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Religion Paper Analysis on Galatians 3:1-29
In Galatians 3: 1-29, Paul tries to make the Galatians understand that they are legitimate descendants of Abraham. He observes that the Galatians already belonged to Christ and enjoying the Spirit who came upon them by faith. If the Galatians belonged to Christ, they qualify to be called Abrahams descendants. According to Paul, the Law is not superior to the promise that Abraham received from God. In addition, it was not God's intention to grant righteousness through the Law; in essence, the law is unable to make people righteous. Pauls's arguments in this chapter seem to have come at a time when agitators had deceived the Galatians into observing the Law. During Pauls's ministry among the Gentiles, advocates of the Law maintained that only those who are circumcised can be regarded as the descendants of Abraham. Perhaps, Pauls's exegesis of the story of Abraham was aimed at countering the assertions that were made by proponents of circumcision (Boer 268).
This paper is divided into five sections; each section focuses on particular issues that Paul tackled to make the Galatians understand that they are true Abrahams' descendants. In verses 1-6, Paul reminds the Galatians that they did not receive the Spirit through legal works, and in verses 7-14, he asserts that only those who believe can become Abrahams's descendants. Paul refutes the claim that the Law can annul the promise of God to Abraham in verses 15-20. However, he maintains that the Law is not opposed to the promise in verses 21-25. Paul concludes the chapter, verses 26-29, by reaffirming that those in Christ, including Galatians, are Abrahams's Descendants. The paper explores what 3:1-29 meant to the Galatians in the context that Paul presented it. In addition, the paper discusses the original theological and practical meaning of this passage to the readers. It employs both extra-textual and intra-textual evidence to defend the explanations presented herein.
The Galatians did not receive the Spirit through Legal Works (3: 1-6)
In this section, Paul argues that the Galatians do not need legal works since they have already received the Spirit. It comprises five rhetorical questions, which appear in verses one to five, and verse six which draws the attention of the Galatians to Abrahams example. Paul assumes that the answer to each of the questions he asks is obvious to the Galatians. The question in verse 2 appears significant as it more or less sums up the discussion in the entire Chapter 3. He asks, Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? He repeats the same question, slightly in a different way, in the verse five. If the Galatians answer this question in line with Pauls's expectation, then they will understand that legal works profit nothing as they already have the Spirit. The sharpness of Pauls's opening statement in this chapter reminds the Galatians of his rebuke in 1:6. In the latter verse, Paul rebukes the Galatians and expresses his disappointment towards how they were deserting the gospel of Christ (Matera and Harrington 114). He realizes that the Galatians have fallen prey to enemies of the true gospel. In verse 3, he berates them for their foolishness (Matera and Harrington 115).
Although Paul rebukes the Galatians, it is important to understand why they were falling under the spell of the agitators. Being Gentiles, Galatians did not have a complete understanding of the Law (Gitau 93). The agitators appear to have been presenting compelling arguments to the Galatians with regards to circumcision. In the Jewish culture, circumcision was considered a sign by which every male child entered the covenant. Apart from circumcision, no one could become a full member of the covenant that God made with Abraham. Even though he lived before the promulgation of the Mosaic Law, Abraham was regarded as a model of Law adherence. Recognizing this fact enables one to understand why the Galatians were vulnerable to advocates of circumcision. Having become believers through faith, the Galatians desired to participate fully in the everlasting covenant that Yahweh made with Abraham. In their understanding, this full participation could only be achieved through legal works, which would in turn perfect their faith (Matera and Harrington 115).
Paul responds to the dilemma the Galatians were in by reminding them of his missionary work amidst them and the fruits it bore. He asserts that Galatians believed when he declared the gospel of the crucified Christ. In verse 1, he tells them Before your very eyes Jesus was clearly portrayed as crucified. He wanted them to understand that his preaching was centered on the faithfulness of Christ, who freely gave himself to redeem them from sin (1:4). The result of putting their trust in Christ was the outpouring of the Spirit that was evident among them through the miracles that followed their conversion (3:3). Paul makes an imperative analogy, in verse six, between the faith of Galatians and that of Abraham (Matera and Harrington 116). In Abrahams's case, he was justified by God in whom he believed. Similarly, God poured his Spirit upon the Galatians when they believed in the gospel of faith. Just as Abraham was not declared righteous as a result of legal works, the Galatians did not receive the Spirit due to legal works. This analogy does not just compare the efforts of Abraham and Galatians but shows that God's prior intervention was critical in either case. The promise of God was paramount in the case of Abraham, while the message of the crucified Christ was crucial in the case of Galatians. Outstandingly, faith was necessary in both cases (Matera and Harrington 116).
Abrahams Descendants are the People of Faith (3: 7-14)
In the last section, Paul introduced Abraham into the discussion; in this section, he deals with the question of the descendants of Abraham; who are the sons and daughters of Abraham? This section is structured into three parts. In verses 7-9, Paul develops the theme of Abrahams's blessing, while in verses 10-13 he tackles the theme of the curse of the Law. Verse 14 gives a rational conclusion from the issues Paul had been discussing in verses 1-13. Save for the allegory of Sarah and Hagar, 4:21-30, no other part of Pauls's letter to Galatians draws as expansively from the Scripture, as does this section (Matera and Harrington 121). In verse 8, Paul quotes from Genesis12: 3, verse 10 from Deuteronomy 27: 26, verse 11 from Habakkuk 2: 4, verse 12 from Leviticus 18: 5, and verse 13 from Deuteronomy 21:13. Quotations in verses10, 11, 12, and 13 are related by a series of verbal contacts. The term cursed appears in Deuteronomy 21:23 and Deuteronomy 27:26; will live occurs in Leviticus 18:5 and Habakkuk 2:4, and to do occurs in Leviticus 18:5 and Deuteronomy 27:26. The common words enabled Paul to relate texts and thereby interpret Scripture by Scripture. Paul could have referred to these texts to counter the false teachings the Galatians could have gone through in the hands of the agitators (Matera and Harrington 121).
Verses 7-9 are centered on the blessings of Abraham; they establish Pauls's principal argument. He reminds the Galatians that only those who believe are children of Abraham (3:7). Paul emphatically begins the verse, thereby suggesting that agitators have argued that only those who practice legal works and are circumcised become Abrahams's descendants. In verse 8, Paul notes that God always had a plan to redeem the Gentiles; for this reason, the Gospel was preached to Abraham in advance. The prior intention to justify the Gentiles is clearer in God's promise to Abraham, all the Gentiles will be blessed in you (Genesis 12:3). It is as if God was announcing the coming of Christ, the seed of Abraham, through which the Gentiles would be justified. He winds up this portion, in verse 9, by reaffirming that those who have believed are Abrahams's heirs (Matera and Harrington 123).
In verses 10-13, Paul focuses on the curse of the Law. He notes, in verse 10, that those who are under the Law and fail to observe it in its entirety are cursed. He uses this section to make the Galatians understand that no one can fulfill the Mosaic Law faultlessly. Therefore, those who subject themselves to any Law put their life under a curse (McGarvey 266). However, in verse 13, he argues that ought to remain under the curse of the Law, for the sole reason Christ died was to redeem mankind from the same. According to Paul, faith is the indisputable source of life (Habakkuk 2:4) through Christ Jesus who died (Matera and Harrington 123).
In verse 14, Paul focuses on the reason God chose to bless the Gentiles through Abraham. He presents the implications of Christ's death as two folds, being beneficial to the Jews as well as the Gentiles. Apart from redeeming the Jews from the curse of Law, the death of Christ justified the Gentiles. Through Christ, the Gentiles became partakers of Abrahams's blessings. Therefore, the promise of the Spirit has no boundary as long as one believes Jews and Gentiles alike. It is clear from Pauls's argument that God's promise to Abraham was fulfilled in the Gentiles through the Spirit. Therefore, the Gentiles became Abrahams' descendants when they believed and received the Spirit (Matera and Harrington 124).
The Law Does Not Annul the Promise (3:15-20)
In this section, Paul discusses the relationship between the promise God gave to Abraham and the Law. He attempts to answer the question of whether the Law invalidates the promise. Paul observes that God issued the Law to Moses 430 years after he had given his promise to Abraham. Therefore, the agitators could have indicated that it is superior to the promise. Thus, Paul finds it necessary to address the same (McGarvey 263). This unit can be divided into 2 parts: verses 15-18 where Paul compares the human will, the Law, and the covenant that he made with Abraham, and verses 19-20 where it is argued that the Law is not superior to the promise.
In verses 15-18, Paul wants the Galatians to understand that the Law was not issued so that it could modify sin. In addition, it was not to cancel God's promissory testament to Abraham. Instead, the Law was given so that it could clearly expose the nature of sin to the Jews (Gitau 97). In this regard, the Law conferred a particular advantage to the Jews that the Gentiles did not have. It made the Jews understand what it meant to violate God's Law. In verse 15, Paul refers to the principles that govern everyday life to dispel any notion that the Law could have altered the promise. He says no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established. Paul reveals that covenants are sacred. Therefore, no one can purport to have nullified God's testament to Abraham. Similarly, the Law that was promulgated several years following the confirmation of the covenant between Abraham and God does not have the capacity to annul the promise. Thus, one can logically conclude that the promise still holds, and its existence is not dependent on the availability of the Law (McGarvey 263).
In verse 16, Paul observes, The promises were spoken to Abraham and his seed and not seeds. At first, this seems to contradict his assertion in the previous section that all those who believe are Abrahams's seeds. Nonetheless, the perceived contradiction is apparent but not real. Of note, Paul will wind up in verse 29 that those who belong to Christ are Abrahams's seeds. Paul pointed out, in verse 18, that it is only possible to have an inheritance from an individual but not two. Hence, if God's inheritance to Abraham was given through the Law, then, it is only possible that it did come through the promise. Similarly, if the inheritance came from God's promise to Abraham, the Law has no part in the inheritance. In this regard, Paul concludes that God, in His grace, gave Abraham the inheritance through the promise (Matera and Harrington 129).
In verses 19-20, he portrays the Law as being inferior to the promise. Paul notes, The Law was put into effect through angels by a mediator. On the contrary, God did not use a mediator; he spoke the promise to Abraham directly (129). Remarkably, Paul exonerates the Law from any evil; rather, he argues that the Law has played its appropriate role. Although it has played its part, the Law remains subordinate to the promise Abraham received from God. Thus, the gift of the Spirit comes to God's people through Abrahams's seed (Matera and Harrington 134).
The Law Is Not Contrary to the Promise (3:21-25)
In this section, Paul moves to make the Galatians understand that the Mosaic Law is not contrary to the promise of God. Having noted in the previous unit that the Law cannot alter the promise, neither it is superior, Paul preempts that some people would think that the Mosaic Law is contrary to the promise. This unit can be divided into 2 parts: verses 21-22 where Paul explains why the Law is not contrary to the promise, and verses 23-25 that depict the Law as the disciplinarian before faith came to be (Matera and Harrington 137).
Verses 21-22 are founded on Pauls's belief that the Law does not oppose the promise. In verse 21, Paul asks, Is the Law, therefore, opposed to the promises? Paul answers this question by describing what would have happened if the Law were able to give life. In addition, he describes the real situation of humanity. He notes that the path to righteousness would be the Law if the latter could give life. Those under the Law would have been righteous and entitled to the gift of the Spirit. On the contrary, Paul indicates that the Law failed to bring about righteousness, and humanity lived under the power of sin in the era of the Law. In 2:21, Paul argues that if righteousness could be gained through the Law, Christ died for nothing. The Scripture notes that the whole world was confined under sin until the revelation of Him that would redeem humanity (Matera and Harrington 138).
Paul outlines the purpose of the Law in verses 23-25. He observes that humanity, especially the Jews, was put under the Law as a disciplinarian. The Law was charged with the responsibility of guarding God's people before the appearance of faith through Christ Jesus (Matera and Harrington 139). He expounds on the purpose of the Law in 4:1-7, where he compares our subjection to the law before the dispensation of faith to a young boy under a guardian before he becomes of age. In the ancient days, young boys were normally put under the care of guardians when they were approximately seven years old. The guardian constantly accompanied the boy, constraining and limiting the boy's freedom; this continued up to late adolescence. Thus, the guardian acted as a moral guide, protecting the boy and keeping him from misadventure. Similarly, Paul gives the Law an impermanent purpose between the time the Mosaic Laws were issued and the coming of Christ (Boer 259).
The Law functioned as a guardian, by protecting the Jews and restraining their freedom (3:23). It was able to rebuke the Jews whenever they were transgressing God's commandments. However, it could not enable the Jews to follow the same commandments. The Law was just preparing humanity for justification through faith (3:24), and its duty effectively ended when Christ came (3:25). Notably, it was an issue of concern for the youth to continue being under the guardian after the appointed time. Similarly, Paul appears to be telling the Galatians that it is a grave mistake to stay under Law when the redeeming power of Christ has been revealed (Boer 267). Of note, this perception of the Law is not a presentation of the Old Testament. Instead, it is the Christological interpretation that followed the revelation of Christ. In the light of salvation, Paul sees the death of Jesus as the proper way through which humanity can escape its confinement in sin (Matera and Harrington 140).
Those in Christ Are Abrahams Descendants (3:26-29)
In this section, Paul concludes that those who are in Christ are Abrahams' descendants. He declares that the death of Jesus Christ broke all barriers that alienated some people from being partakers together with Abrahams's seeds based on gender, state, or ethnicity (McGarvey 270). In verse 26, Paul figuratively declares that Galatians and those who believe in Christ are sons of God. He later makes the same assertion in 4:5-7, where he creates the notion that becoming sons of God depends much on God's action. He mentions baptism as an important factor that brought believers into oneness with Christ (McGarvey 270). Unlike his letter to the Romans where he speaks about baptism in detail, he only mentions baptism to Galatians, in verse 27. Perhaps, he presumes that the Galatians already understand baptism, given that they have been baptized already (Matera and Harrington 145). In 3:28, Paul seeks to pull down matters that might act as obstacles to the Galatians in their quest to attain righteousness and be partakers of the promise. Paul declares that every individual who believes becomes a partaker of Abrahams's blessings, class, faith, or race notwithstanding (Westerholm 7).
The term for is mentioned 3 times in verses 26-28 (see NKJV), each of which reveals that what follows is grounded on what precedes it. Paul says that they are no longer under a tutor (verse 25) for they are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus (verse 26), for all of them who were baptized into Christ have put on Christ (verse 27). Moreover, there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female; all of them are in Christ. The term all creates a bracket around verses 26-28 to show the universality of Christ's redemption. Verse 29 provides a logical conclusion to this section and culminates the argument that was begun in 3:7 (Matera and Harrington 144).
In Galatians 3:1-19, Paul presents a proficient argument to help the Galatians understand that they are legitimate descendants of Abraham. Paul begins by acknowledging the fact that the Galatians began well, but had allowed themselves to be fooled by enemies of the cross. He carefully employs the vast knowledge he had on the Mosaic Law, to counter the arguments that the agitators might have used to pollute the mind of Galatians. After receiving the Spirit, Paul argues that the Galatians do not need legal works. In the second section, Paul observes that Abraham received the promise by faith, rather than legal works. Therefore, his descendants are not those who observe the Law, but those who received the Spirit by believing the gospel of Christ crucified. He warns the Galatians against legal works as those who observe the Law are cursed. In essence, Christ died that he may take away our curses. In the third section, Paul urges the Galatians to understand that the Law did not cancel God's promise to Abraham through a covenant. Moreover, he portrays the Law as inferior to the covenant between God and Abraham. In section 4, Paul notes that the Law was opposed to the promise. Rather, it was given as a disciplinarian to protect God's people until the appearance of faith through Christ. It is clear from the first four sections that Paul successfully presented faith as the only true way to receive the promise. Therefore, in section five, he draws a logical conclusion from the previous sections that Galatians and all those who believe in Christ are legitimate descendants of Abraham.