Galatians 3-6: The Gospel of Faith Came before the Law of Moses

New Testament: Student Study guide, (2003), 132–133


Paul reminded the Galatian Saints that Abraham became righteous by having faith in Jesus Christ and through obedience to His gospel long before the law of Moses was given. He taught that when the children of Israel (the ancestors of the Galatian Saints) were brought out of Egypt they were not ready to live the fulness of the gospel, so the law of Moses was given to prepare them for the higher law that Abraham had lived.By making and keeping the gospel covenants of this higher law, we can become the children of God and be spiritually born again. Notice how God helps us be born again as we seek to “walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16).

Understanding the Scriptures

Galatians 3

Before whose eyes … crucified among you (v. 1)Since the Atonement of Jesus Christ was clearly taught among you 
Heathen (v. 8)Those not of the lineage or family of Abraham 
Though it be but a man’s covenant … no man disannulleth (v. 15)Even covenants or contracts between men cannot legally be canceled or changed 
Mediator (vv. 19, 20)One who stands between two people to help solve problems 

Galatians 3:2–5—Faith and the Spirit

Paul reminded the Galatian Saints that they had received the Spirit by “the hearing of faith” (Galatians 3:2, 5). They received a testimony of Jesus Christ because they heard and accepted the gospel, not because they obeyed the law of Moses. The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “Faith comes by hearing the word of God, through the testimony of the servants of God; that testimony is always attended by the Spirit of prophecy and revelation” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith,  148).

Galatians 3:8–11, 24—How Do We Become Justified?

To be “just” or “justified” is to be declared not guilty of sin, to be clean and acceptable to God. Paul taught the Galatian Saints that living the law of Moses could not justify them. Since no one can live either the lesser law of Moses or the higher law of the gospel perfectly, Heavenly Father promised to send a Redeemer. Through faith in the Atonement of Jesus Christ and obedience to the law of the gospel even Gentiles, who never knew the law of Moses, can be saved.

Galatians 3:16–19—The Abrahamic Covenant and the Law of Moses

Paul explained that the Lord covenanted with Abraham that the gospel and the Savior would come through his family line (see also Bible Dictionary, “Abraham, covenant of,” p. 602). Because the Israelites were disobedient, the Lord temporarily added the law of Moses to prepare them for the coming of Jesus Christ. However, the addition of the law of Moses did not cancel the promise that the Savior would come and bring the gospel again (see also JST, Galatians 3:19–20).

Galatians 4

Tutors and governors (v. 2)Teachers and guardians 
Ye observe days (v. 10)Paul is referring to the holy days and festivals that were part of the Mosaic law and were no longer necessary. 
Zealously affect you (v. 17)Eagerly want to change you 
Travail (v. 19)Suffer pain 
Allegory (v. 24)Story that uses symbols to teach truths about life 
Gendereth (v. 24)Gives birth to 

Galatians 4:5—“That We Might Receive the Adoption of Sons”

Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught: “Those who receive the gospel and join The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have power given them to become the sons of God. (D.&C. 11:30; 35:2; 39:1–6; 45:8; John 1:12.) Sonship does not come from church membership alone, but admission into the Church opens the door to such high status, if it is followed by continued faith and devotion. (Rom. 8:14–18; Gal. 3:26–29; 4:1–7.) The sons of God are members of his family and, hence, are joint-heirs with Christ, inheriting with him the fulness of the Father. (D.&C. 93:17–23.)” (Mormon Doctrine,  745).

Galatians 4:22–31—The Allegory of the Two Covenants

To help the Galatian Saints understand why they should not tie themselves to the law of Moses and its rituals, Paul used an allegory of two covenants to compare the law of Moses and the gospel of Jesus Christ to Abraham’s two wives and their sons.

Abraham expelling Hagar and Ishmael

Abraham, Sarah, and young Isaac

Abraham’s Wives: Symbols of the Old and New Covenants

Hagar (Agar), the bondwoman, bore a son (Ishmael) naturally after the flesh.

Sarah, the freewoman, bore a son (Isaac) miraculously, a son of promise.

Paul used Hagar and Ishmael as symbols for the bondage of the law of Moses, received on Mount Sinai, and also the earthly city of Jerusalem, which was in bondage to the Romans.

Paul used Sarah and Isaac as symbols for the freedom Jesus Christ brings with His gospel and the heavenly Jerusalem that is free from bondage.

Jews who cling to the law of Moses are children of bondage. They continually persecute the Christians, just as Hagar and Ishmael persecuted Sarah and Isaac.

Christians who embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ are freed from the bondage of Mosaic rituals and are heirs to the promises made to Abraham.

yoked oxen

Paul compared the law of Moses and the traditions of the elders to a “yoke of bondage” (Galatians 5:1).

Galatians 5

Persuasion (v. 8)Belief 
Leaven, leaveneth (v. 9)Leaven is yeast, which causes bread to rise; Paul meant that a little false doctrine can influence the whole person, or the whole group. 
An occasion to the flesh (v. 13)An excuse to act wickedly 
Lasciviousness (v. 19)Wicked desires and acts 
Variance (v. 20)Contention, fighting 
Emulations (v. 20)Jealousy 

Galatians 5:2–6—Trusting in the Law

Paul used the word circumcised in these verses as a symbol of the law of Moses. He said that those who believed that Jewish traditions and the law of Moses could save them would be judged by the whole law and condemned if they were not perfectly obedient. Those who accepted the higher law of the gospel would be forgiven of their sins if they repented and had faith in Jesus Christ.

Galatians 6

Overtaken in a fault (v. 1)Found to be committing sin 
Communicate unto (v. 6)Share with 
Corruption (v. 8)Destruction, spiritual death 

Galatians 6:17—“I Bear in My Body the Marks of the Lord Jesus”

In this verse Paul was referring to his sufferings in the service of Jesus Christ (see also 2 Corinthians 11:23–25; Philippians 3:10).

Studying the Scriptures

Do activity A and then either activity B or C as you study Galatians 3–6.

Activity A iconThe Purpose of the Law of Moses

Review Galatians 3. If Abraham was able to live righteously without even knowing about the law of Moses, what was the purpose of the law? (see the “Understanding the Scriptures” section for Galatians 3, p. 132, if you need help).

Activity B iconWrite Your Own Test Questions

Using the question in activity A as an example, review Galatians 4–6 and write six more questions (two for each chapter) that you think would be good test questions for those chapters. Be sure to include the correct answer after each question.

Activity C iconHow Is Your Spiritual Battle Going?

Paul taught that the spirit and the flesh are continually struggling against each other. Which one is winning in your life?

  1. 1.

    In your notebook, draw two columns and label one Works of the Flesh and the other Fruits of the Spirit. Read Galatians 5:16–26 and list the key words and phrases that describe each one. Ponder the lists and determine how your own spiritual war is going.

  2. 2.

    Read Galatians 6:1–9 and list three things you can do to have more of the fruits of the Spirit to help you in your spiritual battle.