Free Essay On Exegesis Of Galatians 3:26-29
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Galatians 3:26-29 teaches an important message central to the Christian faith. It promotes a message of equality for all believers in Christ. However, to understand the full extent of what is being taught in this passage, a careful exegetical study of the passage in context of the overall book must occur. One of these aspects is the author. The book of Galatians is attributed to Paul, and includes many of the themes typical of Pauline literature. Galatians 1:1 identifies Paul as the writer of the book, and there are many verses which speak to Paul’s encounters with other early Christian missionaries, such as Peter and Barnabas. Furthermore, the book of Galatians is full of personal references where Paul makes emotional pleas to those within this church. Therefore, Paul as the author of this letter is largely unquestioned. There is slight disagreement on if he actually wrote it himself or instructed another person to write his thoughts down, but regardless of this fact, Paul is the voice behind the message in Galatians.
A proper exegetical study examines the overall aspects of a book in order to show how the specific passage fits in. This happens in order to provide the proper context necessary to understand and interpret the passage. The primary issue being addressed within the book of Galatians is the problems of false teachers and a counterfeit gospel. This is a common problem throughout many of the early churches and Paul frequently addresses this issue in many of his letters. In order to combat this issue of false teaching, Paul goes through three main steps. First, he examines the gospel truth in light of the Law of Moses. This occurs within the first two chapters. Second, he describes the process of justification in relation to Abraham and how this changes the way the Old Testament law was viewed, especially in the context of faith. Chapters three and four primarily deal with this issue. Finally, Paul shows the necessary attitudes and actions needed to live by Spirit in accordance with the new law set forth by Christ, as described in the last two chapters in the book. This is the basic structure of the book of Galatians, and chapter three falls into the section describing the importance of faith in relation to the Old Testament law.
The next question that needs to be addressed in order to understand this passage is what the conditions were of the church in Galatia. There is much debate among scholars as to the exact audience of the book of Galatians. The book of Acts describes Paul’s missionary journey to the Roman province of Galatia, and this province was divided into two distinct sections. There is a North and South Galatia and it is unknown which section Paul is writing. Many scholars believe it was Paul himself who started these churches, so he would have had credibility among these people. What is important to the discussion of the book Galatians is that there are multiple churches being addressed within a major province in the Roman Empire. Whichever section, whether it be the north or the south, was experiencing issues among false teachers in regards to Jew verses Gentile question, and Paul tries to address these concerns within the book of Galatians.
Galatians 3 falls within the section where Paul is describing the importance of faith in regards to following the Old Testament law. The reason he has to do this is because of the false teachers running rampant through Galatia trying to show the importance of the Old Testament law. These false teachers were most likely Jewish groups who were trying to get Gentiles to follow the Torah. They would have tried to teach the ideas of circumcision and continue in the practices of sacrifice. False teachers would have condemned many Gentiles for the food they ate as well, because the Old Testament standards of purity would not have been followed.
Essentially, the message of the false teachers in Galatia would have promoted a view that saw the Torah as the way to perfection, not Christ. God’s covenant would only apply to those who followed the first five books in the Old Testament, as this was the way to righteousness. Paul is specifically addressing this issue throughout most of the book. The issue of the law and what this means in the context of Christ is how Paul must counter the message being taught by the false teachers. The Galatians need to know exactly who they can trust, so Paul must present a rational cause for the Gospel of Christ. Therefore, the conflict in Galatia is not with pagan teachings, but rather concerning the role of Jews, Gentiles, and Old Testament law.
Galatian 3:26-29 falls at the end of the chapter where Paul is concluding his thoughts on the law and faith. Chapter 3 starts off with Paul saying, “You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus was clearly portrayed as crucified Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard?” This verse serves as a good example of a reference to the false teachers and the main point Paul is trying to make in this section of the book. Clearly someone or a group of people are teaching the importance of following the law over faith, as Paul refers to being “bewitched.” It is this theme that Paul concludes in verses 26-29. Paul is addressing the role of the law and how it cannot save a person. Verse 19 describes what Paul views as the purpose of the law. He writes, “Why, then, was the law given at all? It was added because of transgressions.” The law exists to show the sinful nature of humanity, not to redeem a person. The only way to come to Christ is through faith.
For this reason, when Paul writes verse 26, he is summarizing the role and importance of faith. He says, “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith.” This serves in contrast to the teachings of works through the Torah, and serves as an adequate conclusion to the importance of faith. Paul needs to emphasize to both Jews and Gentiles alike that they are both saved through faith. Jews should not be concerned with salvation through the law, and neither should Gentiles fall for false teachings. The only aspect that matters in terms of salvation is faith. Verse 27 echoes this idea, when Paul says, “For all you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” Those who have faith are given the gift of the spirit and will be able to reflect Christ in everything. Paul makes many references to the clothing of Christ throughout his letters, and it is a symbol of Christ-like living. This is something that is a characteristic of everyone baptized, and is freely given through faith.
Galatians 3:28 is the famous passage that is often referred to about the equality of all believers. It says, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, not is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Because faith allows believers to freely obtain the status of being a child of God, everyone is equal in Christ. There are no levels of distinctions among believers, as everyone is a sinner and in need of God’s grace and forgiveness. Even slaves are included in this passage showing the extent of God’s grace. This would have been a controversial statement because slaves and women were both viewed as inferior in Roman culture. However, in Gods new community, all are equal because it is only through Christ that they are saved and have new life. This message would have appealed to the lower class members of Roman society as they would be eager to join in something that promoted equal status. In fact, this verse was often used in to support feminist movement and the abolition of slavery, so this verse has been applied to many modern day situations.
The final verse in Galatians confirms the fact that those in Christ are part of God’s covenant with Abraham. The verse states, “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Gentiles are now included in the family of Christ, and can then take part in God’s plan for redemption. This verse is important because it uses Old Testament imagery to show how all believers can take part in this new covenant. The key word used in this verse is “seed.” By using this word, which simply means “offspring,” Paul is directly showing how the Old and New Testaments are linked together. The concept of offspring or seed was frequently referenced throughout the Old Testament. It was referred to in the accounts of Adam and Eve, and especially in making the covenant with Abraham. The promise made to Abraham was originally intended to not just be a blessing to the Jews, but also to all peoples. This prophecy comes true through the inclusion of the Gentiles into the New Covenant. Galatians 3:29 confirms the fact that God is faithful to his promises and that he will save all those who have faith.
In conclusion, Galatians 3:26-29 describes the equality and privileges that belong to those who are in Christ. The passage was written within the context of false teachers, promoting the importance of the Old Testament covenant and the following of the Torah. Paul has a vastly different view on this issue, and shows how all those who have faith in Christ are already included into the covenant with Abraham regardless of the Old Testament law. Social status or ethnic heritage no longer matters within the kingdom of God. Faith in Christ is the only factor that determines who gets to work for the cause of Christ.
Deffinbaugh, Robert. "7. The Promised Seed: The Source of Blessing in God's Perfect Plan." Bible.org. May 17, 2004. Accessed March 28, 2015. https://bible.org/seriespage/7-promised-seed-source-blessing-gods-perfect-plan.
DeSilva, David Arthur. An Introduction to the New Testament: Contexts, Methods & Ministry Formation. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2004.
Cardew, Maxim. "Introduction to Galatians." NTGateway. Accessed March 27, 2015. http://www.ntgateway.com/paul-the-apostle/galatians/introduction-to-galatians/.
Gorman, Michael J. Elements of Biblical Exegesis: A Basic Guide for Students and Ministers. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, 2010.
Moo, Douglas J. Galatians. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2013.
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