After coming into being as a result of God’s Spirit at work in Paul’s proclamation of the gospel (3:1–5; 4:13–15), the Galatian church gradually began to descend into a place of bondage and darkness. A group of false teachers whom Paul calls those “who trouble you” (1:7) or “those who unsettle you” (5:12) had infiltrated the church and was trying to convince the Galatians of a false gospel which required them to be circumcised.
Although the Galatians seem to have come under the spell of these teachers and have become convinced of their teaching (1:6), Paul does not regard the situation as completely hopeless (3:4). Through a series of pertinent questions, Paul provides numerous reasons why the Galatians should return to grace and reject the absurdity of living by the law.
1. For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God?
2. Am I trying to please man?
3. If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?
4. Is Christ then a servant of sin?
5. Who bewitched you?
6. Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?
7. Are you so foolish?
8. Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?
9. Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain?
10. Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith?
11. Why then the law?
12. Is the law then contrary to the promises of God?
13. Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth?
14. How can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world?
15. Whose slaves you want to be once more?
16. What then has become of your blessedness?
17. Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law?
18. But what does the Scripture say?
19. Who hindered you from obeying the truth?
20. If I, brothers, Or brothers and sisters; still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted?
At the end of the day, the gospel is appropriated not by works of law but by faith, which is the route to justification. In his sin-bearing death, Christ is a substitute for all Christians, whom he brings into a new realm of freedom and life. To require circumcision and other Mosaic ceremonies such as dietary laws and Jewish holidays as a supplement to faith is to fall back from the realm of grace, faith, and freedom, and to come under the whole law and its curse, since comprehensive observance of the law is impossible.
The Christian life has its source in the believer having died with Christ to sin, and thereby having renounced the flesh. But the Spirit is the source of power and guidance in the Christian life, and the work of the Spirit produces love and faith.
All questions from the book of Galatians