2. THE GOSPEL OF GRACE EXPLAINED
(a). The Holy Spirit Is Given by Faith, Not by Works
“You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?” “foolish”: the Greek word “anoetos” signifies “not understanding”, not applying “the mind,” “senseless,” an unworthy lack of understanding. (from Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, Copyright © 1985, Thomas Nelson Publishers.) Paul is expressing that they had failed to use their powers of perception, similar to the expression that our Lord Jesus Christ used to the two people on the road to Emmaus “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!” : “bewitched”the Greek word “baskaino”(bas-kah’-ee-no); means to malign, i.e. (by extension) to fascinate (by false representations. (Biblesoft’s New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright © 1994, 2003, 2006 Biblesoft, Inc. and International Bible Translators, Inc.). Thus Paul is expressing his displeasure that they had not fully exercised their minds and failed to fully understand the scriptures and the gospel message, but were satisfied to follow the false representations of the Judaizers. “Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified.” The gospel message that they had responded to fully depicted, or described graphically the reason for, and the result of Christ’s crucifixion, clearly stating that their (our) salvation is only possible through His shed blood on the cross; “the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” .Therefore he requests a response to the question: “I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard?” ;for the gospel message is quite clear – the Law only condemns, Christ saves us from the condemnation!
So he concludes his defence of Faith vs. the Law by asking them: “Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? Have you suffered so much for nothing — if it really was for nothing? Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?” . The message of the gospel to them, and to us today, is that we should understand the scriptures by the help of the Holy Spirit (exercising our minds), and recognize the fact that salvation is attained through believing in Christ apart from the Law. Conforming to the Law is human effort and cannot save the sinner from the condemnation of the Law; God works in and through us by His Spirit and His grace, and not by our conformity to the Law .
(b). Abraham Was Justified by Faith, Not by Works
As the Holy Spirit is given by an act of faith, not by works; so is righteousness .“Consider Abraham: “He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”” Here we see that the promise made to Abraham, and the righteousness he obtained was the result of his believing (faith) what God had said, and not by anything he did or could have done, and the Law had nothing to do with the outcome since the Law had not yet been given. The promise would have been worthless if it was based on the Law since the Law only reveals and brings God’s wrath. Therefore the promise, which came by faith, is available to all who exhibit the faith of Abraham, and Abraham is a father to all who come to God in faith “Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham.” Therefore the promise, as revealed to Abraham, anticipated the fact that God’s righteousness which Abraham received was also available to all Jews and Gentiles who express their faith in God; “The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.” Therefore, God’s righteousness was available to all the Gentiles in the Thessalonian Church (and elsewhere) without their observance of the Law.
(c). Justification Is by Faith, Not by the Law
(1). Christ Redeems Us from the Curse of the Law
Introducing the next part of his defence Paul states “All who rely on observing the law are under a curse” , and proceeds to explain why this is so. He first quotes the Mosaic Law where it is recorded “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” for the observance of the Law does not constitute only the portions that are favourable to each individual, but the entire Law; and when any portion of the Law is broken, the individual is guilty of breaking the Law in it’s entirety “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” Paul thus declares that no one is, or can be, justified before God by the observance of the Law, since, as he had previously indicated, God’s Spirit was given by the expression of faith by the individual in what God had accomplished through our Lord Jesus Christ , and proceeds to declare “Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, “The righteous will live by faith.” ;signifying that our salvation is obtained by faith only, and we must continue to live by faith in order to please God. This is evident because the Law is not based on faith but is contrary to faith since “The man who does these things will live by them.” , meaning that the individual that intends to observe the Law must also live by what the Law dictates, for when the Law is broken that individual must face the consequences of the curse of the Law, and the ultimate curse is death.
Therefore, Paul sums up his argument by presenting the message of the gospel “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.”” God gave the Law in order to expose our sinfulness, and to show us that we are unable to do anything that is righteous or just in His analysis God did this in order to extend the promise made to Abraham and to all Jews and Gentiles who demonstrate faith in God and accept His salvation through the finished work of Christ; “He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.” Justification therefore is received BY FAITH ONLY and not by Law!
(2). Abrahamic Covenant Is Not Voided by the Law
A covenant is a mutualagreement between two or more persons or parties (Webster’s Dictionary) in which both, or all, parties share equally and are equally bound by the agreement, the agreement cannot be changed or discharged by any of the parties. Paul alludes to this fact in reference to God’s covenant with Abraham; “Just as no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case.” The Abrahamic covenant was between God, who does not change , and Abraham , and as is seen in these two scripture references the covenant was “everlasting”indicating that it would not and could not be broken. Paul continues to show that “The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,” meaning one person, who is Christ.” indicating that the promise pointed to a future “seed” or descendant who is none other that the Lord Jesus Christ ; and again in these references we see the “pre-incarnate Christ”.
The covenant between God and Abraham was given some 400 years before the Mosaic Law, and as such could not be nullified by the Law, for as Paul indicated, the Law came into effect to show the sinfulness of mankind and to point to the redemption that would come through the Lord Jesus Christ: “What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise. For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on a promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise.”
(3). Law Given to Drive Us to Faith
Paul explains that the purpose of the Law was to direct mankind to faith in God. It was intended to reveal sin as a transgression, and to show that mankind was unable to attain God’s righteousness without God’s intervention; and that intervention was the coming of the “Seed”, promised to Abraham, and that “Seed” was none other than the Lord Jesus Christ. So Paul declares that “It [the Law] was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come.” Furthermore, Paul states that the Law was an additional element (NIV Study Bible) to the promise and was referred to as the “old covenant” by Jeremiah when he introduced a “new covenant” . Paul further states that the Law is not in opposition to the promises of God, but the fact remains that the Law could not produce righteousness, thus the “Seed”– our Lord Jesus Christ, Abraham’s descendant, had to suffer the penalty of our sins to fulfil the unconditional promise made to Abraham, and to all mankind; “For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law. But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.” It should be noted here that Paul says that the promise is given by “faith in Jesus Christ – to those who believe“ and this act of faith and believing does NOT make mention of “doing” – unlike the Law.