HERMENEUTICS PAPER: GALATIANS 3

__________________ A Paper Presented to Dr. Stephen J. Wellum The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

__________________

In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for 22100 A

__________________ by Alonzo Medcalf Box 484 May 5, 2011

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GALATIANS 3: BY FAITH, OR THE WORKS OF THE LAW?

Galatians 3 is a section of Paul’s letter to the saints of Galatia that poses a series of rhetorical questions to correct their misunderstanding of being justified before God apart from the law. Paul stresses that justification is in fact by faith over against being justified by the works of the law. The law was a guide to lead us to Christ. After Christ has come the guidance of the law toward faith was no longer needed, we are now justified through faith in Christ Jesus. As a result of justification by faith you become Abraham’s offspring and heirs according to the promise which is the Spirit through faith. After looking at this entire chapter and properly using the three horizons of biblical hermeneutics: textual, epochal and canonical horizon, the author’s true meaning will be made known. Paul challenged his readers to answer “just one thing”- whether they had become regenerate by keeping the law or by believing the gospel (v. 2). He wanted them to recall what happened when he and Barnabas first preached the gospel to them. Did any of the remarkable transformation come about through keeping the regulations of the law? Certainly not! The Galatians would be obliged to agree with this conclusion or else deny the reality of their conversion experience!1 Using the textual horizon method one seeks to interpret and understand Paul’s intended meaning of Galatians 3. In Galatians 3:1-5 Paul reviews their conversion for them. He starts this section of the letter by addressing the Galatians as foolish, Paul does this to capture their full attention. In this chapter Paul asks a series of rhetorical questions starting with, “who has bewitched you?” Paul’s metaphor here is: “who hath cast an evil spell upon you?”2 He
1 Schreiner, Thomas R, Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010), 45. 2 Vincent, Marvin R, Word Studies in The New Testament (Hendrickson Publishers, 2009), 111.

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2 makes his point clearer by reminding them that he preached to them Christ crucified on his pervious missionary trip. But now those at the church of Galatia have turned away from the Spirit and have embraced the works of the law. As a result of their actions Paul poses his second rhetorical question. “Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?” ( Gal 3:2 ESV) Schreiner in his exegetical commentary on Galatians goes into great depth on this verse. He says, The reference to the Spirit confirms that the conversion of the Galatians is in view, for the Spirit is the sign that one belongs to the people of God. . . . The issue the Galatians must resolve is whether they received the Spirit by doing the works of the law or through hearing with faith. . . . How was the Spirit received? It was not because the Galatians did anything required by the law. In fact, they did not keep the the law and its requirements, for they were uncircumcised. They received the Spirit when they heard the gospel preached and placed their faith in the gospel. Believing- not doing was the pathway to receiving the Spirit. 3 In verses 3-5, Paul submits three more rhetorical questions pertaining to the same idea that justification is not attained by works of the law but by faith. “Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are yo now being made perfect by the flesh? (v. 3). “Have you suffered so many things in vain if indeed it was in vain?” (v. 4). “Therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? (v. 5 NKJV). It is biblically and historically understood that Judaizers had come among the people of Galatia and persuaded them back under the bondage of the law. This chapter of Paul’s letter is in effort to open the eyes of the Galatians, to make them aware of the deceit and trickery of the Judaizers.

3 Schreiner, Thomas R. Exegetical Commentary on The New Testament. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010), 182-183.

3 It is not hard to imagine, however, the subtle reasoning by which the Judaizing teachers had beguiled the Galatians. It was not difficult for them to picture the sanctity and the divine origin and the long observance of the ancient law. Without much difficulty they could deceive their victims and make them believe that, without abandoning Christ, they might attain merit by observing those ceremonies which had been followed by the prophets and heroes of old and by Christ and his apostles as well. . . It seems natural, also, even for those who have accepted salvation through Christ, to seek to add their own good works and deeds of merit to the atoning work of Christ as a grounds of acceptance with God. 4 In verse 5, Paul transitions from rhetorical probing to the use of evidential exposition by recounting Abraham’s faithfulness. Just as Abraham “believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness”(v. 6). Abraham, the father of their faith, was named here was to show the Galatians that Abraham first believed God apart from any works and God counted him righteous. Textually in verses 1-9, Paul’s goal is for his readers to understand that justification is by faith alone apart from works of the law. Remember in 3:19 how Paul forced the Galatians to remember when they first received when when they first received the Spirit? He was dealing then with the point of their of justification. They had gone from enemies of God to those who desired to obey God not because they had obeyed the law but because hey saw their wickedness, place their faith in the crucified and risen Christ, were given the Spirit, and then the Spirit in them a desire for holiness unlike they had ever known. 5 We will look at the second stage in the Horizon, Epochal Horizon. It is tied to a before and after category in Scripture, progressive revelation. The epochs do not embody different plans of God; rather they remind us of the fact that God’s revelation of redemption develops over time. 6 In times past it seemed that ritual keeping of the ceremonial law of God was the merit of one’s justification, but Paul affirms that the keeping of the law actually brings a curse to the one who attempts to keep it. In his epistle to the Romans Paul says “so the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good” (Rom 7:12 ESV). Now Paul
4 5 6 Erdman, Charles R, the Epistle of Paul to the Galatians (Philadelphia: Westminster Press), 68. Tankersley, Lee, the Southern Baptist Journal of Theology (Louisville: Southern Seminary), 86. Wellum, Stephen, “Reading and Applying Scripture: The Three Horizons of Biblical Hermeneutics.” Classroom lecture notes, 22100-Biblical Hermeneutics, 55.

4 transitions to say to the Galatians “For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse” (v. 10). This is not a change in God’s plan; it is actually according to God’s plan. Luke, quoting Paul in the Acts of the Apostles, regards the law as a yoke that none are able to bear (15:10). The Jews misuse of the law; in fact, they have made what is good and perfect a curse unto themselves. The Jews existed to serve the law and not serve God. Because they were not able to fulfill all the requirements of the law it has now become a curse to them which they need to be redeemed from. Paul makes that point clear in verses 11-13. “Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for the righteous shall live by faith” (v. 11 ESV). Christians are called to live by faith apart from works. Paul quotes Habakkuk 2:4, which states, “The righteous shall live by his faith” (ESV). To further emphasize that the just shall live by faith Paul says in verse 12, “But the law is not of faith” (ESV).

Notice, no man is justified by the law of God, no man ever has been justified by the law of God, no man ever will be justified by the law of God. In Romans 3 we read, “Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may became guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Rom. 3:19, 20). In other words, God did not give the law to save man, He gave the law to test him, to make manifest man’s true condition. 7 Redemption from the law is not a change in God’s plan, it follows the redemptive framework of Scripture, with a before and after structure. In times past God made it evident through the mouths of His prophets that He would usher in a New Covenant (Jer 31:31-35, Ezek 36:25-27). Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us- for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree” (v. 13). So that in Christ Jesus the

7 Ironside, H. A. , Expository Messages on the Epistle to The Galatians (New York: L. B. Printing Company, 1940), 105,106.

5 blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith. (v. 14). Christ redeemed men by dying in their place, enduring the dreadful wrath of God against sins. The curse of God fell on Him as man’s Substitute. . . . God had promised to bless Abraham and to bless all the world through him. The blessing of Abraham is really salvation by grace through faith. 8

The final horizon is Canonical Horizon. Here we read about the promise God gave to Abraham and what this promise means in light of the entire canon. Verses16-29 will give a better understanding of the before and after picture in Scripture, what place the law serves after the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, and how one becomes Abraham’s offspring. Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ (v. 16). In Genesis 12:3 God made a promise to Abraham that through him all the families of the earth will be blessed. In Galatians we learn that the promises were not made to the physical offspring of Abraham but to Christ. Jesus Christ is seen as the fulfillment of the promises that God gave to Abraham.

God made a promise to Abraham, a promise, as Paul had shown already, not based on Abraham’s meritorious deeds, lifelong obedience, or indeed anything other than God’s own gratuitous good pleasure. This promise, or covenant, as Paul called it here for the first time, was unconditional: no ifs, ands, and buts; no strings attached. Abraham simply believed that God would do what he had promised. 9

8 MacDonald, William. Believer’s Bible Commentary (Nashville: Nelson Publishers, 1995), 1883. 9 George, Timothy. The New American Commentary Vol. 30 Galatains. (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994), 245.

6 Nothing could annul the promise God made to Abraham, the promise was given before God issued the law. After the appearance of the law, the promise still stands. Paul raises a question in verse 19: “Why then the law?” Paul explains it this way, “It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made” (ESV). The word ‘until’ by implication means that the law will be lifted after the offspring to whom the promise had been made, comes and completes His given task. Paul gives us a canonical understanding for the purpose of the law before and after Christ. Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. (v. 23). So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. (v. 24). But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian. (v. 25). The ceremonial law given to the Jews on mount Sinai was temporary. It was implemented to govern food laws, the priesthood, clean and unclean laws, sacrifices, rituals as well as to issue punishments for sins, but it could not give life nor could it save. It was as Paul states, “The law was our guardian until Christ came. ” The ceremonial law was temporary, intended to lead one to faith in Christ. And finally after coming to faith in Christ, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith (v. 26). There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one is Christ Jesus (v. 28). Verse 28 destroys the social class mentality in Christianity. All are one in Christ, many members but one body. Christ‘s mercy is available to all no matter one’s race or social status, or one is a slave or free man, are one in Christ Jesus. In the last verse Paul gives us a clear understanding of how Christians are truly Abraham’s seed. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to

7 the promise. (v. 29 ESV). The promise is being counted righteous before God apart from the law by the Spirit through faith in Jesus Christ. We have exegetically explored the entire third chapter of the letter to the Galatians, using the three horizons of biblical hermeneutics. Using the textual horizon we found that Paul’s explicit intention was to review the conversion experience for the Galatians - with emphasis on clearing up their misunderstanding pertaining to justification. After exploring the second stage of the horizon, epochal horizon, it appears based on the understanding of the Galatians, one was previously found righteous by God through ritual keeping of the law. But Paul stresses the point that now Christ has come we are justified through faith in Him. The final horizon, canonical horizon shows us what Galatians 3 means in light of the canon as a whole. Canonically Galatians 3 expresses to us the law served as a tutor to guide us to Christ. And after Christ has freed us form the bondage of the law we are justified through faith in Him apart form the law. Our conclusion after reading Galatians 3 in the light of the three horizons of hermeneutics must remain that Justification is by faith alone. Paul stresses that justification is in fact by the Spirit through faith. Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us-for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree - so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, sot hat we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.

8 BIBLIOGRAPHY

Erdman, Charles R. The Epistle of Paul to The Galatians. (Philadelphia: Westminster Press), 68. George, Timothy. The New American Commentary Vol. 30 Galatains. (United States of America: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994), 245. Ironside, H. A. Expository Messages on The Epistle to The Galatians (New York: L. B. Printing Company, 1940), 105,106. MacDonald, William. Believer’s Bible Commentary (Nashville: Nelson Publishers, 1995), 1883. Schreiner, Thomas R. Exegetical Commentary on The New Testament. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010), 45. Tankersley, Lee, the Southern Baptist Journal of Theology (Louisville: Southern Seminary), 86. Vincent, Marvin R. Word Studies in The New Testament. (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 2009), 111. Wellum, Stephen, “Reading and Applying Scripture: The Three Horizons of Biblical Hermeneutics.” Classroom lecture notes, 22100-Biblical Hermeneutics, 55.

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