You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? Have you experienced so much in vain—if it really was in vain? So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard? So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”
This is the beginning of Paul’s explanation of the story he related in chapter 2. Notice his tone; he still isn’t happy with the Galatians! I must admit that I feel his frustration; no, I’m not quite old enough to have met those first century Galatians, but I have met hundreds of Christians who make the same kinds of mistakes today, in fact, a great many do because they adhere to theological systems that make a very similar error, which involves the mixing of the two covenants. To go slightly academic on you, Paul is teaching what is referred to as the “Apostolic Doctrine of Two Covenants”. It means that the Old Covenant law of Moses is over; it will never again come back… that is why Jesus, in His only prophetic passage (prophetic in form and structure) told of how Jerusalem and the Temple would be destroyed. It was, and there hasn’t been Old Covenant worship since then. Yes, dear reader, this is a big deal!
Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.
In 3:1-6, Paul demonstrated that the Law of Moses was over. Now, he is taking on the Abrahamic Covenant. When God made His covenant with Abraham, He established a people. These were His chosen people, the Hebrews, also known as the Israelites. When God made His covenant with Moses, he established Israel as a Nation and gave it Law. Not only is the Law gone, but now, in Christ, God has a new people. The Hebrews were the physical descendants of Abraham. This is how you became one of God’s chosen; it was by birth. Simple, right? The Gentiles had different parentage; they would never be Hebrews, they would never be God’s chosen, except by a process that took four generations to complete. Jesus changed all that. Now, anybody could become God’s chosen by faith in Jesus Christ… see it in the text? Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. The old way was over, for just as God promised to Abraham, now all Nations would be blessed. Should I be really direct? Normally I try to be diplomatic, but what the heck, Paul is being really direct…
So Christians, stop telling people that God’s plan is to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem so that the Law can be put back in force before Jesus can return; that stuff is OVER! Jews, like Gentiles, are saved by faith in Christ: Period.
OK, cool and calm, back to a state of decorum…
For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith.” The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, “The person who does these things will live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.” He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.
As you can see, Paul is still making the point that the Old Covenant is over. We live by grace, and we will continue to live by grace right up to the day that Jesus returns. You see, dear reader, this is only complicated when someone tries to force it into a theology that doesn’t work. If we simply go with Paul’s simple and clear teaching, there is little to be confused about. Again, remember why he is writing to the Galatian churches; they had listened to false teaching… If we also listen to false teaching, this stuff will confuse us too.
OK, OK, I know what you want to say: “What Paul really meant to say was….” or “Well, this is really a very difficult passage because we know that…”
No, dear reader, this is a very simple passage because Paul did a great job of speaking the truth clearly and unambiguously.