4. Arguments for the proposition, 3:1-4:7

i] The first argument


From 3:1 to 4:11 Paul sets out to show, from scripture, how the gospel, of itself, apart from law-obedience, facilitates new life in Christ. In our passage for study he outlines the first argument in support of his proposition: Experience shows that the renewing presence of the Spirit is a product of Christ's faithfulness, not our own, v1-5;


i] Context: See 1:1-10. Paul now embarks on a series of arguments to support his proposition, namely, that the gospel, of itself, apart from the law, facilitates new life in Christ. Paul contends 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, and this apart from law-obedience, 3:1-4:11. The seven arguments are as follows:

#1. Given that experience itself demonstrates that the renewing presence of the Spirit is facilitated by the faithfulness of Christ, it is obvious that new life in Christ is not dependent on our faithfulness, 3:1-5.

#2. Scripture reminds us that those who inherit God's promised new life are the spiritual descendants of Abraham, and like Abraham, they are people who rely in faith on the faithfulness of God, 3:6-9.

#3. Scripture also makes it clear that it is not possible to inherit the blessing of new life, in all its fullness, through obedience to the law. Rather, the blessing is a product of Jesus' faithfulness to God's will, 3:10-14.

#4. The promise, a promise encapsulated in the covenant with Abraham and now realized in the gift of new life in Christ, is independent of the gift of the law, 3:15-18.

#5. The function of the Mosaic law was not to promote new life in Christ, but rather, to promote death until everything is put right by Christ, 3.19-24.

#6. 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 and not on what we do, 3:25-29.

#7. For those in Christ, the law has completed its appointed purpose of confinement, such that in Christ we now have the full and free enjoyment of sonship in God, and this with all its associated blessings, 4:1-7.


ii] Background: See 1:1-10.


iii] Structure: The first argument in support of the proposition:


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

Supporting argument:

#1. New life in Christ is not dependent on our faithfulness, 3:1-5;

A befuddled congregation, v1;

The gift of the Spirit, v2-5;

By works or faith? v3;

Works for nothing, v4-5.


iv] Interpretation:

#1. The first argument: Although the judaizers / nomists agree that a person is justified (judged right / set right before God) on the basis of the faithfulness of Christ, they hold that their ongoing participation in the Christian life (life under the covenant, in the kingdom of God), with all its associated blessings, is by "works of the law", as if law-obedience can restrain sin and progress holiness for blessing. Paul, on the other hand, contends that the blessings of the Christian life are a natural product of a person's standing in Christ. So now, in v1-5, Paul refers his readers to their Christian experience - the renewing power of the Holy Spirit (a new heart within, Jer.31:33). It was through their belief in the gospel of the crucified Christ that they received God's promised blessing (the promised blessings of the Abrahamic covenant) - life in the now through the wonder-working power of the Spirit, daily renewing them, building a new heart within. Given this fact, what has possessed them to abandon this mechanism of renewal for the subjection of the law?


We have noted in 2:16, and will see again in 3:6, that the judaizers seem to agree with the proposition that a person's justification rests on the grace of God, so obviously, the problem lies with how they apply the doctrine in the Christian life. The judaizers seem to have a limited view of justification, namely, it only achieves our forgiveness. When it comes to a full participation in the promised covenant blessings, the judaizers see law-obedience as an essential supplement to the benefits of the atonement. For Paul, the totality of kingdom blessings are ours in Christ apart from works of the law.


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

Text - 3:1

Arguments in support of the the proposition:

#1. Given that experience itself demonstrates that the renewing presence of the Spirit is facilitated by the faithfulness of Christ, it is obvious that new life in Christ is not dependent on our faithfulness, v1-5.

Paul begins with a rhetorical questions, "who hypnotized you Galatians", who took away your capacity to think?

W "-" - oh. Interjection.

ebaskanen (baskainw) aor. "[who] has bewitched" - Used in sorcery, "cast an evil eye on." "Who has hypnotized you", Hunter.

kata + acc. "before" - Often expressing a standard, "according to the eyes", here probably spacial, "before", as NIV. Possibly with "eye" serving to form an adverbial construction, "vividly / clearly / visibly".

oi|V dat. pro. "your [very eyes]" - to whom [jesus christ was, according to eyes]. Dative of indirect object / interest, advantage / possession, "for whom", of the verb "to put forward / placard / portray." The Galatians have been drawn aside by the "evil eye" (sorcery) of the judaizers and this because they have taken their eye off the crucified Lord. "You have had a clear picture of Jesus Christ crucified, right in front of your eyes", NJB.

proegrafh (prografw) aor. pas. "clearly portrayed as" - was put forward, portrayed, placarded. Obviously referring to the preaching of the gospel to the Galatians by Paul and his missionary team. "Was so graphically presented as", Berkeley.

estaurwmenoV (staurow) perf. pas. part. "crucified" - having been crucified. The participle serves as an object complement asserting a fact about the object "Jesus Christ"; "Jesus Christ the crucified", Moffatt. The perfect emphasizing the ongoing effects of this past event. The phrase "Christ crucified", a truth that was set before the Galatians, summarizes the apostolic gospel. It was placarded before them, so how could they ignore its facts?


In his second question, a question repeated in v5, Paul asks, "by what means did you Galatians receive the promised gift of the Holy Spirit?" Paul asks them to think for a moment about the reception of the Holy Spirit; did they receive the Spirit on the basis of their law-obedience, or their faith-response to the gospel?

monon adv. "one thing" - [this] only [i want to learn from you]. "I ask you only this", ESV = "answer me this single question."

maqein (manqanw) aor. inf. "to learn" - to be informed, find something out. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of qelw, "I would like". Possibly used in the Old Testament sense of learning about the will of God, but more likely in a general sense of learning about something.

af (apo) + gen. "from [you]" - Expressing source/origin.

elabete (lambanw) "did you receive [the Spirit]" - "Receive" is limiting so "take hold of" is better, even emphasizing the agency of God, "the Spirit bestowed upon you", Cassirer. Certainly, in part, referring to "the inception of Christian life", Martyn, so Dunn, Garlington, Barnes (regeneration/conversion), Betz ("ecstatic experience" of), Bruce, George ("receiving by faith the promise of the Spirit"), Fung ("begun their Christian lives") ... although not just conversion, but "progress in the faith", Dumbrell, "the wonderful new spiritual life that had come to the Galatians", Hunter = the fruits of the Spirit, 5:22-23 (ethical?), that are a product of being "drenched" in the Spirit, 1Cor.12:13, in fulfillment of prophecy, cf. Acts 2, and the covenant promise of a new heart within, Jer.31:33. The outpouring of the Spirit, "the abundant supply of the Spirit", Guthrie, v5, was theirs by responding to the gospel in faith, not law-obedience. Interestingly, Martyn suggests that Paul raises the issue of the Spirit at this point because the judaizers were claiming that "law-obedient exegesis of scripture is the means by which one can be assured of a steady supply of the Spirit and of his wonder-working power" (the only person able to confirm a theory like this is Dr. Who!!). Martyn is surely right on the "steady supply of the Spirit". So, Paul is rightly amazed. Having experienced the "steady supply of the Spirit" through faith, the Galatians have now adopted a heresy that it is through obedience. So, "receive the Spirit" is best understood as "did you experience the renewing power of the Holy Spirit ....?"

ex + gen. "by" - out of, from. Here ek possibly takes the not-so-common sense of cause/reason where the idea of origin is expanded somewhat, so possibly: cause, "because of"; reason, "by reason of"; result, "as a result of", possibly means / basis, "by means of", Wuest. Cassirer opts for result, "as a result of works done", Barclay result/cause. In v5 the NIV opts for the causal sense, "because of". "Did you receive the Spirit because you observed the law, or because you .....?" Of course, the idea of origin does work by itself; "from works of the law", Berkeley, or better, "on the basis of law", Longenecker.

nomou (oV) gen. "[observing] the law" - [works ] of law. The genitive is adjectival, epexegetic / of definition, specifying the works in mind, namely those associated with the law. For "works of the law" see Galatians 2:16. Note the new perspective angle, eg. "In a nutshell, they received the Spirit not in the old era of the "flesh" (= "works of the law"), but in the new, eschatological age by "the hearing of faith", Garlington - another example of a focus on ecclesiology rather than soteriology. "Observance of God's law", Martyn.

h] "or" - Disjunctive.

ex + gen. "by" - See above.

pistewV (iV ewV) gen. "believing [what you heard]" - [hearing] of faith. The difficulty lies in whether we take the word with its active, or passive sense, and whether it is an objective, or subjective genitive. It seems likely that it is active, "believing", although a passive sense cannot be ruled out, but their is endless debate as to whether it is subjective, "is in faith / comes of faith / accompanied by faith", or objective, "leads to faith", eg. "the proclamation that has the power to elicit faith", Martyn. Yet, it seems more likely that it is a descriptive genitive which limits by qualifying the head noun "hearing", idiomatic, "a hearing which involves faith / belief", ie., a faith / trust / believing type of hearing, the type that relies on God's promises. This term then, lit. "hearing of faith", expresses the same idea as "we believed in Christ Jesus", 2:16, and describes a faith-response to the gospel. This should not be confused with lit. "justified ... by means of faith of (NIV, "in") Christ", 2:16, or with lit. "by / out of faith", eg. 3:7, both of which phrases refer to God's / Christ's faith / faithfulness, upon which we place our faith. The one who responds to the gospel in faith is the one who receives the regenerative indwelling compelling presence of the Holy Spirit. See Ridderbos, or Fung for an extended discussion on the Gk. "Did you experience ...... from works of the law or from a hearing which involves faith."

akohV (h) "what you heard" - hearing. Most often in the NT taken in the passive sense of "tidings or news", as opposed to the active sense of "the act of hearing", and so the word often becomes a technical designation for what is preached, ie., the gospel; "the gospel message", REB. But see above.


Paul's third question, supported by another in v4, asks, "Are you Galatians so stupid, that having commenced your Christian walk with the gift of the indwelling Spirit of Christ, you now rest on law-obedience to access what is freely yours in Christ?"

ou{twV adv. "so" - in this way, so. Here adverbial, of degree, "so foolish."

anohtoi adj. "foolish" - senseless [you are]. Predicate adjective. "How can you be so senseless?", Barclay.

anarxamenoi (anarcomai) aor. part. "after beginning" - having begun. The participle is adverbial, best treated as temporal, as NIV. Describing the beginning of a believer's Christian life in the hearing and acceptance of the gospel and the reception of the Holy Spirit, although the ongoing application and completion of that beginning is what is in Paul's mind.

pneumati (a atoV) dat. "with / by means of the Spirit" - in/by spirit. Is the dative instrumental, or local (Bligh suggests adverbial), "by", or "with/in (the sphere of)?" This dative is balanced by the dative of "flesh" ("by human effort"), so the NIV has the first as local and the second as instrumental. Surely both are local, eg., Burton, "begun with Spirit ... finishing with flesh", so Moffatt, NAB .... ("in ... in", NJB), or instrumental, eg., "did you begin by the Spirit, but are now approaching perfection by fleshly means?", Williams, so Barnes, NASB ..... An instrumental sense seems best, although the point is typically condensed. The Galatian nomists began their Christian journey by putting their trust in the faithfulness of Christ and as a consequence were judged right before God and so received the blessing of the new covenant, namely, the gift of the Holy Spirit and his indwelling compelling love = a new heart within. Having begun their Christian walk by means of the Spirit = "live by [the] Spirit", they now foolishly seek to progress their Christian life "by [the] flesh" = by obedience to the law.

epiteleisqe (epitelew) pres. mid. "are you [now] trying to attain your goal" - [now] are you being perfecting / completing, finishing (mid = yourselves). The middle "bring [yourselves] to perfection" is better than the passive "being made perfect / being perfected", NASB, NEB ..., or "ending/completing" = "attain your goal", NIV. Surely this reflects the judaizers sanctification by obedience position, although in opposing this position, Paul is not proposing a Keswick sanctification position, a veiled perfectionism, even if there is much of the "let go and live" about it. Sanctification, as a product of justification, is a state of holiness, which, through a reliance on the renewing power of the indwelling Spirit of Christ, we strive to apply in our daily life (be what we are); albeit, always imperfectly. "Are you trying to make yourselves perfect ....?"

sarki (sarx koV) dat. "by human effort / by means of the flesh?" - by flesh? The dative is instrumental, expressing means. Paul is surely referring to "works of the law" = "the strict observance of the law of Moses" to maintain standing before God and progress the Christian life. Of course, commentators tend toward the more specific issues of "circumcision and holy days", Barnes, while new perspective commentators argue that "flesh" = "the era of the flesh, that is, the old covenant / old creation as superintended by the law of Moses", Garlington.


epaqete (pascw) aor. "have you suffered" - did you experience / experience evil, suffer [so much in vain]. Paul may be referring to some specific suffering experienced by the Galatians, even just suffering in general, but it seems more likely that he is using the word here in the sense of "experience", referring to the Galatians experience of all that is theirs through the ministry of the indwelling Spirit, including the "signs, wonders and mighty works", cf. v5, so Fung, Garlington, Martyn, Betz, Dumbrell; "is all you have experienced to come to nothing", REB.

eikh/ adv. "in vain" - [so many things] in vain. "To no good purpose."

ei ge "if it really was [for nothing]" - if really indeed [in vain]. The construction often introduces the protasis of a conditional clause. Here, after a main clause, serving as an afterthought, even as a qualification, "an assumption the writer believes to be true", Burton; "of course / at any rate / I take it that."

kai "-" - even. Bligh suggest the particle here is emphatic serving to emphasize "in vain"; "have they all been useless (ie., their experience of the Spirit), if indeed one can say 'useless' in such a case?"


Paul now rounds off his argument by answering the question he posed in v2, so we may be better served if we translate the verse as a statement. "Therefore, God's gift to you of the continuous wonder-working renewal of the Spirit within you, is appropriated, not by obeying (because you obeyed) the law, but by believing the gospel".

oun "-" - therefore. Inferential, drawing a logical conclusion for the question posed in v2 (Bligh, "resumptive"?); "[so] would you say then that ...", NJB.

oJ epicorhgwn (epicorhgew) pres. part. "does God give" - the one supplying, giving abundantly. The participle serves as a substantive.

uJmin dat. pro. "you" - to you [the spirit]. Dative of indirect object.

energwn (energew) pres. part. "work [miracles]" - [and] working, performing [powerful acts]. The participle serves as a substantive. The present tense is durative; "constantly working miracles", Wuest; "effects wonderworking power among you".

en uJmin "among you" - The preposition is local, distributive, "among you." Possibly "in you", Bligh, which would imply that the "works of power / mighty works" concern the renewal of our inner being, "the inward renewal of the Spirit", Burton, rather than miracles, eg., healings, exorcisms, ie., miraculous manifestations of the Spirit. So, instead of an expression of the eschatological powers of the age to come that, in the early church, accompanied conversion, it is more likely that Paul is referring to the gift and fruits of the Spirit, "the signs of God's continuous activity", Dumbrell, of his "sanctifying work of inner transformation [in you]", George.

ex + gen. "because" - from [works of law or by hearing of faith]? See v2 above.


Galatians Introduction


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