"This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?" (KJV)
Paul minces no words in this epistle written to the churches of Galatia, as he employs none of his typical lengthy greetings and encouragement. Whether or not the book of Galatians was written to the Celtic Gauls of North Galatia or the inhabitants of the Roman acquired region of South Galatia, the apostle's message still stands unchanged. Paul defends his apostleship and discredits the Judaizers, who drew even Peter and Barnabas into their hypocrisy. Judaizers were a sect who taught that in order to become a good Christian, one must first follow the mandates of Jewish Law, including circumcision. Paul, in this epistle or letter, lays out a framework to understand the juxtaposition of the Law of Moses and faith in the Messiah. Paul uses the account of Sarah's offspring of promise vs. Hagar's offspring of bondage to illuminate our standing as children of God and our rights and privileges thereof. The book of Galatians is a discourse directed at the heresy of the Judaizers and an entreaty to the children of faith to keep the faith free of the pollution of Law.
Paul's apostleship was under attack by the Judaizers who argued that he was not one the original twelve disciples, thus his message was secondhand. Paul defends his apostleship in Galatians 1:1, "Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead)." Paul continues to explain, that after fourteen years he went up to Jerusalem accompanied by Barnabas and Titus. Titus being an uncircumcised Christian was compelled by the Judaizers to receive circumcision as a precursor to becoming a Christian. The Judaizers, to avoid persecution by the Jews, attempted to meld the Law and the Cross into a void theology. Even Peter curtsied to the Judaizers as he stood aloof from the Gentile converts at Antioch. Peter had previously fellowshipped with the converts, but at the arrival of the Judaizers he withdrew from them. Paul demonstrated his integrity and authority as he ". . .withstood Peter to his face. . ." over this matter (Galatians 2:11). The fact that Barnabas imitated Peter's behavior is evidence that the behavior of leaders is of the utmost importance in the example they set forth to others.
That men are justified by faith in Jesus Christ and not the works of the Law is evident in Paul's entreaty to the churches of Galatia. He asks a poignant question in Galatians 3:12, ". . .Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by the hearing of faith?" Paul communicates that Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the Law and that this promise is received by faith and not works. An unbridled acceptance of God's Grace apart from works is necessary in accessing this glorious promise. If in the Law or our own works we could gain justification, of what use would the Cross be?
Paul uses the account of Sarah and Hagar to illustrate the Law and the promise. As the faithful are not children of the bondwoman, we have the privilege to, "Cry Abba, Father" and receive the promise given to Abraham (Galatians 4:6). This privilege is offered to every human being and was bought by the Blood of Christ at His crucifixion. Again Paul asks a profound question in Galatians 4:16," Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?" Hagar is compared to Mount Sinai and Sarah as free Jerusalem. Those who are born according to the Spirit possess Christian liberty and are not under the Law. The Law is fulfilled in the command to love your neighbor as yourself. The unmerited favor of God is a free gift to all whose faith is in His Son, Who loved and died for them.
Father, thank You for Your Word in due season. Thank you for the Grace that You have provided to us through Jesus' sacrifice. Lord I pray for salvation, for all people in every land. I pray that Your Spirit penetrates the most defiant and remote areas of the world. I pray that Your desire be fulfilled, that all men come to You. I love You and praise You. Thank You. . .