Saturday, August 29, 2009

Galatians Journal: Chapter 3, Verse 12

Galatians 3:12 The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, "The man who does these things will live by them."

“The law is not based on faith” Paul continues his second argument/proof by stating the logical conclusion springing from the previous verse. If the law can’t justify, and we are to live by faith, then the law cannot have anything to do with faith. In effect, they are opposites, at least as they relate to justification, or pleasing God. He adds proof and support to this by citing to another popular proof text from the law of Moses (his third in quick succession here in the second argument in Chapter 3), Leviticus 18:5.

“On the contrary” As if to say – “see, it says so right here in the Bible” A clever turn on the traditional rabbinical phrase “the Scriptures say . . . “

“the man who does these things will live by them” Paul is contrasting the “faith method” of Galatians 3:11 with salvation by works. Paul is citing to popular Old Testament texts and connecting them through the key words these otherwise disparate verses share – sort of like doing a comparison with a concordance. This was also a popular standard method for teaching used by the great leading rabbis of Paul’s day. Leviticus 18:5 is just one of over a dozen verses promising blessing, long life, peace, or prosperity for obeying the law. However, all of these texts relate to such blessing and long life in connection with living in the Promised Land – that is, in THIS life, rather than as it related to eternal life. The Jewish interpreters of these scriptures in New Testament times applied these texts to the life in the world to come. Paul is simply showing that this latter view is an incorrect interpretation. The Judiazers probably used this text and others like it to prove their arguments that faith alone is not enough for salvation. This, or course, is one of the classic arguments of history. Indeed, Martin Luther’s discoveries about this issue spawned the Reformation. Paul agrees with his opponents on one level – the righteousness of the law must be fulfilled, but he will argue here (in the next few verses) and later (Galatians 5:16-25) that it is fulfilled only in Christ, by having a relationship with Christ, being IN Christ, and living by His Spirit. Even today, the Judiazing heresy lives on in certain Christian circles, where an inordinate amount of emphasis is placed on scriptures like James 2:17 (“faith without works is dead”), or in a requirement to participate in sacraments or ordinances in order to be right with God, or even in churches where correct theology regarding salvation by grace is taught, but the emphasis is still on “religion,” that is, “being good” in order to be right before God. This is more than the concept that started the Reformation – it is the basic truth every person must grasp in the Spirit – that is, “I cannot be “good” and go to heaven.” Indeed, as proven here, trying to be “good,” relying on “being good” to get into heaven misses the mark. Its faith – again, a RELATIONSHIP with the living God! – that is the answer!

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