Galatians


(Galatians 1:1) Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;)

Paul considers himself an apostle even though he did not satisfy the criteria established by Peter when replacing Judas. Apparently there are different kinds of apostles...

  1. The 11 disciples
  2. Matthias
  3. Paul, chosen by God and Jesus
  4. Other New Testament apostles such as Barnabas, Silas and Timothy, Apollos, and James
  5. Certain bishops after the apostolic era who brought Christianity to new regions

(Galatians 1:2) And all the brethren which are with me, unto the churches of Galatia:

The Roman Province of Galatia contained the cities of Antioch of Pisidia, Lystra, Iconium, Derbe. Paul visited various of these cities during all three of his missionary journeys.

Perhaps Paul is referring to those who are travelling with him, or perhaps all those of the church of the city he writes this letter from, perhaps Corinth or Antioch of Syria.

"Unto them": to warn those true to the gospel.

(Galatians 1:3) Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ,

Grace: blessings from God. Peace: peace with God.

(Galatians 1:4) Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father:

This is a reference to people being chosen and called (without using those words). God chose that Christ would provide for the deliverance of fallen humanity.

The future world having no evil is the new heavens and new earth.

God and our Father: God is our Father, the Father of the human race (because he created us), and the Father of our redemption (because he provided for it).

(Galatians 1:5) To whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

We, the redeemed, are to acknowledge God's glory forever, in the new heavens and new earth. Anytime the Bible mentions "forever" or "eternal", referring to the future, it can only mean the new heavens and new earth since that is the only condition lasting into the future without end.


The Rebuke

Paul gets right to it. Usually his letters have a long introduction before he offers criticism and correction (but not always). Perhaps he was pressed for time. Or perhaps he was so focused on correcting the error that he didn't have the patience for small talk.

(Galatians 1:6) I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel:

How quickly they forgot. Paul's rebuke is exceptionally blunt.

Can people still be considered Christians if they have strayed from essential doctrine?

God the Father calls them.

(Galatians 1:7) Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.

By another gospel is meant a false gospel.

(Galatians 1:8) But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.

Apparently angels can preach the gospel, or at least people thought they could. And fallen angels preach a false gospel. Satan was bound for 1,000 years to prevent to gospel from being permanently perverted and distorted.

(Galatians 1:9) As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.

The word "accursed" is the same word the Catholic Church often uses in defining dogma; those who do or teach or believe such and such are cursed, anathema. Anti-Catholics often object to stating things this way but it is biblical to do so.

Paul considers his gospel message to be correct and, therefore, infallible. Apparently, Peter and the other apostles agreed with him.

Notice that the source of Christian truth is apostolic teaching, not the Bible. The New Testament was still being written.


Paul's credentials as apostle

He has to recount his history of how he became an apostle. Apparently some doubted his authority and, therefore, his teachings.

(Galatians 1:10) For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.

(Galatians 1:11) But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man.

(Galatians 1:12) For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.

(Galatians 1:13) For ye have heard of my conversation [way of life] in time past in the Jews' religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it [tried to destroy it]:

Paul was zealous to appease the Pharisees, to become one of them, probably because he was an outsider, a Greek-speaking Jew trying to earn his way into the inner circle.

(Galatians 1:14) And profited in the Jews' religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers.

Paul was a Greek-speaking Jew who was trying to earn favor with the Pharisees in Jerusalem, trying to be one of them. Notice he compares his status among the other Greek-speaking Jews, not among the Aramaic-speaking Jews. He is an outsider trying to become one of them. He had studied under the rabbi Gamaliel which gave him some clout.

(Galatians 1:15) But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace,

(Galatians 1:16) To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen [Gentiles]; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood:

Paul was called to preach the gospel to Gentiles. But he also preached to the Greek-speaking Jews, which is what he was.

Paul didn't discuss his conversion with the other apostles in Jerusalem for years. Instead, he went to Arabia, then back to Damascus and preached to them. Only years later did he finally go to Jerusalem to verify with the apostles that his teaching was correct. It was.

(Galatians 1:17) Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus.

Notice Paul did not go to Jerusalem but, rather, to Arabia then returned to Damascus. Probably people were unaware of the time he spent in Arabia thinking he was in Damascus continuously before he escaped for his life and finally went to Jerusalem. When Paul did finally go to Jerusalem he only met with Peter and James.

Apparently some people were saying Paul went to Jerusalem sooner than he did but he considers it very important to set the record straight, that he didn't go to Jerusalem until later. When he did finally go to Jerusalem 3 years later, he only met with a couple of the apostles and stayed only a couple of weeks. Perhaps there was another person, a heretic, who was in Jerusalem during those 3 years and some people assumed this was Paul. He wants them to know it was somebody else, not him.

(Galatians 1:18) Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days.

Jesus stated he would build his Church upon Peter and his proclamation of faith. Certainly God used Paul to build his Church also, so the fact that Paul spent a couple of weeks with Peter is fitting.

The problem with using this visit by Paul as evidence of the Catholic doctrine of the papacy is that Jesus did not specify that the bishop of Rome would be the pope, nor did he specify how popes would be selected. Peter was never the bishop of Rome even though he lived there, as Paul also did. Both were martyred there; but since when does being martyred somewhere make that city special?

Perhaps Paul first tried to interact with the Christians of Jerusalem but they rejected him out of fear, remembering his previous persecution of them. So he went to secretly stay with Peter, perhaps for safety.

(Galatians 1:19) But other of the apostles saw I none, save [except] James the Lord's brother.

The James referred to is not James the son of Zebedee, nor is he James the son of Alphaeus, but is, rather, the writer of the New Testament letter having that name. Notice he is called an apostle even though he was not one of the twelve nor was he with Jesus during his entire earthly ministry.

(Galatians 1:20) Now the things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not.

Paul emphasizes that his account of his travels in this letter to the Galatians is historically accurate. Probably someone had been spreading a false account to discredit Paul and his teaching. Modern liberal Bible teachers claim the account in the book of Acts is inaccurate for the purpose of making it seem that Paul and the other apostles were in unity in their teaching. I reject this notion preferring, instead, to accept that: (1) all the books of the New Testament are historically trustworthy, (2) the apostles and Paul all taught the same gospel, and (3) the accounts of Paul's journeys in Acts and Galatians do not contradict.

Perhaps Paul's critics are saying he didn't stay with Peter, probably because this would imply that Peter endorsed Paul. Paul then loses his train of thought and neglects to mention that after staying with Peter for 15 days, Barnabas introduces him to the other apostles and, presumably (but this is unstated) to the Christians in Jerusalem who finally accept Paul. Perhaps this whole process takes several months.

(Galatians 1:21) Afterwards I came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia;

Paul went from Caesarea to Syria to Tarsus, which is the main city of Cilicia.

Paul doesn't mention why he left Jerusalem; his enemies plotted to kill him. Probably after Paul fled Jerusalem, they spread the false story that neither Peter nor the other apostles endorsed Paul and that Paul didn't stay with Peter for 15 days.

(Galatians 1:22) And was unknown by face unto the churches of Judaea which were in Christ:

We should wonder why these Christians did not know of Paul since he so actively persecuted these in Jerusalem before his conversion. Notice he refers specifically to the Churches of Judea rather than those in Jerusalem. Probably he is excluding those in Jerusalem in this statement.

Notice Paul interrupts the flow of the previous verse to continue with his accounts of his stay in Jerusalem.

Perhaps this verse refers to the start of Paul's long stay in Jerusalem before being sent off on his first missionary journey It isn't mentioned that he went to Jerusalem after the previous verse but it is implied (how can you be somewhere if you don't go there?)

(Galatians 1:23) But they had heard only, That he which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed.

The Christians in Judea, excluding those in Jerusalem, certainly had heard about Paul's persecution of Christians before his conversion. But they had not seen him or met him since he limited his activities to Jerusalem (where the leaders of the Pharisees could witness his activities — he was trying to make a name for himself among them).

(Galatians 1:24) And they glorified God in me.

(Galatians 2:1) Then fourteen years after [later] I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also.

(Galatians 2:2) And I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain.

Critics of biblical inerrancy object to this verse, but it is easily explained. In Galatians Paul says he was commanded to go to Jerusalem by revelation but not so in Acts. Actually, the prophet Agabus prophesied of a famine implying (or commanding) them to send relief.

Notice Paul again shares his gospel with the apostles in Jerusalem to ensure he has not made errors. Paul trusts the apostles and wishes to validate the revelation he received supernaturally directly from Jesus.

This event is probably not when Paul met with Peter and James. Probably Barnabas introduces Paul to the various elders he is acquainted with to ensure Paul is accepted by the people. Paul learned the hard way that the people would not accept him unless the leaders first accepted him and informed the people he was OK. Paul wants to succeed this time where previously he failed.


Must Christians be Jews?

(Galatians 2:3) But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised:

The converts from Judaism to Christianity thought it was necessary to be Jewish to be Christian. Certainly it is OK to retain many of the Jewish traditions but it is wrong to demand non-Jewish converts to Christianity do so. The council of Jerusalem settled this matter. The letter of Paul to the Galatians was written before that council.

Notice Paul's constant emphasis on circumcision when discussing Gentile Christians. Probably he is usually referring to the God-fearers; Hellenized Romans or non-Jews who partially converted to Judaism and attended synagogue — but who were not circumcised.

Circumcision is barbaric torturous mutilation of the body. It is unfortunate that the barbaric practice of circumcision was chosen as a covenant sign; it's bad enough to subject children to it; but adults?

Even though Paul was a fanatical Jew, upon conversion to Christ, he dropped it all.

(Galatians 2:4) And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily [secretly] to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage:

Are these even Christians at all?

(Galatians 2:5) To whom we gave place by subjection [did not subject ourselves to], no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.

Is Paul referring to a 60 minute hour?

(Galatians 2:6) But of these who seemed to be somewhat [of high reputation], (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man's person:) for they who seemed to be somewhat [of high reputation] in conference [conferring] added nothing to me:

(Galatians 2:7) But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter;

Notice Paul's constant emphasis on circumcision when discussing Gentile Christians. Probably he is usually referring to the God-fearers; Hellenized Romans or non-Jews who partially converted to Judaism and attended synagogue — but who were not circumcised.

Circumcision is barbaric torturous mutilation of the body. It is unfortunate that the barbaric practice of circumcision was chosen as a covenant sign; it's bad enough to subject children to it; but adults?

Distinguishing characteristic of circumcision: it's a sign visible for all to see (except that modesty renders it unseen, and women don't have that sign).

Not referring to the circumcision of Christians but, rather, using the word "circumcision" and "uncircumcision" as labels for different categories of people.

(Galatians 2:8) (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:)

If Paul is the apostle of the Gentiles, why does he spend so much time writing about Jewish topics? Probably his target audience is the God-fearers; Hellenized Romans or non-Jews who partially converted to Judaism and attended synagogue — but who were not circumcised.

(Galatians 2:9) And when James, Cephas [Peter], and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.

Not referring to the circumcision of Christians but, rather, using the word "circumcision" and "uncircumcision" as labels for different categories of people.

(Galatians 2:10) Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward [eager] to do.


Peter Backslides

(Galatians 2:11) But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed.

(Galatians 2:12) For before that certain [men] came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision.

Peter stopped associating with Gentile Christians, but he didn't again adopt all the Jewish practices. He shunned the Gentiles and so Paul remarks on this.

Not referring to the circumcision of Christians but, rather, using the word "circumcision" and "uncircumcision" as labels for different categories of people.

(Galatians 2:13) And the other Jews dissembled [joined in hypocrisy] likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation [hypocrisy].

(Galatians 2:14) But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?

Peter had been given a vision from God to eat food that was unclean according to the Jewish law.

Even though several of the apostles fell into error (for example, Barnabas), Paul singled out Peter for rebuke, either because Paul had a special rapport with Peter (but he spent more time with Barnabas than with Peter) or because Paul considered Peter as their leader and the one accountable.

If Jews who converted to Christianity are no longer bound by the Mosaic Law, why should non-Jews who convert to Christianity be forced to obey the Mosaic Law?

(Galatians 2:15) We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles,

Three categories of Christians...

  1. Those born into Judaism before converting to Christianity. Notice that the above verses refer to those in this group.
  2. The God-fearers; Gentiles who practiced Jewish traditions but were not circumcised. Apparently Paul doesn't mention this group in this verse.
  3. Gentiles who converted to Christianity. Not having the Mosaic Law to guide and constrain them, Gentiles tended to live lives of debauchery.

(Galatians 2:16) Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

The Christians of group one above (born Jews) were taught by the apostles that their mere adherence to the Mosaic Law did not bring them salvation; in fact, the apostles were from this group. This verse contrasts salvation by faith with salvation by works only. It does not mention the connection between faith and works.

Not just circumcision is being referred to but, rather, the law. And note: circumcision was given before the law, to Abraham.

(Galatians 2:17) But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid.

In other words, if Christians base their salvation on their works only, which is all the Gentiles could do, being outside of the covenant with God, these Christians will be found by God to be sinners. Christ is not a minister of sin because he does not provide redemption by a person's works only.

Before Christ's incarnation to earth as a human, only the Jews had a covenant with God; the Gentiles did not. Therefore, the only hope Gentiles had of salvation was through their works; the Jews had their covenant relationship with God with its sacrifices for sin.

(Galatians 2:18) For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.

(Galatians 2:19) For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God.

(Galatians 2:20) I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

Paul was not crucified but was beheaded; this occurred, of course, after he wrote this letter. I have no reason to believe Paul was writing figuratively; I prefer to interpret this verse strictly literally. Here's why: Later in this letter Paul refers to crucifying the flesh, and the crucifixion of the whole world. The letter to the Hebrews provides a clue: Christians who fall away from the faith, who apostatize; these crucify Christ all over again. Thus, in rejecting Christ, their souls join with the crowds who shouted "crucify him". In the spiritual realm, these kinds of events literally occur. It makes perfect sense that in rejecting Christ, the soul of an apostate would engage in rejecting Christ with others who rejected Christ. I can imagine that in some mystical dream sequence, their soul and its corresponding spiritual body travelled to the spiritual time and place of the crucifixion, and entered in with the spitting and cursing of Jesus along with the souls of the others who literally did this in their physical bodies and with their souls and corresponding spiritual bodies.

Having been transported to the third heaven, Paul is all-too connected with these mystical workings and describes to his audience events that actually occurred. I suspect that in choosing to follow Christ, the soul and corresponding spiritual body of each Christian experienced its own crucifixion at the hand of the same spiritual enemies of Christ. Note that every phrase of this verse refers to mystical aspects of the life of faith, of the doings in the spiritual realm. For example, Paul has to use the word "flesh" to clarify that he is referring to his bodily life. He would not need to do this if this was all mere figures of speech.

In baptism, a part of us dies via crucifixion along with Christ, and we are reborn as a new man (person) in Christ. This reborn man is the Spirit of Christ who now lives inside of us. These goings on are not mere figures of speech but actual mystical occurrences in the spiritual realm, in our soul.

Here is my translation of this verse if it is all figurative (I don't believe it is figurative as I note above:) I am spiritually renewed because of Christ's bodily crucifixion; but I didn't have to physically die and be bodily resurrected as Christ did. Even though Christ died bodily, yet his Spirit lives within me because I have received his saving grace through faith. This faith works in my physical, material life.

Several aspects of our faith life are missing in the above...

  1. The realm of thoughts, dreams, and visions are real, and we interact with God in these; we truly worship God when we imagine ourselves hanging on the cross with Christ, for example.
  2. When we suffer, we share with Christ's suffering on the cross and unite with him. In taking on human nature and experiencing human experiences he is deifying all things human, including enduring the ravages of the wicked spirits. Therefore, in all human experiences we can, if we choose, understand that these human experiences are, in some way, the presence of Christ. Pantheists believe that all that exists is God; this is, of course, untrue in the way they believe it. But what is true is that all human experiences can provide a way to enter in to Christ's presence. Many Christians commonly believe that during the singing in church, the Holy Spirit "falls" and they experience God's presence. This is true. But it is also true that Christians can experience God's presence in every human experience — except for sinning, of course.
  3. Through Christ's redemptive work on our behalf on the cross, the Spirit of God mingles with our spirit, with our soul. Those living in faith are spiritually empowered by God's Spirit. Many Christians claim to believe this yet for some reason they spend the majority of every sermon admonishing us not to sin. But true faith requires living a holy life of virtue. In living in sin, the presence of God is repulsed. Those who need to be hollered at by the preacher to keep from sinning may not be truly saved.

Jesus loves us and gave his life for us. We express our love for others by what we sacrificially do for them.

Circumcision vs. crucifixion. Crucifixion is more severe than circumcision.

I find it odd that so many fundamentalist evangelical Protestants spend so much time exhorting us to not sin; they emphasize it in nearly every sermon. The reason this is so odd is that they also teach that the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit prevents us from sinning by granting us supernatural sinless perfection (or some such equivalent version of this teaching). Clearly their teaching about this topic is confused.

(Galatians 2:21) I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.

(Galatians 3:1) O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently [publicly] set forth [exhibited as / written about], crucified among [with / in] you?

Paul's letter to the Galatians was written 20 or 30 years after Jesus was crucified; some likely witnessed it first-hand. Possible meanings of "crucified before their eyes"...

  1. They are to be crucified with Christ just as Paul was. Perhaps the image is that Paul and the others were also hanging on crosses among Jesus during his crucifixion just as the two thieves were. This seems to be the most likely explanation since it builds on Paul's thought from two verses before.
  2. Paul's preaching of the crucifixion was so vivid it was as if they saw it themselves. Perhaps he acted out the events in pantomime.
  3. It's possible one or two of the gospels were written and circulating among the churches. These vividly describe the crucifixion.
  4. Perhaps some in Paul's audience witnessed the crucifixion and confirmed Paul's description of it.
  5. Catholic defenders typically say this refers to a crucifix during mass. Certainly the crucifix is intended to be used as a way of visualizing the reality of this event and in worship of Jesus and his work. The fatal flaw in this view is that the crucifix was not used this early.
  6. Notice the flow of ideas: Jesus was set forth or written about before their eyes, crucified among them.

(Galatians 3:2) This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?

Paul contrasts faith with works. These Galatians received the sealing of the Holy Spirit in baptism through their hearing of the gospel leading to faith and followed by works. Now, they are teaching that salvation comes by following the Mosaic Law with Christ as Messiah.

(Galatians 3:3) Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?

Perhaps referring to circumcision. Notice how Paul primarily addresses men, ignoring the women. Circumcision as a covenant sign automatically neglects women (there is no such thing as circumcision for women).

The Christians Paul refers to became Christians without the Mosaic Law; now they are returning to the Mosaic Law and expecting others to enter in to Christianity through the Mosaic Law.

The goal is perfection. We do not become perfect by adhering to rituals and ceremonies, nor by following rules and laws. We become perfect by performing works of faith, by living in a way that pleases God, by loving God and neighbor. The same way of getting saved in the first place (faith) is the same way we become perfect (works of faith, not works of law).

(Galatians 3:4) Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain.

(Galatians 3:5) 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?

(Galatians 3:6) Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.

Notice: Abraham had saving faith long before the time of Christ. In like manner, the Old Testament Jews were able to have saving faith in the context of their obedience to God and the Mosaic Law. Only when a person believes their salvation is by works only, only then are they in trouble.

(Galatians 3:7) Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.

(Galatians 3:8) 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.

(Galatians 3:9) So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.

(Galatians 3:10) 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.

The curse of the Mosaic Law was not intended to cause eternal damnation of everyone trying to observe this law; rather, God gave the Mosaic Law to bless the people. This implies they we capable of following it, and in fact, many did. Only those who in their hearts rejected God didn't follow the law, not from inability but, rather, from open and willful rebellion. This is what's wrong with our modern culture that prefers referring to wickedness as a mere disease, curable or perhaps even tolerated. Even worse is considering wickedness as a mere lifestyle choice and persecuting those who don't see it that way.

The flawed assumption of fundamentalist evangelical Protestants is that people simply couldn't live perfectly the constraints of the law, and so we need the new covenant of salvation by faith. Certainly, performing works outside the context of saving faith do not lead to salvation. However, performing the works specified in the Mosaic Law in the context of the covenant with God, these works are pleasing to God in the context of faith in God. Even the Old Testament expects people to have faith as the reference to Abraham illustrates. The Mosaic Law was given in the context of faith.

Not just circumcision is being referred to but, rather, the law. And note: circumcision was given before the law, to Abraham.

(Galatians 3:11) But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.

(Galatians 3:12) And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them.

Paul is comparing...

  1. Judaizers teaching that Christians must follow the law (because faith is not enough) with...
  2. Faith apart from law.

It's not that works don't matter as an essential ingredient of salvation but, rather, the Mosaic Law is not needed. Those using this passage to support faith only are missing Paul's point and the context of this letter.

(Galatians 3:13) 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:

The Mosaic law had blessings and curses based on a person or nation's following of the law. Apparently it was easy for people or nations to stop following the law and to thereby receive the curses. There is nothing surprising about any of this. God is holy and is repelled by sin. In order to enjoy all the blessings God has to offer we require his constant intercession to drive off the wicked spiritual powers which seek to destroy us. Our sinfulness causes the curses to be applied.

In taking on human nature, Christ became subject to the same buffeting of Satan we experience. He suffered the curse of the law on our behalf. How did he do this since he is sinless? By entering into Satan's realm and allowing Satan to buffet him. God allowed Satan to have his way with him much as he did with Job.

The significance of the reference to hanging on a tree is to answer the question: "was Christ really cursed?" The answer is that he was, because he hung on a tree, the cross.

Christ redeemed human nature and humanity making it possible for all redeemed humans to break free from the kingdom of this world, from the powers of darkness. When human nature became corrupted at the fall and took on original sin, human souls began to live entangled in the spiritual realm with the wicked spirits. There was no hope of salvation for any of these wicked spirits or those humans entangled in this spiritual darkness. But Christ deified human nature and gave to all humans who chose to, the ability to follow along with Christ to become redeemed.

(Galatians 3:14) That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

(Galatians 3:15) 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.

(Galatians 3:16) 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 is a problem verse because the word "seed" is clearly used in the book of Genesis in the context of Abraham's promised seed as referring to a multitude of peoples, yet Paul insists this word refers only to Christ. A few observations...

  1. The word "seed" is indeed singular in all these cases.
  2. Abraham himself uses the word "seed" as singular to refer to a son.
  3. In verse 29, Paul admits the word "seed" refers to many people.
  4. Jesus was indeed a descendant of Abraham, a "seed" of Abraham.
  5. Jesus fulfills the covenant with Abraham by bringing redemption to those of faith.
  6. Paul uses a similar kind of allegory with Sarah and Hagar. We should not use this kind of interpretation involving allegory, typology, and other figures of speech; even the apostles stumbled when attempting it.

The Christian faith is a "rule" — we are not saved by faith only but must follow this "rule" of salvation.

(Galatians 3:17) And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years [430] after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect.

430 years.

(Galatians 3:18) For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise.

(Galatians 3:19) 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.

"Added because of transgressions" — each stage of redemption history was added to combat previous error.

Notice that angels gave the law. Bible commentators seem eager to dismiss this as merely a Jewish tradition, as an error in apostolic teaching because they don't want to address its implications.

(Galatians 3:20) Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one.

(Galatians 3:21) 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.

We are not saved by the law without faith. We are not saved by works only.

(Galatians 3:22) But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.

(Galatians 3:23) But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.

(Galatians 3:24) Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.

This verse does not say the Old Testament law was useless or that it did not result in salvation for those following it. This passage is discussing that aspect of the Old Testament law leading up to the appearance of the Messiah and his redeeming work of redemption. Those of the Old Testament were not aware of this aspect of the law.

(Galatians 3:25) But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.

(Galatians 3:26) For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.

(Galatians 3:27) For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

Notice that it is their baptism (not their faith) that saved them. This passage refutes the notion that baptism is merely a symbol of obedience after salvation.

(Galatians 3:28) 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.

(Galatians 3:29) And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.

Jesus didn't come only to redeem Abraham's descendants through Isaac, but to redeem everyone who will receive Jesus through faith and repentance. Non-Jews who accept Jesus become spiritual descendants of Abraham by uniting spiritually and mystically with Jesus who was a physical descendant of Abraham; they receive the promises to Abraham through Jesus, by proxy, by literally being part of Jesus.

(Galatians 4:1) Now I say, That the heir, as long as he is a child, differeth nothing from a servant, though he be lord of all;

(Galatians 4:2) But is under tutors and governors until the time appointed of the father.

The time appointed for the Jews, the descendants of Abraham through Isaac; this time was when Jesus came. They were children until then, unable to receive the promise This is not surprising because you can't enjoy the benefits provided by Jesus until he appeared on earth to provide them.

(Galatians 4:3) Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world:

(Galatians 4:4) But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,

The fullness of time began at the time of Jesus, not a yet-future time. The time was "full" because Jesus came and deified human nature. There is nothing better than this until the new heavens and new earth, after the powers of darkness are destroyed.

Jesus was born as a Jew, under the law of Moses.

(Galatians 4:5) To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.

Jesus redeemed the Jews; they are the "we" Paul refers to. These redeemed are finally brought into God's kingdom through adoption. Even though the Jews are physical descendants of Abraham, they are also adopted into the kingdom of God as are non-Jews who are redeemed through faith in Jesus. Jesus is the last of the line of Abraham having redemptive significance. This is not to say God doesn't still honor his covenant with the Jews because he still does. The problem with the Judaizers was not that they wanted to be Jewish but, rather, that thy demanded all Christians to be Jewish.

(Galatians 4:6) And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.

(Galatians 4:7) Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.

(Galatians 4:8) Howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods.

(Galatians 4:9) But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?

(Galatians 4:10) Ye observe days, and months, and times [seasons], and years.

Notice how, continuously, in Paul's writings he refutes the claims of the Judaizers who insist Christians must first be Jewish. He writes this letter to oppose the idea that Christians must follow the Jewish law. This verse refers to the various Jewish feast days and holy days. Paul teaches that Christians are not bound by any of these Jewish laws and traditions. I find it ironic that the Catholic Church insists you must follow traditions similar to those of the Judaizers; things such as dietary rules of Lent (and Fridays), obligatory mass attendance on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation, mandatory sacramental confession. Even fundamentalist evangelical Protestants have some of this (Christmas with manger scenes, Easter) but they don't notice.

(Galatians 4:11) I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain.

(Galatians 4:12) Brethren, I beseech you, be as I am; for I am as ye are: ye have not injured me at all.

(Galatians 4:13) Ye know how through infirmity [weakness] of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first [the first time].

The reason Paul preached to them was because of his weakness of the flesh, referring to the physical damage to his face and body caused by his recent stoning. He was there to preach to them only because he changed his plans after being stoned and left for dead so he had to stay there a while to recover.

The word flesh here refers to the physical body.

(Galatians 4:14) And my temptation [trial] which was in my flesh ye despised not, nor rejected; but received me as an angel [messenger] of God, even as Christ Jesus.

Paul refers to his physical condition as a temptation to himself. Presumably he was tempted to quit preaching altogether; to either give up his ministry or at least to take a temporary hiatus.

Paul's condition was in the body. It would have been natural for them to reject him in his condition but instead they welcomed him as one having a message from God. I doubt they thought he was an angel.

(Galatians 4:15) Where is then the blessedness ye spake [spoke] of? for I bear you record [witness], that, if it had been possible, ye would have plucked out your own eyes, and have given them to me.

Paul had just been stoned and left for dead. Likely his face was badly disfigured and bruised. Of course they could not give Paul their eyes, but they wished his eyes were healthy again.

They were blessed by Paul's presence among them and the gospel message.

(Galatians 4:16) Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?

(Galatians 4:17) They zealously affect you, but not well; yea, they would exclude you, that ye might affect them.

(Galatians 4:18) But it is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing, and not only when I am present with you.

(Galatians 4:19) My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you,

(Galatians 4:20) I desire to be present with you now, and to change my voice; for I stand in doubt of you.

(Galatians 4:21) Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law?

(Galatians 4:22) For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman.

(Galatians 4:23) But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise.

(Galatians 4:24) Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth [leads to] to bondage [slavery], which is Agar [Hagar].

Paul changes the meaning of these historical events from the Old Testament; only the apostles can do this. These things are an allegory only because Paul decrees it to be so, not because the events themselves were intended to be such. In similar manner, Typology assumes that events in the past were planned by God to have a future significance with future events occurring.

Two covenants: (1) the Law leading to bondage, and (2) the gospel of grace leading to freedom. Ishmael was conceived without faith; Isaac, the son of promise, in faith. Notice the key ingredient tying it all together is whether or not faith was present.

(Galatians 4:25) For this Agar [Hagar] is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children.

In Paul's day, the Roman province of Arabia did not yet exist. (After 100 A.D. this province was established and it did indeed include the Sinai Peninsula). Mt. Sinai was in Saudi Arabia where Hagar and Ishmael went. But this fact doesn't help remove the awkward allegory since Moses and the law came long after Abraham and Ishmael.

(Galatians 4:26) But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.

(Galatians 4:27) For it is written, Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not; break forth and cry, thou that travailest not: for the desolate hath many more children than she which hath an husband.

(Galatians 4:28) Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise.

(Galatians 4:29) But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now.

(Galatians 4:30) Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.

(Galatians 4:31) So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.

(Galatians 5:1) Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.

(Galatians 5:2) Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing.

(Galatians 5:3) For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law.

(Galatians 5:4) Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.

(Galatians 5:5) For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.

(Galatians 5:6) For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.

Faith must work or it is useless.

(Galatians 5:7) Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?

Our overriding passion should be truth: determining truth from error; then, obeying the dictates of truth. I think this includes rejecting false Christian doctrine and teaching; in fact, this is a main emphasis of my website. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life so he naturally takes the preeminent role in all this.

(Galatians 5:8) This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you.

(Galatians 5:9) A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.

(Galatians 5:10) I have confidence in you through the Lord, that ye will be none otherwise minded: but he that troubleth you shall bear his judgment, whosoever he be.

People are judged for persecuting Christians.

(Galatians 5:11) And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution? then is the offence of the cross ceased.

Paul proves he is not preaching the false view of the necessity of being Jewish to be a Christian. If he were preaching this view he would not be persecuted as he is, rather, those having this false view would be happy with him for being a spokesman of their cause.

(Galatians 5:12) I would they were even cut off [amputate] which trouble you.

Paul hints at the true nature of circumcision; it is barbaric torturous mutilation of the body.

This comment of Paul is vindictive. He has a mean streak.

(Galatians 5:13) For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.

No longer bound by the Mosaic law, Christians have freedom. You wouldn't know it by looking at the Church throughout much of church history; it didn't take very long for the power-crazed bishops to impose the rule of law on Christians.

Even so, our freedom has limits. We are not free to sin, to live in the flesh. We are only free to choose things pleasing to God, any other choice is a choice made from bondage to sin. We must choose virtue and moral living. Christians are to love one another and serve one another. This is hard to do when they are at war with each other or when they accuse each other of being unsaved or idol worshippers. We are to have the proper view of unity: it is not unity at all cost; but all true Christians who are among the redeemed should accept one another as true followers of Christ.

Our freedom in faith should not cause us to feel free to sin. We must at all times fight against the temptations of the sin nature within us, the "flesh". The indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit assists us in this war against sin.

I find it odd that so many fundamentalist evangelical Protestants spend so much time exhorting us to not sin; they emphasize it in nearly every sermon. The reason this is so odd is that they also teach that the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit prevents us from sinning by granting us supernatural sinless perfection (or some such equivalent version of this teaching). Clearly their teaching about this topic is confused.

(Galatians 5:14) For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

(Galatians 5:15) But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.

(Galatians 5:16) This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.

Paul uses the term "flesh" to contrast with the Spirit; the flesh is the part of our soul that desires to sin, while the Spirit is the God who indwells our soul and influences us to live holy lives pleasing to God. When we choose to sin we drive away the Spirit of God since God is repulsed by sin. We have to repent and invite the Spirit back in. The only way to keep from sinning is to work — this work involves practicing the virtues and living a holy moral life; these constitute a Christian's walk with God.

(Galatians 5:17) For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.

(Galatians 5:18) But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.

You don't need the law if you are directed by the Holy Spirit because the Holy Spirit is the source of the law. Notice the Holy Spirit directs us by prompting us to life a life of virtue, not by directing our every step as Charismatics claim.


Works of the Flesh

(Galatians 5:19) Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,

Here are the works of the flesh. Notice these are not of the body but, rather, of the soul, of the mind. Thus, the flesh is not the body.

(Galatians 5:20) Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,

The greek word pharmakeia is here translated witchcraft. Some interpret this word as referring to drug use and certainly the word can mean this, but it doesn't only mean this; none of the translations translate it this way. I think interpreting the greek word pharmakeia as drug use is improper; it would be like swapping the two opposite meanings of the word cleave: to split vs. to join.

(Galatians 5:21) Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

Notice the kingdom of God is future for each living person; it begins at death. The sequence: first they live a holy life (while alive), then they enter the kingdom of God.

Notice that mortal sin prevents these from receiving eternal redemption. There is no mention of faith: because they commit mortal sin they can't, by definition, have faith. Faith without works is dead.


Fruit of the Spirit

(Galatians 5:22) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,

The word "fruit" is singular. You have to have them all; you can't pick and choose. Holiness is a package deal.

How is it possible to have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, which every Christian has, but yet not have the fruit of the Spirit?

Any Christian who considers themselves saved should measure up to these...

  1. love
  2. joy — this does not mean that you will never be sad, or that you will not be plagued by depression.
  3. peace
  4. longsuffering — patiently enduring hardships
  5. gentleness
  6. goodness
  7. faith

(Galatians 5:23) Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

The list continues...

  1. meekness
  2. temperance — moderation, self-control. This does not mean that you will never overindulge but, rather, that you will quickly catch yourself and return to moderation.

These are not against God's law because they are in harmony with God's law; in fact, they are the goal and purpose of God's law. God gave his law for the purpose of bringing the fruit of the Spirit to each person. The person who has the fruit of the Spirit doesn't need the law. The Christian who doesn't have the fruit of the Spirit might not even be saved.

(Galatians 5:24) And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.

Paul uses the word "crucify" to mean kill. Notice that it is not the body which is killed upon redemption but, rather, the sin nature which resides in the soul and which causes sinful actions and attitudes.


(Galatians 5:25) If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

(Galatians 5:26) Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.

(Galatians 6:1) Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering [watch] thyself, lest thou also be tempted.

We are supposed to interact with sinners for their benefit but must maintain a healthy distance emotionally lest we get tangled up in their sins.

(Galatians 6:2) Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.

There is such a thing as the law of Christ. Fundamentalist evangelical Protestants often interpret this to mean "the non-law of Christ" but it says "law of Christ". Thus, one aspect of our salvation by faith in Christ is that we follow the law of Christ. Those who do not do this do not have saving faith. Having faith requires having good works.

(Galatians 6:3) For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.

(Galatians 6:4) But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.

Works are important.

(Galatians 6:5) For every man shall bear his own burden.

(Galatians 6:6) Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things.

(Galatians 6:7) Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.

(Galatians 6:8) For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.

Paul contrasts works of the flesh with works of the Spirit, with works of faith. Only works done in faith have eternal merit.

(Galatians 6:9) And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.

This verse is about the topic of salvation. The reward we reap is spending eternity in the new heavens and new earth. Notice that receiving this reward is conditional on our not growing weary and not fainting. Thus, we can lose our salvation if we start sinning. Works have a role in our salvation, but we are not saved by works only — faith is required.

(Galatians 6:10) As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.

In performing acts of charity we are to emphasize Christians who are in need. It's common for those evangelizing to share the gospel with those they are assisting. It seems rude to me to require someone who is hungry to listen to a long sermon first as payment for their meal.

(Galatians 6:11) Ye see how large a letter I have written unto you with mine own hand.

Some think Paul is referring to the size of the font he writes in, but this doesn't make any sense at all. This letter is probably the longest he had written at that time and, rather than dictate it to a scribe, he wrote it himself.

Some think this refers to an eye disease but there is a better explanation.

(Galatians 6:12) As many as desire to make a fair shew [showing] in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest [for fear that] they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ.

Paul claims the main motivating factor of those who demand Christians be also Jewish is to avoid persecution by Jews. I doubt this would have saved them from Roman persecution.

The Judaizers blended works and faith. They believed that Christians had to follow the Mosaic law. This included circumcision.

(Galatians 6:13) For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law; but desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh.

The Judaizers demanded Christians practice the Mosaic law. Paul mocks them for not keeping the law themselves but using the circumcision of Christians as a political victory, something to brag about.

(Galatians 6:14) But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.

We should not look to satisfaction in anything other than our relationship with Christ and in his work on our behalf. Christians are to abandon any interest in the usual worldly concerns. I think in our day this should include immoral and depraved entertainment having plotlines, characters, and actors engaged in mortal sin. And we should shun the company of wicked depraved people including alcoholics, drug addicts, God-haters, and the like except in the context of charity as Paul mentions above.

(Galatians 6:15) For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.

Not referring to the circumcision of Christians but, rather, using the word "circumcision" and "uncircumcision" as labels for different categories of people.

(Galatians 6:16) And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.

(Galatians 6:17) From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.

Did Paul have the stigmata (supernatural mystical signs in his body of crucifixion such as bleeding holes in his hands and feet with nails in them) as Catholics claim? Or are these marks from being whipped?

(Galatians 6:18) Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.


King James Version