In Galatians 3, Paul begins a series of five arguments for justification by faith. In the first two, Paul argues from experience and from the plain teaching of Scripture.
Chapter 1: Paul introduced the two of his major themes: 1) his apostolic authority and, 2) the gospel of justification by faith alone. Paul claimed you can recognize the true gospel by its substance (grace based on the cross of Jesus Christ) and its source (divine revelation).
Chapter 2: Paul argued that the gospel he preaches is not manmade, but he received it through revelation from Jesus Christ. He reviewed his biography to prove that he had no chance to learn the gospel from the other human beings. Yet the other apostles confirmed he preached the same gospel.
In Galatians 3:1-4:31, the apostle details five persuasive arguments for justification by faith alone.
- 3:2-5—argues from their experience
- 3:6-14—argues Scripture confirms their experience
- 3:15-22—appeals to common sense
- 3:23-4:11 explains the purpose of the Law
- 4:12-20—argues from his relationship to them
- 4:21-31—uses a story from biblical history as an illustration
1O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. 2Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? 3Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? 4Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? 5Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith— -Galatians 3:1-5
- The issue under debate is whether the cross of Christ is enough to save us or whether we must also keep the Law.
- Paul’s first argument: Examine your own experience. Ow what basis did God give you the Holy Spirit (the sign and seal of God’s acceptance of you)?
- Did God give you the Spirit because of your outstanding, exemplary life and your ability to keep the law? Or did He give you the Spirit because you recognized your sinfulness and put your trust in the finished work of Christ?
- If God performed the miracle of giving you the Spirit, why are you now seeking a mark made by human hands (circumcision)?
- Paul argues God granted them the Spirit first. Any changes in their lifestyle, including obedience to the Law, came after the Spirit.
- If you were justified because of faith, how can you be so foolish as to think your ability to keep the law will sanctify you?
6just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”? 7Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. 8And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” 9So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. -Galatians 3:6-9
- Second argument: Scripture confirms your experience.
- The Judaizers claimed Jesus, who came after Moses, could not nullify the law of Moses because Moses came first.
- Paul point to Abraham, who came before Moses.
- God declared Abraham righteous before He gave the Law. God blessed Abraham because he believed God’s promises.
- 3:6—God justified Abraham, the father of our nation, because of his faith, not by keeping the law.
- 3:7—God does not bless all Abraham’s physical descendants. He blesses those who have faith like Abraham.
- 3:8—When God told Abraham he would bless all nations through him, Scripture predicted God would justify the Gentiles by faith.
- 3:9—So then, anyone who has faith receives the blessing same blessing of eternal life that Abraham received because of his faith.
- To be a child of Abraham, you must be like him in having faith.
10For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” 11Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” 12But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” 13Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—14so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith. -Galatians 3:10-14
- Conversely, Paul argues those who live under the Law are cursed.
- The standard of the law is not “reasonably close.” The standard of the law is all of it all the time, not just outward actions, but also inward attitude and motivation.
- The law can teach us what it means to live a holy life, but the law can’t change the fact that we’re sinners. The more we try to keep it, the more we realize how sinful we are.
- Paul quotes Deuteronomy 27:26.
- Failure to keep the law places us under a curse. Fortunately, there is an alternative. The only way to escape this curse is to put your faith in Jesus Christ.
- Atonement is the legal term for the compensation for a wrong.
- To say Christ’s death was an atoning sacrifice is to say the Christ’s death compensated for or satisfied our debt to God’s justice.
- Atonement includes both propitiation and expiation.
- Propitiation is the vertical part of Christ’s action which is directed at the Father. Propitiation is the turning away of God’s wrath.
- Expiation is the horizontal part of Christ’s action directed at us. Expiation means to compensate, to repay or to make amends. Expiation describes the part of Christ’s work that removed our debt to sin.
There have been three basic theories of atonement in church history.
- First, Pelagius believed the atonement is not necessary. We can achieve salvation without grace and without the cross of Christ. He believed that grace facilitated our quest for holiness, but grace is not necessary for us to reach it.
- Pelagius’s views were condemned as a heresy early in church history and are still considered heretical today.
- Second, the atonement is hypothetically necessary. Under this view, God could have redeemed us by many different ways and means, but He chose to reconcile us by the cross. However, every alternative to the cross also creates a theological problem.
- Third, the atonement is absolutely necessary. This is the classical orthodox view. Christ’s life and death are necessary if anyone is to be saved and are the only way God could bring about redemption.
Why atonement is necessary
- What must I do to become perfect after I have once been imperfect? I can’t do anything. It’s impossible.
- Humanity is the debtor and God is the creditor, the one to whom the debt is owed. God is the injured party, not us.
- Christ is the surety. Surety is an economic term. To say Christ is our surety, is to say he’s the one who co-signs the note. He takes our debt on himself.
- Christ is the mediator in our redemption. He stands in the middle between us and God.
- Meditation involves two concepts that are crucial to biblical theology: 1) reconciling two parties, and 2) satisfying justice.
- Atonement was absolutely necessary because justice must be satisfied.
- Christ fulfills the covenant by living a perfect, sinless life in our place. Then his death on the cross pays the penalty for our sin.
- A redeemer is one who provides a ransom. A ransom is a payment made to set someone free. The master sets the price that must be paid. Redemption is the ransom paid to redeem a captive.
- Paul argues in Galatians 3:1-14 is Christ’s death was enough.
- God was not required to send his son to die in our place. Jesus was not required to willingly pay the price of our sin. But God loved us enough to send his son. Jesus loved us enough to die for us. That’s what’s so amazing about grace.