What does Paul say about Law in Galatians?

What does Paul say about Law in Galatians?

In Galatians, Paul explains that the Law was not eternal, but was added. It was added because of transgressions.10 The Law is then temporary. Since it has a beginning, it must also have an end.11 Again, it is important to point out that there is some debate about this issue. Wesley say that “this [moral] Law passeth not away; but the ceremonial Law was only introduced till Christ.”12 There are questions lurking, “Is there an end to the Law?” “If so, is it just the end of ceremonial Law? Or the moral Law also?” These questions will be addressed later.
What is clearer in Galatians is the fact that saints are justified by faith in Christ, not by works or the Law.13 Paul makes five key appeals to justification by faith in chapter three.14 First is his appeal to personal experience. Paul asks the disciples whether they received the Spirit ‘by works of the Law’ or by hearing with faith in God? If they genuinely received and partook of the Holy Spirit, how could they forget? They had such an experience. Their “hearing of faith” occurred when they first came to know Christ as their own by accepting the Holy Spirit in their live.15 The second appeal is to Abraham. Galatians three reflects Romans four. The beauty of these two chapters is that God could have made righteousness come through works and obeying the Law, but instead God gave grace and let’s righteousness come through faith in Him and His Son. Thirdly, the appeal to the Law. Paul says the Law tells us to do things, while faith is just the opposite, saints are told to believe things. This belief will manifest in action, but the faith is believing. Where the Law is just doing, there is no belief. Gill makes the case that what Paul is referring to Lev. eighteen, verse five16 and that this passage is speaking about the moral Law, not the ceremonial Law. At any case, the point is that justification is not by the Law, but by grace. Fourth, Paul makes an appeal to history. God made promises through covenant before giving the Law. The Law was an addition. It does not invalidate God’s previous promises. In fact, justification cannot be by both merit and promise. It is one or the other and it is not by merit. And fifthly, Paul makes the appeal to the Gospel from verse nine-teen to the end of the chapter. Christ is the object of our faith and the only way to be justified. The Law is merely a “tutor” or “custodian” until Christ came.

As discussed above, in Galatians, the Law was also our “pedagogue” or tutor. The principle Greek word used here means “to keep or guard someone.17” Before the promised faith through Jesus, saints were locked up under the Law in order to keep us imprisoned under sin until the coming faith was revealed.18 The Law was master over them, keeping them in its custody as long as they were in bondage to sin. When the time was right, God sent for His Son in order to redeem those under the Law.19 This is the Gospel message, which Paul continues to stress over and over again especially in chapter four. Paul emphases that saints are sons of God and no longer slaves to sin! So why, he asks, are you turning your back on God and being enslaved by these worthless things again? Christians have choices to make. Christ is the only way to be justified, but man can choose to live enslaved to other things. Paul builds from this place, as he discusses how Christians can and should live according to the Spirit instead of the flesh. Paul also gives great practical wisdom in Christian living as he speaks about the armor of God and the spiritual forces.

The key of Galatians is getting back to the basics of the Gospel. The Judaizers, had been teaching falsely that believers had to follow the Mosaic Law and be circumcised in order to be saved.20 Paul refutes these teachings and goes over the Gospel message again. He reminds them that the Son of man came from God and requires nothing. Men are not saved through works of the Law.21 In summary, “man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus…and [again] not by works of the Law…” (Gal. 2;16).

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Put off Flesh, Put on Christ

* What, practically, does Paul mean in Gal. 5?

Basically Paul is giving us a basic lesson on Christian living. This short passage is very consistent with Paul’s teaching through-out the New Testament as well as with what Jesus taught. As Christians we are to live in Christ and not in the flesh any longer. We have a choice to live in obedience or disobedience. Paul is calling Christians to unity in obedience to Christ. The text also means that it is not enough to attempt to stop sinning. The truth is that we must replace our vices and sinful habits with Christ, or we will just get caught in another sin or vice.

Paul’s other teachings that are very similar include his teaching on the “fruits of the spirit” (in Galatians 5:22, 23), his teachings on a right mind (in Philippians 4:8, 9), his teaching on spiritual warfare and the armor of God (in Ephesians 6:10-20), his teaching on reconciliation (in 2 Cor. 5), and his teachings on life according to the Spirit (in Rom. 8, 1 Cor. 6).
Jesus‘ teachings also lined up with what Paul is saying. Jesus was radical in his teaching. He was very clear that he wanted all of us. Not only did Christ want people to stop sinning, or to obey the law completely, but he wanted men to chose Him as their first priority completely (Mat. 6:19-24,33, 22:37).

* What is Paul instructing us to do?

First he asks us to put aside our old nature of disobedience. Verses 5-9, tell us what not to do. Second, Paul tells us to clothe ourselves with the fruits of the Spirit. Verses 10-16 tell us what we should do.
More specifically, in Christ, we are dead to the sins of our disobedient nature (immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, greed, idolatry, anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech). We do not have to live this way, as we used to before Christ. Now we are to put on our new self, which is the image of God (holy and beloved, heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, love, and unity in Christ and the Word of God.) Christ set the ultimate example. And through Him, Christians can find unity on how to live.

* How can one do it (Put off >Put on)?

There is a paradox. Only through Christ can one put off the flesh and put on the Spirit/Christ. It is about Christ making us right and righteous. On man’s power alone, man will fail. This is what makes Christianity unique from all other religions. God reaches his hand down to man. Man can do nothing to save self! Sanctification is only through Christ Jesus. Man cannot help themselves. Man has choices to make, sure. Some scholars will say that man has the ultimate choice. That man has to do something to be saved and to be sanctified, this is not completely true. Man chooses daily to obey Christ by simply putting on Christ or to disobey Christ by sinning. This is true, but it takes some examining to fully understand. The issue is more complex than that.

Yes, man makes the choice to obey or to disobey, sin or not to sin, but there is the issue of surrender. If man surrenders his will to Christ, then it is Christ’s power that sanctifies man. If man surrenders his will to Christ, then and then only will man truly obey. My point is that on man’s power alone this is not possible. Man on his power will fail into sin and flesh. But man surrendered to Christ’s will can put on Christ and live as Christ, sanctified in His image. The biggest choice is for man to let go and let Christ make Him.

* How do you do it?

I personally surrender daily through prayer. I am by no means perfect. But I have made it a goal to let go before I let the day begin. As I wake up, – to the sound of the alarm, wet lick of my dog to my face, the smell of coffee, or feel the heat of the shower water – I begin praying. I begin by asking for the Holy Spirit to help me in this new day. I thank the Lord for it; everyday is a gift from Him. And I imagine putting on the whole armor of God. I try to think through situations where the Lord will need me and people who need the Lord. I ask for opportunity to serve Him.

As the day continues, I attempt to “pray without ceasing.” Of course, my life is not a piece of cake without problems and without temptations. Surrender is a continual process. It is not a one-time event, but on-going. Will I let go and let Christ or will I try to run my own life? I attempt to follow God’s will. When temptations come, I could choose to sin or obey God. I sometimes say a quick prayer and flee from the temptation. (James 1:13-18, 2 Tim 2:22) But sometimes I fail. Sometimes I sin. Just goes to show that man will fail, but in Christ we are free (Gal 5: 1-5, Rom 6:18, 8:2). Amen!