Piling On!

MAIN POINT OF PASSAGE (in one sentence): We receive and are perfected in the spirit by transferring our trust on our own works to believing in the finished work of Christ.

APPLICATION FROM THE PASSAGE: Never embellish God’s work on our behalf.


In football, “piling on” describes the action of one or more players jumping on top of another player after a tackle has already been made. In the National Football League, this offense carries a huge, fifteen-yard penalty because the deed of tackling is already accomplished and nothing more is required. The act of piling on is considered both unnecessary and offensive. In Paul’s day, the Galatians were guilty of piling on. Jesus’ work on the cross allowed the Holy Spirit to seal our salvation; adding to that finished work is an offense against God.

  • To what works are you clinging in order to secure a better relationship with God, instead of simply and totally trusting in the finished work of Jesus alone?


3:1 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. 2 Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? 5 Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith— 6 just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”?

Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” 9 So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” 11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” 12 But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.


(Today’s questions focus on verses 1-9.)

  1. What descriptive words did Paul use to express how well the Galatians were living out their faith (vss. 1, 3)?
  2. What specific, historic fact, made obvious to the Galatians and the public, did Paul urge the Galatians to hear (and grasp) with faith (vss. 1-2)?
  3. In verse 2, Paul used the term “receive the Spirit” to describe a person being accepted as righteous by God. What part did the Galatians play in this transaction? How is this righteousness obtained? 
  4. What relationship did Paul make between the Galatians’ new birth in Christ and living out their faith in Christ (vss. 3, 5)? Does God supply the Spirit to believers as a one-time event or as an on-going process (vs. 5)?
  5. In verses 7-9, Paul used Abraham and Scripture to connect the dots for the Galatians (and for us!). How did Paul describe those “of faith”? Are you reveling in the finished work of Christ alone or are you adding on to God’s plan and making your own way?

RESPOND TO GOD (115 words)

Paul’s passion emphasized how critical this issue is. The Galatians understood that their salvation came entirely from Christ’s work on the cross—a known, historic event. But some had departed from that conviction and established rules for themselves and others to follow in order to secure their position with God. Paul cited examples of God’s blessings through faith in their own lives, as well as through Abraham—a pagan, whom God justified solely by faith. We are the Galatians when we add anything to our reliance on Christ’s work on the cross.

  • Approach God afresh, out of total awe and appreciation for what Jesus alone has done. Let that drive your behavior, rather than piling on unnecessary and offensive demands for yourself (and others).