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Bible Commentaries

Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures

Galatians 3

Verses 1-5

The Promise Comes by Faith - Paul first tells the Galatians in Galatians 3:1-5 that they received the Holy Spirit by faith apart from their works. This event served as an outward testimony of their right standing before God.

Paul Begins with Rhetorical Questions About the Experiences of the Galatians When They were Initially Saved In Galatians 3:1-5 Paul returns to the experiences of the Galatians in order to make his point about the genuineness of his Gospel, after having digressed in Galatians 1:11 to Galatians 2:21 to explain the nature of his divine calling in Christ Jesus. In Galatians 3:1 he makes a statement about their present condition, which he began in Galatians 1:6-10, and in Galatians 3:2-5 he asks four rhetorical questions in order to explain this opening statement. Paul begins his discussion of faith and the Law by asking them rhetorical questions in order to help them see that the greatest testimony of God’s saving grace was when these Galatian churches believed the Gospel and received the outpouring of the Holy Spirit by faith apart from the Law. They needed to understand that they received the Spirit of God by faith in Christ alone and not by the Law. We begin in Christ by faith and we continue to live by faith (Romans 1:17).

Romans 1:17, “For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith : as it is written, The just shall live by faith.”

Galatians 3:1 O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?

Galatians 3:1 “O foolish Galatians” Comments - Historical Insights of the Foolish Galatians - The Greek poet Callimachus (305-240 B.C.) calls them “a foolish people” in his hymns. [87] The Roman historian Livy (59 B.C. A.D. 17) describes the Gauls as a people with an untamed spirit ( History of Rome 38.12.3-4) , and he compares “Roman valor” to “Gallic madness,” as he describes their methods of warfare. The Gauls would leap and shout wildly in order to incite terror among their foes, while the Romans would conduct themselves in an order manner of warfare, coming out victorious over the Gauls ( History of Rome 38.17.1-8). [88] Thus, this term of foolishness must have become a familiar term to describe the Galatian culture during the first century.

[87] Callimachus writes, “…but already beside the temple behold the ranks of the foemen, and already beside my tripods the swords and cruel belts and hateful shields, which shall cause an evil journey to the foolish tribe of the Galatians.” See Callimachus and Lycophron, trans. A. W. Mair, and Aratus, trans. G. R. Mair, in The Loeb Classical Library, eds. T. E. Page, E. Capps, and W. H. D. Rouse (London: William Heinemann, 1921), 101.

[88] Livy, vol. 11, trans. Evan T. Sage, in The Loeb Classical Library, eds. T. E. Page, E. Capps, and W. H. D. Rouse (London: William Heinemann, 1928), 39, 55-57.

Paul’s Passion in this Epistle - If you have even written a letter of earnest plea, you would tend to repeat the name of whom you are writing, as a way of gaining their attention. Paul is writing with a fire in his heart (Galatians 5:2), so he calls to them, “O foolish Galatians” to regain their attention. Paul also repeats his own name in the epistle of Galatians (Galatians 1:1; Galatians 5:2)

Galatians 5:2, “ Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing.”

Two Kinds of Fools - There are two kinds of fools, fools for Christ’s sake, and fools for the world's sake.

Galatians 3:1 “who hath bewitched you” Comments - The Greek word τις (who) serves as a reference to the masculine and feminine gender, so that Paul is saying “who,” and not “what.” Paul wants to know which person(s) has spellbound them. When a man gets his eyes on another man, and follows his doctrine, it is as if that man has been cast into a spell and does not listen or respond to anyone else. This is how a cult leader catches men, by winning them over and putting them into a type of spell. Note:

NET, “You foolish Galatians! Who has cast a spell on you? Before your eyes Jesus Christ was vividly portrayed as crucified!”

NLT, “Oh, foolish Galatians! Who has cast an evil spell on you? For the meaning of Jesus Christ’s death was made as clear to you as if you had seen a picture of his death on the cross.”

This word “bewitched” describes the condition of the mind of a person being blinded to reality. The Galatians could no longer see the cross of Jesus Christ. When the gospel is preached by Paul through the power of the Holy Spirit, the image of Jesus' crucifixion is manifested to the glory of our Father that all may come know through the preaching of the Cross. So, in reality, we were there at the cross beholding His death for our sakes

Galatians 3:1 “that ye should not obey the truth” - Comments - A person who is spell bound is not open to the truth, but only to what he is in bondage to. He is unresponsive to anything else.

Galatians 3:1 “before who eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you” Comments - Isaiah 52:10 says that the earth shall see God’s salvation. One way is through the preaching of the gospel.

Isaiah 52:10, “The LORD hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.”

The works of the flesh are manifest (Galatians 5:19). Thus, there is a need to clearly see salvation by grace alone, and not by works. Since we are not able to earn salvation by works, we have a great need for divine intervention, and we see the cross of Jesus Christ, who alone paid for our salvation.

Galatians 5:19, “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,

The Galatians did not physically see Jesus’ crucifixion. However, His sacrificial death was cleared seen through the preaching of the Gospel. This display of the crucifixion is actually a reference to the signs and wonders and miracles that accompanied the proclamation of the Gospel to them; for in Galatians 3:5 Paul refers directly to these miracles that came in their midst by saying, “He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” It was not only put forth to them through the anointing within Paul, but also through his sacrificial lifestyle of suffering for Christ; for Paul said in 2 Corinthians 4:8-11, “Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.” Thus, they clearly understood Christ’s great sacrifice for them on Calvary.

2 Corinthians 4:8-11, “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body . For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh .”

Galatians 6:17, “From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.”

Jesus had been lifted up in the preaching of the Gospel, and the Galatians could see the power of God as a demonstration of the truth of the Gospel at work in Paul’s life (Galatians 2:20).

Galatians 2:20, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”

Scripture References - Note other verses that refer to Christ being made manifest before men:

Isaiah 52:10, “The LORD hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.”

John 3:14, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:”

John 8:28, “Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things.”

John 12:32, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.”

Galatians 3:5 “or by the hearing of faith” Comments - God is able to perform miracles in a service, not based upon people’s good merits, but based upon their believing and responding in faith to God’s Word being preached (Matthew 13:58).

Matthew 13:58, “And he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief.”

Galatians 3:5 Comments - We know from Acts 19:1-7 that the believers at Ephesus were filled with the Holy Spirit with the gifts of tongues and prophecy. The churches in the surrounding region of Ephesus partook of the same, being influenced by this key church. We know from 1 Corinthians 1:4-7; 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 that the church at Corinth was operating in the nine-fold gifts of the Spirit. We also see in Galatians 3:5 that the churches throughout Galatia were receiving the Spirit and experiencing miracles. We see in 1 Thessalonians 5:19-20 that the gift of prophecy was active in the church in Thessalonica. Thus, we can be sure that most, if not all, of the churches that Paul established would be considered “Pentecostal” by modern definition.

Verses 1-18

The Promise: The Promise of the Spirit Comes by Faith In Galatians 3:1-18 Paul explains at length how they received the promise of the Holy Spirit. It was received by faith because of a promise made to Abraham. It came through the redemptive work of Christ Jesus because it was ratified by a covenant with Abraham.

Outline - Note the proposed outline:

1. The Promise Comes by Faith Galatians 3:1-5

2. The Promise Began in Abraham Galatians 3:6-9

3. The Promise Comes Thru Christ Galatians 3:10-14

Verses 1-29

The Defense of Paul’s Gospel In Galatians 3:1 to Galatians 4:31 Paul defends his Gospel of justification by faith in Jesus Christ alone. As a basis for this argument he explains to them how the faith that allowed them to receive the Holy Spirit was operated in the Old Testament through Abraham (Galatians 3:1-18). Paul then explains the meaning of the Mosaic Law in light of the New Testament Church (Galatians 3:19 to Galatians 4:7). Finally, he admonishes them to stand fast in their liberties in Christ (Galatians 4:8-31). Thus, Paul contrasts the difference between the New Testament, which establishes righteousness in our lives through the promise of the Spirit, and between the Old Testament Law, which failed to establish righteousness in any individual because of man’s weakness towards sin. In this three-fold defense Paul attempts to stir up their faith in Christ (Galatians 3:1-18), their understanding of Christ (Galatians 3:19 to Galatians 4:7), and their actions for Christ (Galatians 4:8-31), which applies to our spirit, mind and body.

Outline - Note the proposed outline:

1. The Promise of the Spirit Galatians 3:1-18

a. The Promise Comes by Faith Galatians 3:1-5

b. The Promise Began in Abraham Galatians 3:6-9

c. The Promise Comes Thru Christ Galatians 3:10-14

d. The Promise Ratified by Covenant Galatians 3:15-18

2. The Law Galatians 3:19-29

a. The Illustration of the House Attendant Galatians 3:19-29

b. Illustration of the Son as an Heir Galatians 4:1-7

3. The Admonition to Stand Fast Galatians 4:8-31

a. Personal Admonition Galatians 4:8-20

Verses 1-29

The Defense of Paul’s Gospel In Galatians 3:1 to Galatians 4:31 Paul defends his Gospel of justification by faith in Jesus Christ alone. As a basis for this argument he explains to them how the faith that allowed them to receive the Holy Spirit was operated in the Old Testament through Abraham (Galatians 3:1-18). Paul then explains the meaning of the Mosaic Law in light of the New Testament Church (Galatians 3:19 to Galatians 4:7). Finally, he admonishes them to stand fast in their liberties in Christ (Galatians 4:8-31). Thus, Paul contrasts the difference between the New Testament, which establishes righteousness in our lives through the promise of the Spirit, and between the Old Testament Law, which failed to establish righteousness in any individual because of man’s weakness towards sin. In this three-fold defense Paul attempts to stir up their faith in Christ (Galatians 3:1-18), their understanding of Christ (Galatians 3:19 to Galatians 4:7), and their actions for Christ (Galatians 4:8-31), which applies to our spirit, mind and body.

Outline - Note the proposed outline:

1. The Promise of the Spirit Galatians 3:1-18

a. The Promise Comes by Faith Galatians 3:1-5

b. The Promise Began in Abraham Galatians 3:6-9

c. The Promise Comes Thru Christ Galatians 3:10-14

d. The Promise Ratified by Covenant Galatians 3:15-18

2. The Law Galatians 3:19-29

a. The Illustration of the House Attendant Galatians 3:19-29

b. Illustration of the Son as an Heir Galatians 4:1-7

3. The Admonition to Stand Fast Galatians 4:8-31

a. Personal Admonition Galatians 4:8-20

Verses 6-9

The Promise Began in Abraham Paul now tells them in Galatians 3:6-9 why the promise comes by faith. He bases it upon the fact that Abraham was justified before God because of his faith in God’s promises and apart from his own works. Paul explains to the Galatians how they are the seed of righteous Abraham because of their faith in Christ, which righteousness is apart from the Mosaic Law, and thus, apart from their works. They are blessed with Abraham’s blessings because they are his spiritual descendants.

Galatians 3:7-8 Comments The Theme of Redemption - The underlying theme of the Holy Scriptures is God’s redemptive plan for mankind. The structural theme for the book of Genesis is for mankind to be fruitful and multiply. We know that God commanded Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply and take dominion over the earth. We understand that God wanted them to produce a righteous seed, children who had faith in God. We see this underlying theme in Galatians 3:7-8 as Paul tells the believers that they are the children of Abraham. When God called Abraham to depart from his family and live in Canaan, He promised him that his offspring would bless all nations.

Galatians 3:9 So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.

Galatians 3:9 Comments Kenneth Copeland said, “The two most outstanding things in the Old Testament are the Blessings of Abraham and the Faith of Abraham.” [89] He said that faith is the key to activating the blessings of God in one’s life. Faith comes by hearing the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Faith works (or is manifested) by love (that is, the love walk). The epistle of James tells us that faith without works is dead. This reveals that through the preaching of God’s Word faith is planted in a receptive heart and is manifested by works of love towards God and humanity.

[89] Kenneth Copeland, “Kenneth Copeland Ministries Newsletter,” January 2008 (Kenneth Copeland Ministries, Fort Worth, Texas).

He says the blessing of Abraham includes everything that Jesus obtained for us on the Cross so that our lives could be abundant in every area.

Verses 10-14

The Promise Comes Thru Christ - Paul then explains in 310-14 how these blessings reached the Gentiles through Christ’s redemptive work on Calvary. In this passage Paul explains that righteousness has always been imparted by faith in God’s promises, even under the Law of Moses. Since no Jew had fully obeyed every point of the Law, then they were left under its curse. Christ paid the price for us by becoming a curse for us so that the blessings of Abraham might come to us.

Galatians 3:12 Comments - The Law justifies men upon different principles. It says that justification comes by keeping all of the laws. Unfortunately, if man fails and breaks just one law, he might as well have broken them all, because he becomes guilty before God as if he had broken all; for, this is what James meant in his epistle when he wrote, “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” (Galatians 2:10) Knowing man’s sinful nature, the Lord intended the Law to be our “schoolmaster” as a tool to lead us to Christ, as man realized his sinful nature while living under the Law.

Galatians 3:11-12 Comments The Gospel Declares Faith in Christ Alone Apart from Works - Paul was taught the Gospel by the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Romans 16:25-26, “Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith:”

Ephesians 3:3, “How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; as I wrote afore in few words,”

Paul was taught the Lord’s Supper by revelation:

1 Corinthians 11:23, “For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread:”

We see the message that was revealed to him:

Acts 26:22-23, “Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come: That Christ should suffer, and that he should be the first that should rise from the dead, and should shew light unto the people, and to the Gentiles.”

Galatians 3:13 Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:

Galatians 3:13 “being made a curse for us” Comments - When Christ became the curse, He “took our infirmities and bare our sicknesses” (Matthew 8:17).

Matthew 8:17, “That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses.”

Galatians 3:13 “for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree” - Old Testament Quotes in the New Testament The Old Testament quote in Galatians 3:13 comes from Deuteronomy 21:23, “His body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt in any wise bury him that day; ( for he that is hanged is accursed of God ;) that thy land be not defiled, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.”

Galatians 3:13 Comments - Joseph Prince says that it was necessary that Jesus Christ be crucified on a tree in order to redeem mankind from the curse of the Law. One drop of His shed blood by any other method of death would have paid for our sins, but His death on Calvary provided our redemption from the curse that came through the Law. [90]

[90] Joseph Prince, Destined to Reign, on Lighthouse Television (Kampala, Uganda), television program, 8 December 2009.

Galatians 3:14 That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

Galatians 3:14 Comments - Paul began his discussion of receiving God’s promise of the Holy Spirit by faith and not by works in Galatians 3:2. He then explained his statement in Galatians 3:4-14 by following a logical course of reasoning. He, thus, concludes with the same statement in Galatians 3:14.

The promise of the Spirit could not come upon any people, neither Gentiles nor Jew, until the blessing of Abraham was fulfilled in Christ Jesus. This is why Paul says in this verse, “that we might receive.” He included himself, a Jew, as one who can now received the promise of the Spirit. This promise was given to Abraham on Mount Moriah (Genesis 22:15-18).

Genesis 22:15-18, “And the angel of the LORD called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time, And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed ; because thou hast obeyed my voice.”

God told Abraham that in his seed, that is, Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:16), all nations of the earth will be blessed. The phrase “all nations” includes the nation of Israel. The Jews were promised the coming of the Messiah and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit as well as the Gentiles. They all needed the work that He completed on the Cross in order to redeem them from the curse of the Law (Galatians 3:13) so that they might receive the blessing of Abraham (Galatians 3:14).

Verses 15-18

The Promise was Ratified by a Covenant - Finally, Paul explains in Galatians 3:15-18 how the promise comes through Jesus Christ. He says that the promise was established by God’s covenant with Abraham, while the curse of the Law was established by the Mosaic Law. Although the Law was established with a covenant, these blessed promises also were established by a covenant between God and Abraham and his seed, which was Christ. Thus, the Law, which came four hundred and thirty years later, could not disannul this promise.

Galatians 3:15 “I speak after the manner of men” Comments - Montgomery reads, “Let me illustrate, brothers, from every-day life.” The NLT reads, “here’s an example from everyday life.”

Galatians 3:15 Comments - Paul is going to say next in Galatians 3:16-18 that when God made a promise to Abraham, He could not add to it four hundred thirty (430) years later in the form of the Mosaic Law. The promise stood alone and unaffected by the Law. The promise did not need the Law to find its fulfillment.

Galatians 3:16 Comments - The promise mentioned in Galatians 3:16 that was made to Abraham is mentioned in Genesis 12:7, “And the LORD appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land : and there builded he an altar unto the LORD, who appeared unto him.” The word seed refers to Abraham's descendents.

Galatians 3:18 For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise.

Verses 19-29

The Law: Explaining the Law in Light of the New Covenant In 2 Corinthians 3:19 to 2 Corinthians 4:7 Paul explains the Law in light of the new covenant in Christ Jesus. He does this by using two illustrations from their culture, that of the house keeper attending the son, and that of the son as an heir.

Outline Here is a proposed outline:

1. The Illustration of the House Attendant Galatians 3:19-29

Verses 19-29

The Law: Explaining the Law in Light of the New Covenant In 2 Corinthians 3:19 to 2 Corinthians 4:7 Paul explains the Law in light of the new covenant in Christ Jesus. He does this by using two illustrations from their culture, that of the house keeper attending the son, and that of the son as an heir.

Outline Here is a proposed outline:

1. The Illustration of the House Attendant Galatians 3:19-29

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Bibliographical Information
Everett, Gary H. "Commentary on Galatians 3". Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghe/galatians-3.html. 2013.