Reflections on Galatians 3:1-9
(approx. 2 minute and 15 second reading time)
When I look at this passage contextually, I think it might be easy to miss the point. Often, commentators would have us pay attention to the perceived connection between Genesis 12, citing the blessing of all nations and connecting that to an idea of Gentile nations. We look at this through Western eyes and anachronistically insert ourselves as the subject of the conversation. Now, in some respects, that is not an entirely misplaced notion. Indeed, God is building a Church out of Jew and Gentile (Rom. 9-11). Furthermore, much of the focus in New Testament writing revolves around the crucial unification of those cultures and ethnicities. This point is a meaningful connection; however, I would point us toward something else to understand this passage better.
How is it that the Nations are blessed? Why is it essential to this passage?
It is because there is a choice to be made in this passage. This passage is more Jewish than we might suspect at first glance. Paul, in verse three, makes a clear distinction between ἐναρξάμενοι and ἐπιτελεῖσθε. That distinction is translated as “having begun” and “being made perfect,” respectively. The context of the passage is to point out to these Jewish people the folly of their ways. These Jewish Christians are foolishly expecting spiritual perfection to come from a source it cannot. Moreover, they expect their Gentile brothers and sisters to do the same—which should be to their shame, since they have the testimony of Abraham, pointing to the Gospel blessing to come.
Ultimately, seeing the Gentiles would be justified by faith (v. 9), should demand that they continue being perfected by faith, rather than by the flesh (i.e., an internal spiritual battle of the mind, instead of works and good deeds to gain God’s favor). If we can begin to see the clarity of this passage, we might understand what real spiritual warfare is and how we can grow in grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ.
Christian, you want to be perfected by grace? Then understand something about this passage and the Christian life: Spiritual warfare is not you waiting for a special energizing feeling; that is not spirituality. Spirituality is you training your thoughts, discernment, goals, conscience to be in submission to the truth found in the Scriptures and resisting the influential dogma of the world. It is about understanding your own weaknesses and training your mind to detect things that will cause you to stumble and sin.
Do you want to be perfected through the Spirit? Train your mind on truth. Build your ethics on the word of God, then go and live a life based on those ethics. Teach your mind to love Christ and His word. Allow that to direct your intentions and actions. Then live a life submitted to a consciousness trained under the word of God.
Be perfected with that same thing with which you were begun and reject earning favor with God through your “good deeds” and by your “being a good person.” However, I also want you to know that the result of training your mind is that your heart will follow. Furthermore, when your heart follows, you will attempt to live in a way that is pleasing to God. Repentance or μετάνοια means “a change of mind.” Start there.
That is the choice you have to make.