Paul sounds a bit annoyed at the outset of chapter three. Apparently the Galatians have been listening to some false teaching and lost their focus on the truth they first believed. There seems to be some confusion about the role of the law in securing salvation—Paul has to remind them of the place the law does have and the more important freedom-securing role of faith.
I love what this chapter has to say. In verse eight, we learn that “ the Scriptures looked forward to this time when God would make the Gentiles right in his sight because of their faith.” I happen to be a Gentile, and I love that there was a provision for my inclusion in God’splan all along!
But more to the core of the message, I celebrate the release from bondage to the law. Of course we are still to keep God’s laws, because he designed them for our protection and well-being. But being right with God doesn’t depend on how good I am. Rather, God’s promise to Abraham of a relationship with him predates the law, and the later gift of the law doesn’t wipe out the earlier promise: “For if the inheritance could be received by keeping the law, then it would not be the result of accepting God’s promise. But God graciously gave it to Abraham as a promise” (v 18).
Somewhere along the way in my childhood, I internalized that my being okay with my parents, teachers, the world, and God depended on me doing everything right and on doing all things well. That’s living in bondage—walking in fear of messing up somehow and when we do mess up adding a new burden of shame to the load we carry.
Although I grew up in a Christian home with many advantages I am grateful for, it has taken a long time to break free of this pattern of thinking, this deeply rooted way of feeling about myself. I’m so thankful to look back on the path that God’s taken me down and see how much progress he’s made in me in this area. I’m sure I haven’t fully internalized this truth yet, which is why I’m glad that Paul took pen to paper (quill to papyrus?) to correct the Galatians’ thinking and that this truth has endured for me to read and mull.