You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Paul was frustrated and more than a little upset with the Christians in Galatia. We would need to live there to fully understand the emotion behind these words.
If you have been following this reading program through the Old and New Testaments, I hope you are beginning to understand. We’ve reached a section in Deuteronomy where my first words written in my journal are “Here we go again.” More laws with brutal punishments, often sexist by our 21st century perspective. Do I really want to read much more of this? And I think that’s the point. The law served its purpose, but the law is not our purpose.
Once Paul had moved on from Galatia, other teachers arrived who were emphasizing the necessity of serving the law. Paul was frustrated that the Galatians would listen to such teaching – a teaching that Paul had also embraced until his conversion. What, then, was the purpose of the law? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed (Christ) to whom the promise referred had come. (verse 19) So the law was put in charge of us until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law. (verse 25)
It is easy to become legalistic. We all want a certain order and would like everyone around us to live according to that order. It seems that life would be easier if we had a rulebook (especially if I developed the rulebook!) to consult that would define right and wrong actions, standards of behavior, and consequences when the rules are broken. Easier as long as I am the law abiding, law enforcer. There was a time when I thought that’s why there was an advantage to being the Dad. Until my own children pointed out the inconsistencies in how I was applying the laws to my own life – and I had to realize there was a greater purpose in family life than laws.
The Old Testament was God-given, and remains part of Christian scripture – and Paul is not saying anything else. But because of the Christian story of God working in the lives of people from Abraham onward, the laws designed to set Israel apart and preserve it are now set aside. Not because the laws were bad or unnecessary, but they were good and effective and have now completed their task.
Today, my life purpose is faith in Jesus Christ. As Paul wrote in Galatians 2:20, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.