The Book of Galatians Ė Whatís Paul really talking about?

 

"His letters contain some things that are hard to understand," so said Peter in 2 Pet 3:16, and as theologians of all beliefs have found over the centuries to their dismay. One of the things I am still not clear is "What exactly is Paul talking about in the book of Galatians?" Is he talking about the issue of circumcision, is he talking about the entire law, or is he talking about its ceremonial and sacrificial aspects only? The central teaching of the book of Galatians is stated in 2:15-16:

"We who are Jews by birth and not 'Gentile sinners' know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.

The big question is: What does Paul mean when he uses the words "the law?" Does he mean "the law of circumcision only?" Does he mean "all the ceremonial and sacrificial aspects of the law?" Or does he mean, "the entire law including its ethical and moral aspects?" The question arises because there are good reasons for supporting all three interpretations! And the question is crucial because right through 2:17 to 3:29 (the section that elaborates 2:15-16), Paul uses only the words "the law" sixteen times without specifying what he means by them. Clearly, our understanding of Galatians is bound to be colored by our understanding of what he means by the words "the law" in 2:15-3:29. As the following discussion shows, all three interpretations are possible. No wonder it is the book of Galatians (along with Romans) which is responsible for some of the biggest schisms in Christianity! So letís look at the supports for the three views.

View 1, "The law = The law of circumcision only": The occasion of the book of Galatians is clearly that some over-zealous Jews were trying to get the Gentile followers of Jesus circumcised. In 5:2-3, Paul says, "Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law." Such urgency in language indicates that it was the pressing matter on hand which Paul was keen to address immediately. This is corroborated by what Paul says in 6:12-13, "Those who want to make a good impression outwardly are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ. Not even those who are circumcised obey the law, yet they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your flesh." Now it is an established literary device to use shorter phrases when longer phrases would be cumbersome (a figure of speech called Metonymy), especially if the longer phrase is going to be repeated often. Imagine how cumbersome the passage 2:15 to 3:29 would be if Paul had to every time say "the law of circumcision." It would go like this:

2:15-16

"We who are Jews by birth and not 'Gentile sinners' know that a man is not justified by observing the law of circumcision, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law of circumcision, because by observing the law of circumcision no one will be justified.

2:17-21

"If, while we seek to be justified in Christ, it becomes evident that we ourselves are sinners, does that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! If I rebuild what I destroyed, I prove that I am a lawbreaker. For through the law of circumcision I died to the law of circumcision so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law of circumcision, Christ died for nothing!"

3:1-5

You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law of circumcision, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? Have you suffered so much for nothing--if it really was for nothing? Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law of circumcision, or because you believe what you heard?

 

And so on and so forth. Yes, it is quite possible that Paul could have been using the figure of speech called Metonymy in which an object is designated by the name of something which is generally associated with it. "The law" was certainly closely associated with "circumcision" for Jews and Gentiles alike (also see Romans 2:25-29) and Paul could have been using the shortened form to refer to the law of circumcision. I find such a view very attractive since it does not contradict Jesusí view of the law. Such a view, is further strengthened by the example of Abraham which follows in 3:6-9; Abraham was supposed to be "justified by faith" before he was circumcised, a point Paul also makes in Romans 4:9-12.

So far so good. The problem with this view comes in 3:17 when Paul says, "The law, introduced 430 years laterÖ" Now that can only mean the law of Moses, and not the law of circumcision. Furthermore, in 3:19, Paul says that "the law was added because of transgressions," and certainly it was the law of Moses which was added because of transgressions, not the law of circumcision. Which brings us to the second and third views. Letís consider the second view first. How does 2:15 to 3:29 look if the words "the ceremonial and sacrificial aspects of the law" are substituted for the words "the law?" It certainly looks very good and sensible! Read the following substitution. Although cumbersome, it certainly makes very good sense, and is in line with Jesusí own teachings and the rest of the Bible, such as Psa 40:6 ("Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but my ears you have pierced ; burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require") and Psa 51:16 ("You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings"). The passage for View 2 reads:

2:15-16

"We who are Jews by birth and not 'Gentile sinners' know that a man is not justified by observing the ceremonial and sacrificial aspects of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the ceremonial and sacrificial aspects of the law, because by observing the ceremonial and sacrificial aspects of the law no one will be justified.

2:17-21

"If, while we seek to be justified in Christ, it becomes evident that we ourselves are sinners, does that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! If I rebuild what I destroyed, I prove that I am a lawbreaker. For through the ceremonial and sacrificial aspects of the law I died to the ceremonial and sacrificial aspects of the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the ceremonial and sacrificial aspects of the law, Christ died for nothing!"

3:1-5

You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the ceremonial and sacrificial aspects of the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? Have you suffered so much for nothing--if it really was for nothing? Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the ceremonial and sacrificial aspects of the law, or because you believe what you heard?

Such substitution fits in with the example of Abraham in 3:6-9 also. Abraham was considered righteous before "the ceremonial and sacrificial aspects of the law" were given, as much as he was considered righteous before "the law of circumcision" was given. So such an understanding fits till 3:9. Letís continue to see whether it continues fitting:

3:10

All who rely on observing the ceremonial and sacrificial aspects of the law are under a curse, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law."

This is where the first question could come in: How can anyone who relies on doing what God required him to do be under a curse? The answer could lie in the word "rely." In a perverted understanding, a person could go on deliberately sinning if he thought that he could always offer some sacrifices for his sins and get away with it, thus "relying" on the sacrifice. For a wealthy man, the giving up of a little of his wealth would not even be noticeable! This was a totally false view of the ceremonial and sacrificial system and God had made it abundantly clear on many occasions Ė

Exod 21:14
But if a man schemes and kills another man deliberately, take him away from my altar and put him to death.

Lev 4:2

"Say to the Israelites: 'When anyone sins unintentionally and does what is forbidden in any of the LORD's commands--

Lev 4:13

"'If the whole Israelite community sins unintentionally and does what is forbidden in any of the LORD's commands, even though the community is unaware of the matter, they are guilty.

Num 15:27
"'But if just one person sins unintentionally, he must bring a year-old female goat for a sin offering.

Num 15:28-31

The priest is to make atonement before the LORD for the one who erred by sinning unintentionally, and when atonement has been made for him, he will be forgiven. One and the same law applies to everyone who sins unintentionally, whether he is a native-born Israelite or an alien. "'But anyone who sins defiantly, whether native-born or alien, blasphemes the LORD, and that person must be cut off from his people. Because he has despised the LORD's word and broken his commands, that person must surely be cut off; his guilt remains on him.'"

Deut 22:22
If a man is found sleeping with another man's wife, both the man who slept with her and the woman must die. You must purge the evil from Israel.

1 Sam 15:22

But Samuel replied: "Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.

Ps 19:12-13

Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults. Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression.

Ps 40:6-8

Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but my ears you have pierced; burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require. Then I said, "Here I am, I have come-- it is written about me in the scroll. I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart."

Ps 50:8-9

I do not rebuke you for your sacrifices or your burnt offerings, which are ever before me. I have no need of a bull from your stall or of goats from your pens,

Ps 51:6

Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.

Ps 51:16-17

You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

Prov 15:8

The LORD detests the sacrifice of the wicked, but the prayer of the upright pleases him.

Prov 21:3

To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.

Prov 21:27

The sacrifice of the wicked is detestable-- how much more so when brought with evil intent!

Isa 1:11-20

"The multitude of your sacrifices-- what are they to me?" says the LORD. "I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats. When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts? Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations-- I cannot bear your evil assemblies. Your New Moon festivals and your appointed feasts my soul hates. They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood; wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow. "Come now, let us reason together," says the LORD. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land; but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword." For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

Isa 58:1-7

"Shout it aloud, do not hold back. Raise your voice like a trumpet. Declare to my people their rebellion and to the house of Jacob their sins. For day after day they seek me out; they seem eager to know my ways, as if they were a nation that does what is right and has not forsaken the commands of its God. They ask me for just decisions and seem eager for God to come near them. 'Why have we fasted,' they say, 'and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?' "Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers. Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high. Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for a man to humble himself? Is it only for bowing one's head like a reed and for lying on sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD? "Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter-- when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

Isa 66:1-3

This is what the LORD says: "Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Where is the house you will build for me? Where will my resting place be? Has not my hand made all these things, and so they came into being?" declares the LORD. "This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word. But whoever sacrifices a bull is like one who kills a man, and whoever offers a lamb, like one who breaks a dog's neck; whoever makes a grain offering is like one who presents pig's blood, and whoever burns memorial incense, like one who worships an idol. They have chosen their own ways, and their souls delight in their abominations;

Jer 6:20

What do I care about incense from Sheba or sweet calamus from a distant land? Your burnt offerings are not acceptable; your sacrifices do not please me."

Jer 7:21-26

"'This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Go ahead, add your burnt offerings to your other sacrifices and eat the meat yourselves! For when I brought your forefathers out of Egypt and spoke to them, I did not just give them commands about burnt offerings and sacrifices, but I gave them this command: Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people. Walk in all the ways I command you, that it may go well with you. But they did not listen or pay attention; instead, they followed the stubborn inclinations of their evil hearts. They went backward and not forward. From the time your forefathers left Egypt until now, day after day, again and again I sent you my servants the prophets. But they did not listen to me or pay attention. They were stiff-necked and did more evil than their forefathers.'

Hosea 6:6

For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.

Hosea 8:13

They offer sacrifices given to me and they eat the meat, but the LORD is not pleased with them. Now he will remember their wickedness and punish their sins: They will return to Egypt.

Hosea 9:4-5

They will not pour out wine offerings to the LORD, nor will their sacrifices please him. Such sacrifices will be to them like the bread of mourners; all who eat them will be unclean. This food will be for themselves; it will not come into the temple of the LORD. What will you do on the day of your appointed feasts, on the festival days of the LORD?

Hosea 12:11

Is Gilead wicked? Its people are worthless! Do they sacrifice bulls in Gilgal? Their altars will be like piles of stones on a plowed field.

Amos 4:4-5

"Go to Bethel and sin; go to Gilgal and sin yet more. Bring your sacrifices every morning, your tithes every three years. Burn leavened bread as a thank offering and brag about your freewill offerings-- boast about them, you Israelites, for this is what you love to do," declares the Sovereign LORD.

Amos 5:21-27

"I hate, I despise your religious feasts; I cannot stand your assemblies. Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream! "Did you bring me sacrifices and offerings forty years in the desert, O house of Israel? You have lifted up the shrine of your king, the pedestal of your idols, the star of your god-- which you made for yourselves. Therefore I will send you into exile beyond Damascus," says the LORD, whose name is God Almighty.

Micah 6:6-8

With what shall I come before the LORD and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

 

With so many clear warnings, it is a surprise that anyone could believe that God is pleased with sacrifices for deliberate sins, yet the Israelites continued to indulge in them. Anyway, back to Galatians and our substitution with the second view:

3:11-13
Clearly no one is justified before God by the ceremonial and sacrificial aspects of the law, because, "The righteous will live by faith." The ceremonial and sacrificial aspects of the law is not based on faith; on the contrary, "The man who does these things will live by them." Christ redeemed us from the curse of the ceremonial and sacrificial aspects of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree."

 

It fits quite well. The example of Abraham in 3:14-16 also fits, so lets continue:

3:17-21

What I mean is this: The ceremonial and sacrificial aspects of law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise. For if the inheritance depends on the ceremonial and sacrificial aspects of the law, then it no longer depends on a promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise. What, then, was the purpose of the ceremonial and sacrificial aspects of the law? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The ceremonial and sacrificial aspects of the law was put into effect through angels by a mediator. A mediator, however, does not represent just one party; but God is one. Is the ceremonial and sacrificial aspects of the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a ceremonial and sacrificial aspects of the law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the ceremonial and sacrificial aspects of the law.

Here the fit becomes a little awkward: Firstly, it was the entire law which was given 430 years later, not just the ceremonial and sacrificial aspects of law. Secondly, far more than the ceremonial and sacrificial aspects of law, it was the ethical/ moral part of the law which was given to curb transgressions. As the numerous examples above show, God finds the sacrifices useless if the moral/ethical parts are deliberately trampled upon. But it still fits loosely, so letís continue:

3:22-29

But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe. Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the ceremonial and sacrificial aspects of the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. So the ceremonial and sacrificial aspects of the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the ceremonial and sacrificial aspects of the law. You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.

No misfit here. So the fit could be acceptable with slight reservations. But the real problem with this view is that the words "the law" were never used in the sense of "only the ceremonial and sacrificial aspects of the law" anywhere else in the New Testament. The words "the law" appear 226 times in 193 verses in the New Testament; 98 in Paulís letters and 128 in the other books. In all the 128 times, it mostly means the Pentateuch or the law given to Moses specifically, and in a few cases the entire Old Testament generally, with the usage clear from the context. But never does it mean "only the ceremonial and sacrificial aspects of the law." So if Paul was using the words "the law" in the sense of "only the ceremonial and sacrificial aspects of the law," then he clearly had an obligation to his readers to make it clear (unless it was clear to his readers). Since he doesnít do that, it considerably weakens the case for our understanding it so. Plus also, the fact that the entire law was given 430 years after Abraham, and not just the ceremonial and sacrificial aspects. Letís look at the third view before we try to reach some kind of a conclusion. The third view, the dominant understanding in the church, is that by the words "the law," Paul means "the entire law, including its moral/ ethical aspects."

2:15-16

"We who are Jews by birth and not 'Gentile sinners' know that a man is not justified by observing the entire law, including its moral/ ethical aspects, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the entire law, including its moral/ ethical aspects, because by observing the entire law, including its moral/ ethical aspects no one will be justified.

This is where we hit a big roadblock straightaway! In fact this view creates such a major problem Ė it makes obedience to the law and obedience to Christ somehow opposed to each other! Not only so, it also makes the two almost mutually exclusive i.e. that if somebody is obeying the law, he is not obeying Christ and if someone has faith in Christ, he is not under obligation to obey even the moral and ethical aspects of the law! We know that Jesus clearly said, "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to make them complete. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished." (Mat 5:17-18) He himself exhorted others to obey the law and said that salvation would depend on that. To see how glaring the problem is, do the appropriate substitution. The verses read:

2:17-21

"If, while we seek to be justified in Christ, it becomes evident that we ourselves are sinners, does that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! If I rebuild what I destroyed, I prove that I am a lawbreaker. For through the entire law, including its moral/ ethical aspects, I died to the entire law, including its moral/ ethical aspects so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the entire law, including its moral/ ethical aspects, Christ died for nothing!"

3:1-5

You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the entire law, including its moral/ ethical aspects, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? Have you suffered so much for nothing--if it really was for nothing? Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the entire law, including its moral/ ethical aspects, or because you believe what you heard?

3:10

All who rely on observing the entire law, including its moral/ ethical aspects, are under a curse, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law."

3:11-13
Clearly no one is justified before God by the entire law, including its moral/ ethical aspects, because, "The righteous will live by faith." The entire law, including its moral/ ethical aspects, is not based on faith; on the contrary, "The man who does these things will live by them." Christ redeemed us from the curse of the entire law, including its moral/ ethical aspects, by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree."

3:17-21

What I mean is this: The ceremonial and sacrificial aspects of law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise. For if the inheritance depends on the entire law, including its moral/ ethical aspects, then it no longer depends on a promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise. What, then, was the purpose of the entire law, including its moral/ ethical aspects? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The entire law, including its moral/ ethical aspects, was put into effect through angels by a mediator. A mediator, however, does not represent just one party; but God is one. Is the entire law, including its moral/ ethical aspects, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if an entire law, including its moral/ ethical aspects, had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the entire law, including its moral/ ethical aspects,.

3:22-29

But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe. Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the entire law, including its moral/ ethical aspects, locked up until faith should be revealed. So the entire law, including its moral/ ethical aspects, was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the entire law, including its moral/ ethical aspects. You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.

Such a substitution creates a monstrous view of the law which goes against the understanding of the law as exhibited by the Old Testament prophets and men-of-God and by Jesus himself. Letís take these one by one:

Gal 2:17-21
Paul says that "through the law, I died to the law, so that I might live for God." Is "living for God" so against "living by the law" that you have to "die to the law" so that you might "live for God?" Time and again, the OT prophets and psalmists affirmed that "living by the law" was a crucial and indispensible part of "living for God." If righteousness was not gained by "living by the law," what else was it gained by? Living by faith? Yes, living by faith. But that faith included faith in the law! "Living by faith" and "Living by the law" were not contradictory things, but so closely linked together that you could not do one without doing the other! For a long list of passages which show that righteousness came by obedience to the law, see Paul's Teachings - The Law.

Gal 3:1-5
Of course we receive the Spirit by believing what we hear and not by observing the entire law, including its moral/ ethical aspects. And of course after beginning with the Spirit, we cannot try to attain our goal by human effort. And of course God gives us his Spirit and works miracles among us because we believe what we heard and not because we observe the entire law, including its moral/ ethical aspects. But the Spirit of God never works in contradiction with Jesusí words. Jesus said, "The Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you." (John 14:26) A spirit which teaches anything contradicting Jesusí words is not the Spirit of God; it is definitely a spirit from the evil one. A spirit that teaches "the law has been done away with" is not the Spirit that Jesus sends, but is one from the evil one.

Gal 3:10

Paul says, "All who rely on observing the law, are under a curse." Never did Jesus or any of the OT prophets and men-of-God consider the law to be a curse, on the contrary, they all considered it to be a great blessing! Moses was explicit that obedience to the law would bring blessings, disobedience the exact opposite:
Deu 7:11-15
Therefore, take care to follow the commands, decrees and laws I give you today. If you pay attention to these laws and are careful to follow them, then the LORD your God will keep his covenant of love with you, as he swore to your forefathers. He will love you and bless you and increase your numbers. He will bless the fruit of your womb, the crops of your land--your grain, new wine and oil--the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks in the land that he swore to your forefathers to give you. You will be blessed more than any other people; none of your men or women will be childless, nor any of your livestock without young. The LORD will keep you free from every disease. He will not inflict on you the horrible diseases you knew in Egypt, but he will inflict them on all who hate you.

Deu 11:26-28

See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse-- the blessing if you obey the commands of the LORD your God that I am giving you today; the curse if you disobey the commands of the LORD your God and turn from the way that I command you today by following other gods, which you have not known.

The Psalms confirm this by calling the man who lives according to the law as blessed:

Psa 1:1-2

Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.

Psa 119:1-2

Blessed are they whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the LORD. Blessed are they who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart.

 
Gal 3:11-13
Paul says, "Clearly no one is justified before God by the law." How else were people in the Old Testament justified but by obeying the law? Paul quotes Habakkuk when he says, "The righteous will live by faith." Yes, thatís true; but faith in what? Faith in God; and faith in God included faith in His law! The "righteous" were righteous only because they lived by Godís law! For a long list of passages which show that justification before God came by obedience to the law, see Paul's Teachings - The Law.

Gal 3:17-21
Paul says that "if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law." Once again, how else were people in the Old Testament considered righteous but by obeying the law? Of course the complete righteousness was revealed by Jesus in passages like the Sermon on the Mount, which starts by Jesus saying, "I have not come to abolish the law but to make it complete." (Mt. 5:17b). Moses gave a glass that was half-full, Jesus fills it to the full in passages like the Sermon on the Mount, where he reveals Godís complete standard of righteousness and adds, "For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven." (Mat 5:20)

Gal 3:22-29
Paul says that "Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law." But "faith in Jesus Christ" means faith in his words, faith in what he taught, faith that he would do what he said he would do. It does not mean faith in a theology developed around the person of Jesus for which there is no support from Jesus' own words. This faith is not contradictory to faith in the law, which was given by God. It means faith in the law as made complete by Jesus in passages like the Sermon on the Mount, and also faith in what he said he would do to those the tenor of whose lives are not according to it!

 

Conclusion

We have looked at the three views, the three possibilities of what Paul means when he uses the words "the law" in Gal 2:15-3:29. The first view is that Paul is using the figure of speech called Metonymy to denote "the law of circumcision" by the words "the law," since the context was the raging issue of circumcision, and he explicitly mentions it in 5:2-3 and 6:12-13. In that case, all that he would be saying in the book of Galatians is that, "it is not necessary to be circumcised to be saved," which is perfectly acceptable to everybody, and which was also the Jerusalem counselís ruling. Although attractive, the problem with this view is that it does not fit in with some of the verses later on. The second view, that Paul is talking about the ceremonial and sacrificial aspects only, has the problem that the words "the law" are never used to denote "the ceremonial and sacrificial aspects of the law only." If Paul meant that, then he had an obligation to his readers to make it clear. Since he doesnít do so, it considerably weakens the case for the second view. The third view, that he means "the entire law including its ethical and moral aspects," has been the most prevalent one, especially in Protestant Christianity. Its biggest problem is that it contradicts Jesus, and the Old Testament (authenticated by Jesus as the Word of God).

Thus none of the three views are acceptable to me. But now I am free of having to accept any of the three views. My business in life is to follow Jesus, not waste my time over what a person who did not even know Jesus, and who is going to be irrelevant on the Day of Judgment, wrote two thousand years back. On Judgment Day, we are going to be judged by Jesus, not Paul. On Judgment Day, we are going to be judged according to Jesusí words, not Paulís. On Judgment Day, it is Jesus who can help us, not Paul. When I can freely run behind Jesus without having to waste my time trying to make sense of Paulís writings, why should I take on such unnecessary burdens? I can easily put the book of Galatians aside and happily follow Jesus. Which I do so with great joy.