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

iii] The third 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, Paul outlines the third argument in support of his proposition: It is simply not possible to inherit the blessing of new life, in all its fullness, through obedience to the law. The blessing of new life is a product of Jesus' faithfulness to God's will, not our own, v10-14.


i] Context: See 3:1-5.


ii] Background: See 1:1-10.


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


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

Supporting argument:

#3. It is not possible to inherit the blessing of new life through obedience to the law, 3:10-14.

Christ supersedes the Law, v10-14;

The curse of the Law ends life, v10-12;

New life in the Spirit is found in Christ, v13-14.


iv] Interpretation:

#3. The third argument: In his third argument, 3:10-14, Paul establishes from scripture that the promised blessing of life is not a product of law-obedience. All that law-obedience does is inculcate the curse of the law, v10. The promised new life is not facilitated by a faithful attention to the law, rather, it rests on the faithfulness of Christ, Hab.2:4, v11, and this because the commandments must be "done" to find life in them, Lev.18:5, v12. The simple fact is that the promised Abrahamic blessings, blessings now realized in this present moment through the gift of the Holy Spirit and experienced by Gentile believers as well as Jewish believers, rests wholly on Christ's atonement, v13-14.


This passage is central to the reformed argument that a person is reconciled to God wholly on the propitiatory sacrifice of Christ appropriated through faith. Yet, Paul's argument is not about reconciliation, given that his opponents agree with him on how a person is reconciled to God. All parties in this debate agree on how a person becomes a Christian, but disagree on how they go forward in the Christian life. Paul's argument is that a person's faith in Christ's faithfulness ("faith of Christ" = Christ's willing commitment to the promises and commands of God the Father, even unto death = faith / faithfulness of Christ) facilitates the full appropriation of the promised Abrahamic blessing of new life, not their faithful obedience to the law.

Note that new perspective commentators struggle with this passage because Paul certainly doesn't define the law in terms of an identifier of Jewish exclusivism. Wright's argument that "the curse of the law" is the exile, leaves us here with Christ undertaking the exile for us, but then, what about our sin?


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

Text - 3:10

Arguments in support of the the proposition:

#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, v10-14.

Paul now quotes three Old Testament passages (Deut.22:26a, Hab.2:4b, Lev.18:5b) in support of his proposition that a person who is set right before God on the basis of Jesus' faithfulness, appropriated though faith, freely receives the blessing of new life in Christ, and this apart from obedience to the law. Law-obedience for blessing serves only to evoke God's curse (expose sin and thus prompt condemnation). It is the righteous by faith who live.

gar "- / for" - for. More reason than cause; introducing a counter argument to v7-9 / a logical connective / a stitching device; "everyone, however, who is involved in trying to keep the law", Phillips; "on the other hand", NEB.

oJsoi pro. "all who" - as many as. Nominative subject of the verb to-be; "All those who".

ex + gen. "rely on" - from. Possibly with the sense "on the basis of", so "rely on / depend on", but a more technical sense is probably intended, as of a "member of a certain class", Zerwick. A similar construction is used by Paul with reference to "those from circumcision", meaning, "those who are members of the circumcision party", as with "those from faith", ie., members of the faith party, or as Martyn has it, "those whose identity is derived from faith" (their faith in Christ and Christ's faith/faithfulness). So here, the law party, "those whose identity is derived from observance of the law", Martyn.

nomou (oV) gen. "[observing] the law / [works] of the law" - [works] of law. The anarthrous genitive "of law" is adjectival, epexegetic / of definition, limiting by specifying the "works", law type works/deeds, "obedience demanded by the law of Moses." Probably a descriptor of nomism; "performance will win (better "maintain/improve") acceptance (approval) before God", Bruce.

uJpo "[are] under" - Here expressing subordination; "under".

kataran (a) "a curse" - The divine curse prompted by covenant noncompliance. New perspective commentators argue that the curse only applies to an intentional, defiant noncompliance, although this seems unlikely. It is true that the sacrificial system only really covered inadvertent sin, but the perspective of the scriptures is that all Israel is under the curse (people and nation) and that God will have to supply a sacrifice worthy enough to turn aside the divine wrath (note how Burton does not like the link between the curse and divine judgment). The noun is anarthrous, giving the sense "curse opposed to blessing", Hendriksen.

oJti "[as it is written]" - [for it has been written] that. Here introducing a dependent statement, quotation.

epikataratoV adj. "cursed" - cursed is. Predicate adjective. Under the wrath of God for sin.

paV "[is] everyone" - all. As with "everything" (found in the LXX), the "everyone" is not found in the MT. Paul is generalizing and so extending the legal requirements of the law, something that Jesus was always doing. Paul's opponents reflect 2nd temple Judaism and as such they know that covenant inclusion is not gained by obedience (legalism), but is certainly maintained by obedience (nomism). Of course, perfection is impossible, so mercy and forgiveness is not foreign to a judaizer. Yet, Paul is not going to let them get away so easily. For "works of law" to work to restrain sin and progress holiness requires perfect obedience - "everyone" and "everything". Without perfection, the tool of law-obedience serves only to expose the human condition of sin and inculcate the curse of the law, namely divine judgment.

ouk emmenei (emmenw) pres. "does not continue" - [who] does not abide, continue. The durative sense of the present tense and the verb itself, "continue", in the quote from Deut.27:26, reminds us again that the maintenance of covenant standing for blessing is the issue at hand. "Persevere in", Zerwick.

tou poihsai (poiew) aor. inf. "to do" - A genitive articular infinitive. Translated in the NIV as a complementary infinitive, completing the sense of "continue", but it could well introduce a purpose clause, "in order that", or a result clause, "with the result that"; "cursed is everyone who is not steadfast in observing all the things written in the book of the law, so as to do them", Martyn. Possibly serving as a type of Latin modal ablative, "by doing them", Bligh. Possibly, "cursed is every who does not adhere to ........, and practice them", Cassirer.

toiV gegammenoiV (grafw) dat. perf. pas. part. "[everything] written" - [by/in all] the things having been written. The participle can be classified as adjectival, attributive, limiting the substantive adjective "all = everything." The dative may be taken as instrumental, "does not abide by all the things written in the Book of the Law", ESV, or local, sphere, "does not abide in all the things written ..."

en + dat. "in [the Book of the Law]" - in [the scroll of the law]. Local, expressing space. The genitive tou nomou, "of the law", is adjectival, idiomatic / content, "the book which contains the law." The whole law is obviously intended, not just the new perspective "boundary markers" of Jewish exclusivism. "Book of the law" is a little confusing since Paul is referring to the totality of God's law recorded in the scriptures so "everyone who doesn't obey everything in the law is under a curse", CEV.


"The person who is right with God (articular adj. = the set/judged right before God type of person) is a person who is grounded on the faithfulness of God. Such a person will experience God's promised new life". Habakkuk 2:4. The context and traditional interpretation of this quote is obviously well known to Paul. The "just" person, the person who is right (in the right with God and thus in a right relationship with God) is someone like Abraham. Such a person is "right" because they rely on God's faithfulness, they trust his promises, even in the face of a Babylonian invasion where everything seems lost. Such a person "will live", they will experience God's putting things right, they will experience his kingdom with all its blessings, all the eschatological blessings of the realized / inaugurated kingdom of God. The means of being set right before God, and thus of experiencing Gods setting things right, is faith in the faithfulness of God.

Again, the obvious problem we face with this text is the meaning of "faith", given that the LXX has "my faith" = God's faithfulness. Paul has dropped the "my", but surely not to deny that God's faithfulness (realized in the faithfulness of Christ) is the ground upon which a person is right before God, but to allow the person's faith/trust to be included in the equation. If this approach is correct, we are best to reject the NIV translation and opt for "the righteous by faith will live"; "the righteous [those right before God] by faith [on the ground of God's faithfulness appropriated through faith] will live [experience God's setting everything right]". By the time Paul gets to write Romans, this verse has become his key text from scripture in support of his understanding of the gospel, cf., Rom.1:16-17. This verse certainly encapsulates the argument that Paul is running in Galatians, as it does in Romans, namely, that new life in Christ is not facilitated by obedience to the law, but rather, it is the product of being set right with God on the basis of God's faithfulness realized in Christ.

oJti "-" - [but/and] that. Here introducing an object clause / dependent statement of perception expressing what "[is] evident"; "it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law."

dhlon adj. "clearly" - it is evident. Serving as a predicate adjective.

dikaioutai (dikaiow) pres. pas. "is justified" - [no one] is being justified. For the meaning of "justified" see 2:16. The present tense, being durative, with the [divine] passive, gives the sense "is being set right". In reformed circles this "setting right" is usually expressed in forensic terms, so "count / treat as right", Barrett, "judged in the right", Dumbrell, but what God declares right, is right, so "is set right."

para + dat. "before" - with [god]. Expressing sphere, "in the sight of, before"; "with God" = "in the sight of God", AV - of "a participant whose viewpoint is relevant to an event", LN.

en nomw/ "by the law" - in law. Instrumental, as NIV. Obviously short for "by [means of] works of the law", Bruce.

oJti "because" - that. Here causal, as NIV. "Because of the fact stated in the scriptures that ....."

oJ dikaioV (oV) "the righteous" - Obviously "the righteous before God", those right before God.

zhsetai (zaw) fut. "will live" - A difficult term often explained either in an ethical sense, or an eternal sense. Yet, as the promised life of the covenant, the life of the kingdom, it has all the now/not yet qualities of the kingdom. It is the eschatological life now realized by those who have discovered that "the kingdom of God is at hand." So, "will live", is just as much ethical (possessing a new heart within) in the now as it is possessing eternity in the not yet. More particularly, it is clear that Paul sees "will live" in much the same terms of "being set right"; both refer to the same reality - new life in Christ.

ek "by [faith]" - out of, form. Source / origin leaning toward cause / basis, "because of", "by reason of", "as a result of", "by means of"/ "on the basis of". The ground of this "life" is not works of the law, but the faithfulness of Christ appropriated through faith. See 2:16

pistewV (iV ewV) "faith" - As already noted, particularly with reference to 2:16, usually translated "faith in Jesus Christ", the word does not necessarily mean "to believe", but can mean, among other things, "trustworthiness", so the sense is probably "Jesus Christ's faithfulness [to God]", even "God's faithfulness revealed in Jesus Christ", so Barth, Hebert. Taking the word to mean "faithfulness [of God]" here does not undermine the necessary response of our faith / trust / belief in God / God's faithfulness revealed in Christ. In fact, both ideas may be present. "Faithfulness", Howard.


By quoting Lev.18:5, Paul "shows how one is not justified before God (by law)", Bruce. Again Paul exegetes the verse before quoting it. Given that the verse seemingly counters Habakkuk 2:4, it is likely that it was used as a rebuttal text against Paul's thesis drawn from Habakkuk 2:4. So, Paul jumps in first, using the verse to argue that law-obedience ("law") does not rest on / find its origin in God's faithfulness ("faith") / in what God does for us in the fulfillment of his promises, but by implication, it rests on our own effort, the doing of it, and of course, it must be done perfectly to possess life, cf., Rom.10:5. Of course, there is debate over whether it was, certainly for an Old Testament saint, possible to obey the law and thus "live". For Paul, the law enacts the curse and this because it cannot be done. Jesus drives this truth home on numerous occasions, cf., Luke 10:25-37, "do this and you will live", v28, but then who can love like a Good Samaritan?

de "-" - but/and. Transitional, introducing the next step in the argument, although Betz opts for adjunctive; "also".

ek "based on [faith]" - [the law is not of] from. As already noted, best understood as "on the basis of", but "from" is a possibility. The law is "not grounded in", Zerwick, "does not lean on / does not find its strength in [faith] as a way of redemption", Ridderbos.

pistewV (iV ewV) "faith" - Usually understood here as "trust", but again "faithfulness", as of God's faithfulness in fulfilling his promises and of our of faith in the faithfulness of God.

alla "on the contrary" - but. Adversative, as NIV.

oJ poihsaV (poiew) aor. part. "the man who does" - the one having done, practiced. Participle serves as a substantive and the aorist expresses punctiliar / completed action.

auta "these things" - Direct object of the participle "having done." The commandments, precepts, of the Mosaic law.

zhsetai (zaw) fut. mid. "will live" - shall live. The middle voice is used by convention with a future active verb. For an Old Testament saint "live" simply means to live a good, healthy, happy and long life, but for a New Testament saint we "live" in Christ, the source of life eternal, the fullness of life.

en + dat. "by [them]" - in [them]. Possibly expressing space/sphere, "in the doing of them", or better, instrumental, expressing means, as NIV.


Paul now explains how a person is set right before God (justified) on the basis of Christ's faithfulness, 2:16, given that law-obedience only serves to inculcate the curse of the law (it draws out our sinfulness and places us under God's condemnation). In his faithful obedience to the will of God, Christ took the curse upon himself, redeeming those under the curse.

exhgorasen (exagorazw) aor. "redeemed" - [christ] bought back, redeemed, ransom / delivered. A technical terms used for buying the freedom of slaves, so of Christ buying the freedom of those confined by, and facing execution under, the curse of the law. The aorist is punctiliar, describing the nature of Christ's once and for all act on the cross. The prefix is perfective, expressing the idea of completion, so "completely redeem". Redemption terminology is intended rather than that of facilitating an escape, eg., "Christ bought us freedom", REB.

hJmaV "us" - Direct object of the verb "to buy back." Who are the "us"? Presumably Jewish Christians are in Paul's mind, as in 2:15, although Gentiles are similarly under the curse of the law. In our case, the revelation of nature, rather than the Torah, is our executioner, Rom.1:20.

ek + gen. "from" - Here expressing separation; "away from."

thV kataraV (a) gen. "the curse" - Genitive after ek, "from". Presumably "the curse that the law brings". Some suggest that it is the law itself, but it is more likely the divine punishment, outlined in the covenant, destined for those who disobey the law, eg., the blessings and cursings outlined in Deuteronomy.

tou nomou (oV) gen. "of the law" - The genitive my be treated as subjective, or ablative, source/origin; "the curse that issues from the law."

genomenoV (ginomai) aor. part. "by becoming" - having become. The participle is probably adverbial, instrumental, expressing means, "by means of", as NIV, although temporal is possible, "when he became a curse for us", even possibly causal, "because" ; "Christ has bought us free from the curse of the law inasmuch as he became a curse for us", Berkeley. Ridderbos opts for both temporal and causal. The curse on those who fail to obey the law entails divine wrath. Christ, on our behalf, expends that wrath on himself, and since he is the one just man, the grave cannot contain him. Those in Christ similarly cannot be contained. Although not defined here, Christ's death is most likely propitiatory, "a curse offering", Betz, although the sense may be that Christ takes the place of the sinner.

uJper + gen. "for [us]" - [a curse] in stead of / for the sake of, on behalf of [us]. Here expressing representation, or advantage / benefit for, so "for us / for our sake", or substitution, "in our stead", Zerwick.

oJti "for [it is written]" - that. Here causal; "because".

epikataratoV adj. "Cursed is [every one]" - Verbal / predicate adjective. Deut.21:23. Both LXX and MT have "An accursed of God is ..." Note, Paul again exegetes the verse before quoting it. The point of the quote is that the form of Jesus' death indicates that it was the product of the divine curse, a curse he did not deserve and therefore a curse taken for others.

oJ kremamenoV (kremannumi) pres. mid. part. "who is hung" - [all] the ones having hung. The participle may be classified as adjectival, attributive, limiting the substantive adjective "all = everyone."

epi + gen. "on" - Spacial; "on, upon."

xulou (on) "a tree / a pole" - a tree, wood, post. Obviously the cross is in Paul's mind.


Finally, the punch-line of Paul's argument. A person who is set right before God is a person who lives, ie., a person who is redeemed is a person who inherits the promised blessing of "life" (the kingdom of God), a promise for both Jew and Gentile, a promise which, in the present moment, entails the gift of Christ's indwelling, compelling, Spirit.

"He redeemed us" - Added for meaning by the NIV. "This happened so that ......"

iJna + subj. "in order that" - that. Possibly introducing a purpose clause, "in order that", "and the purpose of it all was that Abraham ....", Cassirer, so Ridderbos, Fung, Bligh, Bruce, Martyn, Garlington, Betz, Dumbrell, Longenecker, Guthrie, yet a consecutive clause expressing result seems more likely, "with the result that ...", "thus the Gentiles are given the happiness promised through Abraham", Junkins, "so that the blessings of Abraham might come ... so that ......", NJB, cf. NAB, Barclay, Williams, Barnes. Note that there are two hina clauses in the sentence. The second could be "subordinate in logical and temporal terms to the first", Dumbrell, but it is more likely that both are coordinate with each other such that the verse "states the results of Christ's death in a two-fold form", Guthrie; "this happened with the result that / so that / such that ........ and with the result that / so that ...."

hJ eulogia (a) "the blessing" - "The promise to Abraham is one of blessing", Guthrie, and in the context of Galatians, the blessing is "life", life in all its dimensions. As far as the here and now is concerned, it is a life lived in the Spirit. It could be argued, particularly from v6-9, that the blessing is justification, but it is more likely that it is the "will live" of Habakkuk 2:4, cf. v11, ie., life in the kingdom of God, the promise of a kingdom encapsulating God's covenant with Abraham, a blessing for the whole world, not just Jews, but also Gentiles. Although, for Paul, the blessing entails the substance of our justification.

tou Abraam gen. "given to Abraham" - of abraham. The genitive is usually taken as verbal, objective, but adjectival, attributive / idiomatic, is possible; "the blessing which was promised to Abraham", TH.

genhtai (ginomai) aor. subj. "might come" - "Might come to rest upon the Gentiles", Cassirer.

eiV "to [the Gentiles]" - to, into [the nations]. Spacial / goal. Possibly of the blessing (inheritance) coming to the Gentiles, so Turner, or simply just taking a local sense, that "salvation goes out from the Jews to the Gentiles", Bligh.

en + dat. "through [Christ Jesus]" - in [christ jesus]. The NIV opts for an instrumental / agency sense, but cause is possible, "because of", as is a local sense expressing incorporative union; "in union with Christ Jesus".

iJna + subj. "so that" - that. The NIV takes the first hina clause as final, expressing purpose, and the second as consecutive, expressing consequence, see above.

dia + gen. "by [faith]" - through, by means of [faith]. Instrumental; through the faithfulness of Jesus' death on our behalf, cf 2:16, "the faith of Christ".

labwmen (lambanw) aor. subj. "we might receive" - Note the 1st person plural; "so that all of us, Jews and Gentiles, might receive ....."

thn epaggelian (a) "the promise" - the promise. Accusative direct object of the verb "to receive." Either "a promise", or "that which is promised", ie., "the promised blessing", Bligh.

tou pneumatoV (a atoV) gen. "of the Spirit" - The genitive is adjectival epexegetic / of definition, limiting by specifying the "promise / gift"; it is the promise which consists of the gift of the Spirit; "the promised Spirit", NJB, NEB, Moffatt; the Spirit is the substance of the promise, certainly in the here and now.


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