The chapter breaks and headings that appear in our Bibles, were not there in Paul’s original letter. For Paul, he is writing a single letter on a single topic: what is it that justifies a person so that they receive salvation. But the chapter divisions and such make it seem as if new topics are being introduced. So when we go on to read today’s reading, we have to remind ourselves that the topic is what saves a person:
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? 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? Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? Have you suffered so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain?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?— just as Abraham “believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Therefore know thatonly those who are of faith are sons of Abraham. 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.” So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham. Gal 3:1-9
The reason this letter was sent, is that men from Judea were coming among the church at Galatia, as they were other churches, and telling the believers there that if the Greeks and other nationalities were not circumcised and converted to Judaism first, they could not receive salvation by faith in Jesus Christ. But if they were, then they could receive Jesus Christ by faith. And many of the believers at Galatia were buying into it.
So Paul sent this corrective, saying that salvation was had by hearing with faith in Jesus Christ; the baptism and work of the Spirit was had by hearing with faith in Jesus Christ, and that just as Abraham was made just in God’s sight by believing in His promise without seeing it come to pass first, so all those who do likewise and believe in Jesus Christ are Abraham’s sons.
Paul is not saying that faith is opposed to the Law (torah). He just finished saying that Abraham is the father of those who are of faith, and of Abraham God said that he obeyed His voice, and kept His charge, His commandments, His statutes, and His law (torah, Gen 26:5).
But what Paul is saying, is that the flesh is opposed to the Spirit:
“Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah — not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” Jer 31:31-33
“Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.” Eze 36:25-27
Before the new covenant, obedience to the Law was a work of the flesh, a work coming from a heart of stone. Men were compelled from the outside, by fear of punishment or ostracism, to obey the Law, and their obedience was out of their own strength. But since the new covenant, right obedience to the Law is a work of the Spirit. Men who have been baptized in the Spirit, are now compelled from the inside, by love of the Lord God, to obey Him (Joh 14:15).
But to do something which you were not convicted to do, just because some Jews came and told you that if you didn’t, you could have no salvation in Jesus, that is a work of the flesh. That is trying to get something from God because you racked up enough brownie points. The distinction is sometimes subtle, on the surface, which is why this can be a hard concept to grasp, but when the outer layer is peeled away, the difference is vast.
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.” But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for “the just shall live by faith.” Yet the law is not of faith, but “the man who does them shall live by them.” Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed iseveryone who hangs on a tree”), that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. Gal 3:10-14
What is the curse of the Law? Please continue reading in the link below. I will just say, this is so vitally crucial for us to understand, as it is so misunderstood today.
Continued in: Galatians 3:10-14, the curse of the law