God has given me a lot of time to marinate over Galatians recently. I read both Augustine’s and Victorinus’ commentaries, and in my personal reading I have gone through the Epistle multiple times in quick succession. However, the following jumped out at me a little while ago:
“But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.”
Upon first glance we read past it and say, ‘Yeah, Jesus died for me.”
Let’s dig a little deeper. He came “under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law.” Clearly, when taken literally, this would mean that Christ came only for the Jews (“those who were under the Law.”) However, we know this is definitely not the case contextually in the Epistle and just by common sense.
So, this unlocks an entirely different meaning of the Pauline use of the word “Law.” Clearly, in Gal 4:5, those born under the Law means everyone. The Jews have the Mosaic Law, while the Gentiles have what Augustine called “the Law of Nature” which we read about in Rom 1-2.
Now, when we see the preceding from Paul, we can realize that Paul categorically denies all works righteousness, whether Mosaic or Natural. Faith in Christ and faith alone is the only way to salvation:
“For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law” (Rom 3:28).
“[A] man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified” (Gal 2:16).
These verses are not written just to Jews, denouncing the Jewish approach to the Mosaic Covenant. They apply to all works righteousness, and especially the Mosaic Law as it is the epitome of works righteousness, as it covers the very specific works that God demands…even this does not make man righteousness.
Therefore, when we read Galatians we can see Paul’s point. The idea that a Christian is saved by faith + any sort of work is anathema. In Galatians, they tried adding circumcision to the list. Paul would not have it. Nothing can be added to faith, as Gal 2:16 states.
There are “Christians,” such as the Church of Christ, that write that no one is saved without water baptism. Such a view is anathema. There is nothing on top of faith that is needed for salvation, and in fact, Paul considers such an approach to the Gospel to be “another Gospel.”
So, whether you are a New Perspective type, a Catholic, or whatever else, you can no longer hide behind the claim that Paul is speaking only against the works of the Jewish Law, and not any sort of other works. Gal 4:4-5 mitigates against such a claim conclusively.