Tag Archives: Galatians 3

But before faith came. Galatians 3:23

Sorry, if this trip through Galatians is becoming tedious, but imagine that moment when a new reader drops in and has no idea of what we are talking. It happens.

We are working our way through Paul’s letter to the Jewish/Messianic converts, in the region of Galatia, an area that entails most of Southern Turkey today. There was no particular church, so we can easily assume that letter was meant to be read to anyone who would listen. With every village, Saul/Paul entered, he and those with him looked for the Synagogue. They would not have been elaborate structures, probably more like the buildings we have seen in Iraq or Afghanistan. Because Paul was a scholar in the law and the prophets (The Torah and Tanakh,) he was the perfect man to be an apologist for the gospel of Yahshua, the crucified and risen Son of God. He could take his audience directly to the passages that identified Jesus as the Messiah for which they longed. Some were hungry for this hope and promise. While others, acted like Saul, the Pharisee and zealot he used to be known as when he persecuted the church, looking for ways to harm, or if necessary kill the Apostle, the man we come to recognize as the Apostle Paul.

We left off with Galatians 3:22, which according to the Complete Jewish Bible tells us:

the Tanakh shuts up everything under sin; so that what had been promised might be given, on the basis of Yeshua the Messiah’s trusting faithfulness.”

It is not so dissimilar to what we will see in verse 23.

Galatians 3:23 NASB But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed.

Before faith came.”

Didn’t Abraham show faith? What about Moses, and the prophets? Apparently, they did, then this has more do with a person or event.

What then would that event have been? The Cross, but not just the cross; it was all that encompassed those three days.

If it was a person, who would that person be? Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

“we were kept in custody under the law,”

Within the Jewish community, they were kept in check, to some degree, by the law. The law originated with ten simple commands. In the desert, under the guidance of Moses, the portable temple was set up, along with ordinances of worship – the distinct methods associated with righteousness. As a result, the priesthood added over six hundred laws; this too, kept Israel, the Jews, and strangely the Gentiles, in custody under the law.

“being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed.”

Galatians 3:22 told us that everyone subject to the law was shut up under sin, but now in Galatians 3:23, we learn that we all were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed.

G4788 sugkleio From G4862 and G2808; to shut together, that is, include or (figuratively) embrace in a common subjection to: – conclude, enclose, shut up.

So, the Jews/Israel were embraced in a common subjection to the law; and incapable of having faith.

Is that true, they were incapable of having faith?

Let’s use Christ’s birth as an example of Israel’s incapacity to have faith?

The Magi from the East (Matthew chapter two,) seeing His star in the east, gathered together – complete with entourage, and came to Jerusalem looking for the Child that was born the King of the Jews. What is so dramatic about this event is that Herod called all the chief priests and scribes of the people to him, demanding who is this king and where is he. The priesthood knew the answer but had no faith in Yahshua as the Messiah and king of the Jews.

Within that same story, we find Jewish shepherds; men who were not held so tightly to the man inserted laws, by which the Jews gained their righteousness. These shepherds sought out the child who was born the king of the Jews when directed to do so by the angels. Those shepherds could have chosen to ignore the angel voices, much like the majority of the priesthood had done.

In opposition to the idea that ALL of Israel had no capacity for faith, there is:

Anna Luke 2:36-38 NASB And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years and had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers. 38 At that very moment she came up and began giving thanks to God, and continued to speak of Him to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.

Simeon – Luke 2:25-32 NASB And there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to carry out for Him the custom of the Law, 28 then he took Him into his arms, and blessed God, and said, 29 “Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace, According to Your word; 30 For my eyes have seen Your salvation, 31 Which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32 A LIGHT OF REVELATION TO THE GENTILES, And the glory of Your people Israel.”

And – Hebrews chapter eleven takes up several verses defining characters from the Old Testament, whom, by faith, did things ranging from the simple to the amazing. Indeed many had faith, but they were not in the majority amongst their peers.

Now, apply this same thought to the Gentiles that lived in and among the Jews.

One of the dominant Gentile characters is the Roman Centurion Cornelius that invited Peter to his home so that they could hear the gospel. (Read this in Acts chapter ten.) Now, God had alerted Peter that He was about to do something radically different, through a vision, in which a blanket was lowered having clean and unclean animals in it. Peter was told to take and eat. Appalled at the thought of eating pork and a few of the others, Peter begins to tell God that there is not a chance because I am a Jew and I don’t eat unclean things. God replies to that with, don’t call unclean what I have made clean. Now that made little sense to Peter at the moment, but it would soon. No sooner did the vision end when a messenger summons Peter to the Centurion’s home. Imagine that, being summoned to the home of someone who could have you imprisoned. But there is an addendum, this man Cornelius is “a devout man and one who feared God with all his household.” Peter knew what it meant for a Jew to be devout, but what about a Greek, and, how did this come to be? So Peter went.
Upon learning about the Centurion’s desire to hear the gospel more fully, Peter begins giving them his best sermon. However, right in the middle of that discourse, God extends His hand of mercy and fills the entire family with the gift of the Holy Spirit, and they all spoke in other tongues.
Evidently, the Gentiles could have faith as well.

So, is the statement that all were shut and incapable of having faith true? No, but it is true when applied to the majority.

the faith which was later to be revealed.”

Jesus was buried, and the disciples (all 120+ of them) mourned like puppies without a mother, for they still did not understand. On the third day, the two women went to the tomb. But what did they find? The stone rolled away, the guards gone, and an angel sitting on the stone. That angel spoke to them, saying, He is not here. Read this in Luke 23:54-56 and Luke 24:1-9.
I use these two women and the disciples in general because they all demonstrated little faith in Jesus words which informed them that, He was the Messiah; the Son of God; that he would rise again, and that He would have tremendous power bestowed upon Him by the Father. Not to mention the ability that He was going to confer upon them.

After that morning at the empty tomb, Yahshua began appearing to them. Think the impact these sightings, signs, and His words would and should have on the disciples – a rather large number of people. First, He appeared to the two ladies at the tomb. Then, he appeared to the two on the Emmaus road. Later, he walked through the locked door and into the upper room where over 120 disciples, including the women, were gathered; Thomas, the one who said, I will not believe unless I can put my hand into His wounds, was invited by Jesus to touch those same wounds. Jesus walked among them for forty days, eating, drinking, and elaborating on the scriptures, from Moses through the prophets, about the things that they witnessed. On the road to Emmaus He had spent the day with them, and yet, they did not realize who it was until later that evening at dinner.

It is in this room in which they had gathered, that He entered even though they had locked the door, that the Holy Spirit, which could only be described as cloven tongues of fire, lit upon them all and they all spoke in utterances that they did not know. While it may have been mere sounds to them, others heard these so-called unlearned people, speaking in a multitude of dialects, and attesting to the glory of God.

What held them together, both mentally and physically, to the point that the overwhelming sadness and lack of faith were overcome? They followed Jesus instructions and stayed firmly knit together. We see this in Acts 1:14 NASB. The faith came.

These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.”

We call this fellowship. Simplistic as it seemed, there was a purpose involved, whether they understood it or not, for It fought off the depression and sadness, while helping to maintain unity and purpose.

Once the Holy Spirit fell upon them with power, they were changed, people. Peter preached before thousands that Pentecost day; Philip, ran alongside the eunuch’s chariot, and explained the portion of Isaiah’s prophecy, which the eunuch was reading.

Every one of these so-called faithless disciples eventually had a tremendous impact on the world.

Could we then say that faith came in the course of time? Absolutely, and it will come to us as we pursue Him.

Can I apply the principles learned here, even if I am not a Jew. Galatians 3:22

Sometimes, like today, I am battling with insecurities and wondering why I think anyone needs another commentary. But maybe, you’re just like me and find yourself overwhelmed by the high theology of some; the convoluted approach of others, and the shocking oversimplification that you encounter in many of the Bible translations.

When it came to Galatians two things stood out in my mind. The radio pastor who seemed to be fixated on the phrase, “you foolish Galatians!”, and pointed those words at his listening audience, which included me. I don’t value that approach. The other came from a Sunday morning adult class which used some “Christian” book on Galatians. The questions the authors asked were leading and poorly formed. Both of these instances left me with a lack of desire to pursue Galatians any further; and yet, here I am.

What have I learned? I have learned that Galatians was written explicitly to the Jewish converts if I can call them that. Can I apply the principles learned here in Galatians, even if I am not a Jew, to myself? Indeed, and we would be wise to do so with frequency.

So, let’s see if we can find something in Galatians from which to learn.

Galatians 3:22 NASB 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.

The phrase, “But the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin,” is confusing at best. Some, would take this confusion and preach it, out of context, as though it is truth and the final word on our lives.

Why would it be confusing?

  • Scripture to me, a former Gentile, means the New Testament. Some would act as though we do not need to spend any time in the Old Testament; not true. Since scripture, especially, at the time of this writing, would have been the Torah and Tanakh. These “scriptures” would only be found in the form of valuable, fragile scrolls, which were exclusively kept in the synagogues. So, from Paul’s statement, I have another assertion of the Jewishness of this letter.

  • If I apply the elements of Paul’s letter to myself, what I find is freedom; a freedom that goes far beyond the limitations of my consciousnesses. Did not Christ’s actions on the cross set us free (primarily regarding our freedom from the burdens of Sin; a condition which would shut us up under sin.)

    So, am I shut up under sin?

    Some will try to tell you that you are. However, because I have learned who I belong to, and what Christ did too and for me; not a chance.

  • Why then would Paul say such a thing?

    The entire context of Galatians has been enveloped in Jewish believers returning to the Law (scriptures.) The Complete Jewish Bible translates this verse this way:

Galatians 3:22 CJB But instead, the Tanakh shuts up everything under sin; so that what had been promised might be given, on the basis of Yeshua the Messiah’s trusting faithfulness, to those who continue to be trustingly faithful.

This Jewish understanding of being caught up in the Tanakh is why Paul opened what we call chapter three, with:

Galatians 3:4-5 CJB Have you suffered so much for nothing? If that’s the way you think, your suffering certainly will have been for nothing! 5 What about God, who supplies you with the Spirit and works miracles among you—does he do it because of your legalistic observance of Torah commands or because you trust in what you heard and are faithful to it?

Notice something else about Galatians 3:22.

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.”

The Gentiles did not live under the laws of the Tanakh; how then did the “scripture” apply to them. The same way it applied to Adam. The partaking of the fruit brought about the knowledge of GOOD and EVIL. Therefore an understanding that there was a moral authority existed since the beginning. Even without “the law” there was an understanding that God expected certain things, and He would carry out, faithfully, what He had promised. This idea is the underlying reason that we see Abel making the sacrifice of a lamb with no apparent instructions. The instructions were passed down from his father who had watched God himself perform the same process. This sacrificing wasn’t done because God liked roast lamb, but because it was symbolic and the only method of maintaining a just relationship with the creator until the Lamb of God, the Son, would come and end the need for all this blood.

The Tanakh, in its original state, was universal, and satisfactorily passed along for generations by oral tradition, or it was held solely within ten commandments engraved in stone, that plainly told Israel, to love God only and treat your fellow man decently. The Tanakh then put everyone under the same rules, efficiently leveling the playing field.

This idea that we are all on an equal basis under sin is something we have seen before. While we have used this verse to stimulate people into a state of repentance.

Romans 3:21-24 NASB But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;

The Tanakh, which was not just commands or demands written in scrolls, they were an understanding that God was the moral authority and compass. And, man, because of the fall, was broken and incapable of following this discipline and needed a savior, Jesus – the Son, was meant to demonstrate that God’s mercy and grace were poured upon all people if they should accept it.

I sometimes find myself thinking if Christ’s actions paid the price for sin, and redeemed us out of the hand of the enemy, then why do we need to accept anything? Because, still operating under those same laws that shut us up under sin, brings about our freedom through our ability to choose. Haven’t you wondered how a God that would go through all this, to save a world that admittedly does not seem to love Him, would merely acquiesce to letting so many of them just go to a fiery hell? Well, He doesn’t simply assent to the idea but honors the choices we make and allows us to serve whomever we choose. Freedom, peace, and a life with the Father in the Eden of eternity is available to all who choose to follow God as their master. The other path becomes painfully evident in time.

This opening line is one that gives me grief. Galatians 3:1-3

In many of my posts I show you a bit of me; in other words, I make it personal, and then hopefully applicable. I am going to try to integrate myself into this one as well, but I am going to jump back into commentary mode with Galatians chapter 3.

“You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes, Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified.”

This opening line is one that has caused me grief; not because I see myself as a foolish Galatian, but because of a local Calvary Chapel pastor, one who has a particular way of accentuating words, preached on this, and it seemed like these words, “You foolish Galatians! Who has cast a spell on you?”, were condemning all of us, and putting us under some form of bondage once again. Since radio programs are just sermons, chopped into overlapping pieces, so that they can make it last for an entire week; it continued for what seemed like weeks. So let’s see what Paul was trying to say because I can assure you that Paul was not attempting to put people under bondage. We can do that quite well on our own.

If I reiterate the last three verses of Galatians 2, you can get a feel for the context, so let’s start there.

Galatians 2:19-21 NET. For through the law I died to the law so that I may live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So the life I now live in the body, I live because of the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not set aside God’s grace, because if righteousness could come through the law, then Christ died for nothing!

In chapter one, Paul tells these Galatians that there is no other gospel; there are, however, those out there that wish to pervert the good news that Paul had preached. (Galatia is a reference to the Asia Minor region, we now call Turkey. Paul had made stops at a handful of cities, few of which are mentioned. This letter then was written from Rome around 68AD, almost 18 years after passing through the region.

As a believer, I can take this statement literally – Christ lives in me, and I now live in Him. And, this life I now live, I live because of the faithfulness of the Son of God, Jesus Christ the risen King, who gave Himself for me.

What then, had Paul preached?

That the followers of Christ were free from the bondage that comes with the Law found in the Torah; a law that had been so expanded upon by the Jews, that it was deemed, the law of the Jews.

The Law, in its original state, given by God, was effectively the law of the universe, and Adam, as a representative of God, broke that Law. The transgression of that universal law brought a demand for payment of that wrongdoing, to us all. So, Christ not only paid the debt on our behalf, but, by His grace and faithfulness, freed the Jews and us, from the bondage of the Law, and the expanded Jewish portion as well.

Now, wouldn’t it be great if the effects of Adam’s sin did not linger upon us daily? The freedom begins to kick in, as you remind yourself “that’s not who I am.” Because, “Christ lives in me, and I now live in Him. And, this life I now live, I live because of the faithfulness of the Son of God, Jesus Christ the risen King, who gave Himself for me.”

What is essential to our understanding of the phrase “free from the bondage of the law?”

That it meant nothing to a Gentile, and everything to a Jewish audience, which is whom Paul was preaching and writing to in the days before his captivity in Rome.

Let’s start breaking chapter 3 down.

Galatians 3:1 NASB You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified?

Since we understand that there was no Church of Galatia as there was in Corinth or Ephesus, he is broadcasting this reprimand across an entire region. Are you serious? In relative quantity, after hearing about the grace and mercy found in Christ, and receiving that blessing, the converts in this region are submitting to the pressure of Jewish zealots and setting aside the grace of God. The implications are, they are setting aside their faith in Christ as the risen Messiah.

The words Paul uses are anything but politically correct; they are, however, quickly understood, to the point, and meant to get the readers attention.

Foolish – The Greek word anóētos means Lacking intelligence; one who does not govern his lusts; one without a mind, therefore lacking the organ by which divine things are comprehended and known or ignored. Word Study Dictionary. Other translations called them stupid and senseless Galatians.

Paul is asking them, WHO has done this too you? As though he, and they do not know. They know; it was the Jewish zealots from which these converts had emerged.

Here is something you should see and understand.
Paul never told them to stop being Jewish. To stop being Jewish would border on impossible; why? Because of heritage, birthright, and training. Paul of all people would have understood this. Accepting Jesus Christ as the Messiah, was what the prophets of old called for and showed them through their words. Acceptance of Yeshua was the carrying out and completion of a lifelong dream every Jew has.

Passing on and invoking our prejudicial attitudes and ways is something we all do, some just not so intentionally; we do, however, display our prejudices rather openly when we feel threatened and wish to regain our support base. Here in America, we have a derogatory term, red neck. While it initially applied to farmers, and ranch hands, it came to imply a simple mind with an unyielding attitude; an attitude that does not work so well in the big city. Jews are not so different as they too take pride in their lifestyles and traditions.

That’s great, but, as we have learned from Paul, Christs insertion into the universal picture, changed everything. By the intentional spilling of His blood and giving of His life, He reinserted grace and mercy into the world. The Law of the universe was set aside, and freedom is available to every man through the actions of Christ. Whether you accept it or not, sins were forgiven. This forgiveness has a massive impact on the final judgment, where you will spend eternity, and it is all about who you are choosing to serve. You should know that you will not be judged for anything other than what you did with Christ, this risen King; the one who will gather those who are in Christ, to Himself, so that they can live with Him in the peaceful kingdom, forever.

Bewitched? – Is the Greek word baskaino; to malign, that is, (by extension) to fascinate (by false representations): – bewitch.

Sometimes it helps me if I can see a definition of a word, such as malign.
Malign – Having a very evil disposition towards others; harboring violent hatred or enmity; malicious; as malign spirits. Webster’s Dictionary

Think this through for a moment. The Jews already had an evil disposition toward all Gentiles. The assumption, and probably a safe one, would be that the hard-liners or zealots had regained members of their congregations by provoking the violent hatred and maliciousness that, sadly, is an aspect of the brokenness we all carry due to Adam’s transgression.

Note how Paul paints a word picture when he uses the phrase, “before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified.” If that seems a little challenging to wrap your mind around, then perhaps the Amplified version might be graspable.

Unto whom–right before your very eyes–Jesus Christ (the Messiah) was openly and graphically set forth and portrayed as crucified.

What if Christ crucified (the Messiah), is the primary thing that Paul preached to them? And, if not, why not? Deeply entrenched in laws and traditions, the Jews needed something that jolted them into believing the what the Word of God.

Whether we use the word publicly, which conveys an image of standing on a street corner talking loudly to car passengers as they go by, or openly, which speaks of a person talking unashamedly, it is still the same Greek word prographo and can mean either. The word prographo means to write previously; to announce, or to set forth. [Strong’s Concordance]

Since we have nothing to tell us that Paul spoke to enough people directly to act as though he addressed all of Asia Minor in person, then we should assume that he wrote letters; letters, which were then transmitted through the mouths of other believers, Jewish converts. Since it was typical for Paul to acknowledge those with him and aligned with him, we should have expected the same in this letter. He would have used names that made a personal connection. So let’s see what he tells us.

Galatians 1:1-2 NASB 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), 2 and all the brethren who are with me, To the churches of Galatia:

That’s odd, for he merely calls them, “all the brethren who are with me.”
Why that could be anyone. However, we can have confidence that Luke the physician was there; there is the possibility that Silas is with Paul, and, we might expect to find Timothy.

How would these men, make any more of an impact than Paul?

Excluding the effect of the Holy Spirit on men, I would say no way. Besides that, Paul is talking to Jews; Jews who are not the least bit interested, for the most part, in the Gentile Jesus.

Paul chastises the Galatians harshly, pointing out the message that he preached (Jesus Christ, as the Messiah, publicly portrayed as crucified.), and then asks them a question.

Galatians 3:2 NASB 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?

This question is important to a Jew, and all of us as well? What is he asking them?

  • Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law?

    Considering that the primary thing a Jew had to do to obtain righteousness, was to sacrifice a lamb or a dove, for example, the problem is that this sacrificial process is not a lasting one. If you, five minutes later, after leaving the synagogue, have a brutal road rage incident as someone cuts in front your camel on the way home, you have lost your righteousness. Here then is the evidence that the works of the Law did not bring about lasting righteousness.

  • Or, by hearing with faith?

    Since Paul laid out what the Messiah, Jesus Christ, did for them, and how He, because of His faithfulness, secured our righteousness. Then the answer is, by hearing.

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

Paul, having asked his sarcasm-laced questions,  reiterates what we began with when we started chapter three.

  • Are you so foolish?

    We ran into this already. It is the Greek word anóētos meaning without a mind; unable to comprehend; lacking intelligence, foolish.

  • Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?

    The apostle is here dealing with Jews primarily, who, having embraced Christ as the risen Messiah, and yet, continued to seek for justification by the works of the law. The pressure to return to the law has come from zealots within the synagogues.

    But put another spin on this scenario, and you can easily see this also pointed at Gentile believers as well. Having begun in the Spirit, where else would we find them indulging in something that might perfect their flesh? The philosophies and idolatry of the world.
    There is no room for denial here, as Israel was pulled continuously into the idolatries of the world. This attraction to the gods of this world is one of the main reasons we have the story of the ‘prophet’ Balaam. 
    [You find this story in Numbers 22. In essence, Balaam gave their weakness away to Balak, the Moab king, and Israel was destroyed from the inside out as they brought in women from the nations to be their wives and whatever else they were.]

  • “Are you now being perfected by the flesh?

    Perfected is the Greek word epiteleo meaning to fulfill further (or completely), that is, execute; by implication to terminate, or undergo.

    Every Jew looked for fulfillment in the Messiah. Paul merely directed them to Him. So, the idea that they would have been completed would imply an integration, which is precisely what we do when accepting Jesus Christ; we become ONE with Him. At the point of conversion, we undergo an immediate change, one we rarely seem to be aware of from the outside. It is, however, a lasting and eternal change in God’s eyes. But, because we struggle with our beliefs due to inadequate teaching in Church, the promise that we are changed must be rehearsed in the mind of Christ followers far too frequently, as we seem to forget who we are.

We will move on through Galatians 3 if the Lord is willing, but I want to say something here. The men I sit with on Monday, are a microcosm of the unsound teaching you get in Church. Don’t get me wrong, God has given me a love for the guys, but I cannot stand the garbage that the leadership spews out of their mouths every week. The saddest part of this is that this false teaching has been going on for YEARS. The questions these elder gentlemen ask, and the twisted comments they make, prove my point, and, it demonstrates that they do not know the nature and character of this God we serve. A secondary point I want to make is the manipulative way we are evoked to win the lost constantly. Do you not realize that the lost sit beside you in Church; if what Jesus said when He spoke of the ten-virgins, is true (and it is,) then fifty percent are going to be left behind. Are these lost? According to the teachings, I hear on Mondays.

Look, I am not an evangelist, I am a teacher, and teaching is my gift. However, if you sat with me for coffee, you would get an earful of God’s truth. Fortunately, so do the people around me. So, maybe I am also an evangelist and don’t even know it.