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Introduction to Personal Bible Study - Videos (2007)

4 short introductory video studies First recorded in 2007, posted to GodTube in 2010  These short videos were made nearly 14 years ago. ...

Thursday, June 6, 2024

Paul Addressing Jewish Believers in Galatians 3

 In our previous we looked at Galatians chapter 4 through the lens of "rightly dividing the Word of Truth" (2 Tim 2:15). I alluded to chapter 3 for more context, so today we will take a quick look at that chapter. But to do so, we need to go back to Galatians chapter 2 for even more context.

We are Jews by nature, and not Gentile sinners, yet we know that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but through faith in Jesus Christ. Even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we might be justified by faith in Christ, rather than by the works of the law. For by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.

-Galatians 2:15-16


A we have noted in previous studies, it is important to recognize pronouns. But here the pronoun "we," while emphasizing the point, is not even needed to see the audience Paul is addressing. 

Some Jewish believers were still confused as to the role of the Law and the relationship of Gentile believers to the Law. Remember, in Acts 15 and in Acts 21 the Apostles (with the approval of the Holy Spirit) teach Gentile believers that they were to keep the "necessary things" taken from Leviticus (Acts 15:28-29; Acts 21:25). 

As for the Gentiles who believe, we have written and concluded that they should observe no such thing, except that they abstain from food offered to idols, from sexual immorality, from strangled animals, and from blood.”

-Acts 21:25

Now, do we have this problem today? We certainly do not. Does your church claim to an "Acts church?" Do you believe the "church" of this age started at Pentecost? If so, Acts 21 is well into the Book and well into Paul's ministry. In Acts 26 Paul will testify that he taught "no other thing than that which was taught by Moses and the Prophets" (Acts 26:22). In Acts 28 he will say he is in chains for "the hope of Israel." In Ephesians Paul will state that he is a prisoner "for you Gentiles." 

The Acts Age was very different from the current age. Galatians was written in the Acts Age when there was still a distinction between Jewish and Gentile believers. 

So, when we read Galatians 2, we note Paul is specifically correcting "Jews." No Gentile believed he was "justified by the woks of the Law." And if one did, this would certainly correct him. But the greater point (as we saw in our previous study on Galatians 4) is the distinction between Jewish believers and Gentile believers in light of the earthly hope of that age (which was continuation of the earthly hope of the Gospel age and the Lord's earthly ministry).

It is tempting to go through the entire chapter, verse by verse, to emphasize these points and to pull out both truth and context, but for our purpose here I will simply note that Paul refers his Jewish audience back to Abraham (who was redeemed and declared righteous 430 years before the Law). Abraham is mentioned in 67 verses in the gospels, Acts, and Acts Age epistles. He is never mentioned in the seven Post Acts epistles of Paul.

The hope of Abraham was two-fold. He was promised a land (length and width, Gen 13:17) and looked for a city whose builder and maker is God, Heb 11:10, (length, breadth, and height, Rev 21:16). Our hope is heavenly (breadth and length and depth and height, Eph 3:18). The hope of Ephesians being revealed to Paul alone after the "wall of partition" between Jew and Gentile was removed (Eph 2:13-15).

We looked at the Acts Age, Jewish believers and Gentile believers, in light of circumcision in Galatians 4 (and Acts 21) last study. We noted the distinctions in Paul's audience. As we have already seen here in part, that distinction goes back to Galatians 2 and 3. 

As Paul makes his argument that the Law cannot redeem and that those under the Law are also under the curse of the Law, he makes this curious argument:

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

-Galatians 3:21-22

While the Law cannot annul the promise of justification given to Abraham centuries before, and while the Law only can condemn, Paul states that it is not against the promises of God. The Law is not against the promises of the Land, the Kingdom, or the New Jerusalem.  

Paul's context here is the justification by faith alone exemplified by the promise to Abraham. Jewish believers, while still practicing the non-sacramental Law (and Gentiles still practicing the "necessary things" from Leviticus for strangers living among Israel), needed to make the distinction between keeping the Law for the sake of priesthood of the Covenants and keeping the Law thinking it justifies a person. Note again the pronouns.

But before faith came, we were kept under the law [Gentiles never had the Law], shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. For you [plural] are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you [singular] as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you [plural] are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you [plural] be Christ’s, then are you [plural] Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. 
-Galatians 3:23-39


Paul is clarifying for his fellow Jewish believers that in justification there is neither Jew nor Gentile. There isn't even male nor female! Want to claim that as a "church truth?" 

Israel will serve as a royal priesthood and a holy nation in the future when God establishes a believing Israel in the land. That is part of the earthly hope.

Thus says the Lord of Hosts: I will deliver My people from the eastern lands and from the western lands. And I will bring them, and they will reside in Jerusalem, and they will be for Me as a people, and I will be for them as God, with faithfulness and righteousness.

-Zechariah 8:7-8

Thus says the Lord of Hosts: In those days ten men from every language of the nations [Gentiles] will take hold of the garment of a Jew, saying, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.”

--Zechariah 8:23

And we know this is yet future as Israel has never acknowledged the piercing of the Lord.

And I will pour out on the house of David and over those dwelling in Jerusalem a spirit of favor and supplication so that they look to Me, whom they have pierced through. And they will mourn over him as one mourns for an only child and weep bitterly over him as a firstborn. 
-Zechariah 12:10