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Bible Commentaries
Galatians 3

Orchard's Catholic Commentary on Holy ScriptureOrchard's Catholic Commentary

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Verses 1-29

III 1-V 12 The Gospel of Paul agrees with the Promises of the Old Testament— Paul, having established fully the independence and authority of his teaching and its full acceptance by the other Apostles, including Peter, now demonstrates its full harmony and continuity with the doctrine of the OT. The Judaizers had misunderstood the relation between Christianity and the OT, so he sets out the doctrinal basis of his doctrine of the liberty of the Gentiles from the Mosaic Law, by showing that they are the heirs of the promises and of the blessing given to Abraham before the Law and before Circumcision. The New Dispensation is not merely superimposed on the Old Dispensation, nor an enriched edition of it. But the two are incompatible, the New driving out the Old.

3:1. Omit ’that you should not obey the truth’. ’Before whose eyes Jesus Christ crucified has been exhibited these words show the important place held by the Passion in the preaching of Paul. 2-5. He tells them to recall to mind that it was the wonderful and beneficent activity of the Holy Spirit among them that had transformed their lives, and not adhesion to the Mosaic Law; cf. Ac 13-14. 2. ’The hearing of faith’ here and in 5 means ’faith which has come through hearing’.

4. ’Suffered’: the Greek could also equally well mean ’experienced’; in which case the reference would be to the magnitude of their supernatural experiences.

6. The answer to the question put in 5, viz. ’By faith of course’ is omitted by St Paul as being too obvious to require statement. ’It is written’ is not in Gk, but the sense is ’And so it was with Abraham who believed . . .’; cf.Genesis 15:1-6. Abraham was justified because of his faith in God who had just promised him a numerous posterity (and ultimately the Messias) at a time when humanly speaking it was impossible for him or Sara to have a son. The comparison between Abraham and the Christian rests on the fact that in either case it is faith in God’s promises and not the works of the Law that makes them pleasing to God.

7. The only true sons of Abraham are those who imitate his faith. The virtue of faith brings the Gentiles closer to Abraham than carnal descent brought the Jews.

8. ’evangelized Abraham in anticipation’, i.e. gave him the good news in advance. The Scripture blessed the Gentiles in and with Abraham because it foresaw that faith would play the same part in their salvation and bring them the same blessings. Abraham was justified by faith fifteen years before ever the law of circumcision was imposed; cf. Ramsay, op. cit. § xxxi.

9. Those who rely on faith in Jesus Christ for their justification shall be blessed with the faithful Abraham.

10. But everyone who is under, or who puts himself under, the Law is morally obliged to keep it in its entirety under pain of malediction, Deuteronomy 27:26. It is true that before Christ for a Jew faith also required the faithful observance of the Law.

11. But this is no longer so; since Christ abrogated the Law, faith in Christ alone suffices. The quotation from Habakkuk 2:4 refers in its original context to the faith of the Jewish exiles in the accomplishment of God’s promise regarding the return from the Babylonian captivity; it may be translated either ’the just man shall live by faith’, i.e. in virtue of faith, or ’he who is just by faith shall live’.

12. The Law, as such, has not faith for its principle. The quotation from Leviticus 18:5 proves that the Law is concerned solely with works and with nothing else. St Paul means that the vivifying principle even in OT observance of the Law was faith.

13. But now redemption through Christ has taken away all value from legal observances. The Law could only reveal the deficiencies of human conduct; it could not cure them or atone for them. This Christ himself did in redeeming us by the sacrifice of the Cross. As regards Deuteronomy 21:23 it is clear that in the case of Christ the curse is only apparent and in the common estimation of men. But he took upon himself all the penalties due to the human race for its transgressions of God’s Law, and atoned for them by his death, thus completely negating the curse.

14. And because Christ is God as well as man, ’the blessing of Abraham’ (which is justification by participation in the life of God through the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus) is given alike to Jew and Gentile through his death and resurrection.

15-29 The Blessings of Abraham are Inherited solely through an Indefectible Promise— 15. He institutes a comparison from human affairs. ’A man’s will, if it be valid, no man annuls or adds fresh clauses to it’. 16. Cf.Genesis 13:14-17; Genesis 17:5-8; Genesis 22:15-18. St Paul, with the Jewish Rabbis, takes the promise of the possession of the land of Canaan symbolically of the glorious and eternal Messianic Kingdom. ’Thy seed’ is Christ, considered as the principle of unity of the human race, and through whom the promises were fulfilled.

17-18. The Law coming 430 years later did not in any way modify the testament of the inheritance by God’s free promise. Paul follows the LXX; cf.Exodus 12:40 and §§ 124-5.

19. ’because of transgressions’, i.e. to reveal sins. Jewish tradition held that the Law was given to Moses as mediator by means of angels.

20. Though this verse might mean that the Law is inferior to the Promise because it comes from God indirectly whilst the Promise comes without intermediary, St Paul probably means that the Mosaic covenent was a bilateral alliance involving a mediator (Moses) and the possibility of the covenant failing through the transgression of the Jews, whereas God’s Promise was unilateral, unconditional, indefectible, and could not be modified by the Law.

21. The Law could ly be against the promises if it could give life.

22. ’hath shut up all under sin’ as in a prison—the Scripture is here represented as doing that which it declares to be done; cf.Deuteronomy 27:26.

23. ’were guarded’, i.e. protected, by being shut up.

24. The pedagogue was a superior slave entrusted with taking a boy through the streets to his schoolmaster.

26. The coming of the faith means the fulfilment of the Promise, an all who believe become sons of God.

27. Baptism is the consequence of the act of faith, and the newly baptised are as it were clothed with Christ, nay more

(28) they are one person with him. A magnificent proclamation of the unity and spiritual equality of all human beings.

29. The Christian is the true seed of Abraham and true heir to the Promise; Christians are the true ’Israel of God’; cf. 6:16.

Bibliographical Information
Orchard, Bernard, "Commentary on Galatians 3". Orchard's Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/boc/galatians-3.html. 1951.
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