In Summary: I don’t think I can truly summarize Galatians 3. This is a chapter that begs for a sermon series on the content, and it would take a year to hit it all.
Overall, we have Paul rebuking the Galatians for going back to the law. That’s the critical point overall here: legalism, more specifically Judaizing. This was the belief that Gentiles had to become observant Jews to be good Christians, and that everyone needed to keep the Law for God to love them.
It’s a view that negates the grace of God. If the Law were enough, then there was no point in Jesus coming to die in our place. There was no point in any of it: those who wanted salvation could have simply earned it, rather than rely on the promises of God.
There is one other thing worth noting before we go “In Focus:” Galatians 3:28. Keep it in context as it addresses what there is “neither” of. This is not about the destruction of distinctions, it is about the destruction of barriers to access to God.
We now, though, move back to Galatians 3:1 as we go…
In Focus: Paul calls the Galatians “foolish” in this verse. We need to look at that, especially in light of Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5:22 about calling people a “fool.”
That is the first issue to address. Jesus uses the Greek word “moreh” while Paul uses “anohtos” (forgive the bad transliteration, Google doesn’t like my Greek font.) It’s two separate words, with two separate connotations. “Moreh” has hints of “godlessness” or “rebelliousness” in it, especially here, while “anohtos” means something like “unsophisticated” or “uneducated.”
Leaving the linguistics, suffice it to say that Paul is not violating Jesus’ commandments here. I have heard it said that Paul is essentially calling the Galatians ignorant, or perhaps even backwoods hicks, here. Why?
The Galatians thought they were moving into deeper, more nuanced and educated views. They were moving away from a simple Gospel into the advanced concepts, developing subtly and adapting to the changing winds. After all, who would want to hold to a simplistic faith in complex times?
In Practice: We should want just that, and should do just that. Our faith is a simple one. Jesus is Lord and no one else is. Therefore, He determines the parameters of eternity, not us.
This simple faith walks in obedience and cuts across racial and ethnic lines. It cuts across stereotypes, but it also cuts against the grain of modern society. There are clearly rights and wrongs.
Anything else is foolish, and should be said to be so, just as it was in Paul’s writings. Those who would deceive are leading people to foolishness. Those who fall for it are being foolish!
This is the cry of many small voices in the modern American Church: STOP BEING FOOLISH! We sit on the fringe as the “nuanced” and “subtle” adapt to the times, as we see the truth compromised in so many diverse ways that it’s alarming. And the church keeps funding it all. We’re not talking about the heretics and the cults, the secularists and the pagans. We’re talking the books on the shelf at Christian bookstores, the speakers at conferences, the pastors in pulpits, the presidents in schools.
Oh foolish American Christians, stop being bewitched. Pick up your Bible, read it, and turn to Christ as Lord. Gather with the faithful and grow together, follow together, and worship together. And let the rest cut themselves off.
In Nerdiness: The second half of this chapter has quite a few things to say about distinction between Jew and Gentile. There’s also a lot about how that distinction does not matter in the eyes of God, because unity in Christ is what matters.
There is the potential here for an impact on how we see the end of time. Some see that this means there is no future difference in those who are ethnically descended from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and those who are only heirs by faith. Others do not see it as such.
I think we must be very careful to read Paul’s statements in context. He is focused here on salvation and the need for all to be saved by grace through faith. He is highlighting that both divisions need grace. Any readings on eschatology should be held loosely until confirmed through the scope of other passages.