Who bewitched you? This is the question that Paul posed to the believers at Galatia. As you read the Epistle to the Galatians, you can tell that Paul’s tone is different from his tone in his other letters. Paul has stretched himself by preaching the gospel and nurturing these believers in the gospel. The proclamation of the gospel was so strong and evident among them that it was “before their eyes that Jesus Christ was portrayed as crucified” (v. 1). It was as if the Galatians had come under some magic spell. The power of this magic was evil indeed. They were foolish (or lacked spiritual sense). Their foolishness was evidenced by the thought that they could be perfected by the flesh when it was the Spirit that initiated their calling and perseverance in grace (v. 3). They had suffered many things and now it seems their suffering was vain (v.4).
The miracles that were performed among them were done by the Spirit, and not by works. Works could not produce the power of God. Allow me to define works for us: Works are behaviors or activities that we do to gain salvation, acceptance, or right standing with God. Notice that Paul says that hearing with faith and the supply of the Spirit are the reasons these believers have witnessed and partook in miracles (the blessing of salvation). The faith of Abraham is outlined in verses 6 to 9. Abraham’s faith is the clearest example of God’s intervention in the affairs of the world, His response to faith, and His desire to justify those who would believe by faith.
Relying on the works of the flesh brings a curse. Paul quotes the law: “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the law, and do them” (Deut. 27:26). Failure to obey every law meant you were cursed. The modern person may read this and ask, “what is the point and how is that fair? The point is that the law is the greatest picture of God’s holiness. It is very difficult for the human mind to fathom the holiness of God. God is so holy that he cannot approve of sin of any kind. He is not evil and cannot do evil. Curses had to come upon those who failed to obey every jot and tittle of the law. This is why we needed a savior because we could not possibly save ourselves. We fail at every point to obey the law of God and we know it. The heart of the law is the ten commandments. These laws convey perfectly the holy standard of God.
The righteous person(s) live by faith (v.11). The good news of the gospel is that Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law. In other words, we were sold into sin and were slaves to it but Jesus paid the price and bought us back from lives covered under the curse that the law brings with it. If you are going to find salvation in the law (or following the laws by exerting your will), then you must live by them. Once again the problem is that you can’t live by them because breaking one law is breaking all of them, which brings the curse of the law down on you like a guilty criminal hearing his guilty verdict and being taken away for life without the possibility of release.
Paul educates the Galatians on the law and why God instituted it in the first place. First, it was added because of transgressions (v. 19). Transgressions mean breaking the law. Because human beings kept breaking the law, it required a law to be put in place to restrain evil actions and behaviors. Second, the law brings everything under sin so that sin is exceedingly sinful (v. 22). Third, the law was our guardian until Christ came (v. 24). This means that the law and its weak provisions for atoning for sin served as a holding pattern. But the law pointed us to Christ. The law was a constant reminder of our inability to fully obey God so it pointed us to the holy one- Christ.
In light of God’s salvation work, he tears down social barriers and constructs – “there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, no male and female” in Jesus Christ (v. 28). Ethnicity, social status, and gender do not define the person who by faith is in Christ. All of those, regardless of the ideals, who have faith in Christ are one in Him.
- Believers were saved by faith and through the supply of God’s Spirit, not by human works and law keeping (vv.1-9)
- Jesus Christ redeemed believers from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us (vv.10-14)
- The law is not bad. It is spiritual and good. The laws purpose is to show us our sin and point us to Christ as our salvation (vv. 15-29)