What does Galatians 3:20 mean?
ESV: Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one.
NIV: A mediator, however, implies more than one party; but God is one.
NASB: Now a mediator is not for one party only; but God is only one.
CSB: Now a mediator is not just for one person alone, but God is one.
NLT: Now a mediator is helpful if more than one party must reach an agreement. But God, who is one, did not use a mediator when he gave his promise to Abraham.
KJV: Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one.
In the previous verse, Paul began to answer the question "why then the law?" In other words, if the law cannot save us from sin, as the Judaizers were teaching (Galatians 2:4), what was the point of it? Paul has said that the law was given to Israel for two reasons, so far. One is that the law defined certain sins and showed us that we are sinful. Two, the law was given for a season, from 430 years after God's promises to Abraham and his offspring, until the arrival of his ultimate offspring, Jesus, sent to receive those promises on our behalf.
Then Paul added that the law was put in place through angels and by an intermediary, from the Greek term mesitou, also translated as "mediator." In other words, the law was a covenant between two parties, God and Israel. God was represented in this agreement by angels. Israel was represented by Moses. The covenant agreement was this: If Israel would keep God's commands, He would bless them. If the people disobeyed, God would curse or punish them. It was a two-way covenant.
God, however, is "one," Paul concludes. He does not require human beings to be involved in order to make a covenant. We call this a unilateral covenant or promise. God gave promises to Abraham and his offspring without demanding anything in return. Abraham simply believed, and God gave. Jesus is "the offspring" who received what was promised to Abraham's descendants. Those who are "in Christ" receive those promises, as well, without need of help from the law.
Galatians 3:15–22 begins with Paul making a legal argument about God's covenant with Abraham. This arrangement remained in place even during the later covenant of the law of Moses. Paul follows this by describing what the point of the law really is. It was given both to show what is sinful, and to show how sinful we are. By the law, we learn that we are not able to keep to God's standard and must be saved in another way. That other way is through faith in Christ. Once He arrived, this salvation was available to all people, including non-Jewish Gentiles.
Paul indicates the Galatian Christians are foolish for believing they need to follow the law of Moses to be right with God. He offers three specific arguments to support this. First, they received God's Spirit in a powerful way after believing in Jesus, but before doing any works of the law. Second, Scripture itself shows God's blessing coming by faith, and His curse coming by the law. Christ paid the price of that curse on the cross. Third, God's covenant with Abraham is like a legal document, and it cannot be revoked.
In Galatians chapter 2, Paul declared that we can only be justified—''made right with God''—by faith in Christ and not by following the law of Moses. In chapter 3, Paul offers three arguments for why that is true. He argues from the Galatians own experience, from the Scriptures themselves, and from the legal standpoint of a covenant contract. Finally, Paul answers what the law is for if it cannot save us from our sin. In part, it reveals our sinfulness and convinces us of our need to be saved by faith in Christ. The following chapter will expand on what it means to be an ''heir,'' spiritually.
Galatians is sometimes called “a short Romans” for its similar themes of justification and sanctification through faith. A group of Christians known as “Judaizers” were preaching a gospel of legalism, rather than grace. Paul’s main purpose in writing the letter to the Galatians was to reiterate the true nature of the gospel: we are justified (made righteous) and sanctified (made more Christlike) through our faith in Jesus Christ alone. This letter was probably written shortly before the church elders in Jerusalem issued their official refutation of the Judaizers, commonly called the Jerusalem Council.
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