Today we’re reading Numbers 9, Isaiah 34, and Galatians 3. This devotional is about Galatians 3.
Paul had strong words for the Galatians in this chapter because so much was at stake. If the Christian faith became tied to obeying the law of Moses, then the gospel itself would be corrupted.
The main issue in this chapter is how can Gentiles be legitimate spiritual descendants of Abraham. Jewish people, of course, are physical descendants of Abraham. God’s promises to Abraham were about his human descendants. The Messiah–Jesus–descended from Abraham physically and the kingdom he promised was tied to the covenant God made to Abraham. So what about these people–“Gentiles”–who did not physically descend from Abraham? How can they be blessed without being physically descendants of Abraham?
There were people–they are called Judaizers–who wanted to connect following Christ with keeping the Old Testament law. They had come to the church in Galatia and were preaching the false gospel of faith + works. They saw obedience to the law as the way to connect Gentile believers to the covenant God made with Abraham.
Paul wanted to stop anyone from believing that false doctrine, so in this chapter he gives a better answer: Faith makes a person a spiritual relative of Abraham (v. 7, 29) not obedience to the law.
This is because:
- Abraham was a man of faith himself (vv. 6, 9) so faith matters in spiritual things, not physical descent.
- God prophesied the Gentile conversion when he told Abraham that all the nations would be blessed through him (v. 8).
- In Christ, who was Abraham’s “seed,” believers are connected to the promises given to Abraham (vv. 15-17). Since Christ kept the law and died as an atonement for the penalties of the law, the law has fulfilled its purpose and is no longer necessary as a covenant structure for God’s people (vv. 23-29).
These things may not seem directly relevant to us but they are. Throughout church history there have been teachers and groups who have tried to argue that faith alone is not enough. They say that faith + something else = salvation. That “something else” is sometimes a series of religious rituals. Sometimes it is a religious experience, such as speaking in tongues. Aspects of Judaism, too, are still insisted on by some who call themselves Christians.
While understanding the Jewish background of scripture and Christianity can be helpful in interpreting the Bible, the New Testament is clear that we are not under the law of Moses in any sense because Christ fulfilled it all. Don’t allow anyone to undermine your faith by offering you a deeper experience of Christianity by keeping the law or by “doing” anything else. Christ is all we need and in him is more than we can appreciate in this life.