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Galatians – Bible Study

Bible Study of Galatians taught by John Green.  References include Commentary by Martin Luther, David Guzik and Anders, Max. Holman New Testament Commentary – Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians: 8 (Reference Books) . B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Guzik’s reference is online at:

Galatians – Chapter 1

Region of Galatia

Martin Luther, the father of the Reformation, loved Galatians and considered it the best of all books. He even compared his love for this book with his love for his wife, Katherine. Luther said, “The epistle to the Galatians is my epistle. To it I am, as it were, in wedlock. It is my Katherine.”


1:1 Paul, an apostle (not sent from men nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead.)

It is clear that Paul is the author of this letter to the Galatians.  He wrote this letter during his first missionary journey which Luke wrote about in Chapters 13 and 14 of Acts.  Paul starts his letter to the Galatians with a salutation or greeting, just as he did with the letter to the Ephesians taught by Mike.

In Acts, Apostles were distinguished from disciples.  Originally, Jesus chose twelve men as disciples.  Disciples are followers. After Jesus’ death, Paul and the original twelve disciples through the Holy Spirit converted numerous Jews and Gentiles into disciples.  The word disciples became used as an equivalent to believers.  An apostle is one that has actually been taught by Jesus.  John MacArthur defines an apostle as “one who is sent with a commission.”  The original twelve disciples are apostles because they were taught by Jesus and in Acts 1:8, Jesus gave them the Great Commission.

Acts 1:8 (ASV)
but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”

Paul is an Apostle regardless of which definition you choose.  We don’t know exactly how much teaching Paul received from Jesus but throughout the book of Acts and his letters, Paul refers to things that he could only have learned from Jesus.  On the road to Damascus, Paul was commissioned by Jesus to take the Gospel message to the Gentiles. (Acts 9:15-16)

In the very first verse, Paul points out that his calling comes from the highest possible source.  It is from God and from Jesus and not from men or self.

As we previously studied in Acts 13:14-14:23), Paul founded churches in the cities (see map) of Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe.  These churches are in the southern region of Galatia.  He visited these churches in his first, second and third missionary journeys to encourage them.  In Acts 15, we are told that after Paul returns from his first missionary journey that Paul faces the Counsel in Jerusalem. Ultimately, they send a letter to the Gentile believers.  It tells them that in order to become a believer they do not have to be Jews but there are four laws that they should follow.  Acts 15:29 tells us, “You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things.”

“Paul wrote this epistle because, after his departure from the Galatian churches, Jewish-Christian fanatics moved in, who perverted Paul’s Gospel of man’s free justification by faith in Christ Jesus.” (Martin Luther)

“The gospel of Jesus Christ is good news to rebellious creatures facing the righteous judgment of a holy God. It is, in fact, the best news ever announced. The gospel liberates. It transforms. It saves.” (John MacArthur)

Galatians is so much different than the Books of Acts which was written by Luke.  The Book of Acts was more of a historical account.  Galatians is more of a theological thesis.  Each verse contains deep teaching.

 1:2 and all the brethren who are with me,


To the churches of Galatia:

3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be the glory forevermore. Amen.

Paul tells the Galatians that this letter is not from him alone but from “all the brethren who are with me”.

Even in his opening salutation, Paul Teaches.  The letter is written to encourage and to teach the churches in Galatians the true Gospel message.

The first words in verse 3, “Grace to you” (NASB) may have been chosen by Paul to attack the Judaizers.  The word “Grace” means that salvation is a gift from God.  The Judaizers would have believed that salvation comes from works and the Law in addition to faith in Jesus Christ.  The Galatians were ignoring the crucifixion of Jesus which was the only work necessary for our salvation.  Grace not only saves us from the penalty of sin; it also delivers us from the power of sin.

Gospel: The Greek word translated as gospel means “a reward for bringing good news” or simply “good news.” In His famous sermon at the synagogue in Nazareth, Jesus quoted Isaiah 61:1 to characterize the spirit of His ministry: “The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel [good news] to the poor” (Luke 4:18). The gospel does not reveal a new plan of salvation; it proclaims the fulfillment of God’s plan of salvation that was begun in Israel, was completed in Jesus Christ, and is made known by the church. The gospel is the saving work of God in His Son Jesus Christ and a call to faith in Him. Jesus is more than a messenger of the gospel; He is the gospel. His life, teaching, and atoning death declared the good news of God. In turning from grace to a legalistic system of salvation by works, the Galatians had ignored the significance of the death of Christ. (Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary)

Paul incorporates the resurrection of Jesus into his salutation.  He wants to make it clear to the Galatians that salvation is not tied to works or the Law but salvation comes from what Jesus did.

Perversion of the Gospel

1:6 I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; 7 which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! 9 As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!

Paul wastes no time blasting the Galatian believers.  He says he is amazed (NASB) or astonished (NKJV or NIV) at how quickly they deserted Christ.  Paul essentially says that adding to or diluting the Gospel message is not just a different Gospel but is the same as No Gospel at all.  He says it doesn’t matter whether the different Gospel message is given to you by other men, such as the Christian leadership in Jerusalem, or angels, they are cursed by God.

1:10 For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.

Paul tells them that as a believer, we are to be Christ pleasers and not man pleasers.  If he works to make people happy, then he cannot be a servant of Christ.

Paul Defends His Ministry

1:11 For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. 12 For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.

Paul wants them to know that the Gospel message that he is preaching does not come from man.  He wasn’t taught by man received his Gospel message directly from Jesus Christ.  He received it by divine revelation.

1:13 For you have heard of my former manner of life in Judaism, how I used to persecute the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it; 14 and I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions. 15 But when God, who had set me apart even from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, was pleased 16 to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood, 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went away to Arabia, and returned once more to Damascus.

Paul reminds the Galatians of where he came from and how he got to where he is in his life.  He persecuted believers and tried to destroy the Christian church.  He was a better Jew than many who studied the Jewish Law.  He was set apart by God from birth to carry the Gospel message to the Gentiles.  He didn’t get taught by men, even the Apostles but went to the Gentiles.  Guzik says “Paul probably lived in some quiet desert place outside of Damascus.”

18 Then three years later I went up to Jerusalem to become acquainted with Cephas, and stayed with him fifteen days. 19 But I did not see any other of the apostles except James, the Lord’s brother. 20 (Now in what I am writing to you, I assure you before God that I am not lying.) 

Paul stayed there for three years before spending 15 days with Peter.  He spent time with Jesus’ brother, James also.  We know that this wasn’t the brother of the Apostle John because James, the brother of John was beheaded by King Herod Agrippa I (Acts 12:2)  Paul assures them that he is not lying.

21 Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. 22 I was still unknown by sight to the churches of Judea which were in Christ; 23 but only, they kept hearing, “He who once persecuted us is now preaching the faith which he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they were glorifying God because of me.

Before meeting all of the other Apostles, Paul travel to Syria and Cilicia.  He was known by them by his preaching the faith, he once tried to destroy.

“In Syria and Cilicia Paul won the indorsement of all the churches of Judea, by his preaching. All the churches everywhere, even those of Judea, could testify that he had preached the same faith everywhere. “And,” Paul adds, “these churches glorified God in me, not because I taught that circumcision and the law of Moses should be observed, but because I urged upon all faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Martin Luther)

“Paul’s whole point in the second part of this chapter is important. His gospel was true, and his experience was valid because it really came from God. It is fair for every Christian to ask if their gospel has come from God, or if they have made it up themselves. Each should examine if their Christian experience has come from God, or if they have made it up themselves. The questions are important because only what comes from God can really save us and make a lasting difference in our lives.” (Guzik)

Galatians – Chapter 2  (NASB)

The Council at Jerusalem

2:1 Then after an interval of fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along also. 2 It was because of a revelation that I went up; and I submitted to them the gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but I did so in private to those who were of reputation, for fear that I might be running, or had run, in vain. 3 But not even Titus, who was with me, though he was a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised. 4 But it was because of the false brethren secretly brought in, who had sneaked in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, in order to bring us into bondage. 5 But we did not yield in subjection to them for even an hour, so that the truth of the gospel would remain with you. 

In verse 1, Paul points out that after 14 years, he went to Jerusalem.  Since the Apostles were there and this is Paul’s second visit to Jerusalem, Paul didn’t get his Gospel from them.  He is letting us know in a roundabout way, his gospel message came from Jesus.  As we saw numerous times in Acts, Paul starts out Chapter 2 by defending salvation through grace.  He tells the Galatians that even the Christian Council accepted the Gospel of grace.  The Christian Council was made up of the apostles and prominent Jewish Christians.

“The matter upon which the apostles deliberated in conference was this: Is the observance of the Law requisite unto justification? Paul answered: ‘I have preached faith in Christ to the Gentiles, and not the Law. If the Jews want to keep the Law and be circumcised, very well, as long as they do so from a right motive.’ ” (Martin Luther)

He points out that the Council (those who were of reputation) did not require Titus to be circumcised.  Paul is restating what we studied in Acts 15.  Acts 15:5 says, “Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to keep the law of Moses.”  Comparing it to Galatians 2:4, Acts 15:5 says that these “false brethren” are the Judaizers, believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees.  Another way to describe the false Gospel that the Judaizers were teaching was the “system of legalism”.  The Christian Council didn’t even give these Judaizers an hour to speak.


2:6 But from those who were of high reputation (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—well, those who were of reputation contributed nothing to me. 7 But on the contrary, seeing that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised 8 (for He who effectually worked for Peter in his apostleship to the circumcised effectually worked for me also to the Gentiles), 9 and recognizing the grace that had been given to me, James and Cephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, so that we might go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. 10 They only asked us to remember the poor—the very thing I also was eager to do.


Verse 6 points out that those of “high reputation” or famous Christians didn’t add anything to the Gospel that Paul preached.  Note:  We cannot read the tone of Paul’s voice in what we read.

These words can be taken in various ways.  We can surely see that Paul is not intimidated by them.

They are in agreement with Paul.  It doesn’t matter what they say, Paul’s Gospel is from God.

Famous or not Paul says that God does not show any favoritism.  In Romans 2:11, Paul says it plainly, “For God does not show favoritism.” (NIV)  Other translations us the word, partiality.

“Paul’s words are neither a denial of, nor a mark of disrespect for, their apostolic authority. He is simply indicating that, although he accepts their office as apostles, he is not overawed by their person as it was being inflated (by the false teachers).” (Stott)

Paul points out that in the end, the Christian leaders accepted that God had entrusted Paul with sharing the Gospel with the Gentiles (NLT) or uncircumcised (NASB) and Peter with sharing the Gospel with the Jews (NLT) or circumcised (NASB).  Paul says in verse 9 that James,  Peter and John accepted Paul and Barnabas as co-workers (NLT) or apostles.  The only reminder that the apostles gave to Paul was to remember the poor which Paul was eager to do anyway.

Peter (Cephas) Opposed by Paul

2:11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision. 13 The rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, “If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?

In verse 11, Paul tells us that Peter came to Antioch and Paul opposed him.  This example is meant to confirm that Paul is a true apostle because only a true apostle could rebuke another apostle.  In Acts 11, God had called Peter to go to Caesarea to welcome Gentiles into Christianity without them becoming Jews.  Paul opposed or rebuked Peter because he was eating with the Gentiles when he arrived but due to peer pressure he wouldn’t eat with them after other Jewish believers arrived.  Even Barnabas was led astray.  Peter had become a hypocrite.  Paul said to Peter, “If you are a Jew that is living like a Gentile and not like a Jew, then how can you make the Gentiles live like Jews.”

2:15 “We are Jews by nature and not sinners from among the Gentiles; 16 nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.


Paul reminds Peter that we are made righteous by Jesus’ work on the cross and not by works of the Law.

Not justified by the works of the law: This is Paul’s first use of the great ancient Greek word dikaioo (justified, declared righteous) in his letter to the Galatians. “It is a legal concept; the person who is ‘justified’ is the one who gets the verdict in a court of law. Used in a religious sense it means the getting of a favorable verdict before God on judgment day.” (Morris)

Paul points out the irony of what Peter is thinking.  The Jews are born into salvation and the Gentiles are born as “sinners”.

2:17 But if, while seeking to be justified in Christ, we ourselves have also been found sinners, is Christ then a minister of sin? May it never be! 18 For if I rebuild what I have once destroyed, I prove myself to be a transgressor. 19 For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.”

Those that believed that we need the law argue, “If we are no longer under the Law then can we freely sin and is faith in Jesus leading us to sin?”  Paul says “Absolutely not!”  We seek to be justified by Christ and not by Christ plus works.  Even though we are justified by Christ we will continue to sin but Jesus does not lead us to sin.  This has to be an issue in the Catholic Church.  If I confess my sins to a priest one day then I can go out and wildly sin the rest of the week.  Paul would have the same response to those that think so.  “Absolutely not!!”

“In verse 18, essentially Paul said, “There is more sin in trying to find acceptance before God by our law-keeping than there is sin in everyday life as a Christian.” (Guzik)

Only Jesus kept the law perfectly.  So to put your relationship with God on a legalistic basis will make you a lawbreaker.  The NLT says verse 19 clearly, “For when I tried to keep the law, it condemned me.  So I died to the law—I stopped trying to meet all its requirements—so that I might live for God.”   Accepting Christ as your savior means that you are crucified with Christ and I give up control of my life to Him so that He lives in me.

“Faith connects you so intimately with Christ, that He and you become as it were one person. As such you may boldly say: “I am now one with Christ. Therefore Christ’s righteousness, victory, and life are mine.” On the other hand, Christ may say: “I am that big sinner. His sins and his death are mine, because he is joined to me, and I to him.”  (Luther)

Verse 20 in the NASB Paul says “the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God”.  The NLT uses the words earthly body.  Verse 20 is about faith and not flesh.  Paul concludes the chapter by pointing out the difference between grace and the Law.  If my righteousness comes from keeping the Law then Jesus died for no reason.

Ephesians 2:8 sums up what Paul is saying at the end of Galatians 2.  “For it is by grace you have

Galatians – Chapter 3  (NASB)

“C.H. Spurgeon told a story about two men in a boat caught in severe rapids. As they were being carried swiftly downstream toward the perilous rocks and falls, men on the shore tried to save them by throwing out a rope. One man caught the rope and was saved. The other man, in the panic of the moment, grabbed a log that was floating alongside.  It was a fatal mistake! The man who caught the rope was drawn to shore because he had a connection to the people on land.  The man who clung to the log was carried downstream by the rapids … never to be found.”  (Anders, Max. Holman New Testament Commentary)

Faith Brings Righteousness

3:1 You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? 2 This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? 4 Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? 5 So then, does He who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?

In the illustration from Spurgeon, the rope from shore is salvation through faith in Jesus and the log is salvation by the Law.

In verse 1, Paul is saying that to believe what they believe, they must be under an evil spell and the spell was cast by the Judaizers.  The Judaizers were Jewish believers that had tried to combine their Jewish trust in the Law with salvation through faith in Jesus.  They believed that salvation was for God’s chosen, the Jews.  They believed that to claim the salvation offered through Jesus, you had to convert to Judaism.  In Acts, Paul went Jerusalem council of Christians because of this teaching.  Ultimately, the council said Gentiles (non-Jews) did not need to convert to Judaism, they were just to follow four rules or laws.  They said that the converts should refrain from eating bloodmeat containing blood, and meat of animals that were strangled, and not participate in fornication and idolatry.  Paul did not buy into these laws.  He had full faith in salvation through faith in Jesus.

To Paul, it is clear that salvation comes not from our works but the work of Jesus on the cross.  Paul says not only does faith in Jesus bring salvation but it also brings the Holy Spirit.  In verse 4, the NASB uses the word suffer but the NLT uses the word experienced.  Paul is not necessarily talking about persecution because having the Holy Spirit would not have been bad.  In verse 5, Paul asks does God to give them the power of the Holy Spirit because they obey the Law or because they believe what they heard about Jesus.

“In the midst of his discourse on Christian righteousness, Paul breaks off and turns to address the Galatians. “O foolish Galatians,” he cries. “I have brought you the true Gospel, and you received it with eagerness and gratitude. Now all of a sudden you drop the Gospel. What has got into you?”  Martin Luther

“The [role] of the law is to show us the disease in such a way that it shows us no hope of cure; whereas the [role] of the gospel is to bring a remedy to those who are past hope.” John Calvin

3:6 Even so Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. 7 Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. 8 The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the nations will be blessed in you.” 9 So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer.

Paul uses the example of Abraham to explain his point.  He lived before the Law but he was credited with righteousness by faith in God.  Paul says that the “real” of children God or spiritual descendants are the ones who put their faith in God and not his physical descendants.  The Jews are said to be the children of Abraham but his true children are those that put their faith in God.  Paul quotes Genesis 22:18 that says, “All nations will be blessed through you (Abraham).” but then corrects it in verse 9 which says that only the nations with faith in God will be blessed.

“The blessing we receive with believing Abraham is not the blessing of fantastic wealth and power, though Abraham was extremely wealthy and powerful. The blessing is something far more precious: the blessing of a right standing with God through faith.” (Guzik)

3:10 For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them.” 11 Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, “The righteous man shall live by faith.” 12 However, the Law is not of faith; on the contrary, “He who practices them shall live by them.” 13 Christ 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”— 14 in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

Paul quotes Deuteronomy 27:26 to point out that the Law condemns and does not save.  If you break one law then you are guilty of breaking the entire Law.  Then he quotes Habakkuk 2:4 which says, “But the righteous will live by his faith.

“The hypocritical doers of the Law are those who seek to obtain a righteousness by a mechanical performance of good works while their hearts are far removed from God. They act like the foolish carpenter who starts with the roof when he builds a house.” (Luther)

Paul destroys the Judaizers’ belief that a person is saved through the law.  He points out that living by faith is not the same as living by the Law.  Romans 3:22 says, “We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are..” (NLT).  Our righteousness comes from our faith in Jesus Christ and not by any acts or works of righteousness.  Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the Law.

“Redeemed has the idea of “buying back” or “purchasing out of.” It isn’t just rescuing; it is paying a price to rescue. Jesus bought us out from under the curse of the law.” (Guzik)

Gentiles can receive the same blessing that Abraham received if they have faith in Christ Jesus.


Intent of the Law

3:15 Brethren, I speak in terms of human relations: even though it is only a man’s covenant, yet when it has been ratified, no one sets it aside or adds conditions to it. 16 Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as referring to many, but rather to one, “And to your seed,” that is, Christ. 17 What I am saying is this: the Law, which came four hundred and thirty years later, does not invalidate a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise. 18 For if the inheritance is based on law, it is no longer based on a promise; but God has granted it to Abraham by means of a promise.


Paul gives an example of an irrevocable (NLT) agreement.  This type of agreement cannot be changed or added to.  Paul is saying that this type of agreement is between men and how much more unchangeable the agreement if it was from God.  In verse 16, Paul says that God’s promise to Abraham is about one particular seed and not all of his seeds.  The “seeds” at that time could have been the Jews but could be interpreted as all believers because we are his spiritual seeds and not his physical seeds.  So Abraham’s salvation was given to him by grace.  It was another 430 years before God gave the Law to Moses on Mt. Sinai.  The one seed that “all the nations of the earth shall be blessed” is Jesus.

“The law’s purpose was never to save. Its purpose has always been to be a standard that would show us the magnitude of our sin, our need for grace, and, thus, lead us to Christ. The law was a temporary measure only until faith in Christ was inaugurated. Therefore, grace is superior to the law.”  (Anders)


3:19 Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator, until the seed would come to whom the promise had been made. 20 Now a mediator is not for one party only; whereas God is only one. 21 Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God? May it never be! For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law. 22 But the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.

Paul asks an important question.  If the Law doesn’t save us, then why was the Law given?  He then answers his own question.  He says that it was only meant for a set time until the seed (NASB) or child (NLT) which is the Christ, came to bring salvation to the world.

“Moses needed a mediator between himself and God, but we don’t need a mediator between us and Jesus – He is our mediator. The law was a two-party agreement brought by mediators. Salvation in Jesus by faith is received by a promise.”  (Guzik)

“Is the law then against the promises of God? Certainly not! The law is not something evil, opposing God’s promise. The problem with the law is found in its inability to give strength to those who desire to keep it. If the law could have given life, then it could have brought righteousness. But the Law of Moses brings no life; it simply states the command, tells us to keep it, and tells us the consequences if we break the command.” (Guzik)

Sin has us held as prisoners (NLT) and Paul reiterates what is written in John 8:36.  “So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.”  Salvation comes down to faith in Jesus.


3:23 But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. 24 Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. 


These verses spell out why we do not need the Law but rely only on faith in Jesus for our salvation.  After the angels delivered the Law to Moses, the Law was our tutor (NASB) or guardian (NLT).  Once grace was revealed, we no longer need the Law.

“The whole purpose of the law is to bring us to Jesus. Therefore, if someone doesn’t present the Law in a manner that brings people to faith in Jesus, they aren’t presenting the Law properly. The way Jesus presented the Law was to show people that they could not fulfill it and needed to look outside of their law-keeping to find a righteousness greater than the Scribe and the Pharisees (Matthew 5:17-48) (Guzik)

3:26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.

Paul is telling the Galatians that it doesn’t matter where you were born the first time (Jew or Gentile), what matters is through faith in Christ Jesus you are all one people.  We are all sons (NASB), children (NLT, NIV) of God.

“It should be stressed that this is the baptism that really saves us: our immersion into Jesus. If a person isn’t baptized into Christ, he could be dunked a thousand times into water and it would make no eternal difference. If a person has been baptized into Christ, then he should follow through and do what Jesus told him to do: receive baptism as a demonstration of his commitment to Jesus (Matthew 28:19-20). (Guzik)

In the final verse, Paul points out that we belong to Christ and we are descendants of Abraham and finally joint-heirs with Jesus according to the Abrahamic covenant.

In chapter 3, Paul gives six points to show the Galatians the superiority of grace over law.

(1) By grace, salvation and the Holy Spirit are given.

(2) Abraham, the father of our people, was saved by grace.

(3) Grace gives redemption and salvation; the law brings condemnation.

(4) Abraham was saved by grace hundreds of years before the law was given.

(5) The law’s purpose is to act as a guide that leads us to Christ.

(6) By grace, a love relationship with God and one another is obtained.

Galatians – Chapter 4  (NASB)

Sonship in Christ

4:1 Now I say, as long as the heir is a child, he does not differ at all from a slave although he is owner of everything, 2 but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by the father. 3 So also we, while we were children, were held in bondage under the elemental things of the world. 


The final verse in Galatians 3 says that we are heirs according to a promise.  Since the Galatians are new Christians then they are children and not grownup Christians, so Paul explains what the Jewish law says about heirs that are children.  He says that if you are a child and you inherit wealth from your parents then you are nothing more than a slave.  You can’t do what you want.  Since you are a child and have inherited wealth, you are under the control of guardians and managers until an age set by your father.  They help you make decisions regarding your inheritance.

“In both Jewish and Greek cultures, there were definite “coming of age” ceremonies where a boy stopped being a child and started being a man, with legal rights as an heir.”  (Guzik)

The Jewish people have a Bar Mitzvah or Bat Mitzvah 13 yrs old.  So while we are children then we are held in bondage by how little we know.

The phrase ‘elemental things’ is the Hebrew word ‘stoicheia”.  It is also used in Hebrews 5:12-14.  Paul is pointing out that as children we can only understand or take in simple or elementary things.  Paul is continuing to feed the Galatians the Gospel message and cannot move into deeper teachings.

“Paul told the Galatians to go beyond this “ABC of the universe” into an understanding of God’s grace. Grace contradicts this “ABC of the universe,” because under grace God does not deal with us based on what we deserve. Our good cannot justify us under grace; our bad need not condemn us. God’s blessing and favor are given on a principle completely apart from the “ABC of the universe.” His blessing and favor is given for reasons that are completely in Him, and have nothing to do with us.


4:4 But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, 5 so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. 6 Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.


Paul says “But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law..” (NLT)  Paul is pointing out that Jesus is fully God and fully man.


The phrase “Born of a woman” may be a veiled reference to the Virgin Birth, because Paul never says that Jesus was born of a man. “The more general term ‘woman’ indicates that Christ was born a true man. Paul does not say that Christ was born of man and woman, but only of woman. That he has the virgin in mind is obvious.” (Luther)

Paul says Jesus came to redeem us (NASB) which is the same as buying us (NLT) because we are under the law.  When I think of redemption, I think of the old hymn “Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe”.  Once we are redeemed by the blood of Christ, then we are adopted as sons/daughters.  Paul takes us back to the first verses in this chapter.  Since we are the Children of God then we need guardians and managers to help us.  Our helper is the Holy Spirit.

John 14:26 says, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.”  Jesus tells the disciples that God will send the Holy Spirit to teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.

In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus used the term “Abba Father” when asked for the cup to pass from Him.  Paul tells us that we can use the same term when crying out to God.

“We have access to the same intimacy with God the Father that God the Son, Jesus Christ had. Jesus addressed God the Father as “Daddy” when He prayed, Abba, Father as recorded in Mark 14:36.”

Since we are full children of God through the Holy Spirit then we become joint-heirs with Jesus.  Romans 8:17 says, “and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.”


4:8 However at that time, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those which by nature are no gods. 9 But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again? 10 You observe days and months and seasons and years. 11 I fear for you, that perhaps I have labored over you in vain.


In verse 8, Paul is speaking to the Gentiles.  Before they became Christians, they didn’t even know God or He didn’t know them.  He singled them out because the Jews knew or at least thought they knew God.  Another way to think of it, if the Jewish Christians backslid they still worshiped God and if the Gentiles backslid they worshiped NO god or some idol.  I assume that God knows everyone.  The NASB says “rather to be known by God”.  This makes me think of Matthew 7:21-23 which ends with ‘I never knew you; depart/away from Me”.   In verse 9, Paul takes them back to his example regarding the heir in verse 3.  Again, he speaks of the “elemental things” (NASB) but the NLT calls them “simple things”.  This time he makes sure they know that they are weak and worthless (NASB).

Stott paraphrased the thought: “If you were a slave and are now a son, if you did not know God but have now come to know Him and to be known by Him, how can you turn back again to the old slavery? How can you allow yourself to be enslaved by the very elemental spirits from whom Jesus Christ has rescued you?”

Verse 10 in the NLT says “You are trying to earn favor with God by observing certain days or months or seasons or years.”  As Christians, we know that Paul is just pointing out that they cannot be saved by works.  Paul tells them that he has a genuine concern for their salvation.  Paul has reached a point in his letter where he says “I think I wasted my time sharing the Gospel with you.”  You can sense the frustration in his words.


4:12 I beg of you, brethren, become as I am, for I also have become as you are. You have done me no wrong; 13 but you know that it was because of a bodily illness that I preached the gospel to you the first time; 14 and that which was a trial to you in my bodily condition you did not despise or loathe, but you received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus Himself. 15 Where then is that sense of blessing you had? For I bear you witness that, if possible, you would have plucked out your eyes and given them to me. 16 So have I become your enemy by telling you the truth? 

“Paul knew well that he wasn’t sinlessly perfect. He wasn’t standing before the Galatian Christians, saying, “Look at how perfect I am. Don’t worry about following Jesus, just follow me.” He simply wanted them to follow him as he followed Jesus.  Instead, Paul knew the Galatian Christians should imitate his consistency. The Galatians started with the right understanding of the gospel because Paul led them into the right understanding. But some of them didn’t stay there like Paul did, and in that way, they should become like Paul.”  (Guzik)

When Paul said that he became like them, he was saying what he did in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23.  He became like one under the law to win those under the law or he became like one not having the law, so as to win those not having the law.

“Apparently, Paul was compelled to travel into the region of Galatia because of some type of physical infirmity he suffered while on his first missionary journey. The book of Acts doesn’t tell us as much about this as we would like to know, but we can piece together a few facts.” (Guzik)

Evidently, while Paul visited the Galatians the first time, he was sick.  The Galatians could have sent him away but chose to take care of him.  He says they treated him as if he was an angel or Jesus Christ.  Paul is saying that they treated him so well that they would have taken out their own eyes and given them to Paul.  Throughout the letter to the Galatians, Paul has rebuked them.  Here he wanted to know where was their sense of blessing (NASB) or joyful and grateful spirit (NIV).  In verse 16, Paul asks them if he has become their enemy because he told them the truth.  This is a complete turnaround from what they thought when he first gave them the gospel message.


4:17 They eagerly seek you, not commendably, but they wish to shut you out so that you will seek them. 18 But it is good always to be eagerly sought in a commendable manner, and not only when I am present with you. 19 My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you— 20 but I could wish to be present with you now and to change my tone, for I am perplexed about you.


Paul says that “They eagerly seek you out” (NASB), “THEY” are the legalists (Judaizers) or false teachers (NLT).  Their intentions are NOT good (NLT).  They are turning the Gentiles away from Paul so that the Gentiles will have to get their information about God from the false teachers.

“Do you Galatians know why the false apostles are so zealous about you? They expect you to reciprocate. And that would leave me out. If their zeal were right they would not mind your loving me. But they hate my doctrine and want to stamp it out. In order to bring this to pass they go about to alienate your hearts from me and to make me obnoxious to you.” In this way, Paul brings the false apostles into suspicion. He questions their motives. He maintains that their zeal is mere pretense to deceive the Galatians. Our Savior Christ also warned us, saying: “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing” (Matt 7:15). (Luther)

In verse 19, Paul calls them children again.  This time he questions their salvation because he says he feels as though he is in labor.  He is saying that they are not even babies, they aren’t even born again yet.  He wishes that he was present with them and apologizes for the tone of the letter and he doesn’t know how else to help (NLT) them.



Bond and Free

4:21 Tell me, you who want to be under law, do you not listen to the law? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the bondwoman and one by the free woman. 23 But the son by the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and the son by the free woman through the promise. 24 This is allegorically speaking, for these women are two covenants: one proceeding from Mount Sinai bearing children who are to be slaves; she is Hagar. 25 Now this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. 


This chapter started with Paul using Jewish law to explain how we are heirs as children of God.  Now he is using an allegory or illustration about the sons of Abraham to explain it.  “An allegory is a spiritual or symbolic interpretation of a story that also has a literal meaning.”  (Anders)  Ishmael is the son born to the bondwoman and Isaac is the son born to the free woman.  Ishmael was born of or through the flesh and Isaac was born through a promise.  The two women represent two covenants from God.  The mosaic covenant is represented by Hagar.  This covenant gave the Jewish people the law which enslaves them.  This corresponds to the current location of Jerusalem which is on earth.  Sarah is our mother and represents the New covenant mediated by Jesus.  It frees us from the bondage of the law.  It gives us salvation and everlasting life.  It corresponds to the future location of Jerusalem which is in heaven.  Paul explained that we are spiritual children of Abraham and Sarah.  From what Paul is saying, I think of a scripture that was on a T-shirt from our church, Matthew 8:36.  It says, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (NIV)


4:26 But the Jerusalem above is free; she is our mother. 27 For it is written,

“Rejoice, barren woman who does not bear;
Break forth and shout, you who are not in labor;
For more numerous are the children of the desolate
Than of the one who has a husband.”

28 And you brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise. 29 But as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now also. 30 But what does the Scripture say?

“Cast out the bondwoman and her son,
For the son of the bondwoman shall not be an heir with the son of the free woman.”

31 So then, brethren, we are not children of a bondwoman, but of the free woman.


Paul quotes Isaiah 54:1 which prophecies that there will be a time when there are more Christians than Jews.  This prophecy has obviously been fulfilled.  As children of Abraham then we are free.  Paul quotes Genesis 21:10 to say that we and the Galatians are to cast out of the law.  Guzik says “Law and grace cannot live together as principles for our Christian life.”  Throughout this chapter, Paul contrasts Christianity and legalism.  Guzik identified six differences.

The “Ishmaels” – Legalism vs. The “Isaacs” – True Christianity

Slavery and bondage vs. Freedom
Ishmael born according to the flesh vs. Isaac: born by God’s promised miracle
Coming from the earthly Jerusalem vs. Coming from the heavenly Jerusalem
Many children vs. Many more children

Persecuting vs. Persecuted
Inheriting nothing vs. Inheriting everything
Relationship based on law-keeping vs. Relationship based on trusting God

Galatians – Chapter 5


“Legalists in our churches today warn that we dare not teach people about the liberty we have in Christ lest it result in religious anarchy. The Christian who lives by faith is not going to become a rebel. Quite the contrary, he is going to experience the inner discipline of God that is far better than the outer discipline of Galatians man-made rules.” (Warren Wiersbe)

Walk by the Spirit

5:1 It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.

Paul continues with his law bashing from chapter 4.  This chapter was Paul’s final plea to the Galatians that they are not under the law.  Verse 1 tells us that we are that God does not want a relationship with us built out of legalism but He wants a relationship built out of love. Paul tells them what Jesus told the people in John 8:36, ”If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.”  Nothing that we do will make us free, only Christ can make us free.  Paul does not want them to fall into the trap of following the law.

At the time of the Reformation, theologians held to the Five Solae. (Solae translates as ’alone’.  They are:

Solae scriptura                 scriptures alone

Solae Christus                   Christ alone

Solae gratia                        grace alone

Solae fide                            faith alone

Soli Deo Gloria                  Glory to God alone

“Freedom in Christ does not give us the right to do as we please, but the liberty to do as we ought.”  (Max Anders)

5:2 Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you. 3 And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law. 4 You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. 


In these verses, Paul is saying that we have two choices, Follow the whole law and try to get close to God on your own or accept the righteousness imputed or given to us by what Jesus did on the cross.

“The legalists among the Galatians wanted them to think that they could have both Jesus and a law-relationship with God. Paul tells them that this is not an option open to them – the system of grace and the system of law are incompatible. “Whoever wants to have a half-Christ loses the whole.” (Calvin)

Paul says that don’t expect circumcision to save you.  If you head down the road of the Law, you must keep the whole law.  In verse 4, to me, it appears that Paul is making light of the Galatians choosing circumcision.  He says that if they attempt to be justified by the Law then we are ‘katērgēthēte’ (Greek) or severed (NASB) or cut off (NLT) from Christ.

5:5 For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love.

Paul reinforces that if we are under grace then we are looking for the righteousness that is promised by God.  There are two ways to think of obtaining this righteousness.  Either little by little as we grow in faith or all at once when Jesus returns and takes us to heaven.  He says that if we have grace through faith then we do NOT need circumcision or works.  He says that the most important thing is that we express our faith through love.  This sentiment was also stated in 1 John 4:19 which says. “We love, because He first loved us.”  If we carry this a little further, out of God’s love for us he gave us grace so we should reflect God’s love to others because we have His grace.  (JRG paraphrase)

5:7 You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth? 8 This persuasion did not come from Him who calls you. 9 A little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough. 10 I have confidence in you in the Lord that you will adopt no other view; but the one who is disturbing you will bear his judgment, whoever he is. 


Paul says that they were doing so well.  He asks a question about what is holding them back from the truth.  Paul changes Jesus’ parable of the leaven or yeast to show that not only can good (the Kingdom of Heaven) spread throughout the world but so can false teachings.  Paul says that he will put his trust in Jesus to keep the Galatians on the right path.  He gives a warning to those that were trying to lead them astray.

5:11 But I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why am I still persecuted? Then the stumbling block of the cross has been abolished. 12 I wish that those who are troubling you would even mutilate themselves.

“Legalism can’t handle the offense of the cross. The whole point of Jesus dying on the cross was to say, “You can’t save yourself. I must die in your place or you have absolutely no hope at all.” When we trust in legalism, we believe that we can, at least in part, save ourselves. This takes away the offense of the cross, which should always offend the nature of fallen man. In this sense, the offense of the cross is really the glory of the cross, and legalism takes this glory away. (Guzik)

Paul does not sugar coat that it is Jesus’ work on the cross that saves us when he said in verse 12 that he wishes those unbelievers would just mutilate themselves.  Instead of using the example of circumcision throughout this verse, he could have used the example of baptism for Baptists.  He is saying that any act or work cannot save you.

5:13 For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.

We have discussed what Paul is saying in this section before.  He is saying don’t let your freedom give you an excuse to sin.  If I sin, all I have to do is confess and then I am sinless so I will sin as much as I want.  Because we love one another then we are to serve one another.  Paul quotes Jesus’ second greatest commandment from Matthew 22:36-40, that is “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  He says if we act like wild animals we should watch out because we may just consume or devour one another.


16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. 17 For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. 19 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

 “We can tell if someone walks in the Spirit because they will look a lot like Jesus. Jesus told us that the mission of the Holy Spirit would be to promote and speak of Him (John 14:16-1714:2615:2616:13-15). When someone walks in the Spirit, they listen to what the Holy Spirit says as He guides us in the path and nature of Jesus.” (Guzik)

If we walk in the spirit then we are focused on God (Trinity) but if we are focused on the flesh, we are focused on our own human desires.  As human beings, we are born with a sin or sinful nature.  If our human side wins we do evil but if our spiritual side wins we obey God.  God gave us the law to show us when we are being human and NOT spiritual.  Paul gives us a long list of things that will keep us out of the kingdom of Heaven.  Then he gives us the good list that are the fruits of the spirit.

“The acts of the flesh symbolize spiritual death, but the fruit of the Spirit is evidence of spiritual life.”  (Max Anders.)


“Against such there is no law: Paul wrote with both irony and understatement. There is certainly no law against love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. But more so, if a person has this fruit of the Spirit, he doesn’t need the Law. He already fulfills it.” (Guzik)

5:24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. 26 Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another.


Paul tells us what we are to do with our “passions and desires”, we are to nail them to the cross.  1 John 1:9 tells us that we are to confess our sins and that includes our “passions and desires”.

“If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit: We can better understand what Paul wrote here if we understand that the ancient Greek words for walk are different in Galatians 5:16 and 5:25. The first (peripateo) is the normal word for walking, used there as a picture of the “walk of life.” The second (stoicheo) means “to walk in line with” or “to be in line with.” Paul here is saying, “Keep in step with the Spirit.” (Guzik)

Paul closes Chapter 5 with three more big sins, being “conceited, or provoking, or jealous” (NLT) or the NASB says “boastful, challenging, envying” which all are NOT walking in the Spirit.

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