Galatians 3: Faith vs. Works

Galatians is written by the apostle Paul to the churches in southern Galatia. He wrote this letter to refute the idea that you must obey the Jewish law to be saved. Paul explained how we are saved by our faith. In Galatians 3, Paul focuses on faith vs. works, understanding the purpose of the law, and the concept of being a child of God.

To start his letter, Paul calls out the Galatian people for their foolish thinking. The Galatians understand that it is because of their faith that they have been saved and filled with the power of the Holy Spirit; however, they think that their works and obedience to the law keep them saved. Salvation comes from faith and submission to Christ Jesus. We can’t do any works by our own power to be saved. Paul then re-asks the question, “Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard?” (Galatians 3:5) He does this to remind the Galatians about the truth of the Gospel: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God,” (Ephesians 2:8). Salvation comes from faith, not from attempting to obey the law (Galatians 3:1-5).

Paul then references how Abraham, the father of Judaism, was saved by his belief in Christ. In the Old Testament, God promised to Abraham, “All nations will be blessed through you,” (Genesis 12:3). Abraham was saved because of his faith; therefore, Paul explains that being descendants of Abraham, we too will be blessed because of our faith (Galatians 3:6-9).

Paul writes that people who try to sustain the law are cursed because the law is not based on faith. The law causes condemnation because as humans, we cannot possibly obey the law completely. Paul says that following the law will not save anyone. Before Jesus was sent to die for us, God stated: “the righteous person will live by his faithfulness,” (Habakkuk 2:4). Paul explains how Jesus freed us from the law by being the final sacrifice for us on the cross. Because of belief in Jesus’s death and resurrection, we can receive the Holy Spirit (Galatians 3:10-14).

Paul then continues his letter by saying that the covenant between God and Abraham cannot be broken. At that time, the Judaizers were falsely proclaiming that the Jewish law takes the place of God’s promise to Abraham. If this were the case, then God would have blessed Abraham because of his obedience to the law. God didn’t do that though. He blessed Abraham because of his faith, which means our blessing and promise of salvation is also because of faith (Galatians 3:15-18).

Paul then answers the question as to why there is a law in the first place. The law was established because of the sins that people were committing. God gave his people a set of laws so that they could recognize how sinful they truly were, and how badly they needed a Savior. The law was meant to be temporary until Jesus came as the final sacrifice (Galatians 3:19-20).

Paul clarifies that the law is not contradictory to the promises of God. Paul explains that if God gave us a law that would result in us receiving life, then we would be saved by the law, but since mankind is not able to follow the law perfectly because of our sinful nature, we cannot be saved by it. The only way to gain freedom from our transgressions is through faith in Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:21-22).

Paul says that before Christ died for our sins, we were trapped in our transgressions with the law showing us that we needed saving. When Christ came and died for us, he gave us grace so that by faith we could be saved and were no longer under the confinement of the law (Galatians 3:23-25).

Paul concludes this chapter of Galatians by reminding us that our faith in the Lord makes us children of God. All the people who have clothed themselves in God’s righteousness have come together as one body. According to God’s promise to Abraham, since we have faith and now belong to Christ, we are promised eternity with him (Galatians 3:26-29).

From reading Galatians 3, I understand that salvation comes from faith. Many people get confused about the purpose of the law and how it relates to salvation. I pray that you don’t just take my word for what Galatians is about. Instead, read Galatians 3 for yourself. I pray that God provides you wisdom and understanding when you read the truth of his word.