Galatians

3:25-29

4. Arguments in support of the proposition, 3:1-4:7

vi] The evidence of a worldwide people united before God, apart from the law

Argument

In this letter so far, Paul has argued that the person who rests on the faithfulness of God in Christ, apart from the law, is an inheritor of God's promised blessings. In the passage before us, Paul evidences this fact by pointing out that the promised blessing of a worldwide people of God is even now being realized in Christ, and this without regard to the requirements of Old Testament law.

 
Issues

i] Context: See 3:1-14.

 

ii] Background: See 1:1-10.

 

iii] Structure: The sixth argument in support of the proposition present as follows:

Proposition:

The gospel, of itself, apart from the law, facilitates new life in Christ.

Supporting argument:

#6. The evidence of a worldwide people united before God, apart from the law, 3:25-29;

Proposition:

Since the age of faith has come the "Mosaic law has no further restrictive role to play", Dumbrell, v25.

Argument, v26-29:

All who believe are sons of God;

All who believe are united to Christ;

In Christ all are one;

All in Christ are the heirs of the promises made to Abraham.

 

This section division is unresolved, eg. 3:15-29, Guthrie, ... 3:23-29, Fung, Ridderbos, ... 3:26-29, Longenecker, Bruce, George, Barnes, Dunn, .... 3:25-29, Dumbrell (Ridderbos treats v25 and 26 as one sentence whereby the contrast between slavery and sonship is established).

 

iv] Interpretation:

f) The sixth argument: In 3:25-29 Paul outlines his sixth argument in support of his proposition that a person, who is in the right with God on the basis of the faithfulness of Christ, is freely able to appropriate the fullness of God's promised new life apart from law-obedience. It is obvious that the blessing of new life in Christ has nothing to do with our submission to the restrictive supervision of the Mosaic law. The Mosaic law, as a temporary measure designed to accentuate the Abrahamic covenant, is terminated for those in Christ. The promised blessing to Abraham of a worldwide people united before God is even now unfolding before our very eyes, and this, not on the basis of law obedience, but on the basis of what Christ has done for us. We are all now one in Christ.

 

Again Paul addresses his central argument; he "sets out the positive reason for Christian living being apart from a nomistic lifestyle: because both Jewish and Gentile believers have been brought into a new spiritual experience as true sons of God because of their oneness in Christ", Longenecker.

 

Some commentators argue for a liturgical source for this passage although the arguments are less than convincing; see Betz, Longenecker, ...

 

v] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage can be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

 
Text - 3:25

Arguments in support of the proposition: vi] The realization of the promised blessing of a worldwide people united before God, apart from the law, further proves that new life in Christ rests wholly on what Christ has done for us, v25-29.

a) Now that the age of faith has come "Mosaic law has no further restrictive role to play", Dumbrell, v25. With the coming of Christ, the seed of Abraham, God's covenant community is no longer held prisoner to the Mosaic law with its attached curse, constantly holding Israel to account and denying its possession of the Abrahamic promise. On the basis of what Christ done for us on the cross ("now that faith has come"), the promised blessings are now all ours for the asking, and this apart from the law.

de - "now that" - but, and. Transitional / continuative, identifying the next step in the argument, "now that this faith is available", possibly a touch adversative, "but now that ...."

thV pistewV (iV ewV) gen. "faith" - of the faith. Genitive in agreement with the participle elqoushV. The definite article again indicates that Paul is speaking about a particular faith, "this faith", possibly in a general sense, "the age of faith", although surely with particular reference to Christ's faith/faithfulness appropriated by faith. See Galatians 2:16 for "faith [of Christ]".

elqoushV (ercomai) aor. part. "[now that faith] has come" - having come. Genitive absolute participle forming a temporal clause; "once faith had come", Barclay. The custodianship/confinement of the law that was in operation has ended in the coming of faith. A temporal sense is certainly present, an age when faith "is available", Dumbrell, but a logical sense is also present where "faith" (Christ's + ours) logically ends the subjection of the law. The reference to "faith" can't be a believer's faith in the promises of God since God's children have always lived by faith / belief / trust in God. "Faith", in the sense of Christ's faithfulness is obviously intended for it was "when" Christ fulfilled his obedience on the cross that the function of the law to paidagwgon ,"hold", us to our sin was ouketi, "no longer", required. For the issue of the temporary "confinement" of the law see supplementary note on Galatians 3:19.

uJpo acc. "under" - Subordination; "under the supervision of".

paidagwgon (oV) "the supervision [of the law] / a guardian" - [we are no longer under] a disciplinarian. See the notes on Galatians 3:24 for the function of the law in the terms of a paidagogos.

 
v26

b) The remaining verses establish Paul's argument, v26-29. All who believe in Christ are united to Christ, become one with Christ. Distinctives of birth are no more because of a believer's new birth in Christ, and since we are one in Christ, then we are, in our union with Christ, Abraham's seed, the children of promise. Since we believers are the children of promise, we all now share God's promised blessings, and this apart from the law. This is obvious since at this very moment all members of the Galatian church, both Jews, as well as Gentiles, have found Christ, are incorporated in Christ, are now sons of God. The Galatian believers have realized in Christ the promises given to Abraham all those years ago and none of this has anything to do with law obedience.

gar "- / so" - for. The NEB, NRSV, TEV... translate the "for", since it most often expresses cause / reason although a rare consecutive (result) sense seems more likely here, so Garlington; we are no longer under the confinement of the law because the age of faith in Christ has come, as a consequence we have become inheritors of the Abrahamic promise on the basis of what Christ has done for us ("faith of Christ"). "For the result is ....", Dumbrell.

panteV ..... este "you are all" - "You" often indicates that Paul is addressing Gentiles, so here we may have "all you Gentiles", but it may well be a wider group, "all of you Galatians, both Jew and Gentile alike."

qeou (oV) gen. "[sons] of God" - The genitive is adjectival, relational. The custodianship of the law has ended and believers have come of age as God's full-grown sons and daughters and so now possess both the freedom and responsibilities that this entails. Allan argues for a link with v16, "offspring / children", with the passage exegeting how the promise is fulfilled in the "offspring". "Children of God", NRSV.

dia thV pistewV en Cristw/ Ihsou "through faith in Christ Jesus" - Although the literal translation of these two prepositional phrases is followed by many translations, the NEB, TEV, NRSV... are to be preferred where both phrases are taken to modify "you are all sons of God" rather than "in Christ Jesus" modifying "through faith." The means by which (dia, instrumental) we are "sons of God" is "through / by means of the faith", ie. the faith/faithfulness of Christ appropriated through faith; See Galatians 2:16 for "faith of Christ". The ground upon which (en, expressing space/sphere - incorporative union) we are accepted as God's sons is our "union with Christ Jesus." The TNIV has corrected this problems; "so in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith."

 
v27

All believers who are identified with Christ in his death and resurrection, are one with him, immersed in him, clothed with him.

gar "for" - More reason than cause here. Although not found in all translations, this conjunction plays an important role in showing that the clause further explains why "you are all sons of God."

oJsoi pro. "all of you" - as many as, as many of you as. "As many" implies not all are intended, but obviously Paul intends the "all of you Galatians" of v26.

ebaptisqhte (baptizw) aor. pas. ind. "were baptized [into Christ]" - immersed. When commentators see this word they can't help but explain it in terms of water baptism. The word simply means immersed and in the context it means nothing more than immersed in Christ, incorporated eiV, "into", Christ, united with Christ, made one with Christ .... the instrument of immersion is faith / "faith of Christ"; see above.

enedusasqe (enduw) aor. "having clothed yourselves with [Christ]" - put on [Christ]. This is simply a further illustrative phrase for union with Christ. Notions of putting on Christ's character have nothing whatsoever to do with the context. It is because we are incorporated in/with Christ that we stand approved as God's sons. "You have put on Christ as a garment", NEB.

 
v28

Since we are all one in Christ, we are all of the same family, and so the old distinctions of birth are no more. This is a radical idea, particularly for a Jew, because a pious Jew would daily thank the Lord that he had not been born a Gentile, a slave or even a woman. Actually, the word for woman is "female" as distinct from a wife.

eni (eneimi) pres. "there is" - Note the strengthened form of en; "in Christ there is no descent, rank, or sex", Ridderbos. "There does not exist either Jew or Greek", Martyn.

ouk ...... oude ... "neither .... nor" - not .... nor.

gar "for" - Introducing a causal clause explaining why there is neither Jew nor Gentile, ......; "because your connection with Christ makes you one", Barclay.

eiJV adj. mas. sing. "[you are] all one [in Christ Jesus]" - one man. Predicate adjective. Paul is not describing a oneness that is devoid of difference, but rather devoid of distinction. Because of our union with Christ, we have become the one new man, the promised issue of Abraham, the remnant people of God, the new Israel ...., the distinctions of culture, race, social status, sex, are subsumed by a more substantial identity.

en + dat. "in [Christ]" - Local, expressing space/sphere, incorporative union. United to Christ in the sense of "sharing of life, without complete identification", Bligh.

 
v29

Given that believers are identified with Christ through faith, they are all God's children and as such "are children of Abraham", 3:7-9,ie., all believers are Abraham's heirs. Believers are "heirs according to the promise", heirs of God's promises made to Abraham. Those who are united to Christ on the basis of what Christ has done on the cross, have received the promises offered to Abraham: a place, a family, a blessing - "new life", and this eternally.

de "-" - but, and. Transitional connective, indicating the next step in the argument.

ei "if" - Introducing a conditional clause, 1st class, where the condition is assumed to be true; "if, as is the case, ...... then .....", "If you belong to Christ", then a[ra "the result is that" "you are Abraham's seed with the right to possess all the covenant promises that were made to him." The sentence engages the reader in a mental argument which has a logical conclusion: "if so and so is true, then this is also true." "If you are incorporated in Christ, then what follows is ........."

Cristou (oV) gen. "belong to Christ" - and if you Christ's. The genitive is most likely adjectival, possessive, as NIV.

a[ra "then [you are]" - then, therefore. The presence of this inferential conjunction gives the conditional clause its consecutive flavor.

tou Abraam gen. "Abraham's". The genitive is adjectival, relational. If we are one of Abraham's seed, offspring, issue.... then we share in his promises; a place, a family and a blessing.

sperma (a atoV) "seed" - Predicate nominative. "Then indeed you are Abraham's offspring", Cassirer.

kat (kata) + acc. "[heirs] according to [the promise]" - This preposition usually expresses a standard, "in accordance with, corresponding to", so "heirs in accordance with the promise", although Paul has used "promise" for "covenant", so "heirs in accordance with the covenant God has made with Abraham", which, as Martyn notes, means simply "heirs of the promise", rather than "heirs according to the promise."

 

Galatians Introduction.

 

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