CHAPTER 3 - The Study "The Law Fulfilled In Christ"

Reference Collection, Edited by Ray Kendzierski

Galatians Summary

Liberty 6 Galatians 2:20 The Law Fulfilled In Christ
The Apostle Paul A.D. 60 Christ is the Deliverer from the law and mere externalism and leads unto glorious liberty.

Reference material compiled by Ray Kendzierski,
Various Authors, Edited as reference material[1]

Chapter 3

Contents: Gift of the Spirit by faith apart from law-works. Man under law-works is under the law curse. Christ bears the law curse that we might have the faith blessing. The true intent of the law.

Conclusion: The purpose of the law was to give to sin the character of transgression and prove man helpless to save himself—not to save man. Man is therefore shut up to faith in the work of Christ our Mediator, as the only avenue of escape from the penalty of a broken law, For Christ has borne the curse of the law for us and we become the children of God through Him, not by any works of our own.

Key Word: Works and faith, v. 5

Strong Verses: 3, 10, 11, 13, 21, 22, 24, 26

Christ Seen: v. 13.  What Christ suffered FROM men (the cross) was nothing to what He suffered FOR men. The CURSE of the law was more than the CROSS of human suffering. He bore that curse to the fullest, as the divine Son of God, redeeming the believer, both from the curse and the dominion of the law. Law therefore can neither justify a sinner nor sanctify a believer.

Introduction: The apostle in this chapter:

  1. Reproves the Galatians for their folly, in suffering themselves to be drawn away from the faith of the gospel, and endeavors, from several considerations, to impress them with a sense of it.

  2. He proves the doctrine which he had reproved them for departing from—that of justification by faith without the works of the law,

    1. From the example of Abraham’s justification.

    2. from the nature and tenor of the law.

    3. From the express testimony of the Old Testament; and

    4. From the stability of the covenant of God with Abraham. Lest any should hereupon say, “Wherefore then serveth the law?” he answers,

      1. It was added because of transgressions.

      2. It was given to convince the world of the necessity of a Savior.

      3. It was designed as a schoolmaster, to bring us to Christ. And then he concludes the chapter by acquainting us with the privilege of Christians under the gospel state.

The Holy Spirit comes by faith (3:1—5)

Verse 1: O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?

Foolish [lit., “unthinking”] Galatians, who hath bewitched you—The Galatians were not thinking straight. How could they have been so easily misled? They had become “bewitched” or “charmed” by the Judaizers.

Evidently set forth—actually, “portrayed” or “placarded” (as in a public display or poster). The vivid picture Paul had painted depicting the death of Christ before their eyes should have been enough to counteract all fascination.

Verse 2: This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?  

This may refer to the miraculous gifts of the Spirit, which were very common in the apostolic Church. Did ye receive these extraordinary gifts in consequence of your circumcision, and observing the Mosaic precepts? Or was it by the hearing of the Gospel, prescribing faith in Christ crucified? It may also refer to the spirit of adoption, and consequently to their sonship. The impartation of the Spirit is a divine act (John 20:22), not based on any human effort aside from faith—and this faith is given by God when one hears the gospel (Rom. 10:1617). From here on in Paul will speak of the Spirit  seventeen times.

Verse 3: Are ye so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? 

Are ye so foolish? Is it possible you should be so stupid? And do you, or can you continue so?

Having begun in the Spirit; that is, in the Spirit of God, whom they had received through the preaching of the Gospel. They set out in a profession of religion in the light, under the influence, and by the assistance of the Spirit; they began to worship the Lord in spirit, and in truth, without any confidence in the flesh; they entered upon the service of God, and a newness of life, a different conversation than before, a spiritual way of living in a dependence on the grace and help of the divine Spirit: or in the Gospel, which is the Spirit that gives life, is the ministration of the Spirit of God, and contains spiritual doctrines, and gives an account of spiritual blessings, and is attended with the Holy Ghost, and with power. This was first preached unto them, and they embraced it; this they begun and set out with in their Christian profession, and yet it looked as if they sought to end with something else:

Are you now made perfect by the flesh? or "in" it; not in carnality, in the lusts of the flesh, as if they now walked and lived after the flesh, in a carnal, dissolute, wicked course of life; for the apostle is not charging them with immoralities, but complaining of their principles: wherefore, by "the flesh" is meant, either the strength of mere nature, in opposition to the Spirit of God, by which they endeavored to perform obedience to the law; or else the law itself, in distinction from the Gospel; and particularly the ceremonial law, the law of a carnal commandment, and which consisted of carnal ordinances, and only sanctified to the purifying of the flesh; and also their obedience to it; yea, even all their own righteousness, the best of it, which is but flesh, merely external, weak, and insufficient to justify before God. This is a third aggravation of their folly, that whereas they begun their Christian race depending upon the Spirit and grace of God, now they seemed to be taking a step as if they thought to finish it in the mere strength of nature; and whereas they set out with the clear Gospel of Christ, and sought for justification only by his righteousness, they were now verging to the law, and seeking to make their justifying righteousness perfect, by joining the works of the law unto it, which needed them not, but was perfect without them.

Verse 4: Have ye suffered so many things in vain? If it be yet in vain. 

The Christians in many of the Galatian cities had been persecuted by the Jews as well as by unbelieving fellow countrymen who had been incited by the Jews.

In vain—fruitlessly, needlessly. By adopting the legalism of the Judaizers, the Galatians might lose the reward they had been promised for their sufferings (4:11; 1 Cor. 15:217-19).

If it be yet in vain—Paul hoped that the Galatians would turn from legalism to the grace of God and receive the reward they had coming to them for their sufferings.

Verse 5: He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?

He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, By whom he means not himself, nor any other minister of the Gospel, in whose power it does not lie to minister the Spirit, either the ordinary or the extraordinary gifts of it unto men; but either God or Christ who had ministered, and still continued to minister the grace of the Spirit through the preaching of the Gospel; or rather the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit, which were manifested at the first preaching of the Gospel to them for the confirmation of it, and which they were still supplied with, as the following words show:

and worketh miracles among you; so that this is a distinct argument from that in Gal_3:2 and a further proof and aggravation of the folly of the members of this church, who had not only received through the Gospel the Spirit, as a spirit of regeneration, at least many of them, but had seen the Gospel confirmed by the extraordinary gifts, signs, and wonders of the Holy Ghost, and which were still among them; and yet they were departing from this Gospel, through which all this was done: for it is asked,

Doth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? and the apostle's meaning is, that these extraordinary gifts of the Spirit, and these miracles done among them, did not attend the preaching of the law, or the doctrine of justification by works, taught by the false apostles, but the doctrine of faith, of justification by faith in the righteousness of Christ, delivered by him and others, for the truth of which he appeals to themselves; and therefore they must be guilty of the most conspicuous folly, once to think of, or take anyone step towards a departure from that doctrine. The Alexandrian copy reads here, as in Gal_3:2, "received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?"

Abraham’s Spiritual Children (3:6—9)

Verse 6: Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.

God gave the Holy Spirit to the Galatians as a result of their faith, not because of their works, much as he had justified Abraham by his faith (Gen. 15:4-5Rom. 4:3), and not by his works. If justification comes by faith, the gift of the Holy Spirit must come by faith as well.

Verse 7: Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.

Know ye therefore ... - Learn from this case. It is an inference which follows, that all they who believe are the children of Abraham.

They which are of faith - Who believe, and who are justified in this manner.

Are the children of Abraham - Abraham was the “father of the faithful.” The most remarkable trait in his character was his unwavering confidence in God. They, who evinced the same trait, therefore were worthy to be called his children. They would be justified in the same way, and in the same manner meet the approbation of God. It is implied here, that it was sufficient for salvation to have a character which would render it proper to say that we are the children of Abraham. If we are like him, if we demonstrate the same spirit and character, we may be sure of salvation.

Verse 8: And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, in thee shall all nations be blessed.

As God intended to justify the heathen through faith, he preached the Gospel that contains the grand display of the doctrine of salvation by faith, before, to Abraham, while he was in his heathen state; and thus he is called the father of believers: therefore it must refer to them who shall believe the same Gospel among the Gentiles; and, as the door of faith was open to all the Gentiles, consequently the promise was fulfilled: In thee shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.

Verse 9: So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.

Abraham was saved because of his faith in the promise which God had given to him, and all who follow in his footsteps have faith. All who have this same characteristic of faith will receive the same blessing of salvation.

Those under the law are cursed (3:10—12)

Verse 10: For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. 

This verse confirms what Paul had just said. Those who depend on the law for their salvation cannot share the blessings of God because they are under a curse (Deut. 27:26). Perfect obedience to every part of the law is required, and no one is able to carry this out (Rom. 3:19-20).

Verse 11: But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, the just shall live by faith.

But that no man is justified. The argument which Paul has been pursuing he proceeds to confirm by an express declaration of the Bible. The argument is this: “It is impossible that a man should be justified by the Law, because God has appointed another way of justification.” But there cannot be two ways of obtaining life, and as he has appointed faith as the condition on which people shall live, he has precluded from them the possibility of obtaining salvation in any other mode.

For, The just shall live by faith - This is quoted from Hab_2:4. This passage is also quoted by Paul in Rom_1:17.  Habakkuk 2:4 has declared, under the direct influence of the Spirit of God, The just shall live by faith; or, he who is just by faith shall live: therefore this justification comes not by works, or the observance of the law, but by faith.

Verse 12: And the law is not of faith: but, the man that doeth them shall live in them. 

It promises no forgiveness to believing, but requires obedience. It is not, what do you believe? But, what have you done? The man that doeth them perfectly, at all times, and in all places, he shall live in them; but if in any case he fails, he forfeits his life.

Christ redeemed us from the law (3:13—18)

Verse 13: Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: 

Although Paul was probably referring mainly to the Jews as being under the curse of the law, he was also including the Gentiles. The law which was given to the Jews represents a universal standard which God demands of all men. Since the Jews, who understood the law and its requirements, were unable to keep it, and stood thus condemned before God, the Gentiles, who would be equally unable to keep the law, were also condemned by it, even though they did not realize it? They were responsible for what they did understand through their consciences, so that their curse had to be removed by the work of Christ as well.

redeemed us . . . made a curse for us—By putting himself under the curse which lay upon all who trusted in the law for salvation, Christ bought freedom for all who would believe in him. The ransom price he paid was his own blood (1 Pet. 1:1819). The Galatians, by putting themselves back under the law, were taking upon themselves the curse which Christ had lifted from them.

For it is written, cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree—the quotation is from Deuteronomy 21:23. Christ bore the specific curse of being hung on the cross, or “tree” (Acts 5:3010:39), as a symbol of the general curse of sin he bore for all mankind. The Jews did not actually put anyone to death by hanging or crucifixion, but in order to brand them with a certain display they would hang the corpse on a tree after the person had been put to death in some other way as a lesson to others who might be tempted to follow his evil ways. The providence of God allowed Jesus to be crucified so that this prophecy could be fulfilled completely. The Jews, in contempt, called Jesus “the hanged one” and referred to Christians as the “worshipers of the hanged one.” Their greatest objection to him came because he died in a way that was accursed (1 Pet. 2:24), hung between heaven and earth as though unworthy of either.

Verse 14: That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. 

This verse expresses the two purposes that Christ had in becoming a curse for our sake and accomplishing redemption (3:13). Each purpose is introduced with the word “that” and is distinctly dependent on 3:13.

That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ—the blessing of Abraham was that of being justified by faith; that blessing is now available to the Gentiles through their faith in Christ Jesus.

That we might receive the promise of the Spirit. “The Spirit of promise” or “the promised Spirit” (Eph. 1:13). The Holy Spirit did not come as a result of receiving the blessing promised to Abraham, but because of Christ’s redemption. Redemption opens the way for regeneration by the Spirit.

Through faith—The Spirit, working from outside of the believer, kindles some spark of faith within the individual that allows him to lay hold of Christ, so that the Spirit can live within him.

Verse 15: Brethren, I speak after the manner of men; though it be but a man’s covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disannulleth, or addeth thereto. 

I take an illustration from human affairs. Though it is . . . a man’s covenant—in an agreement (or, covenant) between men, none of the provisions in the contract can be changed. It can hardly be expected, then, that God, who is righteous, would honor any of his agreements with men any less strictly. Paul here regards the promise God made to Abraham as being more important than the law which he gave to Moses. The promise was given first, and the law was understood as being both exceptional and temporary (3:17-24). confirmed—ratified. disannulleth—to abolish. Addeth thereto—make additions. After a contract is ratified, none of the terms can be abolished and no new terms can be added to it, or the original terms would be broken. In this same way, legalistic Judaism could make no change in the terms of the promise as God gave it to Abraham, which had at its foundation the idea of justification through faith. They could not add the condition of observance of the law, for this would mean that God’s promise would depend on something which men could not do. God, by his grace, made Abraham righteous through the faith which Abraham had. These are the only conditions which are carried into the gospel and the only conditions which any believer must meet.

Verse 16: Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, and to seeds, as of many; but as of one, and to thy seed, which is Christ.

This verse was inserted by Paul to give an interpretation of the relationship between God and Abraham and Christ. Since Christ had not come by the time the law was given, the promise to Abraham could not have been fulfilled by the law. The promise waited for fulfillment until the coming of Christ, who was the seed promised to Abraham. Paul carefully noted that the “seed” does not refer to “offspring,” or “children,” but to one “seed,” namely Christ,

promises—Paul used the plural because the same promise was repeated several times (Gen. 12:1-3715:1-51817:1-822:16-18), and because the promise had several parts to it. God promised both temporal and spiritual blessings for the descendants of Abraham. In the spiritual seed, there is no difference between Jew and Gentile, but in the temporal seed, there are still some parts of the promise which have not yet been fulfilled. That part of the promise which says, “All the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen. 12:3) points to Christ. The promise was not that some would be blessed through the law while others would be blessed by faith, but that all would be blessed by the seed of Abraham (Rom. 4:16), which was Christ. Thus the promise did not make any distinction between Jew and Gentile, while the law did.

He saith not, and to seeds, as of many; but as of one, and to thy seed, which is Christ.

God did not make his covenant of promise with many seeds, only with one—Christ. As Christ, the one seed is the sole recipient (or, heir) of God’s promise, the only way for anyone to participate in the covenant of promise is to be joined to Christ. According to 3:27-29, when we believe in Christ and are baptized into him, we become united to him and are therefore also “Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

Verse 17: And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect.

The covenant—continues the thought of 3:15.

Confirmed . . . of God—ratified by God.

In ChristWith respect to the Messiah; a covenant relating to him, and which promised that he should descend from Abraham. The word “in,” in the phrase “in Christ,” does not quite express the meaning of the Greek. The word means “unto Christ;” or unto the Messiah; that is, the covenant had respect to him.

Four hundred and thirty years after—i.e., the time when God gave the Ten Commandments. The length of time that Israel was in Egypt is here given by Paul as the period which existed between the giving of the promise and the giving of the Ten Commandments. Since the law came so much later, it cannot replace the promise by which God justifies Abraham. It was his faith that God took into account in pronouncing him righteous, not any fulfilling of the ceremonial laws.

Cannot disannul—the promise God made to Abraham would have been invalidated if the law had been able to take its place. Paul is here arguing that this promise could not have been replaced by the law (Rom. 4:14).

Verse 18: For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise.

The inheritance—God had promised to Abraham certain blessings which were going to be inherited by his actual (physical) and spiritual children. This inheritance includes justification, sanctification, and glorification (Rom. 8:1728-30).

Verse 19: Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.

Wherefore then serveth the law?—If the law does not annul the Abrahamic covenant, and cannot confer salvation on its devotees, why did God give it? This was a very natural objection, and must arise in the mind of any Jew who had paid attention to the apostle’s reasoning.

It was added because of transgressions—it was given that we might know our sinfulness, and the need we stood in of the mercy of God. The law is the right line, the straight edge, that determines the flaws of our conduct.

Till the seed should come—the law was to be in force till the advent of the Messiah. After that it was to cease.

It was ordained by angels—the ministry of angels was certainly used in giving the law; Acts 7:53; and Hebrews 2:2; but they were only instruments for transmitting; Moses was the mediator between God and the people, Deuteronomy 5:5.

Verse 20: Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one.

Now a mediator is not a mediator of [between] one—a mediator acts between two parties.

But God is one—not two, owing to his essential unity. God is his own representative, giving the blessing directly to Abraham, and, in its fulfillment, to Christ (“the seed”) without a mediator. God normally dealt directly with men, as he did when he gave the promise to Abraham. Thus the law, with its mediators (Moses and the angels) was not God’s normal pattern (Exod. 19:12131721-24Heb. 12:19-24). The law, which interposed conditions and a mediatorial priesthood between God and man, was an exceptional condition limited to the Jews. See John 1:17 for a contrast between Moses, the severing mediator of legal conditions, and Christ, the uniting mediator of grace.

Verse 21: Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law.

Is the law then against the promises of God?—The law, which required a mediator, and the promise, which did not require a mediator, but only the action of God, seem at first to be completely at odds with each other, but Paul rejects this.

A law . . . which could have given life—the law, since it is an externally imposed rule, can never affect the internal spiritual life of men, who are naturally dead in their sins. Since the law never claims to give men spiritual life, there is no opposition between law and promise. Righteousness and life can come only through the promise which was given to Abraham, and fulfilled in Christ.

Verse 22: But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.

But the scripture hath concluded—all the writings of the prophets have uniformly declared that men are all sinners, and the law declares the same by the continual sacrifices which it prescribes. All, therefore have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; and, being tried and found guilty, the Scripture hath shut them up—put them in prison, and locked them up, till the time should come in which the sentence of the law should be executed upon them: See Romans 3:9-20, and particularly Romans 11:32 where the apostle uses the same metaphor.

Verse 23: But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. 

Before faith came—lit., “before the faith came” (i.e., the faith in Christ Jesus mentioned in 3:22).

Kept—guarded, kept in ward, held prisoner.

Shut up—locked up. The thought of this verse is well stated in the NIV: “Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed.”

Verse 24: Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.

The law was our schoolmaster—lit., “child-conductor”. The word means a “child-custodian” or “child-attendant”. The Greeks gave a faithful servant the responsibility of taking care of a boy from childhood to puberty. The servant kept him from both physical and moral evil, and went with him to his amusements and to school, but he did not teach him.

To bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith—Until Christ was able to come as the object of faith, the law had to act as a child-custodian. The law acted as an outward check on desires, thus making the consciousness of sin more acute. It further emphasized that man is himself unable to deal with sin, thus guiding him to Christ. The moral law shows what man ought to do, and thus he learns his inability to do it. The ceremonial law tried, by the use of animal sacrifices, to compensate for this inability. Dead animals, however, did not satisfy the needs of living men for forgiveness. They thus pointed to a perfect sacrifice, the fulfillment of all sacrifices which had been offered. The judicial law shows the doom man deserves, and leads him to righteousness and peace in Christ. The message of the OT, that men are doomed for their sin, is important because without it the NT message of grace and salvation would have no meaning.

Verse 25: But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.

But, after that faith is come—When Christ was manifested in the flesh, and the Gospel was preached, we were no longer under the child custodian, we came to Christ, learned of him, became wise unto salvation, had our fruit unto holiness, and the end eternal life.

It is worthy of remark that, as the Law, is used by  Paul to signify, not only the law, properly so called, but the whole of the Mosaic economy, the Faith, is used by him to express, not merely the act of believing in Christ, but the whole of the Gospel.

Verse 26: For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. 

The Greek text says “sons of God,” indicating that Christians have been granted adult status and no longer need the law to guide them. But no man is a child of God by circumcision, nor by any observance of the Mosaic Law.

Verse 27: For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

As many of you as have been baptized into Christ—All of you who have believed in Christ as the promised Messiah, and received baptism as a public proof that ye had received Christ as your Lord and Savior, have put on Christ—have received his Spirit, and entered into his interests, and copied his manners. To put on, or to be clothed with one, is to assume the person and character of that one; and they who do so are bound to act his part, and to sustain the character which they have assumed. The profession of Christianity is an assumption of the character of Christ; he has left us an example that we should follow his steps, and we should, as Christians, have that mind in us which was in him.

Verse 28: There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.

Neither Jew nor Greek—in this new relationship to Christ, there is no race privileged above any other, as the Jews had been privileged over the Gentiles under the law.

Bond nor free—Christ belongs to both slaves and free men, and they belong to him.

Neither male nor female—Differences of sex are not to be regarded in Christ; while under the law the male had many more privileges. Males alone were circumcised, while baptism is now applied to both men and women alike. Under the law, men alone could be kings and priests, while now all believers, no matter what their sex, are able to be kings and priests unto God (Rev. 1:6).

Ye are all one in Christ Jesus—The Greek word for “one” is masculine and therefore designates “one man.” The “one man in Christ Jesus” is “the one new man” composed of Christ, the head, and the many members of his body, united into one entity (Eph. 2:15).

One moral personality. The individual differences are merged in the higher unity into which all are raised by their common life in Christ.

Verse 29: And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

Christ is “Abraham’s seed” (3:16) and the believers have been united to Christ through baptism (3:2728); therefore, the believers are also “Abraham’s seed,” which is tantamount to saying that they are heirs according to the promise because it was to Abraham’s seed that the inheritance was promised. The one seed, Christ (Gen. 3:15), called a grain of wheat in John 12:24 multiplied and so produced many offspring, who are now God’s sons and heirs. 

[1]This lesson was prepared using the following: Brooks, Keith I., The Summarized Bible; Clark, Adam, Commentary on the N. T.; Henry, Matthew, Commentary on the N. T.; Green, Oliver, Commentary on Galatians; Walvoord, John, Commentary on the Book of Galatians.

All scripture is from the King James Version.

The Book of Galatians, Edited Bible Study, Ray Kendzierski Reference Collection study materials are a ministry of, and may be copied for use in Bible study groups, in limited numbers, providing that no charge is made for them.  No further distribution or use of these materials is allowable under U.S. or International Copyright Law.