We are justified by faith alone in Christ
by Glen Jackman | Posted June 18th at 1:03pm
“Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him for righteousness” (Galatians 3:6 HCSB)
Using rhetorical questions, Paul shows how illogical it is for the Galatians to seek a fuller Christian life through the observance of the Jewish law given under the Old Mosaic Covenant. He is teaching the same lesson that he taught to the Roman church: “Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1) See how Paul asks the question based on the Galatian experience, deciphering the cause and method of their salvation. “Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now going to be made complete by the flesh? (Galatians 3:2-3 HCSB)
Did God give them the Spirit and work miracles in their midst (v. 5) because they observed the law? No, it was the result of their hearing the gospel and believing it. Receive the Spirit refers to the new covenant work of the Holy Spirit that comes after saving faith, at the beginning of the Christian life, to sanctify and to empower the believer in life and various kinds of ministry. Paul knew this experience was so real for the Galatians that they would remember it.
Paul’s first question was fundamental, for it focused on how their Christian life had begun. The Galatians’ shift to following the law for salvation was completely contrary to their initial experience of the Christian faith at Paul’s preaching. So he asked, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit by keeping the law?” The Galatians had accepted the gospel and had received the Holy Spirit “just as Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him for righteousness” (vs. 3:6). Did this happen because they adopted, agreed and obeyed the old covenantal Jewish law system or because they believed the gospel Paul preached to them?
The Galatian believers, mostly having a Gentile (non-Jewish) background, didn’t even have or know the law, so the answer was obvious — their salvation began by faith. Law-keeping had nothing to do with it.
Paul mentioned as an indisputable fact that the Holy Spirit came upon the Galatian believers only after they had believed the message Paul had told them about Christ. The Apostle could point to their reception of the Spirit at the time of their conversion as proof that God had accepted them—based solely on their acceptance of the gospel message by faith, by believing in Jesus. God’s Spirit had been within them long before the Judaizers had pestered them to follow the strict ordinance of the Old Covenant such as circumcision.
Paul goes on to reveal that Abraham — the Jew’s forefather — was justified by faith, not by keeping the ordinances laid down by Moses. The blessing of God was to flow through the Jews to all people in the world, something the legalistic Jews misunderstood. Abraham led by the Spirit of God, believed God’s promise to him to bless all nations through his seed — meaning through Christ. Hence he believed. Similarly, for Christians from all nations, “if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law” (vs. 5:18)
“Just as Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him for righteousness, then understand that those who have faith are Abraham’s sons.” (Galatians 3:6-7 HCSB) The Christian receives his salvation and eternal life by faith not by obeying the law. “So it is clear that no one can be made right with God by trying to keep the law. For the Scriptures say, ‘It is through faith that a righteous person has life.’ This way of faith is very different from the way of law…” (vs. 11-12 NLT) Keeping the law does not bring special merit for salvation. Only faith in Christ’s sacrificial death for us does. Philippians 3: 8-11 makes this clear:
“I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, …that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”
Certainly, guidance by the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ leads you to love the commands of the Lord, given for our benefit to obey. (John 14:15)
Related: The New Covenant transcends the Old Covenant
Article posted by Glen R. Jackman, founder of GraceProclaimed.org
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