NOTE. For more details see, McGee, Galatians. This study is taken from that book with some modifications.
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Written by Paul (Galatians 1:1) about A.D. 57, to all the churches in Galatia.
Galatians is a stern, severe, and solemn message (Galatians 1:6-9; 3:1-5). It does not correct conduct as the Corinthian letters do, but it is corrective. The Galatian believers were in grave peril because the foundations of their faith were being attacked—everything was threatened.
The epistle, therefore, contains no word of commendation, praise, or thanksgiving. There is no request for prayer, and there is no mention of standing in Christ. No one with him is mentioned by name. If you compare this epistle with the other Pauline epistles, you will see that it is different.
In this epistle, the heart of Paul is laid bare, and there is deep emotion and strong feeling. This is his fighting epistle. He has on his war paint. He has no toleration for legalism. Someone has said that the epistle to the Romans comes from the head of Paul while the epistle to the Galatians comes from the heart of Paul. A theologian has said, “Galatians takes up controversially what Romans puts systematically.”
The epistle is a declaration of emancipation from legalism of any type. It is interesting to note that legalists do not spend much time with Galatians. It is a rebuke to them. It has been called the Magna Carta of the early church. It is the manifesto of Christian liberty, the impregnable citadel, and a veritable Gibraltar against any attack on the heart of the gospel.
Galatians is the strongest declaration and defense of the doctrine of justification by faith in or out of Scripture. It is God’s polemic on behalf of the most vital truth of the Christian faith against any attack. Not only is the sinner saved by grace through faith plus nothing, but the saved sinner lives by grace. Grace is a way to life and a way of life. These two go together.
I. Introduction, 1:1-10
- Salutation—Cool Greeting, 1:1-5
- Subject Stated—Warm Declamation, 1:6-10
II. Personal—Authority of the Apostle and Glory of the Gospel, 1:11-2:14
- Experience of Paul in Arabia
- Experience of Paul with the Apostles in Jerusalem, 2:1-10
- Experience of Paul in Antioch with Peter, 2:11-14
III. Doctrinal—Justification by Faith, 2:15-4:31
Faith vs. Works, Liberty vs. Bondage
- Justification by Faith—Doctrine Stated, 2:15-21
- Justification by Faith—Experience of Galatians, 3:1-5
- Justification by Faith—Illustration of Abraham, 3:6-4:18
- Justification by Faith—Allegory of Hagar and Sarai, 2:19-31
IV. Practical—Sanctification by the Spirit, 5:1-6:10
Spirit vs. Flesh, Liberty vs. Bondage
- Saved by Faith and Living by Law Perpetrates Falling from Grace, 5:1-15
- Saved by Faith and Walking in the Spirit Produces Fruit of the Spirit, 5:16-26
- Saved by Faith and Fruit of the Spirit Presents Christian Character, 6:1-10
V. Autographed Conclusion, 6:11-18
1. Paul’s Own Handwriting, 6:11
2. Paul’s Own Testimony, 6:12-18
(a) Cross of Christ vs. Circumcision, 6:12-15
(b) Christ’s Handwriting on Paul’s Body, 6:16-18
(The New Circumcision of the New Creation)
- Introduction, 1:1-10
Galatians is God’s polemic against legalism of every and any description. The Mosaic law is not discredited, despised, nor disregarded. Its majesty, perfection, demands, fullness, and purpose are maintained. Yet these very qualities make it utterly impossible for man to come this route to God. Another way is opened for man to be justified before God, a way which entirely bypasses the Mosaic law. The new route is by faith. Justification by faith is the theme, with the emphasis on faith.
In Galatians, Paul is defending the gospel from those who would add law to justification by faith. Faith plus law was the thrust of Judaism. Faith plus nothing was the answer of Paul.
The Judaizers questioned Paul’s authority as an apostle and his teaching that simple faith was adequate for salvation. Paul defends his apostleship and demonstrates the sufficiency of the gospel of grace to save.
- Salutation—Cool Greeting, 1:1-5
In verse 1, Paul states he is an apostle. Paul states that his is not “of men.” He also declares that his apostleship is not “by man.”
Paul was an apostle by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead. Jesus laid His hand upon Paul, called him, and set him apart for the office (Acts 9:15, 16).
Men had nothing to do with Paul’s apostleship. This differs from the pastor who is ordained by men.
Paul’s greeting in verse 2 is cool, brief, formal, and terse. No one is personally mentioned. He is writing to “churches of Galatia,” not to a universal church. Of course, the principles apply to every church, to every local assembly.
Two main views of “the church” are proposed. The first says that one meaning of church includes the entire body of believers, of all different groups, who have trusted Christ as Saviour. The other meaning of church refers to local assemblies. There were local churches, or local assemblies, in many parts of Galatia. This first view takes the position that Ephesians looks at the corporate believers—the invisible church. But the invisible body is to make itself visible today in a corporate body.
The other view of the church is that there is no universal body of believers today, known as the church. Rather, the church is an institution which today is made up of local assemblies of believers. When one is saved, he becomes a member of the family of God, not a member of a universal church. Then, such as are saved should become part of a local assembly of believers, a local church. That is the view which, for many reasons, I believe is correct. I have heard arguments for both sides, and I find many holes in the former view. We can all agree that believers should be identified with a local body of believers.
Verse 3 is Paul’s formal greeting that he uses in most of his epistles.
Verse 4: Jesus Christ “gave himself for our sins.” He could give no more. “That he might deliver us from this present evil world.” There is a present value of the gospel which proves its power and genuineness. The gospel can deliver you. It can deliver one from alcohol, drugs, and sex sins. Christ alone can deliver in cases like that. This proves the genuineness of the gospel. Christ died for us and rose from the dead “that he might deliver us from this present evil world.” You and I cannot add to that. We have nothing to add.
This is “according to the will of God and our Father.” He can deliver us, not according to law; but according to the will of God. The will of God is that after He has saved us, we are not to live in sin. He can deliver us. He wants to deliver us. He will deliver us, and He will do it according to the will of God.
When one turns to God, and puts His faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, God makes of him a new creature. That new creature is indwelt by the Holy Spirit and no longer desires to wallow in sin. He will sin, but he will now grieve over his sin. He will never be content with his sin again.
Verse 5: “To whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” Paul praises God, as we should also.
- Subject Stated—Warm Declamation, 1:6-10
v6 There are two aspects of the gospel, and it can be used in two senses: (1) the facts of the gospel, and (2) the interpretation of the gospel. The facts of the gospel are the death, burial, and bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. Paul said to the Corinthians, “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received [Paul didn’t originate the gospel; he received it], how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures” (1 Co. 15:3, 4). These are the historical facts of the gospel which cannot be changed. You have never preached the gospel unless you have stated these facts.
The second aspect of the gospel is the interpretation of the facts. They are to be received by faith plus nothing. The subject of Paul’s letter to the Galatian believers concerns the interpretation of the facts of the gospel. The Judaizers who had followed Paul into Galatian country challenged the interpretation of the gospel (heresy), not the facts of the gospel. Five hundred witnesses had followed Paul into Galatian country. They were very sly and subtle, and said something like, “Brother Paul is accurate as far as he goes (in that he preached the gospel to you and you accepted it), but he doesn’t go far enough. Did he tell you that you should keep the Mosaic law? He didn’t. Well, he should have told you that. Yes, you are to trust Christ, but you must also follow the Mosaic law or you won’t be saved.”
This is one of the oldest heresies known, and it is still with us today. It is adding something to the gospel of grace; it is doing something rather than simply believing something. Every cult and ism has something for you to do in order to be saved.
Christ told the apostles to preach the gospel of salvation by grace. They were not to do anything to gain their salvation, but they were to trust what Christ had done for them. The gospel shuts out all works. Had man been able to believe in the coming Messiah and keep the Mosaic law for salvation, there would have been no reason for Christ to come and die for their sins.
v7 To attempt to change the gospel has the effect of making it the very opposite of what it really is.
v8 Paul says that even if an angel dared to declare any other message than the gospel, he would be dismissed with a strong invective. There are many today who are trying to give us another “gospel.” They may look like angels to you—after all Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light, and his ministers are transformed and the ministers of righteousness (2 Co. 11:14, 15).
v9 Paul says if any man preach any other gospel, let him be damned. The gospel shuts out all works. Romans 4:5:“But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” The only class that God saves is the ungodly. The Lord Jesus said he did not come to save the righteous to repentance; He came to call sinners. The reason He said that is because there is and was none righteous, no not one. Even the righteousness of man is as filthy rags in God’s sight. Law condemns man and makes him speechless before grace can save us.
Romans 3:19 “Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.” The real difficulty is not that people should be “good enough” to be saved, but that they are not “bad enough” to be saved. Humanity always refuses to recognize its lost condition before God.
The Judaizers did not deny the facts of the gospel. They denied that this was adequate. They insisted that you have to keep the law plus trusting Christ. Paul says let the one who mingles law and grace be damned! Why? Because they pervert the gospel. They do not deny the facts of the gospel. They pervert the gospel.
v10 The preaching of the gospel is not pleasing to lost man. No man can please both man and God. Preaching the gospel today may get you into trouble because the sinner hates it. The gospel of grace puts us in the dust and makes us beggars before God.
By nature man responds to legalism. He thinks he does not need a Saviour. All he needs is a helper. I have heard sermons on the radio where the preacher, many times highly regarded by the “Christians” who listen to him, talk about Jesus coming into the world, about His death and resurrection. But they failed to mention that the listeners were sinners and needed a Saviour. He neglected to inform them that Jesus died for them and that, to be saved, they had to trust Him, to put their faith in him. These preachers often talk about commitment. They invite folks to commit their lives to Christ. Christ does not want your old life, nor does He want mine. We have nothing to commit to him. He wants to do something through us today.
God is not even asking you to live the Christian life. You cannot live it. God is asking that He might live the Christian life through you. The epistle to the Galatians teaches this. But first, we must come to Christ as hopeless lost sinners and be saved. Churches are filled with people who have never come to Christ and received His as Saviour. You have nothing to commit to him. He is the one who died, and he is on the giving end. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
Man’s conscience, his knowledge of good and evil, witnesses to the law, and legal conviction will lead to works. Man tries to compensate for the fact that he is not doing enough. He tries to balance his good works against his sins and have enough on the plus side to be saved.
The Holy Spirit witnesses to grace today. This is gospel conviction that leads to faith. The law denies the fall of man—this was the position of Cain. Grace acknowledges the fall of man, as Abel did when he brought his offering to God.
II. Personal—Authority of the Apostle and Glory of the Gospel, 1:11-2:14
1. Experience of Paul in Arabia, 1:11-24
v11 Paul is again stating that he is a God-appointed apostle. He did not get the gospel he preached from man. The Judaizers questioned Paul’s message and Paul’s apostleship.
v12 Paul did not receive his apostleship by going to school, by being ordained, or by hands being laid on his head. His apostleship came by direct revelation of Jesus Christ. The gospel is a revelation, just as is the book of Revelation. The gospel was unveiled to the Apostle Paul.
v13 Paul says you have heard of my manner of life in the Jewish religion in which he was brought up. He was saved not in Judaism, not by Judaism, but from Judaism.
vv15-17 Paul did not combine Judaism with Greek Philosophy to come up with Christianity, as some modernists assert. He received the gospel by direct revelation of Jesus Christ.
v18 This is the same record given in Acts 9:26-29:
“And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. And he was with them coming in and going out at Jerusalem. And he spake boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus, and disputed against the Grecians: but they went about to slay him.”
God trained Moses in the desert. He put Abraham in a rather unique place to train him, and Elijah had that same type of experience. It has been God’s method to put his man out on the desert to train him. David was outdoors in the caves of the earth while he was running away from King Saul. God sent Paul into the desert for less than three years. Then he went to Jerusalem, saw Peter, and stayed with him fifteen days.
v19 Paul had no contact with the apostles except Peter and James, the Lord’s brother; and he received nothing from them.
v20 Paul says he does not lie. The modernist, mentioned above, said Paul got the gospel by making a homogenized stew out of Greek philosophy and the Mosaic system. One of the two is lying.
vs21-24 In these verses, Paul outlines his first years after his conversion. I don’t think they were the happiest years of his life. Apparently he tell us something about the failure in his personal life in Romans 7. There were three years in the life of the Apostle Paul”
- Paul was a proud Pharisee. He had a marvelous mind and was an expert in the Mosaic Law. As many of his biographers have said, the world would have heard of Paul even if he had not been an apostle and even if he had not been converted. Dr. McGee does not think there as any question about that. He was an outstanding man. But he was a proud young Pharisee who thought he knew it all. He hated Christ. He hated the church and attempted to eliminate it. He was ruthless in his persecution of the churches.
- The second period began on the Damascus Road when he was knocked down into the dust. This brilliant Pharisee found out he did not know Jesus Christ, whom to know is life. He thought Jesus was dead. And he asked, “Who art thou, Lord?” Jesus replied, “I am Jesus whom you persecute. When you persecute my church, you persecute me.” When Paul became acquainted with his Lord, he immediately asked, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” After Paul met Christ, he spent some time in Arabia. During those first years he attempted to minister and found that what he wanted to do he could not do. Finally he cried out, “O wretched man that I am? who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:24). It was not an unsaved man who said that; it was Paul the Apostle in the first stages of his conversion.
- Then came that glorious period when he walked in the Spirit. That was the time he could live for God. See Romans 7:24 – Romans 8). That is the place where many of us need to be today. There are so many unhappy Christians. They are saved, Dr. McGee thinks, but as Dwight L. Moody put it in his quaint way, “Some people have just enough religion to make them miserable.”
Since Paul received the gospel apart from the other apostles—who were with the Lord three years and saw the resurrected Christ—is Paul preaching the same gospel? If he is not, something is radically wrong. In the next chapter, we will see that Peter and the other apostles in Jerusalem approved Paul’s gospel as being the same as theirs.
2. Experience of Paul with the Apostles in Jerusalem.
v1 Paul took Titus with him to Jerusalem. Titus was a young preacher and a Gentile. This, Dr. McGee believes, is the 1st great council at Jerusalem as recorded in Acts 15. The question to be settled: Whether men are saved by the grace of God or whether they should come under the Mosaic law. Titus was Paul’s exhibit # 1. Titus had not been circumcised. Would he be forced to be circumcised? The Judaizers in the church in Jerusalem, an all-Jewish church, held that all believers in Christ should be under the Mosaic law. Paul and Barnabas came there to get the official word regarding law and grace.
v2 Paul realized that if they were preaching a different gospel from what the other apostles were preaching, something was radically wrong, that he would be wrong, and would have run in vain.
vs3, 4 Titus was not compelled to be circumcised by the church at Jerusalem. Some who were not believers had come where Paul had been preaching to spy out the liberty they had in Christ. To compel circumcision for salvation would be to put one right back under the bondage of the Mosaic law rather than enjoying the freedom by the Spirit of God and the freedom in Christ.
v5 Paul rejected the teaching of the false brethren. Titus was saved by faith apart from the law.:
v6 Paul says we sat down and communicated the gospel there at Jerusalem. Paul found out that these apostles did not have anything to add to what he has been preaching. He was preaching the grace of God. They find they are in full agreement. They are all preaching the same gospel.
v7 There are not two gospels in the sense of Peter’s gospel and Paul’s gospel. These men were in complete disagreement. The gospel of the circumcision and the gospel of the uncircumcision refer to the groups the gospel was going to. Paul was called to go to the Gentiles, Peter to his own Jewish brethren who were the circumcised.
v8 When Peter and Paul preached the gospel, quite a few were saved. Both were preaching the same gospel.
v9 The apostles accepted Paul’s apostleship.
v10 The apostles remind Paul to remember the poor. Paul came back later with an offering for the poor saints at Jerusalem. They had been persecuted and were in a sad condition. This was a social service. James 2:15-17: “If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.”
3. Experience of Paul in Antioch with Peter, 2:11-14
In this personal section of Paul’s life we have seen his experience in Arabia with the Lord Jesus Christ, and his experience with the apostles in Jerusalem. Now we see his experience with Simon Peter in Antioch. The church in Antioch was largely Gentile, although it was a mixture of Jew and Gentile. The early churches had a love for a feast held in connection with the Lord’s supper. Paul has a lot to say about this in 1 Corinthians. The early believers came together for a love feast, before they celebrated the Lord’s supper. The Gentiles had been accustomed to eating meat that had first been offered to idols, and they also ate pork and other animals designated as unclean in the law of Moses.
To keep from offending the Jewish Christians, two tables were established. One, the kosher table; the other the Gentile table. Paul ate at the Gentile table. He taught that whether you eat mean or you don’t eat meant makes no difference—meat will not commend you to God.
When Peter came to visit Paul in Antioch, he had never eaten anything unclean. Remember what he told the Lord on the roof in Joppa before he went to the home of Cornelius (Acts 10). Peter had been a believer for some time when he came to Antioch.
vs11, 12 Peter ate at the Gentile table; but when some elders from Jerusalem arrived, he ate at the kosher table.
vs 13, 14 For fear of the brethren from Jerusalem, Peter went back to the kosher table. By his actions, he is saying the Gentile table is wrong. The brethren from Jerusalem were austere legalists, and under grace that was their privilege. Dr. McGee has no objection to those who feel that you should not eat certain meats. But they are also to give me the liberty of eating what I choose to eat. Simon Peter turned from the liberty he had in Christ back to Judaism.
The nature of Paul’s rebuke shows, first of all, the inconsistency of lawkeeping. If it was right for Simon Peter to live as the Gentile believers lived, why should he desire the Gentiles to live as the Jews? That is what he was saying when he left the Gentile table for the kosher table. If Gentile living under grace apart from the law was good enough for Peter, was it bad for the Gentiles themselves? If Simon Peter was free to live outside the law, was it not lawful for the Gentiles to do the same?
III. Doctrinal—Justification by Faith, 2:15-4:31
Faith vs. Works, Liberty vs. Bondage
1. Justification by Faith—Doctrine Stated, 1:15-21
v15 Jews in that day looked upon Gentiles as sinners. Gentile and sinner were synonymous terms. Therefore, Paul’s rebuke shows the folly of lawkeeping.
v16 This is a clear-cut and simple statement of justification by faith. The legalist has trouble with this verse. To say that you have to add anything to faith in Christ absolutely mutilates the gospel. If a Jew had to leave the law behind, to forsake it, Paul’s question is, “Why should the Gentile be brought under the law?” That was the great argument at the council in Jerusalem in Acts 15: “Should the Gentile be brought under the law?” The answer was that the Gentile was not under the law for salvation—nor for his daily living, as he was called to a much higher plane.
The Jews had already proved that justification under the law was impossible. They had the law for almost 1500 years and had not been able to keep the law at all. Why force the Gentile under that which had not saved even one Israelite?
“Knowing that a man.” You can know this. All men are on one level before the cross. That level is “sinner.”
“Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law.” Paul embraces the whole legal system that is found in every religion. Only Christianity is different. Every other religion instructs us to do something. Christianity tells us that we are justified by faith; faith in an accomplished act and fact for you. Every other religion says do. Christianity says done. The great transaction is done, and we are asked to believe it.
1 Corinthians 12:3: “Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.” The question is, “How can we call Jesus accursed?” If someone says to me, “When you came to Christ and accepted him as your Saviour, you didn’t get all that was coming to you. The Holy Spirit can give you something that you didn’t get in Christ, and you ought to seek that today.” My friend, to do that depreciates the work of the Lord Jesus on the cross when he came to this earth to die for you and work out a salvation so perfect that when he went back to heaven he sat down at the right hand of God (Hebrews 1:3). He sat down because there was nothing else to be done. When you say he did not do it all for me, you are saying that Jesus is accursed. And you can’t say that by the Holy Spirit of God. That is, you are not giving me the word of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, ” “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you” (John 16:13-14). When you came to Christ, he gave you everything you will need in this life. Christ is the one who administers all the gifts. The Holy Spirit is the one who gives them, but he is working under the supervision of the second person of the Godhead. We have everything in him. He is the Alpha and Omega. He is the Amen—and when you say amen, you are through. Christ did it all.
This verse is so clear that it is impossible to misunderstand it. It is not faith plus something. It is faith plus nothing.
The verse continues: “even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ.” By “we,” Paul includes himself, meaning we Israelites. Jews have to leave the law, come to Christ and trust him in order to be justified by the faith of Christ rather than by the works of law.
The conclusion of the verse is very clear and means what it says: “for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” I was a hell doomed sinner. I trusted Him as my Saviour, and I received a perfect salvation from him.
v17Justification, a legal term, means “a reason to be found not guilty.” When a person dies, he will stand before Jesus Christ, who will judge him either “guilty” or not guilty. All men as sinners are guilty. Without a reason to be found not guilty, they will spend eternity in the lake of fire. The only reason one can give to be found not guilty, even though he is guilty, is that he has turned to God (repented) and put his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, the lamb of God who taketh away the sins of the world.
- Ezekiel 33:13 “When I shall say to the righteous, that he shall surely live; if he trust to his own righteousness, and commit iniquity, all his righteousnesses shall not be remembered; but for his iniquity that he hath committed, he shall die for it.”
- Romans 10:3: “For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.”
- Philippians 3:9;” And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:”
The sense of this verse seems to be this: Since the Jew had to forsake the law in order to be justified by Christ and therefore take his place as a sinner, is Christ the One who makes him a sinner? Paul’s answer is, “Of course not.” The Jew, like the Gentile, was a sinner by nature. He could not be justified by the law, as he demonstrated. The same thought was given by Peter in his address before the great council at Jerusalem: “Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they” (Ac. 15:10-11). You see, Peter and Paul were in agreement on the doctrine of justification by faith.
v18 Paul is saying, “If I go back under law, I make myself a transgressor.” But he is free from the law. How did he become free from the law?
v19 Paul is saying, “When Christ died, He died for me. He died in my stead because the law had condemned me.” The law was a ministration of condemnation; a ministration of death (2 Co. 3:7). It condemns me. Even under the legal system, God had to destroy the nation Israel. But He gave the sacrificial system—five sacrifices—all of them pointing to Christ. God, by his marvelous grace, was able to save. Therefore, the mercy seat was a throne of grace where a nation could find forgiveness of sins. We stand guilty before the law which condemns and accuses man. If one is dead to the law, he is no longer responsible to the law which has already killed me. Therefore, the law could not do for me what Christ did. He took my place, died for me, and gave me life. The law arrested, condemned, sentenced, and slew us. If you come by the law route, you will get death. Only Christ can give life.
v20 Believers are not to seek to be crucified with Christ. We have already been crucified with Him. The principle of living is not by the law, which has slain us because it found us guilty. We are to live by the faith in the Son of God. The death of Christ on the cross was penal (paid the penalty for our sins), and substitutionary. He was the sacrifice for sin, but also the substitute for all who believer.
Paul declares that under the law he was tried, found guilty, condemned, and in the person of his Substitute was slain. The believer, we are told, had been put in Christ.
The believer cannot live the crucified life. There are many ways one can end his life, commit suicide; but you cannot do so by crucifying yourself. Paul said, “I am crucified with Christ.” This happened when Christ died. Christ died a substitutionary death. He died for Paul, your you, and for me.
In Romans 6, we are told that we have been buried with Christ in baptism, by identification. We have been raised with Him in newness of life, and now we are joined to the living Christ. We do not know Him any more after the flesh. Christ is at God’s right hand. He is the glorified Christ.
The law executed us; it could not give us life. Christ gave us life. How do I live. “Yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.” He died for me down here that I might live with Him up yonder, and that He might live in me down here.
“And the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God.” This is a life of faith–saved by faith, live by faith, walk by faith. This is what it means to walk in the Spirit.
Christ loved me, but He could not love me into heaven. He had to give Himself for me. “The gift of God is eternal life. in Christ Jesus.” You can only receive a gift by faith. That applies to any gift. You have to believe the giver is sincere. You have to reach out in faith and take it before it belongs to you.
You can trod underfoot the precious blood of Christ by ignoring Him, turning away from Him, or turning against Him as Paul did. But it was for that crowd that Jesus prayed, “Father forgive them; for they know not what they do.”
v21 The thought is that if there had been any other way to save sinners, then God would have used that method. The only way was to send His Son to die.
2. Justification by Faith—Experience of Galatians, 3:1-5
Paul now goes back to the experience of the Galatians. How were they saved, by law or faith in Christ?
C3, v1 “O foolish Galatians” what has gotten into you. It was Christ’s death on the cross which made possible your salvation.
v2 Experience must be tested by truth. Many today reason from experience to truth. The Word of God goes from truth to experience. Dr. McGee thinks that Paul means by “the hearing of faith” the whole process—the ear, the organ of hearing and the receiving the message, and the message itself.
This section raises several questions. He tells the Galatians to look back on what had happened to them and asks six questions which have to do with their experience.
Question #1: “Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” Nowhere, even in the OT, did anyone ever receive the Holy Spirit by the works of the law. He is received by the hearing of faith. The Holy Spirit is the evidence of conversion. Romans 8:9: “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” Ephesians 1:13 :”In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise.”
v3: Second question: Galatians 3:3: “Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?” The question is, “Now that you are indwelt by the Spirit of God, are you going to turn your back on the law (which was given to control the flesh) and think you are going to live on a high plane?”
v4 They are reminded that they paid a price for receiving the gospel. Was it all going to be in vain, without a purpose?
v5 The third question: Galatians 3:5″ “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?” Paul reminds them that he came to their country, preached the Word of God to them, and performed miracles among them. He did it by the hearing of faith, not by the works of the law. When he preached the Lord Jesus Christ as the One who died for them, was raised again, and in whom the placed their trust, they were regenerated.
The important thing is that Paul came to them as an apostle preaching Jesus Christ, not as a Pharisee preaching the law. Justification by faith was the experience of the Galatians. The gospel is true irrespective of the experience of the Galatians or anyone else. The gospel is objective; it deals with what Jesus Christ did for us. Experience will corroborate the gospel, as Paul is demonstrating in this section. The gospel is sufficient—experience confirms this.
3. Justification by Faith—Illustration of Abraham, 3:6-4:18
C3 v6 “Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” This is a quote from Genesis 15:6, which is also quoted in Romans 4:3. Abraham is a great example of justification by faith. Paul uses him as an example in both Romans and Galatians. The law was not given until 400 years after Abraham. Abraham was justified before God gave him the commandment of circumcision. Circumcision was the badge and evidence of Abraham’s faith, just as baptism is the badge and evidence of a believer’s faith today. Neither can save. They make no contribution to salvation, but are simply outward evidences of an inward work.
In Genesis 15, after Abraham rescued his nephew Lot from the kings of the East and returned the booty from the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah, God appeared to him to assure him he had done right. Abraham reminded the Lord that He had promised him a son. God tells him Abraham that he cannot count the stars and that he will not be able to count his offspring. Genesis 15:6 “And he [Abraham} believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.” Abraham believed God, and at that moment God declared him righteous. Not because of his works. His works were imperfect. Paul will develop this a little later on. Although he did not have perfection at that time, afterwards he did because his faith was counted for righteousness.
Abraham, in effect, asked God to put it in writing (Ge. 15:8). We read in Ge. 15:9-21 of the covenant God then made with Abraham. In those days, they cut a sacrifice into two parts and put half on one side and half on the other side, then they joined hands and walked between the two halves. That sealed the covenant. We are told that God put Abraham into a deep sleep. Why? Because Abraham is not going to walk with God between the two halves. Abraham is not to promise anything. God is doing the promising. God is making the covenant. Abraham’s part is only to believe God. If the covenant depended on Abraham’s faithfulness, he might miss one night, and the promise would be no good. The covenant depended on God’s faithfulness alone.
2000 years ago Christ came to the cross to pay for your sins and mine. God is asking you to do nothing to be saved. He is asking you to trust His Son who died for you. He makes the covenant. The old covenant he made with Abraham. Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. God is still asking us to believe Him. Put your trust in Christ and you will be saved.
v7 “Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.” When a person trusts in Christ as Saviour, he is saved the same way Abraham was saved.
v8 The blessing was to Abraham’s faith, not his works. God preached the Gospel to Abraham. Abraham obeyed the voice of God. He demonstrated by his action that he had faith in God. He believed God, and he believed in the Lord, and He counted it to him for righteousness.
There is no contradiction between what Paul said about Abraham and what James said. James 2:20-21: “But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?” James then says, “Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect” (James 2:22). Saving faith is a dynamic, vital faith that leads to works. James is not talking about the works of the law. He is talking about the works of faith. Faith produces works.
God sees our hearts. He knows when one is saved. He lives in the one who is saved. This is a dynamic, living faith which will produce works. James 2 reveals that James used the history of Abraham to show that faith without works is dead—it is the last of Abraham’s history because this is the last time God appeared to Him. It is not that portion of Scripture to which Paul refers in Galatians where he says that Abraham was justified by faith. Paul says that faith alone is sufficient and proves his point from Abraham’s history as recorded in the 15th chapter of Genesis. James says that faith without works is dead and proves it by referring to Abraham’s history as found in the 22nd chapter of Genesis. If Abraham had said to God in Genesis 22, “Wait a minute, I really do not believe what you say. I have been putting on an act all of these years,” then it would have been obvious that Abraham’s faith was a pseudo-faith. But God knew back in Genesis 15 that Abraham had a genuine faith. A faith that is dead is no faith at all.
The works that James speaks of are not works of the law at all. The law had not been given. James 2:23: “And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.” James, at the beginning of this verse, is going back to the reference that Paul gives at first concerning the beginning of Abraham’s life of faith. Then Paul says that the gospel was preached to Abraham at the end of his life when God made this promise to him.
There is no contradiction when you examine passages like the ones written by Paul and James. They are saying the same thing. One is looking at faith at the beginning. The other is looking at faith at the end. One is looking at the root of faith. The other is looking at the fruit of faith. The root of faith is “faith alone saves you,” but that saving faith will produce works.
Paul is speaking of that which justifies man before God, faith alone wholly apart from works (Ro. 4); James, the proof before men, that he who professes justifying faith really has it. Paul speaks of what God sees—faith; James of what men see—works as visible evidence of faith. Paul’s illustration in Romans 4 is from Genesis 15:6; James’ from Genesis 22:1-19. James’ key phrase is “you see) (Ja. 2:24) for man cannot see faith except as manifested through works. Ps. 26: a life should back up faith.
v9 God saves the sinner today on the same basis that He saved Abraham. God asked Abraham to believe that He would do certain things for him in the future (including providing “himself” a sacrifice). Now, God has done certain things for us in giving His Son, Jesus Chrrist, to die for us. Faith saves man today, Abraham’s faith saved him.
v10 The important word here is “continueth.” The verse says, “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.” If I kept all the laws of Texas all the years of my life here (which are many) I would not be rewarded for it. But if I went out then and robbed a store, I would be arrested and prosecuted. The law does not reward you. It does not give you life. The law penalizes you.
v11 Even the Old Testament taught that man was saved by faith. If you find that someone was saved by keeping the law, let me know. I have never read of anyone who was saved by keeping the Mosaic law. This verse says it is evident that “the just shall live by faith.” Habakkuk 2:4 says that “the just shall live by faith.”
v12 Faith and law are contrary principles for salvation and also for living. They are diametrically opposed. If you are going to live by the law, then you cannot be saved by faith. If you want to be saved by faith and by law, you can try it, but God has not made an arrangement for this. If you try it, it will not work. “The law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them.”
v13 “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law”—the Mosaic law condemned us. I am not rewarded for keeping the civil laws of Texas, but if I break one, I am condemned. Christ redeemed us from the penalty of the Mosaic law by “being made a curse for us.”
“For it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.” See, De. 21:22-23). Christ became a curse when He hanged on the cross.
v14 Israel had the law for fifteen hundred years, and failed to live by it. At the Council of Jerusalem, in Acts 15, Peter said in effect, “We and our fathers were not able to keep the law. Why do we want to put the Gentiles under it? If we could not keep it, they won’t be able to keep it either.” Christ took our place that we might receive what the law could never do. The Spirit is the peculiar gift in this age of grace.
v15 A contract between men is a contract that can be enforced.
v16 God made Abraham a blessing to the world through his seed, Jesus Christ, a descendant of Abraham. The word “seed” refers specifically to Jesus Christ. “And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice” (Genesis 22:18). “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad” (John 8:56).
v17 The law came 420 years after God’s covenant with Abraham, and it did not change anything as far as the promises made to Abraham were concerned. God never goes back on His promises. He promised to give Abraham a son and a people that will be as numberless as the sand on the seashore; He promised to give him a certain land. God fulfilled that promise and brought from Abraham the nation Israel, and several other nations. God also promised to make Abraham a blessing to all people. The only blessing in this world today is in Christ. Jesus Christ is the supreme gift given to every person who will receive Him.
v18 The promise concerning Christ was made before the Mosaic law was given, and that promise holds as good as though there had been no law given. The promise was made irrespective of the law.
The Lord, through Paul, is trying to help people understand the purpose of the law. He shows the law in all its majesty, in its fulness, and in its perfection. But he shows that this very perfection the law reveals is the reason it creates a hurdle which no one can get over in order to be accepted of God.
Now the Lord, through Paul talks about the purpose of the law.
v19 The law was added because or for the sake of transgressions. “Till the seed should come” means that the law was temporary—from the interval between the time of Moses until the time of Christ. “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” (John 1:17).
The law was given to reveal, not remove sin. It was not given to keep man from sin because sin had already come. It was to show man himself as being a natural, ugly, crude sinner before God. Any honest man who looks at the law will see himself guilty. It was not given as a standard by which man becomes holy. No one can become holy by the law because one cannot keep the law in his own strength. Man is already a sinner, he does not become a sinner. A man commits sin because he is a sinner. A man steals because he is a thief. He lies because he is a liar. Someone asks, “How are you feeling today?” I say, “Fine,” when in fact I am feeling terrible. Someone says “It is a beautiful day,” when it is an ugly stormy day, and I say, “Yes it is.” Two lies right there. The law was given to show that you and I are sinners and that we need a mediator, one to stand between us and God, to help us out.
v20 If God could have given a law by which sinners could be saved, He would have done so.
v22 The Scripture has “concluded all under sin;” therefore all died. What is needed is life. All the law can do is bring death. All are equally dead and equally in need. It is not the degree of sin, but the fact of sin that brings death.
Consider three men working on the 24th floor of a skyscraper. One says I can step off and does. As he passes the 10th floor someone shouts, “How is it going.” He replies, “So far, so good.” But he has not arrived yet. There is death at the bottom. One slips and falls as he walks a beam. the 3rd is thrown off by some gangsters whom he has offended. All three broke the law of gravitation and death was inevitable. It is the fact, not the degree.
The law of gravitation which took them down cannot give them life. The Mosaic law cannot give you life any more than a natural law can give you life after you have broken it and died. Death follows wherever sin comes. The law of sin knows nothing of extenuating circumstances. It knows nothing about mercy. It has no elasticity. It is inflexible, inexorable and immutable. Ezekiel 18:20 The soul that sinneth, it shall die. …””But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Genesis 2:17). “… will by no means clear the guilty. … (Exodus 34:7). Therefore, all have sinned and by the law we are all dead. The law slew us. It is a “ministration of death.”
“The scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe” is a tremendous statement.”
v23 “Before faith came” means, of course, faith in Jesus Christ who died for us. Until the Lord Jesus Christ came, the law had in it mercy because it had a mercy seat. Itt had an altar where sacrifices for sin could be brought and forgiveness could be obtained. Mercy could be found there. All the sacrifices for sin pointed to Christ.
3:24 Paul is making it very clear here that the Mosaic law could not save. Romans 4:5: “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” God refuses to accept the works of man for salvation. Isaiah 64:6: “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” The law was not given to save sinners. It was given to let them know that they are sinners. The law does not remove sin, the law reveals sin. It will not keep you from sin because sin has already come.
The bathroom mirror does not remove dirt. It reveals it. Multitudes of people today are rubbing against the mirror of he law thinking they are going to remove their sin. The Word of God is a mirror which us who we are: sinners that have come short of the glory of God. Thank God that there is a basin below the mirror. It is the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ that cleanses.
Now God, through Paul tells us what He means by “the law is our schoolmaster.”
v25 The law takes you by the hand and leads you to the cross of Christ. You are lost and you need a Savior. The purpose of the law is to bring people to Christ—not to give them an expanded chest so they can walk around claiming that they are keeping the law.
v26 God, through Paul, is going to show in the remainder of this chapter, and in the first part of chapter 4, some of he benefits that come to us by trusting Christt that we could never receive under law. The law could never give a believer the nature of a son of God. Christ can do that. Only faith in Christ can make us sons of God.
You are made a true son of God by faith in Christ, and that is all it takes. An individual Israelite under the law was never a son, only a servant. God called the nation, “Israel my son;” but the individual in that corporate nation was never called a son. He was called a servant of Jehovah. See, e.g., Joshua 1:2, 1 K. 11:38.
Even if one could keep the law (he can’t) your righteousness would still be inferior to the righteousness of God. Sonship requires His righteousness. Jn. 1:12: “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:” Jesus said to Nicodemus, who followed the law meticulously, “Ye must be born again” (John 3:7).
The damnable heresy, the universal Fatherhood of God and he universal brotherhood of man,” has caused America to give away billions throughout the world; and because of it, we are hated throughout the world. All people are children of God, they say, and we must act like sons of God. So we sit down at council tables and engage in diplomatic squabbles with some of the biggest rascals the world has ever seen. We talk about acting like the sons of God. Jesus never said anything like that. He said, for example, to a group of religious rulers: “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it” (John 8:44). The devil has a lot of people in the world today. The only way you can become a son of God is through faith in Jesus Christ.
v27 The baptism of the Holy Spirit places you in the family of God.
v28 In Christ are no racial lines; In Christ there is neither bond nor free. In Christ is neither male or female. Christ does what women’s lib can never do. He can make us one in Christ.
v29 If one is in Christ, he belongs to Abraham’s seed, and we are heirs according to promise.
Galatians 4:1-18 (Justification by Faith—Illustration of Abraham continued) Chapter 4 continues the section of justification by faith. Faith in Christ gives us something we could never get by the works of the law—he position of sons of God. It brings us to the place of full-grown sons. When we start out in the Christian life, we are babes, and we are to grow to maturation. However, God gives us the position of a full grown son to furnish us with a capacity hat we would not otherwise have.
4:1: Here, “child” in context means a little child without full power of speech.
4:2: What is “the time appointed of the father?” I is the time when the father recognizes that his son is capable of making decisions of his own, and he brings him into the position of a full-grown son. It is the father who determines the age of maturity. It is not an arbitrary law. In Paul’s day, the father decided when the age of maturity was reached. Then they held a ceremony, known as the toga virilis, which gave him the position of a full-grown son in the family.
4:3: Paul is saying it was the childhood of the nation Israel when they were under rules and regulations.
4:4: At a predetermined time, God the Father sent forth God the Son, born of a woman, born under the law.
4:5: The purpose was twofold: (1) To redeem those under the law. (2) That they might receive he adoption of sons.
1 Corinthians 2:9-10 “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.” This means that the truth of the Word of God can only be interpreted by the Spirit of God, and until He interprets it, man cannot understand it. Isaiah 64:4: “For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him.” If you want to know Christ, only the Spirit of God can reveal Him o you. The Spirit of God can teach the new believer and the old believer.
Now we come to the third thing that faith in Christ does for us that the law could never do for us—the experience of the sons of God.
4:6: Romans 8:16 says it this way: “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.”
If you are a child of God, you will want to be led by the Spirit of God. Romans 8:11-14 “But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you. Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” The flesh may get a victory in your life, but it will never make you happy. You will never be satisfied with it. Romans 8:15-16 “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.”
The translators of the King James Bible did not translate “Abba” because it was such an intimate word.
4:7 The Spirit therefore, gives us an experience of being a son of God whereby we can call God our Father. Some believe that the only way you can have an experience is either by reaching a high degree of sanctification—you have to become holy or you have to seek the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Not so. If you are a new believer or a weak believer, you can have an experience as a son of God without reaching those levels, because sonship comes to you through faith in Jesus Christ. When folk have reached a high level of spirituality, they tend to think they are superior to the rest of us. My friend, we are always God’s foolish little children. We are always filled with stubbornness and sin and fears and weaknesses. We are never wonderful. He is wonderful.
God makes Himself real to us in times of trouble, times of distress. The Lord stood by Paul and He will stand by you. When Paul was in prison, he could say, 2 Timothy 4:16-17a “At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge. Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me….”
4:8 The Galatians had been idolaters. In 1 Co. 12:2, Paul called idols “nothings.” They were nothing and could say nothing. He is telling the Galatians hat idols are to real and cannot make themselves real to those who worship them.
4:9 They had come to Christ through faith. Most are Gentile believers. Now they are turning to the Mosaic law, which is like going back into the idolatry they came out of.
4:10 They are observing days (Sabbath days). Colossians 2:16: “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days.”
“Months” probably refers ot the observance of the “new moon” practiced by the people of Israel during the time of the kings. The prophets warned them against it.
“Times” should be translated seasons, meaning feasts. God had given Israel seven feasts, but they all had pointed to the Lord Jesus Christ.
“Years” would refer to the sabbatic years. The observance of all these things would put these Gentile believers completely back under het Mosaic law.
Legalists claim they are keeping the Mosaic law, yet they only keep the sabbath day. James 2:10: “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.”
4:11 Paul is saying, in a nice way, that he thinks he has wasted his time among them. Since they have been saved by grace, their returning to the law is the same as returning to their former idolatry.
Now we come to a personal section (verses 12-18). Paul injects a polite word into this epistle.
4:12 Paul writes: “We are all believers, all in the family of God. In view of this we ought to be very polite to one another.
4:13 Now Paul makes an appeal to them on the basis of his thorn in the flesh.
4:14 His thorn in the flesh is his temptation (his rial).
4:15 Paul writes that they just ignored his eye trouble and received him wonderfully when he preached the gospel to them.
4:16 Most churchgoers nowadays do not want the preacher to tell the truth. They want him to smooth their feathers and make them feel good. The “churches” today do a lot of back-rubbing rather than declare the truth.
4:17-18 Paul writes that it is good to seek that which is the very best, but these Judaizers are after you in order to scalp you. This same crowd of Judaizers had gone to Corinth. See 2 Co. 12:12-15. I am amazed at the fine presentations the cults and apostates make. I have watched them on television programs that are done to perfection. Everything is beautiful to look at and the presenters are attractive people. One told the Christmas story. No one could have told it better. But his interpretation revealed that he did not believe the virgin birth.
- Justification by Faith—Allegory of Hagar and Sarai, 4:19-31
All is contrast in this section between these 2 women. Hagar, and every reference to her under other figures of speech, represents the law. Sarai, and every reference to her under other figures of speech, represents faith in Christ.
4:19.Paul uses the tender expression, “My little children,” in speaking to these Galatian believers.
4:20 Paul is using strong language in his letter, but you can see his tender heart.
4:21 Some talk about the Ten Commandments or some legal system, but they do not talk about the penalty imposed by the law. They don’t present the law in the full orb of its ministry of condemnation. Read Exodus 19:16-21 to learn what happened when God called Moses to the mountain to give the law. God told the people to stand back, to stand afar off, when He gave Moses the law.
Exodus 20:18-19 “And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off. And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die.”
We cannot conceive how holy God is. You and I are renegades in God’s universe, lost sinners with no capacity to follow and obey Him. Romans 8:6: “For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” The carnal mind is enmity against God. The world is against God. The world is not getting better. It is becoming more evil every day, and has been bad since God put Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden. Romans 8:7: “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” No wonder the children of Israel trembled and moved away from the mountain and said, “We will die.”
God is high and holy and lifted up, and He dwells in glory. We are down here making mud pies in the world because physically we are made of mud. We walk here on earth and have the audacity to walk contrary to the will of God! That is man’s position in the world.
Paul says, “Listen to the law. You haven’t heard it yet.” The Galatians had not actually heard the law. The giving of the law was not beautiful and cozy, but terrifying. The Galatians seemed to want to be under law so Paul was going to let them hear it.
4:22 The freewoman represents grace, the bondwoman represents the Mosaic law. He is going to point out the contrast between them in what he calls an allegory. Paul is not saying that the story of Abraham is an allegory as some have interpreted this statement. He says the incident of the 2 women who bore Abraham sons contains an allegory. It has a message for us today.
4:23 “But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise.” The Code of Hammurabi, which governed the culture in Abraham’s day, stated that the son of a slave woman was a slave. Ismael, Abraha’s son, was a slave.
“He of he freewoman was by promise.” Isaac was a miracle child, his birth was miraculous. Abraham was too old to father a child, and Paul says that the womb of Sarah was dead. The womb of Saral was like a tomb, and out of death, God brought life.
4:24 “Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar.” The first covenant is law of Moses received from God on Mount Sinai. “Which is Agar.” Paul compares Hagar ot Mount Sinai and is synonymous with the law of Moses.
4:25 In Paul’s allegory Hagar is Mount Sinai which corresponds to Jerusalem (the earthly Jerusalem of Paul’s day) because she was still in slavery with her children. In other words, Jerusalem (representing the nation Israel) was still under the bondage of the law.
4:26 “Jerusalem which is above” is the new Jerusalem which is presented to us in Revelation 12 as it comes down from God out of heaven. As old Jerusalem is the mother city of those under the law, so the new Jerusalem is the mother city of the believer under grace. A believer neither here nor hereafter has any connection with legalism.
4:27 Today the Arabs are fewer than the children of Israel. In this allegory, Paul si saying that God is saving under grace more members of the human family than he ever saved under Mosaic law by the sacrificial system.
4:28 Believers today are the children of promise. Our birth was a new birth, which comes about by our believing God’s promise. 1 Peter 1:23: “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.”
4:29 “But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now.” The legalist hates the gospel of the free grace of God. If a preacher preaches the pure grace of God, he will get a barrage of criticism. Folk insist that I have to also do something or seek something from another source—from the Holy Spirit, for instance—or go through some ceremony in order to receive something that I did not get when I trusted Jesus Christ. To say that is calling Christ a curse. If you have to add anything to what He did for you, then His death on the cross was in vain. Christ was made a curse for us, but if you don’t accept what He did for you, you are saying that you are not guilty, but that He is guilty. The natural man hates the gospel of the grace of God. It is in us to hate it, because id does not require any doing on our part. Rather, it glorifies Christ and turns our eyes to Him.
4:30 God commanded the expulsion of the bondwoman and her son (Genesis 21:10). Today God is saying to you and to me, “Get rid of your legalism. Put all the emphasis on Jesus Christ.”
4:30 Abraham could not have both the son of Hagar and the son of Sarah. He had a choice to make. Paul is saying that you can’t be saved by law and grace. If you try to be saved by Christ and also by law, you are not saved.
Look to and receive everything from Christ alone. He is our Saviour. He is our Lord. He is to receive all praise and glory.
IV. Practical—Sanctification by the Spirit, 5:1-6:10
The 1st section of Galatians was personal, and it was important for us to know the personal experience Paul had had. Followint this was the doctrinal section of justification by faith, in which God, through Paul insisted that our salvation must rest upon God’s salvation and that there is only one gospel.
We now come to the practical side, which is sanctification by the Spirit. Justification is by faith; sanctification is by the Spirit of God. However, according to Scripture, the Lord Jesus Christ has been made unto us sanctification—that is, God sees us complete in Him. Regardless of how good you become, you will never meet His standard. You will never be like Christ in this life. Believers in Christ have been put in Christ.
In this section, we see the Spirit versus the flesh. Either it is a do-it-yourself Christian life or somebody else will have to do it through you. His method is doing it through you.
In this section we see liberty versus bondage. Any legal system puts you under bondage ,and you have to follow it meticulously. Paul’s subject in the first 15 verses is: Saved by faith and Living by Law perpetrates Falling from Grace.
Spirit vs. Flesh, Liberty vs. Bondage
- Saved by Faith and Living by Law Perpetrates Falling from Grace, 5:1-15
Saved by Faith and Walking in the Spirit Produces. The gospel is sufficient—experience confirms this.
5:1 “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” Not only are we saved by faith rather than by law, but law is not to be the rule of life for the believer. We are not to live by law at all. Since we have been saved by grace we are to continue on in this way of living. Grace supplies the indwelling and filling of the Spirit to enable us to live on a higher plane than law demanded. This all is our portion when we trust Christ as Saviour. In Christ we receive everything—salvation and sanctification. When I come to Christ, I get the whole ball of wax. I have been blessed with all spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus. Let’s believe Him and start trusting. Let’s stop try9ing some legal system or rote of rules.
We have liberty in Christ. He does not put us under some little legal system. We do not use the Ten Commandments as a law of life. Certainly, Christians do not break the Commandments, but we are called to a higher level of life—a level where there is liberty in Christ. I have liberty in Christ, but that liberty is a principle, not a rule. It is that I am to please Him. My conduct should be only to please Him.
5:2 Circumcision was the badge of the law. A badge indicates to what organization or lodge you belong. Perhaps Christians should wear a badge because that is about the only way you can tell some people are Christians. Scripture is saying here that if you trust Christ plus something else you are not saved. If you rest your salvation on circumcision, or some other experience and rest your salvation on that, “Christ shall profit you nothing.” How can He profit you when you have made up your own method of salvation instead of trusting Him alone for your salvation? Trusting your good works, something you have done for your salvation—your church membership, a good deed or deeds, your water baptism, etc.—in addition to trusting Christ, you are not saved.
5:3 You cannot draw out of the law just those things that you like. You cannot leave out the penalties and a great deal of the detail. You must take the whole law or nothing. I have a problem in always pleasing Him, but He is the One I am trying to please.
5:4 This is what “falling from grace” actually means. If you have been saved by trusting Christ, then go down to the low level of living by law, you have fallen from grace. Falling from grace does not mean falling into some open sin or careless conduct, and by so doing forfeiting your salvation so that you have to be saved all over again. “Falling from grace” is the opposite of “once saved always saved,” although both expressions are unfortunate terminology. God deals with this matter of falling from grace in the remainder of this chapter, and also in the epistle to the Romans. In Romans, he begins with man in the place of total bankruptcy—without righteousness, completely depraved, unprofitable as rotten fruit. Man is a sinner before God. Then, at the conclusion of Romans, you see man in the service of God, and being admonished to perform certain things; he is completely separated to God, and he must be obedient to God.
There are two mighty works of God which stand between the man in his fallen condition and man in service to God. These are: salvation and sanctification. Salvation is justification by faith. Sanctification means that after you are saved, you are to come up to a new plane of living. Rather than concentrating on trying to do good, we ought to live good. If we are pleasing Christ, we will be doing good also.
How does God make a saved sinner good? Well, He gives him a new nature. He is not to keep the law. This does not mean he is to break the law, but he is called to live on a higher plane. There is no good in the old nature. Paul knew this (See Romans 7:18). He cries out as a saved man, “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:24). He is not afraid that he is going to lose his salvation, but he is a defeated believer in Christ. God gives a new principle. We will find in this chapter that the new principle is the fruit of the Spirit.
5:5 “the hope of righteousness is the Lord Jesus Christ. Unlike the period between the early church until the 20th century, there has been tremendous development of prophecy. Amillennialists are just a group of postmillennialists who were forced into the study of prophecy and came up with the theory of amillennialism. Of course, they have been great at quoting the fathers of the polst apostolic period. They quote, e.g., Augustine who was trying to build the kingdom here (the church bringing in the kingdom). That led to postmillennialism.
5:6 Simple faith, not legal apparatus will produce a Christian life; “Faith that worketh by love.” Love will be the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Later in Galatians, Paul will give us the modus operandi.
This is the new life He wants us to live—by faith. We are saved by grace. He wants us to live by grace.
5:7 Paul gives the Galatians a gentle rebuke. The “truth” is the Lord Jesus Christ.
5:8 “This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you.”
5:9 Leaven in both Testaments is always used as a principle of evil. The “gospel” that is passed around today is no gospel at all. Legalism is leaven. It says that when Christ died on the cross, he did not give us the whole package of salvation, that I have to go through a ritual baptism or seek something else from the Holy Spirit to get the rest of it. Leaven has been hidden in the gospel and that makes it palatable to the natural man.
5:10 Paul believed the Galatians would ultimately reject the teaching of the Judaizers. He says, “I have confidence in you.”
5:11 “And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution? then is the offence of the cross ceased.” Adding something to the gospel makes it acceptable. The gospel by itself is not acceptable to the natural man.
The cross of Christ is an offense to all that man prides himself in. It is an offense to morality because it tells him his work cannot justify him. It’s an offense to his philosophy because its appeal is to faith and not reason. It is an offense to the culture of man because its truths are revealed to babes. It’s an offense to his sense of caste because God chooses the poor and humble. It’s an offense to his will because it calls for unconditional surrender. It’s an offense to his pride because it shows the exceeding sinfulness of the human heart. And it’s an offense to himself because it tells him he must be born again.
Don’t tone down the gospel, do not change it, because there is the offense of the cross. You need to recognize it, by don’t magnify the offense.
5:12 “I would they were even cut off which trouble you.” I wish those Judaizers were removed from you.
5:13 “For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.” There are 3 methods of trying to live the Christian life—two will not work. One is a life of legalism, which Paul has been discussing. The other is the life of license, which Paul discussed in Romans 6. You may fall into sin, but you will get out of it.
The 3rd method of living the Christian life is the life of liberty. The remainder of this chapter will give the modus operandi for living by liberty. The life of legalism includes the 10 Commandments plus a set of regulations that Bible believers follow today. They will tell you where you can’t go and what you can’t do. Like, don’t use make-up.
“Only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh.” It is grace, not law, that frees us from doing wrong and allows us to do right. Grace does not set us free to sin, but it sets us free from sin. The believer should desire to please God, not because he is a slave, but because he is a son and he wills to please his father. He does what God wants, not because he fears to do otherwise like an enemy, but because he wants to do it, for God is his friend. God is the One who loves him. He serves God, not because of pressure from without such as the law, but because of a great principle within—even the life of Christ that is within him.
We serve God because we love him. The whole basis of obedience is a love relationship to Him. The law never could bring us to that place. It was negative to begin with. It produced negative goodness—which is a kind of goodness many have today. Negative goodness is legal goodness. You can say, “I don’t do this and I don’t do that.” But what do you do? All these systems produce negative goodness. They never rise to the sphere of positive goodness where one does things to please God for the very love of pleasing Him. He wants us to serve Him on that basis.
Now Paul is going to reduce it to a simple statement, then he will amplify what he means.
5:14 “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” This is the acid test for those who think they are fulfilling the law. The law is reduced to the lowest common denominator: “love.”
5:15 “But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.” Don’t be a “Christian Cannibal.” Many churches have Christians who bite, eat, and devour one another. And the bite is as bad as that of a mad dog. There is nothing you can take to cure the wound. All you can do is suffer. The lives of some Christians are keeping the world away from certain churches. Dr. McGee said he knows of churches in which the Christians have no love for each other, but they bite and devour one another, a terrible thing!
5:15 “But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.
Saved by faith and walking in the Spirit Produces Fruit of the Spirit
Now Paul is going to contrast what it is to live in the desires of the flesh with the walk in the Spirit. This whole section gives the modus operandi. This section is labeled Practical. The theme is sanctification by the Spirit. God, through Paul, has told us to “stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free.” Paul has already mentioned several things. 1:4: Christ has set us free from this present evil world. We don’t have to serve it. 2:20: He says, “I live, yet not I..” You and I cannot live the Christian life, but Christ can live it in us. What wonderful liberty! 3:13 he says we have been delivered from the curse of the law, the judgment and condemnation of the law. In fact, we have been delivered from the very law itself. Galatians 4:4-5: “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.”
Now Paul is going to contrast what it is to live in the desires of the flesh with the life of walking in the Spirit. Here is his injunction (authoritative warning).
5:16 “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.” This verse states the great principle of Christian living—walk by means of the Spirit. There are many things which are not evil, but they can take the place of spiritual things. Some Christians get wrapped up in a hobby which takes them away from the Word of God. Many worship that little box called TV. Not all TV is evil, but watching RV is a desire of the flesh. If it takes you away from that which is spiritual, then it is wrong.
5:17 “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.” A believer has a new nature. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6). The believer still has that old nature of the flesh, and he won’t get rid of it in this life. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8).
We have two natures—the old and the new. That is what Paul describes in the last part of Romans. He himself experienced the turmoil of the two natures. The flesh wars against the Spirit, and the Spirit wars against the flesh. Therefore, we cannot do the things that we like to do. The new nature rebels against the old nature. Every believer has an old and a new nature.
You can know whether you are walking in the Spirit or not. God spelled it out so you cannot miss it.
5:18 the Holy Spirit brings us to a higher plane.
Now Paul makes clear wht the works of the flesh are:
5:19-21 “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”
This is an ugly brood of sensual sins, religious sins, social sins, and personal sins.
Sensual sins: adultery, fornication, uncleanness (impurity, sexual sins including pornography); lasciviousness (brutality, sadism).
Religious sins: Idolatry (everything that takes the place of God), witchcraft, hatred, variances (contentions, quarrels).
Social sins: emulations (rivalry, jealousy), wrath, strife, seditions (divisions), heresies (parties, sects), envyings, murders.
Personal sins: drunkenness, revellings.
“and such like: this means Paul could mention many others.
Now, Paul will list the fruit of the Spirit.
Galatians 5:22-23 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.”
Our Lord talked about the fruit of the Spirit in John 15. He said that without Him we can do nothing. He wants fruit in our lives. He wants fruit, much fruit, and more fruit. See the parable of the sower in Matthew 15—He spoke of seed bringing forth thirtyfold, sixtyfold, and an hundredfold. The fruit is produced by the Lord Jesus sing the Spirit of God in our lives. He wants to live His life through us. The old nature cannot produce the fruit of the Spirit.
Paul makes clear in Romans 7 that the new nature has no power to produce the fruit of the Spirit.
The fruit is produced by the tree, not by self-effort. Branches that produce fruit just open up themselves to the sunshine and the rain. Blooms appear, then the little green fruit forms, grows, and ripens.
The limbs never leave the tree. They don’t get down and run around. “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me” (John 15:4). We offer ourselves to God as a living sacrifice. When the altar gets hot, we crawl off.
This is the principle of fruit bearing being stated. The fruit is produced by yielding to the sweet influences around us. We are to yield to the Holy Spirit who indwells us. The Holy Spirit wants us to produce fruit, the fruit of the Holy Spirit.
“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace ….” Is is singular. That indicates that love is the fruit., and from it stems all other fruits. Love is primary. Without love we “become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal (1 Co. 13:1). Love is all-important. Paul continues to say in 1 Co. 13 that if you gave your body to be burned and gave everything that you have, but you don’t have love, you are nothing.
“Love never seeks its own” (1 Co. 13). Love is always doling something for others. A gift is to be exercised in the church. It is a manifestation of the Spirit to believers. All believers have a gift, and it is to be exercised for the profit of a body of believers. M eyes operate for the benefit of my body.
There is no law against the fruit of the Spirit (Ga. 5:22-3). There is “no law” against them, and no law which will produce them. You cannot produce any of these by your own effort. Have you tried to be meek? If you accomplished it, you would be proud that you became meek, and then you would lose your meekness.
One has a right to look at the fruit than you are producing. Are you producing any fruit?
If you have sensual sins in your life, you will never know what real love is. Many young people know a lot about sex, but they never know what real love is. Love is a fruit of the Spirit, and God will give this to a husband and a wife. No one can love like two Christians love, and my, can they love each other.
The Lord Jesus wants you to have joy in your life. The world has “happy hour.” People don’t look too happy when they go in, and they sure don’t look happy when they come out! They are a bunch of sots. That is not joy. “And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full” (1 John 1:4). These things were written to you that you may really enjoy life.
Peace, the peace of God is the third fruit. Religion can never give you this. Only Christ can give you deep down peace. “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).
There are some other fruits. Longsuffering, gentleness (kindness), goodness (kind but firm).
Faith. If you are a child of God, you will be faithful. If you are married, you will be faithful to your spouse; employee to your job and boss, church member, to your church. Faithful whenever, whereever, whatever you are doig.
Meekness does not mean mildness. Two men who were truly meek were Moses and the Lord Jesus. Perhaps you don’t thing Moses was meek when he came down off the Mount, found the people worshiping a golden calf, and administered disciplinary judgment (Ex. 32). But he was meek. Was Jesus meek when He ran the money-changers out of the temple. Meekness is not mildness and it is not weakness. Meekness means that you will do God’s will, that you are willing to yield your will to the will of God.
Finally, there is temperance which is self-control.
5:24 “And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.” When was the flesh crucified? When a believer rekons that when Christ died, he died, he will yield himself on that basis. See Romans 6:13, Colossians 3:3, Galatians 2:20. In all these passages the thought is that when Christ was crucified, the believer was crucified at the same time. The believer is now joined to the living Christ, and the victory is not by struggling but by surrendering to Christ. The scriptural word is yield; it is an act of the will.
This is the key to it all:
5:25 “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” In verse 16 we were given the principle of walk; here in verse 25 it means to learn to walk. Just as we learned to walk physically by trial and error, so are we to begin to walk by the Spirit—it is a learning process. You do not put an infant in his highchair and tell him about the physical mechanism of the foot, give him a lecture on the psychology of walking or the sociological implications of walking. That is not the way you learn to walk. You learn to walk by trial and error. A child learning to walk will fall down many times, but before long he is walking and running and climbing as surefooted as a mountain goat. He learns by doing it, by trial and error.
This is the way we learn to walk in the Spirit—by trial and error. Some people attend spiritual life conferences and Bible conferences. They have notebooks filled with notes on how to live the Christian life, but still are not living it. What is the problem? You have to learn to walk in the Spirit, which means you are to start out. Say, “I am going to walk in the Spirit. I am going to depend on the HS to produce the fruits in my life.” Perhaps you are thinking that you might fall down. You are going to fall. It hurts. You need to step out today and begin leaning upon the Spirit of God. Yield yourself to Him. It is an act of the will.
Every time you fall down, get up and start over again.
5:26 “Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.” You and I are never going to be wonderful saints of God. He is wonderful. Oh, how wonderful He is. He is worthy of worship. Let’s start walking depending on Him like little children. That’s what He wants us to do.
“Provoking one another” is challenging one another. We are not to challenge and envy one another. We are to get down from our highchairs and start walking in the Spirit. The Christian life is not a balloon ascension of having some great over-powering experience of soaring to the heights. Rather it is a daily walk; it is a matter of putting one foot ahead of the other, in dependence upon the Holy Spirit.
Saved by Faith and Fruit of the Spirit Presents Christian Character, 6:1-10
This final chapter brings us to the third step in this practical section of sanctification by the Spirit. We have seen that being saved by faith and living by law perpetrates falling from grace. Also, we have seen that being saved by faith and walking in the Spirit produces fruit of the Spirit. In other words, we have seen what it means to walk in the Sprit. It is something we are to begin, and though we fail, we are to keep at it. Now we will see how the fruit of the Sprit will work out in our lives. Here is where we see it put in shoe leather where it can hit the pavement of our hometown.
Saved by Faith and Fruit of the Spirit Presents Christian Character
- Autographed Conclusion, 6:11-18
- Paul’s Own Handwriting, 6:11
- Paul’s Own Testimony, 6:12-18
- Cross of Christ vs. Circumcision, 6:12-15
- Christ’s Handwriting on Paul’s Body, 6:16-18
(The New Circumcision of the New Creation)
This study is complete to here. The following outline will be filled as the study progresses.
Spirit vs. Flesh, Liberty vs. Bondage
- … [above]
- Saved by Faith and Walking in the Spirit Produces Fruit of the Spirit, 5:16-26
- Saved by Faith and Fruit of the Spirit Presents Christian Character, 6:1-10
V. Autographed Conclusion, 6:11-18
1. Paul’s Own Handwriting, 6:11
2. Paul’s Own Testimony, 6:12-18
(a) Cross of Christ vs. Circumcision, 6:12-15
(b) Christ’s Handwriting on Paul’s Body, 6:16-18
(The New Circumcision of the New Creation)