Galatians 3:1-9 ESV
“O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith— just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”?
“Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.”
Crucified with Christ
If we are going to correctly interpret these Scripture verses in the book of Galatians, we need to interpret them in light of the entire book of Galatians in addition to the entire teaching in the New Testament with regard to the gospel of our salvation from sin and our eternal life with God.
We read in Galatians 1 that Jesus Christ gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father. That means we are not to continue partaking of and participating with this “present evil age,” for Jesus called us to come out from the world and to be separate (unlike, different) from the world because we are being made to be conformed to the likeness of Jesus – like him in character, word, and deed.
By faith in Jesus Christ, we are crucified with Christ in death to sin so that we (our flesh) no longer live (in control), but Christ now lives his life in us. And the life we now live is no longer lived according to the flesh, but now according to the Spirit, for now we are under Holy Spirit control. We now live by faith, but that faith submits to Jesus as Lord and denies self and lets the Lord live his life in us and through us as we yield control over to him (Gal 2).
For, if we have died, and we no longer live, that means our flesh is no longer in control, but we yield to the Lord Jesus and his righteousness and holiness. And if Jesus is truly living his life through us, that means we are submitting to him and we are cooperating with him, and we are walking in obedience to his commands, by God’s grace, and in his strength and power.
And this means that we are living holy lives pleasing to Jesus, for if it is Jesus Christ who now lives in us, and if we are living by faith in him, we are going to be living godly lives surrendered to him doing what he commands living to God and to his righteousness in purity, uprightness, and honesty.
Walk by the Spirit
In Galatians 5 we read that we are not to use our freedom in Christ as an opportunity for the flesh, which is what many are doing today who are professing faith in Jesus Christ. But we are to love our neighbors (our fellow humans) as we love ourselves.
Then we read that we are to walk by the Spirit, and we will not gratify the desires of the flesh. And this walk is how we live, how we conduct our lives day in and day out. It is what we practice. And by the Spirit is according to the divine nature and character of God, which involves repentance, obedience, submission to Christ as Lord, and not making sin our practice.
And then we have a list of the works of the flesh: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. “I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
And then we read about the fruit (the outgrowth, the results) of a life under the Holy Spirit’s control and it has to do with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. For, those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
Problem: the Judaizers
So, you see, Galatians 3 is not telling us that we are not to obey our Lord, and that we are not to live holy lives, pleasing to him, or else we are trying to earn our own salvation by works of the flesh. The works of the flesh are sexual immorality, lying, cheating, etc.
Fleshly works are not obedience, submission, and repentance. Those are the works of the Spirit which God prepared in advance that we should walk in them (Eph 2:10; 1 Co 15:58; 2 Co 9:8; Gal 5:6; Php 2:12-13; Col 1:9-14; 2 Thess 1:11-12; 2 Tim. 2:21; Tit 2:11-14; Jn 15:1-11; Tit 3:8; Jas 2:17).
So, what Galatians 3 and much of Galatians is addressing was the problem with the Judaizers who were trying to convince the Christians that they had to obey the Old Covenant ceremonial, purification, liturgical and sacrificial laws on top of their walks of faith in Jesus Christ, and as necessary for their salvation. Scripture rebukes this. Today this would be like legalists who add rituals and customs on to our faith and say we must obey them.
The issue here is not that the people were living holy lives, pleasing to God, and that they were being scolded about that and that they were being told that they should return to their lives of living for sin and self out of fear that living holy lives would be considered “works-based salvation.”
What Faith Is
And faith in Jesus Christ is not a religion nor a mere acknowledgment of who Jesus is and of what he did for us on that cross. Faith in Jesus comes from God, it is authored and perfected by Jesus Christ, and it is gifted to us by God. And it is divine persuasion of God to believe in Jesus Christ.
So, faith in Jesus is not going to lead us to reject holiness, righteousness, purity, faithfulness, honesty, uprightness, and self-control, especially not in favor of continuing to live in sin, in disobedience to our Lord, in immorality, and in dishonoring our God. That goes totally against God’s divine character and his will for our lives.
So, bottom line here is that the works of the flesh are both sinful practices and religious fluff which is added on to our faith. Both libertinism and legalism are of the flesh of humans. They are just two ends of the same pendulum. Neither is right. Teaching either is teaching man-made religion.
But walking by faith in Jesus Christ involves forsaking our sins to follow our Lord Jesus Christ in obedience to his commands (New Covenant). And then we will have the fruit of the Spirit in our lives and not the fruit of the flesh which is immorality, lying, cheating, etc.
And know this here. Jesus died on that cross that we might die with him to sin and live to him and to his righteousness. If we walk according to the Spirit, we have eternal life with God. But if we walk in sin, making sin our practice, we will die in our sins. We will not have eternal life with God.
[Lu 9:23-26; Rom 6:1-23; Rom 8:1-17; Eph 4:17-24; 1 Jn 1:5-9; 1 Jn 2:3-6; 1 Pet 2:24; 1 Co 6:9-10, 19-20; 2 Co 5:10, 15; Gal 5:16-21; Eph 5:3-6; Gal 6:7-8; Rom 2:6-8; 1 Jn 3:4-10; Jn 6:44; Eph 2:8-10; Heb 12:1-2]
Before the Throne of God Above
Charitie L. Bancroft
Before the throne of God above
I have a strong, a perfect plea,
A great High Priest whose name is “Love,”
Who ever lives and pleads for me.
My name is graven on His hands,
My name is written on His heart,
I know that while in heav’n He stands,
No tongue can bed me thence depart.
When Satan tempts me to despair,
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end to all my sin.
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free,
For God, the Just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me.
Behold Him there! The risen Lamb,
My perfect, spotless Righteousness,
The great unchangeable I AM,
The King of glory and of grace!
One with Himself I cannot die,
My soul is purchased with His blood,
My life is hid with Christ on high,
With Christ, My Savior and my God.