Great Gospel Texts: Galatians 3:22

Have you ever found yourself imprisoned? Maybe it was not physically but in other ways – depression, fear, a bad habit, unwanted thoughts, debt, etc. You felt trapped and you had no way to break free. The Bible teaches that we are all imprisoned spiritually. In Galatians 3:22 we read, “But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.”[1]

This is a sweeping statement that allows for no exceptions – “imprisoned everything under sin.” We can always think of people worse than ourselves, but the Bible puts us all in the same category – “under sin.” We are all under its power and its condemnation.

Many people wrongly think that God gave the law of Moses to show us how to live so that by trying to follow it we could obtain eternal life. Quite the opposite is true. God gave the law to make us aware of our sin and how far short we fall of His righteousness, not as the means to become righteous (see Rom 3:20). The law was given to show us that we are prisoners of sin and need a Savior to free us from our sin.

Before God gave the law to Moses, He gave a promise to Abraham. He promised that one day through one of Abraham’s descendants all the nations would be blessed (Gal 3:8). That descendant is Christ (v16). God did not say that through the law He gave to Moses the nations would be blessed, but through a Person, Jesus Christ. The law can’t bring a blessing, only a curse (judgment), because we cannot keep the law. But Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us (v13). On the cross, God judged Christ for sin, though He had none of His own, so that we could escape judgment and instead receive the blessing of Abraham.

What is the blessing of Abraham? First, it is being declared righteous before God (v8). Being imprisoned under sin we stand guilty before God, but, like Abraham, we can be given a righteous standing before God and be set free from that imprisonment. Second, the blessing of Abraham is receiving the Holy Spirit who gives us spiritual life, eternal life (v14). Being under sin we are spiritually dead, and we need life. It is the Holy Spirit who gives life.

How is this promised blessing received? It is received in the same way Abraham received the promised blessing – he “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness” (v6). We too receive the promise by faith, as our verse says, “so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.” Faith must be properly placed in Christ. It is not sufficient to claim to have faith. Faith in what? Yourself, your ideas, a higher power? No, it is faith in the One who died for our sins, who was buried and rose again. It is faith in the only Savior, Jesus Christ.

Are you imprisoned under sin today? Or have you been freed from its guilt through faith in Jesus Christ?

[1] Bible quotations in this article are from the ESV.