To the Galatians 3:1-29

3  O senseless Ga·laʹtians! Who has brought you under this evil influence,+ you who had Jesus Christ openly portrayed before you as nailed to the stake?+  This one thing I want to ask* you: Did you receive the spirit through works of law or because of faith in what you heard?+  Are you so senseless? After starting on a spiritual course, are you finishing on a fleshly course?+  Did you undergo so many sufferings for nothing? If it really was for nothing.  Therefore, does the one who supplies you the spirit and performs powerful works*+ among you do it because of your works of law or because of your faith in what you heard?  Just as Abraham “put faith in Jehovah, and it was counted to him as righteousness.”+  Surely you know that it is those who adhere to faith who are sons of Abraham.+  Now the scripture, foreseeing that God would declare people of the nations righteous through faith,+ declared the good news beforehand to Abraham, namely: “By means of you all the nations will be blessed.”+  So those who adhere to faith are being blessed together with Abraham, who had faith.+ 10  All those who depend on works of law are under a curse, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not remain in all the things written in the scroll of the Law by doing them.”+ 11  Moreover, it is evident that by law no one is declared righteous with God,+ because “the righteous one will live by reason of faith.”+ 12  Now the Law is not based on faith. Rather, “anyone who does these things will live by means of them.”+ 13  Christ purchased us,+ releasing us+ from the curse of the Law by becoming a curse instead of us,+ because it is written: “Accursed is every man hung upon a stake.”+ 14  This was so that the blessing of Abraham would come to the nations by means of Christ Jesus,+ so that we might receive the promised spirit+ through our faith. 15  Brothers, I speak using a human illustration: Once a covenant is validated, even if only by a man, no one annuls it or attaches additions to it. 16  Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his offspring.+ It does not say, “and to your descendants,” in the sense of many. Rather, it says, “and to your offspring,” in the sense of one, who is Christ.+ 17  Further, I say this: The Law, which came into being 430 years later,+ does not invalidate the covenant previously made by God, so as to abolish the promise.+ 18  For if the inheritance is based on law, it is no longer based on a promise; but God has kindly given it to Abraham through a promise.+ 19  Why, then, the Law? It was added to make transgressions manifest,+ until the offspring should arrive+ to whom the promise had been made; and it was transmitted through angels+ by the hand of a mediator.+ 20  Now there is no mediator when just one person is involved, but God is only one. 21  Is the Law, therefore, against the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, righteousness would actually have been by means of law. 22  But the Scripture handed all things over to the custody of sin, so that the promise resulting from faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those exercising faith. 23  However, before the faith arrived, we were being guarded under law, being handed over into custody, looking to the faith that was about to be revealed.+ 24  So the Law became our guardian leading to Christ,+ so that we might be declared righteous through faith.+ 25  But now that the faith has arrived,+ we are no longer under a guardian.+ 26  You are all, in fact, sons of God+ through your faith in Christ Jesus.+ 27  For all of you who were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.+ 28  There is neither Jew nor Greek,+ there is neither slave nor freeman,+ there is neither male nor female,+ for you are all one in union with Christ Jesus.+ 29  Moreover, if you belong to Christ, you are really Abraham’s offspring,+ heirs+ with reference to a promise.+

Footnotes

Lit., “learn from.”
Or “performs miracles.”

Study Notes

Christ actually died for nothing: Paul emphasizes that if a person could be declared righteous through law, that is, by performing works of the Mosaic Law, Christ’s death would have been unnecessary. In this verse, Paul also explains that anyone who tries to earn the gift of life is, in effect, rejecting the undeserved kindness of God.​—Ro 11:5, 6; Ga 5:4.

to the congregations of Galatia: When traveling through Galatia (see study note on Galatia in this verse) during Paul’s first missionary tour about 47-48 C.E., Paul and Barnabas visited such cities as Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe​—all located in the southern part of the region. (Ac 13:14, 51; 14:1, 5, 6) The men found many who were eager to learn the good news, so they established Christian congregations in those cities. (Ac 14:19-23) It seems that the seeds of Christianity sown among the Galatians bore good fruit. Timothy, for instance, came from Galatia. (Ac 16:1) “The congregations of Galatia” to whom Paul wrote were composed of a mixture of Jews and non-Jews, the latter including both circumcised proselytes and uncircumcised Gentiles. (Ac 13:14, 43; 16:1; Ga 5:2) No doubt some were of Celtic descent. The congregations in this region were also mentioned in other letters in the Christian Greek Scriptures. For example, about 55 C.E. when writing to the Corinthians, Paul mentioned the instructions he had given “to the congregations of Galatia” regarding the laying aside of contributions for the poor. (1Co 16:1, 2; Ga 2:10) Some years later (c. 62-64 C.E.), Peter addressed his first letter to, among others, “the temporary residents scattered about in . . . Galatia.”​—1Pe 1:1; see study note on Ga 3:1.

O senseless Galatians!: The Greek word for “senseless” (a·noʹe·tos) does not necessarily mean that the Galatian Christians lacked intelligence. In this context, it refers to “unwillingness to use one’s mental faculties in order to understand,” as one lexicon puts it. Paul had just reminded the Galatian Christians that they had been declared righteous, not because they had kept the Mosaic Law, but because they had faith in Jesus Christ. (Ga 2:15-21) Jesus had freed them from the condemnation of the Mosaic Law. (See study note on Ga 2:21.) Foolishly, some Galatians were forsaking that precious freedom and were returning to an obsolete Law that could only condemn them. (Ga 1:6) By exclaiming “O senseless Galatians!” Paul rebuked them for taking this step backward.

Galatians: Apparently Paul here refers to the Christians in the congregations located in those southern parts of Galatia where he had preached.​—See study note on Ga 1:2.

has brought you under this evil influence: The expression is translated from the Greek verb ba·skaiʹno, used only here in the Christian Greek Scriptures. The term was sometimes used to mean “to bewitch” or “to put a spell on,” which is how many English Bibles render this word. However, in ancient Greek, that verb also had a figurative meaning, so it did not always signify that a magical power was at work to mislead someone. Paul uses the term in the broader sense of leading others astray and wrongly influencing them. He is vividly characterizing the negative influence of those who were trying to mislead the Galatians.

After starting on a spiritual course: Lit., “After starting in spirit.” The Christians in Galatia had started to grow toward spiritual maturity. At the beginning of their course, they were acting in harmony with God’s holy spirit and following its guidance.

are you finishing on a fleshly course?: Lit., “are you being completed in flesh?” “After starting on a spiritual course,” the Galatian Christians were now being influenced by men who were not guided by God’s spirit, especially those who advocated circumcision and strict adherence to the Mosaic Law. (Ga 3:1; 5:2-6) Such “a fleshly course” could result in their failing to attain spiritual maturity and could endanger their prospects for eternal life.​—Ga 6:8.

Jehovah: In this quote from Ge 15:6, the divine name, represented by four Hebrew consonants (transliterated YHWH), occurs in the original Hebrew text. (See App. C1 and C2.) Existing Greek manuscripts have the word The·osʹ (God) here, perhaps reflecting the term used at Ge 15:6 in available copies of the Septuagint. This usage may explain why most translations use “God” here. However, the original Hebrew text from which this quotation is taken contains the Tetragrammaton, and therefore the divine name is used here in the main text. The whole phrase taken from Ge 15:6 is also quoted at Ro 4:3 and Jas 2:23.

you are really Abraham’s offspring: The primary part of the offspring of Abraham is Christ. (Ge 22:17; see study note on Ga 3:16.) Paul here indicates that others who “belong to Christ” are added as a secondary part of “Abraham’s offspring” (lit., “Abraham’s seed”). (Mr 9:41; 1Co 15:23) This secondary part will be made up of 144,000 spirit-anointed Christians. (Re 5:9, 10; 14:1, 4) Some of those Christians are natural Jews, but most are from the Gentile nations.​—Ac 3:25, 26; Ga 3:8, 9, 28.

sons of Abraham: The covenant of circumcision was originally made with Abraham. Apparently, “the false brothers” were arguing that Christians would be “sons of Abraham” only if they kept the Law. (Ga 2:4; 3:1, 2; Ge 17:10; see Glossary, “Circumcision.”) However, Paul explains that true “sons of Abraham” are those who adhere to faith, that is, those who have faith like that of Abraham.​—Ga 3:9; see study note on Ga 3:29.

a believer: Or “a faithful person.” The Greek word pi·stosʹ can describe someone who shows trust, or faith, in someone or something, that is, a believing person. On the other hand, the same word can also describe a person whom others find to be trustworthy, faithful, dependable. In some cases, as in this verse, both meanings are possible.

who had faith: In this verse, the Greek word pi·stosʹ, rendered “who had faith,” describes someone who puts trust in, or who has faith in, someone or something. It could also convey the meaning “faithful.”​—See study note on 2Co 6:15.

becoming a curse instead of us: The Mosaic Law stated that those who were under that covenant and who violated its laws would be cursed. (See study note on Ga 3:10.) In this verse, Paul quotes De 21:22, 23, which shows that the bodies of those who were “accursed of God” were hung on stakes. So Jesus had to be hung on a stake as a cursed criminal to benefit the Jewish people. He assumed the full weight of the curse that the Law imposed on them. His death thus enabled any Jew who chose to put faith in him as the Messiah to be relieved of that curse. Paul’s point here may echo Jesus’ words to the Pharisee Nicodemus.​—See study note on Joh 3:14.

it is written: “Cursed is everyone who”: Paul here quotes De 27:26, which shows that if the Jews violated the Law that they agreed to follow (Ex 24:3), they would come under the curses written in it. The word “cursed” (Greek, e·pi·ka·taʹra·tos) refers to being condemned by God. (See Glossary, “Curse.”) Paul showed that all the Jews needed to be redeemed not only from the sin of Adam but also from the curse of the Law.​—Ro 5:12; Ga 3:10-13; see study note on Ga 3:13.

But the righteous one will live by reason of faith: Some have called Ro 1:16, 17 the theme text of the book of Romans, since it expresses the book’s central thought: God is impartial and holds out the possibility of salvation to “everyone having faith.” (Ro 1:16) Throughout his letter to the Romans, Paul emphasizes the importance of faith, using Greek terms related to “faith” some 60 times. (Some examples are: Ro 3:30; 4:5, 11, 16; 5:1; 9:30; 10:17; 11:20; 12:3; 16:26.) Here at Ro 1:17, Paul quotes from Hab 2:4. Also, in two of his other letters, Paul quotes from Hab 2:4 in the context of encouraging Christians to show faith.​—Ga 3:11; Heb 10:38; see study note on by reason of faith in this verse.

by reason of faith: Here Paul quotes from Hab 2:4, which says “will live by his faithfulness.” In many languages, the ideas of being faithful and having faith are closely related. The Hebrew word rendered “faithfulness” (ʼemu·nahʹ) is related to the Hebrew term ʼa·manʹ (to be faithful; to be trustworthy), which can also convey the idea of having faith. (Ge 15:6; Ex 14:31; Isa 28:16) Therefore, Hab 2:4 (see ftn.) could also be rendered “will live by his faith.” Paul may have quoted the Septuagint rendering of Hab 2:4, which uses the Greek word piʹstis. This Greek word primarily conveys the thought of confidence, trust, firm persuasion. It is most often rendered “faith” (Mt 8:10; 17:20; Ro 1:8; 4:5), but depending on the context, it may also be understood to mean “faithfulness” or “trustworthiness” (Mt 23:23, ftn.; Ro 3:3). At Heb 11:1, Paul gives a divinely inspired definition of the term “faith” (Greek, piʹstis).​—See study note on But the righteous one will live by reason of faith in this verse.

the righteous one will live by reason of faith: Paul quotes from Hab 2:4 when he emphasizes that faith in Christ Jesus​—not works of the Mosaic Law​—is the true basis on which Christians can be declared righteous.​—Ro 10:3, 4; see study notes on Ro 1:17.

it is written: “Cursed is everyone who”: Paul here quotes De 27:26, which shows that if the Jews violated the Law that they agreed to follow (Ex 24:3), they would come under the curses written in it. The word “cursed” (Greek, e·pi·ka·taʹra·tos) refers to being condemned by God. (See Glossary, “Curse.”) Paul showed that all the Jews needed to be redeemed not only from the sin of Adam but also from the curse of the Law.​—Ro 5:12; Ga 3:10-13; see study note on Ga 3:13.

so the Son of man must be lifted up: Jesus here likens his being executed on the stake to the placing of the copper serpent on a pole in the wilderness. In order to live, the Israelites bitten by the poisonous serpents had to gaze at the copper serpent put up by Moses. Similarly, sinful humans who desire to gain everlasting life must look intently at Jesus by exercising faith in him. (Nu 21:4-9; Heb 12:2) To many, the fact that Jesus was put to death on a stake made him appear to be an evildoer and a sinner; according to the Mosaic Law, a person hung on a stake was considered cursed. (De 21:22, 23) Quoting from this passage of the Law, Paul explains that Jesus had to be hung on a stake to release the Jews “from the curse of the Law by becoming a curse instead of [them].”​—Ga 3:13; 1Pe 2:24.

a stake: Or “a tree.” The Greek word xyʹlon (lit., “wood”) is here used as a synonym for the Greek word stau·rosʹ (rendered “torture stake”) and describes the instrument of execution to which Jesus was nailed. In the Christian Greek Scriptures, Luke, Paul, and Peter used the word xyʹlon in this sense five times altogether. (Ac 5:30; 10:39; 13:29; Ga 3:13; 1Pe 2:24) In the Septuagint, xyʹlon is used at De 21:22, 23 to translate the corresponding Hebrew word ʽets (meaning “tree; wood; piece of wood”) in the sentence “and you have hung him on a stake.” When Paul quotes this scripture at Ga 3:13, xyʹlon is used in the sentence: “Accursed is every man hung upon a stake.” This Greek word is also used in the Septuagint at Ezr 6:11 (1 Esdras 6:31, LXX) to translate the Aramaic word ʼaʽ, corresponding to the Hebrew term ʽets. There it is said regarding violators of a Persian king’s decree: “A timber will be pulled out of his house and he will be lifted up and fastened to it.” The fact that Bible writers used xyʹlon as a synonym for stau·rosʹ provides added evidence that Jesus was executed on an upright stake without a crossbeam, for that is what xyʹlon in this special sense means.

becoming a curse instead of us: The Mosaic Law stated that those who were under that covenant and who violated its laws would be cursed. (See study note on Ga 3:10.) In this verse, Paul quotes De 21:22, 23, which shows that the bodies of those who were “accursed of God” were hung on stakes. So Jesus had to be hung on a stake as a cursed criminal to benefit the Jewish people. He assumed the full weight of the curse that the Law imposed on them. His death thus enabled any Jew who chose to put faith in him as the Messiah to be relieved of that curse. Paul’s point here may echo Jesus’ words to the Pharisee Nicodemus.​—See study note on Joh 3:14.

a stake: See study note on Ac 5:30.

the covenant: Or “the agreement.” (See study note on Ga 3:15 and Glossary, “Covenant.”) The first-century Christians would have seen the Greek term for “covenant” in the Septuagint as the rendering of the Hebrew term berithʹ. That term occurs more than 250 times in the Hebrew Scriptures in the sense of a “covenant” or an “agreement.”​—Ex 24:7, 8; Ps 25:10; 83:5, ftn.; see study note on 2Co 3:14.

a covenant: The Greek word di·a·theʹke is used 33 times in the Christian Greek Scriptures, always in the sense of “a covenant” or an “agreement.” (Mt 26:28; Lu 22:20; 1Co 11:25; Ga 3:17; 4:24; Heb 8:6, 8; 10:16, 29; 12:24) A number of Bible translations render the Greek word di·a·theʹke as a person’s “will,” or testament, in this verse. However, in view of the immediate context in which God’s covenant with Abraham is discussed (Ga 3:16-18), the rendering “covenant” seems appropriate in this verse also.​—See study note on Ga 3:17.

you are really Abraham’s offspring: The primary part of the offspring of Abraham is Christ. (Ge 22:17; see study note on Ga 3:16.) Paul here indicates that others who “belong to Christ” are added as a secondary part of “Abraham’s offspring” (lit., “Abraham’s seed”). (Mr 9:41; 1Co 15:23) This secondary part will be made up of 144,000 spirit-anointed Christians. (Re 5:9, 10; 14:1, 4) Some of those Christians are natural Jews, but most are from the Gentile nations.​—Ac 3:25, 26; Ga 3:8, 9, 28.

the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his offspring: Under inspiration, Paul identifies Jesus Christ as the primary part of the offspring of Abraham. (The Greek word sperʹma, literally “seed,” is often rendered “offspring” in connection with Jehovah’s promises about the Messiah. See App. A2.) After the rebellion in Eden, Jehovah promised that a “woman” would produce an “offspring” who would crush the head of the serpent, Satan. (Ge 3:15) Jehovah’s covenant with Abraham stated that his offspring would bring blessings to mankind. (Ge 12:1-3, 7; 13:14, 15; 17:7; 22:15-18; 24:7; Ga 3:8) God also revealed that the offspring would be a descendant of King David of the tribe of Judah, which was true of Jesus. (Ge 49:10; Ps 89:3, 4; Lu 1:30-33; see study note on your descendants . . . your offspring in this verse.) At Ga 3:26-29, Paul indicates that in the spiritual fulfillment of the promise to Abraham, there would be a secondary part of Abraham’s offspring.​—See study note on Ga 3:29.

It does not say: Or possibly, “He does not say.” In Greek, the reference could be either to the scripture that Paul is quoting or to God. The implied subject is “it,” referring to the scripture that Paul is quoting. However, it is possible to understand that “He,” referring to God, is the subject of the sentence.

your descendants . . . your offspring: Lit., “your seeds . . . your seed.” Paul refers to God’s promises to Abraham and his “offspring.” (Ge 12:7; 13:14, 15; 17:7; 22:17, 18; 24:7) In those promises regarding Abraham’s “offspring” (lit., “seed”), the Hebrew and Greek terms used are in the singular form. However, they often refer to such offspring in a collective sense. Here, Paul contrasts the Greek word sperʹma in plural (rendered “descendants”) with the singular form (rendered “offspring”). He makes this distinction to show that when speaking of the blessings to come through Abraham’s offspring, God made primary reference to one person, namely, Christ. The promise that all the families of the earth would be blessed by means of Abraham’s “offspring” could not have included all of his descendants, since the offspring of his son Ishmael and those of his sons by Keturah were not used to bless humankind. The promised offspring was to come through Isaac (Ge 21:12; Heb 11:18); then the line of descent was narrowed down to Isaac’s son Jacob (Ge 28:13, 14), then to the tribe of Judah (Ge 49:10), and then to the line of David (2Sa 7:12-16). Jesus was a descendant of Abraham, from that one line, or family. (Mt 1:1-16; Lu 3:23-34) Therefore, the Jews in the first century C.E. were actually looking for one person to come as the Messiah, or Christ, as the deliverer. (Lu 3:15; Joh 1:25; 7:41, 42) They also thought that they, Abraham’s literal offspring, would be the favored people and as such God’s children.​—Joh 8:39-41.

a covenant: The Greek word di·a·theʹke is used 33 times in the Christian Greek Scriptures, always in the sense of “a covenant” or an “agreement.” (Mt 26:28; Lu 22:20; 1Co 11:25; Ga 3:17; 4:24; Heb 8:6, 8; 10:16, 29; 12:24) A number of Bible translations render the Greek word di·a·theʹke as a person’s “will,” or testament, in this verse. However, in view of the immediate context in which God’s covenant with Abraham is discussed (Ga 3:16-18), the rendering “covenant” seems appropriate in this verse also.​—See study note on Ga 3:17.

when the old covenant is read: Paul is speaking of the Law covenant recorded in the books of Exodus through Deuteronomy, which make up only part of the Hebrew Scriptures. He calls it “the old covenant” because it was replaced by “a new covenant” and was canceled on the basis of Jesus’ death on the torture stake.​—Jer 31:31-34; Heb 8:13; Col 2:14; see study notes on Ac 13:15; 15:21.

our guardian leading to Christ: The Greek word for “guardian” (pai·da·go·gosʹ) that Paul used in this illustration literally means “child leader” and may also be rendered “tutor.” The word is used only at Ga 3:24, 25 and 1Co 4:15, where Paul compared Christian ministers to such guardians. (See study note on 1Co 4:15.) With this beautiful metaphor, Paul likens the Mosaic Law to a guardian, or tutor, who would daily accompany a young boy to school. Such a guardian was not the actual teacher; rather, he was responsible for protecting the boy, for helping him to adhere to the standards of the family, and for administering discipline. Similarly, the Mosaic Law strictly upheld God’s standards and helped the Israelites to see that they were sinful, incapable of keeping the Law perfectly. Humble ones who accepted the guidance of this “guardian” understood that they were in need of the Messiah, or Christ, God’s only means of salvation.​—Ac 4:12.

430 years: Paul here refers to the time that elapsed between the making of the Abrahamic covenant and the Mosaic Law covenant. It seems that the covenant between Jehovah and Abraham took effect in 1943 B.C.E. when Abraham and his family crossed the Euphrates River on their way to Canaan, the land that God had promised to their descendants. (Ge 12:4, 5, 7) This apparently took place on the 14th day of the month later known as Nisan. That conclusion is based on Ex 12:41, which states that Jehovah freed his people from Egyptian bondage “430 years” later, in 1513 B.C.E., “on this very day.”

the covenant: Or “the agreement.” (See study note on Ga 3:15 and Glossary, “Covenant.”) The first-century Christians would have seen the Greek term for “covenant” in the Septuagint as the rendering of the Hebrew term berithʹ. That term occurs more than 250 times in the Hebrew Scriptures in the sense of a “covenant” or an “agreement.”​—Ex 24:7, 8; Ps 25:10; 83:5, ftn.; see study note on 2Co 3:14.

the covenant previously made by God: This refers to the covenant that God made with Abraham. That covenant apparently went into effect in 1943 B.C.E. when Abraham crossed the Euphrates River. (Ge 12:1-7) The Law covenant that was made 430 years later, in 1513 B.C.E., did not invalidate, or negate, the Abrahamic covenant but was added to it. It directed the people toward the offspring of Abraham, Jesus Christ.​—Ga 3:15, 16; see study note on Ga 3:24.

transgression: The Greek pa·raʹba·sis refers basically to “overstepping,” that is, going beyond certain limits or boundaries, especially as in breaking a law.

and the power for sin is the Law: Or “and the Law gives sin its power.” Paul here refers to the Mosaic Law. It clearly spelled out what constitutes sin, identifying many acts and even attitudes as sinful. (Ro 3:19, 20; Ga 3:19) In this sense, the Law gave power to sin. As a result, the Israelites would become aware of their sinfulness, their liability to God, and their need for the Messiah.​—Ro 6:23.

the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his offspring: Under inspiration, Paul identifies Jesus Christ as the primary part of the offspring of Abraham. (The Greek word sperʹma, literally “seed,” is often rendered “offspring” in connection with Jehovah’s promises about the Messiah. See App. A2.) After the rebellion in Eden, Jehovah promised that a “woman” would produce an “offspring” who would crush the head of the serpent, Satan. (Ge 3:15) Jehovah’s covenant with Abraham stated that his offspring would bring blessings to mankind. (Ge 12:1-3, 7; 13:14, 15; 17:7; 22:15-18; 24:7; Ga 3:8) God also revealed that the offspring would be a descendant of King David of the tribe of Judah, which was true of Jesus. (Ge 49:10; Ps 89:3, 4; Lu 1:30-33; see study note on your descendants . . . your offspring in this verse.) At Ga 3:26-29, Paul indicates that in the spiritual fulfillment of the promise to Abraham, there would be a secondary part of Abraham’s offspring.​—See study note on Ga 3:29.

your descendants . . . your offspring: Lit., “your seeds . . . your seed.” Paul refers to God’s promises to Abraham and his “offspring.” (Ge 12:7; 13:14, 15; 17:7; 22:17, 18; 24:7) In those promises regarding Abraham’s “offspring” (lit., “seed”), the Hebrew and Greek terms used are in the singular form. However, they often refer to such offspring in a collective sense. Here, Paul contrasts the Greek word sperʹma in plural (rendered “descendants”) with the singular form (rendered “offspring”). He makes this distinction to show that when speaking of the blessings to come through Abraham’s offspring, God made primary reference to one person, namely, Christ. The promise that all the families of the earth would be blessed by means of Abraham’s “offspring” could not have included all of his descendants, since the offspring of his son Ishmael and those of his sons by Keturah were not used to bless humankind. The promised offspring was to come through Isaac (Ge 21:12; Heb 11:18); then the line of descent was narrowed down to Isaac’s son Jacob (Ge 28:13, 14), then to the tribe of Judah (Ge 49:10), and then to the line of David (2Sa 7:12-16). Jesus was a descendant of Abraham, from that one line, or family. (Mt 1:1-16; Lu 3:23-34) Therefore, the Jews in the first century C.E. were actually looking for one person to come as the Messiah, or Christ, as the deliverer. (Lu 3:15; Joh 1:25; 7:41, 42) They also thought that they, Abraham’s literal offspring, would be the favored people and as such God’s children.​—Joh 8:39-41.

as transmitted by angels: Stephen’s account delivered before the Sanhedrin includes a number of facts concerning Jewish history that are not found in the Hebrew Scriptures. One example is the role of angels in giving the Mosaic Law. (Ga 3:19; Heb 2:1, 2) For other details in Stephen’s speech that cannot be found in the Hebrew Scriptures, see study notes on Ac 7:22, 23, 30.

was added: The Greek word rendered “was added” is apparently used by Paul to express the temporary nature of the Mosaic Law, especially when compared with the more enduring Abrahamic covenant and its fulfillment regarding the promised “offspring.”​—Ge 3:15; 22:18; Ga 3:29.

to make transgressions manifest: Paul shows that a major purpose of the Mosaic Law was “to make transgressions manifest,” exposing Israel and all mankind as imperfect sinners before God. (For a comment on the Greek word for “transgression,” see study note on Ro 4:15.) The Law clearly spelled out the full range and scope of sin. Paul could therefore say that it caused trespassing and sin to “increase” in that so many acts and even attitudes were now identified as sinful. (Ro 5:20; 7:7-11; see study note on 1Co 15:56; compare Ps 40:12.) All those who tried to follow the Law found themselves legally convicted by it because it showed up their sinfulness. Its sacrifices continually served to remind them of their sinful state. (Heb 10:1-4, 11) All men needed a perfect sacrifice that could completely atone for their sins.​—Ro 10:4; see study note on the offspring in this verse.

until: Paul’s use of the word “until” indicates that the Law was not intended to last forever. When it had accomplished its purpose, the Law covenant ended.​—Ro 7:6; Ga 3:24, 25.

the offspring: Lit., “the seed.” (See App. A2.) In this context, “the offspring” refers to Jesus Christ.​—See study notes on Ga 3:16.

transmitted through angels: The Hebrew Scriptures do not specifically indicate that angels transmitted the Law covenant. However, the inspired statement found here​—as well as the statements recorded at Ac 7:53 (see study note) and Heb 2:2, 3​—makes that clear. Apparently, Jehovah authorized angels to speak as his representatives to Moses and then to give Moses the two tablets of the Testimony. (Ex 19:9, 11, 18-20; 24:12; 31:18) Still, Jehovah was the actual Lawgiver, and Moses was His appointed mediator of the covenant between God and Israel.

a mediator: The unnamed mediator was Moses. He acted as the intermediary between Jehovah and the nation of Israel for establishing a covenant, or a legally binding agreement, between God and the nation. (See Glossary, “Mediator.”) The Greek word me·siʹtes, translated “mediator,” occurs six times in the Christian Greek Scriptures. (Ga 3:19, 20; 1Ti 2:5; Heb 8:6; 9:15; 12:24) It is a legal term. According to one lexicon, it means “one who intervenes between two, either in order to make or restore peace and friendship, or to form a compact [that is, an agreement], or for ratifying a covenant.” In mediating the Law covenant, Moses helped the nation of Israel to keep the covenant and to receive its benefits. For example, Moses officiated at the inauguration of the covenant. (Ex 24:3-8; Heb 9:18-22) He installed the priests and put the work of the priesthood into operation. (Le 8:1-36; Heb 7:11) He also conveyed a body of more than 600 laws to the Israelites and pleaded that Jehovah spare them from punishment.​—Nu 16:20-22; 21:7; De 9:18-20, 25-29.

a mediator: The unnamed mediator was Moses. He acted as the intermediary between Jehovah and the nation of Israel for establishing a covenant, or a legally binding agreement, between God and the nation. (See Glossary, “Mediator.”) The Greek word me·siʹtes, translated “mediator,” occurs six times in the Christian Greek Scriptures. (Ga 3:19, 20; 1Ti 2:5; Heb 8:6; 9:15; 12:24) It is a legal term. According to one lexicon, it means “one who intervenes between two, either in order to make or restore peace and friendship, or to form a compact [that is, an agreement], or for ratifying a covenant.” In mediating the Law covenant, Moses helped the nation of Israel to keep the covenant and to receive its benefits. For example, Moses officiated at the inauguration of the covenant. (Ex 24:3-8; Heb 9:18-22) He installed the priests and put the work of the priesthood into operation. (Le 8:1-36; Heb 7:11) He also conveyed a body of more than 600 laws to the Israelites and pleaded that Jehovah spare them from punishment.​—Nu 16:20-22; 21:7; De 9:18-20, 25-29.

Hear, O Israel: This quote from De 6:4, 5 is more extensive than in the parallel accounts of Matthew and Luke. Included here is also the introduction to the so-called Shema, or what amounts to the Jewish confession of faith recorded at De 6:4-9; 11:13-21. The name Shema is taken from the first word of the verse in Hebrew, shemaʽʹ, meaning “Listen!; Hear!”

Jehovah our God is one Jehovah: Or “Jehovah is our God; Jehovah is one,” or “Jehovah is our God; there is one Jehovah.” In the Hebrew text of De 6:4, quoted here, the word for “one” can imply being unique, the one and only. Jehovah is the only true God; no false gods can compare to him. (2Sa 7:22; Ps 96:5; Isa 2:18-20) In the book of Deuteronomy, Moses reminded the Israelites that their worship of Jehovah must be exclusive. They were not to follow the peoples around them, who worshipped various gods and goddesses. Some of those false gods were viewed as ruling over certain parts of nature. Others were separate forms of a particular deity. The Hebrew word for “one” also suggests unity and oneness of purpose and activity. Jehovah God is not divided or unpredictable. Rather, he is always faithful, consistent, loyal, and true. The discussion recorded at Mr 12:28-34 is referred to in all three of the synoptic Gospels, but only Mark includes the introductory part: “Hear, O Israel, Jehovah our God is one Jehovah.” The commandment to love God follows this statement about Jehovah being one, indicating that his worshippers’ love for him must also be undivided.

there is no mediator when just one person is involved: Paul is discussing the covenant that Jehovah made with Abraham. Jehovah made this covenant or promise, and it was up to Him to fulfill it. He set forth no conditions that Abraham had to meet. (Ga 3:18) On the other hand, the Law covenant involved two parties. It was made between Jehovah and the nation of Israel, with Moses as mediator. (See study note on Ga 3:19.) The Israelites agreed to the terms of the covenant, making a sacred promise to obey the Law.​—Ex 24:3-8; Ga 3:17, 19; see Glossary “Covenant.”

God is only one: Greek manuscripts read “God” here, but a few translations of the Christian Greek Scriptures into Hebrew and other languages use the divine name. Paul’s statement echoes the words of De 6:4, which reads: “Jehovah our God is one Jehovah.” Jesus quotes from De 6:4, as recorded at Mr 12:29. (See study notes.) Paul alludes to the same scripture at Ro 3:30 and 1Co 8:4.

to make transgressions manifest: Paul shows that a major purpose of the Mosaic Law was “to make transgressions manifest,” exposing Israel and all mankind as imperfect sinners before God. (For a comment on the Greek word for “transgression,” see study note on Ro 4:15.) The Law clearly spelled out the full range and scope of sin. Paul could therefore say that it caused trespassing and sin to “increase” in that so many acts and even attitudes were now identified as sinful. (Ro 5:20; 7:7-11; see study note on 1Co 15:56; compare Ps 40:12.) All those who tried to follow the Law found themselves legally convicted by it because it showed up their sinfulness. Its sacrifices continually served to remind them of their sinful state. (Heb 10:1-4, 11) All men needed a perfect sacrifice that could completely atone for their sins.​—Ro 10:4; see study note on the offspring in this verse.

custody of sin: The Greek verb rendered “handed . . . over to the custody of” means “to enclose together; to hem in,” implying that there is little or no prospect of escape. In its literal sense, it could refer to catching fish by enclosing them in a net. (Lu 5:6) The word vividly conveys the idea that imperfect humans are trapped in their sinful state. Paul says that “the Scripture handed all things,” that is, all the descendants of sinful Adam and Eve, “over to the custody of sin.” The Scripture, which contained the Law, clearly showed how sinful each human is in God’s eyes. (See study note on Ga 3:19.) Only Christ could offer hope of escape from this terrible custody.

custody of sin: The Greek verb rendered “handed . . . over to the custody of” means “to enclose together; to hem in,” implying that there is little or no prospect of escape. In its literal sense, it could refer to catching fish by enclosing them in a net. (Lu 5:6) The word vividly conveys the idea that imperfect humans are trapped in their sinful state. Paul says that “the Scripture handed all things,” that is, all the descendants of sinful Adam and Eve, “over to the custody of sin.” The Scripture, which contained the Law, clearly showed how sinful each human is in God’s eyes. (See study note on Ga 3:19.) Only Christ could offer hope of escape from this terrible custody.

before the faith arrived: That is, the faith in Jesus Christ.

handed over into custody: Paul has just shown that humans are in “the custody of sin.” (See study note on Ga 3:22.) In this verse, he uses the same Greek word (rendered “handed over into custody”) to emphasize a different point. The Israelites were being guarded by the Mosaic Law, and that Law guided them “to the faith [in Christ] that was about to be revealed.”

guardians: Or “tutors.” In Bible times, many wealthy Greek and Roman households included a guardian, or tutor. The guardian was a trusted slave or a hired worker. It was his responsibility to accompany a child to and from school and to protect the child from physical or moral harm. The guardian might also be responsible for a measure of the child’s moral instruction and even discipline. (Ga 3:24, 25) Paul here uses the term figuratively to describe the men who were entrusted with the spiritual care of the Corinthian Christians.​—1Co 3:6, 10.

our guardian leading to Christ: The Greek word for “guardian” (pai·da·go·gosʹ) that Paul used in this illustration literally means “child leader” and may also be rendered “tutor.” The word is used only at Ga 3:24, 25 and 1Co 4:15, where Paul compared Christian ministers to such guardians. (See study note on 1Co 4:15.) With this beautiful metaphor, Paul likens the Mosaic Law to a guardian, or tutor, who would daily accompany a young boy to school. Such a guardian was not the actual teacher; rather, he was responsible for protecting the boy, for helping him to adhere to the standards of the family, and for administering discipline. Similarly, the Mosaic Law strictly upheld God’s standards and helped the Israelites to see that they were sinful, incapable of keeping the Law perfectly. Humble ones who accepted the guidance of this “guardian” understood that they were in need of the Messiah, or Christ, God’s only means of salvation.​—Ac 4:12.

our guardian leading to Christ: The Greek word for “guardian” (pai·da·go·gosʹ) that Paul used in this illustration literally means “child leader” and may also be rendered “tutor.” The word is used only at Ga 3:24, 25 and 1Co 4:15, where Paul compared Christian ministers to such guardians. (See study note on 1Co 4:15.) With this beautiful metaphor, Paul likens the Mosaic Law to a guardian, or tutor, who would daily accompany a young boy to school. Such a guardian was not the actual teacher; rather, he was responsible for protecting the boy, for helping him to adhere to the standards of the family, and for administering discipline. Similarly, the Mosaic Law strictly upheld God’s standards and helped the Israelites to see that they were sinful, incapable of keeping the Law perfectly. Humble ones who accepted the guidance of this “guardian” understood that they were in need of the Messiah, or Christ, God’s only means of salvation.​—Ac 4:12.

now that the faith has arrived: Jesus is the only person who fulfilled the Law perfectly. So Paul could say that the faith​—that is, perfect faith​—had arrived. By fulfilling the Law, Jesus gave his followers the opportunity to have an approved standing with Jehovah God. He thus became the “Perfecter of our faith.” (Heb 12:2) Christ would be with his disciples “all the days until the conclusion of the system of things” (Mt 28:20), so there is no need to go back to the care of the guardian. (See study note on Ga 3:24.) Using this reasoning, Paul makes the point that the Mosaic Law became obsolete with the arrival of this perfected faith based on Jesus Christ.

baptized into Christ Jesus: At the time of Jesus’ baptism in water, God anointed him with holy spirit, making him Christ, or Anointed One. (Ac 10:38) At the time of his anointing, Jesus was also begotten as a son of God in a spiritual sense. (See study note on Mt 3:17.) After God baptized Jesus with holy spirit, the way was open for Jesus’ followers also to be baptized with holy spirit. (Mt 3:11; Ac 1:5) Those who, like Jesus, become spirit-begotten sons of God have to be “baptized into Christ Jesus,” that is, into the anointed Jesus. When Jehovah anoints followers of Christ with holy spirit, they are united with Jesus and become members of the congregation, that is, the body of Christ, he being the head. (1Co 12:12, 13, 27; Col 1:18) Such followers of Christ are also “baptized into his death.”​—See study note on baptized into his death in this verse.

baptized into Moses: Or “immersed into Moses.” Paul here speaks about a symbolic baptism, or immersion, of the congregation of Israel. In this case, the Greek word ba·ptiʹzo signifies that the Israelite forefathers were being entrusted to Moses as their God-given leader. Jehovah did the baptizing by means of his angel. As the Israelites moved eastward on the bed of the Red Sea, they were surrounded by the waters and hidden from the pursuing army of Pharaoh by the cloud. God then figuratively lifted them out of these waters by bringing them onto the eastern shores as a free nation. (Ex 14:19, 22, 24, 25) To experience this baptism, the Israelites had to unite themselves with Moses and follow him through the sea. So this symbolic baptism was “into Moses” in that the people had to follow his leadership.

put on the Lord: Or “imitate the qualities (manners) of the Lord.” The Greek word for “put on” literally means “to clothe (dress) oneself.” (Lu 15:22; Ac 12:21) It is here used figuratively in the sense of taking on the characteristics of someone. The same Greek word is used at Col 3:10, 12 in the expression “clothe yourselves with.” Paul’s admonition at Ro 13:14 means that Christians should follow Jesus closely, figuratively clothing themselves with his example and his disposition, striving to be Christlike.

baptized into Christ: This expression shows that anointed Christians enter into a special relationship with their Lord when they are anointed, or baptized with holy spirit. They become part of the “one body,” the congregation of anointed ones; Jesus Christ is the head of that body. (1Co 12:13; Mr 1:8; Ac 1:5; Re 20:6; see study note on Ro 6:3.) At 1Co 10:2, Paul uses a similar illustration, saying that a people can be “baptized into” a leader or liberator.​—See study note on 1Co 10:2.

have put on Christ: Or “have clothed yourselves with Christ.” The Greek verb also occurs at Col 3:10, 12. One lexicon says that this expression means “to become so possessed of the mind of Christ as in thought, feeling, and action to resemble him and, as it were, reproduce the life he lived.” In his letter to the Romans, Paul uses the same Greek verb in a similar expression.​—See study note on Ro 13:14.

the Greek: In the first century C.E., the Greek word Helʹlen (meaning “Greek”) did not necessarily refer only to natives of Greece or people of Greek origin. When Paul here talks about everyone having faith and mentions “the Greek” together with “the Jew,” he is apparently using the term “Greek” in a broader sense to represent all non-Jewish peoples. (Ro 2:9, 10; 3:9; 10:12; 1Co 10:32; 12:13) This was doubtless due to the prominence and preeminence of the Greek language and culture throughout the Roman Empire.

the Israel of God: This expression, found only once in the Scriptures, refers to spiritual Israel rather than to natural descendants of Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel. (Ge 32:22-28) The preceding verse (Ga 6:15) shows that circumcision is not required of those making up “the Israel of God.” The prophet Hosea foretold that God would show favor to a people that would include Gentiles. God said: “I will say to those not my people: ‘You are my people.’” (Ho 2:23; Ro 9:22-25) While natural Jews and proselytes were included in spiritual Israel (Ac 1:13-15; 2:41; 4:4), they amounted to “only a remnant” of that rejected nation (Isa 10:21, 22; Ro 9:27). Paul later wrote to the Romans: “Not all who descend from Israel are really ‘Israel.’”​—Ro 9:6; see also study notes on Ac 15:14; Ro 2:29; 9:27; 11:26.

the Lord’s freedman . . . a freeman: A freedman (Greek, a·pe·leuʹthe·ros) was one who had been emancipated from slavery. In the Scriptures, this Greek term is used only here. However, “freedmen” were well-known in Corinth because a large number of them had populated the city when it was rebuilt by Rome. Some of them became Christians. Other Christians had never been slaves. Paul refers to one person of that group as a “freeman” (Greek, e·leuʹthe·ros), or one who was born free. However, Christians of both groups were “bought with a price,” Jesus’ precious blood. Therefore, a Christian who was a “freedman” or one who was “a freeman” in a physical sense was a slave of God and of Jesus Christ, subject to obeying their commands. In the Christian congregation, there was no difference between a slave, a freedman, and a freeman.​—1Co 7:23; Ga 3:28; Heb 2:14, 15; 1Pe 1:18, 19; 2:16; see Glossary, “Freeman; Freedman.”

neither Jew nor Greek: The term “Jew” refers to those of Jewish descent, the Israelites. (See Glossary, “Jew.”) The term “Greek” is apparently used here in a broader sense to represent all non-Jewish peoples, or Gentiles. (See study note on Ro 1:16.) Thus, from God’s standpoint, it is no longer natural descent from Abraham that determines who are “really Abraham’s offspring.” There is no distinction based on race or nationality because God’s people “are all one.” (Ga 3:26-29; Col 3:11) God shows his impartiality by choosing a new nation, “the Israel of God,” which is made up of both Jews and Gentiles. (Eph 2:11-18; see study note on Ga 6:16.) It was fitting for Paul to emphasize this truth to Christians in the province of Galatia, where there was a mix of Jews, Greeks, Romans, and local peoples.

neither slave nor freeman: A “slave” was an individual who was owned by a fellow man. A “freeman” was one who was born free, possessing full rights of citizenship. (See Glossary, “Freeman; Freedman.”) From God’s viewpoint, there is no difference between a Christian who was a slave and one who was a freeman. All Christians have been bought with Jesus’ precious blood and are slaves of God and of Christ Jesus.​—1Co 7:22 (see study note), 23; 1Pe 1:18, 19; 2:16.

the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his offspring: Under inspiration, Paul identifies Jesus Christ as the primary part of the offspring of Abraham. (The Greek word sperʹma, literally “seed,” is often rendered “offspring” in connection with Jehovah’s promises about the Messiah. See App. A2.) After the rebellion in Eden, Jehovah promised that a “woman” would produce an “offspring” who would crush the head of the serpent, Satan. (Ge 3:15) Jehovah’s covenant with Abraham stated that his offspring would bring blessings to mankind. (Ge 12:1-3, 7; 13:14, 15; 17:7; 22:15-18; 24:7; Ga 3:8) God also revealed that the offspring would be a descendant of King David of the tribe of Judah, which was true of Jesus. (Ge 49:10; Ps 89:3, 4; Lu 1:30-33; see study note on your descendants . . . your offspring in this verse.) At Ga 3:26-29, Paul indicates that in the spiritual fulfillment of the promise to Abraham, there would be a secondary part of Abraham’s offspring.​—See study note on Ga 3:29.

you are really Abraham’s offspring: The primary part of the offspring of Abraham is Christ. (Ge 22:17; see study note on Ga 3:16.) Paul here indicates that others who “belong to Christ” are added as a secondary part of “Abraham’s offspring” (lit., “Abraham’s seed”). (Mr 9:41; 1Co 15:23) This secondary part will be made up of 144,000 spirit-anointed Christians. (Re 5:9, 10; 14:1, 4) Some of those Christians are natural Jews, but most are from the Gentile nations.​—Ac 3:25, 26; Ga 3:8, 9, 28.

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A Guardian
A Guardian

The Greek word pai·da·go·gosʹ, translated “guardian,” or “tutor,” at Ga 3:24, 25, paints a specific word picture. In the Greco-Roman world, families with sufficient financial means would entrust their young boys to the care of a guardian. Typically, the guardian was a slave, but at times he was a contracted worker. Some families paid a considerable amount of money to purchase or hire a guardian. The guardian would care for a child from about the age of six or seven to adulthood. He accompanied the child at all times outside the household, protecting him from danger. He also monitored the child’s conduct, providing him with moral guidance, correction, and discipline. The Greek word for guardian also appears in Paul’s first inspired letter to the Corinthians.​—1Co 4:15.