What does Galatians 3:3 mean?
ESV: Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?
NIV: Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?
NASB: Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?
CSB: Are you so foolish? After beginning by the Spirit, are you now finishing by the flesh?
NLT: How foolish can you be? After starting your new lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort?
KJV: Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?
Verse Commentary:
This letter is written to the people in the region of Galatia who believed in Christ when Paul came to them with the gospel. Unfortunately, they have begun to think they need to live like the Jews in order to be truly saved (Galatians 2:4). Paul has called them "foolish," with loving purpose (Galatians 3:1), and now asks if they are, in fact, foolish.

In the previous verse, Paul asked them to remember when they received the Holy Spirit. Specifically, he asks if the Spirit came to them after they believed, or after they did some works of the law. The clear answer is that the Spirit came to live inside them, and manifested in some obvious supernatural ways when they believed. This often happened in the early church, when groups believed in large numbers.

Paul's point is fairly clear: if the Spirit came when they believed, why would they think they needed to start following the law to be acceptable to God?

Now, Paul asks that if they began in the power of God's Spirit, do they think they will be perfected by their own human efforts—"the flesh"—to live according to the law? Again, the implied answer is "obviously not."
Verse Context:
Galatians 3:1–9 begins with Paul calling the Galatian Christians he loves ''foolish.'' They have begun to believe they must follow the law of Moses in order to be included in the family of God. Paul asks: did God give His Spirit to them with great power after they believed, or after doing works of the law? Clearly, the Spirit arrived in response to their faith. Abraham also was declared righteous by God in response to his own faith. Paul insists God's promise to Abraham that all nations would be blessed through him pointed to this time when Gentiles would be saved by faith in Christ.
Chapter Summary:
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.
Chapter Context:
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.
Book Summary:
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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