Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Notes on Galatians 3:1-9

This section is one of the richest sections of Paul’s writings, and consists of two basic moves:
-The argument from experience (3:1-5). Paul will argue from what the Galatians experienced at their conversion and afterwards to argue for the sufficiency of Christ.
-The argument from Scripture (3:6-14). Paul will argue that it was always God’s intention to save Jew and Gentile alike through faith by the work of Jesus.

In many respects Paul’s arguments in this chapter are similar to those made at the Jerusalem Conference in Acts 15.
-Paul and Barnabas argued from experience, the signs and wonders performed among the Gentiles (Acts 15:12). Peter also argued from what was experienced by Cornelius and his household (Acts 15:7).
-Peter also argued that it was God’s will that both Jew and Gentile be saved by faith (15:9, 11), and that the Jews had historically failed to keep the Law (15:10).
-James argued that the prophets had foreseen the day when the Gentiles would come in to the family of God (15:15-17).

1 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? 

They have been deceived by those who are evil.

It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. 

Paul’s message was Christ crucified (1 Cor. 2:1-3), and from this statement it is clear that he vividly preached this message (remember the emphasis in the opening verses - 1:4).

2 Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit 

The outpouring of the Holy Spirit was one of the blessings the OT pointed to in the coming of the Messiah, which implies that the Gentiles are now part of God’s people (Isaiah 32:15; Ezekiel 37:4-14; Joel 2:28-32).

Reception of the Spirit is the same thing as conversion (Rom. 8:9; Acts 2:38; 5:32).  However, in the apostolic period conversion was often accompanied by signs and wonders (Acts 19:1-5), which Paul may also have in mind.

by works of the law or by hearing with faith? 

Paul’s question is rhetorical. The Galatians obviously had received the Spirit upon their faith in the gospel message (“hearing with faith”), before the Judaizers came to impose the Law.

3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? 

The reference to “the flesh” probably refers to the act of circumcision particularly, and to living as an ethnic Jew generally.

4 Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain?

The word “suffer” may also be translated “experience” (ESV footnote), but it is probably a reference to the experience of suffering.

Christians were persecuted (Acts 14:22; 1 Thess. 2:14-16, and Paul suggests that had happened to the Galatians as well (see Gal. 4:29).

5 Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith—

We know from 1 Corinthians 12:28-30 that the early Christians had miraculous gifts. Paul’s obvious point here is that these miracles did not come through keeping the Law but through their faith in Christ.

6 just as 

This is an abbreviated way of saying, “Just as the Scripture says”.

Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”?

Abraham was the ultimate example of a Jew to the Jews, and yet as Paul points out, Abraham was counted righteous on the basis of faith. The text here is Gen. 15:6, and this account takes place before Abraham was circumcised (recorded in Gen. 17). Thus Abraham is a model of justification by faith without circumcision (or the Law). And in this respect he is a model of Gentiles.

7 Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. 

Since Abraham was justified without circumcision, then Gentiles can be as well, as long as they have the same faith. That is the “like-father-like son” basis of the true family of Abraham (see Rom. 4:9-12).

8 And the Scripture, 

Paul personifies the Scripture as if it was a person who could foresee.

foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” 

A combination of Gen. 12:3; 18:18; 22:18. “It was customary Jewish understand of Abraham” to link these kinds of passages together, as in James 2:23 and 1 Mac. 2:52 (Dunn 161). 

Dunn points out that Marcion removed this verse from his text of Galatians (166).

9 So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

Whether Jew or Gentile, anyone with faith like Abraham can be blessed like him.

Paul’s “mission to the Gentiles was nothing other than the fulfillment of Israel’s mission” (Dunn 165).  Cf. Acts 24:14.

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