Are you out of your mind?
Church of fools1 You Galatians are just plain ignorant! Who put a hex on you? You’re acting like you’re blind. Didn’t you see the news that Jesus the Messiah was crucified? 2 I have just one question for you. Did you receive the Holy Spirit by obeying the Jewish law or by having faith?
3 Are you out of your mind? You started your spiritual journey with the help of the Spirit. But now you want to go the rest of the way by helping yourself—earning your way with good behavior. 4 You folks suffered a lot because of your faith. Was it for nothing? I hope it wasn’t for nothing.
5 Tell me something. It’s about the one who gives you the Spirit, and who does miracles that you can see with your own eyes. Has he been doing this because you’ve obeyed Jewish law? Or has he been doing it because of your faith?
Did Abraham follow Jewish law?6 Come on, people, think about Abraham. “The LORD saw Abram’s extraordinary faith. Because of Abram’s faith, the LORD recognized him as a man after his own heart—a good and right-hearted soul.”
7 I’ll tell you who Abraham’s children are. They’re the people with faith. 8 The Bible predicted it. God told Abraham that through faith, non-Jews would one day have a good relationship with the Lord: “All the families on the planet will be better off because of you and your family.” 9 So, those who believe are honored by God, like Abraham was. He believed, too. 10 But if you’re counting on the Jewish law to save you, you’re doomed. The Bible says so. “Anyone who doesn’t agree with the words of these teachings and doesn’t prove it by obeying them, that person will be cursed.”
11 So, this much is clear: No one gets on the good side of God by obeying the Jewish law. “People who are right with God put their faith in him.” 12 The Jewish law, however, isn’t about faith. It’s about obedience: “Obey these laws and you’ll live.” 13 The Messiah spared us from the law’s curse. He took our place. He became cursed himself. The Bible says, “Anyone who hangs on a tree is cursed.”  14 God used the Messiah, Jesus, to deliver on the promise he made to Abraham. Jesus is the reason non-Jews can experience God’s Spirit, through faith.
Jewish law doesn’t trump God promise15 Family, let me give you a practical example of what I’m talking about. When you make a contract, it’s binding. You can’t back out of it later. You can’t change it on your own. 16 The Bible says God made a promise to Abraham and his “descendant”—singular—not to Abraham’s “descendants,” plural. That one unique descendant the Bible is talking about is the Messiah.
17 Here’s what I’m trying to say. The Jewish law that came 430 years later doesn’t cancel the contract God made with Abraham and throw that promise out with the trash. 18 If the spiritual inheritance we’re talking about is now based on the law, it can’t be based on the promise God made to Abraham. You can’t have it both ways. God gave the promise to Abraham.
Why God gave Jews the law19 So, why did God bother giving the law? It was a stopgap measure for dealing with sin until Abraham’s descendant came—the descendant in God’s promise. This law was set up by angels working with a middleman. 20 A middleman isn’t necessary when there’s just one party involved. Well, God is one party.
21 Am I saying the Jewish law clashes with God’s promise to Abraham? Heaven’s no. But I’m telling you this, if there had been such a thing as a law that could give you eternal life, then folks could get on the right side of God by obeying the law. But it doesn’t work that way. 22 Scripture, with its law, locked everybody up as sinners. Jesus freed everyone with the faith to believe God’s promise. 23 Before faith came along, we were all under arrest. The law stood guard on us, protecting us from ourselves and from others. All the while, we waited on faith to come. 24 The law worked as our guardian. But only until the Messiah came. Then, by faith, we got our freedom and the stamp of God’s approval: righteousness.
We are God’s kids25 We’re free now, thanks to faith. The law isn’t our guardian anymore. 26 You are all God’s kids because of your faith in the Messiah, Jesus.
27 For those of you baptized into the faith, you’re now wearing the Messiah like you’d wear a new set of clothes. 28 Here’s what all of this means. We’re not Jews or non-Jews. We’re not slaves or free folk. We’re not men or women. We’re one people, united in Jesus, the Messiah. 29 If you’re one of the Messiah’s people, then you’re a descendant of Abraham. You’re part of the family. And you’re going to inherit what God promised.
“Honored by God” is often translated as “blessed.”
Many Bible experts say Paul was probably using the number that Jews traditionally considered the time span between Abraham’s entrance into what is now Israel and the Palestinian Territories and Moses leading the Jews out of slavery in Egypt.
“Middleman” is often translated as “mediator.” In Paul’s day, this was one way the Jewish people described Moses. Paul’s reference to angels tracks with some of the ancient Jewish commentary on the story of God giving the Ten Commandments and other laws to Moses.
This is one of the tough-to-understand sayings of Paul. Scholars have logged hundreds of theories. One theory suggests that Paul was trying to portray God’s promise to Abraham as superior to the promises he gave to the Jews—promises in the form of the Jewish law that Moses delivered. These laws are preserved in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The theory says God’s promise to Abraham is superior because God didn’t use a middleman with him, as he had done with the Jews.
As in 3:10, Paul may have had Deuteronomy 27:26 in mind: “Cursed is anyone who does not affirm and obey the terms of these instructions” (New Living Translation). Possibly Psalm 143:2 as well: “Don’t put your servant on trial, for no one is innocent before you” (New Living Translation).
Literally “baptized into Christ.”
Paul seems to be saying that authentic Christians take on the character traits and values of Jesus.
After Paul calls the Galatians “just plain ignorant!” (3:1) do you think the Galatian Christians were able to hear what Paul said after that?
Paul’s lead question might seem odd to us: “Did you receive the Holy Spirit by obeying the Jewish law or by having faith?” (3:2). Why do you think he started there?
What do you think about this argument Paul makes: faith trumps Jewish law because God honored Abraham’s faith perhaps six centuries or more before Moses gave the Ten Commandments and other laws to the Jews? “Because of Abram’s faith, the LORD recognized him as a man after his own heart—a good and right-hearted soul” (3:6).
How do you react to the argument Paul makes that Abraham’s children aren’t just the Jews, “They’re the people with faith” (3:7)? That’s a message that would have been new to just about everyone.
Paul uses several examples from the Jewish Bible to make his point that anyone who has faith is a child of Abraham “honored by God” (3:9). Which of the following statements do you think is most compelling? And which do you think might be a bit of a stretch?
- “God told Abraham that through faith, non-Jews would one day have a good relationship with the Lord: ‘All the families on the planet will be better off because of you and your family’” (3:8).
- “If you’re counting on the Jewish law to save you, you’re doomed. The Bible says so. ‘Anyone who doesn’t agree with the words of these teachings and doesn’t prove it by obeying them, that person will be cursed’” (3:10).
- “No one gets on the good side of God by obeying the Jewish law. ‘People who are right with God put their faith in him’” (3:11).
Paul meanders throughout the Jewish Bible to make his point. Take a look at the chapter and try to put the key points in your own words. What exactly is he saying?
What do you think of Paul’s description of the Jewish law as “a stopgap measure for dealing with sin… set up by angels working with a middleman” (3:19) who scholars typically identify as Moses?
LIFE APPLICATION. Paul said, “For those of you baptized into the faith, you’re now wearing the Messiah like you’d wear a new set of clothes” (3:27). What do you think Paul means by that? How do we, today, wear the Messiah?
LIFE APPLICATION. Paul said, “If you’re one of the Messiah’s people, then you’re a descendant of Abraham. You’re part of the family” (3:29). Do you think that resonates with people who are not Jews by race? If you’re not Jewish, do you consider yourself a descendant of Abraham?