Galatians 3

The Word Made Fresh

1Foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Christ was publicly crucified right in front of you! 2All I want to know from you is, did you receive the Spirit by obeying the law, or by believing what you have heard? 3Don’t be so foolish! You started with the Spirit – don’t end with the flesh! 4Was what you experienced really for nothing? 5Does God grant the Spirit and perform miracles among you because you obey the law, or because you believe what you have heard?

6Abraham believed God, “and it was credited to him as righteousness,” 7and those who believe are descendants of Abraham. 8And the scriptures, knowing that God would accept the Gentiles through faith, pronounced the gospel early on to Abraham, telling him, “All the Gentiles will be blessed through you.” 9That’s why believers are blessed along with Abraham who had believed.

10Everyone who depends on the law is under a curse. It is written, “Those who refuse to read and obey all that is in the book of the law are cursed.” 11Of course, the law doesn’t justify anyone before God, because “the righteous live by faith.” 12The law doesn’t rest on faith, though, but rather, “Whoever follows the law will live by the law.” 13But Christ has freed us from the curse of the law by being cursed on our behalf. It is written, “Those who are hung on a tree are cursed.” 14So, in Christ Jesus Abraham’s blessing is given also to the Gentiles, and we receive God’s promise through faith.

15Listen – once a promise has been given, no one can add to it or take from it. 16The promises were made to Abraham and to his descendant. It does not say “to his descendants,” referring to many, but “to his descendant,” meaning to one person. And that person is Christ. 17What I’m saying is that the law, which came four hundred thirty years later, doesn’t erase an agreement previously made by God, for that would nullify the promise. 18Don’t you see? If the inheritance comes through the law it no longer comes through the promise, but God gave it to Abraham through the promise!

19Why then was the law given? It was given because of our sinfulness, until the descendant to whom the promise was made would come; and it was all arranged by a mediator through angels. 10Of course, a mediator represents more than one person, but God is one.

21So, does that mean the law is opposed to God’s promises? Of course not! If a law could restore life, righteousness would come through the law. 22But the scripture says that everything is under the power of sin, and therefore what was promised through the faith of Jesus Christ can be given to believers.

23Now, before faith came we were placed under the guardianship of the law until faith was revealed. 24The law disciplined us until Christ came so that we would be justified by faith. 25But now faith has come, and we no longer need a disciplinarian 26because we are all God’s children in Christ through faith. 27You who have been baptized into Christ have been clothed with Christ. 28There is no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female, because all of us are one in Christ Jesus. 29And if you belong to Christ, that makes you a descendant of Abraham and an heir to the promise.


1-5: Paul reminds them that when they first heard the gospel they received the Holy Spirit, and tells them that if now they depend on being circumcised they nullify the Spirit’s influence. They are going backwards, he says, from spirit to flesh.

6-9: In a rather incredible leap Paul links Christians to Abraham. He will make this point in a number of places. The gist of his argument is that Abraham lived in a time before the law, and therefore God’s choosing of him had to do with faith, not law.

10-14: The blessing of Abraham is mediated through Jesus Christ who became a curse by dying “on a tree,” a reference to the cross. Thus, Christ is condemned by the law, but through his condemnation God’s salvation is made available to Gentiles.

15-18: The way to get right with God is through faith, not through law; that is a point Paul continues to emphasize. He wants to show that faith predates the law, and illustrates that point by using Abraham as his example. In this paragraph he uses the argument from Genesis 17:7-8 that God’s promise was to Abraham and his descendants, which in the Biblical text is a singular noun. Paul says the word descendant in that passage is not a reference to the Jewish people, but rather a reference to a single person, Jesus Christ. The covenant with Abraham thus skips over the law to Christ, making the law null and void as a means of entering into a right relationship with God.

19-20: So, why did God give the law in the first place? Paul says it is because of transgressions; that is, the purpose of the law is to define sin. The law, furthermore, was given through angels (a late rabbinic idea that God, being holy, did not directly give the law but transmitted it through angels) by a mediator, Moses. A mediator is one who stands between two parties, and a covenant based on law is broken if the law is broken. But a promise depends only on one person. God makes the promise of eternal life through Jesus Christ, and that promise is held by God’s grace through faith.

21-22: Therefore, the law cannot be the basis on which eternal life is granted; faith, however, can be and is.

23-29: Of course, the faith of which Paul is speaking is faith in Jesus Christ. Since Christ is the recipient of the promise given through Abraham, faith in Christ supersedes the law which was given as an interim guide for living within the covenant.


The “Law” mentioned throughout Paul’s letters is a reference to the first five books of the Bible. The Ten Commandments are not exhaustive, of course, but are a convenient summary that can be taught and remembered. However, obedience to the law isn’t a ticket to heaven. The law cannot elevate us; it can only condemn us. Faith in Jesus Christ is not a step beyond the law, though. Faith in Christ simply makes it possible for us to truly live according to God’s will. The Law separates us from God; faith in Christ puts us in relationship to God.