Introduction to the New Testament: Romans to Revelation - Lesson 6

Galatians (Part 3)

Comparing faith and works in Judaism and Christianity. 

Craig Blomberg
Introduction to the New Testament: Romans to Revelation
Lesson 6
Watching Now
Galatians (Part 3)

Letters of Paul

Part 1

I. Galatians: The Charter of Christian Liberty

A. Acts and Galatians on Paul's Trips to Jerusalem

1. Acts

a. Brief meeting with apostles (9:19-29)

2. Galatians

B. Galatians as an "Apologetic Letter"

1. Epistolary prescript (1:1-5)

2. Exordium: statement of problem (1:6-11)

3. Narratio: thesis to be demonstrated and presentation of facts (1:12-2:14)

4. Propositio: summary of points of agreement and what remains contested (2:15-21)

5. Probatio: proofs or support (3:1-4:31)

6. Exhortatio: parenesis (5:1-6:20)

7. Epistolary postscript (6:11-18)

C. Galatians Outline

1. Greetings (1:1-5)

2. Defending Paul's apostolic authority (1:6-2:14)

3. Defining justification by faith rather than law (2:15-4:31)

4. Describing freedom in Christ through the Spirit (5:1-6:10)

5. Closing (6:11-18)

D. Being Harsh vs. Being Nice

1. Nice

2. Harsh

E. Paul vs. the Judaizers

1. Judaizers: faith in Christ + works of the Law = justification

2. Paul: faith in Christ = justification + works of the Spirit

F. History in Romans and Galatians

1. Promise – Abraham

2. Law – Moses

3. Fulfillment – Jesus

G. Law vs. Gospel

1. Before Christ

2. After Christ

H. Tertius Usus Legis – ("Three Uses of the Law") according to the Protestant Reformers

1. As a deterrent to sin for unbelievers

2. To point out our need for a Savior

3. As a moral guide for believers


I. Galatians 3:28

1. Equality only regarding salvation

2. Visible privileges and freedoms (e.g. baptism)

3. No distinction in roles or functions

J. Paul's Typology in Galatians 4:21-31

1. Physical descent [Judaizers' views]

2. Spiritual descent [Paul's views]

K. Judaism vs. Paul

1. First century Judaism

2. Paul

Class Resources
  • Paul was trained as a Pharisee and persecuted Christians because he considered them enemies of God. After his conversion experience, he travelled in Asia Minor and Europe preaching the gospel and planting churches. Many of the letters in the New Testament are ones that he wrote to these churches.

  • Paul was trained as a Pharisee and persecuted Christians because he considered them enemies of God. After his conversion experience, he travelled in Asia Minor and Europe preaching the gospel and planting churches. Many of the letters in the New Testament are ones that he wrote to these churches.

  • Paul was trained as a Pharisee and persecuted Christians because he considered them enemies of God. After his conversion experience, he travelled in Asia Minor and Europe preaching the gospel and planting churches. Many of the letters in the New Testament are ones that he wrote to these churches.


  • Correlation of the accounts in Galatians and Acts on Paul's trip to Jerusalem. 

  • Galatians as a model of apologetics supporting Christianity.

  • Comparing faith and works in Judaism and Christianity. 

  • Paul faced persecution when he preached in Thessalonica. The return of Christ is a central theme in the letters to the Thessalonians.

  • One aspect of the subject of biblical eschatology is the timing and nature of the tribulation. 

  • Paul addresses the extremes of asceticism and hedonism, as well as concerns regarding marriage, spiritiual gifts and the resurrection.

  • Divisions in the Corinthian church were caused by both theology and lifestyle.

  • Whether or not believers should eat food that had been offered to idols was an issue in the Corinthian church. The importance and role of spiritual gifts was a major topic of discussion.

  • Paul updates the people in the church in Corinth about his travels. He also follows up on relationships and defends his apostolic ministry.

  • Paul responds to specific situations in the Corinthian church including emphasizing a correct perspective on giving and encouragement to see God's redemptive purpose in our suffering.

  • Knowing the key places as backgrounds for Romans, the timeline and the outline of the book are helpful to understanding the context and message.

  • Paul wrote Romans as a systematic exposition of the gospel.


  • In Colossians, Paul emphasizes the deity of Christ. Philemon was written to a gentlema Paul knows to encourage him to welcome back Onesimus, his runaway slave, who became a disciple of Christ and was returning.

  • Paul addresses how to live in different roles: husbands and wives, masters and slaves, elders and others in the church.

  • Paul describes the blessings of salvation and encourages believers to live in unity that transcends cultural and racial barriers. 

  • Paul describes to the followers of Jesus in Ephesus, who they are in Christ, and the ethical implications for how they should live their daily lives.

  • Paul contrasts the condescention and the exaltation of Christ, and addresses specific situations in the Philippian church.

  • Paul writes to encourage and instruct Timothy and Titus, both of whom are young pastors. It is important for Titus to identify and train elders and deal effectively with factious people. 

  • Paul instructs Timothy about how to pastor a church and turn it away from heresy.

  • Both 1 Timothy and 1 Corinthians contain key passages addressing the roles of men and women in the local church. Some of them address conduct when gathering for corporate worship.

  • 1 Timothy 2:11-15 gives some direction for gender roles in a worship service.

  • Key themes and catchwords in James include trials, wisdom, temptation, speech, doubt and perseverance.

  • James discusses the roles of faith and works in a believers life and the importance of prayer.

  • A prominent theme in Hebrews chapters 1-5 is the superiority of Christ to the angels and to Moses.

  • Hebrews 6:4-8 is a key warning passage. Christ's priesthood is superior to both the Levitical priesthood and also to Melchizedek. Chapter 11 remembers the heroes of the faith.

  • A major theme of 1 Peter is perseverance despite persecution.

  • The outline of 1 Peter has similarities to other letters of the first century that emphasize a high view of Christology.

  • Jude and 2 Peter both emphasize refuting false teachers.

  • In his epistles, John emphasizes themes that refute gnostic doctrines. He outlines the tests of life as keeping God’s commandments, loving one another and believing in Jesus as the God-man.

  • As you study and preach from the epistles of John, note the passages that Dr. Blomberg describes as, “gems from John.”

  • Revelation was written by the apostle John in the late first century using apocalyptic, prophetic and epistolary genres. A possible structure by time line would be the past (chapter 1), the present (chapters 2-5) and the future (chapters 6-22). 

  • In addition to the framework of eschatology, Revelation chapters 1-6 develops themes of Christology including a description of Jesus as the lion who is a lamb, as well as the spiritual condition of some of the churches in the first century. 

  • In both of the possible scenarios for the tribulation, believers are exempt from God’s wrath but they are not exempt from Satan’s attacks.

  • Revelation chapters 12-22 cover themes of salvation and judgment of nations, Armageddon, the millennium and the new heavens and new earth.

Using the English New Testament, this course surveys the New Testament epistles and the apocalypse. Issues of introduction and content receive emphasis as well as a continual focus on the theology of evangelism and on the contemporary relevance of the variety of issues these documents raise for contemporary life.


Dr. Craig Blomberg
Introduction to the New Testament: Romans to Revelation
Galatians (Part 3)
Lesson Transcript


This is the 6th lecture in the online series of lectures on understanding the Epistles and Revelation, in complement with the textbook by Craig Blomberg’s Book, Acts through Revelation, An Introduction and Survey. 


There are at least two contrasts implicit between faith and Torah obedience. It would appear that Paul is saying that within the Old Testament, right and wrong responses and appropriations of the Law are disclosed. Faith in God’s promises, culminating in recognition of the Messiah, when he comes, is as with Abraham, is right way to be in right standing with God. Whereas, attempts to merit God’s favor to Torah obedience is always doomed to failure. But what about the covenantal nomist option, when the Law is used properly as the outgrowth of faith in God’s promises? The second contrast implied in these verses because of the changes that have taken place, now that the Messiah has come and provided a fashion for full redemption. Even that which was the right way in Old Testament times, is it now a closed door? It is no longer adequate to have faith in the promises of God. In general when a person has heard the message and it has been explained that Jesus is indeed the Jewish Messiah and at the fulfillment of the Old Testament promises and the arrival of the New Age has begun. Faith must now be explicitly directed to Jesus as Messiah and fulfillment of those Old Testament promises as the right way to salvation. Whereas allegiance to anyone or anything else including the Old Testament forms of worship of Yahweh, God alone apart from accepting Jesus leads only to damnation. Paul returns to his time line analogy in verses 15-18, again talking about how the period of the Law does not annul the giving of the promise which occurred four hundred and thirty years earlier. At this point, Paul anticipates the question, what then was the purpose of the Law? 


The protestant reformers came to the conviction, first of all, out of Galatians that there were three uses of the Law for the Christian era and all of these can be seen in Galatians chapter 3 and following. Verse 19 and 20 briefly introduces us to the first of these and Romans 6 explains them a bit more. Namely, it was a deterrent to sin for unbelievers. What then was the purpose of the Law, Galatians 3:19 asks? It was added because of transgressions, until the seed to whom the promise referred had come. It’s possible as the textbook explains in more detail that this should be translated, ‘it was added in order to cause transgression, at the very least, in the sense of making explicit that certain evil deeds were against God’s Law. It was in hopes of at least some instances of deterring people from continuing to break those laws. But the second reason from 3:21 and following involves our need of a Savior, involves recognizing that during this period of the Torah Law is precisely that; it is temporary and custodial in nature, it is like the jail keeper, keeping the prisoner bound, it is like the school master or the slave responsible for taking the young student to and from school, no longer needing to function in that way. It is like the guardian and trustees of a minor who supervise his estate until time he or she is ready to take over. In each case, it is a temporary period of time when one looks forward to growing out of. And each segment of Galatians 3 and 4 in which these metaphors appear, the point is additionally made that such a Savior has come as in Jesus and therefore the prisoner has served his sentence and has been freed. The school boy has graduated, etc. There is now freedom from the Law. Do Christians then jettison the Old Testament? Paul also quotes the Torah and has done so already throughout Galatians and will continue to do throughout the rest of his writings. But as chapters 5 and 6, particular of Galatians will make clear, the Law has an abiding value for Christian as moral guide, setting out fundamental ethical principles whereas what Christians came to refer to as the civil or ceremonial laws, do not continue as unchanged into the New Testament period, but reflected a unique arrangement with Israel. 


But it isn’t just a moral guide that Christians find what they should do and not do. It is not just to the Torah and to the moral components that they should turn but rather to the full extent to the Christian revelation, beginning with the teachings of Jesus and then apostolic instructions as shown in scripture. So to anticipate Paul’s argument and jump ahead for the moment to the second half of Galatians 5 and first part of Galatians 6 was by the Spirit in 5:13 and following is described as shown in verse 14 as loving ones neighbor as oneself and thus fulfilling the entire law. It’s described as avoiding the sinful desires of the flesh but living out the fruit of the spirit. In verses 16-26 and the fruit of the Spirit is explicitly enumerated and given in verses 22-23 as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. With Paul saying, against such things, there is no law. In other words, this type of moral living cannot be legislated. No one could ever create a comprehensive list of do’s and don’ts that would guarantee that people would be perfectly loving and joyful and peaceful and kind, etc. in every situation they might find themselves in life. This combination of fundamental moral principles of the Old Testament, the legitimate applications of the rest of the Old Testament, once mediated through the grid of fulfillment in Christ combined with the fullness of Christians revelation, now codified in the New Testament, together forms what Paul then in Galatians 6:2 refers to as the Law of Christ. 


We return to where we left of in the sequence of passages in Galatians 3. As we have already mentioned, each of these analogies of the nature of the Law as a temporary custodian climaxes with the affirmation that Christians now live beyond that period. Perhaps the most dramatic and undoubtedly the most influential and controversial of these, comes in 3:26 through 29. So in Christ Jesus, you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who are baptized into Christ have clothed yourself with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, you are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise. Even verse 28 alone has spawned numerous comments and controversies. On the one hand, there are those who refer to the equality in Christ of Jew and gentile, slave and free, male and female with equality with respect to salvation. All people, no matter what their human status may be, now come to God through Christ on exactly equal terms by faith apart from the works of the Torah. At the other end of the spectrum of those who find this text as a programmatic charter for an entirely egalitarian interpretation of Paul and of Christianity more generally in which no distinction in roles or functions for Jew or gentile, slave or free, male or female can possibly be ever again be countenance. 


It would appear that neither of these two extremes is defensible from this verse or short paragraph in and of itself. On the one hand, this is set in the context, verse 27 of Christian baptism, the rite of initiation into the Christian community that corresponded at least in part to the rite of circumcision in the Old Testament, but gentiles today often do not think of how liberating and equalizing baptism was as a ritual in part replacing circumcision. For it was ministered to men and women alike. Because baptism is a fundamental outward ritual and sign denoted the inward change that comes when a person trusts in Christ. It would seem inadequate to say that the equality of verse 28 in for salvation only. There must be some visible privileges, rituals, freedoms that meaningfully communicate today to a watching world; the way Christian baptism did to Jews used to the solely male performed rite of circumcision that will point to today’s people and cultures of the liberating and equalizing roles of the Gospel. While one is thinking of the ordnances or sacraments, one might consider allowing men and women equally to serve communion in the modern day church, since there is no text anywhere saying who can minister this particular ordnance, despite centuries of limitations of various clerical leaders in certain Christian traditions. But on the other hand, it appears to go further beyond what can be fairly inferred just from this short text that Paul would not have envisioned any further distinctions between Jew and gentile. 


Romans chapter 11 will appear to suggest at least one biding distinction, nor between slave or free, although we will see that Paul’s seems to sow the seeds for the absolution of slavery, he doesn’t do it unambiguously during his life time and in his writing and indeed will give instructions for those who find themselves unalterably enmeshed in the institution of slavery. How to live in that institution, likewise it seems precarious to derive from the passage alone a complete realization of all roles and distinctions when it comes to genders. Perhaps that is what Paul teaches, but if he teaches it, we will have to discover it from other passages and not nearly from this one. After all, as Ben Witherington points out in an article in New Testament studies in 1981, one can turn to other Jewish or Greco-Roman writers and find equally sweeping statements of equality in the abstract, only to be followed up by other texts that continue to preserve equally clearer role distinctions than anything in the Epistles of Paul. Witherington, for example, cites the much later rabbinic documents, Seder Ehyahu Rabak, section seven which reads, I call heaven and earth to witness that whether gentile or Israelite, man or woman, slave or handmaid reads this verse, the Holy One, blessed be he remembers the binding of Isaac. Again, Rabbi Judah ben Shalam in commenting on Psalm 56:3 in the Midrash, known as Exodus Rabah Kasad Shalak in section 21.4, If a poor man says anything, one pays little regard but if a rich man speaks, immediately he is heard and listened to, before God, however, all are equal, women, slaves, poor and rich. Or yet again in Yahku Yehla Ka, section 76, God said to Moses, irrespective of persons with me, whether it be Israelite or gentile, man or woman, slave or handmaid, whoever does a good deed shall find a reward  at its side. Yet there is virtually no evidence in the Rabbinic Judaism contemporaneous with these documents of women occupying the highest levels of Synagogue, leadership and apparently the rabbis that promulgated these pairings of legal teachings did not see any contradiction among them. 


After the section on the purposes of the Law, Paul returns to his arguments for justification by faith, more generally. In chapter 4:21-31, he builds on the story of Sarah and Hagar in the accounts of Genesis: first, the slave wife of Abraham and the other, the free wife, such that Israelites as members of God’s free covenant people saw their spiritual descent as coming from Sarah and the son she bore to Abraham in their old age, Isaac; whereas, it was the gentile people who were viewed as the off spring of the slave woman, Hagar and her son, Ismael. In a shocking reversal of this analogy which was indisputable in terms of physical descend, Paul makes the claim that now in the age after the coming of Christ, the spiritual descendants of Sarah and Hagar and Isaac and Ismael are virtually the opposite. It is Christians, now already, even just twenty years after the inception of the movement, is starting to be made up of more gentile people who are the true spiritual descendants of the free woman and her son. What also Paul calls the Jerusalem from above to distinguish it from the Israel dominated literal Jerusalem, the capital city of Judah. On the other hand, it is those Jews that the majority tragically at the time of the writing of Galatians which had not yet embraced the Gospel who were, spiritually speaking, the enslaved descendants of Ismael by means of Hagar. 


There are other portions of Galatians we could comment on. We skipped over the argument dealing with slavery in 4:8-20 to move to the segment on freedom in the Spirit of the Law. We haven’t commented on the metaphor of the half-way house in 5:1 and following or on other details in 5:12 to the end of the body of the letter in terms of what moral living rather than lawless living by the Spirit, but our time is limited and we refer the readers and students to the textbook and to the more extensive references in the footnotes and bibliographies for further material. At this time, we want to move to concluding and application remarks. And once again, try to come up with a blend or synthesis of the most legitimate insights of both the so-called old and new perspectives on Paul and on 1st century Judaism. 


There are three fundamental contrasts that must govern the application of Paul’s teachings and particularly the letter to the Galatians with the very real threat of Judaizes in the background. Against the new look on Paul or least against extreme forms of it, we must insist that the classic legalistic perspective that required certain deeds of the law in order to merit God’s favor and not salvation, was in existence in 1st century Judaism whether or not it was a majority view. And thus to apply Paul in general and Galatians in particular in any other time and culture requires identification of any similar legalistic schemes where certain forms of works righteousness, deeds or rituals must be done or other practices avoided least someone’s salvation or right standing with God be called into question. And every error of Christian history seems to have examples of such. But with the new look on Paul; we must not play down the more subtle threat of covenantal nomism. For it is insidious and at times even imperceptible transition or crossing of a line that separates God’s people, Jewish or Christian from doing good from the natural outgrowth of the salvation already accomplished for them to a form of religious living which those identical good works are done for a different motivation, perhaps not to merit God’s salvation but nevertheless to merit his favor is some respect. This can be his blessings on their lives in the present or additional rewards in a life to come. We may speak of an improper covenantal nomism as redefining religion in terms of rules rather than a vibrant living relationship between humans and their God. But it is the merit of James Dunn’s numerous publications to which the textbook calls attention in the introductory chapter on Paul, that it was not all works or all works of the Torah that were equally stressed in the 1st century any more than any religion equally stresses all of the commands and mandates of its scriptures.


Some of the works that were particularly important for 1st century Palestinian Jews, Dunn has come to refer to as badges of national righteousness. Those very visible or well-known practices that distinguish Jews from the surrounding peoples such as circumcision, the dietary or food laws, the particular forms of sacrifice and temple worship, the belief in being a uniquely elect people, destined to inherit a uniquely promised land and other similar central customs or institutions. One thinks of the Sabbath Laws, the New Moon festivals, the seasonal or annual feast days that likewise had at best only partial parallels, and in the case of a weekly day of rest, no parallels at all in the gentile nations immediately surrounding the land of Israel in the 1st century. It would have been very easy therefore and in some of the Jewish literature suggest that would indeed happen from time to time to foster a mentality of ethnocentrism or more of a nationalist pride exalting the nation or people because of these unique customs and practices against the gentiles, the rest of the non-elect countries and people of the world. 


Fear is where application to the Christian world in the 21st century perhaps becomes the most poignant. There are, as we have already mentioned from time to time, groups of people for instance claiming that baptism or speaking in tongues or some other good work or abstention from an even deed is an actual requirement for salvation. But for most who find themselves listening to these lectures, this will probably not be as nearly a common experience in their spheres of influence as the most insidious redefinitions of the faith in terms of rules rather than relationships. One former student of mine who was brought up within the Baptist tradition once said that he now understood that his approach and misunderstanding of Christianity as he had grown up was similar to an exclusive country club, trying to expand its membership through offering anyone who would come, a free one year membership, just like salvation is entirely free. But then if you wanted to continue with this country club, you paid extremely high annual membership fees. 


Charles Swindoll in a book entitles, the Grace Awakening, quotes Eugene Peterson’s Travelling Light in a beautiful excerpt of contrasting the right and wrong approaches to the Law and to the rules in any age of religious history, for example, the word ‘Christian’, means different things to different people. To one person, it means a stiff inflexible way of life, querulous and unbending. To another it means a risky surprise filled adventure, lived, tiptoeing at the edge of expectation. Either of these pictures can be supported with evidence. There are a number of illustrations for either position with congregations all over the world. But if we restrict ourselves to biblical evidence, only the second image can be supported with an image of the person living zestfully, exploring every experience with pain and joy and enigma and insight, fulfillment and frustration as a dimension of human freedom, searching through each for sense and grace. If we get our information from the biblical material, there is no doubt that the Christian life is a dancing, leaping and daring life. How then does this other picture get painted in so many people’s imaginations? How does anyone live a life of faith associated with dullness, caution, inhibition with dodgy actions? We might suppose that a congregation of Christians, well stocked with freedom stories, stories of Abraham, Moses, David, Samson, Deborah, or Daniel but not for a moment countenance any teaching that would suppress freedom. We might reasonably expect that a group of people who from childhood told stories of Jesus setting people free and who keep Jesus as the center of their attention in weekly worship or be sensitive to any encroachment on their freedom. We might think that a people that has at the very heart experience release from sins, guilt and Spirit’s freedom, a people who no longer live under tyranny of emotions or public opinion of bad memories. But freely in hope and in faith and in love that these people would be critically alert to anyone or anything that would suppress their newly acquired spontaneity. 


But in fact, the community of faith, the very place where we are most likely to experience the free life is also that very place we are in most danger of losing it. And Charles Swindoll, himself, goes on to say, ‘be honest. How many congregations do you know who are, dancing, leaping, daring,’ congregations?  Congregations whose individual grace awakening are motivating people to live out their freedom in Christ? I’m afraid that the number is much fewer than we might guess. Let’s get specific, how many Christian do you know who exercise the joy and freedom to be a person full of life, living on tiptoe and enjoying spontaneous living as opposed to the hundreds of thousands who take their cues from the legalists?’  He really means covenantal nomist, ‘and live life accordingly? Isn’t it surprising to anyone who has been set free that anybody who would ever want to turn to bondage?’ That’s exactly the Paul makes in Galatians. ‘I suggest that you ponder, that the one place we would expect to be set free would be the place we would be placed into slavery.’ As usual, he’s correct, surly that must grieve our God. What happened in the first century can surly happen in the 21th century? Paul writes to the Galatians of his surprise; you were running well, who hindered you in obeying the truth. 


And then perhaps, the most powerful play of all is the application of ethnocentrism or nationalism. Applications that are perhaps more needed in what has been called the balkanization of our world ever since the breakup of the Soviet Bloc around 1990. Fragmentation into numerous competing nationalist entities in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Bloc, with a war of genocide in Rwanda in the early 1990s and of horrific strife in other African and Southeast Asian spheres and Indian subcontinent along with the Latin American context. The most notable conflict is the war in Iraq and also with Isis. Who knows what vast injustices against humanity against itself in the name of defending the national interest of a particular country or ethnic group against another? We will be characterizing our world as you are listening to this lecture. Will the American and others be reduced to the poverty that characterizes other parts of the world? Will we be anymore immune to internal civil warfare? When will we stop identifying God’s will with the national interest of a particular government or political party within a country? 


A former missionary to Rwanda and subsequently executive of CB international, the foreign missionary organization of the Conservative Baptist Movement subsequently renamed World Venture, a man by the name of Glen Kindoll, spoke powerful as one of the last western missions to leave and literally rescued from Rwanda during the days of civil war. A period when estimates ranged from as high as 80% of people who expressed some form of Christianity, the highest percentage of a so-called evangelical faith of any nation on earth and yet such professing Christians were involved in the hacking off of limbs of warring African tribes against one another. What went so horridly wrong? Kindoll’s response was that the missionaries never proclaimed the full Gospel. We never taught them that loyalty to Christ and to brothers and sisters in Christ run deeper than loyalty to their tribe. One wonders how many western Christians have been taught the same thing, when one realizes that their tribes may mean their racial makeup or their gender or their ethnicity or social economic bracket or their membership in some homogeneous group, club or organization. Surly there is much to apply to the much improvised form of Christianity theological speaking that passes for the real thing in many parts of our world today.