The book of Galatians was written to a church that was steeped in conflict. The conflict was between the Jewish Christians and the new(-er) Gentile believers. The Gentiles had come to Christ and the old school believers marginalized these new believers by talking about their traditions, and by trying to get the Gentiles to not only adhere to the outdated rituals, but also, by attempting to live in separation from them. The former was addressed in chapter 1 and the latter in chapter 2. In chapter 3, we learn about the real issue in the Galatian church…a trust in one’s own righteousness that comes from being obedient to the law.
Verses 1: Paul attacks the Galatians head on by calling them crazy for ignoring the crucified Christ. They cannot claim ignorance as, “His sacrifice on the cross was certainly set before (them) clearly enough.” How? As strict Jews, it was their legalism that killed Him, plain and simple.
Verses 2-6: Paul asks two questions: HOW and WHY did your new life begin? The HOW is answered when Paul tells them because of God’s message (Grace and Peace!!) coming to them, and the WHY is because they could not save themselves.
Verses 7-12: Essentially, if the Jews were caught off guard by the Gentile acceptance into the Kingdom of God, it’s because they’ve ignore God’s Word. They are in, but by faith in Christ, not adherence to the Law. It’s not that the Law is not important; it is. “Utterly cursed is every person who fails to carry out every detail written in the Book of the Law.” This catches every single person that has ever existed…Jew and Gentile alike. It’s not just the Gentiles that need Grace and Peace because of their flagrant violation of God’s Word; it’s also the Jew that needs Grace and Peace. They are not only violators of the Law, but they are also guilty of attempting to earn salvation apart from the God of Grace and Peace and Paul is intent on calling them on it. Once you start walking down the paht of rules and tradition and use them as your baseline…you can never get away from it apart from Grace and Peace.
Verses 13-14: Because the Law leads to death, because we could never pay for the violation, because the law ends on despair…how could we be saved? Christ! Jesus took on every bit of that curse. He took on that whole life, which was really death and in the depths and pit of despair caused by it, dissolved it by perfecting the Law. By adhering to it perfectly because of who he was in God- His Son, more than just a symbol of perfection, but Perfect Obedience Himself.
Verses 15-22: Paul explains that a legal document may not be change by anyone but the writer. God promised a Gospel of Grace and Peace through Jesus, and the Jewish believers are trying to add to it. If that is not foolish enough, the attempted addendum is counter to the legal document itself! The Law had a purpose; it was designed to help the people remain true to God by sharing with them His rules-after all…He can make these rules because HE delivered them from Egypt. It is not the Law itself as written by God that was bad, it was the attempted end-run around grace! Grace cannot be overrun by the Law! If it could, there would be perfection according to it by everyone.
Verses 23-27: The Law as written was, again, meant to guide the people as they waited for the Law-Giver to come! It served to keep the people from distraction, from danger. But now, they’ve grown into grace (or so we think). Grace is here! Peace with God is possible! You are ready to fully embrace the life that the legal document says that you have.
Verses 28-29: The Gentiles are in. We are all God’s family, in relationship with Christ and with one another.
- To which do you gravitate: law or grace? Why?
- When we are asked about our relationship with God, why do we default to that amount of Bible we read or the number of times we pray?
- How might we add to the legal document of grace and peace?