Much confusion abounds when it comes to the Christian and the Law. How are we to understand the Law today? Should we obey it? Is it relevant? I won’t be answering all these questions, but one thing is for certain salvation is by promise and not by Law-keeping. This is one of the apostle Paul’s main points of contention in his letters. Let’s take a look now at Galatians 3:1–4:31 and see what it has to say about why salvation is by promise and not Law-keeping.
1. Salvation is by faith and not by works of the law just as it was with Abraham (3:1-9)
Paul challenges the Galatians not to revert to a reliance on works of the law as a means of salvation. For if they rely on works of the law then they are pursuing salvation in the flesh and not in the Spirit. In fact, the foolishness of relying on works of the law is magnified by how Abraham was saved, by believing the promises of God. Therefore, those who have faith share in the blessing of Abraham. Furthermore, not only is Abraham an example proving that salvation is by faith rather than works, they themselves are an example as well (3:2-5)
Those who have faith share in the blessing of Abraham.Tweet
2. Everyone who relies on the works of the law is under a curse (3:10-14)
Paul demonstrates that the law requires complete obedience. The person who pursues works of law as a means of salvation and falls short is therefore cursed. Rather, those who are considered righteous are so by faith in Christ who became a curse for believers on the cross as He redeemed them from the curse of the law. The purpose of His redeeming death was that believers may share in Abraham’s blessing and receive the Spirit.
The person who pursues works of law as a means of salvation and falls short is cursed.Tweet
3. The promise of salvation in the Abrahamic Covenant came before the Law (3:15-18)
The promise to Abraham included a singular seed, who is Christ. The law, which came later, cannot cancel the promise made to Abraham. Therefore, if salvation would come through the law it would not be based on the promise graciously given to Abraham.
4. The Law was not given to give life but to bring the knowledge of transgressions (3:19-22)
The law was added for the sake of transgressions until the promised Seed came. The law is not contrary to God’s promises as it was never intended to give life. Rather, the Scriptures imprisoned everyone under sin’s power, so that the promise of salvation may be given to those who have faith in Christ.
The law is not contrary to God’s promises as it was never intended to give life.Tweet
5. The Law never justified but functioned as a guardian until Christ (3:23-29)
Since Christ has come, the time of the Law’s guardianship is over. Through faith believers are sons of God in Christ, whether Jew or Greek, because we have been baptized into Christ and clothed with Christ. Those who belong to Christ therefore are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise.
6. The Law enslaves under the elements of the world and cannot bring adoption as sons (4:1-11)
As long as the heirs to the promise were under the guardianship of the law they were still enslaved to the elements of the world. God sent His Son to redeem those under the law so that they may receive adoption as sons and no longer be slaves. Paul expresses concern that the Galatians are exchanging their sonship to be enslaved once again by the worthless elements again.
7. The Law and its slavery can never attain the freedom that accompanies the promise (4:12-31)
After expressing the pain caused by the Galatians through their departure from the gospel he preached, Paul demonstrates how the Law as a pursuit of the flesh cannot bring the inheritance that was based on the promise to Abraham. Paul uses the history of Hagar (who had a child born according to the flesh) and Sarah (who had a child born according to the promise) as an analogy to highlight that a child of the flesh (under the slavery of the law) will never be a coheir with a child of the promise.