December 09, 2002 Copyright © by United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
- 1 2 O stupid Galatians! Who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified?
- I want to learn only this from you: did you receive the Spirit from works of the law, or from faith in what you heard? 3
- Are you so stupid? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh? 4
- Did you experience so many things 5 in vain?--if indeed it was in vain.
- Does, then, the one who supplies the Spirit to you and works mighty deeds among you do so from works of the law or from faith in what you heard?
- Thus Abraham "believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness." 6
- 7 Realize then that it is those who have faith who are children of Abraham.
- Scripture, which saw in advance that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, foretold the good news to Abraham, saying, "Through you shall all the nations be blessed."
- Consequently, those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham who had faith.
- 8 For all who depend on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, "Cursed be everyone who does not persevere in doing all the things written in the book of the law."
- And that no one is justified before God by the law is clear, for "the one who is righteous by faith will live."
- But the law does not depend on faith; rather, "the one who does these things will live by them."
- Christ ransomed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written, "Cursed be everyone who hangs on a tree,"
- that the blessing of Abraham might be extended to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
- 9 Brothers, in human terms I say that no one can annul or amend even a human will once ratified.
- Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his descendant. 10 It does not say, "And to descendants," as referring to many, but as referring to one, "And to your descendant," who is Christ.
- This is what I mean: the law, which came four hundred and thirty years afterward, 11 does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to cancel the promise.
- For if the inheritance comes from the law, it is no longer from a promise; but God bestowed it on Abraham through a promise. 12
- 13 14 Why, then, the law? It was added for transgressions, until the descendant came to whom the promise had been made; it was promulgated by angels at the hand of a mediator.
- Now there is no mediator when only one party is involved, and God is one.
- Is the law then opposed to the promises (of God)? Of course not! For if a law had been given that could bring life, then righteousness would in reality come from the law.
- But scripture confined all things under the power of sin, that through faith in Jesus Christ the promise might be given to those who believe.
- 15 Before faith came, we were held in custody under law, confined for the faith that was to be revealed.
- Consequently, the law was our disciplinarian 16 for Christ, that we might be justified by faith.
- But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a disciplinarian.
- For through faith you are all children of God 17 in Christ Jesus.
- 18 19 For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
- There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
- And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's descendant, heirs according to the promise.
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1 [1-14] Paul's contention that justification comes not through the law or the works of the law but by faith in Christ and in his death (Gal 2:16, 21) is supported by appeals to Christian experience (Gal 3:1-5) and to scripture (Gal 3:6-14). The gift of God's Spirit to the Galatians came from the gospel received in faith, not from doing what the law enjoins. The story of Abraham shows that faith in God brings righteousness (Gal 3:6; Genesis 15:6). The promise to Abraham (Gal 3:8; Genesis 12:3) extends to the Gentiles (Gal 3:14)
2  Stupid: not just senseless, for they were in danger of deserting their salvation.
3  Faith in what you heard: Paul's message received with faith. The Greek can also mean "the proclamation of the faith" or "a hearing that comes from faith."
4  On the contrast of Spirit and flesh, cf Romans 8:1-11. Having received the Spirit, they need not be circumcised now.
5  Experience so many things: probably the mighty deeds of Gal 1:5 but possibly the experience of sufferings.
6  Abraham . . . righteousness: see Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:3. The Galatians like Abraham heard with faith and experienced justification. This first argument forms the basis for the further scriptural evidence that follows.
7 [7-9] Faith is what matters, for Abraham and the children of Abraham, in contrast to the claims of the opponents that circumcision and observance of the law are needed to bring the promised blessing of Genesis 12:3; cf Genesis 18:18; Sirach 44:21; Acts 3:25.
8 [10-14] Those who depend not on promise and faith but on works of the law are under a curse because they do not persevere in doing all the things written in the book of the law (Gal 3:10; Deut 27:26) in order to gain life (Gal 3:12; Lev 18:5; cf Romans 10:5). But scripture teaches that no one is justified before God by the law (Gal 3:11; Hebrews 2:4, adapted from the Greek version of Habakkuk; cf Romans 1:17; Hebrews 10:38). Salvation, then, depends on faith in Christ who died on the cross (Gal 3:13), taking upon himself a curse found in Deut 21:23 (about executed criminals hanged in public view), to free us from the curse of the law (Gal 3:13). That the Gentile Galatians have received the promised Spirit (Gal 3:14) by faith and in no other way returns the argument to the experience cited in Gal 3:1-5.
9 [15-18] A third argument to support Paul's position that salvation is not through the law but by promise (Gal 3:1-14) comes from legal practice and scriptural history. A legal agreement or human will, duly ratified, is unalterable (Gal 3:15). God's covenant with Abraham and its repeated promises (Genesis 12:2-3, 7; 13:15; 17:7-8; 22:16-18; 24:7) is not superseded by the law, which came much later, in the time of Moses. The inheritance (of the Spirit and the blessings) is by promise, not by law (Gal 3:18). Paul's argument hinges on the fact that the same Greek word, diatheke, can be rendered as will or testament (Gal 3:15) and as covenant (Gal 3:17).
10  Descendant: literally, "and to his seed." The Hebrew, as in Genesis 12:7; 15:18; 22:17-18, is a collective singular, traditionally rendered as a plural, descendants, but taken by Paul in its literal number to refer to Christ as descendant of Abraham.
11  Four hundred and thirty years afterward: follows Exodus 12:40 in the Greek (Septuagint) version, in contrast to Genesis 15:13 and Acts 7:6, for chronology.
12  This refutes the opponents' contention that the promises of God are fulfilled only as a reward for human observance of the law.
13 [19-22] A digression: if the Mosaic law, then, does not save or bring life, why was it given? Elsewhere, Paul says the law served to show that sin is (Romans 3:20; 7:7-8). Here the further implication is that the law in effect served to produce transgressions. Moreover, it was received at second hand by angels, through a mediator, not directly from God (Gal 3:19). The law does not, however, oppose God's purposes, for it carries out its function (Gal 3:22), so that righteousness comes by faith and promise, not by human works of the law.
14  The descendant: Christ (Gal 3:16). By angels: Deut 33:2-4 stressed their presence as enhancing the importance of the law; Paul uses their role to diminish its significance (cf Acts 7:38, 53). A mediator: Moses. But in a covenant of promise, where all depends on the one God, no mediator is needed (Gal 3:20).
15 [23-29] Paul adds a further argument in support of righteousness or justification by faith and through God's promise rather than by works of the law (Gal 2:16; 3:22): as children of God, baptized into Christ, the Galatians are all Abraham's descendant and heirs of the promise to Abraham (Gal 3:8, 14, 16-18, 29). The teaching in Gal 3:23-25, that since faith (Christianity) has come, we are no longer under the law, could be taken with the previous paragraph on the role of the Mosaic law, but it also fits here as a contrast between the situation before faith (Gal 3:23) and the results after faith has come (Gal 3:25-29).
16 [24-25] Disciplinarian: the Greek paidagogos referred to a slave who escorted a child to school but did not teach or tutor; hence, a guardian or monitor. Applying this to the law fits the role of the law described in Gal 3:19-25.
17  Children of God: literally "sons," in contrast to the young child under the disciplinarian in Gal 3:24-25. The term includes males and females (Gal 3:28).
18 [27-28] Likely a formula used at baptism that expresses racial, social-economic, and sexual equality in Christ (cf Col 3:11).
19  Clothed yourselves with Christ: literally, "have put on Christ"; cf Romans 13:14; Eph 4:24; Col 3:10. Baptismal imagery, traceable to the Old Testament (Job 29:14; Isaiah 59:17) but also found in pagan mystery cults.
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