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Galatians 3:4

ESV Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain?
NIV Have you experienced so much in vain--if it really was in vain?
NASB Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain?
CSB Did you experience so much for nothing--if in fact it was for nothing?
NLT Have you experienced so much for nothing? Surely it was not in vain, was it?
KJV Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain.

What does Galatians 3:4 mean?

The Galatians were being convinced by false teachers that they must follow the Old Testament law in order to be truly saved (Galatians 2:4). Paul is asking them a series of leading questions to help them remember what they learned from him about salvation by faith through God's grace and not self-effort (Galatians 3:1–3).

Here, Paul asks if these Galatian Christians have suffered in vain. Paul might be addressing persecution they suffered for their faith in Christ. Many early Christians were mistreated by Jewish religious leaders for following Jesus. Paul is asking these believers if their suffering was, in the end, meaningless. After all, if they are now going to agree with those religious leaders and begin to follow the law, doesn't that mean agreeing with their "foolish" claims (Galatians 1:6–9)?

Alternatively, the Greek word translated as suffered, epathete, can also mean "experienced." It may be that instead of persecution, Paul is referring to all the amazing, supernatural things the Galatian believers have seen since trusting in Christ. That would fit with the mention of miracles in the following verse.

In either case, Paul is asking if the Galatian Christians now consider those prior experiences to be pointless. Did they mean anything, if the Galatians will now stop trusting Christ for their salvation, and instead rely on their own ability to keep the law?
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