By Faith, Not By Works of the Law- Galatians 3:1-5

In Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he is dealing with a specific issue. The church in Galatia had been infiltrated by a group known as the Judaizers. This group was teaching that believers were saved initially by faith, but then were obligated to keep the works of the law, specifically circumcision, in order to keep and grow in their salvation. Having dealt with the concepts of being saved and staying saved being by faith and not the works of the law in chapters one and two, Paul then turns to the assertion that believers are progressively sanctified, that they grow in the image of Christ, by the works of the law. He begins by referring to the Galatians, in verse one, as “You foolish Galatians”. The term fool is considered the greatest insult in the Scripture, and Paul’s use of it here shows that the Galatians had fallen prey to this false teaching, had accepted the assertion that they would be conformed to the image of Christ by the works of the law rather than by grace through faith, they had been “bewitched” (Greek baskaino- to delude or cast a spell upon). He then reminds them that “Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified”, which is a reference back to Galatians 2:20, in which Paul tells them that “I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body I live by faith in the Son of God”. Paul tells them that the Christian life begins in faith, is lived in faith, and ends in faith. The life we live in the body, is lived by faith “from first to last” (Romans 1:17). Paul then asks them another question, taking them back to the time they became believers, and reminding them that they received the Spirit not by works of the law, but by the “hearing of faith”. They became Christians by faith, but had somehow been convinced that they could not remain Christians or grow as Christians by faith, but must do so by keeping the law. They obviously understood how they had become Christians, but were now confused as to how they grew as Christians. Paul addresses this directly in verse 3, asking them how they had come to believe that they had begun their walk with the Spirit (by faith) that they could “attain your goal” by “the flesh”. The Greek word translated “attain your goal” here is epiteleisthe, the present indicative of epiteleoo. The Greek word teleos refers to the accomplishing of a goal or the fulfilling of a purpose. The goal and purpose for all believers is to be conformed to the image of Christ, and believers are not made Christlike by the works of the law, but by faith, just as Paul mentioned in Galatians 2:20. Paul then continues in his series of questions in verse four, asking if they had “suffered so much for nothing”. Apparently the Galatians had suffered much persecution for their faith, and Paul wants them to see that suffering persecution for a misguided “faith” is rather pointless, that if they are going to be persecuted, at least be persecuted for the true faith. He then concludes his plea to them to be free of their “bewitching” by asking one more question. “Does God give you His Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law or because you believe what you heard?” The Greek word translated give here is epichoregeo, to “supply further”, here as a present participle. The use of this form of this word here describes a continual process of God further and further giving more and more of the Holy Spirit to believers, of conforming them to the image of Christ, and this process takes place not through the works of the law, but by faith in what they have heard, the Word of God. Working “for” God is inherently foolish because we, as the Galatians, decide what we want to do and ask God to “bless” it. The proper way is to find out what God wants us to do and go do it, knowing He will bless it because it is His will not ours. This is the way to “miracles” and more and more of the Spirit in our lives. It should be noted here that the NIV states that’s God works miracles “among” you because you believe what you heard. The Greek word translated “among” here is en, commonly translated when followed by the dative (as here) as “in”, which in the context of the passage makes more sense. The miracle is not worked among them but rather in them, for the context here is how to be conformed to the image of Christ, of living a transformed life, a life which more and more reflects the character of Jesus Christ. The miracle here is a life which was once lived solely in the pursuit of selfish gain, a life once lived in self centeredness and self absorption now lived in the image of Christ, now lived in the image of the one who “loved me and gave Himself for me” (2:20). So what Paul tells us here is that we grow as believers not by the keeping of rules and laws, but by learning to have more and more of the Spirit, to know and trust in the one who died for us, that we may live lives in which we are willing to “die” for one another. The true miracle is not found in spectacular signs and wonders, but in the power of Christ displayed through the transformed lives of those who bear His name.

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