1 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified?
In Matt. 5:22, Jesus says that if anyone calls his brother a fool is in danger of hell fire. Is St. Paul transgressing the commandment of Christ? No. The particle “without a cause” carries throughout the verse. The real problem is when you call a person a fool, you are implying his personhood, his humanity. Paul here is not calling them fools, he accuses them of BEHAVING foolishly. Also note this, the Greek word translated as “foolish” is ἀνόητοι, which means “mindless.” You were not mindful, O Galatians. You were not being attentive to the truth you received.
“Who has bewitched you?” Gk. Ἐβάσκανεν to cast the spell of the evil eye out of jealousy. The fathers make a strong point here. It was not for their own good that the Judaizers were trying to steer the Galatians away from Paul and his teachings. It was out of jealousy. They were suffering from “lust of power.”
“that you should not obey the truth” The “Truth” is more than just right teaching; the Truth is God Himself. Jesus said “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John 14:6). What was the first sin in the Garden? Disobedience by Adam & Eve, to the commandment of God, after an appeal to their own reasoning, by a creature lusting for power. This connection is not lost on the Galatians.
“before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified” Were the Galatians present at the crucifixion of Christ? What do you think Paul means here? The crucifixion of Christ put to death the effects of the ancestral disobedience. Do they wish to abandon their salvation? They received the Gospel with pure faith. Do they question it now?
The word “portrayed” is προεγράφη, from pro and graphó, beforehand and written. Of course “grapho” is also the word used later on to designate the “writing” or painting of icons. Is St Paul possibly referring not only the image of the Crucified One in teaching, but also in iconographic portrayal? It would be wonderful, but I don't find a case for it in any patristic commentary. We'll just have to leave that as a theological curiosity.
2 This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?
St Paul questions them rhetorically: How did you Gentile Galatians receive the Holy Spirit, along with His gifts and signs? Was it by following the Law of Moses, or by hearing me and my fellow teachers?
3 Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?
This is a bad translation. It should read something like: “Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being brought to an end by the flesh?” In other words, instead of growing, these teachings are causing you to regress, and even worse, they are causing your spiritual demise.
4 Have you suffered so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain?
The Galatian Christians had suffered as a result of their faith in Christ. Since they were now diverting to a different teaching, was all that suffering in vain? He hopes that it is not in vain, that they will repent and return to Orthodoxy.
5 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?—
So, when you first believed, God worked signs and wonders among you. Did He do it because of the works of the Law (which you were not doing), or because of your response, in faith, to our teaching about Jesus as the Son of God and Saviour of the world?
6 just as Abraham “believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.”
Paul is quoting Genesis 15:6. His point: Circumcision in the flesh is NOT the sign of righteousness: the works of the Law are NOT the signs of righteousness. Paul proves his point by using the very Scriptures that the Judaizers are trying to utilize.
7 Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham.
The Galatians understand the relationship between God and the Children of Abraham. They want to ensure their membership in the family of God's People. Paul says, it isn't the Law that makes you a child of Abraham, (after all, the Law came WAY AFTER Abraham), it's your faith in the Son of God for Whom he waited. Blood no longer applies. Jesus Himself in one place says: “And do not think to say within yourselves, We have Abraham as our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.” (Matthew 3:9)
8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, “In you all the nations shall be blessed.”
Paul is saying: The same Bible that the Judaizers among you are trying to beat you over the head with (O.T., Torah), is the same Bible that predicted that Abraham's FAITH would righteousness to the Gentiles through Jesus Christ. This prophecy is the Gospel before the Gospel, and predicting the Gospel.
9 So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham.
The Galatians worry, that if they do not fulfill what is commanded in the Torah, that they will be cursed. (Read Deuteronomy 27:26). Paul gives the example of Abraham, because the Torah calls him righteous, even though he doesn't follow the Law (which came much later.) So there was a time when the Law was not in effect. Those who lived between Moses (who received the Law) and Jesus were bound by the commandments of the Law. But when Jesus came, a new Law was put into effect...the Law of Faith, the Law of Grace, the Law of Truth – meaning a relationship. (John 1:17)
10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.”
If you think that you will be under a curse because you do not follow the old Law, think about this: you are cursed because you DO follow it! Why? Because no one can fulfill ALL things which are contained in the Law. Paul says, this is the real meaning of it. We were all cursed because no one could legitimately “continue in all things which are written in the book of the law.”
11 But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for “the just shall live by faith.” 12 Yet the law is not of faith, but “the man who does them shall live by them.”
So Pharisees and the Judaizers who are their offspring are very concerned that they appear righteous before men in their observance of the minutiae of the Law. But Paul makes it clear, that before God, no one is made righteous this way. He then pulls in a prophetic quote from Habakkuk (Avakkum) 2:4, in which the prophet says “the righteous SHALL (indicating a future time after the Law) live by faith.” Theophylact says: grace came to reveal faith as a gentler path by which we may be blessed and made righteous.” (Chapter 3, page 51). Paul suggests that if you insist on living by the old Law, you are NOT living by faith, and are subject to that very curse you feared. If you have believed in Jesus as your Lord, you cannot put the Law in His place.
13 Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”
The reason Jesus came was to precisely free us from the curse. He took the curse upon Himself at His crucifixion. It was predicted in Deuteronomy 21:23 which Paul quotes.
14 that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
In Old Testament days, children could inherit two things from their parents: property and a blessing. If your parents had three children, then on their death their property was divided four ways (one more than the number of living children). The eldest child generally received two portions and the remaining children received one portion each. Along with the double portion, the eldest child generally received a blessing from his father. The blessing was a prophecy about his future and the future of his descendants. When a child received the blessing, he was then made the head of the family after his father's death.
Most of the time the double portion went to the eldest child, but sometimes the father might choose to give it to another child. The blessing also might not be given to the eldest child because the child displeased his father in some way.
Abraham was given a special tripartite blessing from God (see Genesis 12:1-3; 17:1-14). As long as Abraham's descendants remained faithful to God, they were allowed to pass that three-part blessing on to their children. The first blessing was that Abraham's descendants would become a mighty nation. The second was that his children would inherit the land of Canaan. But the third was the most important blessing of all - a promise of a descendant through whom all the nations of the world would be blessed (in other words, Jesus Christ. See Genesis 22:18). Because Jesus, a descendant of Abraham, was faithful to the end, He, in turn, fulfills the prophecy and applies the blessing of Abraham upon all peoples, all races, all nations who believe.
15 Brethren, I speak in the manner of men: Though it is only a man’s covenant, yet if it is confirmed, no one annuls or adds to it.
First, in discipline, St Paul calls them “foolish” but now he becomes tender with them, as any parent might, and he calls them “brethren.” It's, of course, a family reference. We are all brothers and sisters in a single family, if you will only allow it to remain so.
“I speak in the manner of men” means, means “I'm going to illustrate my points by using an everyday example drawn from life.” If a contract is made between two people, nobody else can come along later and change it or erase it. The covenant between God and Abraham stands. The covenant with Moses came later, but it does not set-aside the covenant with Abraham. Get it?
16 Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as of many, but as of one, “And to your Seed,” who is Christ.
Paul demonstrates how the language of the covenant with Abraham testifies to its fulfillment in Christ, because God makes the promise to Abraham and his SEED (singular), not “seeds” plural.
17 And this I say, that the law, which was four hundred and thirty years later, cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ, that it should make the promise of no effect. 18 For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no longer of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise.
The covenant with Moses, which came 430 years after that with Abraham, did not nullify the former. The first covenant made with Abraham demanded faith, not observance of the Law.
19 What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator.
Why did God make a second covenant? The Law was given because of the increasing sinfulness of the people, and it was in effect until the coming of the Seed. When Christ, the Seed of the Promise to Abraham arrived, the Law was no longer needed. Another important detail, the covenant with Abraham was made by God Himself directly. The covenant with Moses, and the giving of the Law was done through the intermediary efforts of angels. How do we
know that? Well, look at Deuteronomy 33: 2-3. And now, look at Acts 7:53.
And again Hebrews 2:2.
This continues as a Jewish tradition today. Look at this, from the Jewish Virtual Library, on Torah:
It was one of the very few real dogmas of rabbinic theology that the Torah is from heaven; i.e., the Torah in its entirety was revealed by God. According to biblical stories, Moses ascended into heaven to capture the Torah from the angels.
And who is the mediator? Probably Paul means Moses. But Moses represents only the party of the People, not the party of God. A covenant between God and man, brought together by a mediator, must represent both. This must obviously be the God-Man, Jesus Christ.
20 Now a mediator does not mediate for one only, but God is one.
Paul makes plain what he says above. The angels represent God, Moses, the human beings.
21 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.
So first there was the Promise to Abraham, next comes the Law. Is the Law opposed to the Promises? No. But the Law could not give life. If it could have, God would have replaced the Promises with the Law. But it couldn't, so they remained parallells, both in force simultaneously, until Christ fulfilled both the Promises and the Law.
22 But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.
The Law could not free people from sin. It could only reveal sin. That was it's value, it makes us aware of our powerlessness against sin, forcing us to run to the only source of deliverance: Jesus Christ.
23 But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. 24 Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25 But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.
I like cop shows, I confess. Sometimes on those shows the accused is left to sweat a bit in the interview room in order to think about what he has done, and hopefully to get him
to confess when the cops come back. Well, the Law was like that. Because sin had increased so much on the earth, God provided the Law as an incentive to get us to recognize what sin is. But it didn't get us out of jail. There was no freedom, no forgiveness, no life. Christ comes as our advocate, our attorney. He tears up the handwriting of accusations against us, sets us free, and gives us life. (I know, a very flawed analogy)
26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.
Paul re-iterates what he said above. Don't worry about being part of the people of God, don't fret about your adoption as one of the children of the Promise, the children of Abraham. You ARE. Not because of the Law, but because of your faith.
27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
Paul reminds them of the hymn that they doubtless heard at their baptism when he first preached among them. Your baptism, based on your faith, was your new birth into a new family. A baptismal robe is an essential part of the Mystery of Baptism, and has been since apostolic times. Remember the Prodigal Son? When he returned home, what did the father do after he embraced him and kissed him? He put a robe on him and a ring on him (Luke 15:22). The robe signifies that his position as son was being restored. It was an immediate demonstration of complete acceptance, love and mercy as well as protection - major benefits of being a son. The ring? Long ago, like today, presenting a ring to someone was a sign of great affection, but it was
frequently also a symbol of being placed in an office of authority; among the rich it was a sign of wealth and dignity. Pharaoh removed his signet ring and put it on Joseph's hand when installing him into office in Egypt (Genesis 41:42). In the book of Esther, the King took off his ring, the royal signet by which the decrees of government were sealed in wax, and gave it to Mordecai (Esther 8:2). The ring showed Pharaoh's affection for Joseph and the King's affection for Mordecai and transferred to them all power and authority necessary for the promotions they received, one as Governor and the other as Prime Minister. These all have to do with being publicly seen as part of the family, sharing in all that they were and had.
28 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. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
This doesn't mean that these things disappear or have no significance. It just means that all people are one, all are united in Christ. There is no advantage to being a Jew any more. All are invited to become members of the household of faith.
With all this in mind, St. Paul asks: How can any of you who have been blessed by putting on the robe of Christ, by being made a member of His family and inheriting every blessing and every good thing from Him, how can you continue to cling to the hopelessness which is the Law?