Imagine a prisoner standing before a judge. A prosecutor has just proved the accused committed a crime; the jury has declared him guilty. He knows it’s true and waits, shamefaced, for the just sentence to be handed down. But then the judge declares him pardoned— another person has accepted punish- ment on his behalf. He can walk out a free man!
This is a picture of the mercy and grace of God and of His salvation for sinners. The Galatians had received this gospel message, but something had gone wrong. Chapter 3 begins with a series of rhetorical questions to rebuke to the church for listening to the legalists and veering away from the gospel (vv. 1–5). They were “foolish” and “bewitched.” Were they trying to go back to their old ways? What could they add to Christ’s death and resurrection? Having begun in faith and the Spirit, why would they return to the flesh and human effort?
In fact, God’s divine plan of salvation has been the same all along (vv. 6–9). The Judaizers had forgotten history and lost sight of God’s redemptive plan. It’s always been about faith, not works or law. For example, this was true for Abraham. He believed God’s promise to make his descendants as numerous as the stars (Gen. 15:6), and through him to bless all nations (Gen. 12:3). This example was a “case closed” approach by Paul—in other words, if it was true for Abraham, then it’s true for everyone.
In this sense, all who believe in Christ are “children of Abraham” and “blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith” (cf. Rom. 4:9–12). Justification is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. We can never overcome sin and death through our own efforts. A good-works approach is our feeble attempt to get some of the credit or glory for ourselves.
Apply the Word
If you’d like to do further study, two good books are Galatians by Philip Graham Ryken and No Other Gospel: 31 Reasons from Galatians Why Justification by Faith Alone Is the Only Gospel by Josh Moody. Or you could study through Moody Distance Learning; see moody.edu/distance- learning for more information.