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Tuesday, November 28th, 2023
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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Bible Commentaries
Galatians 3

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

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Verses 1-29

Galatians 3:1 . Oh foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you: εβασκανε , who hath fascinated, beguiled, or seduced you by subtlety and cunning, and sought by ingenious malice to draw you from the truth and glory of a crucified Redeemer. The jews and greeks, on seeing Christ set before them, as he is in the scriptures, first suffering and then entering into his glory, have believed on him, and most of them believed under the first sermon they heard. Why then should you, oh misguided men, be drawn away from the grand truth which reigns through all the scriptures, and gives you righteousness and life. The glory of the waning tabernacle must all be lost in the glory of the temple built on the tops of the mountains.

Galatians 3:2 . This only would I learn of you: received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Paul here settles the contest by an appeal to the high court of heaven. While we enlarged on the glory of Christ in our discourses; while we showed you the whole of the old testament full of the Saviour, and illustrated the fulfilment of the prophecies; did not a flood of divine light break in upon your minds? Was not the love of God shed abroad in your hearts by the Holy Ghost? Did not all other graces and divine endowments follow? Was it not with you, as when Peter preached to devout men in the house of Cornelius? Why then, Ω ανοητοι , oh men without mind, leave the light, the life, and glory of the gospel, to seek righteousness by your own works?

Galatians 3:6-7 . Even as Abraham believed God, in all the promises of a son, and of the Messiah in his line, of an inheritance, and of eternal life, for he sought a better country, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Like Noah, he became heir of the righteousness of God by faith. Hebrews 11:7. From the moment that Abraham believed the great promise concerning his Seed, his faith was counted, reputed, or reckoned to him for righteousness, for it embraced the Saviour, and all the promised righteousness in him. Cease then, oh Galatians, from all false apostles, to follow the example of Abraham, who obtained the promises, that you may be confirmed in the faith, as the children of this most illustrious father.

Galatians 3:8-9 . The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached the gospel before to Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. By the force of this argument, the jews who had execrated Paul for doing what God had done before, are now struck dumb like the idols of the heathen. So then, the believing gentiles are the promised heirs. With Paul against the jews, every battle was a victory. But this is not all:

Galatians 3:10 . As many as are of the works of the law, are under the curse, because they violate it. Deuteronomy 27:26. The law speaks with equal majesty to prince and peasant, “the soul that sinneth it shall die.” This decision divides the human race into two classes, the condemned, and the justified. Of the violators of the law Moses has said, “If thou shalt not hearken to the voice of the Lord thy God, all these curses shall come upon thee.” Deuteronomy 28:15. This malediction refers to the just sentence of the law upon malefactors, as when the Lord cursed the serpent, and when Elisha cursed the children of Bethel for mocking him as he went up to worship the Lord. 2 Kings 2:24. Yet no one ever presumed, that a just sentence of the law ever excluded the culprit from hopes of mercy at the bar of God.

Galatians 3:11 . The just shall live by faith. St. Paul teaches us here to read the holy scriptures in all their plenitude, and with an enlightened understanding. When Habakkuk promised good men their lives in the calamitous siege of Jerusalem, he foresaw that their faith would extend beyond their present deliverance, to embrace the Messiah in all the glory of his person and kingdom. The whole succession of saints were of course justified, not by the works of the law, but by faith in him who was to come.

Galatians 3:13 . Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a καταρα , curse for us. How can the Socinian pretend to love the holy scriptures, and yet deny the vicarious and meritorious sacrifice of Christ for us! We are bought with a price; redeemed, not with corruptible things, as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, who, as a Lamb, offered himself without spot to God. He bears away the curse, and leaves the blessing of life and righteousness on the church. The glory of Christ is the glory of the Father, let us not barter it away for dry philosophy.

Galatians 3:14 . That we might receive the promise of the Spirit, contained in such passages as the following. Isaiah 44:3. Joel 2:23-28. 3 John 1:14; 3 John 1:14:26 .

Galatians 3:20 . A mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one. Therefore, as Moses was the mediator between God and the Hebrews, so Christ is the one mediator between God and man, as Isaiah had seen him in the Spirit. In the high and tragic duty there was no man with him. “He wondered that there was no intercessor; therefore his own arm brought salvation, and his righteousness it sustained him.” Isaiah 59:16. By the expiation of sin he has reconciled us to God, and made us heirs of the promises.

Galatians 3:23-27 . Before faith came, we were shut up unto the faith that should afterwards be revealed. We were in the prison of a legal state, tied and bound with the chains of sin. We were in great darkness; we could neither keep the law, nor break our heavy chain, until Christ came to preach deliverance to the captives, and the opening of the prison-doors to those that are bound; to remove our prison garments, and confer the garments of praise to supersede the spirit of heaviness. Till the gospel trumpet announced the acceptable year, the jubilee of the Lord; till he opened the mystery hid in ages past, and made the gentiles fellow-heirs with us of the grace of life, we were like prisoners without hope. Now all who put on Christ are the children of God.

Galatians 3:28 . There is neither Jew nor Greek, neither bond nor free, neither male nor female: all are one in Christ Jesus. This unity in the church supersedes the tyranny of man in castes, ranks, and distinctions, when we bow and worship before the Lord our maker. The glory which the Father gave to the Son, he has given to his servants, who have all now received the Spirit of adoption.


St. Paul here moves in his own sphere. While soaring on high, he casts his plummet into the deep things of God. His auditories are all prostrate, and every ear awaits the elucidations which drop from his lips. The marrow and glory of the gospel is Christ crucified to reconcile the world to God. Here is love, here is wisdom, such as the world never saw. Here is grace that softens the hearts of rebels, and saves the soul from the love of sin. How foolish then must he be who leaves the glory of the cross for legal rituals, and for the insufficient wisdom of this world.

The gifts which followed the faith of Christ were farther proofs of the evangelical glory. Believers received the Holy Ghost, and many of them the gifts of healing. Did any proselyte of judaism ever receive such an unction? Faith is the short and simple way of obtaining righteousness and salvation. Faith associates the believing gentile with all the family of the promised Seed, and makes him an heir of Abraham’s covenant. But those who obstinately expect righteousness from a violated law remain under the curse. Abraham was justified and made the friend of God by faith only, and faith makes all believers his children. This the penetrating eyes of St. Paul saw in the promise: In thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed.

The testamentary force of Abraham’s covenant is a farther argument to hold fast the promise of life and righteousness by faith only. No one can disannul the will of a deceased man, in the disposal of lands and chattels. Hence the law of Moses, which in substance was but the patriarchal law adapted to national society, cannot supersede the covenant with Abraham. Why then was the law given? It is replied, As a hedge to guard the nations against a relapse into crimes which most surely tend to destruction. Besides, this law was invested in the hands of the Messiah, the mediator between the breakers of the law and the Father. Hence man, groaning under the curse of the law, and under the condemnation of his own heart, must rejoice to embrace justification and eternal life by faith only. Till then he is shut up. To conquer his sins, to alter his habits, to love God with his whole heart, seem impossibilities. But when the Redeemer’s voice is heard, all his fears vanish away. The law of the spirit of life at once makes him free. Oh the balm of Calvary to the wounded conscience: oh the glorious liberty of the gospel! We have but to embrace it, and to stand fast in its liberty to know its worth, and to adore the source from whence it flowed.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Galatians 3". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/galatians-3.html. 1835.
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