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The DEEP

More Than a Sign

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Galatians 3:1–9

O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? Have you suffered so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain?

Therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?— just as Abraham “believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, “In you all the nations shall be blessed.” So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham.

Pay attention to the references to Abraham here, especially the words, “sons of Abraham.” Also note Paul’s use of the word “flesh” (σαρκὶ, sarki in Greek).

Remember, it was Abraham who instituted circumcision—literally a work of the “flesh”—which is the key issue in this epistle. So, is circumcision what makes one a son of Abraham?

The Judaizers thought so, and used the concept of being sons of Abraham as their argument for circumcision. That’s a fair point; Abraham’s sons have, in the past, all been circumcised. It was the sign of the covenant, but that’s all. Being circumcised doesn’t completely fulfill the covenant.

But Abraham was also the father of faith. And faith isn’t just a “sign” of the covenant; it completely fulfills the covenant. Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham.

Paul bases his argument on the new sign of the covenant—the Holy Spirit—and its direct connection to faith. The Holy Spirit is more than just a sign or a symbol of something—it is the something—and, as such, it’s far more convincing than any argument the Judaizers might make.

Paul doesn’t have to convince them of the importance of the Spirit; that’s obvious.


The key to any apologetic case is the assumptions it makes. You have to start on solid ground to stay on solid ground.

Paul’s slam-dunk argument is nearly complete when he poses the question, “Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?

Paul knows that they did receive the Holy Spirit and that it was by faith. Most importantly, Paul knows that they know this too. So, having locked down that the Spirit came by faith, Paul sets the hook with, “Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?

The case for circumcision is in ashes. The rest is just to round out the complete doctrine.


These Monday—Friday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay. The Weekend DEEPs are written by Matt Richardson. To subscribe to all the DEEPs click here:

https://www.ailbe.org/resources/community

The weekly study guides, which include the Monday–Friday devotionals plus related questions for discussion or meditation, are available for download here:

https://www.ailbe.org/resources/itemlist/category/91-deep-studies

Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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