Galatians | 1:1-12 | 1:13-24 | 2:1-10 | 2:11-21 | 3:1-9 | 3:10-29 | 4:1-11 | 4:12-20 | 4 :21-31 | 5:1-15 | 5:16-26 | 6 | PDF |

These small group studies of Galatians 3 contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications.  Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.

Galatians 3:1-9 Bible Study Guide – Saved By Grace Or By Works?


I. Did you receive the Spirit by works or by faith (1-5)
II. The example of Abraham (6-9)

I. Did you receive the Spirit by works or by faith (1-5)

Discussion Questions

• How did Paul describe the Galatians?
• Why does he use such strong language?
• Why did he describe them as foolish?
• How does this passage fit into the theme of Galatians?
• Does Paul add any new argument for justification by faith here?
• What would be the answer to Paul’s question in verse 2?
• What point is Paul making in verse 3?
• What does verse 4 mean?


Proverbs 12:15 – The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice.

Proverbs 26:11 – As a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly.

Hebrews 7:25 – Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.

Romans 10:17 – Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.

Romans 8:9 – You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ.

Verse by Verse Commentary

1. Foolish Galatians – Paul uses very strong language here. It shows the depth of his emotion on this issue. Although it was powerful language, it was true. Should we speak like this? Generally, we should not use such intense language. Gentleness is an important Christian character quality.

2 Timothy 2:25 Bible Verse

While gentle instruction is the first choice, sometimes it might be necessary to use strong language occasionally to shock people awake from spiritual lethargy or disobedience. For example, recently, I encountered one brother who insisted on spreading false teachings in the church. Multiple meetings and letters have not changed his mind. The last letter I sent to him had several firm statements inside. I wouldn’t have used those words or phrases initially, but gentleness didn’t change his mind, so I hoped stronger words would.

1 Timothy 5:20 – As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear.

You can see from this verse that rebuking is for those who “persist in sin.” It is not something you should turn to the first time someone sins. But if they keep sinning and don’t listen to gentler advice, then a rebuke is necessary.

It is similar to doctors’ use of defibrillators. They first use them on a low setting but then slowly raise the electricity level. For a person who is completely unresponsive, the doctor may set it on the highest setting.

Here, Paul hits the Galatians with the highest setting! They were beginning to abandon the true gospel of salvation by grace through faith in favor of a works-oriented approach.

This was foolish. The Galatians’ foolishness was not a lack of intelligence or IQ. Rather it was a willful turning away from what they knew to be the truth.

2. Who has bewitched you? – Their turning away from the true gospel was such a shock that it seemed to Paul as if they had been bewitched. That means it seemed as if someone had used magic to lead them astray. It’s as if they had been hypnotized and lost all ability to use their minds.

Application: How can you avoid being led astray? The protection against this is to keep our eyes wide open and alert, to know the truth so that we can discern the lie.

3. Before your very eyes Jesus was portrayed as crucified – This doesn’t mean that they literally saw Jesus crucified. Instead, Paul and other preachers painted a visible picture for them of Jesus’ crucifixion when they shared the gospel with the Galatians. Therefore, the Galatians did not have the excuse of ignorance since they clearly saw and heard the truth.

4. Are you so foolish? – Paul re-emphasizes his claim that only a foolish person would take the path they were on.

5. After beginning by the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? – Paul comes back to his central theme in this book again. The Gentiles were saved by the Spirit through faith apart from any works. The gospel message that Paul preached to them was unambiguous. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved. Nothing more. Nothing less. The “formula” is not believing in Christ to get saved and then doing good works on your own to stay saved.

John 10:27-30 Bible Verse

We can’t get in by our works. And we can’t stay in by our works.

Application: How is this principle helpful for our life today? What application can we make from this? The key lesson is that we must be humble and continually depend on Christ rather than ourselves.

6. Have you experienced (or suffered) so much in vain? – The Galatians originally believed in the true gospel. They believed that they were saved by grace, that Christ alone was enough. But if they subsequently changed their mind and embraced a works-oriented approach, then their salvation experience would be considered worthless. Everything would have been in vain. All of their spiritual progress would be thrown out the window as they slide back to self-reliance.

7. Verse 5 – Paul reinforces his point. God’s work on our behalf is a gift. It is not something we can earn or deserve. It is based on hearing with faith and not by works.

Knowing this, how should we react? What should we do, knowing we cannot earn salvation either before or after believing?

II. The example of Abraham (6-9)

Discussion Questions

• Why does Paul bring up the example of Abraham?
• What does it have to do with Paul’s “thesis” in Galatians?
• What does it mean that those who are of the faith are “sons of Abraham”?
• What do we learn from verse 8 about God’s plan?
• When and how did God decide to take the gospel to the Gentiles? Why is this important to Paul’s argument?


James 2:20-24 – You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless[a]? Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.

Romans 4:1-18 – Abraham was justified by faith.

Verse by Verse Commentary

1. Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness (Genesis 15:6) –

Paul uses the example of Abraham to prove his point of salvation through faith. Abraham is the patriarch of the Jews. God extended to him the Abrahamic Covenant. Abraham faithfully obeyed God, leaving his home and journeying into the unknown. He faithfully obeyed God by willingly offering up his heir, Isaac, as a sacrifice. And yet it is not these things which made him righteous. It is his faith.

Notice that the righteousness, even then, is not his own. It was credited to him. What does that mean? It means that God counted Abraham as righteous. He wasn’t righteous. Every person is a sinner. But God chose to view him as righteous.

The principle in this verse is extremely significant. Paul quotes it also in Romans 4:3, and James quotes it in James 2:23.

From the very beginning, God established this “salvation by faith” principle. If their forefather, Abraham, who was far more obedient than they, could be saved only by faith, then how could the Galatians be saved through the works of the law?

2. Those of faith are the sons of Abraham –

Galatians 3:29 – And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

Hebrews 11:8 – By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.

Jews took great pride in their ancestry. They believed they were special because they were children of Abraham. And they thought that they deserved God’s favor, blessings, and even salvation because of their lineage.

John the Baptist shot this idea out of the water.