Galatians 3 — Faith or Human Effort?

Tiepolo-Abraham-and-IsaacIts important to recognize via the transitive property the equivalence that Paul assigns to the words “Law” and “flesh” in the first few verses of Chapter 3.  Paul says “did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?” in v2 and then v3, “having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?”  Paul understands that pursuing a relationship with God via the Law is tantamount to attempting to please God through fleshly efforts.  We know from Chapter 2 the law being discussed is the Mosaic Law, identified clearly by its association with circumcision.  Paul said in Ch. 2 that he is not rebuilding the old religion of rules and regulations, that if he did he would be nullifying the grace of God and Christ would have died needlessly.

Paul contrasts fleshly effort with faith, the act of believing God.  If God says that we are righteous in Christ, then the way we please Him is to simply receive that righteousness and walk in the Spirit (5:16).  Paul commends Abraham who believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness (v6).  We are are blessed with Abraham “the believer” if we walk by faith.  Whereas Jim Staley wants us to demonstrate our faith by obedience to the Torah, Paul makes it clear that “the Law is not of faith” (v12).

Jim gives an “umbrella” illustration–he says the Law is like an umbrella that offers protection and keeps us dry–when we test the limits of the Law we begin to get wet.  The Law according to Jim defines a blessed life and keeps us from being cursed; obedience was never meant as the method to achieve salvation.  Paul however gives a different illustration of the Law–he describes it as a “tutor” (teacher) leading us to Christ to be justified by faith; and now that we have been so justified we are no longer under a tutor(vss 24-25).  So to Paul, those under the Law are seeking justification by obedience and those in Christ are justified by faith; Paul is clear: “the Law is not of faith”.

Mr. Staley says “we have turned (the Law) into the curse” but Paul quotes Duet 27:26:Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them.”  The law is undoubtedly good (1 Tim 1:8, Rom 7:12) but that does not mean we should continue to live under it, umbrella or not.  Staley talks about there being a new Sheriff/authority in our lives, that we are no longer under the tutelage of the Law–he is correct–we are “under” the Spirit (Gal 3:2, Rom 8:1).  This completely changes our mindset from one of fear of violating rules and boundaries to confidence of acceptance in Christ (Eph 1:6)–we now walk in the command of Christ: “love one another” (John 13:34-35).

In reading through Galatians verse by verse Staley skips 3:13-18 for some reason, perhaps it was just an oversight.  This section is very important to Paul’s argument that we are no longer under the Law, however.  In it he discusses the difference between the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants, and how the former is not invalidated by the later.  Earlier in verse 8 Paul quotes Gen 12:3 where it is written that all nations will be blessed in Abraham, “the believer” (v9).  Paul says our inheritance is not based on the Law which came 430 years after Abraham’s first act of faith, but on the promise given to Abraham.

When Jim resumes in v19 he criticizes “Greek” thinking which places the Law earlier and Jesus later, “linear points on the timeline”–but yet this is exactly what Paul is saying, over and over!  “Now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor” (v25)–Paul is saying “it was this, now it is this”–I died to the Law” (2:19).  Staley says this doesn’t mean we still don’t have to keep the Law, just that there has been a “transfer of authority”, that the previous authority “has to step down”.  I would like to know what the difference is between that and the fact we are no longer subject to the Law?  Paul has made very clear that we walk by faith in the Spirit and not by the Law through the efforts of the flesh (v3).

Staley proceeds directly into Chapter 4, which is appropriate since the chapter break here does not follow the line of argument Paul is making about slaves vs. heirs.  We will pick up with the end of Chapter 3 and Chapter 4 next time.

This article is in reaction to this Jim Staley video.





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