Introduction: Have you ever wrestled with the question of why God
says “I the Lord do not change” ( Malachi 3:6), yet it seems that the
God of the Old Testament is a lot different than the God of the New
Testament? The talk of an “Old Covenant” and a “New Covenant”
surely sounds like a change. God has changed the terms of our
relationship! Paul argues that God has not changed His basic
approach to humans – and that approach is righteousness by faith.
Let’s plunge into our study of Galatians 3 and find out more!
- The Bewitched!
- Read Galatians 3:1. Assume you are sitting at the
sidelines listening to Paul saying this to the Galatians.
Should they be insulted?
- If so, why? (Paul says they are acting like “fools”
and like those under the influence of evil. “You
- Is this how Paul would address those who today
believe that they can be saved by their own actions?
- I’m reluctant to call fellow church members “stupid
devils,” so Paul must have had a very good reason for
calling them fools. What reason does he give in Galatians
3:1? (They had seen him explain about Jesus being
- Think about this. Why does the crucifixion of Jesus
make the Galatians’ position stupid? Or, demonic?
(Why would God die a painful death at the hands of
His creation? The thought is absurd on the face of
it. Only when you see that we were crucified with
Jesus( Galatians 2:20)to satisfy the requirements of
the law, does it seem stupid and demonic to think
that our efforts mean anything.)
- Let’s use an extreme example. You carve an idol out
of a block of wood, then you bring it offerings
every morning to have it forgive your sins. Is that
stupid? (Yes! You made it.)
- Is that demonic? (Satan wants us to ignore or
disbelieve that Jesus died for our sins. So,
yes, this is demonic – especially it has us
claiming to be doing God’s work.)
- Read Galatians 3:2-5. Okay, stupid people, Paul says, I
have one question for you. We see now that Paul must be
a lawyer, for his “just one thing” turns into several
questions! Questions for which he would like smart
- Does the Holy Spirit come by obeying the law or by
believing in what Jesus said?
- Let me ask my own question here. Has the Holy
Spirit come into your life? If not, could it
be because you are taking the wrong approach?
- After having the Holy Spirit come into your life to
lead you, do you think that you can do a better job
of leading yourself?
- If you have been persecuted for your faith, do you
want to throw it all away?
- Do you see miracles in your life because of
obedience to the law, or because of the power of God
working through faith?
- Let me ask a couple of questions here. Do you
see miracles in your life? If not, could it be
because you have the wrong approach?
- When you talk to your children, are you focused
more on the law or on the Holy Spirit?
- If you have teen-aged children, try
sitting down with them and asking them
these questions and how they would answer
and how they think that you would answer.
- If you are not seeing miracles in the
lives of your children, is it because you
have been hammering the law rather than
the power and grace of God? (I know I used
to say to my children all the time “obey!”
My father used to say, “You are Don
Cameron’s sons, act like it!”)
- The previous four questions I have paraphrased from
Paul are rhetorical questions – which means they
have an obvious answer. The person asking the
rhetorical question is not looking for your answer,
they are looking for you to see the obvious point.
What is Paul’s obvious point? (The power of God, and
not observing the law, is the source of a powerful
- Let’s stop and review Paul’s arguments for righteousness
by faith. His argument in chapter 1 is that Jesus
directly gave him his message of righteousness by faith
alone. His claim in chapter 2 is that the church leaders
agreed with him, even though putting it into practice
took a little time, and some, like Peter, would
occasionally get off the right track. His argument at
the beginning of chapter 3 is to consider how God
operates in our own lives.
- The Abraham Example
- Read Genesis 12:1-3. What is Abram’s role in the history
of our planet? (He is the beginning of a special group of
people through whom God was going to bless all the people
of the earth.)
- Read Galatians 3:6. Why would Paul turn to Abraham as an
example? (Paul is saying that from the very beginning of
God’s special relationship with a specific group of
people (for the purpose of promoting God’s will),
righteousness by faith was the rule.)
- Let’s look at this story just a minute. Read Genesis
15:1-6. Is this a story about Godliness? About
righteousness? (God told Abram ( Genesis 12:3) that he
would be the instrument through which all the earth would
be blessed. Part of the mechanism for this was (Genesis
12:2) that Abram would have many descendants. If God
told you that you would have the largest church in your
neighborhood, and that large church would be the source
of blessings for the neighborhood, what would you do?
(Start a church!)
- Why does that not work for Abram? (Abram is probably
working on having a child. But, the point is that
Abram must first trust God to make it happen. He
must realize that this is God’s work and God’s
responsibility. Abram has no power on this own to
do it. Indeed, when Abram and Sarai cook up a plot
to do this on their own (Genesis 16) it is a
- Does this story of Abram help us to better
understand righteousness by faith? (God is not
asking us to go to sleep in our Christian life. He
is asking us to put our confidence in Him. It is His
work. It is His Spirit. We cannot do it on our
- Read Galatians 3:7-9. Is Abraham, the great father of the
Jewish race, also our father? (This is Paul’s merger
argument. The God of the Old Testament has this
unchanging approach to humans. The scope of His special
people has broadened – praise God for merging the
Gentiles with His special people – but the basic plan has
- The Curse
- Read Galatians 3:10. I don’t know about you, but I get
worried when people start throwing around curses. Why are
legalists not just wrong? Why are they cursed? (Read
Deuteronomy 27:26. If keeping the Sabbath, refraining
from stealing, killing, coveting and adultery are your
key to salvation, then you are cursed. Why, because you
cannot do these things. If you say that doing any of
these things is necessary for salvation, then you have
- Read Galatians 3:11-12. Do the righteous live by
obedience to the law? (No. They live righteously by
- All of this makes me squirm. I don’t want to be cursed,
but I do keep a close eye on the law. Deuteronomy 6:8
says “tie [the commandments] on your hands.” I recently
started wearing a bracelet on my wrist that has the Ten
Commandments on it. Read Galatians 3:13. Why is it that
we must not rely on obedience to the law to be saved?
(Jesus already did it for us. Jesus was cursed so that we
would not have to be cursed for our failure to obey the
law. Not only that, Jesus paid the penalty for His curse
– and therefore for our curse.)
- The Old and New Order
- Read Galatians 3:14. Do we have to worry about keeping
the law (including the Ten Commandments)? (No. Instead,
we must have the Holy Spirit live in our life!)
- If you are also squirming now, notice that the
parallel is to Abraham. Did Abraham have to worry
about having many descendants? Did he have to worry
about Jesus being born of one of his descendants?
(No! All God asked of Abraham was to trust Him. To
- Has anything changed in the relationship between
humans and God? (Not since Abraham! Abraham
believed in the promise – which included Jesus
coming to take our place. We believe that the
promise has been fulfilled and we accept the gift by
- Friend, will you step away from the curse, and rest alone
in the righteousness that comes to you by faith in Jesus?
- Next week: The Priority of the Promise.