"...let him be accursed!" (Gal 1:8)
The Protestant Reformers have come under hard times at the hands of the modern day catholics (New Perspective on Paul). Much that is regarded as new is a rehash of old arguments! Yes, Paul is using covenant historical language when he speaks of "the Law." Yes, Second Temple Judaism talks about "grace." But the argument hasn't changed Paul's answer. There is no combining or mingling the "works of law" with the "faith" when it comes to justification. The Galatians may have just thought they were adding a few Jewish observances to New Covenant life, but they were in fact overturning the grace that comes through faith alone in Christ. One cannot read Galatians and limit the problem to a behavior. There were false teachers proclaiming something other than the Gospel!
Paul's argument does not make any room for a monocovenantal theology. Paul never speaks of "the covenant." Paul contrasts the Abrahamic Covenant which promised the kingdom inheritance by faith with the the Mosaic Covenant with its temporal blessings and curses according to works. The New Covenant is the fulfillment of the Abrahamic promise by grace through faith. And yes, Paul does use "law" on an eschatological level that condemns all flesh. From this condemnation Christ has redeemed the believer through faith alone.
The Gentile inclusion in the promise is a necessary part of the fulfillment of the Abrahamic promise, but Paul is concerned about justification itself in Galatians, not just the inclusion of the Gentiles. Justification through faith alone is ultimately at stake. True faith produces obedience, but the obedience faith produces does not justify!
Too often discussion of Galatians is an academic exercise. Galatians is not an academic exercise; it is a matter of heaven or hell. Paul did not regard false teachers as merely proponents of error to correct. Future justification based on works or any addition of works or obedience to justification is damnable heresy. It is time the church regained the passion Calvin and Luther had for the Gospel through faith alone.
Translation of Galatians is mine unless otherwise noted.
Douglas J. Moo, Galatians, ECNT,
Grand Rapids: Baker, 2013.
T. David Gordon, Promise, Law, Faith,
Peabody: Hendrickson 2019.
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trans. indicates my translation
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