The Argument of Galatians and What it Means for Verse 3:28

The following is a paper written for an independent study to finish my exposition of Biblical Books emphasis. It gives an exhaustive treatment of the Argument of the Book of Galatians and then looks at what this means for major false interpretations of 3:28.

Introduction

The purpose of the book of Galatians is solitary, particular, solo. Paul is writing to the believers in Galatia to unequivocally state that all humans can partake in the resurrection only by grace through faith in Jesus; not by works of the law. Paul goes to great lengths to make this singular point with a myriad of arguments throughout his letter to the believers in Galatia, however he makes no other point than this one. All of his words and arguments can nicely and succinctly be boiled down to this one phrase: all humans can partake in the resurrection only by grace through faith in Jesus; not by works of the law.

Unfortunately, many would say that Paul argues beyond this singular point in the book of Galatians, and in particular argues against all distinctions between people groups, social spheres, and sexes. Many take the twenty-eighth verse in the third chapter in precisely this way. Space does not permit for a proper in-depth recitation and refutation of these false interpretations of Paul’s point, and so, in lieu of such undertaking, this work will endeavor to give a clear and in-depth explanation of the point which Paul actually makes, and show that 3:28 in no way departs from his singular point, but actually reinforces it.

This endeavor will be undertaken by first outlining the argument of the book of Galatians, giving special attention to the circumstance in which the book was written. Afterwards, it will be demonstrated from the flow of the argument that Galatians 3:28 makes exactly the same point that is made throughout the entire book, and thus, any deviant conclusion is faulty.

Background Information

In demonstrating the argument of a book, it is important to establish the context that gave rise to the writing of the book. This section will do just that. It will begin with a brief overview of the historical context of Paul’s writing, gleaned from both the first two chapters of Galatians and chapters 9 through 15 of Acts. In so doing, a brief argument for the southern view[1] of Galatians will be made, followed by a statement of Paul’s thesis, that all humans can partake in the resurrection only by grace through faith in Jesus; not by works of the law.

Context of the Writing of Galatians

The Book of Acts, which details the acts of the apostles through the first few decades of the church, gives a play-by-play of the Apostle Paul’s conversion and subsequent ministries. Paul is converted by Jesus on the road to Damascus in chapter 9. The book follows his many moves and in chapters 10 and 11 the focus of the story switches back to Peter. In this chapter the going out of the gospel to gentiles, who receive the Holy Spirit just as the apostles did at the beginning. Chapters 12 through 14 bring Peter’s narrative in the book of Acts to a close, and the focus shifts to Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey through Cyprus, Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, Derbe and finally arriving Syrian Antioch. Through these cities, the pair moved, preaching the gospel to both Jews and gentiles, and receiving successful converts from each group.

Paul’s moves from Acts

At this point it is worth detailing all of the moves that Paul made from chapters 9-15 in the book of Acts. (1) He was converted in Damascus and was there and in the surrounding areas preaching the gospel in the synagogues for “many days” (9:23), to the point that he had to be lowered out of a window to avoid assassination by the Jews in Damascus. (2) He went to Jerusalem to try to associate with the disciples, at which time Barnabas presents a defense for the veracity of his conversion (9:26-28). (3) After again being run out of town by the Jews, he was taken to Caesarea by the sea, and shipped back up to Tarsus, his home town, which is in the region of Cilicia, Syria (9:30). His stay back in Cilicia would appear to be lengthy, as “the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria [m]enjoyed peace, being built up.”  (4) He is brought back to Antioch by Barnabas, for one year (11:25-26). (5) He goes to Jerusalem for one year, with Barnabas, in response to a prophecy made by Agabus (11:28-30). (6) He returns to Antioch with Barnabas after completing his mission from Agabus (12:25). (7) He goes on his first missionary journey through Asia minor, part of which caused him traveling through the southern area of the geographic region generally known as “Galatia” and ending back in Antioch (13:1-14:28) (8) He travels to Jerusalem with Barnabas for the Jerusalem council. (15:1-3)

Accounting for all of these moves is quite important as Paul details the same moves in the first chapter of the book of Galatians. The moves he made, and the people he interacted with form the first major support for his only point, that all humans can partake in the resurrection only by grace through faith in Jesus; not by works of the law. He supports this point by arguing that he got the message from God himself, not from any human. This will become apparent later.

Paul’s Moves from Galatians in View of His Moves in Acts

In Galatians 1 and 2, Paul makes a similar list to the one we just reconstructed from the book of Acts. He summarizes from his own perspective, all of the moves he made between his conversion and a particular incident in which he confronted Peter. This list of moves becomes important in trying to determine when and why he is writing the book. Is he writing before or after the Jerusalem Council? Is he writing to rebuke and inform fresh converts, quickly deceived by a gospel of works, or to remind old converts of the truth from which they slowly drifted? If he is writing before the Jerusalem council, then what he is saying is still being hotly debated within the church. His point and supports will be the ones he goes on to use in the council itself. If he is writing after the Jerusalem council, then what he is saying has been agreed upon by all for some time.

Paul’s moves as recorded in Galatians actually correspond exactly to the moves recorded in Acts, down to the year. Paul’s account of his moves in Galatians is as follows: (1) Directly after his conversion, he went to Arabia and immediately back Damascus for three years (Galaitans 1:17-18). This is the “many days” of Acts 9:23 in move one above. (2) He went to Jerusalem for 15 days, meeting Peter and James and no one leaders in the church (Galatians 1:18-19). This is the trip to Jerusalem of Acts 9:26-28 in which Barnabas defends his conversion in move two above. (3) He went to the region of Cilicia and Syria (Galatians 1:21). This is the evacuation to Tarsus of Acts 9:30 in move three above. (4) He goes to Jersualem “because of a revelation” with Barnabas and took Titus with him (Galatians 2:2). This is the trip to Jerusalem in response to Agabus’s prophecy of famine of Acts 11:28-30 in move five above. The meeting and submission of his gospel to the leaders is described as “in private” and with a tone of submission to the authority of the apostles. Paul submitted the gospel he preached to them “in fear that [he] might be running or had run in vain.”

At the end of this meeting with the apostles in private, Barnabas and Paul are affirmed for their missionary journey “to the gentiles” (Galatians 2:9), which aligns perfectly with the account in Acts which says they returned to Antioch and then the Holy Spirit says to them, “Set apart [Barnabas and Saul] for the work to which I have called them.” This move already had hearty apostolic approval because of their trip to Jerusalem.

A Brief Defense of the Southern View and the Context of the Writing of Galatians

The phrase ἔπειτα διὰ δεκατεσσάρων ἐτῶν πάλιν ἀνέβην εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα must be accounted for in this chronology. The NASB renders it, “Then after an interval of fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem.” Most major translations render ἔπειτα διὰ as “then after.”[2] However, it is much better to render this phrase, “then throughout fourteen years…” for the following reasons. (1) If Paul spent 14 years in Tarsus, and the meeting in Galatians 2:2-10 is the Jerusalem council, the main point of his citation of his chronology, that he got his gospel from God, not from men (Galatians 1:11-12), and had little contact with the apostles, is defeated by his own recitation. By skipping over 14 years of his life, in which he both visited Jerusalem and went on a missionary journey according to Acts, He undercuts his own argument that he had very little contact with any other Apostles (Galatians 1:19). (2) ἔπειτα μετὰ was used in an earlier context to clearly mean “then after…” making it less likely that the changed vocabulary ἔπειτα διὰ would communicate the exact same idea, but instead a more nuanced meaning. (3) The plain lexical meaning of διὰ used with a genitive to denote a full period of time much more commonly takes on the sense of “during” or “throughout.”[3] (4) The recitation of events becomes less precise and more summary in fashion. This would make sense if he had just introduced the section with a summary statement like “Then throughout 14 years…”

For these reasons, it makes more sense to understand Paul’s chronological account in Galatians 1:11-2:9 as a recounting of every interaction he had with the other apostles throughout all 17 years intervening between his reception of his gospel from God and his present activity of writing the letter to the Galatians. Assuming Paul’s conversion happened in or around AD 33-34, this would mean he penned the letter on the way to the Jerusalem Council. This also means that the confrontation Paul made to Peter happened while he was in Antioch “for a no short time” (Acts 14:28) after his missionary journey. For that was when they had “gathered the church together” (Acts 14:27), presumably including Peter, and they would’ve had time for Peter to eat and commune with Gentiles in Antioch (Galatians 2:12). Of course this was “prior to the coming of certain men from James” which caused Peter to “fear the circumcision party” (Galatians 2:12), or as Acts records the event, “Some men came down from Judea” (the city in which James was the presiding bishop) “teaching the brothers, ‘unless you are circumcised […] you cannot be saved” (Acts 15.1). This gives way to “no small debate and dissention” (Acts 15:2) which leads to the Jerusalem council.

Notice that Paul does not record Peter’s reaction or any kind of repentance from his sin in Galatians. This would only make good sense if his repentance was about to occur at the Jerusalem council, in which he publicly stands before Paul and the other apostles, and publicly affirms Paul’s confrontation of him. Paul records no repentance from Peter in Galatians 2 because no repentance had yet been made! Instead, we get a record of the repentance in Acts 15 at the Jerusalem council. This seems the best interpretation which synthesizes of all the events recorded in the two books.

For one to accept the common translation of the phrase ἔπειτα διὰ “Then after” it must be said that the private meeting described in 2:2-10 is in fact the Jerusalem council of Acts 15, which poses a great problem when considering the right hand of fellowship extended to Paul and Barnabas to preach to the Gentiles. Surely, Paul would not have embarked on his first missionary journey preaching his gospel without the right hand of fellowship.

Thus, Paul wrote the book of Galatians, as he and a caravan travelled to the Jerusalem council, just after having publicly confronted Peter, and he is stating emphatically that all humans can partake in the resurrection only by grace through faith in Jesus; not by works of the law; the very point he just confronted Peter on, and the very point which Peter, probably unbeknownst to Paul, was about to affirm along with the other apostles at the council of Jerusalem.

Understanding this historical context is vital to understanding the purpose of the book of Galatians. Tensions are high, and the true gospel is at stake. Paul does not necessarily know how this meeting with the Apostles will go, and so when he says that, “even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you” (Galatians 1:8) and lays out a rock-solid chronological case for the source of his gospel, namely Jesus himself (Galatians 1:12), and the previous affirmation he has received concerning that gospel (Galatians 1: 2:2-10) he is proactively guarding the gospel from whatever adulteration of it that might be about to occur at the Jerusalem council. His letter to the Galatians is his first treatise on the foundational theology of the Church, and he was laying the groundwork for the falling away he knew was coming and would precede the second coming, but did not know when (Matthew 24:10-12; 2 Thessalonians 2:3). Would it be at the Jerusalem Council? His letter to the Galatians would preserve the message of the gospel, if so.

Audience and Purpose

Paul addresses this letter to the churches of Galatia. More specifically, these churches in the southern region of the geographic area called Galatia are made up of both Jewish and Gentile converts. Many of the converts have been led astray and are “turning to a different gospel” (Galatians 1:6). This false gospel is clearly one that teaches Christians to be perfected by works of the Mosaic law (Galatians 3:3). There were some of Jewish descent who were tempted to return to the law they had grown up with, to which they were accustomed, as a means of trying to earn their gift of eternal life. They were trying to convince Gentiles that they needed to be circumcised in order to be saved, all so that they would not be embarrassed before the Jews in the community who did not believe.[4] Thus, Paul is writing to correct both groups: The Jews who were trying to be saved under the law and convince Gentiles to do the same, and the Gentiles who were being deceived and led away to such a belief. This makes Paul’s main point all the more reasonable. Since this was the problem to be addressed, it makes sense that his only point would be that all humans can partake in the resurrection only by grace through faith in Jesus; not by works of the law.

Outlining Galatians

Introduction

Now that a clear setting of the context has been established this chapter will outline the argument of the book of Galatians, which is vital to understanding the proper exposition of verse 3:28. It will begin with an assessment of the key words and phrases that give rise to the main point of the book, followed by a section-by-section review of the book showing how each section ultimately makes the same point: that all humans can partake in the resurrection only by grace through faith in Jesus; not by works of the law.

Key Words and Phrases

The Nomenclature of a Law-Gospel Dichotomy

Throughout the book, Paul establishes two “sides.” These two sides can be loosely termed “law” and “gospel.” The two sides are used by Paul to show the difference between the false gospel that the circumcision party teach, and the true gospel that he teaches. Within both of these sides there are some key words that he uses as near synonyms. It should be noted at the outset that the idea of a Law-Gospel dichotomy is a slight misnomer, but the nomenclature is well-established and useful for this reason. However, a better explanation of the dichotomy would be that of “Works of the Law” and “The Spirit.” It is not the law itself that is on the bad side of the equation, but the abuse of the law and the attempt by some use it to work their way into salvation. As Paul explains in the letter, the law itself is good and serves a good purpose, but it is the abuse of it by the Judaizers and Circumcision party that land it in a slightly negative light to the careless reader. That clarification stated, the following is an explanation of the important terms and how they are used by Paul throughout the letter to paint the picture of each side of the conflict.

The Law Side

On the side of the “Law” there are four terms to understand: (1) Flesh or Circumcision, (2) Prison, (3) Works (of the Law), and (4) Curse.

Flesh

σάρξ, or a derivation, is used 18 times in the letter and in at least 12 of these occurrences it is used as a sort of short-hand to denote the false Jewish notion of earning one’s salvation through works of the law. (3:3; 4:23, 29; 5:13, 16, 17 (x2), 19, 24; 6:8 (x2), 12, 13) The connection is reasonable when one considers the main doctrinal point Paul contends against in this letter, namely, physical circumcision. The root word τομος or “indivisible” from which we get the compound περιτομή and περιτέμνω appears 13 times throughout the letter. Each time, it is a reference to the physical, to cutting off the extent flesh from one’s genitals as a sign of the Abrahamic covenant. Where the circumcision party would require all people to be circumcised in their “flesh” Paul extrapolates this word to relate to the innate sinful desire to earn one’s salvation by works, which is what these Jewish believers were doing with the law. By relying on their circumcision, that particularly fleshly work, they think themselves saved by the law. Paul’s entire point is to work against this fleshly conclusion.

Prison

While the word alone is not used, many words conveying the same idea are. References are made to “chains” “imprisonment” and “slavery.” The image of belief in the gospel being a type of liberation from bondage is repeated throughout the book. The recognition of this image as a support for Paul’s main point, but not the main point itself, is particularly important for understanding such misapplied verses as 3:28. For our present purposes, it is enough to recognize the theme of imprisonment and its contribution to the law side of the Law-Gospel dichotomy.

Works (of the Law)

ἔργον or a derivation of it, is used 13 times in the letter. In six of those instances it is followed by νόμου and it is once followed by τῆς σαρκός. The first phrase, “works of the law” obviously form the base for the entire “Law” side of the Law-Gospel dichotomy. The main crux of Paul’s argument about the law comes in chapter three as he hammers the distinction. “Did you receive the Spirit by works of the Law or by hearing with faith?” the obvious answer to this question being “by faith.” He then switches his terminology and continues to answer his rhetorical question with, “Are you this mindless, having begun in the spirit is the flesh now perfecting you?” (Galatians 3:2-3).   Thus, Paul links, and seems to use as a synonym in this instance, “works” with the previous word “flesh” and more fully rounds out the law side of the Law-Gospel dichotomy.

Curse

κατάρα or a derivation of it, only occurs five times in the letter, but at a crucial point in Paul’s argumentation in chapter three, in which he quotes two passages from the law. In demonstrating that the “Law” of the Law-Gospel dichotomy is negative, he references the curse that is due to befall sinners, and applies that curse to all those who are under the law. For Paul it seems, recognizing the inherent curse that accompanies the sin, which is revealed by the law, and thus recognizing the effects of that curse, are part and parcel with following the law. In other words, one of Paul’s supporting arguments for his main point throughout the book is that properly understanding the law ultimately pushes toward the gospel. The dark thundering sulfuric cloud of human sin that encircles the Law side of the Law-Gospel dichotomy chases away anyone with ears to hear the thunder, eyes to see the shadow, or a nose to smell the stench. Placing oneself under the law brings forth the recognition of a curse, and in the present age, the solution to that curse has come to all.

The Gospel Side

As one might expect, in constructing a dichotomy of terms, the opposites of the terms on one side will, in large part, make up the other side. On the “Gospel” side of the dichotomy there are five terms which emerge as important: (1) Spirit (2) Grace (3) Faith, (4) Freedom, and (5) Life/Righteousness. 

Spirit

In contrast to the fleshly circumcision on the “Law” side of the dichotomy, Paul repeatedly mentions “the Spirit.” πνεῦμα or a derivation of it, is used 19 times throughout the book, mostly in chapters three and five in contexts that contrast it with σάρξ. The question may be rightly raised, “What spirit is in view?” There are many times that the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, might be supposed. It is worth noting this is the only Pauline epistle that does not contain the word ἁγίος in any form, and one of only few that does not contain some form of the phrase πνεῦμα ἅγιος.[5] However, the excessively common usage of πνεῦμα in a substantive form to refer to The Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity in classic Christian doctrinal terms, makes this omission reasonable. The Spirit is spoken of in Galatians as: (1) a thing the believer receives (3:2, 5), (2) a thing that begins and continues the process of salvation (3:3, 4:29, 5:25a, 6:8b), (3) a thing promised to believers (3:14), (4) a thing sent forth into the hearts of believers (4:6), (5) a thing which guides the life of believers (5:5, 16, 18, 25b, 6:8a), (6) and a thing which has and gives desires (5:17, 22). All of these roles align perfectly with the heart of the gospel Paul is defending and teaching in this letter, that all humans can partake in the resurrection only by grace through faith in Jesus; not by works of the law. According to Paul in this letter, the Spirit is the responsible agent in the equation of salvation that conveys the grace and makes the resurrection through faith possible.

Grace

χάρις or a derivative of it, is used a mere seven times in the letter, but at very crucial points. Aside from Paul’s standard salutation, the word is used in the first statement of the issue Paul wishes to address (believers deserting his gospel, 1:6), in the defense of his thesis statement (that righteousness is not through the law, 2:21), and in describing the state of those falling away (those who seek to be justified by law, 5:4). Grace, the unearned favor or gift from God, is the at the heart of Paul’s Gospel. According to Paul, it is only by God’s grace, and nothing else, that resurrection, often called “righteousness” may be gained, through faith (Gal 2:16-21, Ephesians 2:8-10).

Faith

πιστεῦω or the noun πίστις or some derivation of them, are used 27 times throughout the book. Faith is the great actuator of God’s grace in Paul’s Theology. It is only through faith in Christ to do what He has said He will do (namely to keep and resurrect his sheep, John 10:28) that anyone can reach righteousness; the resurrection; life. Throughout the book, faith is often used as the object of a preposition, either ἐκ, ἐν or διά, indicating its role in actuating the righteousness to be gained (as in 2:16 x2, 20, 3:2, 5, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12, 14, 22, 24, 26, 5:5). It is also worth noting when Paul uses the word in a substantival manner. There are instances throughout the book when he attaches the definite article, indicating that “the faith” has a particular set of contents. Given the ample uses of the word in the book, the contents can be summarized by Galatians 2:16. “The faith” to which Paul refers in 1:23, 3:14, 23, 25, 26, and 6:10 is “the faith” that “we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law” (Galatians 2:16b).

Freedom 

In contrast to the image of imprisonment, ἐλευθέρας or a derivative of it, is used 11 times in the letter to explain the freedom that there is available to the believer of the one true gospel. The word become particularly key in chapter four, when Paul uses the example of Sarah and Hagar to illustrate the two sides of the Law-Gospel Dichotomy. It is also included in the verse whose interpretation is the primary subject of this thesis.

Life/Righteousness

The two terms ζάω and δική are so closely linked in the theology presented in Galatians, that they merit treatment together here. To begin with, ζάω or a derivative of it, is used 11 times throughout the letter, and in all but two instances the word refers to resurrection. This can be most clearly seen in 2:14, “If you, being a Jew, live (receive resurrection) like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how can you force the Gentiles to Jew (i.e. to go around acting like a Jew)?” He draws a contrast between “Jew-ing” and “living.” In Paul’s vernacular, life is a thing that exists in an eternal sense, contrasting the eternality of death. The two exceptions to this rule in Galatians are specifically qualified with a temporal qualifier νῦν. “But the life I live now, in the flesh, I live by faith in the son of God…” In these two instances Paul specifically clarifies that the eternal ramifications of his ζάω have present implications, i.e. that he has an assurance of that resurrection, and so the life he now lives, the character he becomes, will be resurrected and carried into the eternal state. The resurrection begins now, in a sense. The eternal perspective cannot help but bleed over into the life of now.

δίκη the root word for δικαιοσύνη and δικαίος and others appears in any form, 14 times throughout the letter. The word itself relates to punishment as a form of justice, and this basic meaning is carried over in its derived forms. In using the root word, Paul repeatedly asserts that one is made just, made right, made righteous, through faith as opposed to works of the law. This sentiment as well as the word’s close association with ζάω, is most clearly seen in Paul’s quotation of Habakkuk 2:4, “But now, by the law no one is righteous with God, clearly, because ‘The man who is righteous from faith shall live’” (Galatians 3:11). This linking sentiment is repeated in 3:21 and 3:24. It is this major point that is the most important for understanding the proper understanding of 3:28.

It is clear that both “life” (read “resurrection”) and “righteousness” are firmly on the “Gospel” side of the Law-Gospel Dichotomy.

Book Outline

Now that the two sides of the philosophical dichotomy which Paul presents are firmly in view, it is quite easy to understand the letter as a whole, since every single section feeds back into supporting the basic contention that the gospel side of the dichotomy is the positive, correct, and true, side. To put this in another way, every single section and sentence ultimately makes the point that all humans can partake in the resurrection only by grace through faith in Jesus (i.e. gospel); not by works of the law. An outline demonstrating this reality can be generated as follows:

  1. The Purpose for Writing: The Gospel (1:1-9)
  2. The Source of this Gospel: Not From Man (1:10-2:10)
  3. The Statement of this Gospel: “Justified by Faith, Not Works” (2:11-21)
  4. The Defense of this Gospel (3:1-4:31)
    1. Faith in the Promise (3:1-24)
    1. Faith in the Present Age (3:25-4:20)
    1. The Allegory of Sarah and Hagar: Faith and Promise (4:21-31)
  5. The Present Implications of this Gospel: Freedom to Walk (5:1-6:6)
  6. Final Warnings: Shun Those Who Depart from this Gospel (6:7-18)

Section-by-Section Argument of the Book of Galatians

Introduction

The purpose of this chapter is to show the validity of the outline presented at the end of the previous chapter, and demonstrate, from Paul’s own words, that a singular point is made throughout the entire letter. This will be accomplished by showing how each section of the book ultimately contributes back to a statement of Paul’s gospel that all humans can partake in the resurrection only by grace through faith in Jesus; not by works of the law.

I. The Purpose for Writing: The Gospel (1:1-9)

Paul begins his letter to the Galatians as he begins all of his letters, foreshadowing the argument he will soon make. Within three words, Paul lets his reader know that he will be defending the source of his gospel as divine, not human. Hence his statement that his apostleship is, “not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the father, who raised him from the dead” (1:1). After denoting the recipients, he summarizes his gospel for the first time in verse four, stating that Jesus “gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from the present evil age” (1:4). He will not explicitly state the true gospel he preaches until midway through chapter two, assuming his readers have a crystal clear knowledge of the gospel he had preached to them previously (1:8).

One might ask the sense in which Paul’s age at the time was “evil.” Of course, continuing to read will help to ascertain the answer, but a few possible options spring to mind at the outset. The generation that rejected and crucified the messiah, trusting in their own works and status to save them before God, seems the most likely. This group of Jews who betrayed their God by crucifying him, went on to mislead those who did believe the messiah. This becomes apparent in verses six through ten.

It is also important to note Paul’s belief that the method of salvation, the crucifixion of the messiah for the sins of Paul and others, was “according to the will of our God and father.” It was no accident that “the present age” was in fact “evil.” It was so according to God’s will. Paul’s doxological recognition of the sovereignty of God shines through in a moment of comment upon the truth he preaches: the gospel (1:4-5).

He then moves on to further explain the issue he writes to address, namely that there are those being led away from the true faith, to a “different gospel.” The occasion for writing, as has previously been demonstrated, is likely the growing movement called “the circumcision part” in the book of Acts. This group preached a type of good news that required gentiles to be circumcised in order to be saved (Acts 15:1). Paul categorically states that any gospel other than the one he already preached, summarized in verse four and stated even more clearly in 2:14-21, and exposited in chapters three through six, is to be rejected out of hand.

This introduction to the book is clear, the reason for which Paul writes is to defend his gospel. By necessity, if this is the reason Paul writes, he cannot therefore be writing for any other reason. Social justice, equality between the sexes, the liberation of slaves, church leadership hierarchy, cross-cultural ministry, or any other subject, are not the point being discussed in this book. While some of these topics may be commented upon in other letters, the subject at hand in Galatians is the gospel, and in particular, the gospel Paul preaches is about Christ’s sacrifice for our “sins so that He might rescue us from the present evil age” (1:4). The means of that rescue, it will become apparent from the rest of the book, is resurrection, by grace, through faith.

II. The Source of this Gospel: Not From Man (1:10-2:10)

Before stating and defending the gospel he preaches, Paul lays the groundwork for his defense of it by making clear where he got this good news: God. As he alluded to in his opening words, Paul takes a good many words to make clear that his authority for preaching came directly from the risen Christ.

It would appear that the circumcision party attempted to discredit Paul by saying that he sought men’s approval and praise. He transitions into his defense of the source of his gospel by asking two rhetorical questions, “For now do I appeal to men or God?” (1:10) Answer: God. “Or do I desire to please men?” (1:10) Answer: No. He debunks the claim that he preached for human approval or had merely human authority and in so doing, states the reason he is to be believed: because God is to be believed. 

“For I make known to you, brothers, that the gospel which was preached by me is not from men, for neither did I receive it from man nor was I taught” (1:11-12a).[6] The logical next question would be, if you did not receive from men, then from where did you receive it? “…but through Jesus Christ’s revelation” (1:12b). As has been shown in a previous chapter, all of the verses following this up until the story of his confrontation of Peter account for the moves he made between receiving the revelation of the gospel directly from the risen Christ and the occasion of the writing of the letter. The defense in this section all relates back to the source of the gospel he preaches. It is not from man, and to prove that it could not be from man, but is directly from God, Paul recounts every move he’s made since he heard the gospel he preaches. The purpose in this recitation is to show the vastly small amounts of time he spent in the company of the other apostles, or any other humans who might claim to be the source of Paul’s gospel. The repeated emphasis is on the lack of interaction he had with humans including, “I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood,” (1:16) “but I didn’t see any other apostles except James,” (1:19) and “I was still unknown by sight to the churches in Judea” (1:22).

In his defenses of his apostolic authority, having received his gospel from the risen Christ, he affirms the equal apostleship and source of authority in Peter, stating that “he who works in Peter in apostleship of the circumcised has worked also in me in apostleship of the nations” (2:8). Who is the “he” in question here? The God via the risen Christ, as stated in 1:16.

III. The Statement of this Gospel: “Justified by Faith, Not Works” (2:11-21)

Paul then launches into a story about his recent confrontation with Peter both as a way of capping off his clear statement that his authority and gospel came not from the other apostles, but from God himself, and as a way of clearly and dramatically stating what exactly is the gospel that he preaches. Clearly, if his authority had come from Peter, he would not be so brash as to confront Peter and tell Peter that his actions were wrong. However, if Paul’s authority came not from the apostles, but directly from God, his confrontation is completely just. “I opposed him to his face, because he was knowing” (2:11).[7] Peter knew the true gospel, as evidenced by his previous interactions with Gentiles (2:12) but feared the scorn and slander of the circumcision party, the same scorn and slander Paul was currently undergoing, and did not walk, did not align his actions, with the truth he proclaimed.

It is in verses 14-21 that Paul clearly states the gospel. It begins with his challenge to Peter, ““If you, being a Jew, ζῇς (“live”) like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how can you force the Gentiles to Jew (i.e. to go around acting like a Jew)?” The word “live” here is of extreme importance. As stated previously, it refers to resurrection. It must, for the only two options are that it refers to life in the here and now, going about, eating, breathing, sleeping, kind of life, or else it refers to a future life that is qualitatively different to this present one. In the one instance in Galatians in which Paul clearly intends this word to me the present life, he adds the adverb νῦν. Furthermore, when he later talks about the present life in chapter five, he contrasts the word ζάω with the word στοιχέω or “conform” often translated “walk” in 5:25, “since we live by spirit, to the spirit we should conform.”

It is also in this section that Paul equates being made righteous with “living.” After telling Peter that Jews “live” the same as Gentiles, he goes on to say that “a man is not justified by works of the law, but through faith in Jesus, even we (Paul and Peter and other Jews like them) have believed in Christ Jesus so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, since by the works of the law no flesh will be justified” (2:16). And now the key verse by which the rest of Galatians falls into place has been reached. In this one verse we have the outline of the Law-Gospel dichotomy. A contrast is drawn between faith and works. This is the gospel Paul has preached. He says to reject any gospel anyone preaches other than this one. To put this gospel another way, all humans can partake in the resurrection only by grace through faith in Jesus; not by works of the law.

Paul heads off a criticism of his gospel with the next verse. It would seem to follow logically that if a person is made righteous by faith, and then that person is found to be a sinner (as with Peter’s case) that the righteousness gained through faith is a flawed one, one that allows sin to live, making Christ a minister of that sin. Paul corrects this line of reasoning by placing the blame for sin squarely on the shoulders of the sinner in question, not on Jesus. In the particular case Paul was addressing, if Peter went on rebuilding Jewish dietary and segregation laws, laws which Christ broke down with his death, then those laws will simply point me back to the crucifixion where they will once again be destroyed. If they could bring about righteousness, then Christ would not have broken them down with his crucifixion. Thus, the imagery of the believer’s flesh, his law, being crucified with Christ and being replaced by the gospel, by faith, by grace, is the only possible logical result of a righteousness that comes through faith in the resurrection.

To put it another, simpler way, the man who is made righteous by faith will, necessarily, end up returning to the grace of the crucifixion for his salvation, because that is the what awaits at the end of the road named “the Law.”

The fact of this destruction of the law by grace, through faith in the crucifixion of Christ is major subject of the next section.

IV. The Defense of this Gospel (3:1-4:31)

Since Paul has made clear that his gospel is in fact the end result of the law, he then goes on to demonstrate this fact from the Law itself and showing how its end result is the gospel that he preaches. He does this by weaving various Old Testament quotations into his argument. The Old Testament quotations are, in order, Genesis 15:6; Genesis 12:3; Deuteronomy 27:26; Habakkuk 2:4; Leviticus 18:5; Deuteronomy 21:23; Genesis 22:18. Space does not permit an in-depth treatment of all of these passages, but the context of these passages are important. Note that six of the seven were penned by Moses. Moses, the author of the Torah, is the foundation and starting place for the Christian faith, and thus, to demonstrate his own authority, Paul must construct his case from the law first.

A. Faith in the Promise (3:1-24)

The third chapter begins with Paul lamenting the faulty pragmatic theology which the Galatians have believed. “O, foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you?… Did you receive the spirit from works of law or from hearing of faith?” (3:1-2). This rhetorical question has the rhetorical answer, “From hearing of faith!” It was from their faith that the Galatians received the Spirit, i.e. the down payment of the coming resurrection. He moves on to call the Galatians out for their faulty theology with the phrase, “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit are you now being finished by the flesh?” (3:3). Again the rhetorical answer is, “Of course not. You both begin and are finished by the Spirit, that is, by faith.” What does it mean “to be finished” in this sense? Based on his confrontation with Peter, that Peter “lives” like Gentiles, that is he receives resurrection in the same way as Gentiles, it would seem that the primary “result” or “finishing” in mind would be the resurrection. However, the use of the present passive verb gives a new color to this promise. This finishing process takes place in time. We go on breathing, awaiting the resurrection, and we do so by faith. It is the calm assurance that our resurrection is not as a result of our own actions that allows us to “be finished” by faith. It is common in theological circles to refer to this “being finished” process as “sanctification.” This is confusing, as Paul uses that particular term for a different idea in other books.[8] A better term, which Paul actually uses in this context would be the participial phrase “being finished” or “being saved.” He solidifies this thought by pointing out that their present sufferings and miracles are obviously works of the Spirit, not of the law.

Paul then goes on to explain the promise of resurrection by grace through faith as it is seen throughout the Old Testament. He begins with the clearest statement in the Old Testament concerning Abraham’s righteousness, that he “believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.” He points out that it should not shock them that Gentiles receive righteousness in this same way, because it was in this man, Abraham, the one made righteous by faith, not by works, that “all the nations [would] be blessed.” It should be becoming clear to the reader that the promise of salvation was always to be administered by faith, not by works of the law. He explains this with four more quotations, stating first that “cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them.”

The Judaizers would have no problem with this, because they would, incorrectly, think themselves doing all the things in the law. But, Paul again quotes from the law with his reference to Habakkuk 2:4 “The righteous man, by faith, shall live.” Again “live” must mean resurrection. And further, the law can’t contradict itself, yet it seems to in saying also that “He who practices them shall live in them.” How can these things be reconciled? This is Paul’s entire point. It’s always been true that there will only be one person who practices them, and thus lives by them, and that is Christ. But he bought the Jews from the curse of the law, and even extended the blessing of Abraham to the Gentiles, through faith, all so that his chosen people would receive the promise of the Holy Spirit.

What is the “promise of the Holy Spirit”? Many would say it is the Holy Spirit Himself, but that does not make sense grammatically. If Paul meant the Holy Spirit to be the promise in view, he would simply use a second accusative noun in apposition to “the promise.” He does not. He uses a genitive. Considering the entire point of this letter, the promise of, or from, the Holy Spirit must be the promise of resurrection. How is this promise received? Through the faith.

Paul concludes his lesson on Abraham by pointing out that there was always only a singular descendant who would receive the promises made to Abraham, and that the law was never intended to be a means for he and his fellow Jews to receive that inheritance. It was always intended to be received on the basis of God’s promise, not on the basis of law-keeping.

The next logical question is, of course, “Then what’s the purpose of the law?” The brief answer is to act as a tutor or guide to point toward the object of the people’s faith, i.e. it kept the people in hope of the coming faith that would make them righteous.

B. Faith in the Present Age (3:25-4:20)

Paul then points out that the faith to which he has been referring has now come. Here is an example of Paul’s clear understanding of a concept like dispensations. Before he and his brothers were under a tutor awaiting “the faith,” but the coming of the faith means they are no longer under that tutor. A change in dispensation has taken place, and with it a clearer understanding of what makes one a “son of God” what makes someone justified, right in God’s eyes. It is not by being a physical descendant of Abraham, it is by having faith in that physical descendant. It is not by keeping the law, it is by having faith in the one who kept the law. It is not by being a Jew or being a “free man” or being male. Instead, all humans can partake in the resurrection only by grace through faith in Jesus. This has been Paul’s purpose throughout the entire letter, and it remains his purpose here.

It is important to remember the two groups of readers in Paul’s audience to understand the image that he now uses to illustrate his point. (1) Gentiles who are in danger of submitting to the Jewish law by the influence of (2) Jews who were tempted to return to the law. These two groups are present in the metaphor Paul now uses: that of slaves and heirs. The Jews are to be understood as the heirs, and the Gentiles are the slaves. With this in mind, the meaning becomes plain. He pushes home his point that there is neither Jew nor Greek concerning salvation, with the illustration that there is neither slave nor free. Prior to the coming of Jesus, there was no functional difference between the Jews and the Gentiles, though one group had a promise held for them, as children, they were still functionally being “held in bondage under the elemental things of the world.” But the coming of Christ made it so that the Jews might “recover the adoption as sons.” However, that the Gentiles are sons, God has sent forth the spirit of His son into the hearts of all of his sons, crying out to God as a Father. A final note, prior to this point, the Gentiles were not sons, heirs, but slaves to non-gods. And Paul’s incredulousness is now understandable when he asks why the Gentiles would want to do something as foolish as place themselves under the authority of the thing that made Jews no better than slaves prior to the coming of Christ.

Paul ends this section with a personal appeal, calling the Galatians to remember their own care for Paul when he preached the gospel to them at the beginning, that they believed so fully they would have allowed Paul to be their eyes, living purely by faith, not sight. He urges them again to reject the self-seeking message of the Judaizers.

C. The Allegory of Sarah and Hagar: Faith and Promise (4:21-31)

The final illustration Paul gives of the Law-Gospel dichotomy comes again from the Law. He uses the actions of Sarah, representing the Gospel side, and Hagar, representing the Law side, to show that the scriptures have always been preaching the same message, that all humans can partake in the resurrection only by grace through faith in Jesus. The final twist of the knife to the theology of the Judaizers and the circumcision party is the fact that it is the Isaac, one of the three greats, who was an heir because of the promise, not because of the law. He draws on the previous illustration of slavery and freedom and ties it to Jews and Greeks, and suggests that the non-believing Jews actually align with Ishmael and Hagar, instead of Sarah and Isaac. This would shock their sensibilities and make them, undoubtedly, even angrier at Paul, which explains why they later scheme to arrest and kill him in Acts 23.

V. The Present Implications of this Gospel: Freedom to Walk (5:1-6:6)

As in all of Paul’s letters, he shifts from the doctrinal issue he’s writing to clarify, to the practical effects of that doctrine lived out. As has been shown, the doctrinal issue is the fact that all humans can partake in the resurrection only by grace through faith in Jesus, not by works of the law. What should the Gentiles do in response to the truth of this freedom in the gospel that Paul has been discussing? To begin with, they should not receive circumcision, because that would identify them with the law side of this dichotomy. The statement of this reality is reiterated in Paul’s repeated frustrations and insults toward those who teach against the gospel. The central affirmative imperative, which well summarizes this section of the argument, appears in 5:16: “Walk in the Spirit and you will not accomplish the desire of the flesh.” The two sides of the dichotomy are on full display in Paul’s famous lists at the end of the chapter. What does it look like to walk in the Spirit? It means going about your daily life in such a way that any observer might rightly apply the words “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” to you. How do these things come about? By going around with a firm confidence in the fact that you can partake on the resurrection only by grace through faith in Jesus, not by works of the law. This is what it means to “walk” or “go about” by the spirit.

Paul ends the section on walking by the spirit with a call to action. He begins by making the theological statement, “If we live by the spirit…” Yet again, “live” here must mean something more than simply day-to-day life, since the second half of the statement is, “to the spirit also let us conform.” Paul would not be saying, if we live our day-to-day life by the spirit, let us also live our day-to-day life by the spirit. This would be an utterly useless phrase. Instead, this single sentence solidifies the point that has been made throughout this book: the term “live” is a reference to the resurrection. In more colloquial terms, Paul is arguing that “Since we will be resurrected on account of the Spirit’s actions, we should conform our actions to those of the Spirit.”

To explain what he means by this in more practical terms, he goes on to call the readers not to become “boastful, challenging one another, or envying one another.” He gives them a paradigm to follow when a brother is caught in a trespass, and encourages them to bear one another’s burdens, and he digs one more time at the Judaizers claiming that this is the mans of fulfilling the law, not the law of Moses, but the Law of Christ.

VI. Final Warnings: Shun Those Who Depart from this Gospel (6:7-18)

Paul concludes his letter with warnings. This is fitting as the entire letter thus far has been one large warning to the two groups within his readership not to be deceived by the Judaizers into thinking there is another gospel. He puts some teeth to this warning by pointing out that “God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” You might consider this a restatement of the thesis of the letter, where Paul summarizes his entire point and purpose of writing.

He encourages goodness among the brothers, which is to be expected toward all, but especially to those of the household of the faith, i.e. Christians. If someone holds to the true gospel they are to paid particular attention with and treated in a more kind and loving way than those outside. This is the formal end of the letter, but Paul then takes the pen in his own hand and adds a personal message at the end. In this section of hand-written truth from Paul, he again summarizes the purpose of his writing. This is likely included for a few reasons. (1) Paul absolutely wants to get his point across that the Judaizers are motivated by selfish peer pressure. (2) He wants to emphasize theological concern that circumcision is worthless, which again contributes to a southern view of the book. (3) He wants to put a stake in the ground concerning the gospel he preaches, and state quite clearly what is position is, so that he won’t have to deal with misinformation among other Jews about his views. Paul concludes as he concludes all of his letters, reminding the reader of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Explanation and Refutation of False Views of 3:28

A variety of various theological systems have taken verse twenty-eight of chapter three out of its context in order to prove a variety of points. The most common is the point of feminist theologians the egalitarian position is supported by the verse.[9] Liberation theology and covenant theology are both systems which maintain false views concerning the verse.[10] Many an hour has been wasted in studying these theological systems and their interpretation of Paul’s understanding of sex, slavery, and the Church based on a singular fallacy: the neglect of context. All of the arguments, with the possible exception of some of those found in covenant theology, follow the same basic pattern. (1) Begin with a premise one wants to prove. (2) Cull together two or three verses which can be made to support that premise, if their contexts are ignored. (3) State that the Bible clearly teaches the premise. Quite literally, all of the arguments found in support of a feminist understanding of this verse, with one exception, or a liberation understanding of this verse, follow this exact pattern, to a tee. In the most literal terms, all of the arguments for these two systems are quite easily answered by placing the verse back in its original context of the argument being made, and allowing the argument to simply say what it says.[11]

As has been clearly, and repeatedly shown, the argument of the book of Galatians is that all humans can partake of the resurrection only by grace through faith in Jesus, not by works of the law. This is the point being made throughout the book of Galatians, and it’s still the point being made in Galatians 3:28. When Paul writes the words, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female” just after writing the words, “You are all sons of God through faith Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” and just before writing the words, “for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to promise.” The statement that “there is neither…” is made in respect to a very specific point. The point is that all who have faith, all who have been baptized into Christ, all who belong to Christ, are recipients of resurrection in the same way: by faith, not by works of the law. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Jew or a Greek, it doesn’t matter if you’re a slave or a free man, it doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman, you will all be receiving the “promise” (resurrection) by means of the exact same thing: faith in Christ. That is the point Paul is making with his statement in Galatians 3:28, and that is the only point.

It is plainly obvious that this is Paul’s point in Galatians 3:28. Proponents of removing this verse from its context often use it to suggest that Christians should not behave as if there is any distinction of role, or function in the church between men and women, between Jews and Gentiles, or between slaves and free-men. All of these distinctions very clearly exist, and it is not difficult at all to think of examples where Paul himself draws distinctions between all three of these groups in almost all of his other letters

Distinctions between Slave and Free

While we don’t have to deal in the modern day with the question of slavery in the same way they did in the first century, we can see in Paul’s own writings that he clearly saw some sort of distinction in roles and responsibilities in the church. In various places, he instructs slaves to obey their masters (Eph 6; Col 3; 1 Tim 6; Titus 2). Why would he do so if there is no distinction between the two groups?  Should he not give the slaves and masters the same instructions?

Of course, it is quite obvious to anyone who has read all of Paul’s letters that he still recognizes and operates according to the existence of a distinction between the slave and the free man. He often uses the distinction as an illustration of the natural and regenerate man (Rom 6:15-23; 1 Cor 7:22-23; Gal 4:1-9). It would be highly unfruitful for Paul to maintain that, in the eyes of Christ, slavery simply doesn’t exist as a distinguishing factor in any sense, and then to turn around and use the distinguishing factors of slavery to make a point about salvation. What then is Paul’s intent in saying that there is “neither slave nor free”? His intent is to say that the method of salvation for both slaves and free men is the same: faith in Christ. The grace of God is extended equally liberally to each, without respect to social status. One’s right to resurrection does not depend on his status as a free-man or a slave. It depends only upon the mercy of God.

Further discussions can be had about Paul’s view of slavery as an institution, and whether he saw it as inherently sinful, as well as the possible differences between first century and seventeenth century forms of slavery. None of that is relevant, however, to understanding Paul’s words in Galatians 3:28. He is merely making a statement concerning resurrection, and nothing more.

Distinctions between Male and Female

Feminist theology and broader egalitarianism has latched onto Galatians 3:28 as a foundational verse for the teaching that there is no distinction between men and women in the eyes of God, and that all roles in the church, and life, should be equally available and practiced by both men and women. This comes up most often in reference to the role of “pastor” or “elder” when discussing Paul’s words in 1 Timothy 2 concerning a woman exercising authority over a man. In order to dismiss the plain meaning of Paul’s words in that context, these words from Galatians 3:28 are often taken (out of their context) to pit Paul against Paul and prove that women should teach men.

However, as has been clearly shown the constant and singular point made throughout the book of Galatians is that all humans can partake of the resurrection only by grace through faith in Jesus, not works of the law. This is still the point being made in Galatians 3:28, but in this particular verse the “all humans” portion of the thesis is highlighted.

Just as with slavery, various places in Paul’s writings clearly show that Paul still saw a distinction of some sort which exists between men and women (Rom 1:18-32; 1 Cor 14:34; Eph 5; Col 3; 1 Tim 2; 5:2; Titus 2:3-4). What then is his purpose in stating that there is “neither male nor female”? Just as with the question of slavery, Paul’s point throughout the entire book of Galatians has been that all humans can partake of the resurrection only by grace through faith in Jesus, not by works of the law.

Distinctions Between Jews and Gentiles

Perhaps the most interesting pairing, from a Biblical Theology perspective, is that of Jews and Gentiles. The relationship of the Israelites to the rest of the world, is one that could be studied as the nation progressed through history. From all the way at the beginning of a Hebrew identity, there has been the promise of a benefactor beneficiary relationship between the descendants of Abraham and the rest of the world. As Paul argues in both Romans and Galatians, the intent of “through you all the nations of the earth will be blessed,” was a promise looking forward to the coming of Christ from Abraham, and thus through faith in that Messiah everyone would receive the blessing of resurrection. This argument was clearly explained in chapter three of Galatians and is the governing idea of, at the very least, Romans 9-11, if not a larger section.

The suggestion that a perpetual distinction exists between Jews and Gentiles at first seems to conflict with Paul’s arguments in many of his epistles, most notably Ephesians 2, in which he goes to great lengths to explain the one new building, new man, formed by the two groups. Galatians 3:28, then, is often presented as a supporting text for the idea that the distinction between the two groups has been entirely done away with. Space does not permit a full exploration of the question of the relationship between Jews and Gentiles, but a few notable texts come to mind which call into question the whether it is simply that the distinction has been done away with. The immense amount of Jewish imagery in Revelation 21-22, the seeming continued practice of Jewish culture by Paul in Acts 18:18 and 21:15-26, Paul’s eschatological statement that after the fullness of Gentiles are grafted in, then all Israel will be saved (Rom 11), all seem to suggest that a simple destruction of Jewish and Gentile identity is not part of Paul’s theology.

The question of the relationship between Jews and Gentiles is often discussed in both Dispensational and Covenant theology circles, but is often discussed from the perspective of the relationship between the Church and Israel. Generally speaking, Dispensationalists maintain that a distinction exists between the church and Israel, and Covenant theology maintains that the Church is, or has replaced, Israel as the people of God. These views are often discussed in light of eschatological beliefs concerning the future of the two people-groups. For the reasons above, it is the opinion of this writer that a better distinction to explore from the Biblical text is that of Jews and Gentiles, not of Israel and church. Quite simply put, discussions of the difference between the Church and Israel are often lost for a lack of clarity in whether the distinction being discussed is one of ethnicity or ideology. There is no Christian ethnicity, but there is an Israelite ethnicity. Moving the discussion specifically to that of ethnicity, and allowing that to draw the lines on ideology, would help greatly in understanding the distinction, or lack of distinction, the two systems argue for. However, that is not the purpose of this work, and so no more will be said on the subject. Suffice it to say that if Covenant Theology were to clearly maintain that Galatians 3:28 supported the idea that there is no distinction between Jew and Gentile, they would need to explain the passages above which suggest a continued distinction between the groups.

Furthermore, makes logical sense that if it is agreed that with his statement in Galatians 3:28 Paul did not intend to remove all distinctions between slaves and free, nor males and females, then he also did not mean to remove all distinctions between Jews and Gentiles with the statement. Instead, his intent in Galatians 3:28, as through the entire book of Galatians, was to make the point that all humans can partake in the resurrection by grace through faith in Jesus, not by works of the law.

Conclusion

This work has endeavored to demonstrate through a section-by-section explanation of the argument of the book, that Galatians was written to make one central point: that all humans can partake of the resurrection only by grace through faith in Jesus, not by works of the law. After explaining the argument of the book, a brief refutation of feminist, liberation, and covenant theologies which suggest Galatians 3:28 makes a different point than the rest of Galatians was given. 

Bibliography

Bauer, Walter. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. Revised and edited by Frederick W. Danker. 3rd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.

Holland, Nikki. “Philemon in Light of Galatians 3:28.” Priscilla Papers 32 (2018): 12-16.

Lienemann-Perrin, Christine. “The Biblical Foundations for a Feminist and Participatory Theology of Mission.” International Review of Mission 93 (2004): 20-27.

McKnight, Scot. “I am Church: Ecclesial Identity and the Apostle Paul.” The Covenant Quarterly 72 (2014): 217-232.

Moo, Douglas. Galatians. Grand Rapids: Baker Academics, 2013.

Reiher, Jim. “Galatians 3:28 – Liberating for women’s ministry? Or of limited application?” Expository Times 123 (2012): 272-277.

Thistlethwaite, Susan Brooks. “Inclusive Language: Theological and Philosophical Fragments.” Religious Education 80 (1985): 551-570.

Wire, Antionette Clark. “Theological and Biblical Perspective: Liberation for Women calls for a Liberated World.” Church and Society 76 (1986): 7-17.


[1] “Southern View” refers to the view that Galatians was written prior to the Jerusalem council, after Paul’s first missionary journey. It is so named because he would be writing to peoples he met while in the southern part of a geographic region, broadly called “Galatia” but not in the proper roman province of Galatia. For further arguments on the northern and southern views, see Douglas Moo, BECNT.

[2] NIV, ESV, NASB, CSB, HCSB, NET, NAS, KJV, ASV. Another common rendering is “Then fourteen years later…”

[3] BDAG διὰ 2A in contrast with 2c.

[4] This is the meaning of Paul’s final warning in 6:12 “It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh who would force you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ.” “Those who want to make a good showing in the flesh,” are Jews who want to be seen as proper and good Jews by their friends and relatives in the synagogues. As is discussed in chapter two, “the flesh” is nearly synonymous throughout this letter with Jewish reliance on and practice of the law for salvation. They wanted their new Christian Gentile friends to appear to be converted in order that their Jewish friends would not look down on them for their belief in the gospel. 

[5] Philippians, Colossians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, and Philemon omit a direct reference to “the Holy Spirit” but use the word ἁγίος to refer to the saints or sanctification.

[6] Κατά in verse 11 is often rendered “according to”, but given the context of the next verse, in which Paul talks about how he “received” παρέλαβον it from a source, a similar sense is more likely for the preceding preposition. 

[7] The compound participle κατεγνωσμένος is made up of the root words κατά and γινώσκω and is often translated as “stood condemned.” Of course, when one “stands condemned” or is “convicted” it is because they know their fault. They have no retort for the charge, because they know that the charge is just. It is easy to see how the root words led to this later derivation. Taken in a slightly more literalistic sense, the thing for which Peter “stood condemned” or the thing of which he was “in the know” was the true gospel, and he was not behaving according to it. This becomes clear in Paul’s statements in verse 14, “If we have life the same way as Gentiles (namely, by grace through faith), then how can you force the Gentiles to go around like Jews (namely, by following Jewish dietary laws and being circumcised)?”

[8] See “Sanctification” or “sanctify” in the NASB translations of Rom 15:16; 1 Cor 1:2, 30; 6:11; 1 Thess 4:3-7; Eph 5:26; 2 Tim 2:21 in which Paul seems to mean either a more generic “made holy” sense or else a making holy

[9] For arguments in support of the feminist interpretation and use of Galatians 3:28, see Jim Reiher, “Galatians 3:28 – Liberating for women’s ministry? Or of limited application?” Expository Times 123 (2012): 272-277; Christine Lienemann-Perrin, “The Biblical Foundations for a Feminist and Participatory Theology of Mission” International Review of Mission 93 (2004): 20-27; Antionette Clark Wire “Theological and Biblical Perspective: Liberation for Women calls for a Liberated World” Church and Society 76 (1986): 11; Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite “Inclusive Language: Theological and Philosophical Fragments” Religious Education 80 (1985): 570.

[10] For arguments in support of Liberation theology interpretation of Galatians 3:28, see Nikki Holland “Philemon in Light of Galatians 3:28” Priscilla Papers 32 (2018): 12-16. For arguments in support of Covenant Theology’s interpretation of Galatians 3:28, see Scot McKnight “I am Church: Ecclesial Identity and the Apostle Paul” The Covenant Quarterly 72 (2014): 217-232.

[11] The one exception found appears in Jim Reiher, “Galatians 3:28 – Liberating for women’s ministry? Or of limited application?” Expository Times 123 (2012): 272-277. Reiher attempts to build a case for a broader ecclesiological understanding of the verse based on the broader context, claiming that complementarians who limit the verse’s purpose to one of only soteriological importance commit a hermeneutical error. He is actually correct in his assessment that many complementarians incorrectly limit their context to only a few verses before and after. However, in building his case, he claims that the relevant context begins in 2:11. Unfortunately, he is wrong in this assertion. The extremely relevant context begins at Galatians 1:1, and the broader context begins at Genesis 1:1. It is ironic that the error of Complementarian hermeneutical practices on Galatians 3:28 that Reiher identifies is the exact error he makes in his own hermeneutical practice. As has been shown through this work, an understanding of the argument of Galatians makes clear that a distinctly soteriological issue is at play throughout the entire book of Galatians.

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