Lesson 3 - The Doctrine of Christian Liberty / Arguments - Galatians 3

Lesson Three: The Doctrine of Christian Liberty / Arguments

(Galatians 3:1-4:7)

In the first two chapters of Galatians Paul presents his personal defense of his apostleship.  The next two chapters are doctrinal.  In these chapters we find the apostle defending his message against the false teachers, who preached another gospel, declaring that the keeping of the law of Moses was a necessary condition of both salvation and sanctification. Paul, a former zealot of the law, proclaimed the gospel of grace, insisting that salvation is by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ apart from works.  Galatians 2:16; Ephesians 2:8, 9.

In this lesson we will discover seven arguments of the apostle, supporting his teaching of Christian liberty.


Argument #1: The Experience of the Galatians.  (3:1-5)

Paul begins his argument, "O foolish Galatians!"  Then he continues with a series of questions to reveal or expose their foolishness.  The answer to each question is obvious.  A crucified Savior had been portrayed before the Galatians in the preaching of the cross.  Who had bewitched them?  It was like someone had cast an evil spell upon them.

The Galatians had received the Holy Spirit, which is the experience of all believers.  Romans 8:9.  Did they receive the Spirit by keeping the law, or by the hearing of faith?  They were sealed with the Holy Spirit when the heard and believed the gospel of their salvation.  Ephesians 1:13.

The foolish Galatians began the Christian life in the Spirit.  Now were they made perfect or more spiritual by the works of the flesh?  Later in our study we will look into the struggle between the flesh and the Spirit.  Galatians 5:17.

Apparently the Holy Spirit had worked miracles among the churches of Galatia.  Did God perform these miracles by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?  For the emphatic answer to that question read Hebrews 11.

To those who would preach a gospel of works we might ask the question, "How were you saved?  How were you born again?  How did you receive the Holy Spirit?"

The experience of the Galatians themselves was evidence of the truthfulness of Paul's message.


Argument #2: The Example of Abraham.  (3:6-9)

Those who had bewitched the Galatians were Jews committed to the law of Moses.  They prided themselves on being sons of Abraham.

How was Abraham, the father of the Hebrew nation, justified?  Paul quotes Genesis 15:6, where we learn that Abraham was justified by faith.  The patriarch "believed God and it was accounted to him for righteousness."

Paul also quotes Genesis 12:3, where God promised Abraham, "In you all the nations shall be blessed."  Who are the blessed?  "So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham."  Also, "Only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham."  Jesus answered legalists, who boasted of being sons of Abraham by saying, "If you were Abraham's children, you would do the works of Abraham."  John 8:39.  And what works were they?  They were works of faith.  Abraham believed God.


Argument #3: The Curse of the Law.  (3:10-12)

The law says, "You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, which if a man does, he shall live by them: I am the Lord."  Leviticus 18:5.  In other words, "Do, and live."  The problem is "that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God...."  Verse 11. 

The law that the legalists loved also says, "Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them."  Deuteronomy 27:26.  In other words, "Disobey, and die."  "For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse."

How then should we live?  If not under the law, how?  Paul answers that important question, quoting another Old Testament verse.  "The just shall live by faith."  Habakkuk 2:4.

It isn't good enough to obey some of the law some of the time.  Break one commandment and the law is broken.  James 2:10.  Lawbreakers are under the curse.  According to John 8:34, "Whoever commits sin is a slave of sin."  Those bound by the law need to be free from the curse.


Argument #4: The Work of Christ.  (3:13, 14)

"Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us."  How did Jesus become a curse for us?  The apostle Paul quotes yet another Scripture.  "Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree."  Deuteronomy 21:23.  The tree in this case is the cross of Calvary, where Jesus bore our sins in His own body.  See 1 Peter 2:24, where Peter makes reference to this.

Some cultists take these verses and claim that Jesus was hung on a tree, that He wasn't crucified on the cross.  The word "cross" (Greek, stauros) is found twenty-eight times in the New Testament.  "Crucify" (Greek, stauroo) is used forty-six times.  Jesus was crucified on a cross.

Believers have been redeemed, bought out and brought out of the marketplace of sin, by the precious blood of our blessed Redeemer.  Because of the finished work of Christ, we have received the blessing of Abraham, and the promise of the Spirit by faith.


Argument #5: The Unchangeable Promise of God.  (3:15-18)

In the book of Genesis God made many promises "to Abraham and his Seed."  See Genesis 12:3, 7; 13:15; 22:18; 24:7.  Jesus Christ is the Seed through whom the promises were to be fulfilled.

Paul makes this point: "And this is say, that the law, which was four hundred and thirty years later (than the promise), cannot annul the covenant (the promise) that was confirmed before by God in Christ, that it should make the promise of no effect."

God made His promise to Abraham four hundred and thirty years before Moses received the law.  Two truths are emphasized here: (1) God's promise to Abraham cannot be changed by the law, and (2) the law cannot add conditions to the promise.  Even promises that men make, "no one annuls or adds to it."  The blessings of faith that God promised to Abraham are a separate entity, not subject to the law of Moses.


Argument #6: The Purpose of the Law.  (3:19-25)

As was Paul's custom, he asks a question and then answers it.  "Is the law then against the promises of God?  Certainly not!  For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law."  Compare Galatians 2:21.  If we could be saved by good works, then Jesus would not have come into the world to die for our sins.

"But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise of faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe."

If the law cannot save us, why was the law given?  What is the purpose of the law?  "It (the law) was added because of transgressions...."  The law was given to reveal sin.  See Romans 3:19, 20; 7:7.

"The law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith."  The law is like a mirror.  When we look at a mirror, it reveals the dirt on our face.  But it cannot wash away the dirt.  The law, our tutor, is like that.  It shows us that we have sin in our hearts, but it cannot wash it away.  If the law could talk, it would say, "I cannot save you.  Go to the Savior and trust in Him.  His blood can make you clean."

Now notice "before faith came" in verse 23, and "after faith has come" in verse 25.  This is very important.  "Before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law...."  Remember that the law is our tutor.  "But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor."  What does this mean?  Believer, we are not under the law.  See Romans 6:14; 7:1-6; 8:2.  "For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes."  Romans 10:4.

Some Bible teachers make a distinction between what they call "the moral law," and "the ceremonial law."  The moral law to them is the Ten Commandments.  The ceremonial law deals with regulations regarding Old Testament sacrifices, the observance of feast days, and the like.  They say that believers are not under the ceremonial law, but are under the moral law.  They are wrong!

In 2 Corinthians 3 the New Covenant is contrasted with the Old Covenant.  Notice verse 7, where the Old Covenant is described as "the ministry of death, written and engraved on stones."  The Ten Commandments, not the so-called ceremonial law, were written and engraved on stones.  Paul wrote that they were "passing away." 

Now consider Colossians 2:14, where we find that Jesus has "wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us...and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross."  The handwriting of requirements nailed to the cross is the law as spelled out in the Ten Commandments.

Dear student, as a believer in our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, you are free...free from the law.  P. P. Bliss has written a wonderful hymn, Once For All, which is rarely sung in our churches.  He understood the truth of our liberty in Christ, when he wrote:

"Free from the law, O happy condition,
Jesus hath bled, and there is remission;
Cursed by the law and bruised by the fall,
Grace has redeemed us once for all."

Argument #7: The Adoption as Sons.  (3:26-4:7)

An important principle of biblical interpretation is the difference between standing and state.  The believer's standing is what he is in Jesus Christ.  For example, we are justified by faith.  This means that we have a righteous standing before God.  However, in our Christian walk, our state, we might not behave righteously.

Paul wrote, "For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.  For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ."  This is the believer's standing in Him.  When we were born again, we became children of God.  We were baptized into His body by the Holy Spirit.  1 Corinthians 12:12, 13.  Our oneness in Christ has nothing to do with nationality, social status, or gender.  "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus."  All this is the standing of the believer.

In Galatians 4:4 we read, "God sent forth His Son...."  Next in Galatians 4:7 we learn, "God sent forth the Spirit of His Son...."  Why did God send forth His Son?  The answer is "to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons."  There is a two-fold blessing here.  First, this is a redemption from slavery to the entire Mosaic system.  Second, those redeemed receive "the adoption of sons," or "the full rights of sons" as translated in the New International Version.  This means that all the privileges of a mature son belong to those who have entered into the benefits of the redemptive work of Christ.

While the believer's standing before God is that of a mature son, who is not "under guardians and stewards...in bondage under the elements of the world," in practice he may be a babe in Christ.  1 Corinthians 3:1; 1 Peter 2:2.  To those who have been redeemed "God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, 'Abba, Father.'"  The word "Abba" is similar to "Daddy" in English, indicating intimacy and trust as opposed to the cold formality of legalism.  The conclusion: "Therefore (because you have been redeemed, and have received the adoption as sons) you are not longer a slave (under the law) but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ."  End of arguments!  Amen!


Lesson Four: The Doctrine
of Christian Liberty / An Appeal - Galatians 4



All About God

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