As we continue through Galatians 3, Paul continues to elaborate on the true Gospel. The key verse is verse 11: “Now it is clear that no one is justified before God by the law, because the righteous will live by faith.” The just shall live by faith. We are saved by grace and not by works.
Salvation was meant to be personal. It is not about your parents’ or grandparents’ religion. It is about a personal relationship with God. In verses 1-4, Paul calls the Galatians out for turning to dead religion, versus a living relationship. They started out under grace but were guilty of backsliding into legalism. He reminds them that it was before their eyes that “Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified.” They saw Jesus for themselves. Paul preached Christ and Him crucified. They received the Spirit not by keeping the law, but by believing in Jesus. The real evidence of salvation is the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life. Humanly speaking, it takes a dad and mom, male and female, for a child to be conceived and born. Spiritually speaking, it takes the Spirit of God and the Word of God for a person to be born again. We could never do enough works to save ourselves. Paul reminds the Galatians of their story – they did not receive the Spirit by keeping the law. They received the Spirit when they believed.
After reminding the Galatians of their own salvation experience, Paul then turns to the Scriptures. We should never judge the Bible based on our experience. We judge our experience based on the Bible. The Judaizers wanted to go back to Moses, but Paul takes them back even further. Abraham, who lived over 430 years before the law was even given (v. 17), believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness (v. 6). In verse 10 Paul says that “all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, because it is written, Everyone who does not do everything written in the book of the law is cursed.” Why was the law given in the first place? To create the frustration so we would see our need for Christ. It informs us of our sin, it does not save us from our sin. The law is not cafeteria-style; we can’t pick and choose. We have to keep all of it and breaking even one commandment makes us guilty. We are all guilty! The good news is that “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” (v. 13). Jesus purchased our freedom. Jesus paid a high price to redeem us. Grace is free but it was not cheap. Our debt was not just forgiven. It was paid. “For if the law had been granted with the ability to give life, then righteousness would certainly be on the basis of the law.” (v. 21). But as we’ve seen with Abraham, God’s plan is based on a promise, not the law. God made a promise to Abraham (Abraham did not make any promises to God), before the law was given. The law did not invalidate that promise (v. 17). God’s plan is based on Him and what He’s done, not on us and what we do. No one can obey enough, give enough, be baptized enough, take the Lord’s Supper enough, or work enough to be saved.
Justification by faith is seen also in relational equality. Paul closes out the chapter saying, “through faith you are all sons of God in Christ Jesus.” (v. 26). The law created distinctions and differences, but Jesus came to unite not divide. Race (Jew or Greek), social status (slave or free), gender (male and female) are distinctions under the law that are made one in Christ (v. 28). We are all equally children of God. There is no hierarchy. Think about your own children. You love your sons and daughters equally. The last verse of the chapter says, “if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, heirs according to the promise” (v. 29). The law could not make you an heir, but the promise can. It is not about what we have to do to be saved, but about how much Jesus has done! Salvation is a free gift.
In conclusion, justification by faith is seen in:
- Personal Experience – You receive the Holy Spirit by believing, not by keeping the law. Have you received the Holy Spirit?
- Biblical Examples – 430 years before Moses gave the law, Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness. Have you believed on the Lord Jesus Christ?
- Relational Equality – We are all one in Christ Jesus. The law cannot change the human heart and tear down racial and social barriers, but Jesus can. We are family! Are you a part of God’s family?