The just shall live by faith
Galatians 3:1. 'Foolish Galatians.' Any man is foolish who leaves Christ to go to Moses, who leaves the gospel of grace to go to the working of the law, who leaves the doctrine of free justification (which gives peace and comfort) to go to the law (which can only condemn and bring bondage).
'Who hath deceived you? The truth of Christ crucified has been set forth in your hearing. Who Christ is, what Christ has done, why Christ suffered and where Christ is now was faithfully preached to you.' It wasn't as if they had not heard the gospel. They had heard, claimed to believe and now were going back to the works of the law (2 Corinthians 11:3).
Galatians 3:2. He could ask them many things, but he asked this one question only, which, if rightly attended to and honestly answered, must expose their foolishness and put an end to the controversy: 'Did you receive the Spirit of God by the works of the law or by the hearing of faith? Did the Spirit of God (as the Spirit of regeneration, of wisdom, of understanding, of adoption and the earnest of future glory) come to you through your obedience to the law, or did he come to you when you heard the good news of Christ in the gospel and received that gospel by faith?' There is only one answer (Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 10:17).
Galatians 3:3. ‘Is it possible that you can be so foolish as to think:
1. That having been chosen in Christ by grace, you are kept in Christ by works?
2. That having begun your Christian life depending on the Spirit and the grace of God, you must finish it depending on your own works and flesh?
3. That having been accepted in the Beloved, you are not made perfect until you add your own righteousness to his? This is unthinkable! (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6.)
Galatians 3:4. These Galatians had suffered great reproach for the gospel of grace (persecutions and afflictions), as all who embrace it expect to do! Now if this gospel of pure grace in Christ is not true, then you have suffered all these afflictions needlessly. He adds, 'I hope that you will correct your mistake and abide by the gospel, that your suffering be not in vain.'
Galatians 3:5. These Galatians had not only received the Spirit of God through hearing and believing the gospel, but they had seen the gospel confirmed by extraordinary gifts, signs and wonders of the Holy Spirit, who was also still among them (Hebrews 2:3-4). Now the apostle asks, 'Did he who gave you the Spirit and he who worked these miracles do so attending the preaching of the law or the preaching of the gospel?' (Mark 16:15-18.)
Galatians 3:6. Abraham was a righteous man, head of the Jewish nation, the first of the circumcision and one in whom the false Jewish teachers gloried (and would persuade the Gentiles to the practice of circumcision in imitation of Abraham); but the apostle shows that Abraham was justified before God by faith, not by circumcision (Romans 4:9-11; Romans 4:21-23).
Galatians 3:7. Those who are of the same faith as Abraham (not of the same degree, but exercised on the same object - Jehovah the Word, the Lord our Righteousness, and wrought by the same Spirit), they are the true children of Abraham, for he is the father of all that believe, whether Jew or Gentile.
Galatians 3:8-9. The word of God is represented as declaring the purpose of God before it comes to pass, and the word of God declared to Abraham that in his seed should all nations be blessed. This seed is Christ! (Galatians 3:16; Romans 4:13; Romans 4:16.) The gospel of righteousness in and through Christ was preached to Abraham that the Messiah would spring through him, and in the Messiah, all nations would be blessed (Genesis 12:3).
Galatians 3:10. As many as seek for justification by the works and deeds of the law and trust their own works and righteousness for acceptance with God are under the curse of the law; for the law requires doing - not knowing, or hearing, or approving, but perfectly doing all that the law requires in word, thought and deed (Galatians 4:21; Romans 10:1-4).
Galatians 3:11. There were many justified before the law was given, such as Abel, Noah, Enoch, Job, Abraham and all other believers; and there were many justified during the legal dispensation; but none was justified by his obedience to the law. The law was not given to save, but to reveal sin, to lead us to Christ (the types were given to reveal Christ). Furthermore, no man ever perfectly kept the law. The Scriptures declare, 'The just shall live by faith' (Habakkuk 2:4; Romans 1:17; Hebrews 10:38).
Galatians 3:12. The law is not of faith, nor does it require faith, but it requires perfect obedience by the man. The law reaches not only to the outward man but to the inward parts, requiring not only external obedience but perfect thought, motive and attitude!
Justification by promise - not by law
Galatians 3:13. In the preceding verses Paul shows the law to be a cursing law because of its perfection and the imperfection of our nature and deeds. Therefore, no man can be justified by a law of works. In this verse he shows us how we are justified and redeemed from the curse of the law. Christ was made a curse for us (Galatians 4:4-5; Isaiah 53:4-6). Cursed is everyone who is hanged for crime (Deuteronomy 21:22-23).
Galatians 3:14. 'That the blessing of Abraham' - the same blessing of justification (imputed righteousness before God) which Abraham had in Christ - 'might come on the Gentiles' (Romans 4:7-10). Abraham was not justified by law, works, nor circumcision but by Christ (Romans 4:20-25). We receive the realization of the promise of the Spirit by faith. The Holy Spirit opens and applies the promises of God. Justification, then, is not by law but is by faith in Christ because it was purchased by Christ.
In Galatians 3:15-18 the apostle argues that justification before God cannot be by the law because these promises were made by God in a covenant 430 years before the Levitical law was given.
1. Justification is not by law because the law says, 'Do and live.' Man cannot fulfill the holy law, so the law only condemns.
2. Justification is not by law but in Christ, who redeemed us from the curse of the law by the sacrifice of himself.
3. Justification is not by law since it was promised by God in a covenant of mercy before the law was given.
Galatians 3:15. A covenant or testament made by a man cannot be overturned or disannulled when it is confirmed; much less can the covenant of God be disannulled or cancelled.
Galatians 3:16. These promises of acceptance, justification and eternal life were made not to Christ personally, not to all the natural seed of Abraham, but to Christ's body, the church, the spiritual seed of Abraham, both Jew and Gentiles. The promises are made to all believers, who are one in Christ!
Galatians 3:17. The Levitical law, which was given 430 years after the covenant concerning the Messiah (Genesis 12:1-3), does not and cannot change or make void the promise of life in Christ by faith.
Galatians 3:18. If justification is by keeping the law or by ceremony, it cannot be of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise.
Galatians 3:19. What was the purpose of the law?
1. It was given after the promise in order to reveal and expose to men their guilt and to make men more conscious of the sinfulness of sin.
2. It was given to reveal the Messiah, the Redeemer, in types and pictures until he came (Hebrews 10:1).
3. Moses served as the mediator between Israel and God (Exodus 20:18-19). He was a type (a picture) of Christ, our Mediator. The angels of God were messengers and instruments God used in the giving of the law.
Galatians 3:20. A mediator has to do with more than one party. There can be no mediator if only one person is involved. Yet God is only one person; he is the one offended, standing off at a distance, giving the law, in the hands of a mediator, revealing their alienation. Therefore, justification cannot be expected through the law.
Galatians 3:21. Is the law against or opposed to the promises of God? Of course not! The giving of the moral law and the ceremonial law does not change the promise of life in Christ. If a law could be given that would justify a sinner, then justification would be by that law.
Galatians 3:22. But the word of God, especially the law of God, pictures all mankind as sinners shut up and imprisoned by sin so that the blessing of life must come through Christ, the Messiah, to them that believe (Romans 8:1-3).
Galatians 3:23-24. But until Christ, the object of faith, came to fulfill the law, we were kept under the law which served as a tutor or an instructor to show us our sins, to reveal God's mercy in Christ and to instruct us in the justice and righteousness of God. The law empties the sinner of all self, glory and merit and brings him to Christ, the Justifier.
Galatians 3:25-26. After Christ came, we are no longer under these types, pictures and ceremonies; but in Christ we are sons of God, justified, forgiven and righteous. The law has served its purpose and is put away (Hebrews 10:8-10).
Galatians 3:27-29. 'As many of you (Jew or Gentile, male or female, slave or free) who have been baptized by the Spirit of God into a spiritual union with Jesus Christ are one in Christ. All that Christ is, you are. All that Christ has, you have. You are accepted in the Beloved!'
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Mahan, Henry. "Commentary on Galatians 3". Henry Mahan's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany