".... the law is not out of faith..." (Gal 3:12)
IV The Gospel
A Righteous through Faith Alone 2:15-21
B Spirit by Faith 3:1-5
C Abrahamic Promise 3:6-14
D The Law 3:15-25
C' Abrahamic Promise 3:26-29
B' Spirit by Faith 4:1-7
A' Righteous through Faith Alone 4:8-11
As Paul corrects the Galatians, he focuses on three covenants: the Abrahamic Covenant (C and C'), the Mosaic Covenant (D), and the New Covenant (B and B'). In A and A' Paul reminds the Galatians that he and they obtained through faith. He begins in A by speaking of his own justification through faith. He writes,
"We by nature Jews, and not sinners out of the Gentiles, 16 and knowing that a man is not justified out of the works of the law, except  through faith in Christ Jesus, even we believed into Christ Jesus in order that we may be justified out of faith and not out of works of the law; since out of the works of the law all flesh is not justified. 17 And if seeking to be justified in Christ we ourselves also are found to be sinners, is Christ then a minister of sin? May it never be! 18 For if which things I destroyed again I build, I show myself a transgressor. 19 For I through the law to the law I died in order that to God I might live; I have been crucified with Christ; 20 And I no longer live, but Christ lives in me; And which now I live in the flesh, in faith I live in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me. 21 I do not reject the grace of God; For if righteousness is through the law, then Christ died for no purpose" (Gal 2:15-21).
Paul starts with a clear statement of the Gospel. Even though he was a Jew and not a Gentile sinner, "even" Paul believed in Christ Jesus for justification. No one was justified out of the works of the law; all flesh was under condemnation. But through faith in Christ Jesus there is justification, a declaration of righteousness. Paul did not look to works of the law but in faith to Christ Jesus for righteousness. The Lord Jesus is the only exception. No other man could be righteous, justified by works of the law. But Christ was the obedient servant who met the requirements of the law and was raised and exalted to the right hand of the Father, righteous. And His obedient righteousness was not for Himself alone, but for all who believe. So while Christ took the imputed sin of believers under the wrath on the cross, the believer receives the imputed covenant righteousness of the faithful Second Adam. So Paul writes,
"knowing a man is not justified out of the works of the law, except through faith in Christ Jesus..." (Gal 2:16).
Only Christ was justified out of the works of the law, and the believer in Him. Sounding a lot like Romans 6, Paul then immediately refutes the objection that this righteousness, justification, by free grace makes Christ a minister of sin! Rather, as Paul sets forth at length in Romans 6, when Christ died, the believer died to the law and now lives to God! Christ, by His Spirit, now lives in the believer so that the believer lives for Christ who loved and gave himself for him. If one could obtain righteousness, justification, through obedience to the law, Christ didn't need to die!
Paul then asks the Galatians how they received the Spirit (B),
"O foolish Galatians, who bewitched you, to whom before one's eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as having been crucified? 2 This only I want to learn from you, out of works of the law did you receive the Spirit or out of hearing of faith? 3 Are you foolish in this way? After beginning by the Spirit, now you complete by the flesh? 4 Did you suffer so many things in vain -- if indeed even in vain? 5 Therefore the one who supplies to you the Spirit and works powers among you, out of the works of the law or out of hearing of faith" (Gal 3:1-5)?
Obedience to the Mosaic Law did not bring them into the eschatological kingdom. The Mosaic Law was a sub-eschatological covenant; the Law was a typological covenant promising long life in Canaan and threatening death. Even obedience to the Mosaic Law would not have brought the Kingdom of Heaven with the attending power of the eschatological kingdom. But when they believed, the Spirit of the exalted Lord Jesus came on them in power. They were citizens of heaven, members of the New Covenant. Paul points out the absurdity that they would think that having received the promised eschatological kingdom through faith in the finished work of Christ, that now they would try to complete the work through the flesh. The contrast between flesh and Spirit is not an anthropological contrast in man, but an eschatological contrast between those who are in Adam and those who are in Christ. They are in Christ; it is absurd to think they should go back to the Law and finish by the flesh!
The Galatians have received by faith what was promised in the Abrahamic Covenant (C). Paul continues,
"Just as Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him unto righteousness. 7 You know then that out of faith, these are the sons of Abraham. 8 And the Scripture, having foreseen that out of faith God justifies the Gentiles. 9 So then those out of faith are blessed with the believing Abraham. 10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under a curse; for it has been written that "Cursed everyone who does not continue all things having been written in the book of law, to do them." 11 And that in the law no one is justified before God is evident, for "The righteous out of faith will live," 12 and the law is not out of faith, but "The one who does these things will live in them." 13 Christ redeemed us out of the curse of the law, having become for us a curse, for it is has been written "Cursed everyone who hangs upon a tree" 14 in order that unto the Gentiles the blessing of Abraham might come in Jesus Christ, in order that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith" (Gal 3:6-14).
God justified Abraham by faith, and this looked forward to God justifying the Gentiles by faith, without the law. Abraham's faith was not "reckoned as righteousness." Paul is clear,
"For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God... 5 But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned unto righteousness..." (Rom 4:2, 5).
The contrast is between works and faith. Faith is not a work that takes the place of the other works that should have been done. The faith is not righteousness. Rather the faith is unto righteousness. Faith receives the righteousness of Christ unto the righteousness of the believer. So, all who put their faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ receive his righteousness. They receive the "blessing." Here, Paul contrasts the "blessing" of faith with the "curse" of the Mosaic law. This covenant sanction language runs through the section: verse 9, "out of faith are blessed," verse 10 "works of the law are under a curse," verse 13 "Christ redeemed us out of the curse of the law, having become a curse." But the curses and blessings are not from the same covenant. Paul would never generically speak of "the covenant" as though it encapsulated all covenants! The believers are "blessed with believing Abraham" (vs. 9); they receive the promised covenant blessing of the Abrahamic Covenant. The Abrahamic Covenant didn't have a curse sanction -- it was a unconditional promise of the eschatological kingdom of God! But the Mosaic was conditional; it proffered both blessing and curse sanctions! Paul writes, the party to the law covenant is "under a curse" (vs. 10) not that they are cursed because of disobedience, but just being in the covenant, the curse hangs over them as a possible sanction they will face! The Mosaic covenant threatened curse on anyone who did not keep all the law. Justification before God could not come by the works of the law. Those counted "righteous out of faith will live." But the law is not "out of faith" as it requires covenant keeping to receive the blessing. Paul is not denying that those who lived under the law could or should have "faith," or that Abraham or believers under the New Covenant are called to be obedient to God. But "faith" alone is the instrument by which Abraham or believers would receive the promised eschatological kingdom. In contrast, the Mosaic Law covenant required obedience as the stipulation to receive the covenant blessing.
But doesn't the Scripture say that some "under the law" were righteous? Matthew 1:19 says Joseph was a "righteous" man. James called Elijah a "righteous man." Ezekiel 14:14 calls Noah, Daniel and Job righteous. There were those who lived in obedience to the requirements of the Old Covenant and were "righteous." But Paul quotes the Psalmist, "There is no one righteous... there is no one who does good, not even one" (Rom 3:10). Not only is there an apparent conflict between Paul and the affirmations about the "righteous," but even between the Old Covenant Psalmist and them. To make things muddier for the modern reader, Paul says that Christ "...redeemed us out the curse the law..." (vs. 13). But the curse of the Mosaic covenant is not damnation! It threatened sub-eschatological death and destruction. How did Christ's death redeem from the law on the eschatological level?
Paul speaks about the law in its strict covenant existence with temporal blessings and temporal curses on the Jews under the Mosaic covenant. But Paul also speaks on the eschatological level when he says such things as Christ has redeemed us from the law. How? Kline writes,
"The story of the typological kingdom of Israel was an historical parable in which mankind under the covenant of works in Adam was represented by Israel under the law." 
The covenant of works with the federal head Adam casts all men under the wrath of God. The Old Covenant with Israel is also a covenant works. Strictly speaking its promises and curses are only covenanted with Israel. But this "do and live" covenant required kingdom righteousness on the typological level. And as it spoke of God's righteousness on the typological level it proclaimed the righteousness of God on the eschatological level. Joseph was righteous as he obeyed the Old Covenant, but not on the eschatological level before God. None are righteous. Because of this typological relationship to the eschatological, Paul says that the law condemns Jew and Gentile alike. He writes,
"Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God; 20 because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin" (Rom 3:19-20).
On this level then Paul writes, "Christ redeemed us out of the curse of the law, having become for us a curse, for it is has been written "Cursed everyone who hangs upon a tree" (vs. 13). So redemption promised Abraham comes to the Gentile by faith. The blessing promised Abraham is received by Gentiles under the New Covenant blessing because Christ took the curse of the Covenant of Works and merited the blessing of the Pactum Salutis. But it wasn't the law. The Abrahamic Promise was received through faith!
Then why did God make a covenant of works with Israel (D) if it was a works covenant, and He had already said justification would come through faith, not out of works of the law? Paul explains,
"Brothers, I speak according to man: yet, having been ratified, no one sets aside or makes additions to a covenant of a man. 16 And the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his Seed. He does not say "and to seeds, as to many, but as to one, "And your Seed," which is Christ. 17 And this I say; the covenant having been ratified by God law which after came four hundred and thirty years does not disannul unto the abolition of the promise. 18 For if out of the law is the inheritance, no longer out of promise; And to Abraham through promise God has granted it. 19 Why therefore the law? It was added on account of the transgressions, until that time in which  the seed to whom it has been promised would come, and having been prescribed through the angels in hand of a mediator. 20 And the mediator is not of one; and God is one. 21 Is therefore the law contrary to the promises of God? May it never be! For if a law which was able to give life was given, actually out of law righteous would be. 22 But the Scripture has shut up the all things under sin in order that the promise out of faith Jesus Christ would be given to the ones who believe. 23 And before the faith came, having been guarded under the law, shut up unto the faith about to be revealed. 24 So then the law has been a guardian unto Christ in order that out of faith we might be justified. 25 And the faith having come, we are no longer under the guardian" (Gal 3:15-25).
Paul starts by stating the obvious. Ratified covenants, even among men, are not changed one they are ratified. God promised the kingdom to Abraham and to his Seed, Christ. This promise was received by faith alone; though Abraham's faith would necessarily be obedient, his obedience was not a condition to the promise. The promise was unconditional. The Mosaic law, given 430 years later at Sinai, being a covenant of works with the nation of Israel did not nullify the unconditional promise given Abraham. Why? Because the covenant promise given Abraham was received through faith, and the covenant blessing conditioned on the covenant obedience of Israel on a sub-eschatological/typological, level. Abraham was promised the eschatological kingdom. Israel was promised temporal blessings in Canaan, a type of the eschatological kingdom. The law never promised eternal kingdom life! The inheritance was never a promised sanction of the law. The promised inheritance was always through faith in the coming Seed, Christ.
The law, the Old Covenant ratified at Sinai, was given to Israel as a guardian until Christ would come. The Glory-Cloud, the theophany of God surrounded by His heavenly court of angels, covered the mountain with manifestations of power that even the Israelites shuddered in fear and sent Moses alone. The "angels prescribed" the covenant law into the hands of the mediator Moses. The fact that there was a mediator proves that if was a covenant of works between God and Israel! But the Abrahamic Covenant was different. When God covenanted with Abraham (Gen 15), there was no mediator. God alone traveled the path between the animals cut apart, and God alone took the self-maledictory oath and promised by covenant the inheritance. The law was never given to give eschatological life! If the law could have done that, then righteousness would be by the law.
The law wasn't able to bring kingdom righteousness and inheritance. Rather the law displayed on the typological level Israel's sin, and thus on the eschatological level the sinfulness of all men. All creation, "the all things," are shut up under sin. In this way, the law prepared for the coming of "the faith." We wouldn't say it this way; sounds odd to the modern reader. But "the faith" speaks of the realization of the promise made to Abraham. The "faith" -- what he believed would come -- it came in Christ Jesus, the Seed to whom the inheritance was promised. So now all who believe, with Abraham, are justified by faith. But now that the promise, the faith, has come, Paul says "we are no longer under the law." He has referred to the Promise (the Abrahamic Covenant), the Faith (the New Covenant), and the law (Mosaic Covenant). No longer is the Jew under the Old Covenant now that the New Covenant has come. There is a historical covenantal progression. But as the typological law reveals the righteous requirements of God on the eschatological level, there is this great reality that with the coming of the Second Adam, New Israel, the believer is no longer under condemnation of the Covenant of Works in Adam, but by faith stands righteous, justified before God.
The Abrahamic Covenant now has been fulfilled in Christ (C'). Paul writes,
"For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For as many of you were baptized into Christ, you clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, neither is there slave nor free, nor male and female; for you are all in Christ Jesus. 29 And since you are of Christ, then you are the seed of Abraham according to the promise heirs" (Gal 3:26-29)!
They are the heirs by faith in fulfillment of the Abrahamic Promise. In the New Covenant, there is no distinction. The law was filled with distinctions, male and female, free and slave, Jew and Gentile. In Christ all that is gone! This is not some general social comment; it is the difference between the Mosaic Covenant and the righteousness by faith in Christ in the New Covenant. In the Seed, they are the real seed of Abraham, heirs in the Heir!
It is all to easy for the modern reader to skip an essential point Paul makes. The promise is to Abraham by faith. The promised inheritance though is promised to the Seed, Christ. These are different. Abraham receives by faith what the Seed merited. There would be no kingdom inheritance for a Son, had not Christ fulfilled the stipulation requirements of the covenant of works made between the Father and the Son in eternity before the creation of heaven. The Son became incarnate and fulfilled the kingdom mandate of the Pactum Salutis, being obedient even to the cross. So the Father pronounces Him the exalted faithful vassal son in the resurrection. As the Psalmist writes,
"You are My Son, Today I have begotten You" (Ps 2:7).
And Paul writes,
"who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead" (Rom 1:4).
Christ was already the eternal ontological Son of God. But in the resurrection, the Father declared Him the covenant keeping faithful vassal, and gave Him the kingdom inheritance which He merited. So Paul writes to the Galatians, if they are in Christ by faith, then they too are sons and heirs, as He is the faithful Son and heir. The believer is not a son because Jesus paid for his sins; he is a son and heir because the Lord Jesus merited the kingdom blessing. Israel had been called the "son" of God, being on the typological level in covenant with God, a vassal of the suzerain. But they broke the covenant. Now has come the Son, the true and New Israel, the covenant keeper. To Him and all believers in Him is the Kingdom of God.
Paul then focuses on their current standing as heirs in the New Covenant (B'). He writes,
"And I say, as long a time as the heir is a child, he does not differ at all from a slave, being the owner of all. 2 But he is under guardians, and managers of the household until the time appointed beforehand by the father. 3 In this way also we, when we were children held in bondage under the elemental under things of the world. 4 And when the fullness of time came, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 in order that He might redeem those under the law, in order that we might receive the adoption. 6 And because you are sons, God sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying out 'Abba, Father.' 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son; if now a son also an heir through God" (Gal 4:1-7).
Israel under the law was like a child who was promised an inheritance and legally was the owner of all things, but still had an eight o'clock bedtime and couldn't eat too much babka! The Jews under the law and Gentiles were "under the elemental things of the world." The kingdom had not come. But when Jesus came, Second Adam born of a woman (Gen 3:15) and True Israel born under the Law, the eschatological kingdom came! He redeemed those under the condemnation of the law and made them sons. Because in Him, sonship belongs to the believer. The believer can approach Yahweh in righteousness, having fulfilled the requirements of the covenant of works, the Pactum Salutus, in Christ, and call God "Father!" And as covenant keeping sons in Christ, they are heirs of the kingdom!
How could they throw this away? Paul reminds them of when they came to this wonderful inheritance (A'). He writes,
"But when indeed not knowing God, you served the gods by nature not being. 9 And now knowing God, and rather known by God, how are you turning again upon the weak and worthless basic elemental things, to which again you wish to be enslaved? 10 You observe days and months and seasons and years. 11 I fear regarding you lest perhaps I have toiled in vain unto you" (Gal 4:8-11).
They were enslaved to pagan gods who were not gods. Now they know the true God. God knows them! They are considering turning back to the elemental things -- the sub-eschatological Mosaic Covenant to be enslaved again! They are trying to keep the law, observing days. Has Paul ministered to the Galatians in vain? He fears so.
These are strong words! Paul doesn't tell them that they don't need to observe the law's days, circumcision, and food requirements now that they are in Christ in the New Covenant. He doesn't just say that these things are a barrier to Gentiles coming into the kingdom. He says that they are leaving the eschatological kingdom and apostatizing back to slavery! They are leaving the faith to which the law pointed and prepared the nations! They are going back to a covenant of works and leaving the grace of the New Covenant. There is no mingling the works of the law with the grace of the New Covenant in Christ.
The reader must not miss that Paul does not just say that the Jewish observances were barriers to the Gentiles. Paul tells these Gentiles who are considering living like Jews that do so is to leave the faith. The contrast between law keeping and faith walking doesn't allow both! They must realize they died to the law in Christ. Now they live in the Spirit of Christ as sons and heirs of the kingdom.
The definitive justification through faith apart from the works of the law does not allow for any future justification of the believer. In Christ the believer is adjudicated as fully righteous when he believes. So then he is a son and has the full rights of sonship before his Father!
 Meredith G. Kline, Glory In Our Midst, Overland Park: Two Age Press, 2001, p. 105.
 ἄχρις οὗ abbreviation, Douglas Moo, Galatians, p. 233 references Moule.
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Unless otherwise noted Scripture quotations are from NASB. Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995, 2020 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.lockman.org
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