Bible Commentaries
Galatians 3

The Expositor's Greek TestamentExpositor's Greek Testament

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Verse 1

Galatians 3:1 . ἐβάσκανεν . This word denoted either the fascination of an evil eye or some malignant influence akin to it; the infatuation of some Galatians at this crisis is attributed to the baneful effect of some mysterious powers of evil.

The reading ἐβάσκηνεν has probably found its way into some MSS. from classical usage; most verbs in - αίνειν form the aorist in ᾱ in the N.T., e.g. , λευκᾶναι ἐσημανεν ποιμάνατε .

The additions τῇ ἀληθείᾳ μὴ πείθεσθαι after ἐβάσκανεν , and ἐν ὑμῖν after προεγράφη in the Received Text are evidently spurious. The former is probably due to a reminiscence of Galatians 5:7 , where the clause occurs. προεγράφη . This word is twice employed by the Apostle, once in Romans 15:4 with reference to the Scriptures, once in Ephesians 3:3 with reference to a former letter of his own. Here, probably, it refers in like manner to some document which he had placed in the hands of the Galatians, or some letter he had written for their guidance during his absence, in which the vital truth of the crucifixion had been enforced. That he wrote many apostolic letters to his converts is clear from 2 Thessalonians 3:17 . The addition κατʼ ὀφθάλμους is in harmony with this view. γράφειν never has the sense of painting in the N.T. ἐσταυρωμένος . The Greek order of words indicates that this participle has the force of a predicate. The fact of the Crucifixion with all that the fact involved was the truth which had been so distinctly set before the eyes of the Galatians in black and white.

Verses 1-6


Verse 2

Galatians 3:2 . The Apostle appeals with confidence to the personal experience of his converts. They were themselves conscious of having received on their conversion gifts of the Spirit. Whence then came the inward change? Was it the result of fulfilling law, or of listening in faith? The question needs no answer: for it was obviously the result of listening in faith. The second clause couples together two essential requisites for conversion: men must not only listen, but listen in a right spirit, desiring to know and do God’s will. The genitive πίστεως adds this essential condition. τὸ πνεῦμα . The spirit constitutes in this Epistle a definite element in the regenerate nature, due to spiritual creation as the flesh is to natural creation an internal organ by which the Holy Spirit operates on the will and prompts the action of man ( cf. Galatians 3:16-22 ). It becomes therefore a living human force within the heart, distinct from the personality of the Holy Spirit. But on the other hand it is absolutely dependent for its vital force on the original inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and can neither live nor grow without continual nourishment and sustenance from Him.

Verse 3

Galatians 3:3 . πνεύματι … σαρκὶ . These two datives denote the two internal spheres susceptible of moral influence. Conversion had brought about a spiritual change as its immediate result: it was folly to look for a consummation of this change from an ordinance of the flesh like circumcision. This was to exalt flesh above spirit instead of rising from flesh to spirit. ἐνάρχεσθαι and ἐπιτελεῖν are coupled together in 2 Corinthians 8:6 and Philippians 1:6 to express the beginning and consummation of works of mercy and sanctification. Greek authors use ἐνάρχεσθαι with reference to the initial ceremony of a sacrifice (Eur., Iph. , A. 147, 435, 955), ἐπιτελεῖν in Hebrews 9:6 refers to the performance of ritual. The middle voice ἐπιτελεῖσθε is used here because the spiritual process is to be wrought by them upon themselves.

Verse 4

Galatians 3:4 . The persecutions endured by the Galatian converts had all been due to the jealous animosity of the Jews: if they were now to accept the Law after all, they would proclaim their former resistance to have been wanton caprice on their part, which had led them to provoke persecution to no purpose ( εἰκῆ ) without any sufficient object.

Verse 5

Galatians 3:5 . ἐπιχορηγῶν . The verb χορηγεῖν acquired its meaning from the function of the χορηγός whose duty it was to supply the members of his chorus with all necessary equipment in the course of their training and performance. As men took pride in the liberal fulfilment of this duty, the word came to denote a liberal supply. The compound ἐπιχορηγεῖν denotes apparently an enhancement of this bounty (2 Corinthians 9:10 ). δυνάμεις . This word is sometimes applied in the Gospels to visible miracles, but in the language of Paul, as elsewhere, it denotes forces or powers. Here accordingly it refers to the supernatural powers imparted by the Spirit to Christians.

Verse 6

Galatians 3:6 . The faith of the Galatians is likened to that of Abraham, in that it found the same acceptance with God.

The quotation of Genesis 15:6 was reckoned follows the LXX, whereas our version, following the Hebrew text, refers to God, he counted it . This passage is repeatedly commented on by Philo as well as in the N.T. Paul bases his argument upon it in Romans 4:3 by way of proof that God imputes righteousness on the ground of faith, not of works, and James guards it against misinterpretation by teachers who degraded faith into a barren assent of the intellect (James 2:17-23 ). Obviously Jewish teachers had already concentrated attention on this passage on account of the explicit testimony which it bears to the faith of Abraham and to God’s acceptance of that faith; and stress had been laid upon its authority in their schools of theology.

Verse 7

Galatians 3:7 . Γινώσκετε : Ye perceive . The emphatic admonition, Know ye , adopted in our versions, would require an aorist imperative γνῶτε , as in Hebrews 8:11 . This verse contains a deduction from the former, as is suggested by the inferential ἄρα . Since faith was the ground of Abraham’s justification, it follows that those who inherit his faith are his true sons. οἱ ἐκ πίστεως , sc. υἱοὶ ὄντες . The form of the Greek sentence suggests the insertion of these words to complete the ellipsis. With this addition the verse carries on the previous argument to its natural sequel. The faith of Abraham was there declared to be a fundamental condition of the divine acceptance. Those therefore who inherit his faith are his sons indeed and heirs of his blessing. The discourse of Christ recorded in the Gospel follows the same line of argument: If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham (John 8:39 ). Both alike urge that resemblance in life and character is the true test of sonship. Gentiles therefore who prove themselves sons of Abraham by exhibiting like faith are his sons indeed, and inherit the blessing promised to his seed. The antithesis in Galatians 3:10 , ὅσοι ἐξ ἔργων νόμου εἰσίν , sc. υἱοί , presents a like ellipsis: the exclusive claim of Jews to be sons of Abraham in virtue of their observance of the Law is there disposed of on corresponding grounds.

Verses 7-14


Verse 8

Galatians 3:8 . δικαιοῖ : justifieth . The present tense is used because justification by faith, though not revealed to the Gentiles till Christ came, was an eternal truth of God’s dealings with man, to be revealed in due time. There were in Genesis anticipations of this truth, and Abraham himself, the father of the faithful, was a kind of firstfruits of the Gentiles (Romans 4:10-12 ). The quotation here given contains the substance of promises recorded in Genesis 12:3 ; Genesis 18:18 with slight verbal alteration. These were an earlier Gospel, but not (as our versions intimate) the Gospel.

Verse 9

Galatians 3:9 . οἱ ἐκ πίστεως . See note on Galatians 3:7 .

Verse 10

Galatians 3:10 . The Apostle here proceeds to deal with the rival claim to a special blessing on the score of obedience to Law. Jews maintained that their knowledge of the Law entitled them to the blessings attached to the sons of Abraham. He urges on the contrary that this entailed on them the curse of a broken Law: for no flesh could keep the whole Law ( cf. Galatians 2:16 ). The failure of men to satisfy the requirements of the Law is not limited to the Mosaic Law, but is incidental to the idea of righteous Law in the abstract. Hence the expression νόμου rather than τοῦ νόμου . The Roman Epistle accordingly pronounces sentence of guilt on the Gentile as well as the Jewish world for breach of the Laws of natural or revealed religion. Here, however, the object is to meet claims founded on the Mosaic Law, so the curses of that Law are adduced in support of the argument. The imprecation here given is not a verbal quotation, but reproduces in substance the series of curses pronounced from Mount Ebal (Deuteronomy 27:15-26 ), summing them up in a single sentence.

Verses 11-12

Galatians 3:11-12 . The failure of the Law to justify is further established by a comparison of Habakkuk 2:4 with Leviticus 18:5 : the latter embodies the spirit of the Law: for it demands obedience as a necessary condition antecedent to the gift of life from God ( cf. Romans 10:5 ). The prophet on the contrary makes life dependent upon faith. By thus substituting faith for obedience he virtually supersedes the existing Law, and establishes a new criterion, which takes account of the state of heart instead of the outward life ( cf. Romans 1:17 ). The same passage is adduced in Hebrews 10:38 in proof of the vital importance of faith. All three writers agree in basing true religion upon heartfelt trust in God: but whereas the Epistle to the Hebrews regards faith from the same standpoint as the Hebrew prophet, and identifies it with the steadfast loyalty to an unseen God which supports the believer under manifold trials, Paul here limits his view to the faith which prompts the convert to embrace Christ. Regarding it therefore from a purely Christian standpoint, he embodies in his conception the new revelation of the Father’s character made in Christ. The faith which he has in mind is justifying faith, the faith in God’s pitying love which assures a repentant sinner of forgiveness and merciful acceptance in spite of a guilty past.

Verse 13

Galatians 3:13 . The Law pronounced a blessing and a curse; but since it made no allowance for human infirmity, the blessing proved barren in result; while the curse, which invoked the just wrath of an offended God for the punishment of the guilty, proved, on the contrary, fruitful in condemnation.

From this hopeless state of just condemnation Christ delivered us by revealing the infinite mercy of an Almighty Father, and so reviving hope and thankful love in the heart of the condemned sinner by faith in His love. ἐξηγόρασεν . The figure of a ransom, which this word conveys, is doubly appropriate in this connection. Men needed a ransom, for the Law had left them prisoners under sentence of death, and Christ had Himself to pay the price. He had to become a man like His brethren save in sin, and to endure the penalty denounced on malefactors and hang on the accursed cross, as if He had been guilty like them. γενόμενος κατάρα . Hebrew thought tended to identify the man on whom a curse was laid with the curse, as it identified the sin-offering with the sin, calling it ἁμαρτία (Leviticus 4:21-25 ). Hence the scapegoat was regarded as utterly unclean by reason of the sins laid upon it. Ἐπικατάρατος … This passage is quoted from Deuteronomy 21:23 with one significant alteration. In the original the criminal executed under sentence of the Law is pronounced κεκαταραμένος ὑπὸ Θεοῦ , so that the Law is affirmed to be the voice of God, carrying with it the fulness of divine sanction. But here the words ὑπὸ Θεοῦ are omitted, inasmuch as the new revelation of God’s mercy in Christ has superseded for Christians the previous condemnation of the Law.

The original passage refers to criminals executed under the Jewish Law, and commands the speedy burial of their dead bodies before sunset in opposition to the vindictive practices prevailing in Palestine among the surrounding nations of nailing up unburied bodies in public places ( cf. 1 Samuel 31:10 , 2 Samuel 21:10 ). It made, of course, no reference to crucifixion, which was a Roman mode of execution, not a Jewish.

Verse 14

Galatians 3:14 . ἵνα … ἵνα … Two gracious purposes of the Redeemer are here coupled together: (1) the extension of the blessing to Gentiles as well as Jews; (2) the outpouring of the Spirit upon those that embraced the faith of Christ.

Verse 15

Galatians 3:15 . κ . ἄνθρωπον λέγω . This preface indicates that the argument which it introduces is founded on the principles of human law and custom. διαθήκην . The meaning testament affixed to this word in classical Greek belongs to the Greek practice of testamentary disposition, other covenants being designated by συνθήκη , etc. But no such law or custom existed among the ancient Hebrews, so the LXX employed the word to express the Hebrew conception of a covenant between God and His people. As this was the outcome of God’s sovereign grace and bounty, and not a matter of mutual arrangement, it could hardly be described by any of the Greek terms for covenant ; it was, on the other hand, analogous to a disposition of property by testament, and was accordingly designated by the term διαθήκη . Thence it was extended also to covenants between man and man in the LXX. The same sense of covenant is attached to the word apparently throughout the N.T. Here, at all events, the distinct reference to the covenant with Abraham leaves no doubt of its meaning. ὅμως ἀνθρώπου . This phrase (= καίπερ ἀνθρώπου οὖσαν ὅμως ) intimates that even men are bound by a contract duly ratified: a fortiori , God is bound by His plighted word. Two distinct methods of superseding a contract are suggested by ἀθετεῖ and ἐπιδιατάσσεται : it might be expressly annulled, or it might be overlaid by new stipulations.

Verses 15-18


Verse 16

Galatians 3:16 . The clause καὶ τῷ σπέρματι αὐτοῦ is quoted from God’s promises to Abraham in Genesis 13:15 ; Genesis 17:8 with only the necessary change of the second person σου into αὐτοῦ . The original promise was limited to the possession of the promised land, but was coupled with a perpetual covenant between God and the seed of Abraham: I will be their God, Thou shalt keep my covenant, thou and thy seed after thee in their generations . Hence Hebrew prophecy imported into it the idea of a spiritual inheritance, and the Epistle adopts this interpretation without hesitation. οὐ λέγει , sc. ὁ Θεός . As the clause in question was quoted from an utterance of God, it was not necessary to specify the subject of λέγει . καὶ τοῖς σπέρμασιν : And to his seeds, i.e. , families. This contrast between the many families and the one chosen family is more than mere verbal criticism: it contains the germ of that doctrine of continuous divine election within the stock of Abraham which is developed in the ninth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans. For Abraham had many children after the flesh; and the exclusion of Ishmael, Dedan, Midian, Esau in patriarchal times in favour of Isaac and of Jacob established the principle which culminated in the rejection of the Jewish nation in favour of Christ. This conception of a continuous holy family linking Christ with Abraham runs through the next section of the Epistle; just as πολλῶν and ἑνός here mean π . σπερμάτων and ἑ . σπέρματος , so ἑνός in Galatians 3:20 means ἑνὸς σπέρματος and τὰ πάντα in Galatians 3:22 τὰ πάντα σπέρματα . In like manner Christ is contemplated, not by Himself alone as constituting in the unity of His person the chosen seed, but as a new centre out of whom the family of God branched forth afresh. He became in a far higher sense than Isaac or Jacob a new head of the chosen family: for all Abraham’s children after the flesh that received Him not were shut out from the blessing, while all who believed in Him became by faith sons of Abraham and members of the true family of God. The whole Church of Christ are in short regarded as one with Christ one in life and spirit, for they are members of His body and partake of His spirit ( cf. Galatians 3:28-29 ).

Verses 17-18

Galatians 3:17-18 . The inviolate sanctity of God’s earlier covenant in presence of the subsequent promulgation of the Law is here affirmed in virtue of the principle established in Galatians 3:15 . Had the inheritance been made contingent on obedience to Law, the previous promise would have been thereby invalidated.

The Received Text inserts εἰς Χριστόν after Θεοῦ . The words appear from the MS. evidence to be a later addition to the text, suggested probably by the previous argument, which associated the promise to Abraham with the coming of Christ, in whom alone that promise finds its fulfilment. The very form of the sentence forbids the acceptance of the addition here: for διαθήκην in the absence of an article does not denote the particular covenant concluded with Abraham, but signifies any covenant in the abstract, if duly ratified by God, whatever its nature. διʼ ἐπαγγ . κεχάρισται . The full bearing of the language on the argument can hardly be expressed in English without a paraphrase. χαρίζεσθαι denotes not merely a gift, but a free gift bestowed by the grace of God without reserve, and ἐπαγγελία marks the promise as a spontaneous offer, and not an undertaking ( ὑπόσχεσις ) based on terms of mutual agreement.

Verses 19-22

Galatians 3:19-22 . THE LAW WAS A TEMPORARY ENACTMENT ORDAINED TO DEAL WITH THE OFFENCES WHICH IT DENOUNCES UNTIL THE COMING OF THE PROMISED SEED. THE GOD FROM WHOM IT PROCEEDED WAS THE GOD OF ABRAHAM, BUT HE PROMULGATED IT THROUGH ANGELS AND AN APPOINTED MEDIATOR TO ALL THE CHILDREN OF ABRAHAM AFTER THE FLESH, NOT TO THE ONE CHOSEN SEED. DID IT THEN CONTRAVENE HIS PROMISES? NAY VERILY. IF INDEED IT HAD BEEN CAPABLE OF QUICKENING LIFE, IT WOULD HAVE PROVIDED NEW MEANS OF JUSTIFICATION: BUT WHAT IT REALLY DID WAS TO CONVICT ALL ALIKE OF SIN, THAT THE PROMISE MIGHT BE GIVEN TO THOSE WHO BELIEVE ON FAITH IN CHRIST. Τί οὖν ὁ νόμος . What function then had the Law, if it had absolutely no effect on God’s previous covenant with Abraham? τῶν παραβάσεων χάριν . Our versions render this because of transgressions , ignoring the Greek article. But there could obviously be no transgressions until the Law existed, however grievous the moral degradation. The real meaning is that it was added with a view to the offences which it specifies, thereby pronouncing them to be from that time forward transgressions of the Law. Its design is gathered in short from its contents. The prohibitions of the Ten Commandments reveal their own purpose: they were enacted in order to repress the worship of false gods, idolatry, blasphemy, Sabbath breaking, disobedience to parents, murder, adultery, theft, false witness, covetousness. These sins prevailed before the Law, but by pronouncing them to be definite transgressions it called in the fear of God’s wrath to reinforce the weakness of the moral sense and educate man’s conscience. The same aspect of the Law is forcibly presented in 1 Timothy 1:9 . Law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and unruly .… Attention is in both concentrated on the moral Law to the exclusion of the sacrificial and ceremonial. ἄχρις οὗ . The alternative reading ἄχρις ἄν does not affect the sense. It is assumed on the strength of previous argument that the dispensation of the Law came to an end with the coming of Christ. By the gift of an indwelling spirit He emancipated His faithful disciples from allegiance to an outward Law. ἐπήγγελται : He ( i.e. , God) hath promised ( cf. Romans 4:21 , Hebrews 12:26 ). ἐπαγγέλλεσθαι never has a passive sense in the N.T. διαταγεὶς διʼ ἀγγέλων . The N.T. refers three times to the interposition of angels in the promulgation of the Law: God’s intercourse with Moses through the angel of His presence was evidently a common topic in Jewish schools of theology. In Acts 7:53 the fact is recorded by way of enhancing the authority of the Law; in Hebrews 2:2 it is contrasted with God’s revelation in His Son: here it is contrasted with God’s more familiar intercourse with Abraham. He drew nigh to God, and was called the friend of God : but at Sinai the people stood far off, and the Law was made known through the double intervention of angels and of a human mediator. ἐν χειρὶ μεσίτου . The term μεσίτης was applied with the utmost latitude to any intermediate between two parties, whether it was the one great Mediator between God and man or any of the subordinate servants of God through whom He makes known His will to men or exercises His authority. The phrase ἐν χειρί defines its meaning here, for it implies that Moses was put in charge of the promulgation of the Law ( cf. Numbers 4:28 ; Numbers 4:37 in LXX), and was God’s appointed agent for the purpose. This interposition of a mediator between God and the people was a marked feature of distinction between the Sinaitic and the patriarchal dispensation.

Verse 20

Galatians 3:20 . The rendering of the first clause in our versions, Now a mediator is not a mediator of one , reduces it to an unmeaning truism. The author is not treating of mediators in the abstract, but writes of Moses the mediator of the Law that he was not mediator of one chosen family; and so contrasts God’s revelation through him with the previous covenant. That covenant had been made with Abraham in person, and embraced a single chosen family ( cf. Galatians 3:16 ) restricted from generation to generation by continuous selection of God’s elect until it centred in Christ Himself. Not so the covenant of Sinai: it was addressed, not to one family ( ἑνὸς , sc. σπέρματος ), but to many families of Abraham’s children after the flesh. This change of recipients involved a vital change in the revelation also whereas the promise had quickened faith by an appeal to gratitude and love, the Law used threats of wrath and punishment to deter corrupt and carnal natures from indulging the vices of the flesh.

The stress laid on the unity of the chosen seed in Galatians 3:16 and the ellipsis of σπέρματα with τὰ πάνατα in Galatians 3:22 justify us in understanding σπέρματος here with ἑνός . ὁ δὲ Θεὸς εἷς ἐστιν . The recurrence of the same phrase εἷς ὁ Θεός with a corresponding force in Romans 3:30 suggests its true force and connection with the context in this place. The Apostle is there urging the real harmony of God’s dealings with Jews and Gentiles, however different the method employed for justifying the two severally; and argues that it is nevertheless one and the same God who will justify both. So here after differentiating the revelation made through Moses from that to Abraham, he is careful to add that the God of Sinai is one with the God of Abraham, however distinct might be the two revelations. The true force of the clause may be expressed as follows, but the God ( sc. the God of Sinai) is one with the God of promise . The twofold revelation of the name of God to Moses as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and as the eternal God I am that I am , suggests the same thought of the divine unity in spite of the various aspects in which God reveals Himself to successive generations of men.

Verse 21

Galatians 3:21 . In view of the continuity of divine providence the suggestion that the Law contravened or nullified the previous covenant of God with Abraham and the patriarchs is dismissed as monstrous. It was incompatible with the faithfulness of God to His pledged word, and is therefore repudiated with the customary formula μὴ γένοιτο . The apparent sanction given by the Law to a new method of justification ( viz. , by works) could lead to no actual result, unless it had at the same time possessed the power which it lacked of quickening spiritual life. τοῦ Θεοῦ . These words are omitted in some MSS., but the preponderance of authority is in favour of their retention. The sense is the same whether they be expressed or understood. The addition may perhaps be due to a marginal comment which found its way into the text.

Verse 22

Galatians 3:22 . The real function of the Law was not to justify but to convict of sin, that men might the more readily turn in humble faith to Christ for relief from the burden of an accusing conscience. ἡ γραφὴ . The Old Testament was always designated by the plural γραφαί in apostolic times, for the several books were preserved in separate rolls and did not form a single whole. Here, therefore, ἡ γραφή points to some particular passage of the Law to which the author has already drawn attention as embodying its spirit. The passage of Deuteronomy 27:26 quoted in Galatians 3:10 answers this description, for it imprecates a curse on all who fell short of perfect obedience. συνέκλεισεν … τὰ πάντα . The figure here presented of prisoners under sentence, condemned to pay the penalty of sin, makes it clear that the object of συνέκλεισεν is persons , not things: and accordingly these prisoners are described in Galatians 3:23 as συγκλειόμενοι (masc.). A neuter plural substantive must therefore be understood with τὰ πάντα which is applicable to persons. Hence I infer that by τὰ πάντα is meant τὰ πάντα σπέρματα , i.e. , all the families of Abraham after the flesh, in other words the whole Jewish nation. ἵνα … The design of the Law was to pave the way for the eventual fulfilment of the promise to all that believe by faith in Christ.

Verses 23-24

Galatians 3:23-24 . THE POSITION OF THE TRUE CHILDREN OF GOD BEFORE THE COMING OF CHRIST IS ILLUSTRATED BY THE CONTROL EXERCISED OVER CHILDREN IN THEIR FATHER’S HOUSE BY MEMBERS OF HIS HOUSEHOLD. These verses explain the position of the faithful under the Law. They are here associated with Christians by the use of the first person plural; for they too were in their generation believers in God, they belonged to the same blessed family and inherited the original promise. Yet since all Israel from the time of Moses to the Advent were subjected to the control of the Law, they too were subject to bondage. But this was really due to the watchful love of their Heavenly Father, who thus provided needful shelter and guidance, just as an earthly father places his young children during years of weakness and inexperience under the charge of household servants. τὴν πίστιν . The article, though ignored in our versions, is essential to the sense. By the coming of the faith is meant the historic fact of the Christian religion, the spread of the Gospel on earth. The term has the same objective sense as in Galatians 1:23 , Galatians 3:25 , Acts 6:7 , and Romans 3:30 , where also a clear distinction is drawn between πίστεως , faith in the abstract, and τῆς πίστεως , the faith of Christ. Obviously faith did not come with Christ, it was the most conspicuous virtue of the Jewish Church, and Abraham was but the first of many splendid examples of it. συγκλειόμενοι . MS. authority is strongly in favour of the present participle, which is also more appropriate than the perfect συγκεκλεισμένοι for describing the continuous process of legal condemnation which prevailed from generation to generation. παιδαγωγὸς . No English equivalent for this term can convey its real force, for it has no exact counterpart in an English home. The position of a nurse towards young children approaches more nearly than that of schoolmaster or tutor to the office of the παιδαγωγός , for he was a confidential dependent, usually a slave, neither qualified to instruct, nor invested with authority to control his young master, but appointed to attend on him, to safeguard him, and to report to his father any disorderly or immoral habits on which it might be necessary for the father to place a check. The Law in like manner regulated outward habits, enforced order and decency, and maintained a certain standard of morality among Israelites until in due time they became ripe for spiritual freedom. It was not the function of the Law to address itself directly to the conscience like the Prophets, or to claim spiritual authority over the whole man, but to impose a check on the open tyranny of evil, to enforce on the community a higher standard of morals, and so to foster indirectly the growth of spiritual life.

Verses 25-29

Galatians 3:25-29 . BUT NOW WE ARE NO LONGER CHILDREN. YE ARE ALL SONS OF GOD: AT YOUR BAPTISM YE PUT ON CHRIST, AND WERE INVESTED WITH SPIRITUAL MANHOOD: ALL PREVIOUS DISTINCTIONS OF CREED OR RACE, OF POSITION OR NATURE, WERE DONE AWAY: YE ARE ALL ONE IN CHRIST. The sudden change from the first to the second person plural betokens an extension in the point of view from Israel to the Gentile world. The Epistle has been dealing since Galatians 3:17 with the position of Israelites under the Law before the Advent of the Christ. But that event brought Gentiles also within the scope of God’s revealed promises and of His blessings in Christ. So the Apostle turns to his converts, largely enlisted out of Gentiles, with the assurance, “Ye are all sons of God, whatever your antecedents”. Their adoption is assumed, as their possession of the gifts of the Spirit is assumed in Galatians 3:2 . The spirit of adoption, of which they were conscious within their hearts, assured them that they were sons of God ( cf. Romans 8:15-16 ).

Galatians 3:27 . ἐνεδύσασθε . The conception of spiritual manhood is here associated with baptism by a figure borrowed from Greek and Roman usage. At a certain age the Roman youth exchanged the toga praetexta for the toga virilis and passed into the rank of citizens. So the Christian had been invested at his baptism with the robe of spiritual manhood. Whereas he had before been under the control of rules and regulations, like a child in his father’s house, he possessed now the independence of a grown up son. This figure of clothing is applied in various ways in Scripture: the effects of death and resurrection are described in 2 Corinthians 5:4 by the figure of unclothing and reclothing : the figures of putting on Christ and putting on armour are used in Romans 13:12 ; Romans 13:14 , Ephesians 6:11 to express the new life support and strength required for our Christian warfare. The exact force of the figure depends in every case upon the context. Here the author evidently has in mind the change of dress which marked the transition from boyhood to manhood. Greeks and Romans made much of this occasion and celebrated the investment of a youth with man’s dress by family gatherings and religious rites. The youth, hitherto subject to domestic rule, was then admitted to the rights and responsibilities of a citizen, and took his place beside his father in the councils of the family.

Baptism is in fact likened to a spiritual coming of age: the convert, who had hitherto been bound to obey definite commandments and fulfil definite duties, was now set free to learn God’s will from the inward voice of the Spirit, and discharge the heavier obligations incumbent on a citizen of the heavenly commonwealth under the guidance of an enlightened conscience. He had entered on his spiritual manhood, and was accordingly emancipated from his earlier bondage to an outward Law.

There is an obvious correspondence between this figure of putting on Christ at baptism, and the ceremony which prevailed throughout the Church in subsequent centuries of investing catechumens with white robes on the occasion of their baptism. Both give expression to a kindred thought: some of the Fathers associate them together, and perhaps the language of the Apostle contributed to the spread of the ceremonial. The symbolism however differed materially: the white robes corresponded rather to the wedding garment in the parable: they were an emblem of purity and signified the cleansing effect of baptism, whereas the context of the Epistle points to enfranchisement and emancipation from control.

Verse 28

Galatians 3:28 . Having now established the temporary and subordinate function of the Law, the Apostle finally repudiates every claim, whether on that or any other ground, on behalf of any distinct class to superior sanctity in Christ. All Christians, whatever their antecedents, are one in Christ. οὐκ ἔνι . Distinctions of creed or race are incompatible with true membership of Christ: the legal barriers and social cleft which severed freeman from slave, even natural divisions as deep-seated as those of sex, disappear in presence of the all-absorbing unity of the body of Christ. ἔνι is a strengthened form of ἐν used for ἔνεστιν , as πάρα , πέρι , μέτα are for πάρεστιν , περιέστιν , μέτεστιν . ὑμεῖς . Special stress is laid on this pronoun by its insertion with πάντες : the Galatians were themselves a signal instance of the power of the Gospel to make men one in Christ: for their Churches were gathered out of the most diverse elements: Jew and Gentile, slave and freeman, male and female, had all contributed to their composition.

Verse 29

Galatians 3:29 . ὑμεῖς . The emphatic insertion of ὑμεῖς before Χριστοῦ in preference to Χριστοῦ ἐστέ lays stress apparently on the wonderful transformation of men who had been aliens from the people of God into members of Christ.

Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Galatians 3". The Expositor's Greek Testament. 1897-1910.