by Paul George
Question: How can men, sinful by nature, come to God, holy by nature?
Answer: There is only one-way, accept the salvation God’s grace makes available through Christ’s death and resurrection. Forget about merit salvation through obedience to the Law of Moses. If the law could have provided the righteousness necessary for justification, it would not have been necessary for Christ to die.
In Paul’s letter to the Galatians, there are five arguments Paul used to support his claim justification is available through faith and not obedience to the Law of Moses. The first is:
The Argument From Experience – Galatians 3:1-5
The Galatians were behaving like people led blindly and unresistingly to their own destruction. They have closed their eyes. They no longer see Christ crucified. They received the gift of the Holy Spirit for the refining and purifying of their hearts; their sins forgiven, and brought into the family of God. They are adding the law to the gospel preached to them. Paul saw this as an irresponsible act. Their compromising the gospel awakened in Paul a great sorrow. He addresses the Galatians as “foolish Galatians” (Galatians 3:1) and wanted to know “who has bewitched” them (3:1). He wanted to know if they had received justification for their sins through works or faith.
The Galatians were like many professing Christians today. They have heard the gospel, accepted it as the truth and the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper administered among them, in both Christ crucified has been set before them. They accept and practice doctrines that are not according to the gospel message taught by Jesus and the apostles.
Paul pleads with the Galatians, he tells them to remember the working of the Holy Spirit upon their souls. He reminds them of the sanctifying influences, the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit, and especially that justification is by Christ only, and not by the works of the law. To convince them of the error of their ways he asks them how they came by these gifts and graces: Was it by the works of the law or by faith. These people could not answer the question. They were Gentiles and never taught the law before they heard the gospel message and believed what they heard. This is the reason why the Judaizers brought their message of works to the Galatians. Their intent, knowingly or unknowingly was to undermine the gospel preached to them.
Paul told the Galatians to consider their past, present, and judge whether they were fallen away from what they had been taught; whether they were being led astray. They believed in the gospel message when Paul preached it, they accepted it, and now they are involved in a practice that is not necessary for the forgiveness of sin and accepted before God as a righteous person. Like far too many converts today, the Galatians had a good beginning but now they are turning to the law, and expected to advance to higher degrees of perfection by adding the observance of the law to faith in Christ, in order to be justified, which could end in nothing but shame and disappointment. They were pulling down with one hand what they had built with the other.
The honors and privileges we have as Christians should shame us out of the foolishness of apostasy and backsliding. This was Paul’s intent in writing this letter to the Galatians. Moral precepts are defective because they are weak by nature. We are too weak by nature to obey the moral precepts.
The Galatians, through Christ were God’s children, yet as disobedient Christians, they were foolish children. They were deceived children following the deceivers in their midst. It is not enough to know the truth, and to say we believe it, but we must obey it too; we must submit to it, and abide by it. Foolish children are those who know the truth when it is plainly set before them, will not obey it. The doctrine preached was not justification by works or a combination of faith and works. Paul called the Galatians foolish because they are forsaking the gospel that Paul had preached and exchanging it for one that had strings attached to it.
Paul’s second point, The Argument From Abraham – 3:6-9, is to add strength to his first point.
In this passage, Paul uses the relationship that existed between God and Abraham. God accepted Abraham as a righteous man because he believed God; he trusted God and he obeyed God. Those who are the sons of Abraham follow his example. God preached the gospel message to Abraham, saying, “All the nations will be blessed in you” Genesis 12:3). The physical sons of Abraham, the Jewish people, are his descendants through Isaac and Jacob. Those who believe in God and His Son Jesus Christ are Abraham’s spiritual sons. They are men of faith and not men of works or men of circumcision. This is what Paul wanted the Galatians to understand. The Judaizers were the physical descendants of Abraham but they were not his spiritual descendants. Gentiles become the spiritual sons of Abraham when they follow Abraham’s example.
Paul’s third point is, The Argument From The Law – 3:10-29
Paul opens this point of his letter with a quotation from Deuteronomy, “Cursed is he who does not confirm the words of this law by doing them” (Deuteronomy 27:26). In his argument from Abraham, Paul showed the Galatians the difference between a physical son of Abraham and a spiritual son, who is the heir of the promise to Abraham.
Paul wants the Galatians to know the difference between the law and grace and we need to do the same when it involves rites and ceremonies. Grace promises blessing. The Law pronounces punishment. At the same time the scripture plainly set forth that it was not the works of the law a person is justified, for it is written, “The righteous man shall live by faith” (Habakkuk 2:4).
We cannot be justified by the law because the law condemns us. The condition of life, by the law, is perfect, personal, and complete obedience. The language of the law is, do this and live and for every failure there is no forgiveness but a penalty to be paid. If our obedience is not as written in the law, we fall under the curse of the law; wrath, ruin, and separation. Under the law, we are all guilty before God. However, Paul tells us there is a way we can escape this curse, and regain the favor of God, namely, through faith in Christ. To redeem us from the curse of the law He took upon Himself the curse of the law. His purpose in doing this was that the blessing promised Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ. Therefore, all who believe on Christ, whether Jew or Gentile, might become heirs of Abraham’s blessing, and particularly of that great promise of the Seed, reserved for the times of the gospel. Therefore, it was not by putting themselves under the law, but by faith in Christ, the Galatians became the children of God and heirs of the promise. It is through faith in Jesus Christ we become children of God and heirs of the promise.
God’s promise to Abraham was a covenant. The death of Abraham did not annul the covenant and the Judaizers could not alter the promise to make room for the law. It would be inconsistent with God’s holiness, wisdom, and faithfulness. God did not give Moses the law to establish a different way of justification from the way established by the promise. The Israelites believed they were God’s chosen people. They believed they were sinners as well as others. The purpose of the law was to make them aware of their sin and curb the desires of their hearts that are contrary to the will of God. The Israelites also believed the purpose of the law was to direct them to the true and the only way sin can be forgiven. That way is through the law of sacrifices. Paul denies this in his gospel of faith. Paul claimed the law of sacrifices ceased with the death of Christ. However, the law is always in force, and is still useful to convince men they are sinners and to restrain them from committing sinful acts we are not under the bondage of the law. The law given to Moses to give to the people could not affect the promise made to them in the promise God made to Abraham.
The law is not inconsistent with the promise, but intended to reveal man’s transgressions and to show them the need they have of a better righteousness than that of the law. However, in our present state both Jew and Gentile, are in a state of guilt, and therefore unable to achieve righteousness and justification by the works of the law. The law reveals the disease of the human nature, but cannot prescribe a cure. The law can only prescribe a temporary relief through the sacrifice of animals. The promise predicts the cure. The cure is the blood of Jesus Christ.
The position of the law was that of a tutor (Galatians 4:24); to lead and direct men to Christ that they might be more fully instructed by Him as their instructor in the true way of justification and salvation, which is only by faith in Him, and of which He was appointed to give the fullest and clearest instructions. If this was the purpose of the law before the appearance of Christ, why can it not continue to be so under the Christian state too? After the appearance of Christ the way of pardon and life through faith in Him, are set in the clearest light possible and we have no need of the law to direct us to Him as there was then.
The law reveals the goodness of God to his people of old, in giving the law to them; though, in comparison of the gospel the people were in a state of darkness and fear. However, the law provided the means and helps both to direct the people their duty to God and to encourage their hopes in Him. The fault of the people was mistaking the purpose of the law, and using it for a purpose other than God’s purpose. They expected to be justified by the works of it. The purpose of the was not to be the means of their justification, but only a means of convincing them of their guilt and of their need of a Savior, and of directing them to Christ, and faith in Him, as the only way of obtaining this privilege.
The great advantage of the gospel is we not only enjoy a clearer understanding of divine grace and mercy than was afforded to the Jews of old, but are also freed from the state of bondage and fear under which they were held; we are not considered children but as sons grown up to a full age. We enjoy greater freedoms, and privileges, than they were. The privilege we enjoy under the gospel is, we are sons and not servants. We have a freer access to God. Having accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior, and relying on Him alone for justification and salvation and admitted into a happier relation to God. This faith in Christ, whereby we became the children of God, Paul reminds us was what we professed in baptism. Having in baptism professed our faith in Him we declared ourselves His servants and disciples and through Him, we are the children of God.
The law made a difference between Jew and Greek, between the bond and the free, master and servant, and male and female. Now we all stand on the same level, one in Christ. None accepted on the account of any national or personal advantages he may enjoy above the other or rejected for the want of them; but all who sincerely believe on Christ, He accepts and they become the children of God through faith in Him.
The judaizing teachers would have the Galatians believe that they had to be circumcised and keep the Law of Moses, or they could not be saved. “No,” says the apostle, “there is no need of that; if you sincerely believe on Him, who is the promised seed, in whom all the nations of the earth were to be blessed, you therefore become the true seed of Abraham. As such you are his heirs according to the promise and entitled to the great blessings and privileges of it.” Christians enjoy greater and better privileges than the Jews did under the law. It is unreasonable and unwise to listen to those who endeavor to deprive us of the truth and the liberty of the gospel.