A Theological Study of The Book of Galatians


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The origin of the law. Paul says, " the law was put into effect through angels by a mediator " v. He is simply pointing to the well-known Jewish tradition that God gave the law through the agency of angels as well as by a mediator — Moses. References to the agency of angels in the giving of the law can be found in the Septuagint cf. Deut and Ps ; as well as the New Testament cf. Acts and Heb The presence of angels and the mediation of Moses in the giving of the law were understood by the Jewish people to signify the great glory of the law.

But Paul argues that the giving of the law through a series of intermediaries, angels and Moses, actually demonstrates the inferiority of the law. Paul contrasts the plurality of participants in a process of mediation and the oneness of God. In the larger context of Paul's argument here, there is also the implied contrast between the promise given directly by God to Abraham and fulfilled in Christ, the seed of Abraham, and the law given through numerous intermediaries. The churches were becoming law-centered — it was necessary, therefore, to put the law back into its rightful place.

Its purpose is negative — to point out transgressions. Its time is limited — years after the promise, until Christ. Its origin is mediated through angels and Moses — it does not provide direct access to God, and it divides Jews from Gentiles.


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Is the Law Opposed to the Promises of God? People who were preoccupied with the supreme value of the law must have been stunned by such a devaluation of it. How could Paul speak against the law? Was the logical conclusion of his line of reasoning the position that the law stood in opposition to the promise? Absolutely not! Since both the law and the promise were given by God, they must be complementary rather than contradictory in the overall plan of God. Paul then goes on to explain the relation of the law to the promise.

He begins with a contrary-to-fact hypothesis — if a law could impart life, then righteousness would have been based upon the law v. Therefore, if the law could empower one to live in a right relationship with God, then righteousness would come to us by the law — which was the position of the rival teachers. The rival teachers of Galatia were promoting the law as the way to live for God — this position actually set the law in direct opposition to the promise, because it contradicted the gospel.

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As Paul already said, " if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing! You are faced with an absolute contradiction if you are told that only by believing in the cross of Christ will you be able to live in a right relationship with God, and that only by keeping the law will you be able to live in a right relationship with God.

These two positions are antithetical opposites; yet that is precisely what the Galatian believers were being told by their rival teachers. The law was given to show that all humanity is held under the bondage of sin, so that what was promised by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe v. Now we can see how the law and the promise work in harmony to fulfill the purpose of God — the law puts us down under the curse; the promise lifts us up in Christ.

We are left with no way out when the law condemns us — except through faith in Christ. So the law should not be viewed as contradictory to the gospel. By reducing all to the level of sinners, the law actually prepares the way for the gospel — but that does not mean that we should view the law as if it were the same as the gospel.

The law has a negative purpose — it makes us aware of our sin — but it does not cannot set us free from bondage to sin. That blessing promise comes only through faith in Christ. The Law Is a Jailer and a Disciplinarian — Paul expands and dramatizes his explan-ation of the negative function of the law by personifying the law as a jailer and a disciplinarian; he shows that these negative roles are a necessary part, but only a temporary part, of the entire drama of God's plan of salvation. The law took the part of God's jailer on the stage of history — before faith came, we were captive under the law, locked up until faith was later revealed v.

Notice in verse 22 the whole world is declared by Scripture to be a prisoner of sin ; in verse 23 Paul says we were held captive by the law.

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In the first case the law is related to all people; all are condemned as sinners by the law — both Jews and Gentiles. In the second case the law is related to the Jews — for a certain period of time, they were held in custody under law. When we read the Mosaic law we can see how every aspect of Jewish life was restricted, restrained and confined by the law. In this sense the law was a jailer over the Jews.

Galatians 5: Bible Chapter Summary

The law makes it clear that everyone is a prisoner of sin in order that it may be absolutely clear that the salvation promised by God can be received only by faith in Jesus Christ v. That is the universal condemnatory function of the law. The condemning sentence of the law against all humanity can never be overturned — it stands as a permanent indictment of the sinful rebellion of the whole world against God.

Overview: Galatians

According to Paul's imagery in verse 23, the law functioned as a Jailer to lock up the Jewish people in a vast system of legal codes and regulations. But that lockup was meant to only be temporary. Verse 23 begins and ends with clear references to the time when the imprisonment within the system of the Mosaic law would end — before faith came.

Of course Abraham had faith in God long before the Mosaic law, as Paul emphasized earlier Gal ; but the specific nature of this faith that Paul has in mind has just been stated in verse 22 — we [the Jewish people] were held captive under the law, locked up until faith [in Jesus Christ] was revealed. So the function of the law as a jailer was not permanent; it was limited to a certain period in history.

Incidentally, the pedagogue was distinguished from the teacher didaskalos — the pedagogue supervised, controlled and disciplined the child ; and the didaskalos instructed and educated him. A fascinating dialogue between Socrates and a boy highlights this distinction.

Book of Galatians

Socrates begins the conversation by asking the young boy, "Do your parents let you control your own self, or do they not trust you in that either? But how does this pedagogue exert control over you? The pedagogue himself was corrected with the words: "We did not make you the cook's pedagogue, did we? Correct the child! Help him! He did not have the positive task of educating the child — he was only supposed to control the behavior of the child through consistent discipline.

The point of Paul's use of this image is that the law was given this supervisory, disciplinary role over the Jewish people. In the outworking of God's plan of salvation in the history of the Jewish people, they were under the supervisory control of the law until the coming of Messiah. That supervisory discipline of the law over the people of God came to an end when Christ came.

Under the constant discipline of the law, the Jewish people should have learned how utterly impossible it was to keep the law; the law constantly beat them down like a stern disciplinarian, pointing out all their short-comings and failures. The pain of this discipline was designed to teach them that they could only be declared righteous by God thru faith. In verse 25 Paul draws a conclusion that demolishes any argument that Christians ought to live under the supervisory control of the law — now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law.

The Galatian believers were evidently succumbing to arguments that their life in Christ should be lived under the supervisory discipline of the Mosaic law; but to live under the supervision of the Mosaic law is to live as if Christ had not come. To live by faith in Christ sets us free from the disciplinary function of the law. Since Paul is still speaking here in first-person plural we , his primary reference is to the freedom that Jewish believers now experience from the supervision of the law because they have put their faith in Christ. If Jewish believers are no longer under the supervision of the law, then it is surely foolish for Gentile believers in Christ to put themselves under the law's supervision.

No wonder Paul began this chapter with the rebuke , " You foolish Galatians! Paul sees the turning point in his own life as the time he put his faith in Christ. Before that time he lived under the supervision of the law. But after he put his faith in Christ, his life was lived by faith in Christ, under the supervision of Christ.

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He had immigrated, as it were see Col , to the kingdom of Christ. Our new life as believers is now under the rule of Christ by His Spirit, and the freedom we have in Christ from the supervisory rule of the Mosaic law empowers us to "live for God " Identifying the Recipients of the Promise — Paul has been talking in the first-person plural we of the past experience of the Jewish people, who were "in custody" under the Mosaic law Union with Christ is the main emphasis of these four verses — faith in Christ Jesus v.

This sharp contrast between the negative consequences of imprisonment within the system of the Mosaic law, and the positive privileges of union with Christ reinforces Paul's rebuke for foolishness at the beginning of the chapter. In the light of this contrast, how foolish it is to think that observing the law could possibly enhance the privileged relationships Christians already enjoy because of their union with Christ Jesus.

Imprisonment under the law vv. New Spiritual Relationships in Christ — In the old set of relationships under the law, Jews were the children of God and Gentiles were sinners cf. This must have been a shocking declaration for a Jew to hear — in Jewish literature sons of God was a title of highest honor, used only for the members of righteous Israel. But now Gentiles — the rejected, the outsiders, the sinners, those who do not observe the law — are called sons of God.

Indeed this is a "new creation" How could a Gentile ever be called a child of God? Paul's answer — through faith in Christ Jesus! New Social Relationships in Christ — The new vertical relationship with God results in a new horizontal relationship with one another. All racial, economic and gender barriers and all other inequalities are removed in Christ.

A Theological Study of The Book of Galatians A Theological Study of The Book of Galatians
A Theological Study of The Book of Galatians A Theological Study of The Book of Galatians
A Theological Study of The Book of Galatians A Theological Study of The Book of Galatians
A Theological Study of The Book of Galatians A Theological Study of The Book of Galatians
A Theological Study of The Book of Galatians A Theological Study of The Book of Galatians
A Theological Study of The Book of Galatians A Theological Study of The Book of Galatians
A Theological Study of The Book of Galatians A Theological Study of The Book of Galatians
A Theological Study of The Book of Galatians A Theological Study of The Book of Galatians

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