his moral and physical well–being. Thus understood, paidagōgos is appropriately used with ‘kept in ward’ and ‘shut up,’ whereas to understand it as equivalent to ‘teacher’ introduces an idea entirely foreign to the passage, and throws the Apostle’s argument into confusion."

There are only 3 uses in the NT - Gal 3:23, 24 and 1 Corinthians 4:15

For if you were to have countless tutors in Christ, yet you would not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel.

John Stott explains that "Paul uses the word again in 1 Corinthians 4:15, saying ‘You may have ten thousand tutors in Christ, but you have only one father’ (NEB). In other words, ‘there are plenty of people to discipline you, but I am the only one to love you.’ Later in the same chapter he asks: ‘Am I to come to you with a rod in my hand (i.e. like a paidagōgos), or in love and a gentle spirit (i.e. like a father)?’ (1 Cor. 4:21, NEB)."

Resources on Pedagogue

Thayer - Among the Greeks and Romans the name was applied to trustworthy slaves who were charged with the duty of supervising the life and morals of boys belonging to the better class. The boys were not allowed so much as to step out of the house without them before arriving at the age of manhood . . . The name carries with it an idea of severity (as a stern censor and enforcer of morals) in 1 Cor 4:15, where the father is distinguished from the tutor as one whose discipline is usually milder, and in Gal. 3:24, 25 where the Mosaic law is likened to a guide which arouses the consciousness of sin, and is called paidagogos eis Christon, i.e., preparing the soul for Christ, because those who have learned by experience with the law that they are not and cannot be commended to God by their works, welcome the more eagerly the hope of salvation offered them through the death and resurrection of Christ, the Son of God 

Rod Mattoon - The school master was not a school teacher, but a slave in the home. He was a servant that took care of children. They clothed, washed, cared for, and disciplined the child. The Greek word is paidagogos which means "a child conductor, one who takes the child by the hand and leads him to school." In the same manner, the law takes us by the hand to the cross of Calvary. It says, "You need a Savior. You are a sinner. You need to be saved." Salvation is in the Lord Jesus Christ. You are saved by God's grace, not by keeping the law because no one can keep it. Christ was the only one who did.
    • The law demands, but grace gives.
    • The law says, "Do," but grace says, "Believe."
    • The law threatens, pronouncing a curse, but grace entreats, pronouncing a blessing.
    • The law condemns the very best of men, but God's grace saves the worst of men. Thank God for His wonderful grace and mercy.

Donald Macleod - the Reformers spoke of the pedagogical use of the law. This terminology comes from the Greek word paidagogos. The paidagogos was the slave who took the child to school. It is misleading to equate the law with the teacher in this connection. The teacher, in Paul’s thought, is Christ Himself. The law is the servant who performs the humble function of taking the child to Jesus or bringing the soul to Christ. Luther was particularly interested in this. The law could not justify, but it could bring the soul to Christ. Luther explored this with passionate intensity and often very movingly, particularly in his great Commentary on Galatians. What does the law do as a pedagogue? Well, one thing it does is to multiply transgressions. The Old Testament Jews could hardly move without falling over some legal trip-wire. When they ate food, when they sowed their seed, when they made their clothes, when they went to war, when they sold, when they bore children, they were for ever falling over rules. The effect of all this was to heighten the sense of sin. Augustine went further and said that sometimes the law itself caused sin. He was, in fact, building on Paul’s comment, ‘I would not have known what it was to covet if the law had not said, “Do not covet”’ (Romans 7:7-note, cp similar truth in Ro 7:5-note). It is brilliant psychology: the prohibition itself prompting the disobedience. Augustine describes in his Confessions how as children they lived near an orchard full of pears and, although they hated pears, just because they were banned, every day they broke in and stole them. But it is not simply psychology: it is biblical teaching. Those who are in charge of young people are surely aware that very often the well-intentioned intent to forbid or ban something serves instead to suggest the idea of a sin never before present in the child’s mind. But the chief thing, of course, is that the law brings us to Christ by giving us a bad conscience. It is by the law that there comes the knowledge of sin. Christ came to call sinners, not the righteous, to repentance (Luke 5:32) and the function of the law is to create that sense of need, that conviction of sin, out of which alone can faith be born. (A Faith to Live By - Understanding Christian Doctrine)

William Barclay on paidagogus - THE word paidagōgos occurs in the NT in only two passages; but it is a word the correct understanding of which is essential, if Paul’s thought is to be understood. In 1 Cor. 4:15 Paul says to the Corinthians that they may have ten thousand paidagōgoi, but they have not many fathers; that it is he who is their true father in the Christian faith. There, the AV translates the word ‘instructors’; Moffatt translates ‘thousands to superintend’; the RSV translates ‘guides’. In Gal. 3:24, 25 the AV says that the law was our ‘schoolmaster’ (paidagōgos) to lead us to Christ … but after faith comes we are no longer under a paidagōgos. There Moffatt translates, the law ‘held us as wards in discipline’. And the RSV has it that the law was our ‘custodian’. None of these translations is fully satisfactory, for the very good reason that the paidagōgos carried out a function to which there is nothing precisely corresponding in our educational system. Up to the age of seven the Greek boy was almost exclusively in his mother’s charge. But even then, if there was a paidagōgos in the household, he had his say. Socrates in Plato’s Protagoras (325 c) says of the child: ‘Mother and nurse and father and paidagōgos are quarrelling about the improvement of the child as soon as ever he is able to understand them.’ It was when he went to school that the paidagōgos really took over the management of the boy and retained it till the boy was eighteen. The paidagōgos was not in our sense of the word a teacher at all. His duty was to accompany the boy to school each day and to see that he got there safely; to carry the boy’s books and his lyre; to watch his conduct in school; to see to his conduct in the street; to train the boy in morals, in manners and in deportment. He must see that the boy walked modestly with downcast head in the streets; he must see that he gave place to older people and was becomingly silent in their presence; he must teach him to be well-mannered at table and to wear his clothes with grace. He had to teach him all the Greek meant by eukosmia, good manners, good deportment, pleasantness of life. K. J. Freeman says of the paidagōgos that he was ‘a mixture of nurse, footman, chaperone and tutor’. When in the Lysis (208 c) Socrates is trying to teach the lad that life does not consist in doing what you like, there is a conversation like this. ‘Are you your own master, or do they not even allow that?’ ‘Nay; of course they do not allow that.’ ‘Then you have a master?’ ‘Yes, my paidagōgos; there he is.’ … ‘And what does he do with you?’ ‘He takes me to my teachers.’ It was an anxious and a most practical job, especially if the lad was a high-spirited and independent boy....In any event the paidagōgos existed for no other reason than to make his charge independent of his care. Xenophon in his work on Sparta (3.1) writes: ‘Whenever they emerge from childhood to youth, they cease from paidagōgoi, they cease from teachers. No one governs them any more, but they let them go as masters of themselves.’ When Paul spoke of the law as our paidagōgos to bring us to Christ, in the very phrase he affirmed that the law was an inadequate, unsatisfactory thing, doomed to come to an end. It was another way of saying that Christ is the end of the law. (New Testament Words)

Phillip Ryken - In wealthy Greek families, children were individually raised by pedagogues. From age six until late adolescence, the child was under constant care and supervision. The pedagogue was part babysitter and part chaperone. Since he was in charge of discipline, the pedagogue was also part probation officer. Ancient drawings usually depict him holding a rod or a cane to administer corporal punishment. The pedagogue was not primarily a teacher, although sometimes he helped a child review his lessons. Thus the King James Version is somewhat misleading when it translates the word as "schoolmaster." The pedagogue did have to make sure that his pupil made it to and from school. He helped to feed and dress the child, and also to carry the child's educational tools (tablet and stylus, book or scroll, musical instrument). Once at school, there was a special room where pedagogues waited for their young students until their lessons were finished. But the pedagogue was not the educator; he was the disciplinarian. A pedagogue served the best interests of the child in many ways, and a close bond of affection often developed. Discipline was not necessarily severe, and the pedagogue provided protection as well as punishment. He also served as a moral tutor, shaping the child's ethics. In the plan of salvation, the law is the pedagogue that raised the Jews from childhood through adolescence. It was not a schoolmaster to teach them how to get better and better until God finally accepted them. On the contrary, the law was for discipline. It told God's people what to do, and then it punished them for failing to do it. There were times when the Jews chafed under this discipline (chaperones never have been very popular!). But all the while, the law was preparing God's children to enter their majority. Like any pedagogue, the law eventually worked its way out of a job. When a child comes of age, it no longer needs constant supervision. The ancient Greek writer Xenophon (c. 428-c. 354 B.C.) explained, "When a boy ceases to be a child, and begins to be a lad, others release him from his 'pedagogue' and from his teacher; he is then no longer under them, but is allowed to go his own way." In much the same way, the law was needed only until the coming of Christ. This is what Paul means when he speaks of the coming of faith. In one sense, faith had already come, since God had always told his people to trust him. But what they trusted in was the Savior to come. The true object of their faith was Jesus Christ, and when he came on the scene, the time for the law was over and the era of faith had begun. (Galatians - Reformed Expository Commentary)

So that - Always pay attention to this important term of purpose or result

So that we may be justified by faith: Judaizers wanted their hearers to go back to Moses (to be their "PP" their permanent pedagogue!), but that was not far enough. In fact they really needed to go back to Abraham where the promise of justification by faith was given (Ge 15:6-note). The Law came hundreds of years after Abraham's "conversion" by faith and notably did not annul the promise of salvation by grace through faith. To the contrary the LAW was given to reveal sin (Ro 3:20-note) and prepare the way for Christ to come and fulfill the promise (Galatians 3:24,25).

The Law is a tutor, not a savior...a mirror, not a cleanser. 

Justified (acquitted, vindicated, freed) (1344)(dikaioo from dike = right, expected behavior or conformity, not according to one’s own standard, but according to an imposed standard with prescribed punishment for nonconformity) (Click for more discussion of dikaioo) primarily means to deem to be right. Dikaioo describes the act by which a man is brought into a right state of relationship to God. Dikaioo is a legal term having to do with the law and the the courtroom, where it represented the legally binding verdict of the judge. This is the sense in which Paul uses dikaioo in this section in Galatians and in the parallel passages in Romans (Ro 3:21-5:11) in which he unfolds the doctrine of justification.

Martin Luther - The law does not lead us to another lawgiver requiring good works, but to Christ, our justifier and Saviour, so that we might be justified by faith in him, and not by works. But when we feel the force of the law we do not understand or believe this; that is why we say, “I have lived wickedly, for I have transgressed all God’s commandments, and therefore I am guilty of eternal death. If God would prolong my life for a few years, or at least a few months, I would amend my life and live a holy life from now on.” This is an abuse of the proper function of the law. Our reason is overtaken in these troubles and boldly promises God to fulfill the whole law. From this come many sects and many ceremonies designed to merit grace and forgiveness. Those who devised these things thought that the law led them not to Christ but to a new law, or to Christ as a lawgiver and not as one who has abolished the law. The true function of the law is to bring me to the knowledge of my sin and to humble me, so that I may come to Christ and be justified by faith. But faith is neither law nor work, but an assured confidence that lays hold of Christ, who is the end of the law (Romans 10:4). How? It is not that he has abolished the old law and given us a new one, or that he is a judge who must be pacified by what we do. He is the end of the law to all those who believe; that is to say, everyone who believes in him is righteous, and he will never accuse such people. The law, then, is good, holy, and just if we use it as we should. (Galatians 3 Commentary)

Spurgeon - Never Go Back to the Law

If you are a Christian, you must never go back to the law. Do not begin to judge yourself as if you were under the law. What if you are a sinner? It is true, you are. Confess your sin and mourn over it, but remember there is a fountain open for sin and for uncleanness. That sin of yours was laid on Christ before you committed it. It was laid on the scapegoat’s head and put away. At this moment you are still clean in the sight of God through that great washing that you have received in the precious blood. Do not imagine that God will change His mind about you; He never did and never can change His mind. He has said concerning each soul that believes in His dear Son, “He who believes in Him is not condemned.” You are complete in Christ Jesus. In Him you have righteousness and strength; in Him you may even glory. Get away from legal doctrines, and stand upon the gospel rock, and you will be happy and holy all your days.

Spurgeon - Always Keep the Law in Its Proper Place

Those of you who teach, when you try to teach others you must always keep the law in its proper place. We preach good works with all our might as the result of faith, as the outgrowth of faith, but not as the groundwork of salvation. The tree of human nature must be altered first, or the fruit cannot be good. There will be no pears on that crabtree until you change the stock. Do not, therefore, go preaching to crabtrees and tell them to bear pears and apples.
Christ is able to change man’s nature, and then good fruits will come as a matter of course. But I am afraid that in many Sunday schools the children are taught a different doctrine, somewhat like this: “Now, dear children, be very good, and obey your parents, and love Jesus, and you will be saved.” That is not the gospel, and it is not true. Often I hear it said, “Love Jesus, dear children.” That is not the gospel. It is, “Trust Him. Believe.” It is not love, but faith that is the saving grace. That sentimental love of Jesus, which does not spring out of faith in Him, is a spurious emotion, a counterfeit of love, and not at all the love of God shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Spirit. The root of the matter is, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). That is the gospel for a child of two years of age, and the gospel for a man of a hundred. It is not your doing, not your obeying the law. You have broken that and put yourself out of all possible hope in that direction. But your acceptance of what Christ has done will save you at once, and save you forever.

Spurgeon - The Beauties of the Plan of Salvation

Observe a few of the beauties of the plan of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ: It prevents men from having low thoughts of sin. If a man says, “I have not kept this law of God perfectly, but still I have done very well, and any mistakes I have made are little sins; God is merciful, He will wipe them out,” he is sure to be a believer in self-salvation. It always is connected with narrow thoughts of sin. A man knows he has sinned, but he thinks little of the wrong. He cannot believe that sin is such a great evil that men should be cast into hell for it. He kicks against the doctrine of damnation. He will not believe it, just because he does not know and will not admit that sin is a great and tremendous evil. So long as the idea of self-salvation exists, sin is lightly thought of. But when we see that sin could not be put away until the incarnate God Himself hung upon the tree and bled to death for men, then we see sin in its true colors and loathe it as a deadly thing, and with our joy for pardoned guilt we mingle abhorrence of the sin that required such an atoning sacrifice.
The plan of salvation by grace gives men high thoughts of God. In the other system, their idea of God is that He is very much like themselves. They try to save themselves, and they pull down God to their standard. Each man has a different standard. That miserly old gentleman—his standard is that he will build a row of poorhouses with his moldy leavings, and that will content the Most High. Another says, “I never open my shop on a Sunday.” Perhaps he cheats enough on Monday to make up for it, but Sunday’s rest, that will do for his God. Another, who is living a wicked life in private, believes the doctrines of grace, and that will satisfy his God. But the man who is saved by the grace of God says, “My God is infinitely just. Nothing will content Him but a perfect righteousness. As a moral lawgiver, He will not put away sin till He had laid punishment upon one who stood in the sinner’s stead. He is so loving that He gave his Son; He is so just that He slew His Son on my behalf.” All the divine attributes flame forth with splendor before the eyes of the man who is saved by faith, and he is led to reverence and to adore.
The way of salvation by grace is the best promoter of holiness in all the world. Salvation by grace promotes good works far better than the teaching of salvation by works ever did, for those who hope to be saved by their works have generally very scanty works to be saved by. Those who put works aside altogether as a ground of hope, and look to grace alone, are the very people who are most zealous to perform good works. And I will tell you why. Who loved Christ best at the Pharisee’s feast? Simon the Pharisee, who had kept the law? No. He was to be saved by his doings. And yet Christ said to him, “You did not give me a kiss; you gave me no water to wash my feet” (Luke 7:44–45). Simon did not love the Master. He did what he did because he thought he ought to do it and must do it. But there was a poor woman there who was a sinner, and she had had much forgiven, and she it was who washed His feet with her tears and wiped them with the hairs of her head. Simon shows how self-righteous men love the Savior: They do not even wash His feet or kiss His cheeks. Those who are saved by grace love Jesus, and therefore kiss His feet and bathe them with their tears, and would willingly lay down their lives for Him.
Law drives our spirits to rebellion, but love has magic in it. The law does not furnish me with a constraining principle, but the gospel does. The law treats me like a mere hired servant, and a hired servant never can serve with the zeal that is born of love. You do not give your child wages, and you do not bind him by indentures or agreements. He loves you, and his sense of your love leads him to a tender obedience, and what he does is doubly sweet to you. Missionaries and martyrs have done and borne for love’s sake what law could not have forced from them. The doctrine of salvation by grace, by teaching men to love, transforms them and makes new creatures of them. I have seen it hundreds of times. If you want to get rid of the guilt of sin, you must believe in Jesus. But equally, if you would be rid of the chains of sin, the tyranny of your passions, the domination of your lusts, you must believe in Him. From His side there flows not merely blood but water—blood to take away your criminality, and water to take away your tendencies to sin—so that from now on you shall not serve sin or live any longer in it. It is all there in that pierced heart. It is all there in that crimson fount, opened on Calvary’s bloody tree. Look to Jesus, and you shall be saved. It is all in that nutshell. (From Spurgeon's sermon - Galatians 3:22 The Great Jail, and How to Get Out of It)

Galatians 3:25  But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.

Greek -   elthouses (AAPFSG) de tes pisteosouketi upo paidagogon esmen  (1PPAI)

Amplified:  But now that the faith has come, we are no longer under a trainer (the guardian of our childhood). 

ESV  But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian,

KJV  But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.

NET  But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.

NLT  And now that the way of faith has come, we no longer need the law as our guardian.

Phillips Once we had that faith we were completely free from the governess's authority.

Wuest  But (this) faith having come, no longer are we under the guardian.

YLT and the faith having come, no more under a child-conductor are we,


But now that faith has come: Now that we are born again by grace through faith is the idea. Believers, through faith in Jesus Christ, have come of age as God’s children and are not under the guidance of the law like a young child. The Law has fulfilled its role in leading us to Christ.

Wuest on faith in Christ Jesus - The (definite) article appears before the word faith (= "the faith") in the Greek text, showing that it is the faith in the historic Christ which is referred to, as in Gal 3:22 and Gal 3:23.

Faith (4102) (pistis)  represents a strong and welcome conviction or belief that Jesus is the Messiah, through Whom we obtain eternal salvation and entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven. 

Pistis is clearly a key word in Galatians 3 occurring in 13 of the 29 verses of this chapter  - Gal. 3:2; Gal. 3:5; Gal. 3:7; Gal. 3:8; Gal. 3:9; Gal. 3:11; Gal. 3:12; Gal. 3:14; Gal. 3:22; Gal. 3:23; Gal. 3:24; Gal. 3:25; Gal. 3:26

We are no longer under a tutor - Ro 6:14 ''For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law, but under grace.'' Of course, we are not now lawless but still obligated to obey God’s holy law. The difference is that now the law is written in our hearts


We also have the indwelling Spirit Who enables us to put to death the (evil, disobedient) deeds of the body.

"for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live." (Ro 8:13-note)

Now we love not out of sense of onerous, fearful duty, but out of a sense of Spirit driven love obeying our Father. As John says "We love, because He first loved us." (1 John 4:19-note) And Jesus links our obedience with our love of God declaring ""If you love Me, you will keep My commandments." (John 14:15)

Donald Campbell - Thus the reign of Law has ended for faith in Christ has delivered believers from the protective custody of the prison and the harsh discipline of the pedagogue. (Ibid)

Spurgeon on we are no longer under a tutor.  - We have outgrown him. God has given us power now to go to Christ’s school ourselves, willingly, joyfully, and cheerfully. I remember—and I daresay you also do—when that pedagogue whipped us very sorely. I am glad that I am no longer under his power. The pedagogue’s work is done so far as we are concerned.  The law ceases its office as pedagogue when it comes to be written on our hearts. Boys have their lessons on slates, but men have their laws in their minds. We trust a man where we would carefully watch a boy. When the child becomes a man, his father and mother do not write down little rules for him, as they did when he was a child. He is trusted. His manliness is trusted; his honor is trusted; his best feelings are trusted. Now we who have believed in Jesus have the law written in our hearts, and it corresponds with what is written in the Scriptures. Now we do not say of a sin, “I am afraid to do that because I would be lost if I did.” We do not want to do it. We loathe it. We do not say of a virtue, “I must do that, or else I shall not be a child of God.” No, we love to do it. We want to do it. The more of holiness, the better. The law that once was on the stony table, and there was broken, is now written on the fleshy tablet of a renewed heart, and the Lord sweetly inclines us to keep His testimonies and observe His statutes.

Galatians 3:26  For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.

Greek - Pantes gar huioi theou este (2PPAI) dia tes pisteos en Christo Iesou  

Amplified:  For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God through faith. 

ESV  for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.

KJV  For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.

NET For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God through faith.

NLT  For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus.

Phillips  For now that you have faith in Christ you are all sons of God. 

Wuest  For all of you are God’s sons through faith, in Christ Jesus.

YLT for ye are all sons of God through the faith in Christ Jesus,


For (gar) is a term of explanation which should always prompt at least the question "What is the author explaining?" At times the answer is difficult to answer (especially in some of Paul's detailed logic - cp 2 Pe 3:16-note), but in this case the answer is relatively straightforward. Paul is explaining what the coming of faith did for us and how it freed us from the guiding function of the Law. We were young children who needed guidance, but now we are "sons of God" ("full adults" spiritually speaking and "heirs" Gal 3:29) and we have an internal Guide, the Holy Spirit Who God has provided for our journey of progressive sanctification (Gal 3:5-note, Gal 3:3-note).

You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus: In the next chapter Paul adds that we were redeemed from being "under (the dominion of) the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons." (Gal 4:5) 

Wayne Barber - Now in Christ Jesus we are made sons of God by faith. And that’s what we are going to look at today. It is through Christ that we are set free from the bondage to the law. We’re completely set free. So when a person chooses to go back and be religious again he has just simply chosen his flesh over choosing Jesus to be Jesus in his life. When we trust Christ as our Savior, we enter the family of God. (Galatians 3:26-29 Commentary - Sons of God)

W E Vine on sons of God - “As many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God,” (Ro 8:14-note) i.e., these and no other. For all who become children of God attest the reality of their confession by yielding themselves to the guiding and enabling of the Spirit of God; thus by becoming sons of God, i.e., by manifesting in their conduct the character of God, they give evidence that they are indeed the children of God. As to his “standing” (cp "position") the believer is a child of God, as to his “state” (the condition of a person or thing, as with respect to circumstances or attributes. Compare "practice") he ought to be a son of God, and it is a vain thing for anyone to be a child of God unless he is giving evidence that he is a son of God. But full conformity to the “image of His Son” will be attained only when the Lord comes, cp. Romans 8:29-note with 1 John 3:2-note; for that consummation the groaning creation waits, Romans 8:19-note....Here the contrast is between the Jewish state of pupilage under the law and the believer’s state of sonship in Christ. It is noteworthy, too, that the apostle does not now call the converts sons of Abraham, as in Gal 3:7-note, above, but much more and higher than that, they were sons of God. (Collected Writings)

While one might say that God is the Father of all people in a general sense because He "made the world and all things in it" (Acts 17:24-28-note), not every created being can rightly refer to God as their Father. In fact John explains that "the one who practices sin is of the devil." (1 John 3:8) It is only those who have put their faith in Christ Jesus who can rightly say they are spiritual children of God the Father.

John 1:12-note.  But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name,

1 John 3:1-note See how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.

1 John 3:9-note No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. 10  By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.

1 John 5:1-note Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him.

As the preceding passages clearly show, there are only two "families" on earth  (Spiritually speaking) - those who believe in Christ Jesus and those who do not. It is worth noting that there are two "races" for all mankind can be classified as either Jew or Gentile. However every individual in those two "races" belongs either to the family of God or the family of the devil. In other words (and this is definitely not politically correct) every person who has ever lived on earth is either a spiritual child of God and an heir to the kingdom of God (Lk 18:25, John 3:3, 5, Acts 8:12, Acts 14:22) by virtue of placing their faith in Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord (cp Ro 10:9,10-note) or they are a spiritual child of the devil by "default" based on their sinful nature inherited from Adam (Ro 5:12-note). 

Matthew 13:38  and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one;

John 8:38 (For context see Jn 8:30-31 for the audience Jesus is addressing in this section! They had made a profession of faith but did not have a "possession" of faith!) “I speak the things which I have seen with My Father; therefore you also do the things which you heard from your father.” 

John 8:41 “You are doing the deeds of your father.” They said to Him, “We were not born of fornication; we have one Father: God.”

John 8:44 “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

Acts 13:10 and said, “You who are full of all deceit and fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease to make crooked the straight ways of the Lord?

Eph 2:3  Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.

Paul speaks more of the benefits of our sonship in the family of God in Galatians 4

Galatians 4:5 so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. 6 Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”

Paul speaks of sons of God in Romans 8

Romans 8:14-17-note For (explaining that those who are putting to death [present tense] the deeds of the flesh by the Spirit - Ro 8:13-note) all who are being led (present tense = continually) by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 15 For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him (Not our favorite part of this passage but true - 2 Ti 3:12-note, Php 1:29-note, etc)  so that we may also be glorified with Him. 

Comment: This is an important passage because it helps us identify those who are truly the children of God. How so? Notice that first of all they are those who are being led by the Spirit. And in context how do you know someone is being led by the Spirit? Because they will be actively (not perfectly but as the general direction of their life) putting to death the deeds of their fallen flesh by relying not on their natural power but by relying on the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit (Ro 8:13-note). Ultimately, He is the only One Who can enable us to defeat the lusts of the flesh!


Sons of God - This is an incredible privilege I fear that I too often fail to appreciate. Think for a moment that Paul even describes "the anxious longing of the creation" which "waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God." (Ro 8:19-note). The lost world has no concept of who we are now and what is our eternal destiny, John writing "See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is." (1 Jn 3:1-note, 1 John 3:2-note) Like Him. Like Jesus Christ! No wonder the creation is waiting eagerly for this glorious day. But sons of God should even now bear a family resemblance. We have a different future which should motivate us to live different in the present. Privilege always conveys responsibility. In fact John says that "everyone who has this hope fixed on Him (the hope = absolute certainty that we will be like Him) purifies himself, just as He is pure. (1 John 3:3-note) 2 Cor 6 Paul gives us a similar exhortation as sons of God writing "Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness (in the world but not of the world!) in the fear of God." (2 Cor 7:1-note). What promises? Those Paul had just described calling on believers to live as holy (separated) sons and daughters...

Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? 16 Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, “I WILL DWELL IN THEM AND WALK AMONG THEM; AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE.  17 “Therefore, COME OUT FROM THEIR MIDST AND BE SEPARATE,” says the Lord. “AND DO NOT TOUCH WHAT IS UNCLEAN; And I will welcome you.  18“And I will be a father to you, And you shall be sons and daughters to Me,” Says the Lord Almighty. (2 Cor 6:14-18)

Comment: Notice that the verbs in red are not suggestions but commands, commands which we can ONLY obey by relying on God's provision of supernatural power via His Spirit (cp Ro 8:13-note). Don't treat these commands as laws you will try to keep in your own power, for (1) you will fail, (2) you will be frustrated and (3) you will place yourself under the law which is legalism (eg, see the note on "do not touch" in Col 2:20-21)!

Timothy George - Paul was not teaching here the liberal Protestant doctrine of the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. He did not say that all persons are by nature the children of God. He pointed instead to a decisive difference within the human family, the distinction between those who know God as Father through faith in Jesus Christ and others who remain under the curse of the law and in bondage to the demonic forces that prevail in the world at large. (New American Commentary)

Wuest on you are all sons of God - By the change from the first person we, with its reference to the Jews, to the second person you with its reference to his readers, both Jew and Gentile, Paul shows that the wall of separation between Jew and Gentile had been broken down at the Cross, and that both Jew and Gentile become children of God in Christ Jesus. The word translated children is huios and is the important word here. This word signifies someone of full age. Under LAW, the individual was in his minority and under a guardian. Now, under GRACE, he has attained his majority, having outgrown the surveillance of his former guardian.

Faith (4102) (pistis) is that state of believing on the basis of the reliability of the one trusted, in this case Christ Jesus, the sole Source of soul salvation (Acts 4:12). Pistis as noted above is clearly a key word in Galatians 3 occurring in 13 of the 29 verses of this chapter  - Gal. 3:2; Gal. 3:5; Gal. 3:7; Gal. 3:8; Gal. 3:9; Gal. 3:11; Gal. 3:12; Gal. 3:14; Gal. 3:22; Gal. 3:23; Gal. 3:24; Gal. 3:25; Gal. 3:26

In Christ Jesus - The object of our faith is what is critical. We all manifest faith in something (or someone), but the ONLY object of faith that saves one's soul is Christ Jesus. Paul will elaborate on this idea of in Christ Jesus in the following verses.

Martin Luther - As a true and excellent teacher of faith, Paul is constantly saying through faith in Christ Jesus. He does not say, “You are God’s children because you are circumcised, because you have heard the law and have obeyed it,” but through faith in Christ Jesus. It is not the law, then, that makes us God’s children, much less human traditions. The law cannot give us new birth, but it sets before us the old birth, by which we were born into the kingdom of the devil; and so it prepares us for a new birth that comes through faith in Christ Jesus and not through the law. (See also John 1:12; Romans 8:16–17.)

Philip Graham Ryken has a very encouraging word on sons of God - When it comes to personal identity, the first thing to know is who the father is. So the apostle Paul establishes the Christian's paternity: "for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith" (Gal. 3:26). If you know Jesus Christ, then you know who you are, because you know to whom you belong. A Christian is a child of God. Back in verse 7 Paul said that every believer is a child of Abraham. Now he takes it one step further: every believer is a son or a daughter of the Most High God.
This is the climax of Paul's argument. He has just finished explaining how the law is a pedagogue for underage children. But eventually children outgrow their need for a guardian, so the law lasts only until the coming of Christ. Now we have the full rights of sons and daughters. We are no longer "minors, under the restraint of a tutor, but sons of God and heirs of His glorious kingdom, enjoying the status and privileges of grown-up sons." 
This was a message that the Galatians especially needed to hear. Remember what the Judaizers were saying. Since they were Jews, they had always thought of themselves as God's only children, so they treated Gentile Christians like second-rate members of the family. Until they got circumcised, Gentiles could not be siblings; at most, they were only cousins.
Paul responded to this teaching by welcoming the Gentiles within the full embrace of God's family: "in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith" (Gal. 3:26). His emphasis falls on what is the first word of the verse in Greek: "all," meaning both Jews and Gentiles. The gospel is for Gentiles as much as for Jews, and therefore the privilege of sonship is for all God's children.
The way anyone becomes a member of God's family is by legal adoption, which the Westminster Shorter Catechism defines as follows: "Adoption is an act of God's free grace, whereby we are received into the number, and have a right to all the privileges of the sons of God" (A. 34). Legally speaking, an adopted child is a true son or daughter. He or she has the same rights and privileges as a natural-born child. There is someone to call "Father." There is someone to care for every need. There is someone to give fatherly affection and discipline. In addition, the adopted child will receive a full share of the family inheritance.
The Christian gains all these rights and privileges by becoming a child of God. There is someone to call "Father," for we pray to our Father in heaven (Matt. 6:9). There is someone to care for us, for our heavenly Father knows exactly what we need (Matt. 6:32). He loves us with tender affection. "See what kind of love the Father has given to us," marveled the apostle John, "that we should be called children of God; and so we are" (1 John 3:1).
Our Father loves us so much that he refuses to let us go our own way. Instead, he disciplines us to make us holy: "It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?" (Heb. 12:7). Best of all, God has promised his children a full share of his infinite and eternal inheritance. If we are God's children, Paul reasoned with the Romans, then we are heirs—"heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ" (Rom. 8:17). A good father gives everything he is and everything he has to his children. God, who has the most to give, is the best Father of all. Thus there is no higher status a human being can ever achieve than to be called a son or a daughter of the Most High God. (Reformed Expository Commentary - Galatians)

Children of God by Faith in Christ - Devotional by C H Spurgeon

The fatherhood of God is common to all his children. Ah! Little-faith, you have often said, "Oh that I had the courage of Great-heart, that I could wield his sword and be as valiant as he! But, alas, I stumble at every straw, and a shadow makes me afraid." List thee, Little-faith. Great-heart is God's child, and you are God's child too; and Great-heart is not one whit more God's child than you are. Peter and Paul, the highly- favoured apostles, were of the family of the Most High; and so are you also; the weak Christian is as much a child of God as the strong one.

"This cov'nant stands secure,
Though earth's old pillars bow;
The strong, the feeble, and the weak,
Are one in Jesus now."

All the names are in the same family register. One may have more grace than another, but God our heavenly Father has the same tender heart towards all. One may do more mighty works, and may bring more glory to his Father, but he whose name is the least in the kingdom of heaven is as much the child of God as he who stands among the King's mighty men. Let this cheer and comfort us, when we draw near to God and say, "Our Father. "

Yet, while we are comforted by knowing this, let us not rest contented with weak faith, but ask, like the Apostles, to have it increased. However feeble our faith may be, if it be real faith in Christ, we shall reach heaven at last, but we shall not honour our Master much on our pilgrimage, neither shall we abound in joy and peace. If then you would live to Christ's glory, and be happy in his service, seek to be filled with the spirit of adoption more and more completely, till perfect love shall cast out fear

Peter Kennedy - The Highest Rank

  • "You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ."—Galatians 3:26-27

Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. grew up under the shadow of a large man. His father was the hero of San Juan Hill and the President of the United States. The pressure to excel often caused him problems, but Teddy, Jr. went on to be a highly decorated Brigadier General during World War II, receiving the Medal of Honor for heroism. He was also the Governor General of the Philippines, Governor of Puerto Rico, and Assistant Secretary of the Navy.
During World War II, while waiting for a flight at an airport, Teddy, Jr. saw a sailor step to a ticket window and ask for a ticket. "I want to see my mother," the sailor explained. "I don't have much time."
The indifferent woman at the ticket window was not impressed by the sailor's sense of urgency, "There's a war on, you know," she rudely replied.
At this point, Roosevelt, who had overheard the conversation, stepped to the ticket window and told her to give the sailor his seat. A friend of the general spoke in surprise, "Teddy, aren't you in a hurry too?"
"It's a matter of rank," he replied. "I'm only a general; he's a son!"
Sons of God. What a marvelous name! This is what the Bible calls everyone who trusts in Christ. Do you sometimes forget you have the rank of a son? Today give thanks that you have been bestowed with this high rank.
"Abba, Father, we approach thee in our Savior's precious name. We the children of your mercy bow before your throne today."—James G. Deck

Vance Havner - Is God Your Father?
I will be a Father unto you. II Corinthians 6:18.
Yes, if you are born from above by faith in His Son. Popular modern preaching to the contrary notwithstanding, He is the father of them only that believe (Gal. 3:26). Jesus' word to the Pharisees, "Ye are of your father the devil" (John 8:44), is forgotten these days.
But we are told that if we come out and are separate and touch not the unclean thing, God will be a Father unto us. Does His Fatherhood depend on our separation? No, it depends on our regeneration. But He cannot be to some of us the Father He wants to be because we are not in fellowship. There are fathers who cannot be to their children what they want to be because their children are in no condition for such favors. Sometimes they must be corrected and chastised. What a grief it is to want to do things for a child whose rebellious spirit makes it impossible! God wants to bless us with all the riches of His grace, but He cannot until we are separated from sin and made "blessable."
God may be your Father in relationship and still not be your Father in fellowship. Don't miss anything His Fatherhood holds for you!

Adrian Rogers - Often we hear people speak of the universal fatherhood of God. But that is not right. All people are not necessarily brothers. We may be brothers in our humanity, but spiritually we are not brothers until we are born into the family of God and have one common Father.
The first thing that must occur if you want your prayers to be answered—if you want your prayers to be powerful—is to become a child of God. And in order to be a child of God, you must receive Jesus as your personal Savior. Have you done that? Does He live in your heart? If so, then you are ready to pray.

Galatians 3:26-29 TODAY IN THE WORD
You are all one in Christ Jesus. - Galatians 3:28

The caste system in India creates a rigidly stratified culture where oppor-tunities for social mobility do not exist. In fact, Hinduism actually sanctions the hierarchical, birth-ordained Indian caste system. It’s little wonder, then, that the Christian gospel has held appeal for many Dalit, those least regarded in India who were formerly known as the Untouchables. 
The Christian gospel, quite contrary to the teachings of Hinduism in India, celebrates the joyful announcement of the unity and equality of all people in the name of Jesus Christ. Disparities based upon ethnicity, economic status, and race disappear. People are not valued based on these distinctions. God’s family members are all equal to one another.

This was radically new for these believers in Galatia, who were undoubtedly quite familiar with first-century attitudes. It was common for the Pharisees in Paul’s time to give thanks to God that they were not Gentiles, slaves, or women. Clearly,

a great deal of prejudice existed against these groups as well as others. But the false teachers who had come from Jerusalem had not yet embraced this new message of equality: by preaching that Gentiles must become “Jewish” and be circumcised was to insist upon the rules of the old system and reject everything that had been made new through Christ.

Paul sums up much of the argument of chapter 3 in these closing verses. Christ Jesus is Abraham’s rightful heir. When we declare faith in Christ, we are baptized into Him and are guaranteed to inherit all the divine promises and the family name of Abraham. We are fully and completely adopted by God into His family. In this family, it does not matter if one is a Jew or Gentile, a slave or a free man, a man or a woman, because what becomes the most defining piece of our identity is that we are “Christian.” We belong to Him through faith, not through the law. The law was a guardian for us, but now this new era was hailed when Jesus the Messiah came.

APPLY THE WORD The message of unity in Paul’s letter to the Galatians is still relevant today. We often separate from one another based upon our race, economic status, or other differences. It is a beautiful and dramatic testimony to the gospel when Christian communities are formed among people who are different from one another. True unity comes from our recognition that we are all recipients of saving grace from God through Jesus Christ. This is unity we should pray for and work towards.

Henry Morris -  True Equality
"There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal. 3:28).
One of the wonderful aspects of Americas great Declaration of Independence is its repeated recognition of God as our Creator, beginning with its thrilling assertion that "all men are created equal" and that this fact is "self-evident."
However, it is not self-evident that men are all born equal. Even in colonial America, there were those who were bondmen (that is, slaves), and these were not equal politically with their owners. Furthermore, some men were wealthy landowners, some were poor clerks. Women were hardly equal to men in terms of suffrage or wages or various other ways.
As a matter of fact, nowhere in the world has there ever been a society in which all people were true equals in physical beauty, in mental or physical strength, or in many other ways. In truth, such a society would hardly even be desirable if it could ever be produced.
How is it, then, that we are created equal? The only possible answer is that we are equal in God's sight. He is, indeed, the One who has created us and we are all equally responsible to Him.
Yet, "all have sinned," and "there is none righteous, no, not one" (Rom. 5:12; 3:10). Consequently, all people were lost sinners, unfit to enter God's perfect kingdom, but "while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom. 5:8), and He is "the propitiation... for the sins of the whole world" (1 John 2:2).
When we believe on Christ as our Savior, we each are created equal in Him "after the image of him that created him" (Col. 3:10)—whether Jew or Gentile, slave or free, man or woman—"For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus" (Gal. 3:26).

The brill, or pearl fish, is somewhat like a turbot, and is known by its white pearly spots. But pearly spots don't make pearls, although pearls may have spots. A man may be spotted with many Christian characteristics and yet be as far from being a Christian as the brill is from a pearl. God's children may have spots, but the spots do not make them children. "Ye are the children of God by faith" (Gal. 3:26).

Joining The Family
You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. — Galatians 3:26
Maurice Griffin was adopted when he was 32 years old. He had lived with Lisa and Charles Godbold 20 years earlier as a foster child. Although Maurice was now a man living on his own, adoption had been what the family and he had always longed for. Once they were reunited and the adoption was official, Maurice commented, “This is probably the happiest moment in my life. . . . I’m happy to be home.”
Those of us who have joined the family of God may refer to that time as the happiest moment in our lives. When we trust Christ for salvation, we become God’s children, and He becomes our heavenly Father. The Bible assures us, “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:26).
As God’s adopted children, we acquire spiritual siblings—our brothers and sisters in Christ—and we all share an eternal inheritance (Col. 1:12). In addition, Jesus’ Spirit indwells our hearts and enables us to pray using the name Abba, Father (Gal. 4:6)—like a child calling, “Daddy.”
To be a child of God is to experience the closeness and security of a Father who loves us, accepts us, and wants to know us. Our adoption into His family is a wonderful homecoming. — Jennifer Benson Schuldt

I once was an outcast stranger on earth,
A sinner by choice, and an alien by birth;
But I’ve been adopted, my name’s written down,
An heir to the mansion, a robe, and a crown. — Buell

God’s arms are always open to welcome anyone home.

Galatians 3:27  For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

Greek - hosoi gar eis Christon ebaptisthete (2PAPI)  Christon enedusasthe (2PAMI)

Amplified:  For as many [of you] as were baptized into Christ [into a spiritual union and communion with Christ, the Anointed One, the Messiah] have put on (clothed yourselves with) Christ. 

ESV  For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

KJV  For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

NET  For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

NLT  And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on the character of Christ, like putting on new clothes.

Phillips  All of you who were baptised "into" Christ have put on the family likeness of Christ. 

Wuest  For as many as were introduced into (a mystical union with) Christ, put on Christ.

YLT  for as many as to Christ were baptized did put on Christ;


For (gar) is a term of explanation. Vine says for introduces "the ground for the statement that “all” were sons of God in Christ Jesus. This ground is twofold, the first reason is adduced in this verse, the second in Gal 3:28."

For all of you who were baptized into Christ: When were we baptized? The aorist tense indicates that this occurred at a point in time in the past and logically would be at the moment of our conversion. At that moment, in a mysterious, but very real spiritual sense, we were placed (presumably by the Spirit) into Christ, immersed into Christ. We were placed into a perfect and permanent union with Christ. We entered into oneness (union) with Christ when we entered into the New Covenant by grace through faith. We are forever identified with Christ. 

Note carefully that contrary to what you may have heard, thought or been taught, the baptism of which Paul is speaking in this passage is not a reference to water baptism. It certainly is not a reference to so-called "baptismal regeneration" (which I consider a false teaching! We are saved by faith apart from any works including the work of baptism! (See Ro 3:28-note See CARM note)  Beloved, water baptism never saved anyone, period! Jesus Alone is the Savior! To believe "baptismal regeneration" is to put your eternal destiny in grave danger. Baptism in this verse refers to the "immersion" (or union) of the believer into the body of Christ (and includes union with His death, burial and resurrection), a supernatural transaction which is accomplished by the Holy Spirit at the time of our conversion (cf. 1 Cor. 12:13-see note below). Clearly this baptism is a supernatural work of God, Who Alone could "baptize" a man or woman into the body of Christ. It is a mystery as to how every person who believes is transported back to the Cross, to die with Christ, to be buried with Him and to be resurrected with Him. O holy mystery! Praise God for this profound transcendent truth and for opening the eyes of our heart (cp Acts 16:14-note) to respond by faith and not by sight. To reiterate at the very moment of  conversion/regeneration we were immersed spiritually into the body of Christ, and He became our spiritual identity and our life not only in eternity but even now in this temporal life (read Col 3:4-note

Wuest comments that "Having spoken of the Galatians in the previous verse as in Christ ("in Christ Jesus" - Gal 3:26), referring to that mystical and vital union which exists between the Lord Jesus and the believer, Paul now reminds them of how they became united with Christ. When they put their faith in Him as Saviour, the Holy Spirit baptized (introduced or placed) them into vital union with Christ (Ro 6:3; 1 Cor. 12:13). The reference cannot be to water baptism, for that never put a believing sinner in Christ. (See more on this below)." (Galatians Commentary - Verse by Verse)

Ryken - Being united to Christ means that we are connected to everything Christ ever did for our salvation. We participate in his obedient life, his suffering death, and his glorious resurrection.  This is all symbolized in baptism....The message of Galatians, like the message of Romans, is the gospel message of the cross and the empty tomb—Christ crucified and Christ risen. Baptism signifies our personal connection to Christ in these saving events. We are united to the Savior who died and rose again; we have a new identity in Christ. Another way of describing this union is to say that we are clothed with Christ.  (Ibid)

Baptized (907)(baptizo from bapto = cover wholly with a fluid; stain or dip as with dye; used of the smith tempering the red-hot steel, used of dyeing the hair; of a ship that "dipped" = sank) has a literal and a figurative meaning in the NT. The literal meaning is to submerge, to dip or immerse as in water.  The Greeks used baptizo to describe the dyeing of a garment, in which the whole material was plunged in and taken out from the element used.A study of the 77 NT uses reveals that most of the uses of baptizo in the Gospels and Acts are associated with literal water baptism, but Paul use in this passage is figurative. Notice also that there is no mention of water anywhere in the context of Galatians 3! Thus figuratively, baptizo pictures the introduction or placing of the believing soul into the new environment (in Christ Jesus) or into union with Christ Jesus, this union resulting (and this is mysterious to me) forever alter its condition or its relationship to its previous environment or condition. In this sense baptizo means to be identified with.

We see this figurative, spiritual meaning of baptizo and the related noun baptisma in other Pauline passages...

Romans 6:3-note Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? (The day we believed in Christ, was both the day we died and the day we rose from the grave as those who have been born again! Paul goes on to explain this in the next verse) Ro 6:4 (note) Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism (noun baptisma) into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life (a brand new life that heretofore we had never experienced = life on a "higher plane" in Christ and enabled by His Spirit!). (See also Wuest's note below which is from Wuest's comments on Romans 6:3).

(Figurative use of the related noun baptisma) Colossians 2:12-note  having been buried with Him in baptism (baptisma), in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.

1 Cor 12:13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. 

Comment - At conversion, the believer is born again by the Holy Spirit (John 3:3–6). He is also baptized by the Holy Spirit, which unites him to the body of Christ, the church (1 Cor 12:13), and to Christ in His death, burial and resurrection (Ro 6:3–5). Thus, by this one baptism (Eph. 4:5), he is in Christ indeed (Gal. 3:26, 27). The Lord Jesus Christ was described by John the Baptist as the baptizer (Matt. 3:11; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33), in the sense that He poured out the gift of the Holy Spirit (the Promise of the Father) after He had been crucified, buried, and raised to glory. Christ Jesus is the ultimate Source, for He sent the Spirit as an ascension gift at Pentecost (cf. Acts 2). Since Pentecost, the Holy Spirit is the  Agent Who is baptizing. The Lord’s Body (the Church) is the element into which all believers are immersed. Spirit baptism is a miracle of God at the New Birth. We are then added to the body of Christ.. (Believer's Bible Commentary)

James Montgomery Boice helps understand this figurative meaning of baptizo writing that "The clearest example that shows the meaning of baptizo is a text from the Greek poet and physician Nicander, who lived about 200 B.C. It is a recipe for making pickles and is helpful because it uses both words. Nicander says that in order to make a pickle, the vegetable should first be 'dipped' (bapto) into boiling water and then 'baptised' (baptizo ) in the vinegar solution. Both verbs concern the immersing of vegetables in a solution. But the first is temporary. The second, the act of baptizing the vegetable, produces a permanent change. When used in the New Testament, this word more often refers to our union and identification with Christ than to our water baptism... mere intellectual assent is not enough. There must be a union with Him, a real change, like the vegetable to the pickle!" (Bolding added)

Warren Wiersbe makes a good point noting that "When you read about “baptism” in the New Testament, you must exercise discernment to determine whether the word is to be interpreted literally or symbolically. For example, in Romans 6:3, 4 and Galatians 3:27, 28, the reference is symbolic (Ed: and figurative) since water baptism cannot put a sinner into Jesus Christ. Only the Holy Spirit can do that (Ro 8:9; 1Co 12:13; see Ac 10:44, 45, 46, 47, 48). Water baptism is a public witness of the person’s identification with Jesus Christ, while Spirit baptism is the personal and private experience that identifies the person with Christ.

Wayne Barber illustrates the spiritual meaning of baptism in Galatians 3:27- And the beautiful picture of this is, if I had a bowl of red dye I could explain it to you. A clear bowl of red dye, and I took a white cloth and I am going to put that white cloth down into that red dye. I immerse it into it, completely submerge it into the red dye. Now, the cloth is in the dye, but the moment it gets inside the dye, something else happens, doesn’t it? The dye gets inside the cloth, and the cloth is no longer a white cloth. There has been a change. Something has been identified with it. The red dye has entered into the cloth and now you have a red cloth. That’s exactly what he’s talking about here. That is spiritual immersion into Christ and Him into us.....He’s not talking about water baptism. He’s talking about the spiritual immersion into Christ. (Galatians 3:26-29 - Sons of God)

Kenneth Wuest explains that baptizo "can be illustrated by the action of the smith dipping the hot iron in water, tempering it, or the dyer dipping the cloth in the dye for the purpose of dying it...The word refers to the introduction or placing of a person or thing into a new environment or into union with something else so as to alter its condition or its relationship to its previous environment or condition. While the word...had other uses, yet the one that predominated above the others was the above one. Observe how perfectly this meaning is in accord with the usage of the word in Romans 6:3, 4, where the believing sinner is baptized into vital union with Jesus Christ. The believing sinner is introduced or placed in Christ, thus coming into union with Him. By that action he is taken out of his old environment ("in Adam" because of Ro 5:12-note) and condition in which he had lived, the First Adam (cp 1 Co 15:22 "For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive."), and is placed into a new environment and condition, the Last Adam ("in Christ" - cp 1Co 15:45). By this action his condition is changed (at that moment and forever) from that of a lost sinner with a totally depraved nature to that of a saint with a divine nature (2 Peter 1:4-note). His relationship to the LAW of God is changed from that of a guilty sinner to that of a justified saint (Ro 3:28-note). All this is accomplished by the act of the Holy Spirit introducing or placing him into vital union with Jesus Christ (Ro 6:3-note, Gal 3:27). No ceremony of water baptism ever did that. The entire context is supernatural in its character. The Greek word (in Romans 6:3) should not be transliterated but translated, and the translation should read; “As many as were introduced (placed) into Christ Jesus, into His death were introduced. Therefore we were buried with Him through the aforementioned introduction into His death." (Wuest's Word Studies from the Greek New Testament)

In short baptizo as used in the present context describes the introduction or placing of an individual into a new environment, union with Christ, an unbreakable union which forever alters the individual's relationship to their previous environment.

Ridderbos  - Just as a garment which one puts on envelops the person wearing it and defines his appearance, so the person baptized in Christ is entirely taken up in Christ and in the salvation brought by Him. 

Vine on the phrase into Christ—ideally the moment of believing is the moment of baptism, for in the act of being baptized the believer sets forth in symbol what happened when he first trusted in Christ. But in actual experience the baptizing takes place at a time later, by more or less, than the moment of believing. The mention of baptism was probably intended to remind the Galatians that they had themselves declared their identification with Christ in His burial, whereas the new teaching was a practical denial thereof. For of believers on the Lord Jesus it is said that they:

  • died with Christ, Colossians 2:20;
  • were buried with Christ, Colossians 2:12;
  • were quickened with Christ, Ephesians 2:5;
  • were raised with Christ, Colossians 3:1;
  • are seated with Christ in the heavenlies, Ephesians 2:6;
  • are to be manifested with Christ in glory, Colossians 3:4.

All this is said of the believer at the present time, as he is “in Christ Jesus,” for these words, which appear at the end of Ephesians 2:6, are to be read with each separate statement of that and the preceding verse. But mere submission to a rite in the flesh, such as circumcision, and obedience to the law, did not contemplate such a result. The practical import of baptism is expressed in Romans 6:11: the believer is to reckon himself to be dead unto sin, but alive unto God in Christ Jesus. (Collected Writings)


Clothed yourselves with Christ - ESV "have put on Christ." NLT = "have put on the character of Christ, like putting on new clothes." Have you heard the secular expression "The clothes make the man?" In the spiritual world that saying is even more true, for in the Father's eyes "the clothes of Christ make the man!" Jesus Christ has become the garment of our righteousness, Christ's perfect righteousness which the Father now sees forever covering us! Hallelujah! We once were spiritually dressed with a righteousness that was like filthy rags (garments)" (Isaiah 64:6 Literal Hebrew = "Heb "and like a garment of menstruation [are] all our righteous acts") but when we were baptized into (identified with) Christ, our "filthy rags" were exchanged forever for Christ's "robe of righteousness." (Isa 61:10). But with privilege comes responsibility. Now enabled by the Spirit, we need to "wear Christ" in a way that others see Him on and in us. Writing with joy from "house arrest" (chained to a Roman imperial guard), Paul exhorted the saints a Philippi (10 years after that church was planted in Acts 16), to walk worthy or in keeping with the Gospel which "clothed" them in Christ...

Only conduct yourselves (present imperative - command to make this conduct one's lifestyle - the only way to obey this command continually is to daily jettison self reliance and rely wholly on the Holy Spirit - cf Eph 5:18-note) in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ ("let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ" ESV), so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the Gospel;" (Php 1:27-note).

The ESV translates it as "have put on Christ." Paul speaks of the important concept of putting on (and putting off) in Ephesians and Colossians

Ephesians 4:20-24-note  But you did not learn Christ in this way, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, 22 that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self (see Barber's note), which is being (continually) corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit (apate - our flesh "tricks" us and seduces us with guile, treachery and delusions!), 23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.  (See more discussion by Dr Barber on put off/put on = Ephesians 4:17-27 A Brand New Way of Life)

Colossians 3:9-10-note  Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, 10 and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him–

Application - What "clothes" did  you wear this past week?

W E Vine on clothed yourselves with Christ (or "put on Christ") - put on Christ.enduo = “to clothe oneself with,” a word which, beside its frequent use for literal garments, Acts 12:21, e.g., is also used of the incorruptible body, wherein the dead in Christ shall be raised, and of the immortal body, which is to swallow up the mortal body of those who are alive at the Parousia, 1 Corinthians 15:53; 2 Corinthians 5:3-note. It is the word used by the Lord Jesus to express the relationship between the promised Holy Spirit and those who were to receive Him, Luke 24:49-note. The believer is said to have put on “the new man,” Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:10; and “therefore,” he is exhorted to “put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering, … and love,” Gal 3:12, 14. Such is to be the ordinary apparel of the Christian; in this character he is to appear daily in the world. (Ed: And notice that the apparel of "a heart of compassion, etc" is a perfect picture of the character of Jesus, the very One we have been clothed with!) The same thought is expressed in the words, “put on the Lord Jesus Christ,” Romans 13:14-note. The believer, however, is “enrolled—as a soldier,” 2 Timothy 2:4-note, and as such has suitable armor provided for him, and with this he is exhorted to clothe himself, Romans 13:12-note, Ephesians 6:11-note; 1 Thessalonians 5:8-note. The whole is summed up in Romans 13:14-note, for the man who “puts on the Lord Jesus Christ” stands both in the Christian’s dress and in the Christian’s panoply. Enduō occurs in Job 29:14, LXX, “I put on righteousness, and it clothed me,” and in Judges 6:34-note, “the Spirit of the Lord clothed itself with Gideon” (NAS = "So the Spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon"); in the latter passage at least the idea is not dissimilar to that of this passage. The apostle may also have had in mind the Roman custom whereby on attaining to manhood the youth discarded the garments of childhood and put on the toga virilis, the garment of manhood, and became a citizen, enjoying the freedom and privileges of citizenship, and discharging its responsibilities, and at the same time taking his place in the councils of his family. In this sense the words “put on Christ” are without exact parallel elsewhere, though they suggest Paul’s characteristic expression “in Christ,” for it is by putting on Christ that a man comes to be in Christ, and at His Parousia will be found in Him, Philippians 3:9-note. The intimacy of the relationship thus described stands in vivid contrast with the relationship between God and the believers contemplated by the Judaizer, who wished to bring them again under the bondage of the law. (Collected Writings)

John Piper alludes to the practical application of the truth that we are clothed with Christ associating our new position with what should now be our new (Spirit enabled) practice. Piper writes

"How then does the apostle Paul teach us to live? Will he say: "You are decisively and irrevocably new, so you can coast through life with no fight to become new"? Or will he say: "You are not decisively and irrevocably new and must fight to get to that place in Christ"? No, neither of these. He will say: "By faith, embrace all that God is for your good in Christ and all you are for his glory in Christ. Believe that. And now, with that confidence, fight to take possession of the territory that Christ has conquered for you. Fight to become in practice what you are in Christ. Eight illustrations of this truth....(Illustration #6) 6. Statement of newness: Galatians 3:27, "All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ." Command to become new: Romans 13:14 (note), "But put on (aorist imperative = command to "Do this now!" "Don't delay!" Enabled by the Spirit) the Lord Jesus Christ." (click to see the entire article and the seven other illustrations that describe our position and our practice).

Comment: Do you understand what Dr Piper is saying? He is saying in essence that yes, we have the character of Christ (position), but that in everyday life we are to live like Christ lived when He was on the earth. And the only way to succeed is by daily jettisoning self-reliance (natural power, self will, etc) and trusting wholly in the Holy Spirit to give us the supernatural desire and power to live like Christ. See Php 2:13NLT-note where "God Who is at work (energeo in the present tense = continually supernaturally "energizing") in you" is a description of the Holy Spirit, Who is continually "energizing" and enabling us to live a godly life, to live a Christ-like life. In other words, don't just try to act and speak and think like Christ by relying on your natural power. You will fail and become frustrated. And the world will not see the "garment of Christ" on you. Our new position should motivate a new practice. Galatians 3:3-note is a key truth you should memorize - "Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit [saved by grace through faith], are you now being perfected [progressively being sanctified, daily growing in Christ-likeness] by the flesh?" And the answer to Paul's rhetorical question is "Of course not!" Just as you began by the Spirit (Jn 3:3-8) by faith, now daily continue by the same Spirit by faith, by trusting and obeying.  (Already: Decisively and Irrevocably Free, Not Yet: Finally and Perfectly Free)

Ray Pritchard says

"Paul’s point is that when we come to Christ, we enter into a new relationship that changes all of life. Now we are clothed with Christ. Coming to Christ is like gaining a whole new wardrobe. You exchange the tattered rags of the old life for the beautiful robes of the character of Jesus Christ. The old life is gone forever. Out with the old addictions! Out with the swearing! Out with the lies! Out with the evil relationships! Out with the sinful habits! Out with the anger! Out with the lust! Out with the racial prejudice! All of it must go out the door when Jesus comes in. (Ed: Yes, that is true, but because we still have the fallen flesh in us, some of the rotten garments we once wore continually, will potentially from time to time raise their ugly heard so to speak - when they do put them to death by the Spirit - Ro 8:13, kill them - Col 3:5. Confess failure, repent, and walk on enabled by the Holy Spirit!) What does the well-dressed Christian wear? He wears the character of Jesus Christ. When people see us, they see Him, and if they knew us before, they want to know, “What happened to you?” And we tell them, “I’m a new person. Jesus Christ has changed my life.” (2 Cor 5:17-note) Of course, this change is both instantaneous (Ed: Our new position in Christ) and gradual (Ed: Our daily practice in Christ, enabled by His Spirit). We are given a new wardrobe the moment we are saved but we usually hang on to our old one for a while. We’re so used to the smelly rags of sin that it’s hard to give them up (Ed: We will spend the rest of our time on earth casting off these old smelly rags -- but they should be on us less and less as we grow daily in Christ-likeness). But we have to (Ed: Yes, but not legalistically, not under law which says "You must do this!", but under grace which enables us to obey), because coming to Christ is like joining a new team and putting on a new uniform. Suppose a member of the New York Yankees is traded to the Chicago White Sox and he shows up at Comiskey Park still wearing his Yankee pinstripes. What will his new teammates do? They will tell him to change his uniform or go back to New York! And well they should. Once you join a new team, you change uniforms. Coming to Christ is like that. We’ve joined his team and now we wear the “uniform” of the character of Christ so that everyone will know we belong to him." (Born Free: Seven Promises You Can Count On)


John MacArthur notes that Paul's description of the believer being clothed with Christ

"might be a reference to a Roman custom...There was a very significant ceremony among the Romans. It was kind of like bar mitzvah, only it came a little later. Roman young men went through it, and it was called toga virilis, which implied a robe and virility. It was the ceremony that occurred when a young man had reached the age of manhood. He was given a robe and robed with the toga virilis, which signified that he was now a grown-up son, enjoying full citizenship with all the rights and responsibilities that came with it, no longer to be treated like a child. Here he says, "You are no longer under a paidagogos, you've been through spiritual toga virilis, you have put on Jesus Christ. You are robed with Him." The Christian joined to Christ, baptized into His death and resurrection, in union with Him, is clothed with Christ's own robe of righteousness (Ed: cp 1 Cor 1:30, 2 Cor 5:21-note, Php 3:9-note). There's a really interesting verse, and I've really hunted around in my head for a way to illustrate this. I'm not sure I can ever illustrate it totally because it's such a deep spiritual truth. In Judges 6:34-note, it says, "But the spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon." What's so significant about that? The word 'came', in the Hebrew, is labash. (Ed: And is translated in Lxx with enduo) What does that mean? It means 'clothed'. It means to be laid around someone like a coat of armor so that he becomes invisible. It says there that, in preparation for Gideon's battle, the Holy Spirit surrounded him so that he was invisible. That's exactly the same concept you have in Galatians. When you became a Christian, the moment you believed, you became invisible to God, in the sense that you were robed with Jesus Christ, clothed with Him. That's why God can pour out everything on you, because He's pouring it out on Christ. Blessings. This is the great truth of our salvation, beloved, that I am His and He is mine. That's what he said in Galatians 2:20, isn't it? "I am crucified with Christ. I died with him. Nevertheless I live. Yet not I, but Christ lives in me. The life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the son of God." In other words, it's Christ in me and around me, living through me. Listen, friend, in Galatians 3:16, it says this. "The promise was made to Abraham and to his seed was the promise made. He said not, 'And to seeds,'" God didn't make His promise to a whole bunch of people, He made it to one, "As of many, but of one. 'And thy seed,' which is Christ." Listen, all of God's promise to Abraham was for one person, Christ. The only way you'll ever get in on it is to be what? In Christ. You see the point of that? In Christ. If Christ has the love of the Father, so do I. If Christ has full access to the Father, so do I. If Christ has the full blessing, so do I. In fact, some day, I'm going to be just like Him. I will see Him as He is (1 John 3:2-note).

Beloved, there is no way that you'll ever know all the blessing of the Father unless you're in Christ. Someone gave me an illustration this week that may help you to understand this. Do you remember a man by the name of Thomas Edward Lawrence? He was a British scholar, soldier, and author who was better known as Lawrence of Arabia. He was one of the great heroes of World War I, and he was also a leader in the Paris Peace Talks of 1919. He represented a number of the tribes from the Arabian desert at that point. It was interesting that it said in this little article that when he was attending the peace talks, several of the leaders of these Arabian tribes came to Paris with him and stayed in hotels there. Their greatest attention was attracted by the large water faucets in the bathtubs, which appeared to have an unending supply of water. All one had to do was turn a handle and water continued to flow. This was quite a luxury for people who had grown up and spent their whole lives in the desert. As Lawrence was preparing to leave Paris, he discovered that the Arabians had secured plumbing tools and were taking the bathtub faucets off the wall. They explained to him that they were going to take the faucets back to the desert so that they could have an unending supply of water there. Lawrence had to convince them that it was not enough merely to have the faucet, but that the faucet had to be connected to a pipe, which, in turn, was connected to a water main, which went to a water reservoir, which got its supply of water from springs, rivers, and wells. Hence, in order for the faucet to work, it had to be connected to the original source of water. There is no blessing that comes to any man unless that man is connected to the source. All blessing comes from the Father to the Son, and unless you are plugged into the Son, there is no blessing (John 15:5). There is none. (Sermon)

As an aside the Spirit of the LORD came upon many individuals in the OT (however not all of these use the Hebrew verb labash or the Greek verb enduo) - Othniel = Jdg 3:10 (Heb = hayah), Gideon = Jdg 6:34 (labash/enduo);  Jephthah = Jdg 11:29; Jdg 13:25; 1Sa 10:9,10,19:20,23; 2Ch 20:14; Nu 24:2; 1Chr 12:18). He was also IN  some people (Nu 27:18; Da 4:8; 6:3; 1Pe 1:11) and filled some for special service (Ex 31:3; 35:31). These relationships are characterized by the Lord, as the Spirit, being "with" them, in contrast to His permanent indwelling of all believers from the Day of Pentecost on (Jn 14:17). 


Have clothed yourselves with Christ - This figurative description symbolizes the believer's (forever) identification with Christ. This is our "position" and our privilege, but as noted above our privileged position calls for daily personal practice. Since we have clothed ourselves with Christ (position), the world needs to see us live like Christ and the only way to do that is to depend on the Spirit of Christ to give us the desire and the power to live like Him (Php 2:13NLT-note). When we live in this supernatural manner, the "clothes" that the world sees on us each day are Christ-like garments. That does not mean they will love us because most of the world hated Him. It does mean that when we suffer persecution it is for His sake (2 Ti 3:12-note, Php 1:29-note, etc), that is, we suffer because of His likeness shining through us by His Spirit. In Second Corinthians Paul used a different metaphor ("divine perfume" if you will) which conveys the same idea writing

But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life. And who is adequate for these things? (2 Cor 2:14-16)

Comment: The world is watching our behavior, "sniffing" us out (so to speak) to see if we are authentic followers of Jesus, to see if we have an "odor" of the natural or supernatural. Who is adequate? None of us! We must continually rely on the omnipotent adequacy of God "Who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life." (2 Cor 3:5-6) Are you walking by the Spirit or walking by the flesh? Only the former lifestyle will give a "sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him (Jesus) in every place."

Wayne Barber explains the practical application of clothed with Christ

You have clothed yourselves with Christ, is a graphic illustration of what happens at salvation. His presence, His power, all of who He is comes to live in us. It envelops the believer. You say, “I remember when I got saved. I had a lot of joy in my heart, but I didn’t know this took place.”....At the moment we were saved whether we felt it or didn’t feel it, God came to live in us and His presence now saturates our very being....There is no such thing as a believer who is not clothed with Christ. You say, “Wait a minute wait a minute. I know believers and I have been one myself, and if you are telling me I am clothed with Christ? I haven’t lived that way all the time.” And that’s exactly the point in Galatians 3. Inwardly we are clothed with Christ. You don’t ever get any more of God than you are going to get at the moment of salvation. But is He seen outwardly? Remember, Paul says in Philippians “work out your salvation.” Let the Jesus who is on the inside be seen on the outside. And the same way that you are clothed with Christ, by faith, is the same the way He’s manifest that clothing in your life. He manifests His character in your life. I will tell you what. As long as I pastor churches, and it will be that way till Jesus comes back, you wonder sometimes if people know Christ from a hole in the ground. We sing the hymns. We sing the choruses. We walk right out and act as if we don’t even know Him. And yet we are clothed with Christ. You see, this is the whole point. If it’s going to be Christ living in you, then all that’s within you begins to be manifested through your life. Paul says this to believers in Romans. He tells them in Romans 13:14, “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” You already have put Him on. I know inwardly. What he’s saying is, put Him on as your behavior. Make sure He is manifested in your life. And he goes on and tells you how. “And make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.” You see, they have put Him on, but now put Him off. It is two different things here. At [[salvation]] He came to live in you and the clothing is there. The garment is there. Now wear the garment; and you wear the garment by saying yes to Him. He says the same thing in Ephesians 4:22. And he is really on these folks. He says, “That in reference to your former manner of life [your former behavior, before you became a believer], you lay aside the old self.” You know, he isn’t contradicting himself. What he’s saying is, quit living as if you have never been clothed with Christ. Here in our text Paul is referring to the clothing that took place when we were baptized into Christ. And that’s a beautiful part here. Everything I need for life and for godliness, Peter says, I already have. He’s given me the ability to partake of the divine nature. You say, “Well, brother Wayne, I talked to a church during the last week and they didn’t act like they were filled with the divine nature.” That’s exactly right and isn’t that sad? Isn’t it sad when people that are clothed with the very presence of Christ live as if that they’re the pagan that is next door? You see, when you are walking in His garments, when you’re clothed in His garments, the flesh has no way and no will whatsoever. It’s the Spirit controlling our lives. But the very moment we choose to resurrect that old flesh it seems like it crawls off the altar every day, doesn’t it? And when we choose to say yes to it, then it shuts the whole process down, even though we have been given everything that we need, everything in Christ. Well, the word “clothed” here is the word enduo, which means to be dressed a certain way. When I got to military school the first thing they did was cut my hair off. Then they took my regular clothes, put them in a box and sent them home, and I was to wear a uniform every day. Why? Because we were identified with that school. And if you are going to be identified with that school, there’s a certain garment that you have to wear. That’s exactly what Paul is saying. Why is he? He’s not talking about uniformity—we are all different—but he is talking about unity of the brethren when we live surrendered to Him. Why is it, you say? Well, we have Gal 5 to deal with, and he’ll tell you why, how the flesh wars against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh. When everybody wears the same uniform they all have the same identity.

Now what’s his point here in the passage? Jew and Gentile alike are dressed in the same garment. The person who has received Christ by faith, then he has put Christ on as a garment, His nature, His presence, His power, that all wraps themselves around and envelops them. Now, his point is that if you go back up under the Law, you have just chosen to deny your total identity in the Lord Jesus Christ. What does it mean to go back up under the law? When I choose my flesh over choosing Him (Ed: Surrendering or yielding to the Spirit of Christ in me), I have just put myself under some law because I’m going to either (attempt vainly to) measure up it or rebel against it. And what he is saying here is if you do that you have denied your identity. Your identity is in Christ.....

Here is my question to you this morning: are you wearing that garment? When people are around you, do they see that garment? Are they affected by that garment? (Ed: cp 2 Cor 2:14-16 where Paul describes believers as an aroma of Christ instead of clothed with Christ, but the effect is the same on all we encounter!) I believe all heaven rejoices when we start wearing the garment God has already given to us. A believer has an eternal destiny, but I want to make sure we understand something clear. We as a church have a clear identity. We have an eternal destiny, but we have a clear identity. And the key is, and the challenge is, wear the garment. Wear the garment. Wear the garment. (Ed: Remember don't try to "wear it" in your own power, but by relying on the power provided by the Spirit of Christ) When I preached out of Ephesians I ask "What garment are you wearing?" As a matter of fact, the next time somebody walks up to you and says something just a little bit different, ask them “What garment are you wearing?” Why can’t we get gut honest about this? We’re either wearing it or we are not wearing it. Yes, we have it (positionally), but are we wearing it (practically)? When I was preaching out of Ephesians I had some parents come to me and say, “Would you quit preaching out of Ephesians?” I said why? They said, “We were coming to church today and we were arguing about something and our little children in the back leaned up and said ‘Momma, Daddy, what garment are you wearing?’” What garment are you wearing? Is your speech seasoned with grace so it edifies and lifts up your brother? (Col 4:5-6) Is your character walking in the garment of Jesus Christ? (Eph 5:2, cp Gal 5:16) Or is it just another flesh game that many of us are playing until Jesus comes back, embracing a religion, but denying the power thereof? (Galatians 3:26-29 - Sons of God)

Let's explain the practical application of "clothed with Christ" another way to help you understand this vitally important truth. And remember it is one thing to have a head knowledge of the truth but quite another thing to practice it. The Pharisees were experts at this -- they had a head knowledge but lacked the heart change and thus had no power to practice the righteousness they professed! All who have been baptized into Christ are new creatures in Chist (2 Cor 5:17-note) and now in this new covenant with Christ, they received a new power, the Holy Spirit. Ezekiel 36:27-note says 

“I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances."

Do you see the dual spiritual dynamic in that passage? In the first half God speaks of our privilege, His Presence (His Spirit) and His power to enable us to walk in a manner which pleases Him. In the second half of the verse God says we have a responsibility to observe His laws. God's provision and Our practice. You see, if God had just said you must "be careful to observe My ordinances" that's what the law says. But the law had no provision of power to obey. In the New Covenant of grace, God gives us the power to obey and it is our responsibility to obey in dependence on the power He provides (via His Spirit). One of my favorite Christian writers Jerry Bridges (now with Jesus) once wrote that believers are 100% responsible and 100% dependent to live the Christian life. For more discussion of this truth see the Paradoxical Principle of 100% Dependent and 100% Responsible

Now back to Galatians 3:27 where Paul describes Christ "on" the believer (clothed) whereas in Galatians 2:20 he described Christ "in" the believer (using himself as the example), writing

“I have been crucified with Christ; and 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 up for me. (Gal 2:20-note)

Comment: Christ clothing me (united with me, identified with me, in covenant with me, in oneness or union with me) should result in the same spiritual dynamic as me being in Christ (and Him in me). In both cases we live out the "Christ life" just as did Paul, by faith, by trusting in His Word and His Spirit to give us the desire and the power to live supernaturally (Php 2:13NLT-note). Paul exhorted believers to imitate him just as he had imitated Christ (1 Cor 11:1-note). That means we need to live out the "Christ life" in our everyday practice, just as the God-Man Jesus did when He walked the earth. And how did Jesus do it? He did it by laying aside His divine prerogatives (otherwise we could never have imitated Him! Php 2:6-7-note) and by depending wholly upon the Holy Spirit. This truth is often forgotten when we study His life in the Gospels because admittedly He did miraculous things that we will never be able to imitate. But in His day to day life, in the moral-ethical sphere, Jesus continually relied on the Spirit's filling and power (Lk 4:1-note, Lk 4:14-note, etc).

Peter summed up how Jesus lived out His 3+ year ministry (thus giving us an example to follow, cp  1 Pe 2:21-note, 1 Jn 2:6-note) declaring "you yourselves know the thing which took place throughout all Judea, starting from Galilee, after the baptism which John proclaimed. You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit (the same Spirit with which every believer has been anointed, cp 1 Jn 2:20-note, 1 Jn 2:27-note; see Our Anointing - The Holy Spirit) and with power (dunamis, supernatural power to live like Jesus and the same power Jesus promised believers in Acts 1:8-note, Lk 24:49-note, etc), and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him." (Acts 10:37-38)

Clothed (1746)(enduo from en = in + dúo = to sink, go in or under, to put on) means literally to clothe or dress someone and to put on as a garment, to cause to get into a garment (eg, Lk 15:22 where the father says "quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him… ").

Wuest notes that enduo is used in the Septuagint (Lxx), "of the act of clothing one’s self with strength (Isa 52:1), righteousness (Isa 59:17), glory, salvation (Isa 61:10). The word does not convey the idea of putting on a mask or playing the part of another. It refers to the act in which one enters into actual relationship with some one else. Chrysostom says, “If Christ is Son of God, and thou hast put Him on, having the Son in thyself and being made like unto Him, thou hast been brought into one family and one nature.”

Other figurative uses of enduo in the Septuagint - Ps 35:26 (= figurative use = "Let those be clothed with shame and dishonor"); Ps 65:13 (= figurative use = "The meadows are clothed with flocks") Ps 93:1 (= 2 figurative uses = "The LORD reigns, He is clothed with majesty; The LORD has clothed and girded Himself with strength.") Ps 104:1 (= figurative use = "You are clothed with splendor and majesty") Ps 109:18 (= figurative use = "But he clothed himself with cursing as with his garment"), Ps 109:29 (= figurative use = "Let my accusers be clothed with dishonor"); Ps 132:9 (= figurative use = "Let Your priests be clothed with righteousness"),

MacArthur sums up the significance of this great truth writing "Whatever the Lord Jesus is and has becomes the believer’s. Because Christ has the love of the Father, so do believers. Because Christ has full access to the Father, so do believers. And because Christ has the full resources of the Father, so do believers."

Galatians 3:28  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Greek -   ouk eni (3SPAI)  Ioudaios oude Hellen ouk eni (3SPAI) doulos oude eleutheros ouk eni (3SPAI) arsen kai thelu pantes gar humeis eis este (2PPAI) en Christo Iesou  

Amplified:  There is [now no distinction] neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 

ESV  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

KJV  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.

NET  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female– for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.

NLT  There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Phillips  Gone is the distinction between Jew and Greek, slave and free man, male and female - you are all one in Christ Jesus. 

Wuest  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female. For ye are all one in Christ Jesus.

YLT  there is not here Jew or Greek, there is not here servant nor freeman, there is not here male and female, for all ye are one in Christ Jesus;


In the Bible there is no word for "person.'' "Name'' is used for "person.'' Therefore, having the name of Christ pronounced over one in baptism means that one belongs to Christ and that the personality of Christ must be expressed in that life.

There is (“there exists”) neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female - Vine writes "“there exists,” does not merely state the fact, it asserts the impossibility of the contrary. Thus James declares that “partiality cannot exist with the Father of Lights,” James 1:17-note; and Paul asks “could it be possible that there did not exist one wise man in the Church at Corinth?” 1 Corinthians 6:5. See also Colossians 3:11.  neither Jew nor Greek,—i.e., national distinctions do not obtain in Christ; the world, men of “every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation,” is the object of the love of God and the proper sphere of the gospel. Cp. “there is no distinction between Jew and Greek,” “for the same Lord is Lord of all,” Romans 10:12. there can be no male and female:—i.e., distinction of sex does not obtain in Christ; woman, no less than man, finds in Him her Savior and her is not a barrier to salvation, nor is it a hindrance to the development of the graces of the Christian life.

POSB - This is a startling truth: Jesus Christ is the answer to all the prejudice, bitterness, hatred, oppression, and inequalities of earth. How can He solve the divisions among men? Note the phenomenal statement: “Ye are all one in Christ Jesus.”  Every believer stands on an equal footing before Jesus Christ: the footing of faith. No person is accepted for any other reason than faith. All persons who come to Jesus Christ come …

      •      because they are ever so short of Christ
      •      because they are ever so different from Christ
      •      because they are ever so imperfect

Yet, Jesus Christ accepts them. Jesus Christ reaches out and embraces all believers despite their being so much less and so different from Him. Therefore, when we look at another believer and he differs from us, we do just what Jesus Christ did for us. We love, accept, and embrace him; differences do not matter. All that matters is love, acceptance, and brotherhood in Christ. Every true believer loves and stands in Jesus Christ. Therefore, when we look at another believer we see him in Christ. We do not see the believer, but we see Christ covering the believer. We pay no attention to his color, nationality, sex, social status, or any other differences. Differences just do not matter. All that matters is that we all grow into the image of Christ—love, accept and become more and more the brothers and sisters of God. (POSB - Leadership Ministries Worldwide)

Philip Graham Ryken - We have the best and the truest fellowship when we recognize our diversity, but see it as less important than our unity in Christ.

Why those three groups?

Dr MacArthur has an interesting comment

Well, those are obvious distinctions, but more than that, there was a thanksgiving prayer that Jews said in the evening. If Paul was a good Pharisee, which I'm sure he was before he was saved, he probably said this every night. Part of the prayer went like this: I thank God that You have not made me a Gentile, a slave, or a woman...So Paul takes a straight shot at that and says, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, bond or free, male or female." You say, "Well, that's part of Paul's problem. That's why he never got married. He didn't know the difference." No. He was not saying there's no difference, he was saying the difference doesn't matter spiritually. You get the difference?....

There is no place for racial prejudice. "There is neither Jew nor Greek." There is no place for racial partiality, none whatsoever. There is no justification for it Biblically. Romans 2:11 says, "There is no respect of persons with God." If you set yourself up partially to races over against other races, you set yourself above God. That is true in terms of your relationships, that is true in terms of your employment. Ephesians 6:9 says, "Ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening: knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with him." No respect of persons.

In Acts 13:1, we find that the pastors of the church in Antioch, five of them are listed, one of them (Simeon)is mentioned. Regarding Simeon, Niger, indicating the possibility that he himself was black and one of the five pastors there. Timothy was the child of a mixed marriage. I'll never forget the terrible, tragic suicide of a Southern pastor, who was caught in the tension of hatred in his own church toward black people. He wound up diving out of a third-story window and killing himself. There is no place in Scripture for any racial difference.

Secondly, there is no place for social strata. "There is neither bond nor free." There are no ranks in the body of Christ, none at all. In James 2:1, that most sensitive passage, "My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons." You know, Dr. Ryrie made a very good statement. He said, "Sometimes our prejudice erodes into our faith," and that's what happened here. "For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment," did you know people could actually go to church in crummy clothes? He was a poor man, he had nothing better. "And ye have respect to him that weareth the fine clothing, and say unto him, 'Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, 'Stand thou there, or sit here under my feet', are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts? Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats? Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called? If ye fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, 'Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself,' but if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors." There it is. If you are a social climber and you do more for the wealthy and less for the poor, you have respect of persons and commit sin.

Thirdly, there is no sexual distinction. "There is neither male nor female." Christianity elevated women to a place the had never known in the ancient world, never known. Spiritually, they are equals. In God's pattern for the church and for the home, the man is to rule and the woman is to be submissive. But from the spiritual dimension, they are equally, in Christ, recipients of all spiritual blessing in the heavens, right? So we're all one person in Christ. The benefits of being in Christ are being sons of God and one with each other.

Ray Pritchard - In Christ the barriers that separate us have been torn down. Outward distinctions are no barrier to salvation. There are no divisions in the body of Christ on the basis of race, ethnic origin, skin color or national origin. You can be a Jew or a Greek or a Bolivian or an Egyptian or a Russian or a Filipino or a Nigerian or a Norwegian and it doesn’t matter to God at all. Or you can be a “Heinz 57 Varieties” type person and still come to Christ. God doesn’t favor one race or ethnic group over another. The ground is level at the foot of the cross. The same thing is true regarding social classes. Slave and free walk hand in hand into the family of God. This would have been an astounding thought in the first century. In the Christian church you might have a slave who was an elder giving spiritual oversight to a slave owner. The class distinctions that matter so much in the world (rich vs. poor, middle class vs. upper class, old money vs. new money, etc.) are not to dominate the Christian church. We are all saved on the same basis—by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. And sexual distinction doesn’t matter when it comes to salvation. Men and women are saved in exactly the same way. This means that a Gentile slave woman would have exactly the same rights in the eyes of God as a Jewish free man. Thus the ground is laid for true Christian unity. In Christ we are all one. God doesn’t play favorites and neither should we.

Believer's Study Bible - Paul’s assertion does not obliterate social or role distinctions. Observation will confirm the continuing existence of Jew and Greek, male and female. The statement is an affirmation of the impartial nature of the love of God in salvation (cf. Acts 10:34, 35). The equality of personhood which God gave to His entire creation is a birthright of new life, to be exercised as an opportunity for intimate fellowship with God Himself. Similarly, the divinely assigned responsibility of race, position, or sex is a mandate of office, to be accepted as an opportunity in service and for glory to the Lord. This is no contradiction to the equality and unity we experience “in Christ,” which transcends all racial, ethnic, social, national or sexual distinctions.

Vine on are one man in Christ Jesus.—“man” is added (the RV adds) in accordance with Ephesians 2:15, where the apostle speaks of Jew and Gentile becoming “one new man” in Christ. The figure is closely analogous to that of “the body,” under which the mutual relation of believers is set forth in 1 Corinthians 12:12–26; Ephesians 4:4, et al. In John 10:16, where the Lord speaks of gathering His sheep from the different “folds” into “one flock,” the final gathering is in view, “they that are Christ’s at His Parousia,” 1 Corinthians 15:23. In John 17, where the Lord asks the Father for those who believe on Him (and who are thus already incorporated into the “one [new] man in Christ Jesus”) that they “may be one,” spiritual progress is in view. Hence this unity is moral; oneness (union) of life is already theirs, then let them all have one ideal, one ambition—to be like the Son, that so they might please the Father and confirm their testimony to the world, Gal 3:11, 21. In Gal 3:22, 23 the consummation at the coming of the Lord seems to be in view, for whereas “believe” is the word that answers to present testimony, “know” is the word that answers to the revelation of that day. Here and in Ephesians 2:15 “one” is masculine in gender, i.e., “one person”; in John 17 “one” is neuter, i.e., “one thing,” as in 1 Corinthians 3:8; 11:5. In the first case vital union is in view; in the second moral. The first is present, an already accomplished fact in Christ—life; the second is a process in course of accomplishment in the power of the Holy Spirit—character. (Collected Writings)

Warren Wiersbe on “All one in Christ Jesus”—what a tremendous claim! The Law created differences and distinctions, not only between individuals and nations, but also between various kinds of foods and animals. Jesus Christ came, not to divide, but to unite. This must have been glorious news for the Galatian Christians, for in their society slaves were considered to be only pieces of property; women were kept confined and disrespected; and Gentiles were constantly sneered at by the Jews....This does not mean that our race, political status, or sex is changed at conversion; but it does mean that these things are of no value or handicap when it comes to our spiritual relationship to God through Christ. The Law perpetuated these distinctions, but God in His grace has declared all men to be on the same level that He might have mercy on all men (Rom. 11:25–32). (Bible Exposition Commentary)

Galatians 3:26-29  TODAY IN THE WORD
Oliver Otis Howard, a New England abolitionist, served as a general in the Union Army during the Civil War. He never drank, smoked or swore, and his soldiers called him ""Old Prayer Book."" After the war, Howard led the Freedmen's Bureau, a government effort to assist former slaves. He helped to found a university for African-Americans in 1867--Howard University, today one of the leading black universities in America. He also stirred controversy when he tried to integrate a church.Howard understood the truth of today's verse: racial and ethnic barriers have no place in the body of Christ.

Despite Jew-Gentile frictions, Paul could give his Gentile converts in Galatia the assurance: ""You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus"" (v. 26). ""Through faith"" should be underscored because again and again in this epistle the apostle means to emphasize faith as opposed to works. Those who have received Christ by faith have been baptized into Him (v. 27). They have been linked to Him in a living union and made positionally to participate in His death, burial and resurrection (Rom. 6:3-4). 

In the process they have also ""put on Christ"" or ""clothed"" themselves with Christ. This is a reference to a significant ceremony for a young Roman male. When he came of age he was invested with the toga virilis, signifying that he was now a grown-up son, with the accompanying rights and responsibilities. 

The image helps to explain how we mature as God's children. We are joined to Christ by the Holy Spirit and clothed with Christ's robe of righteousness, by which means we can stand before God without fear of condemnation.

In this divine family all are one in Christ (Gal. 3:28). None of us are entitled to superior Christian privileges, no matter what our spiritual or cultural background. A beautiful example of this is seen in the slave Onesimus, who in Christ became a ""dear brother"" to his master Philemon (Philemon 16). 

APPLY THE WORD Galatians 3:28 captures the tremendous reality of believers' unity in Christ.  What distinctions or barriers separate Christians in our culture or community? Barriers of race? Social class? Economic status? Education? Career choice? It's time to break down those walls!

A Shared Bond
You are all one in Christ Jesus. — Galatians 3:28

When I needed a locksmith to get into my car, I had a pleasant surprise. After he arrived and began opening my little Ford’s door, we began chatting and I recognized his warm, familiar accent. It turned out that my rescuer was originally from Jamaica—a land I’ve visited often and have grown to love. This changed a negative event into a positive one. We were in a small way kindred spirits because of our shared love for that beautiful island nation. This struck me as a reminder of an even greater camaraderie—the joy of meeting someone new and discovering that he or she is also a believer in Christ. In some places, this is not unusual because there are many believers. But in those lands where there are few believers, the joy of meeting someone else who loves Jesus must be even greater. It’s thrilling to share together the amazing reality of the freedom from sin we have through Christ! For all who know Jesus, there is a shared bond, a oneness (union) in Christ (Gal. 3:28), a joy of fellowship that can brighten even the darkest day. Praise God that He brings a bond of unity to all who know Him as Savior. — Dave Branon

What a miracle it is, dear Lord, that You can bring together people of all tribes, tongues, and nations to be like-minded in Christ—to share a bond of love and affection for Jesus.

Christian fellowship builds us up and binds us together.

Galatians 3:29  And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's descendants, heirs according to promise.

Greek -  ei de humeis Christou ara tou Abraam sperma este (2PPAI) kat epaggelian kleronomoi  

Amplified:  And if you belong to Christ [are in Him Who is Abraham’s Seed], then you are Abraham’s offspring and [spiritual] heirs according to promise. 

ESV And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise.

KJV  And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.

NET  And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's descendants, heirs according to the promise.

NLT And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God's promise to Abraham belongs to you.

Phillips  And if you belong to Christ, you are true descendants of Abraham, you are true heirs of his promise.

Wuest  And since ye are Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, heirs according to the promise.

YLT and if ye are of Christ then of Abraham ye are seed, and according to promise -- heirs.


And if you belong to Christ - Wuest translates it "since ye are Christ’s. "

Vine  says belong to Christ signifies "not merely if ye are His property, but if ye are “members of His body” Ephesians 5:30."

In the Old Testament we have preparation for Christ; in the Gospels, the presentation of Christ; and in the Acts through Revelation, the appropriation of Christ. (Wiersbe)

Ray Pritchard - To be Abraham’s seed means that we inherit the promise made to Abraham in Genesis 12. Originally those promises were just for the Jews, but in Christ they are now extended to all believers. Jeremiah 31:31-34-note explains that those promises revolve around total forgiveness of our sin and the implantation of a new heart (Ezek 11:19-note, Ezek 36:26-note) that gives us a desire to obey God (Ezek 36:27-note, Php 2:13NLT-note). Ultimately those promises extend past death to guarantee us eternal life with God in heaven. An heir is a person who by law is a member of a particular family. If you are an heir, you have a legal right to an inheritance. Since we are now members of God’s family, we have a right to all that God has promised to His children. This week I saw a tabloid cover story on Prince William, the oldest son of Prince Charles of England. The picture showed a smiling face of the young prince and noted that he was the handsome heir to the British throne. No doubt many young girls look at him and think, “That’s my ticket to the good life.” That’s what the world focuses on—money, position, power and an earthly throne with all the wealth that goes with it. But as Christians we have something much greater. We know Jesus Christ! In Him we find forgiveness, justification, freedom, an abundant life, joy, inner peace, new power, new motivation, redemption, and that’s just for this life. When we die, we go to heaven forever. The world has no answer to the problem of sin and death. In Christ we have been delivered from our sins and set free from the fear of death (Heb 2:14, 15-note). If you know Jesus, death is the doorway to the presence of God (2 Cor 5:8-note). It’s not the end, it’s only the beginning. (Born Free)

Temper Longman on "if you belong to Christ" (better "since you belong to Christ" for Paul assume his readers do) - Now being “in Christ,” one’s ethnicity, life station, or gender is no longer relevant to one’s redemptive identity. Such outward distinctions remain, of course: Jews do not become Gentiles, and women do not become men; but these distinctions no longer carry the significance in God’s redemptive program that they once had. All alike are “Abraham’s seed,” and all alike will be included in the fullness of God’s redemptive promises. All alike have become “heirs,” Abraham’s spiritual offspring, because they are in Christ Jesus according to faith in the promise, not according to works of the law. (Expositor's Bible Commentary - Revised Ed)

And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's descendants: Christ is the seed of Abraham (Gal 3:16); being in Christ makes the believer a spiritual descendant of Abraham and thus an heir of the promise to Abraham (Ge 15:6) of justification by faith ( Gal 3:8). National promises made to Abraham (esp "the land" of Canaan Ge 15:18, 17:8) as the father of the Jewish people are not in view in this verse, only the glorious promise of (Gal 3:8). 

Vincent on Abraham's descendants - As being one with Christ. See Gal 3:7, 16. In Romans 4. Paul shows that Abraham was justified by faith, and was thus constituted the spiritual father of all believers in Christ, whether circumcised or uncircumcised. The purpose of God in making the inheritance of the promise dependent on faith was that the promise might be sure to all the seed. Abraham, he says, is “the father of us all” (Ro 4:16-note). This spiritual paternity does away with the current Jewish notion of physical paternity. Physical relationship with Abraham is of no significance in the economy of salvation.

Heirs according to promise: What is the promise? The word promise occurs 7 times in 6 verses in Galatians 3. The first mention of promise is in Gal 3:14 where Paul writes describes "the promise of the Spirit through faith."

Robert Dean concludes that "according to Gal 3:29 if you belong to Christ you are a believer and an heir according to the promise, i.e. that you have received the baptism of the Holy Spirit at the moment of salvation." (Ed: Not everyone interprets promise in this way, but it is included to be "food for thought.")

In Romans 4 Paul explains that Abraham "received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while uncircumcised, so that he might be the father of all who believe without being circumcised, that righteousness might be credited to them." (Ro 4:11) What is the promise in Romans 4? Righteousness (of Christ) imputed to or placed upon our "spiritual bank account."

To suggest (as do many evangelicals today) that Gentile believers inherit the national promises given to the believing Jewish remnant, that the church thus supplants Israel or is the “new Israel”—is to read into these verses what is not there. 

Cleon Rogers - It does not mean that the believer receives the land promises of Abraham, but rather that he partakes of the blessing of justification which is through faith, the universal blessing promised to Abraham for the whole world.

John MacArthur - The spiritual promise of eternal salvation and blessing given to Abraham belongs to all those who belong to Christ. They are all heirs according to that promise, which is fulfilled in Christ. This is not a reference to the promises given to Abraham regarding the land (Gen. 12:1; 13:14-15; 17:8), but refers to the spiritual blessings that come to all who, being justified by faith just as Abraham was (Ge 15:6; Ro 4:3-11), will inherit the spiritual promises given to Abraham. Not all the physical seed of Abraham will receive the promises of salvation (Ro 9:6-11), but many who are not physical seed of Abraham will receive them by coming to God by faith as he did, thereby becoming his spiritual offspring. Those who are children of God are "heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ" (Ro 8:17). Christ's inheritance belongs to "all those who are sanctified" (Acts 20:32), His fellow "heirs according to the hope of eternal life" (Titus 3:7). They are "sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise" (Eph. 1:13), the promise of inheriting God Himself. "The Lord is the portion of my inheritance and my cup, exulted David (Ps. 16:5). John Stott lucidly summarizes his comments on this passage in the following words: "We cannot come to Christ to be justified until we have first been to Moses to be condemned. But once we have gone to Moses, and acknowledged our sin, guilt and condemnation, we must not stay there. We must let Moses send us to Christ" (The Message of Galatians [London: Inter-Varsity, 1968], p. 102).  MacArthur New Testament Commentary – Galatians.

Kenneth Wuest has a good point that the problem in Galatia was not over the promise of land but of life, of salvation. The Judaizers were not trying to get the Galatian Gentiles to come under the law so that they would receive the land promised to Israel. Wuest writes that "The Judaizers taught that by becoming subjects of the Mosaic law, the Galatian Gentiles would become the seed or progeny of Abraham. Paul asserts that this privilege comes to one by faith in Christ. In Romans 4, Paul shows that Abraham was justified by faith, and was thus constituted the spiritual father of all who put their faith in Christ, whether they are circumcised or uncircumcised. God made salvation dependent upon faith in order that it might be available to both Jew and Gentile. Since Abraham is the spiritual father of all believers, this does away with the false Jewish notion that kinship to Abraham brings one into the divine favor and gives one salvation. By belonging to Christ, believers are also Abraham's posterity, for Christ is the seed of Abraham. Since believers have entered into relationship with Christ, they must consequently have a share in the same state, and must likewise be Abraham's seed." (Galatians Commentary - Verse by Verse)

Thomas Constable - 

Andy Woods - (from - Galatians Study) Many will use this text to argue for replacement theology (See also Topic: Replacement Theology). However, in order for someone to be a Jew, the designation “sons of Abraham” is not enough. Ishmael and his descendants were also sons of Abraham. For someone to be a Jew they must not only be a son of Abraham but a son of Isaac, and Jacob as well. Also, it is important to recognize that the word “seed” is used four different ways in Scripture. These uses include natural seed (Gen 12:1-3, 7), natural spiritual seed (Isa 41:8, Rom 9:6, 8), spiritual seed (Gal 3:6-9, 29) and the ultimate seed (Gal 3:16; Heb 2:16-17). The third sense is in view in this passage. See Constable, “Notes on Galatians,” 32-33. It is also worth pointing out that the noun “promise” in verse 29 is singular. Thus, the promise is the singular blessing of justification by faith alone rather than a taking over of all of the provisions of the Abrahamic Covenant.

Warren Wiersbe - Finally, the Law could never make us heirs of God (Gal. 3:29). God made the promise to ?Abraham?s Seed? (singular, Gal. 3:16), and that Seed is Christ. If we are ?in Christ? by faith, then we too are Abraham's seed spiritually speaking. This means we are heirs of the spiritual blessings God promised to Abraham. This does not mean that the material and national blessings promised to Israel are set aside, but that Christians today are enriched spiritually because of God's promise to Abraham (see Rom. 11:13ff). (The Bible exposition commentary)

Donald Campbell - Third, believers in Christ are Abraham?s seed. As Paul previously stated, Christ is the Seed of Abraham (Gal 3:16, 19); therefore being in Christ makes a believer a part of that seed and an heir of the promise to Abraham. Any discussion of the seed of Abraham must first take into account his natural seed, the descendants of Jacob in the 12 tribes. Within this natural seed there is a believing remnant of Jews who will one day inherit the Abrahamic promises directed specifically to them (cf. Ro 9:6, 8-note). But there is also the spiritual seed of Abraham who are not Jews. These are the Gentiles who believe and become Abraham?s spiritual seed. They inherit the promise of justification by faith as Paul explained earlier (cf. Gal. 3:6-9). To suggest, as amillenarians do, that Gentile believers inherit the national promises given to the believing Jewish remnant—that the church thus supplants Israel or is the "new Israel"—is to read into these verses what is not there. (Bible Knowledge Commentary Volume 2, Page 600) (See related article - Are Israel and the Church the Same Thing?)

Dr Thomas Constable -  A third change is that those joined to Christ by faith become spiritual descendants of Abraham and beneficiaries of some of God’s promises to him. This does not mean Christians become Jews. Christians are Christians; we are in Christ, the Seed of Abraham (cf. v. 16). God promised some things to all the physical descendants of Abraham (e.g., Gen. 12:1–3, 7). He promised other things to the believers within that group (e.g., Rom. 9:6, 8). He promised still other things to the spiritual seed of Abraham who are not Jews (e.g., Gal. 3:6–9). Failure to distinguish these groups and the promises given to each has resulted in much confusion. ( E.g., the amillennialist conclusion that Gentile believers inherit the promises of the believing remnant within Israel, thus eliminating any future for Israel as a nation.) Note one example of this error.

“Throughout the whole vast earth the Lord recognizes one, and only one, nation as His own, namely, the nation of believers (1 Peter 2:9).” (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary; cf. Ridderbos)

Why can the amillennialist position represented above not be correct? The reason is that Scripture speaks of the church as a nation distinct from Israel (Eph. 2:11–22). Jews, and Gentiles who had to become Jews to enter Israel, made up Israel. The church consists of Jews and Gentiles who enter it as Jews or Gentiles (Eph. 2:16; cf. 1 Cor. 10:32). Furthermore Paul called Jewish Gentile equality in the church a “mystery,” something unique, not previously revealed in Scripture (Eph. 3:5). The church began on the day of Pentecost, not in the Old Testament (Acts 1:5; 11:15–16; 1 Cor. 12:13; Col. 1:18). Believers of all ages are all the people of God. Nevertheless God has dealt with different groups of them and has had different purposes for them as groups in various periods of human history. Does the church inherit the promises to Abraham? It only inherits some of them. The Jews will inherit those promises given to the physical descendants of Abraham. All believers will inherit those given to the spiritual descendants of Abraham. Saved Jews will inherit those given to the physical descendants who are also spiritual descendants. (Galatians 3 Commentary)

Heirs (2818)(Kleronomos from kleros = a lot - lots were cast or drawn to divide property or select a winner or an heir + nemomai = to possess, to distribute among themselves), literally refers to one who obtains a lot or portion. It is one who receives something as a possession or a beneficiary (the person named as in an insurance policy to receive proceeds or benefits). It signifies more than one who inherits and it includes the idea of taking into possession. The New Testament usage of kleronomos applies primarily to the realm of spiritual inheritance.

Promise (1860)(epaggelia/epangelia from epí = intensifies verbal meaning + aggéllo = to tell, declare) literally means to "tell at or upon" and originally referred to an announcement or declaration (especially of a favorable message) (see Acts 23:21). In other words the first sense of epaggelia is that of a . declaration to do something which came to be associated with the implication of obligation to carry out what is stated and thus the meaning of a promise, pledge or offer. In Scripture, epaggelia refers primarily to God's pronouncements that provide assurance of what He intends to do.

J Vernon McGee - How can we be Abraham’s descendants? Because of the fact that Abraham was saved by faith, and we are saved by faith. Abraham brought a little animal to sacrifice, which looked forward to the coming of the Son of God, the supreme sacrifice. In my day, Christ has already come, and I can look back in history and say, “Nineteen hundred years ago the Son of God came and died on the cross for me that I might have life, and I trust Him.” Some time ago I had the privilege of speaking to a group of wonderful Jewish folk, and I started by saying, “Well, it is always a privilege for me to speak to the sons of Abraham.” And they all smiled. Then I added, “Because I am a son of Abraham, too.” They didn’t all smile at that. In fact, some of them had a question mark on their faces, and rightly so. If I am in Christ and you are in Christ, then we belong to Abraham’s seed, and we are heirs according to the promise. How wonderful this is!

Israel-Church Differences
Andy Woods

One of the rules of basic Bible interpretation is to recognize that the church and Israel represent separate programs of God. They are two trains running on separate railroad tracks. Theologian and founder of Dallas Theological Seminary, Lewis Sperry Chafer, noted twenty-four differences between Israel and the church.1 Here are a few.

First, Israel is the wife of Jehovah (Isa 54) while the church is the bride of Christ (Eph 5:22-33). 

Second, Israel gave birth to Christ (Rev 12:1-5) whereas Christ gave birth to the church (Matt 16:18). 

Third, Christ will return to rescue Israel upon her national conversion at the end of the Tribulation period (Matt 23:37-39). Conversely, He will return to rescue the church at the rapture (John 14:1-3). 

Fourth, king-subject imagery is used to depict God's relationship to Israel (Isa 33:22) while head and groom imagery is used to depict Christ's relationship with His church (Eph 5:22-33). 

Fifth, God's program through Israel began in Genesis 12, and His program through the church began in Acts 2 (Matt 16:18; 1 Cor 12:13; Acts 1:5; 11:15-16). 

Sixth, while four-fifths of the Bible pertains to Israel, only one-fifth of it deals with the church. 

Seventh, although Israel was a direct party to the biblical covenants (Jer 31:31-32), the church was not a party to these covenants since the church was not yet in existence when these covenants were made. The church's relationship to these covenants can best be described as one of a third-party beneficiary rather than a direct party to them. Therefore, the church benefits from the covenants as opposed to being a direct party to them. 

Eighth, Israel is a nation (Ps 147:20). As such, she is always biblically portrayed as an independent nation with borders and a capital. Even today Israel is among the nations of the earth, just like Japan, Argentina, Canada, or any other country. By contrast, the church is not a nation (Rom 10:19) but rather is comprised of people from all nations (Gal 3:28; Eph 2:11-22; 3:6, 15). Rather than taking her seat among the nations of the earth, the church is a mere pilgrim in the world system (1 Pet 2:11). 

Ninth, while Israel fought physical wars with various enemies such as the Philistines, the church is engaged in spiritual warfare with angelic enemies (Eph 6:10-20). 

Tenth, the Scripture assigns numerous a quo and ad quem statements to Israel (Gen 15:13-16; Jer 25:11; 29:10; Ezek 4:5-7; Dan 9:24-27). These are timing statements with a specific beginning and ending point for each period. One searches the New Testament in vain to find comparable timing statements for the church. 

Eleventh, Israel had a priesthood with all her priests coming from the tribe of Levi and the line of Aaron. By contrast, the church does not have a priesthood because it is a priesthood (Rev 1:6). The New Testament teaches the priesthood of all believers (1 Pet 2:5, 9). Every Church Age believer is a priest with direct access to God the Father through God the Son. 

Twelfth, while Israel will be resurrected at the beginning of the millennial kingdom (Da 12:2; Jn 11:23-24; Rev 20:4-5), Church-Age believers receive their resurrected bodies at the point of the rapture (1 Thess 4:13-18; 1 Cor 15:50-58). 

Thirteenth, Israel's judgment will take place on earth, at the end of the Tribulation period, in the wilderness (Ezek 20:33-44). By contrast, the only judgment the New Testament reveals for the church is the Bema Seat judgment of rewards in heaven following the rapture (Rom 14:10; 1 Cor 3:10-15; 2 Cor 5:10). 

Fourteenth, although the gates of the New Jerusalem are named after the twelve tribes (Rev 21:12), who were the foundations of Israel, the foundations of the eternal city are named after the twelve apostles (Rev 21:14) who are the foundations of the church (Eph 2:20). 

Fifteenth, people become members of the commonwealth of Israel through physical birth. By contrast, membership in the church is only attained by spiritual birth (John 3:1-9; Titus 3:5). 

Sixteenth, Israel was directly governed by the Mosaic Law (Ps 147:19-20). By contrast, the controlling authority for the church is New Testament revelation. While all Scripture is for the church (2 Tim 3:16; Rom 15:4), only the New Testament's epistolary literature is directly about the church. 

Seventeenth, the Holy Spirit indwelt and filled Old Testament Jews selectively (Joel 2:28), temporarily (1 Sam 16:14; Ps 51:11), and subsequent to salvation to enable for a special purpose (Exod 31:3). By contrast, the Holy Spirit indwells all Church-Age believers (1 Cor 12:13) permanently (John 14:16) and at the point of salvation (Rom 8:9). Thus, the Spirit's work in and through Israel cannot be used as a pattern to depict the believer's normative experience with the Holy Spirit in the present age (John 7:37-39; 14:16-17; Acts 1:5).

Eighteenth, while Christ's farewell address to Israel (Matt 24:15; 20) is recorded in the Olivet Discourse (Matt 24?25), His farewell address to the church (John 16:12-13) is found in the Upper Room Discourse (John 13?17). 

Nineteenth, although Israel is referred to as God's first-born son (Exod 4:22), the church is never given this same designation or title. Twentieth, while Israel's program is revealed in the Old Testament, the church's program was unknown in Old Testament times. Because the church is a New Testament mystery (Eph 3:3-6), or something previously hidden and now unveiled (Rom 16:25-26), Church Age doctrine comes exclusively from the New Testament (Matt 16:18; John 13?17) rather than the Old Testament. Noting such differences should caution us against taking prophecies and promises that are specifically aimed at Israel and misapplying them to the present dispensation of the Church Age. 

[1] Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology, 8 vols. (Dallas: Dallas Seminary, 1948; reprint, [8 vols. in 4], Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1993), 4:47-53.

Source: - Israel-Church Differences - Any Woods

Romans 6:14  Already: Decisively and Irrevocably Free, Not Yet: Finally and Perfectly Free
August 28, 2001 | by John Piper | Topic: Identity in Christ

What we have learned from Romans 6 and 7 is that when we trusted in Christ as our Savior and Lord (as our Treasure!), we were united to Christ (Romans 6:5; 7:4). In this union with Christ we died (Romans 6:8; Colossians 2:20; 3:3) and rose again (Romans 6:4; Colossians 2:12; Ephesians 2:6). Therefore a decisive and irrevocable new creation came into being (2 Corinthians 5:17), and a decisive and irrevocable liberation happened (Romans 6:14, 18). We passed from death to (eternal!) life. Our decisive judgment is behind us - at Golgotha (John 5:24). We have moved from the dominion of darkness into the kingdom of God's Son (Colossians 1:13).

But we also learned that our liberation from sin is not yet final and perfect. Decisive and irrevocable, Yes! But final and perfect, No! Sin still dwells within us (Romans 7:17, 20). Evil is present in us (Romans 7:21). The "flesh" is a daily troubler of our souls (Romans 7:25). We are not yet perfect nor have we already obtained our crown and prize (Philippians 3:12). We are liars if we say we have no sin (1 John 1:8, 10).

How then does the apostle Paul teach us to live? Will he say: "You are decisively and irrevocably new, so you can coast through life with no fight to become new"? Or will he say: "You are not decisively and irrevocably new and must fight to get to that place in Christ"? No, neither of these. He will say: "By faith, embrace all that God is for your good in Christ and all you are for his glory in Christ. Believe that. And now, with that confidence, fight to take possession of the territory that Christ has conquered for you. Fight to become in practice what you are in Christ." (Editorial note: But "fight" enabled by the Spirit, not your own natural, fleshly power!) Eight illustrations of this truth:

1. Statement of newness:

Romans 6:14, "Sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace."

    Command to become new:

Romans 6:12, "Do not let sin reign in your mortal body."

2. Statement of newness:

Romans 6:18, "Having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness."

    Command to become new:

Romans 6:19, "Present your members as slaves to righteousness."

3. Statement of newness:

Romans 6:6, "Our old self was crucified with Him."

    Command to become new:

Romans 6:11, "Consider yourselves to be dead to sin."

4. Statement of newness:

Colossians 3:9, "You laid aside the old self with its evil practices."

    Command to become new:

Ephesians 4:22, "Lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit."

5. Statement of newness:

Colossians 3:10 You have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him.

   Command to become new:

Ephesians 4:24, "Put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth."

6. Statement of newness:

Galatians 3:27, "All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ."

    Command to become new:

Romans 13:14, "But put on the Lord Jesus Christ."

7. Statement of newness:

Galatians 5:24, "Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires."

    Command to become new:

Romans 13:14b, "Make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts."

8. Command to become new:

1 Corinthians 5:7a, "Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump [of dough]."

    Statement of newness:

1 Corinthians 5:7b, ". . . just as you are in fact unleavened."

Fixed in newness and fighting to become new - with you,

Pastor John