- Locate the Passage
3:10-25 follows Paul’s explanation and affirmation in 3:1-9 that those of faith are the sons of Abraham.
- Identify the Genre
The macro level is epistolary. The micro level is expository. This passage contains no imperative commands.
- Determine the Structure of the Passage
In verses 10-14, Paul contrasts the curse of the law with the promise of the Spirit. He stresses that Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.
In verses 15-18, He confirms the priority of promise over law. He points out that the law came 430 years after the promises were made to Abraham and that those promises have their fulfillment in Christ.
In verses 19-25, Paul clarifies the role of the law. It has a custodial role leading up to the fulfillment of promises in Jesus Christ.
- Exegete the Passage
According to verse 10, those who “are of the works of the law” are under a curse (kataran). Paul cites Deuteronomy 27:26 in support of this assertion. In verse 11, he references Habakkuk 2:4 to remind his readers that no man is justified by the law. Verse 12, with its citation of Leviticus 18:5, further reinforces Paul’s argument from Scripture.
In verses 13-14, Paul powerfully brings the liberating role of Jesus Christ into the discussion. Christ has redeemed (echezopasen-aorist-“set us free”) from the curse of the law, having Himself become (genomenos-aorist participle) a curse for (huper) us. Note the connection Paul makes to Deuteronomy 21:23: Cursed is everyone who hangs (kremamenos-aorist middle participle-“having been hung”) on a tree (zulou-“wood”). In verse 14, Paul omits the use of a conjunction for the purpose of greater emphasis (an asyndeton). He simply uses “so that” (hina eis) to stress that, in Christ Jesus, the blessing (eulogia) of Abraham might come to the Gentiles (ethne). The verse concludes with a hina clause: so that we might receive (labomen-aorist) the promise of the Spirit by faith. These verses answer the question Paul posed to his readers in 3:2: One receives the promise of the Spirit when he responds to the gospel in faith. Additionally, verses 13-14 provide a beautiful summary of the gospel: He has redeemed us from the law (what He has done). He has become a curse for us (how he did it) in order that we might receive the promise through faith (why He did it).
In verse 15, Paul argues from everyday human experience when he states that no one annuls (athetei-“rejects”) or adds to (epidiatassetai) a man-made covenant (diatheken) once it has been ratified (kekuromenen-perfect passive). Verse 16 provides the reminder that promises were made to Abraham and his offspring and that this “offspring” (spermati-“seed”) is Christ. In verse 17, Paul’s argument continues. The law, which came 430 years after the promise to Abraham, does not nullify or annul a covenant previously made by God. Verse 18 presents the idea of inheritance (kleronomia) coming by law as a condition contrary to fact. God gave the inheritance to Abraham by promise.
In verses 19-25, Paul answers the question: Why then the law? According to these verses, the law specifies transgressions (parabaseon), spells out commands and prepares the world for Christ. It was added because of transgressions until the offspring (Jesus Christ) should come (elthe-aorist subjunctive). The law was handed down, or ordained, (diatageis-aorist passive participle-“having been handed down”) through angels by a mediator (mesitou) (verses 18-20).
In verse 21, Paul emphatically asserts (me genoito) that the law, properly understood and applied, is not against or contrary to (kata) the promises of God. The law, unable in itself to give life, is not a vehicle for obtaining righteousness. According to verse 22, the Scripture (graphe) has concluded/called together (sunekleisen) everything under sin in order that (hina) the promise might be given (dothe-aorist passive) to those believing (pisteuosin-participle).
Verses 23-25 convey the provisional or custodial role of the law. Before faith came, we were being guarded (ephrouroumetha-imperfect passive-“we were held under”) under the law, being made a prisoner (sugkleiomenoi-present active participle) until the faith “being about to be revealed.” Verse 24 indicates that, in such a status, the law became our guardian (paidagogos) to/until Christ in order that (hina) we might be justified (dikaiothomen-aorist passive subjunctive) by faith. With the coming of faith, the believer is no longer under a guardian (verse 25).
- Let the Structure of the Text Drive the Sermon
- Paul contrasts the law’s curse and the Spirit’s promise. (10-14)
- Paul confirms the priority of promise over law. (15-18)
- Paul clarifies the role of the law. (19-25)