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Galations 3

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ch.3:1-14    ch. 3:15-25

Faith Or Observance Of The Law (ch. 3:1 Ė 14)

Chapter 3 of Galatians is a shortened version of Romans 4, so I suggest you study Romans 4 to get a clearer understanding on what Paul is teaching concerning this subject matter.   

Verse 1 begins with, "you foolish Galatians".  You can certainty tell how upset Paul is by using such a strong word.  You could easily substitute the word "foolish" with the word "stupid".  The Greek word "anoetos" is the word Paul uses that is translated as "foolish" in NIV.  It means a lack of understanding or senselessness.  It doesn't mean that the Galatians don't have the capacity to understand.  It means they do have the capacity to understand but have failed to use this capacity.  Thus the reason why one could use the word "stupid" in this context. 

Another thing to note here is the use of the ethnic word "Galatians".  Galatians were Galls who lived in the north of Asia Minor, present day Turkey.  Much of the Roman Empire considered this ethnic group of people to be a backward, uneducated, or, even stupid, people.  Some scholars suggest that Paul might have been using an ethnic slur here when he puts the word "stupid" in front of the word "Galatians".  He might well be saying that what culture thinks of you guys is right after-all.      

Paul asked the question, "who has bewitched you"? "Baskano" is the Greek word that is translated as bewitched. This presents the picture of someone casting a spell on the Galatians. The occult type spell was causing them to believe a different gospel.  The use of Paul's wording here shows how strong he felt about the Galatians senseless concerning the matter at hand.  By the use of this Greek word, some suggest that Paul could have easily thought that the devil was behind all that was happening. Some Bible teachers substitute the word "bewitched" with "demonize".  The doctrine that the Judaizers were enticing the Galatians with can be easily seen as a doctrine of demons, a phrase Paul uses in 1 Timothy 4:1.

Verse 1 also says that Jesus Christ was "clearly portrayed as being crucified" before the very eyes of the Galatian believers.  These Christians understood with clarity what Jesus and the cross was all about.  It was as if they had watched a movie on the death and resurrection of Jesus.  This is what it means when he says, "clearly portrayed".  Another way people have put this is that Paul clearly painted a picture of the death and resurrection of Jesus, and what it meant for those who believe.  I think we have to understand the these people had received the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit Himself would have painted this picture for the Galatians as well.  The simple point here is that these Galatians clearly did understand the gospel as Paul taught it.  It wasn't a matter of them not really understanding it in the first place.   

The idea that Jesus was crucified is important here.  He is stressing the point that Jesus died on account of our sins.  Nothing can take the place of the cross.  Nothing can be added to the significance of the cross. We will see later that the Law of Moses did not die on account of sin.  That's an impossibility.  The cross of Christ is fundamental to the Christian faith.  When we see Jesus in the next life, we will see Him with the scars in His hand.  They will be an eternal reminder that He did die on account of our sins.    

In the next few verses Paul asks a series of rhetorical questions that clearly everyone knows the answer to.  These questions are meant to remind these people of who Jesus is and what He has done for them.  Paul is comparing the living Jesus to what he will call a dead Law.   

Since the Galatians  clearly understood the gospel, in verse 2 Paul asks, "did you receive the Spirit by observing the Law, or by believing what you heard"? The answer is obvious. These people received the Holy Spirit by believing what Paul preached to them.

We need to note that this is the first time Paul introduces the Holy Spirit into this letter. You cannot separate the Holy Spirit from justification and righteousness.  He is vital to our salvation.  As a matter of fact, there is no salvation apart from the Holy Spirit.  Paul speaks of the Holy Spirit now as a preliminary to what he will say in chapter 5.  The means by which we work out our salvation on a daily basis is through the Holy Spirit, not through the Law of Moses, or any other law that we might make up.     

One thing we learn as a side issue here is that when someone firsts believes, or, when someone first gives his life to Jesus, which believes means, he receives the Holy Spirit at that point in his life.  He does not receive the Holy Spirit at some kind of secondary experience called the "Baptism in the Holy Spirit", "Sanctification", "a second work of grace", or, whatever you want to call it. The simple fact is that if one does not have the Holy Spirit, he does not belong to Jesus as Romans 8:9 clearly states.  

There is only two possible answers to Paul's question.  One is right and the other is wrong.  The  obvious answer, that both the Galatians and Paul would have understood, is that the Galatians received the Holy Spirit by believing in what Paul preached to them, which led them to believe in Jesus.  They did not receive the Holy Spirit by doing anything, and that includes doing what the Law of Moses told them to do.    

As I have said many times before, believing means more than giving "mental assent" to the gospel. Of course that is part of the process, but it is not all of the process.  Believing in this context means giving yourself to Jesus, or, handing your life over to Jesus,  in a trusting relationship with Him.

In verse 3 Paul tells these people that they are foolish, or, stupid, by thinking that they can "begin in the Spirit", but continue by attempting to "attain their goal by human effort".  Some translations use the word "perfection" here.  By this these translations mean the attempt to grow towards perfection, otherwise known by some as, sanctification.  The Galatians got saved the right way, but their growth as Christians was suspect. They were trying to grow as Christians by "their own human effort". This is the tendency of man throughout the centuries. We always have the tendency to revert back to our own ways, that is, maintaining our salvation by our own good works. We get saved by trusting Jesus, and we stay saved by trusting Jesus. We donít get saved by good works, and we donít get unsaved by bad works. Let me repeat that last statement. We donít get unsaved by doing bad things. Bad things will sooner or later lead us to unbelief and the rejection of Jesus. It is the rejection of Jesus, or total unbelief that unsaves us.

Paul was basically saying that the way you get saved is the same way you stay saved.  You rely on Jesus to get you saved, and you rely on Him to keep you saved.  You do not rely on good works, even if those good works are obeying the Law of Moses, the very Law God gave Israel to obey. 

It is important to understand here that the "self effort" Paul is speaking of refers to obedience to the Law of Moses, not just human religious tradition, and this is where the problem lies.  For centuries God told Israelis to obey the Law of Moses, and now Paul is saying that Jesus has replaced the Law of Moses.  You can certainly understand why Jews would struggle over this, but in this case, most of these Galatians were Gentiles.  In Paul's mind, he had a hard time getting is head around why the Gentiles would even want to obey the Law of Moses in the first place.  

In verse 4 Paul asks these people "if they had suffered so much for nothing."  Paul was a good steward of his time and efforts.  He wanted to do nothing in vain.  He was asking the Galatians if all they had suffered, which was a lot of persecution, was in vain.  If they were going to revert back to their old way, that is, obedience to the Law of Moses, the persecution might end, but the persecution would have been for nothing.    

Paul is not quite ready to concede that these people will revert back to their old ways.  He finishes his question by saying, "if it really was in vain".  With the addition of this phrase, we see that Paul believes he can persuade these people to stay on the right track.  They are on the verge of reverting back to the Law of Moses for the purpose of salvation.  They haven't completely switched back to their old way of thinking.   

Concerning the Galatians suffering for the gospel of Christ, Acts 14:22 speaks of the Galatian suffering.  Paul expected Christians to suffer in his day.  That was to be understood.  This was certainly something that one had to consider when thinking of giving his life to Jesus.    

This last phrase in verse 4, "if it really was for nothing", does not appear in the version of the Greek text that I have.  Obviously, the translators feel this phrase portrays what Paul is saying.  

In verse 5 Paul asks another question.  He asks if God gave them the Holy Spirit and caused miracles to happen among them because they obeyed the Law or because they believed what they heard. Of course "believing what they heard led them to Jesus and the reception of the Holy Spirit that caused the miracles to take place in their midst.  The answer is obvious.  Merely performing duties of the Law did not cause them to receive the Holy Spirit and participate in miracles.  The Galatians should know the answer to this question, and it should cause them to think about what they were thinking of doing.  Again, Paul is trying to bring some simple logic and common sense to this issue.  Common sense was what these people were lacking.

By the use of the word "miracles" here we see that the Galatians, at least at one point, were heavily used by God in the supernatural.  This is impressive by our standards today.  Yet, even with the evidence of the Holy Spirit through miracles, these people were considering leaving the gospel of grace and reverting back to something that Paul says was no gospel in chapter 1, that is, obedience to the Law of Moses.  This shows us how powerful the human will is.  The tendency to obtain salvation by our own human effort  is always with us, and even the miraculous works of the Holy Spirit don't convince us that human effort is wrong.        

In verses 6 and 7 Paul asks the Galatians to consider Abraham, who believed God.  As a result of his faith God "counted him as righteous", even though he wasnít. Paul says, "understand then, that those who believe are children of Abraham". Paul is telling the Galatians that the real children of Abraham are those who believe, those who trust, as Abraham trusted. Remember also that being righteous means being right and just before God, just as God is right and just. Therefore someone who trusts Jesus for his righteousness is viewed by God as being right and just, just as God Himself is right and just. This is good news in the light of Romans 1 and 2 that says that in reality we are far from righteous. Being righteous is a state of being.  It's not just a matter of doing right.  It's a matter of being right, and that is how God views the disciple of Jesus. 

Let me explain righteousness again.  Righteousness is the state of being perfectly right in the essence of who one is.  It's not a matter of doing good.  It's a matter of being good.  Doing good and being good are two different things altogether.  When we trust Jesus with our lives, God declares us as righteous.  He declares that we are perfectly right in who we are, and perfectly right all the time.  

I am sure that Paul introduces Abraham into this argument for a specific reason.  It may well be because the Galatians wanted to revert back to Moses and Paul was going to prove his point by going farther back, and that is to Abraham.  The false teachers would have put a lot of faith in Abraham as well.  They would have considered him to be their founding father.  So Paul was going to show the Galatians that how he thought concerning faith and works is shown to be true in the life of Abraham, the father of Israel.    

Genesis 15 tells the story when God first "credited" Abraham as being righteous.  Abraham and his wife were very old, too old to have children.  God told Abraham that he would indeed have a son, and that this son would obviously be a miracle son, and from this son, Abraham would have so many descendents that he could not count them. 

The word "credit" in Genesis 15:6 is an accounting word.  When someone credits your bank account, they simply put money into your account.  God credited Abraham's spiritual bank account, not because of  anything he did, but simply because he trusted what God told him about having a son, a son that he would be asked to sacrifice at a later date.  Now Abraham's trust in God wavered at times.  He slept with his wife's servant Hagar in order to have this son, but this was not God's will. Clearly, Abraham had faith, but a faith that wavered.  This tells us that our faith in the Lord does not have to be perfect in order to be found righteous in the eyes of the Lord.  It just needs to be sincere and directed to the right person, meaning Jesus.           

Verse 7 is controversial because of  the phrase "children of Abraham".  Paul says that all who believe in Jesus are children of Abraham.  The context of believers being children of Abraham  has to do with faith and righteousness.  If we have faith in Jesus, God views us as righteous.  Being children of Abraham in this context concerns salvation only.  All believers are children of Abraham  when it comes to salvation.  That being said, all believers are not children of Abraham when it comes to prophetic history and national Israel.  In Genesis 12 God promised Abraham certain things.  This was reconfirmed to him a number of times, and reconfirmed to Isaac, Jacob, and Moses, and all the way down through the prophets of Israel.  Concerning these promises, what we call the "Abrahamic Covenant', there is still a distinction between national Israel, and spiritual Israel, if you want or should use that term, that is, true Christians.  God clearly stated that what He promised Abraham would come true, and not all that was promised has yet come true.  These promises should be understood in the light in which they were given, not in some redefined way that "Replacement Theology" teaches.  I believe good hermeneutics would have us interpret God's promises to Abraham in the same way that Abraham would have understood them.  I believe he would have understood the promises to refer to his biological descendents.    

Simply put, Christians are in one real sense of the word children of Abraham.  Also, only those Jews who have given their lives to Jesus are true children of Abraham.  Being a child of Abraham is not a matter of national identity when it comes to salvation.  It is not a matter of being a biological child of Abraham.  It's a matter of faith in Jesus.

Concerning Israel, God's promises to Abraham will come true at the end of this age when all Israel will be saved as Paul states in Romans 11.  At that time one third of Israel as stated in Zechariah 13:9 will be saved, but their salvation is solely based on their giving themselves to their Messiah, Jesus, and nothing else.  I need to be clear that salvation, even if you are a Jew, is based solely on trusting Jesus, not obeying the Law of Moses, and not being a biological child of Abraham.  That beings said, this does not negate the promises made to Abraham concerning his descendents.                 

In verse 8 Paul says a very interesting thing. He says that the "Scriptures foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham".  Note that the "Scriptures foresaw" that the Gentiles could find justification by faith.  Even though this was "announce to Abraham", Paul doesn't specifically say that this was Abraham's understanding.  It was the Scriptures understanding. I personally don't believe that Abraham understood the Gentiles would be justified in the eyes of God by trusting in Jesus.  Whatever the case, Paul viewed God's promise of "all nations being blessed" through Abraham as the gospel.  Paul saw more to the Abrahamic Covenant than Israel of old saw, and this was part of the problem Paul had with both the Jews and the Jewish Christians. 

The words "justify" and "justification" is the process by which God removes the designation of being a miserable sinner from who we are in order for Him to view us as being perfectly right in who we are, even as He Himself is perfectly right in who He is.  So God announced in advance this good news that Paul preached, that is, that the whole world could be made right before God if they had faith, as Abraham had faith. Now the Jews would have really struggled with this point. This is why the Jews and especially the Christian Jews had a hard time with Paul. The idea that the uncircumcised Gentiles could be made right with God, especially by faith alone, without obeying the Law of Moses, was a hard thought to get around.

So we see, the life of Abraham, as is the case with the lives of many Old Testament men, were prophetic of Jesus and salvation.  We often think of prophecy as something spoken by prophets, but prophecy is more than that.  Here we see lives of men being prophetic, just as we see the Law of Moses, the tabernacle, and many other things in the Old Testament as being prophetic.  Moses himself was prophetic, or symbolic in one sense of the word.  The Bible views Moses as representing the Law which God gave Israel.

To learn more about this promise God made to Abraham you can read Genesis 12:3, 18:18,28:14 to18.

Concerning Abraham, we should understand that God justified him by faith long before he was a Jew, long before he was circumcised, and long before the Law of Moses came into affect. 

Paul's point throughout his writings concerning this is that the Jewish Gentile issue, circumcision, and the Law of Moses, have nothing to do with being justified, and never did have anything to do with being justified in the sight of God. Paul's bottom line thought is that all along, throughout human history, long before circumcision and the Law, and even during the period of the Law, God wanted people to trust Him.  Trust in God is fundamental whether there is a Law of Moses or not.  Nothing has ever changed when it comes to trusting one's life to God.  It's always been that way, and it will always be that way.  

In verse 8 Paul quotes one of the promises found in the Abrahamic Covenant.  He quotes, "all nations will be bless through you".  (Genesis 12:3, 18:18, 22:18)  In Galatians 3, the point Paul is making is that this specific promise is fulfilled in Jesus.  Jesus was a descendent of Abraham, or, as he points out in the next section, Jesus is "the Seed of Abraham".   By quoting this Old Testament verse, Paul is saying that through Jesus all the nations of the earth will be blessed with salvation. 

There is one important issue that I need to mention at this point.  There is more to the Abrahamic Covenant than the promise of all nations being blessed.  Paul, in Galatians 3, only, and I say only, addresses this one promise of the Abrahamic Covenant.  There are other promises found in the covenant, one of which is that Israel will have a certain portion of land "forever'.  Paul does not address that part of the covenant here.  I say that to say this.  There are 3 recipients of the Abrahamic Covenant.  They are, Abraham himself, his descendents who is Israel, and his seed, who Paul says is Jesus in the next section.  The promise of the world being blessed through Abraham applies to Jesus blessing the world.  The promise that Israel would be a great nation forever and possessing a certain piece of land applies to Abraham's descendents Israel, and is yet to be fulfilled.  When this promise is fulfilled, as it will be at the end of this age and into the thousand year rule of Christ, then Israel too will be a blessing to all the nations of the world, but only because Jesus is in their midst and sits on the throne of David in Jerusalem. 

The simple point to this is that the Abrahamic Covenant that Paul speaks of in Galatians 3 has two aspects to it.  One is salvation through Jesus which Paul addresses here.  The other is the salvation and restoration of Israel that Paul does not address here but he does address in Romans 9 through 11.   

Another thing I need to note here is how the Abrahamic Covenant differs from the Mosaic Covenant, or, the Law of Moses.  Both covenants have become a point of discussion in the book of Galatians.  We should understand that the Mosaic Covenant that came after the Abrahamic Covenant is not an extension of the Abrahamic Covenant.  They are two separate and distinct covenants.  The biggest difference between the two covenants is that the Abrahamic Covenant is unconditional and that God did not make the covenant with Abraham.  He made it with Himself and simply spoke it to Abraham.  You can see this in Genesis 15 where the covenant ceremony that took place is recorded.  Abraham was put to sleep by God.  He had no part in the ceremony.  Therefore, because God agreed with Himself to fulfill the covenant, all aspects of the covenant will be fulfilled as stated by God and understood by Abraham.  That means Israel still has both prophetic and historic significance because much of the promises in the covenant were stated to and about Israel.

The Mosaic Covenant does have conditions, and that's the main difference between the two covenants.  God entered into a covenant with Israel.  Both God and Israel agreed on the stipulations of the covenant.  If Israel obey the covenant then the blessings of the covenant would be theirs.  If they disobeyed the covenant, the curses stated in the covenant would come on them. 

Another main difference between the two covenants is that the Abrahamic Covenant is eternal and the Mosaic Covenant is temporary.  If one fails to understand the difference between the two covenants, one will fail to understand prophetic history, Israel's significance in prophetic history, and salvation itself.  Paul was trying to fix this misunderstanding in his letter to the Galatians.                         

Paul concludes in verse 9 that "those who have faith, or trusts in Jesus, are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith". The Jews associated circumcision with Abraham, not faith. The Jews would have said, that they were blessed along with Abraham because they were circumcised as he was. This was no longer the case. Paulís gospel was the good news that salvation is by trusting in Jesus alone. Nothing we can do, no matter how Godly it is, can save us. 

If you understand from the Old Testament, how serious of a matter if was to God for a Jew not to be circumcised, you can certainly understand why Christian Jews thought as they did.  Over and over again God told Israel that all males must be circumcise or else they would be cut off from Israel.  Paul was reducing circumcision to nothing.  If Paul had lived in the day of Jacob, he would have been excommunicated from Israel. 

Paul leaves Abraham as an example and now turns to another example.   

In verse 10 Paul says that whoever relies on observing the Law is under the Law, and whoever is under the Law is cursed. Why is the person cursed. Because "cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the book of the Law".  This is a direct quote from Deuteronomy 27:26.  The Law of Moses provided a list of blessings that Israel would receive if she obeyed the Law.  It also provided a list of curses if she did not obey.  The point that Paul is making here is that one must "continue' to obey "all" of the Law of Moses.  If you fail to obey on one point, as small as the point is, you have failed to obey the Law and therefore are cursed as the Law stated.  This means that all Jews are under the curse of the Law.  No Israeli has continued to obey the Law in all aspects.  This is really one of the major themes of the Old Testament.  That is, "man can try as hard as he can, but he will never be able to meet God's standards of living. That is why we need a Saviour".  I personally believe this is why God set forth the Law of Moses in the first place.   The Law of Moses was to prove that in our very nature, who we are at the core, we are sinful, without any ability to do as God says.    

Concerning the point that if you break one law, you break them all, James agrees with Paul when he says the same thing in James 2:10. God Himself says the same thing in Leviticus 18:5.

Concerning these curses, I believe we should view them in two ways. One way concerns Israel, to whom the Law was given.  As a nation, they have been experiencing, and still are experiencing, the curses because they have failed to obey the Law of Moses which they promised they would do.  At the end of the tribulation period that ends this age, those Israelis who  survive the horror of those days will turn to the Lord Jesus.  The curses that were prophesied about in the Law will have been fulfilled, and at that point the blessings will be on Israel in the thousand year rule of Christ from Jerusalem.

The other way of viewing these curses is more spiritual, which Paul speaks about in this chapter.  That is, Jesus died on the cross.  His death was in fact taking these curses for every individual person on Himself, and especially for every Jew, whether Jew or Gentile, so we would not have to personally experience any curse from God.  Believers in Jesus  therefore, have no curse over their heads, even though some feel believers need to be set free from curses.  Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:21that Jesus actually became sin just for us.  Becoming sin means that Jesus was cursed by God while hanging on the cross because of our sin.

When it comes to the blessings and the cursings of the Law of Moses there is a distinction between national Israel and the individual.  There are two separate things that need to be considered, that is, Israel's national salvation, and the salvation for the individual Israeli who calls on the name of the Lord, whether Jew or Gentile.   

The word "rely" in verse 10 is important as well.  If you "rely" on the Law for salvation, you're not saved, or as Paul puts it in Galatians 5:3.  Some people don't see the term "falling from grace" as losing one's salvation, but I do. 

If for one reason or another you'd like to follow the Law, or parts thereof, but not for the purpose of salvation, I believe that is a different matter.  Yet, if you teach others to follow your practice, I would say that you are clearly in the wrong.  This is what Paul is saying in the book of Galatians. 

Notice the words "the law" in the NIV in verse 10.  The word "the" is not found in the original Greek.  When Paul wants to speak of the Law of Moses without saying the Law of Moses, he uses the term "the law".  When he is speaking of law in general, that is, any law, he simply says "law".  That being said, I would suggest the NIV is right when it inserts the word "the", making the law spoken of as the Law of Moses.  I believe this because the law here is in reference to the Law of Moses.  I'm not one to put a lot of emphasis on such words as "the", "of", "in", "for", and so on, but at times there is a point to be made from these words.  The one caution is that the point must be in line with the context, and the word "the" here is one example of this.  

In verse 11 Paul says, "clearly no one is justified before God by the Law, because the righteous (or the just, as some texts states) shall live by faith".  Paul says this so many times in Romans and here in Galatians. The Law of Moses justifies no man. Again, as I have said so many times, if Godís Law does not justify us, then any man made law will not justify us either. It is by faith alone, by trusting Jesus, from the beginning to the end that saves us, and keeps us saved.

Paul backs his point by quoting from Habakkuk 2:4. His point here is that the Old Testament itself states that the righteous, or the just, shall live by faith.  He is saying that even in Old Testament times, faith, or faithfulness, is the foundation for justification and being counted righteous in the eyes of God.

When Paul read from the Old Testament, scholars tell us that for the most part, he was reading from the Septuagint. That is, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament.  Simply put, and if the Septuagint is correct, the Septuagint states that the "just will live by God's faithfulness".  This puts a whole different slant on this verse.  We don't live by our own faithfulness, but by God's faithfulness.  We have no faithfulness as defined by God's standards of faithfulness.     

I want to point out that Paul says "the just one, or righteous one, will live by faith.  He does not say that the just or righteous will get saved by faith.  We don't just get saved by faith, but we stay saved by faith.  And, even beyond that, we "live" by faith.  We live out every moment of our lives by relying on Jesus and His faithfulness towards us, not the Law of Moses, and any other law that we may make up.      

In verse 12 Paul states that the "Law of Moses is not based on faith."  The working out of the Law is a matter of works.  You read a law, and you do what it says.  You don't really need faith.  For example.  If I say to you, "put your coat over there".  You don't need any faith in me to obey what I say.  You just put your coat where I asked you.  The Law of Moses, or any law as far as that goes, is simply a list of rules to obey, whether you trust the one who gave the law or not.  Our governments have given us many laws, and many of us don't trust the government, but we still obey the laws.         

In verse 13 Paul says that Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law by becoming a curse. What does this mean? First of all the word redeem means to purchase.  We were once slaves to the Law. If someone broke the Law he would be cursed and punished. Jesus, who never broke the Law, took the curse of the Law on Himself and was punished. By this process of punishment, Jesus bought us, or redeemed us for Himself.

Jesus redeemed us "so that the blessing given to Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ". This blessing is being "counted as righteousness" as Abraham was counted righteous. Yet this righteousness is through Jesus, through trusting Him, without the deeds of the Law. There is no other way to receive this blessing.

So just to be clear, when Jesus died on the cross, a lot took place, more than most of us realize.  One thing that took place was that God cursed Jesus.  All the Law of Moses spoke about concerning God cursing Israel for disobeying Him, happened to Jesus.  Therefore, it no longer has to happen to us.  We simply trust what Jesus did for us by becoming a curse.  He became a curse so we would not have to be cursed.  That frees us from both the Law and the curse.  But, if we neglect what Jesus did on the cross, a greater curse than that spoken of in the Law of Moses will come on us.  

When Paul quotes "cursed is everyone who hung on a tree", he is quoting from Deuteronomy 21;22 and 23.  This has to be prophetic.  It is said that Jesus died on the tree.  Jesus was certainly cursed and his hanging was foretold in Deuteronomy 21:22 and23.  Some Bible teachers actually believe the cross that Jesus died on was a long pole that was placed horizontally between two trees.  If so, that would make this verse even more prophetic, if you can say it that way.  

Concerning someone being cursed as he hung from a tree; the Jews executed people by stoning, not by crucifixion.  After a Jewish person died, it was their tradition to bury them next to immediately, within the day if possible.  In many cultures, whatever the means of execution was, there was a public display of the dead body.  This was disgraceful to the Jews, and this is what happened to the body of Jesus while hanging on the cross.  Romans crucified criminals in public places as a means of telling the general public that if you break the law, this could happen to you.  Jesus' public death is seen as a curse in two ways.  One is that He was actually cursed by God for our sins.  Two is that the display of his death was meant to be a curse by his executioners and seen as a curse to the Jews.       

In verse 14 Paul clearly relates the Abrahamic Covenant as being for the Gentiles as well as the Jews.  This is in a spiritual sense, because, as Paul will say in the next section, part of the covenant concerned the seed of Abraham, who is Jesus.  Through Jesus, not only the Jews but that Gentiles as well can receive the blessings of the Abrahamic Covenant.  That beings said, as I maintain, the Abrahamic Covenant also applies to the nation of Israel as well.  There are two aspects to the covenant, one being spiritual, the other  being national. The promises directed to Jesus the seed, are spiritual, and are for all peoples, while the promises directed to Abraham's descendents, that's Israel, are national, and are directed to Israel, and yet to be fulfilled.     

In verse 14 Paul ends this paragraph with the reason why we need to be viewed or declared as being righteous by God. The reason is so that we "might receive the Spirit". You see, before Godís Spirit can come within us, the sin problem has to be dealt with.  Jesus took care of that by being  cursed and receiving the punishment for our sin. Sin was finally punished. Of course we should have been the ones punished, but we werenít. Jesus was punished in our place. Therefore Godís justice in punishing sin was satisfied. He could now look on us without anger and wrath. As a result, He could now give us His Holy Spirit. As long as He saw sin in us, He could not give us His Spirit. But now, He no longer sees the sin. Sin has been laid on the back of Jesus. What He sees is our faith, or our trust in Jesus. If He does not see that within a person, then that person has no other way to be made right with God. He only waits until that terrible day of the Lord when all of Godís wrath and anger will be poured out on those who refuse His provision that was made on the cross.  If you think of it, even though we have been made righteous through Jesus' act of grace, we are still unrighteous in our actions.  For this reason, it is one big miracle that God allows his Spirit to live in us. 

Many Evangelicals don't understand the relation between forgiveness and the reception of the Holy Spirit into one's life.  God will not give His Spirit to anyone who has not repented and received His forgiveness.  For this reason, I believe there are many in the church that do not have the Holy Spirit, because they have not really repented and received God's forgiveness.   Also, many people stop at forgiveness, not knowing that the Holy Spirit is there for them.  One cannot live long as a Christian in that situation.  You cannot live the life of a Christian without the Spirit of God.  You cannot commune with Jesus without the Spirit of God.  Again, Paul says in Romans 8:9 that if you do not have the Holy Spirit living in you, you do not belong to God.     

Concerning the cross of Christ, many Christians simply see the cross as that place where God forgave our sins, but the cross is much more than that.  Another aspect to the cross is that Jesus was condemned as a sinner.  He not only was punished for our sins, He was condemned as being a sinner on our behalf.  The only righteous One was executed because God viewed Him in the very core of who He was as a sinner in order that God might view you and I in the very core of who we are as perfectly righteous.   

One thing to note here is that Paul has been talking about the curses of the law, but in verse 24 he is talking about the blessings of Abraham, not the blessings of the Law. I believe he is referring to the blessings of Abraham because he began this section with Abraham.  He's making the point that the Law does not nullify the Abrahamic Covenant.  I will say, concerning the blessings of the Law, Israel will eventually receive these blessings in the thousand year rule of Christ.

 

The Law and the Promise (ch. 3:15-25)

 

This section in the book of Galatians is important to understand. It is quite controversial, and I believe some of gone astray doctrinally because they have misunderstood what Paul is talking about here. It's one of the primary passages that those who believe in Replacement theology use to back their thinking,  As I see things, Replacement Theology totally misrepresents this passage because the doctrine fails to understand what the Abrahamic Covenant is all about.

Beginning in verse 15 Paul says that human covenants or contracts are not meant to be broken.  According to the Greek words used here the specific type of covenant spoken of by Paul is a last will and testament.  If you write a will, it can't be set aside, ignored, or added to in any way.

The words "the same in this case" in verse 15 is clarified in verse 16.  "In this case" refers to the Abrahamic Covenant the God spoke to Abraham.  It is vital to understand the Abrahamic Covenant, because if you don't, you will not understand this passage.  How one understands the Abrahamic Covenant will shape their thinking on prophetic history and the meaning to Paul's words here.

In verse 16 Paul says, "the promises were spoken to Abraham and his seed".  First of all I want to point out that the word "promises" is plural, not singular.  There were more than one promise spoken to Abraham.  There was the promise that all the nations of the earth would be blessed.  There was the promise of land.  There was the promise of national statehood and greatness.  There was the promise of Abraham having a miracle son.  There was the promise that those who bless Abraham would be blessed and those who cursed Abraham would be cursed.

Verse 16 states that God spoke these promises to Abraham and to his seed.  The word "spoke" is important because that is exactly what happened.  God did not enter into a covenant with Abraham.  He simply spoke the terms of the covenant to Abraham.  If you read Genesis 15 you will note that when the covenant ceremony was taking place, God put Abraham to sleep.  Abraham had no part in making the covenant.  God made the covenant with Himself.  He only spoke it to Abraham, and as Paul says here, to Abraham's seed.  This means that the promises stated in the covenant are unilateral.  God will fulfill the promises despite what anyone says and does.  Unlike the Mosaic Covenant, where God made the covenant with Israel, Israel had to do certain things to benefit from the covenant.  The Abrahamic Covenant is unconditional.  Israel, or no one, has to do anything to have the promises fulfilled.  

Verse 16 states that the covenant was spoken to two people, Abraham and to Abraham's seed.  But, if you read the Genesis accounts, of which there are many, you will notice that the covenant had three recipients, not two as stated here.  They are Abraham, his seed as Paul states here, and "Abraham's descendents. One thing I need to point out here is that I do not believe that Abraham's seed and his descendents are the same recipients.  Part of Paul's argument here is that the word "seed" is singular.  He makes a big deal about that.  That is how precise Paul gets.  Well, if the word "seed" being singular is important, then the word "descendents", which is plural must be important as well.  Simply put, if "seed" is singular and "descendents" is plural, they both can't refer to the same person or persons.

When I distinguish word the "seed", or  "offspring" as the NIV puts it; I'm making that distinction based on the NIV.  The KJV uses the word "seed" throughout the Genesis account, and this may be one big reason why replacement theology has prospered over the years.  The KJV does not distinguish the difference between "offspring" and "descendents" as the NIV does.  You might ask, "why does the NIV make this distinction"?  I believe because the context suggests that this distinction can be made.  IF the word "descendents" should not appear in our English Bible, then Replacement Theology has a good point in how they think. 

The Hebrew word "zera" is translated as "seed", "offspring", descendent",  and "descendants"  in many of our English Bible, the NIV included.  The simplest meaning for "zera" IS "sowing", and thus is used in many ways in the Old Testament.  "Zera" can be used in reference to planting seed, or a man impregnating a woman.  Understanding "zera" is important but it is a hard Biblical concept to think through.    

One more point concerning "zera" is that, as in our English word "seed", it can be thought of as both singular  and plural.  This is where the difficulty arises in translating it into English.  Which do you use, the singular or plural?  Thus the difference between the King James and the NIV.  One's theology often motivates one to translate "zera".  It is my understanding that most of the King James translators had a low view of Israel in the first place and therefore would have naturally translated "zera" as being singular throughout the Genesis account.  Most middle aged theologians, including reformed theologians, believed in Replacement Theology, meaning, the church replaced Israel in prophetic history.  Also, the context is another reason why translators translate "zera" into English either in the singular or plural.         

The reason why I feel Paul does not comment on the word "descendents" in this passage is because he is majoring on the "seed" and how the "seed" relates to salvation by faith.  Paul teaches on the "descendents" in Romans 9 through 11.  Teaching on the "descendents" of Abraham, which is Israel , in this passage would only muddy the waters and cause more confusion.           

As I said, Paul makes a point of saying that the word "seed" is singular, not plural. There is no "s" on the word "seed".  Paul is sure getting technical and specific here. This could be a case for our Biblically illiterate world today. If Paul can get this detailed, this specific and technical, so why canít we.  It seems to me that most Christians prefer not to study the Bible in such detail. If Paul were speaking in many churches today, making such a point, he would lose most of the people for lack of interest. They would rather be blessed by easy words to hear.

Getting back to Paulís point, he says that the word "seed" singular, can only  refer to one person, and that is Jesus, not several people, meaning the descendents of Abraham who is Israel.  What Paul is saying here is important.  If he is wrong, then every Christian has wasted his time being a Christian over the centuries.  Paul is putting Jesus in the forefront here when it comes to the things of God, and as we will see, he is putting the Law of Moses in the background.  If Paul is wrong on this point, then Christianity is all wrong.  Christians should be Jews, meaning, if you are a Gentile, to become right with God, you must become a Jew and obey the Law of Moses, which Paul emphatically denies.   

Paul goes on to say that the Law that came 430 years later cannot nullify Godís promise to Abraham. I will not comment on the 430 years.  There is some controversy whether the count is 430 years or 400.  You can read other commentaries and learn more about that.  I will only say that it is a matter of dating, when you start the date and when you end the dates. 

Paul's point in verse 17 is simple.  The Abrahamic Covenant came long before the Mosaic  Covenant, and, the Mosaic Covenant in no way nullifies the unconditional Abrahamic Covenant.  They are in fact two separate and distinct covenants, each having their own purpose.  The Abrahamic Covenant, as Paul states here is still in affect, even to this day.  Paul does teach, as we will see later, and in other letters, that the Mosaic Covenant has ceased to be for the purpose of being made righteous in the eyes of God.  See Romans 10:4 and Colossians 2 15 to 25.

Verse 18 is necessary to understand.  If you miss this point, you will fail to understand Paul's logic.  He says, "if the inheritance Ö"  With the use of the word "inheritance" here, this confirms the covenant or contract spoken of in verse 15 is in fact a last will and testament.  The Abrahamic Covenant is a will.  It can't be nullified.  

Paul says that if the inheritance seen in the covenant depends on the law, meaning the Law of Moses, then the inheritance is no longer a promise.  This makes perfect sense.  A last will and testament is a list of things promised to someone upon death, and in this case, the promises of the will, the Abrahamic Covenant, has no conditions added to it.  Therefore the Law of Moses does not nullify the Abrahamic Covenant.  

Paul ends verse 18 by saying that the promises spoken to Abraham depends on His grace alone.  They do not depend on anything that anyone does.  If they depended on what anyone does, then they are no longer an unconditional promise, and we know the promises were unconditional.   It's a matter of simple logic.         

I say the following to summarize what I've just said.  Paul emphasizes the word "seed" as being singular, thus can't be referring to many people, as in Abraham's descendents.  Therefore he says the seed is Jesus.  Paul is only defining the word "seed", or the word "offspring" as it is seen in the Genesis accounts in the NIV.  He is not defining the word "descendents" that is also found in the Genesis accounts.  We must still understand the word descendents as being Abraham's descendents, that is Israel.  If Paul emphasized the word "seed" as being singular, then it is logical that we emphasize the word "descendents" as being plural, and, if we do that, then we cannot ignore the word "descendents" which is Israel , in the Genesis accounts.  

I make this point because some say that the whole of the Abrahamic Covenant is fulfilled in Jesus because of what Paul says here.  They say that Israel is now excluded from the covenant and has no more prophetic significance.  That's not so.  In short, Paul states that the Abrahamic Covenant is directed to both Abraham and Jesus.  Yet when you read the Genesis accounts you will notice that the covenant is directed to three people or groups.  They are Abraham, his descendents who we know as Israel , and the offspring who we now know is Jesus.  It's therefore only logical to conclude that what God promised Abraham, He promised to Abraham. What God promised to Abraham's descendents Israel, He promised to Israel.  And, what God promised to the offspring, who we now know is Jesus, He promised to Jesus.  All of the promises directed to all three recipients will surely be fulfilled.

My point is simple.  The promises found in the Abrahamic Covenant were made to three people or groups of people.  Therefore we must make a distinction between Abraham, Israel, and Jesus.  God promised salvation to all mankind through Jesus.  That being said, there were specific promises, like land promises, promises of national greatness, that God made to Israel that will yet be fulfilled.  It is clear from many passages, that God did not lay aside Israel , or replace Israel with the church.  And, taking the land promises as an example, Jesus is involved in the fulfillment of land to Israel as well, since He is the one who returns to earth and gives them the land.  The great nationhood status of future Israel also comes through Jesus.  When Jesus returns, Israel will be what she was always meant to be.    

Just to confirm; Paul, in Galatians 3:16 is not speaking of the word "descendents", only the word "offspring".  He has defined offspring for us.  He does not define, or redefine the word "descendents", that is still plural.  Besides, this section is not a commentary on the Abrahamic Covenant with all of its promises.  What Paul says here about the Abrahamic Covenant is simply in support of his main topic which is righteousness by faith.  In Romans 9 through 11 Paul speaks to the issue of Israel, the descendents of Abraham and their prophetic and historical significance.       

In verse 19 Paul anticipates the obvious question in response to what he has just said.  He does this throughout the book of Romans.  It's a writing style that he often uses, which is also the writing style of Greek philosophy.  He makes a point, he anticipates someone asking a question, so he asks the question and gives the answer.

The question is, "what, then, is the purpose of the Law"?  Again, the Law spoken of here is clearly the Law of Moses.  Why was it even given in the first place if it is now done away with?   Paul's answer gives one of a number of reasons for the Law. He says that it  "was added because of transgressions".  Paul doesn't specifically say whose transgressions he is thinking of.  I believe it is simply transgressions in general, which would include all mankind, not just Jews.  The Greek word "parabasis" is translated here as "transgressions" This Greek word is made up of two Greek words meaning, "to go" and "across".   Transgressions means to "go across", as in, "to go across the line".  Simply put, it means to go too far, or beyond what we are allowed to go.   If you see a sign that says "no trespassing beyond this point", that means if you go beyond that point you have "trespassed" or, "transgressed".  The word "trespass" is a good word that helps explain "transgress".  In this respect, the Law of Moses was to tell us that we have trespassed God's commands or way of doing things.  If the Law wasn't given, we would not know that we have trespassed God's ways.    

Concerning the Law of Moses, if you read the Genesis account, it will tell us lots about issues surrounding the Law.  Much of the Law of Moses was already in existence prior to the time God spoke it to Moses.  We say that many of these laws that were already in existence were codified in the Law.  One example of this is seen as far back as the days of Cain and Abel.  We don't know how or when, but Cain and Abel offered sacrifices to God.  I don't believe this was a matter of their own choice.  God accepted one sacrifice and not the other, so there had to have been some rules laid down by God that these men were told. From that point on, men were supposed to offer acceptable sacrifices. That is why you see sacrifices in all the old civilizations, not just in Israeli society.  Well, all civilizations drifted from the true meaning of these sacrifices and perverted them.  God called Israel , gave her the Law, in order for them to be priests, or examples to the rest of the world, so all civilizations could do as God wanted.  So, what Paul says here is correct.  It is because of the wayward sin of all those ancient civilizations that the Law was added. 

The next phrase in verse 19 is important.  It says, "until  the Seed to whom the promise referred to had come".  Note the word "Seed" is capitalized in the NIV.  We know who the Seed is from verses 15 through 18.  The Seed is Jesus.   The "promise" spoken of here is a promise within the Abrahamic Covenant" and concerns salvation, as was also stated in the last paragraph.  The point to this phrase is that the Law of Moses was added until Jesus came, to whom the promise of salvation was spoken in the Abrahamic Covenant. This makes it clear again.  As Paul has now said a few times, The Law of Moses was in effect until Jesus appeared on earth.  The word "until" is important.  As Paul says in Romans 10:4, "Christ is the end of the Law".  It can't be any clearer.  That wasn't the case to the Galatian believers, and even today it's not the case for those Christians who feel the need to revert back to what they call "the churches Jewish roots", and the Judeo system found in the Law of Moses.     

The last half of verse 19 and verse 20 takes some thought and is hard to understand for many.  Many scholars have debated just what Paul means here.   Paul says that the Law was put into effect through "angels by a mediator".  Part of the problem lies in the angels that Paul speaks of.  In my thinking, as the Law was being spoken to Moses, it was being spoken in the presence of a myriad of angels.  See Deuteronomy 33:2 and Hebrews 2:2 for further insight into this. 

Beyond Paul's mentioning of angels, the other problem arises concerning the word "mediator".  Who was the mediator Paul is referring to?  I believe he is referring to Moses but there are some who think he is referring to Jesus. The reason why think the mediator is Moses because God spoke the Law to Moses and he spoke it to Israel.  So, he was the mediator.    

Verse 20 has a multitude of different meanings by different commentators.  I'll give you my spin.  Paul says that a mediator represents more than one party.  That's clearly a correct statement.  When it comes to the Law of Moses, Moses was the mediator, although some say Jesus mediated between Yahweh and Moses.  The Mosaic Covenant, unlike the Abrahamic Covenant, was conditional.  God and Israel entered into a joint covenant which included the blessings that Israel would receive if she obeyed the Law, and the curses that would come on them is she disobeyed.  Both parties clearly understood that.  Thus the need for a mediator.  

So in verse 20 Paul says that a mediator doesn't just represent one party, "but God is one".  This is the trickiest part of verses 19 and 20 to understand.  When Christians read the words "God is one', they immediately think of the Trinity.  Yet this was not the case with the rabbis of Israel.  Every day a good Jew would speak from Deuteronomy 6:4, where the text reads, "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord". (KJV)  The NIV reads, "Here, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one".  Different versions translate this verse differently because there is some inherent  trouble in the translating process.  The simplest way to think of this may be to say that "Yahweh (Lord), our Elohim (God) is one Yahweh.  Or, Yahweh is our God and He is one.  For the most par, rabbis strongly interpret this verse in reference to polytheism.  That is, there is only one Israeli God and He is Yahweh, while the Gentile pagans worship multiple gods.  That is to say, "we believe in one God, you believe in more than one  God".  Christians, because of their Trinitarian view point tend to see this differently.  They say God is one, even though He consists of three identifying parts in His essence.   Whatever view one holds on this, the rabbinical thinking should be fundamental in any theology of the Godhead.       

All that being said, there is a good chance that Paul was not even thinking of the "oneness" of God when he wrote these words.  Some have interpreted Paul this way.  "a mediator represents more than one party, but God is one of the two parties".  At the present time, I think this is a good way to view the phrase "but God is one".  My Greek interlinear might confirm this.  It reads, "now the mediator of one is not God one is".         

In verse 21 Paul asks another question.  He asks if the Law of Moses oppose the promises of God and he clearly answers that it doesn't.   The promises spoken of here is in reference to the promises in the Abrahamic Covenant.  After what he has just said, you might think that the Law does oppose Godís promises.  Paul spends the next few verses to explain why the Law does not oppose the promises of the Abrahamic Covenant.

The first thing Paul points out in answering this question is that the Law of Moses could not impart life.  If it could, then righteousness would have come through the Law.  Another way to say this is that if the Law could make men and women totally right and perfect in who they are, then we should be obeying the Law, but it can't.  It's just a list of rules with a number of relevant blessings and cursings associated with these rules.  A bunch of rules can't make one righteous in who he is.  It can, to a degree, cause one to do righteous things, but that's not what Paul is talking about.  Doing righteous things and being righteous are two different things.  Paul is simply pointing out the short comings of the Law of Moses.  In short, the Law of Moses was never intended to make Jews righteous in the eyes of God. 

In verse 22 Paul says that the Scripture, that's the whole of the Old Testament, says that " the whole world is a prisoner of sin".  All of mankind is caught in our sinful nature, committing sinful acts, and there's no way to escape our miserable state of being.  We are prisoners.  This is a fundamental Biblical truth that we all must understand.  It's foundational to the gospel because if we don't accept the fact that we are prisoners of sin, we will not repent, and repentance is the first step in the process of salvation.    

I would suggest that when Paul uses the word "world" in verse 22 that not only mankind is a prisoner of sin, but all of creation is a prisoner of sin.  We see this in Romans 8:18 to 22 when Paul says that all of creation is waiting with eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.  Simply put, when Christians are set free in their glorified bodies, creation will be set free as well, because all creation fell under the curse of sin when man fell.  

One thing I will mention here is that some theologians say that we become sinners when we commit the first sin. That is, we're sinners because we sin.  I don't believe that.  I believe we sin because we are sinners.  We are born in sin, born with a sinful nature.    

The last have of verse 22 states that what was promised, and what was promised is speaking of the Abrahamic Covenant and not the Mosaic Covenant, can only come through Jesus.  That's totally logical.  If God gave the promises, only God, through Jesus could secure the promises.  The word "promises" is always in reference to the Abrahamic Covenant in the Bible, unless the context states otherwise.  

What Paul is doing here is linking Jesus to God and the Abrahamic Covenant.  Trusting your life with Him alone, being the Son of God, is the only way to receive the promises of God.  The Law of Moses could never do that, and it was never meant to do that anyway.   

In verse 22, when Paul speaks of the "whole world being prisoners of sin", I believe he is saying this because he is including both Jew and Gentiles as being prisoners of sin.  He has been talking about Jewish issues in this chapter, but when it comes to faith in Christ, faith is for both Jew and Gentile., because all has sinned and come short of God's glory. (Romans 3:23)   

One thing to remember here is that the Law of Moses goes back to Moses, and the Abrahamic Covenant goes back to Abraham, but there is in fact another covenant that goes back even farther, and that is the Adamic Covenant.  In Genesis 3 God speaks the terms of the Adamic Covenant to Adam, and part of the covenant is the salvation of the world, not only the salvation of the Jews.       

Verse 22 says that we are all prisoners of sin.  Now, here in verse 23 Paul says that "before faith came we were held prisoners, locked up by the Law".  So we are not only prisoners of sin, but the Jews were prisoners of the Law.  They were locked up, bound up, needing to obey the Law but never being able to obey.  It was total frustration.  If Godís Law locks us up, our own man made laws will do the same.

Verse 23 begins with, "until faith came", and closes with "until faith should be revealed".  Does this mean that faith did not exist before Jesus.  No.  Israel was to have faith in their God, but now faith is being directed specifically to Jesus Himself, which in turn, shows us again the temporary nature of the Law.    

The words "those who believe" in verse 23 is in reference to both Jew and Gentile, because both Jew and Gentile are prisoners of sin.  Paul expands on this point in the first 3 chapters of Romans, which you might want to read.   

In verse 24 Paul gives us another reason for the existence of the Law. The Law was put in charge over us to lead us to Christ. Some versions say that the Law of Moses was put in charge over us, meaning the Jews, until Christ.  Whatever the case, whether it's "to Christ" or "until Christ", this suggests the temporary nature of the Law of Moses.  It was in effect until the Lord Jesus came.  This is mandatory for us to know, especially in this day when many Christians are turning to what they call the churches Jewish roots.  We don't need to return to Judaism.  We need to return to Jesus.

In verse 24 Paul closes this thought with another key verse concerning the Law. He says, "Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the Law". How clear can you get. The Law does not apply to us any longer, even if we are Jews. Once again, remember Romans 10 :4 that says, "Christ is the end of the Law".

Note the word "supervision" here.  The false teachers were telling the Galatians that they needed to obey the Law of Moses to keep their salvation.  Paul says no to that, but he goes a step farther.  He says that the Law is no longer our supervisor.  The Law is not even in effect for us to submit to and live by, let alone obey for the purpose of salvation.

Some more Jewish orientated Christians today will tell us that we aren't saved by the Law and we don't stay saved by the Law,  but we sill must live by the Law.  Living by the Law suggests to me that it supervises us, and I like what Paul says here in verse 25.  He says that we are no longer under the supervision of the Law of Moses.  Again, how clear can you get.  The Law of Moses is no longer in effect for anyone to obey, and that includes Jewish Christians. 

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