O Foolish Galatians! An Exposition of Galatians 3:1-14 -- By: S. Lewis Johnson, Jr.

Journal: Emmaus Journal
Volume: EMJ 12:2 (Winter 2003)
Article: O Foolish Galatians! An Exposition of Galatians 3:1-14
Author: S. Lewis Johnson, Jr.

O Foolish Galatians!
An Exposition of Galatians 3:1-141

S. Lewis Johnson, Jr.a


“Men cannot be justified before God by their own strengths, merits, or works but are freely justified for Christ’s sake through faith,” says the Augsburg Confession,2 adding that justification by faith was a doctrine long neglected at that time.3 It is true that the document was composed by Philip Melancthon and that Luther complained that his protégé was too careful in his wording,4 but the great reformer eventually admitted that he could not have done better himself (“I cannot tread so gently and lightly”).5 The Confession was published in 1530 as the confessional stand of the Lutherans, and in that context the statement about the neglect of the doctrine of justification by faith is understandable. We, however, are living in equally difficult days. It is rare to hear the doctrine proclaimed in the established church in our time. It is crying for rediscovery.

And, if it is to be rediscovered, it would seem that it would most likely take place through the study of the writings of Paul.

Paul is not “your popular theologian” today, to use the slang of the day. In fact, most feel about Paul as did Pardoner in Sir David Lindsay’s Satire of the Three Estates (1552):

“By him that bore the crown of thorns,
I would St. Paul had never been born.”

It is in Galatians and Romans that Paul most clearly and forcefully expresses himself concerning justification by grace through faith. In the former epistle, which we are studying, his defense of the doctrine is undertaken from the negative standpoint. He tells his readers what the gospel is not, and in the process rules out all attempts at justification by human merit. His method is simple. The opening two chapters are a defense of his right to speak authoritatively to the Galatians. He argues that his apostleship and message are of divine origin. The proposition, stated in verses one, eleven, and twelve, is supported by seven arguments which terminate in chapter two, verse twenty-one.

The argument from theology, or Scripture, follows in chapters three and four. The arguments of the Judaizers, who were troubling the Galatians by insisting that salvation could only be had by the addition of the rite of circumcision to f...

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